SANDY, Utah — When the US National Team takes the field against Ghana in the Round of 16 at the World Cup, there will be one Real Salt Laker who will be all smiles: Robbie Russell. The 30-year-old defender is Ghanaian-born and lived there for the first five years of his life. His mother is from Ghana, and the roots run fairly deep.
If you think there is a dilemma on which team he’ll be rooting for, have no fear. Russell has a unique outlook on this matchup.
“It’s really just a win-win," he told MLSsoccer.com. "I’ll be happy for whoever goes through.”
He did admit that he does have more friends on the US team, not to mention a teammate, Robbie Findley, so his relationships with the US team are much closer.
Russell, whose father was an international aid worker, moved around during his youth, which led to him living in Ghana and Sri Lanka before his family settled back in the States when he was a teenager. From that point on, he was just like any American kid who ended up playing soccer at Duke University.
While in Sri Lanka, Russell “went to a private school for the children of diplomats,” according to an interview he gave to Soccer America several years back. It was there that he started to hone his soccer skills by playing against another private school over, and over again.
After making the jump to Europe, Russell appeared to be on the radar of the US national team, but three consecutive knee injuries derailed those plans. When asked if the Ghana team was ever an option, he said, “I suppose that was an option, but I never really considered it.”
Instead, when he was healthy, his aspirations were for the US team, and a couple of years ago when he returned to the States to join Real Salt Lake he admitted that he felt “it was time to come back to the States and maybe get a shot at the national team.”
Russell’s older brother, Ferdie, was on the national team for Ghana, and makes frequent trips back to the homeland. The Russell family, in general, will be cheering for the African side; however, Russell is sticking to his guns and insists that this matchup is a win-win for him. That seems a little bit like waiting for the results, and then picking the winner.
But then again, he was trained at a school for the children of diplomats, and his father was in the Peace Corps. Maybe this is just Russell’s way of keeping the peace.