As senior forward Arthur Bosua and the Columbia Lions took the field against William & Mary in the first round of the NCAA DI Men’s Soccer Tournament on November 16, they knew they were doing something that the program had never done in the players’ lifetimes.
The last time Columbia won an Ivy League title and appeared in an NCAA Tournament had been 1993. With that success now 24 years in the past, Bosua and his teammates had quite literally not yet been born to witness it. In Bosua’s 2016 junior season, Columbia concluded the regular season campaign just narrowly behind Harvard with a 13-3-1 record. However, due to a men’s soccer scandal, Harvard self-imposed sanctions that saw the Crimson abandon the top spot and handed the title to Columbia, the Lions’ first Ivy League title in 23 years. However, the celebration was cut short as the NCAA did not invite the Lions to the 2016 Tournament, despite their Ivy League crown.
Though surely a set-back for Columbia, Bosua returned his senior season and set the record straight. While the team fell just short of an Ivy League repeat behind Dartmouth, the Lions’ 11-2-3 regular season record was enough to earn an at-large bid into the tournament for the program’s first appearance in over two decades. For Columbia, it was a triumph. For Bosua, it was a testament to the program’s resilience and those who have rebuilt it from the ground up.
“The phrase that a lot of the guys have been saying is that this hasn’t happened in our lifetimes, which is true,” Bosua told USLPDL.com. “It was before any of us were born that Columbia last won an Ivy League title or made the NCAA Tournament. That just goes to show how far the program has come and how hard the players have been working and I think that’s a big credit to every single guy on the team and the guys who were here before setting the program up. The administration, the medical staff, there were so many people who helped the program get here. It really means so much to see the administration and coaching staff, people who have been here so long, being able to be successful these past few years and gear the program up is very special to me.”
Photo by Columbia Athletics
While bringing Columbia back to the tournament was a major accomplishment in its own right, Bosua and the Lions knew the job was not yet finished. Looming in the first round of the tournament was William & Mary, fresh off a victory in the Colonial Athletic Association title match over tourney-bound UNC-Wilmington. After falling behind early to the Tribe, the resilient Lions found a second-half equalizer to force overtime. In the 103rd minute, a goal from Kynan Rocks earned the Lions something they hadn’t managed to find in 1993, a tournament win, the team’s first since 1990. While Bosua didn’t find the net himself, he did what a senior leader is supposed to do and battled all 103 minutes to help his team make school history.
However, the triumph of the victory was soon followed by a harsh defeat. Facing against the No. 1 team in the country, Wake Forest, Columbia knew they were up against a wall. In a testament to the players will and the coaching staff’s savvy tactics, he Lions’ held off one of the most potent attacks in the country for 89 minutes before a last-gasp penalty saved the day for the Demon Deacons. Even following the heartbreaking goal, Bosua pushed for an equalizer, narrowly pushing a last-second header wide as the Lions’ fell just short against the most difficult of opponents. While the loss brought the sting of season’s end, Bosua thinks the team showed themselves as more than capable and remains proud of what Columbia accomplished.
“Going into it, we knew they were going to be really good on the ball and we knew that we wanted to focus on what we were good at going into the game, which has always been our defensive shape and discipline,” said Bosua. “We were always going to create our chances during the game, so we knew that wouldn’t be too much of a problem. We knew we could win if we stayed disciplined through the entire game, but unfortunately in the last few minutes that discipline was broken. But I think the guys showed amazing discipline and defending, we still created our chances even when we were down a goal including two chances in the final minute. I think we prepared well for that game. We knew what we’d be good at and we played to frustrate them and counter to get a goal. Unfortunately that didn’t work out for us but it was a big-time game and I’m happy to have experienced that.”
The appearance and performance was the culmination of four years of work for Bosua at Columbia. With the conclusion of the team’s season, Bosua’s amateur career, which started a continent away in his native Johannesburg, South Africa, also came to a close. His journey is a fairly unique one and isn’t readily apparent upon speaking with Bosua, who maintains a very neutral English with virtually no trace of a native South African or an adopted Long Island accent.
Relocating from another continent is a massive shift for any person, but Bosua was fortunate in that his family departed for the U.S. when he was just six years old. Though his English needed work and there was some culture shock to adjust to, Bosua found a home on Long Island, in between regular trips back to visit his extended family in South Africa.
“I came to the U.S. when I was around six years old, maybe 2001 or 2002,” said Bosua. “So I grew up in South Africa, all my family is still there and we try and go back every few years to see them. We moved here because my dad got a job and it was a better opportunity for us. So we came here, I went to high school and we’ve been on Long Island ever since and now I’m a Long Island-guy who knows how to speak Afrikaans.”
“Obviously the culture is a lot different, from a family perspective,” he continued. “Trying to assimilate was tough for my parents because it’s very conservative in South Africa compared to here. So I think socially it was tough for us, but for me just learning English was probably the biggest challenge. My pronunciation with a lot of words was messed up and so I had to take a lot of speech classes growing up just to learn English and how to say the words the right way. After I picked that up it was much better, so that was probably the main adjustment for me.”
Photo by Columbia Athletics
Coming over with Bosua was his immediate family of his parents and three sisters. Another unusual aspect of his youth, two of his sisters are his fellow triplets. As with many siblings, particularly those around the same age, there was an inherent competitiveness in everyday life for Bosua. Whether school, play, or even candy oriented, Bosua learned early to play to win.
“There definitely was some competitiveness between me and my siblings,” he said. “Growing up with competition for things like who would get food, like if there was candy lying around, so we all learned to eat fast before anybody got to your stuff. Even stuff like art projects and homework, we always wanted to be the first one done. My sisters actually played outside with me a lot, so we’d race to see who was fastest. They’d normally team up on me but I think that made me a little bit better back then. So there was this constant competitiveness with us, but all in good health of course. My older sister sort of acted as a supervisor for all that.”
Along with the competitiveness from his siblings, Bosua also cites his father as a major influence on his personal and soccer development. While living in South Africa, Bosua was ingrained with a love for sports early by his athletic dad. Gerhardus Bosua himself was a competitive rugby player in Johannesburg, and was a regular swimmer as well, but what Bosua cites as most influential is his father’s love of sports as a whole and the life advice that he’s been able to apply to his own sporting career.
“I’d have to say my father is my biggest influence,” said Bosua. “He’s also a big sports guy and he’s given me a lot of helpful tips throughout the process. He was actually a rugby player in South Africa and a big swimmer. It’s the same thing in every sport, heart, hard work and practice, and I think from a young age he really pushed me to work hard and keep going. So that’s where I think he really helped me a lot and pushed my development. All of the lessons he’s taught me in life that I can translate back into soccer and into my personal development has been a blessing. There are other guys of course, coaches and teammates who I admire a lot, but at the end of the day I’m very lucky to have a dad like him.”
Photo by Columbia Athletics
The work ethic engrained into Bosua by his family has payed dividends, as he improved year after year at Columbia. Over his four seasons, Bosua saw his goal total rise from two to an Ivy League-leading 12, his assist total rise from two to five and his points total rise from six to 29. Likewise, Columbia’s record improved and the program’s standing rose from a middling Ivy League team to a regular contender for the conference title.
While Bosua’s own dedication to personal development is apparent, he’s more than willing to credit those around him for additional help in improving his game. With the exact mentality a striker ought to have, Bosua credits his Columbia teammates for learning his game and providing him with the service he prefers for his increased numbers. Meanwhile, the time he spent in the PDL with the Long Island Rough Riders over the summer, with one of his Columbia teammates, also provided a boost to his growth between his junior and senior seasons. His performances with both teams earned him the No. 10 senior spot on the PDL Top College Prospects list.
“From a team standpoint, the quality of guys and the team as a whole have gotten a lot better as I’ve gotten more involved in the team,” Bosua said. “I think the guys have figured out how I like to play, so I’ve started getting the service and balls that I want, so things are sort of more geared for my game and that makes it easier for me. But personally, every time I step on the field I want to focus on my development. That’s in the summer with the PDL, in the offseason, I just try to keep grinding all the time. It’s hard to put into words, but every year I know what I did the year before and I try to make those things better.”
“This summer was an amazing, amazing experience,” he continued. “All the guys on that team were experienced players, coming in from D3 schools, D1 schools and some who played professionally before. It was just a random group of guys and we really came together just clicked. It was hard, blue-collar soccer and we worked incredibly hard. One of my buddies from Columbia, Dylan Castanheira in goal, stayed with me over the summer in PDL, so that was good for both of us. The coaching staff there, including Flavio Ferri who is a great guy, held amazing training sessions every day. It kept me playing the entire summer so I stayed in shape and we were fortunate enough to make it to the Eastern Conference finals.”
Photo by Columbia Athletics
His constant efforts have paid off. Aside from his two Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year awards and three All-Ivy League First Team honors, Bosua was recently named one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the highest individual honor for best player in collegiate soccer. In his selfless style, Bosua expressed his belief that the nomination was fantastic for the Lions’ program.
The increased national attention and ever-improving performance has prompted professional attention for Bosua. While the MLS Combine and SuperDraft are upcoming in January, Bosua remains focused on school and finishing his political science degree. Still, the winter is likely to be a whirlwind of activity for Bosua as his stock has rapidly risen.
“It can definitely get overwhelming at times just because of the uncertainty of it all, and on top of that I still have school to focus on through the spring,’ Bosua said. “I just try to take it day by day, not overthink everything and just keep all of my options open. I try to make mental notes of who to talk to and what the right move is at that time. I think just staying true to what I want to do and not letting too many outside voices influence me is what I’d like to do.”
“During the season it wasn’t too much of a concern because I was focused on the team and performing well,” he continued. “Since the season has ended, I’ve been doing some research and I’ve been in contact with a few teams here and there. It’s definitely something I’d love to do, keep playing at the professional level and hopefully in the next few months I’ll learn more about what teams I’d be suited for and where I’d be able to contribute and keep my dream alive.”
As Bosua has made his case to continue to the professional ranks with his play and demeanor, his focus remains rooted in the present. But he does have one idea about his potential future.
“I’m not picky at all as to where I’m going to play, as long as I get to play. But I’d primarily like to play in MLS or the USL, being in the U.S. is definitely a priority for me.”