Everything went according to plan.
And Sidiki Fofana couldn’t be prouder.
Fofana is a senior at Archbishop Ryan High School, and after finishing his freshman year at Northeast, Fofana’s family moved to Bucks County, so he had to transfer. After his family decided Ryan was the best destination, he met with Ryan coach Ryan Haney, and the two devised a plan for the next three years.
“I didn’t like Ryan that much because we played them my freshman year and they put three or four guys on me the whole game,” said Fofana, who netted 25 goals during his first year of high school soccer. “After the game, they said, ‘Better luck next time.’ I was so mad. I never had a team do that before, put so many people on me.
“But once I got here, it was great. I met with the coaches, and we talked about doing more. It was great coming to soccer, I liked playing for (Haney) because he was a striker, too. It was man to man. He knew what I needed to do to be successful.”
Fofana immediately became the top scorer on Ryan and one of the top offensive players in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
But that wasn’t enough.
He wanted more. He wanted to grow his game and more importantly, he wanted to see Ryan’s soccer program return to the elite level it once was.
Consider it all a success.
“As soon as I got here, we had a plan,” said Fofana, who now lives in Mayfair. “We wanted to help me get better, to become a more well-rounded player. I scored a lot of goals as a freshman, but I knew I could be a better player. I needed to get more physical, and I needed to be a playmaker. Sometimes as a striker you have to be selfish because that’s how you score, but I learned to set my teammates up, too. That makes you more well rounded.
“The main goal was to get Ryan back to where it was as a program. This program has so much history. It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than all of us. We wanted to get the program back where it was, and I think we did that a little bit. If we had a PCL championship this year, maybe it would be different. But we just wanted to represent the school the best we could.”
This year, Ryan went undefeated during the regular season and won its first game in the state playoffs by knocking off Northwestern Lehigh 5-1 in the opening round. But the Raiders would just go one game further, losing to Upper Moreland 1-0 in double overtime on Saturday.
It was Ryan’s first loss of the season, and knocked the Raiders out of the PIAA Class 3A playoffs.
“It’s hard to see it end because this was the best and closest team I’ve ever been a part of,” an emotional Fofana said after the game. “We played for the program. We played for the family members we lost, especially the one we lost in the spring. This was a special year. A very emotional year. It just meant so much. It was good to have a season like this.”
Fofana was talking about his former teammate George Karusky, who passed away suddenly in May shortly before he was slated to graduate.
This year, the Raiders brought his jersey to every game and each and every player dedicated the season to their teammate.
It’s impossible to talk to one of the Ryan soccer players without his name popping up. His father, also George, attended many games, and the players were happy to share the success of this season with him, and after Ryan won its first playoff game, Fofana immediately greeted him with a hug to celebrate the game.
It meant a lot to Karusky, it meant just as much to Fofana.
“We were playing for something way bigger than just soccer, we were playing for Georgie,” Fofana said. “We love Georgie. He was our brother. He was blood. It’s really tough. I know his dad is still in a bad place, but we will never forget about him. I always have a shirt on with his name on it. He’s with me in the moment. After that win, all I could do was hug him. We won a state playoff game 5-1, and it meant a lot to all of us. He was crying, and I was crying.
“That’s why this is bigger than the game. This is what this program is. It’s not about soccer, it’s about being a family. It’s about a brotherhood. And we’re all part of it. It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you’re a good guy, we’re going to be there for you. And Georgie was the best.’
Coronavirus robbed all Catholic League soccer players of a chance to win a championship this year, but Fofana isn’t leaving the program disappointed.
How could he be? He and his teammates walked off the field as best friends, and the program was headed in the right direction.
Fofana is now looking forward to his next step, which will include college soccer. He’s planning on majoring in psychology.
“ I’m a people person, I love talking to people and I’m also good at being there for people,” Fofana said. “I like giving emotional support as well. I’m a people person. I’m social, I can relate to what people have to say. I’ve been through a lot coming from Africa, being in that field, I had a rough life.
“I talk to people, and it makes me feel better. Change someone’s life by being there. It’s deeper, to learn about the mind. And I know you have to study hard and learn a lot, but I want to do it.”
He knows no matter what he does, he’ll always have the support of his friends and family.
“My family made a lot of sacrifices so I could come to Ryan because they knew it was the best thing for me,” Fofana said. “It was. I have the best family. They’ve helped me so much. They put me in a place I need to be to be successful.
“I’m going to miss everything about Ryan. I love it. The coaches here, my brothers on the team, everything. Everyone made sure I did what I needed to do. They put me in a position I needed to be in. It was the best. I loved it.”