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From Shmelba camp to Station Camp: How Atakeli Gebregzabher changed Bison soccer
ANDREW PRESTON | THE TENNESSEAN
7:31 a.m. PDT May 17, 2018
Atakeli Gebregzabher began playing soccer for the first time seven years ago, when the Station Camp senior moved to the United States.
“I started in middle school, it was a very short time,” Gebregzabher said. “It’s been a long ride.”
Originally from the north African country of Eritrea, Gebregzabher was put in a refugee camp called Shmelba as a kid where he learned he had an older brother.
It didn’t take long for Gebregzabher and older brother, Selamawi, to find their way to the U.S.
“I moved here to Nashville in 2010 and ended up living with my brother,” Gebregzabher said. “He was my guardian until 2013, when I was fortunate enough to move in with Clay and Tracy Cornett who became my legal guardians.”
Gebregzabher says leaving behind his home was difficult, but he ultimately found his passion in life.
“I don’t talk about it much, but at the end of the day soccer is what I do,” Gebregzabher said. “I do have other hobbies, but soccer is it.”
The Bison’s second leading goal scorer this season has thrived at Station Camp, playing a pivotal role in the school’s first ever state title a season ago.
“It’s been great,” Gebregzabher said of his past three years at Station Camp. “We’ve won a lot and won state. It’s been quite an experience for me and it’s not over yet.”
So far this season, Gebregzabher has netted 12 goals with six assists and has yet to play his best soccer according to coach Thomas Morand.
“We just gave him the plan and let him do what he was going to do,” Morand said. “He has keys to the closet here and I can’t keep him off the field which is why he’s improved so much.”
With a 1-0 double overtime victory over LaVergne on Tuesday, the Memphis signee has at least two games remaining in high school before heading to west Tennessee to become a Tiger.
“This is not the end,” Gebregzabher said. “I’m fortunate enough to play in college and it means the world. I’ve worked for it since I started playing so it’s a huge payoff for me.”
Morand believes Gebregzabher’s work ethic earned him a college scholarship, but his talented forward can still improve.
“He has some things he needs to work on but they’ll take care of that at Memphis,” Morand said. “They’ll refine him and make him even better.”
For now, Gebregzabher is still confident the Bison can repeat as state champions.
“It’s going to be tough, but I’ve helped build the culture and dynasty here,” Gebregzabher said. “After I leave the guys will have to work hard to continue that legacy.”