Raphael Ohin stood on the sideline and watched more than 344 minutes of action across four games before the midfielder finally stepped on the pitch to make his professional soccer debut with Valour FC.
Ohin finally got the call this weekend when he came off the bench to replace Dylan Carreiro in the 74th minute of Saturday’s match at IG Field against HFX Wanderers FC. Ohin, who was born and raised in Ghana and lived in several countries before he moved to Winnipeg more than four years ago, was tasked with helping Valour keep their 1-0 lead intact — which is exactly what he did.
“It was an exciting moment. Just been waiting for my time to come,” Ohin said after Monday afternoon’s training session. “I’ve had a lot of people wondering, ‘Hey Raph, why don’t you play?’ And I say, ‘Hey guys, you know what? The coach knows what he’s doing and my time is going to come. And when my time comes, I’m going to get it.’ So, I felt very excited and it’s a great feeling to be on the field in front of my home fans. It’s a dream come true.”
Playing professionally is a dream that’s been a long time coming for the 23-year-old Ohin. He played in soccer academies in Ghana, Switzerland, Germany, Thailand and Sweden before moving to Canada and honing his skills in USL League Two with WSA Winnipeg.
His family still lives in Ghana, but they made sure to catch Ohin’s debut, watching the game online. Ohin said the moment meant a lot to his dad, George.
“My dad was super excited because this was the first time I had my name on my back. I really made my dad proud in that game. I feel that brought tears of joy to my dad’s eyes. It’s always been his desire to see one of his kids play pro with the name ‘Ohin’ on the back.”
Now, with his debut out of the way, Ohin will try to fight for more minutes. Valour head coach and general manager Rob Gale said his midfielders were looking tired and Ohin’s fresh legs provided the team with a boost.
“You can see he’s got legs,” Gale said. “He’s got strength on the ball. He can use the ball well. It’s just finding for him now that tactical side of the game where he doesn’t have to do too much and simplify his game at the professional level. But we thought it would be a good game for him to get in. That was always our aim in a home game in front of his home crowd. Hopefully, he’ll be competing for a starting spot on Thursday now.”
Whether or not Ohin gets the start on Thursday at home against Forge FC remains to be seen, but the midfielder believes whenever he does get a chance to be in the starting 11, he’ll make the most of the opportunity.
“Just keep grinding and I know my time is going to come,” Ohin said. “I believe in that. I believe my time will come. And when my time comes, everybody is going to see.”
— Taylor Allen