Kellyn Acosta is the first Japanese American soccer player to play for the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) at a World Cup, MLS Soccer reports.
The 27-year-old midfielder plays for Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) in the MLS (Major League Soccer). He made his World Cup debut on Monday when the USMNT faced Wales.
Acosta came on in the 75th minute, replacing midfielder Yunus Musah. In stoppage time, he made a tactical foul to prevent his LAFC teammate Gareth Bale to score the winning goal for Wales.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Acosta’s paternal grandmother is Japanese and his father is half-Japanese. His father was born in Japan and lived there until he was 10 years old.
The soccer star wrote about his Japanese American identity for the Player’s Tribune for AAPI Heritage Month.
“When my parents divorced, I spent a lot of time with my grandma, who I called Mimi,” he wrote. “She would speak Japanese on the phone, watch Japanese news and eat food from the Asian market. In Asian culture a full stomach means a happy heart, so no matter how full I was when I got there, I had to eat. I’d wolf down rice bowls and sushi with wooden chopsticks.”
Acosta wrote that many people are surprised to hear that he is Japanese.
“Yeah. It’s a weird feeling when people refuse to believe who you are,” he wrote.
LAFC also took Acosta, his father and his grandmother to the Japanese American Museum in Los Angeles.
The video was filmed before the World Cup roster was announced but Acosta spoke about what it would mean to possibly be the first Japanese American to play for the USMNT at the World Cup.
“It’s something huge, making history. I always want to make people proud and now I got a whole new supporter section,” he said in the video.
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