Nadine Kezebou: My Story
In the United States, people are curious to know where my accent is from. Most of the time I let them guess. Their answer is usually, “You are from Jamaica.” My name is Nadine Flore Kezebou. I was born and raised in Edea, a little town in Cameroon, West Africa. I am the youngest of a family of five. My mother is a widow. I lost my dad when I was nine months old. I spent most of my childhood with my mother. I saw her working very hard to raise us. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. My childhood was not rosy. Everything was tough. I felt like my family and I were going through challenges every single day, but despite the sacrifices, we were pulling together. During this time, my mother sold her wares in the street market. She was not making enough, but she had to find a way to put food on the table, pay our school fees, make sure we were healthy, and take care of herself. As a child, I saw my mother crying a couple of times. We lived in an unsafe area where—at that time—boys and girls were exposed to good and bad things. My brothers and I were blessed because my mother made it her mission to make sure that we were safe and had a good education.
My brothers and I walked miles daily to go to school. In my freshman year of high school, I did not make any friends with the girls in my class. The reason for that was simple. I wasn’t cool. I didn’t look classy. I was the girl who wore the same shoes to school every day for the whole school year. But, it was okay. I made friends with a couple of boys in my class. Their hobby was soccer, and I started joining them every day after school on the school’s soccer field. After a few days of playing soccer with the boys, I fell in love with the sport. I started to spend a lot of time practicing and studying the game. I served as a ball girl for games played in the main stadium in our state. When I told my mother that I was playing soccer, she rejected the idea saying that soccer was a “boy sport.” The real reason for her discouragement of playing soccer was because she wanted me—us—to focus in school. However, I continued to practice and play, and eventually, I joined my state team, Etaile Rouge d’Edea.
I played three years with Etaile Rouge, and I was able to sign a contract with a team in another state, Justice FC. I was nominated “Best Striker,” and that same year, I joined the Cameroon Women’s National Team with whom I won a silver medal in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. I went on to play in Germany at Hamburg and in the United States at FC St. Louis in Missouri. After a couple of years of play in the United States, I was diagnosed with a knee injury that forced me to end my professional career. Although this injury stopped my career, it did not end my life.
I had so much to process after the injury, and it wasn’t easy. I made the decision to go back to school without telling my family. I earned a degree in Sports Management from Georgia State University while also earning a National“B” youth coaching license through the United States Soccer Federation.
My journey was never easy. I went from being a non-English speaker to a national level youth coach, and a substitute teacher. None of my family came with me on this journey to the United States. None of them were there to help me learn this new language, this new culture. But, even with all of these challenges, I vow to not give up.
I want to give everything I have to the children of Cameroon. You see, after God, a lot of people have been there for me. I believe that kids (no matter where they are or what country they live in) deserve an opportunity for an education. Education is the key to life. You can be the greatest athlete, but with one injury your career is over. But, no one can take away your education. So, together, let’s give LIFE to these kids in Cameroon!