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Djeffal's journey leads to success for Beaver men's soccer

Oregon State midfielder Sofiane Djeffal came into 2021 with renewed energy and a desire to follow in the footsteps of past Beavs-turned-professional footballers.

Posted: Oct 1, 2021 4:33 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2021 4:37 PM

Corvallis, Ore. -- Sofiane Djeffal's english is pretty good these days. Especially considering how little he knew when he first arrived in the United States. 

"It was a little scary at the beginning," the 22 year old midfielder says. "But afterwards when you get used to it, you're like I'm overseas, far away from family, but I have a new family here."

Djeffal grew up in Nantes, a city of about 300,000 on the banks of the Loire river, in eastern France. He was a part of the FC Nantes academy and thought that when he hit age 18, he would be given the opportunity to compete for Les Canaries, his hometown club. He helped the U17 squad to a league title. But the chance to get a call-up to the senior team didn't materialize. Forced to recalibrate his life plans, Oregon State head coach Terry Boss offered him an opportunity to play collegiate soccer in the United States. 

At the time, Boss had just been hired to lead the Beavers program after years of middling success. He and his staff cast a wide net in recruiting and now have a roster that includes 33 players from nine different countries. Djeffal was one of their first major wins on the trail. 

"When you hear about the U.S., you think about the American dream. You start thinking about what's the best option for you? And I wanted something different. I always watched those movies where there's this idea of the campus lifestyle and everything and you think 'why not? let's try it!'"

When he first arrived on campus, the Frenchman turned heads on the field. He started all 20 matches, scored five goals and tallied seven assists. By the end of the year, he was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, an All-Pac-12 First Team selection and a Top Drawer Soccer Freshman Best XI selection. He picked up english and lived with another Frenchman in Corvallis, his teammate Joel Shungu. 

As his years in Corvallis have passed by, Oregon State has added two more French born players in Joran Gerbet and Gael Gilbert. Djeffal and Shungu invited them to live at their house, creating a home-away-from-home, nine hours removed and fivethousand miles away. 

"I'm never too far away from home, at least in my mind."

But even back in Nantes, Djeffal still has plenty of support. He is one of eight children and his parents tune in, however late, to watch his games in Oregon. 

"Whenever you have hard times you know you have 10 people behind you. And you know that you're never gonna be alone."

During an offseason trip back to Nantes, Djeffal had a conversation with his father that made him realize the magnitude of what he was accomplishing in the Pac-12. 

"My Dad came back from work and my Dad is someone who has been working really hard his whole life for not the best salary ever. And so I ask him about his day and how he was doing and I remember his sentence was "I'm good". And he said "whenever you sign professional, I'll just stop working. I can change the trajectory of my family. I can make sure my parents never have to work for the rest of their lives with just those two feet."

Djeffal would be a senior this year if not for the Coronavirus pandemic. During last years' season, the NCAA decided to grant a blanket waiver of eligibility to all student-athletes who wanted it. So, the 22 year old is listed as a junior. But he sees this year as his real opportunity to make a name and follow in the path of his Beaver brethren who left Corvallis to play professionally. 

"I needed to prove something to myself. When before I was focusing on proving other people wrong. Now I focus on me and what I can do."

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