Tetteh realizes his dream of becoming a pro soccer player

Seattle’s nickname is the Emerald City.

So, how fitting is it that a young person from a small village is going there to realize a dream?
Michael Tetteh is following his yellow brick road to the Emerald City to begin his life as a professional soccer player.

On Thursday, the UCSB junior, a member of the 2010 Generation adidas class, was picked by the Seattle Sounders as the 20th overall pick in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Baltimore.

He is expected to battle for a starting position as a left-sided defender or midfielder.

“My goal is to go there and work hard and earn a starting spot,” Tetteh said in a conference call. “Obviously, as a rookie I have to prove myself on the field. My goal is to learn from the older guys and get on the field. I can see myself going in and starting.”

If anyone can prove it, it’s Tetteh.

He’s got a great left foot, plays with pace, can play physical and can get forward into the attack. He said he likes to model his game after Ashley Cole, the left-back for Chelsea in England’s Premier League.

Michael Tetteh is a guy who can play left back and can play left midfield,” said Sounders FC Technical Director Chris Henderson. “He has good technique and he can get up and down the line. He is confident coming out of the left.”

Tetteh will be playing for Hall of Fame coach Sigi Schmid, who has won two MLS Cups with the L.A. Galaxy and Columbus Crew and three NCAA College Cups with UCLA.

Although he battled a leg injury most of this season, Tetteh managed to score a career-best three goals for UCSB, including one in the NCAA playoffs.

The story of Tetteh’s path to become a professional soccer player is like a screenplay.

Raised as a small child in the village of Odumasi, Ghana, his family relocated to the capital city of Accra, where his father landed a job.

At the age of 11, he heard a radio announcement about a soccer tryout organized by the Right to Dream Academy, a non-profit group, started by soccer coach and Englishman Tom Vernon, that aims to help children to reach their true potential in life through sports and education.

Tetteh impressed the staff at the tryout and was one of the 18 kids picked to live at the academy.

“I lived in the academy for six years,” he recalled. “When I started there were just a few of us and we had to go through a lot of stuff. Fortunately there was a good coach and a good staff. Basically, they taught us everything that we knew.

“We all worked together and we played together. We lived in the same house. Everything we did was about soccer.”

Among his housemates were Waid Ibrahim and King Osei Gyan. The trio became friends and received scholarships to Dunn School in Los Olivos, where they blew minds with their soccer skills and led the Earwigs to a CIF championship in 2006.

“Right to Dream is the reason why I’m here in the states. I’m very, very grateful for what it’s done for me,” Tetteh said.

Gyan left Dunn after two years, signing a professional contract with Fulham of the English Premier League. He was loaned to a club in Belgium because, at 16, he was too young to get a work permit in England.

Tetteh and Ibrahim, meanwhile, graduated from Dunn and received scholarships to UCSB. Tetteh entered as a freshman in 2008 while Ibrahim completed one year at Santa Barbara City College before joining his friend as a Gaucho.

Ibrahim joined Tetteh in Baltimore for draft day.

UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said Tetteh was on the MLS radar during his sophomore season, so it wasn’t a surprise that he decided to leave before his senior year.

Tetth said part of his reason he turned pro was to help out his family. His parents, two brothers and two sisters live in Ghana.

“Santa Barbara has been a great place for me, but I’m a very independent guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of responsibilities I have to take care of with my family. I left home when I was very, very young. I haven’t seen my family in six years.”

Tetteh said he hopes to visit his family this year and tell them his good news.

“They’re going to be very, very excited for me. I’m looking forward to the day I go home to see them.”

The other reason he decided to go pro was the opportunity to fulfill his dream.

“This is something I have been wanting my whole life, to play professional soccer.”

Tetteh will have a chance to finish college, too. The Generation adidas contracts include money set aside for education.

He said playing in Seattle is going to be like playing at Harder Stadium because the team draws big crowds.

“That has helped me a lot playing in front of those crowds,” he said. “Seattle gets a lot of fans at their games, so I am very excited about that.

“It’s going to be a very good fit for me”

SHARING HIS EXPERIENCE: Tetteh was joined at the MLS SuperDraft by his friend and teammate Waid Ibrahim, who flew out to Baltimore with Debbie Foley, the west coast director for the Right to Dream Academy.

“He is one of the reasons why I play this game,” Tetteh said of Ibrahim, who can no longer play because of a heart defect.

“I play this game for three reasons: I play this game for myself, my family and Waid. Here is a guy I grew up with at the academy … What a player, a fantastic player. Unfortunately, he has a little problem and can no longer play soccer anymore.

“He is an inspiration, he motivates me,” Tetteh continued. “He’s like my brother. I love him so much. I really wanted him to come her and be a part of this.”


  1. great story, nice article. way to go tetteh!!