At the young age of four, UCA’s junior midfielder Karim Diao always knew he would have a future in soccer.
Originally from Bordeaux, France, Diao had to transition from a bigger city to a smaller one like Conway. Before coming to UCA to play soccer, Diao was playing for Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He said the town of Tulsa was fairly similar to Conway, so he was able to transition easily. Diao said he made the change from ORU to UCA because he needed to “move on.”
Diao said he is happy with the change. “I like the way we play, and everybody’s nice here. We have a great group,” Diao said.
Diao arrived at UCA this summer. “I still think that I can do more and bring more to the team, but I've been here for two months now, so I can only get better,” Diao said.
Overall, Diao has performed considerably well as a new player. For conference play, Diao is leading with three goals in three matches, according to UCA Sports. He received his first award since joining the UCA team; Diao was named ASUN Player of the Week and named to the CSN National Team of the Week Oct. 5.
“It always feels good [to be recognized], but it’s just the details,” Diao said. “This season is too long, and I hope we’re going to keep going because it’s me, but it’s also the team.”
The team is 3-1 in conference play and 5-2 in non-conference play. Their conference play is in full swing, excluding the one game against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Oct. 12. “So far, [it’s been a] good season for us, and I hope we can enjoy it because we are, right now, in the most important part of the season,” Diao said.
For Diao, the best game, so far, was the first one of the year, which was against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Aug. 26. “The scenario was good because we were winning, 4-1, and then we came back, and we fought to keep the score,” Diao said. The ending score was 4-3.
UCA men’s soccer also played Oral Roberts University in Tulsa Oct. 5. Diao said it was an odd feeling playing old teammates, but that he has to remain focused on his current team. “[I’ve] got to stay in the present,” Diao said.
He is taking this season game-by-game. “Every game has a new challenge,” Diao said.
One thing Diao said he can improve on are his yellow cards during the game. He said he needs to “focus on me and not on the ref.”
Diao’s mom, family and friends back home are what push him in his endeavors. He makes sure to make his round of phone calls on game day to his distant, yet strong support system in Bordeaux. “I don’t take anything for granted,” Diao said.
Along with his family, he also recognized his coaches, coach Frank Kohlenstein and coach Matt Taphorn, for believing in him, even though he transferred late. “They believe in me, they brought me here, and I’m happy to show them that they were not wrong,” Diao said.
In the future, Diao hopes to utilize his degree in communications to start his own communication and consulting firm to assist pro-teams. Diao has plans to go pro after leaving UCA, no matter where he ends up. His dream, however, would be to play for Miami.