The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, May 22, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Versatile Ababio ready whenever, wherever

Senior has played all over the ?eld

Plain and simple, Eddie Ababio has been a forward his whole life. When his career in soccer began in his native country of Ghana, so too did his career up top. 

 

In those days, he played without cleats and for the allowances of local kids — including his own. It was generally an everyday occurrence, and more times than not, Ababio found himself a winner.

When he moved to Tampa, Fla., in 1996, his sporting choice and position stayed the same. He eventually became the go-to guy at forward for his club team, Hillsborough County United. 

And when Elmar Bolowich, Ababio’s future coach at North Carolina, saw the youngster, Bolowich knew he would be recruiting Ababio for an attacking spot.

 But after a fairly successful freshman season, in which Ababio tallied two goals and an assist, something drastic occurred. After Bolowich and his assistants tossed around the idea for a while, they decided to give it a go: Ababio would be switched to defense.

“We were discussing it first with Eddie, and his response was, ‘I’ll play wherever to help the team,’ Bolowich said. “It makes you feel good because you’re not sure how a player will react.”

Ababio knew that the team had lost three starting seniors from the previous year. And if Bolowich needed him in the back, well, that’s what he was going to do.

So in 20 games during that sophomore campaign, Ababio started 19 at defender. He added two goals like he had the previous year — as he used his uncanny athleticism to move forward to create offensive opportunities from the wing. 

“Eddie’s mentally strong,” fellow senior Zach Loyd said. “He’s a good player, and good players can adjust easily. He went to the back and took that responsibility. Having the intelligence to stay back and then go forward at times.”

But just as it seemed Ababio was solidifying himself in an outside back position, another offseason brought another change.

Again Bolowich would be asking Ababio to switch positions. Granted, this move would be back to a more natural one — he was brought back to the forward spot.

“It was awesome,” Ababio said of his time at forward. “I was enjoying playing and enjoying my fútbol. Me and Brian Shriver had a great combo. We worked well together. I’ve known Shriver growing up in Tampa.”

The pair combined for 21 goals, with Ababio contributing seven by himself. Two of those came against South Carolina — as Ababio brought the Tar Heels back from a one-goal deficit to win. Another came against Florida International University, as the then-junior rushed the Fetzer Field fans.

Ababio finished the season second on the team in points. But even that statistic could be constituted as somewhat skewed. For the attacker once more found himself transitioning positions.

“We needed him (in the back),” Bolowich said. “We needed Loyd in the midfield. We had played Zach some in the back when Eddie was up top, and it wasn’t quite an ideal situation at the time. Moving (Loyd) out of the back and putting Eddie back there gave us more stability. Plus, it added danger.”

With several UNC players nursing injuries — including Jordan Graye — Ababio recognized the need for help on the defensive end. If the Tar Heels were going to be a championship team, it would start from the back.

So quite simply, he went back for the final six games. And with his help, North Carolina finished as the nation’s runner-up squad. 

Now as Ababio embarks on his final season with UNC, he again faces uncertainty. Although it appears he will play defense once more, Bolowich acknowledged that the senior’s versatility could be tested.

“In my ideal soccer world, he would be the outside back for us,” Bolowich said. “Every game. Every minute. But it may not play out like that.”

Contact the Sports Editor at sports@unc.edu.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.