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Becoming a Maverick: Eli Diaz

Eli Diaz, Athlete of the Month Header

This is another interview from our Athlete of the Month (AOTM) series in partnership with TrueSport. To nominate an athlete or learn more, explore our AOTM headquarters.

What does it take to become a soccer maverick? A lot of strength, time, and skill. We found all three when we met this up-and-coming midfielder from Texas. Exemplifying all the qualities of a TrueSport athlete, Eli Diaz started playing soccer at three. Eli began  as a defender and moved to the midfield position, so he had the opportunity to, in his words, "become an efficient part of the team." 

"As his coach, it has been great to see Eli flourish as a midfielder and provide much-needed support to his offensive teammates. For Eli, it is not just his ability on the field that makes him a great player. His ability to inspire others and lead them during challenging games is another crucial reason why Eli plays such a vital role in his team," says Adam Williams, Director of Coaching at BVB International Academy Houston. 

SportsEngine and Eli both had the honor of sitting down with first-generation Nigerian American professional soccer player and TrueSport Ambassador Amobi Okugo for our latest interview in the Athlete of the Month series.

Meet Eli Diaz

On the surface, he is calm, quiet, and even quirky. But, deep down, Eli holds passion, integrity, and accountability for his team close to his heart. Providing Amobi with fast and swift answers, Eli is all business when it comes to the sport he loves.

Amobi: "Your coaches noticed how you flourished this season as a midfielder. I feel like you as a midfielder, you know, I played midfield or growing up as a professional soccer player—you connect everybody, and it seems like your coach says you do that well. What would you like to say to him and your teammates?"

Eli: "I just want to say that we're doing really well, and they're providing me with a lot of help as their midfielder."

Amobi: "What's your pregame speech? How are you getting the team hyped up before a game?"

Eli: "I always just say "don't be nervous, we got this."

Amobi: "I love it."

Eli: "We also have a lot of fun before games practicing scoring goals and passing."

Amobi: "That's great; I feel like that really calms people down before a big game. I love that you said that, not only because it's important to stay loose before a game but also for the visualization of scoring goals. If you don't see it, then you can't do it. So, that's a great routine."

Staying Positive even on the Off Days

Coach Williams noted that Eli's team rallies around his positivity. "Eli displays an excellent standard for what our academy wants to see from players: intensity, ambition, and teamwork. His hard-working attitude and willingness to take on adversity have created a culture within Eli's team that has radiated to every player," states Williams.

Amobi dove in further to find out more about how Eli pushes himself and the team to do more. 

Amobi: "How do you keep the team positive when they may be struggling?"

Eli: "I try to give them words of encouragement and a thumbs up. I always say to just keep trying. My teacher always used to tell me practice makes perfect."

Amobi: "That's a perfect mantra. What's something that you've practiced that, hopefully, you can make perfect one day?"

Eli: "My mobility and mainly running."

Amobi: "So obviously, I know you're a top soccer player. You got the Dortmund jersey on, so I'm sure you're a fan of some young American players. What's your go-to skill on the field?"

Eli: "Scissors or a rainbow flick."

Amobi: "That's cool—let's keep it on the field. Do you have a favorite memory or play in soccer where you used these skills?"

Eli: "I recently started playing with Dortmund; I do remember a free kick that I scored with, which was pretty cool. Not everything is easy with soccer, and it's going to be tough to be a pro player."

Amobi: "Ok, I like that you understand it's a battle, but you're definitely willing to put the work in. How do you balance everything? What would you ask someone who is trying to balance it all (school, play, practice, etc.)?"

Eli: "I would tell them to take days off when they need it. Decide if you really want to play this sport, and then just keep going."

Leaving a legacy

Like many of our Athlete of the Month nominees, our team asks what kind of legacy they hope to leave for the next generation of players behind them. 

Eli: "Working hard is the main skill; never give up if you're volunteering to be a pro player."

Top Favorite Men's Players

Amobi dove into having Eli pick his top 4 favorite soccer players of all time. Here are his picks:

  1. Ronaldo 
  2. Haaland 
  3. Bellingham 
  4. Lewandowski 

Speed Round 'This' or 'That' with Eli

(Answers are in bold)

  • Forward or Defender
  • Four on Three Attacking Soccer Drill or Guard the Castle
  • Water or Sports Drinks
  • Fly or Road Trip
  • Always Late or Always Early
  • Send a Text or Make a Phone Call
  • Send a Text or Social Media
  • Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi

Eli currently plays for BVB International and recently scored eight goals in the Wurst Cup in three games. 

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