Over the years the ETSU men’s soccer team has been peppered with players from all over the world.
This year, Merveil Bilomba from Tours, France, takes the pitch in Johnson City as a freshman and his first time away from his home country.
Bilomba, who is 22, was heavily recruited by teams both abroad and in the United States, but Head Coach Bo Oshoniyi and the idea of ETSU itself won Bilomba over.
“I chose ETSU because I had a lot of good feelings with Coach Bo,” Bilomba said. “I came here to play football [soccer] and improve myself as a man.”
Coach Oshoniyi was not the first person to introduce Johnson City to Bilomba.
Yera Sissoko, a former Buc soccer player also from France, contacted Bilomba during the recruitment process to give him advice on where he should take his next steps in his soccer career.
Sissoko talked with Bilomba about the process and how he found his place at ETSU, believing that Bilomba could do the same.
“We are not the same guy, but we have the same mindset,” Bilomba said about Sissoko. “So when he told me I could come here and just enjoy myself and this place, I followed his advice.”
The adjustment from France to Tennessee has not been an easy one.
Bilomba said that home isn’t really a place, but home is his father. Since he was a child, it has always been the two of them. That is what he knows to be most familiar, but he also realizes that this is his life now. Furthering his soccer career brought him to Johnson City, and he was willing to leave home for his dream.
Looking at his ETSU teammates, Bilomba believes this team has all the dynamics necessary to be on top come the end of the season.
“I think this experience is going to be my best,” Bilomba said. “We’ve got a good group, and now we just have to further this process together.”
Bilomba has played in all but 12 minutes of the season so far in his defense position.
Overall, the main goal isn’t personal success but team success.
“I try everywhere I spend my time to be the best for the team,” Bilomba said. “Playing for college is not the same as playing for any team, and I really hope that I’m doing my job and doing well and can put my team on top.”