Former Greensboro College soccer player Nelsen helps New Zealand earn key World Cup point

Posted by Andy Durham on June 15, 2010 at 5:53 pm under College | 6 Comments to Read

Former Greensboro College Pride men’s soccer player Ryan Nelsen and New Zealand opened World Cup play with a 1-1 tie vs. Slovakia on Tuesday. Greensboro College got a mention from the ESPN announcers during the match.

The draw meant the All Whites earned their first ever WC point (New Zealand went 0-3 in the 1982 competition, its only other trip to the championship).


A grown man, they say, is not supposed to cry. Less so a broad-shouldered colossus with a reputation for crunching challenges and catapulting his head in the path of flying studs.

But at 13:25 in Rustenburg, as the New Zealand national anthem reverberated around the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Ryan Nelsen was fighting – and fighting hard – to hold back tears. For, following 11 years as an international footballer, he was finally set to appear on a stage few could have ever envisaged a Kiwi gracing: the FIFA World Cupâ„¢.

“I was very, very emotional,” he told afterwards. “I’m always emotional when I play for my country, but this is the World Cup. It doesn’t get any bigger. It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time.”

Nelsen was also consumed by emotion at the final whistle, although this time it was one of ecstasy: New Zealand, who had started as underdogs against Slovakia yet dominated for much of the contest, had snatched an 11th-hour equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

“It was just an unbelievable feeling,” Nelsen enthused. “We never stopped believing. Even though they had most of the play, we knew that a chance could come our way. Even when we missed one late on (Shane Smeltz, unmarked at the back post, sent a close-range header wide in the 84th minute), we knew that in football it’s not over until the final whistle.”

It was a lesson Slovakia learned. Winston Reid, who had represented Denmark at U-21 level and only debuted for New Zealand last month, headed home in the 93rd minute.

“The atmosphere in the dressing room was really something. We’re obviously really pleased. There was a lot of signing, some traditional songs from back home, and the TV crew caught us dancing around,” Nelsen revealed, laughing. “Great times.”

  • Alumni said,

    Last time I checked Ryan Nelsen did not even graduate from Greensboro College………..they always making it sound like he is one of theirs but in fact I think he went to Stanford………..funny to me.

  • Gcpride said,

    Did they say a graduate of GC? Why would you hate on the school? He went there for two years, he IS one of theirs.

  • Alumni said,

    2 years counts as one of theirs……They just stretching to make it look good but the guy would say he went to Stanford not GC I would imagine. How much money has he given to GC I have no idea just asking but he is worth millions I assume so that would tell us a whole lot if he is one of theirs for sure right??

  • StantheMan said,

    Ryan Nelsen was recruited by Elmar Bolowich at UNC-Chapel Hill. Upon arrival in the US, there was a major problem with his NCAA Clearinghouse eligibility. Elmar knew Steve Allison, then the GC head coach, and some quick work got him enrolled at the Division III program, which is not part of the Clearinghouse. Obviously, if he went to Stanford, he was smart enough and good enough from a playing standpoint — GC was a very important stopping point for him as his play at Stanford eventually got him into MLS.

    Nelsen’s 2009-2010 salary at Blackburn Rovers was in the neighborhood of $3 million.

  • GCpride said,

    Have you met Nellie? He speaks very highly of GC and the experiences he had at that tiny school off of market street. I have no idea what he gives back to the college. How many schools, let alone DIII schools, can claim to have a captain of a champion MLS team, captain of a English Premier League team, and now a World Cup participant? Why not celebrate that?

  • StantheMan said,

    Well, there is ONE former DIII player who has had a more illustrious career, but being #2 aint so bad: