Entertainment & Sports

Interview with Falilatu Garuba – Division 1 Collegiate Soccer Player

Falilatu Isieme Garuba (often called “Fali”) is a National Collegiate Athletic Associate (NCAA) student athlete who plays soccer at the University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR), a Division 1 soccer program. (Born and raised in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.)
Falilatu Isieme Garuba (often called “Fali”) is a National Collegiate Athletic Associate (NCAA) student athlete who plays soccer at the University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR), a Division 1 soccer program. Born and raised in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Fali was an exceptional student athlete at John B. Connally High School graduating in the Top 3% (Class Size of 496 students) with a 4.5 GPA in 2014. While she was in high school, Coach Blewitt and UALR took note of her outstanding academic and athletic accomplishments and her sound character and invited her to be join the UALR Trojan family in the fall of 2014. In her first semester, Fali led the team in goals scored and was also a Sunbelt Women’s Soccer All Conference recipient. On the academic front, Fali made the Deans and Chancellors List and was awarded the Ronald McDonald House Scholarship.

Fali’s drive for success didn’t stop during her freshman semester at UALR. In 2015, she once again made the Deans and Chancellors List (spring and fall semesters), took on leadership roles as a Chi Alpha Campus Ministry Student Leader and a RCCG Emerging Leaders Youth Training (ELYT) Ambassador and also received a NCAA award as a Sunbelt Women’s Soccer All Academic recipient (Fall 2015). Fali is definitely an amazing woman who believes that to whom much is given much is expected.

Quick Questions

Question: As an athlete, what is the best city you have visited in the US?

Answer: Nashville

Question: What did you do for your most recent birthday?

Answer: I had class and a project due so I was in library. However, I had dinner with friends later.

Question: I meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Answer: Fried Plantain and Gizzard

Question: Best compliment you ever received?

Answer: Someone told me once they admired me


Question: How would your friends describe you?

Answer: Easy going

Question: Last time you went to Naija?

Answer: 7 years ago

Question: If you could witness an event in the past or present, what will it be?

Answer: Creation and the Garden of Eden

Question: What will you do if you win a $1M lottery?

Answer: Pay off all my mom’s bills

Question: Favorite kind of music

Answer: I listen to a lot of Christian music from contemporary to rap to gospel

Question: If you ever have a chance for a do-over in your life, what would you do differently?

Answer: I don’t believe in having regrets

Question: What is your best childhood memory?

Answer: Having the entire family over and just having laughs and a lot of foods

Question: Proudest accomplishment

Answer: Helping friends rededicate their life to Christ

Question: What famous person would you like to see play you in a movie?

Answer: Lupita Nyong’o

Question: What is your pet peeve?

Answer: People who are just rude to others. I don’t like that.

Question: If you inherit a piece of land in Nigeria, what would you do with it?

Answer: I will probably build a shelter or a food bank

Question: If you had one superpower, what would it be?

Answer: Read minds

Question: Diamond, Pearls or Beads

Answer: Diamond

Question: Least Favorite color

Answer: Orange

Question: Favorite Color

Answer: Blue

As a Nursing major, Fali will one day like to become a nurse practitioner but also admits that she is waiting to hear from God for confirmation. One thing Fali is absolutely sure of at this moment is that she will like to serve God with her life and assist people any way she can. Fali is truly one of a kind – a young, ambitious, unselfish, forward-thinking, God-fearing individual whose life depicts a positive and progressive narrative of what many Nigerians represent. For every negative story of a Nigerian out there that is either true or overly sensationalized, it is quite refreshing that we also share and rejoice about the accomplishments of Fali.

 Tell us about your background

I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and I lived there till I was 7. I came to the US with my Mom in 2003 and since then we have been in Austin, Texas. My Mom and I came to the States and started our life with nothing from the scratch. My Mom has provided and continues to provide so much for me. We came to the US because my mom wanted to provide a better future for me.

My mother. I mean she is a strong woman. I don’t know anyone stronger than my mom. She has singlehandedly provided everything that I have ever needed and continue to need.
Is your Mom also from Port Harcourt, Rivers State?

Actually, my mom was born and bred in Port Harcourt but she is originally from Edo State

If you can remember, what are some things you noticed as a 7 year old when you came to the US?

For me, one big thing I noticed was the cultural differences. It was a culture shock for me because everything was so different in Nigeria especially when you consider how people interacted with each other and also the fact that there was always family around you. The US was more of a survival of the fittest environment; however, the culture that we discovered through our RCCG church reminded us of back home. We were able to once again experience that close knit community that was similar to what we had in Nigeria. Another thing was that the educational system was tougher back home. I remember I was learning French before I came to the US and of course that was halted once I got to the 2nd grade in the US.

Awesome. As you well know, we cannot ignore the fact that you are an outstanding soccer player. Can you please tell us how you got started?

Most people start playing soccer when they are seven. I started playing soccer when I was 12 years old. I never played soccer before and frankly, it was not my first option when it came to my sports of interest. I was persuaded by one of teachers who was also the coach of the Dessau Middle School team. I remember my middle school teacher discussing the prospect of me playing soccer with my mom and my mom was concerned about how it might affect my schoolwork. My mom eventually allowed me to play and once I started playing, my teammates dad, who was a local club coach, approached me and mentioned that he saw some potential in me. He suggested that I should join his team and from then on the rest is history. I was able to train with him for about two to three years during which he was able to lay the foundation skills-wise. During those years, I was able to grow intellectually, athletically and mentally as a player. It was honestly a God thing.

Fali Garuba-3

Pretty interesting. So what happened next?

From there, I joined the Austin Texas team because I needed a place I could grow more because I had progressed so much in just over two years of playing. I was able to join the Austin Texas team through one of my high school teammates whose mom is a registrar for the team. My friend’s mom was able to get in contact with my teammates coach from high school and he accepted me into the club team. I played for the club team for two years and I strongly believe that my experience during those years made me very technically sound when it came to first touches, passes, how to open up, how to strike a ball, how to look for runs. I became more technically sound in the fundamentals. One day, my mom and I received a call from my coach and he explained to us that a coach in Dallas wants us come down and tryout for an Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) team. My mom and I being new to the scene were skeptical but the coach addressed our concerns by explaining that this was simply a tryout that could potentially lead to a spot on the team. Once my mom and I agreed to give it shot, we went to Dallas the following week, I tried out and the coach offered me a spot. Of course, the team was in Dallas so I had to carpool with two other soccer players for weekly practices and weekend games that were all held in Dallas. It was a trying period; however, it was a really good experience because it taught me a lot of things about myself, time management and discipline and these are all attributes I have incorporated into my college life.

So how did all of this lead you to University of Arkansas, Little Rock (UALR)?

I was playing in a tournament in Florida when my current college coach, Adrian Blewitt, saw me and sent me an email telling me about the school, what the program is trying to accomplish and also asked me to give him a call. I gave him a call and during that conversation, he expressed that he believes the program will be a great fit for me and also shared his vision for the women’s soccer program. After the call, my mom and I talked it over, visited the school and then made a joint decision that I should attend the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. The decision was not just based on Coach Blewitt vision for the program but also because of the academic aspect. I felt it was a program I could successful study Nursing and in addition to the athletics, it was a no-brainer for me.

So now that you are at UALR, what do you like about the school and what do you like about Little Rock?

For me, it is the diversity that exists within the student body. The diverse group of students that UALR brings together is one of the real reasons I love the school. I have met people with different point of views and people that have lived and experienced unique events. It is also a school that is always looking for ways to improve student lives on campus and is not complacent and satisfied with its current status. UALR has a vision for where they want to be in 20 years and I love that progressive and forward thinking attitude by our Leaders.

What has surprised you about Little Rock?

Two things have surprised me about Little Rock. The first is the history of the city. The city has a rich history that is worth looking into. Another aspect that surprised me is just how there is so much to do, so many things to explore. There is something for everyone to do out here and indulge in.

As a student athlete, what hobbies have you picked up since you have been at UALR?

Well, I have always known that I want to help people and help patients. Getting to help people when they are the most vulnerable especially in a hospital setting is something that really gets me energized to give back. I am also part of a campus organization called Chi Alpha. I believe what we do is phenomenal and essential to my Christian faith. I have met some great people through the organization and I have met some kind and amazing people through this campus ministry.

I already have a sense of myself. I am already a self-motivated person so I am not thinking of it that way. I think about how blessed I am to have this opportunity as a female Nigerian athlete at a Division 1 school.
As a student athlete, which athlete do you admire for their craft?

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. I really like that guy. He is a great embodiment of what an athlete should be. He works hard, does what he needs to do and he is always looking to get better and improve. He is not complacent and he is always trying to get better not for personal gains but more importantly for his team. He just comes across as a very good guy.

What has been the driving force behind your success ever since you started playing soccer?

I would say number one is God. There is no way it couldn’t have been God. He had doors open for me when I was not even looking for those doors and He brought me to Little Rock. Little Rock was not even part of my plan. He has also placed amazing people in my life because it has just been my mom and I on this journey. I have had and continue to have great coaches, I have great family friends and I have been surrounded by people who consistently want me to succeed. My mom and I have been truly blessed by all these people and I know God specifically placed all these people in our lives.

What advice would you give to Nigerian parents that have young kids interested in playing sports at a young age?

Allow them (laughs), allow them to play sports because you don’t know how God wants to use that talent to glorify Him. Kids playing sports can lead to so many unimaginable opportunities that a parent cannot foresee. It is not all about just playing a sport. Sports and athletics teaches you about hard work, self-motivation, discipline, teamwork, selflessness just to mention a few. These are all qualities Nigerian parents want their children to possess and exude. Once you go to the workforce, you are going to need to be self-motivated, disciplined and a great communicator. Being part of a team teaches you all these things.

Who is your hero? Who has been the most important person in your life?

My mother. I mean she is a strong woman. I don’t know anyone stronger than my mom. She has singlehandedly provided everything that I have ever needed and continue to need. She has encouraged me on days that I want to give up and her words get me back on track. She is my #1 fan. She is a strong woman of faith. My mom has played a significant role in how I got to the point in my walk with God.

Fali Garuba-2

What drives you as a Nigerian student athlete?

I already have a sense of myself. I am already a self-motivated person so I am not thinking of it that way. I think about how blessed I am to have this opportunity as a female Nigerian athlete at a Division 1 school. A lot of people in Nigeria are looking for opportunities to come to America to go to school and they are having issues and I have been blessed with this. It is a blessing overall to be in the position I am today.