Pro Soccer Player Josselin Possian Reflects on Finding “Peace” at DC SCORES

1-c5f1ab.png Possian credits DC SCORES with kickstarting a professional soccer career that has spanned the globe.

This story is part of our SCORES Community series, focusing on how members of the SCORES community are having an impact on D.C. through soccer, poetry, and service. Become part of our movement in Poet-Athlete City by supporting our programs today.

Josselin Possian is leading a soccer clinic in the school gym at Hendley Elementary School. He stands in the center of a circle of poet-athletes who are itching to get started on their first practice of the DC SCORES season.

“Lots of little touches!” he tells the group, as he demonstrates a toe taps drill. He turns to a pair of brothers and translates for them, “Pequeños toques!” The siblings’ faces light up as they grasp the activity and join in with their peers. If any of their teammates needed French instruction, Possian could provide that, too. He might even manage to deliver the session in German.

Soccer is known as the world’s game, and Possian’s experience as a professional player bears out the description. He picked up the sport as a child growing up in Côte d’Ivoire, but it was as a middle schooler playing on his local DC SCORES team that he was first identified as an extremely gifted young talent.

Since then, Possian has enjoyed a professional soccer career that has taken him to clubs all over Europe, but he has always called D.C., and DC SCORES, home.

“The DC SCORES community means peace to me,” he says. “It’s where everybody is accepted, and everybody is welcome.”

2-379600.png Possian coaches a poet-athlete at during a clinic at Hendley Elementary School earlier this year.

Moving To D.C.

Possian grew up in Abidjan, the largest city in Côte d’Ivoire. His father worked abroad, often in neighboring West African countries, before eventually settling in the United States to pursue better work opportunities. When Possian was ten years old, his mother joined his father in the U.S., and Possian grew up with his grandmother and equally soccer-obsessed older brother.

“I gave my grandma a hard time,” Possian recalls of this period in his childhood. He experienced an unknown illness that perplexed the family’s doctor but was concerning enough that Possian was instructed to give up soccer. “I had to hide to go play,” he remembers. “My grandma would snitch on me. She would call my parents. I had to tell them, ‘This is all I want to do.’”

In 2006, Possian and his brother reunited with their parents in D.C., and enrolled at Lincoln Middle School in Columbia Heights. Soon after he arrived in the U.S., Possian’s mysterious symptoms disappeared. After being given the all-clear by doctors, he immediately signed up for Lincoln’s DC SCORES soccer team.

Being part of the squad helped ease the challenging transition to life in the U.S. “Moving here, it was tough. Coming to a new country, not speaking the language, gotta get your paperwork and that whole mishmash of processes. DC SCORES meant I was able to make friends and have fun,” Possian says.

DC SCORES also helped Possian avoid some of the gang violence that impacted many of his classmates in similarly vulnerable positions. “DC SCORES was a channel for me to stay out of behavior that I shouldn’t have been in,” he shares. “It was a way for me to be at peace and do what I love to do, which is playing soccer.”

5-525366.png Possian’s favorite DC SCORES memory so far is working at Middle School Capital Cup. “I automatically put myself in those kids’ shoes, being at a stadium, in front of so many people,” he says.

“People Were Always Looking Out For Me”

Possian not only loved playing soccer; he excelled at it.

Early on in his time in the program, DC SCORES staff identified Possian as having the potential to play professionally and tapped into their network for opportunities to get him in front of club and college scouts.

Possian credits two individuals with being particularly critical to his development: Kenny Owens, who served as DC SCORES’ athletic program director, and Sean Hinkle, who is currently DC SCORES’ chief operations officer. “They treated me pretty much like their little brother,” Possian recalls.

In 2012, Possian participated in The Chance, a Nike Football scouting project to find the best young talent from around the world and give them a shot at becoming a professional soccer player. When Possian was selected from over 500 regional players to participate in The Chance’s USA finals in Oregon, DC SCORES paid for his flight.

Possian now works for DC SCORES, and the unwavering support he received as a youth player is one of the reasons he applied for a job at the nonprofit. “I’m happy to give back because my life has been a favored life where people were always looking out for me,” he says.

3-ce1c08.png Possian has played for professional clubs around the world and currently captains the Maryland Bobcats (right).

He brings a wealth of soccer expertise to his role as an associate manager of programs. Despite having an abundance of D1 scholarship offers in the U.S., Possian headed to France after high school to pursue a playing career with various professional clubs. He was on the roster of J.A. Drancy and A.J. Auxerre before a two-season stint with his hometown Abidjan club, ASEC Mimosas.

In 2019, he signed with La Liga club Getafe C.F., which was then playing in Spain’s first division. The following year, Possian transferred to German side Darmstadt 98 II, where his season came to an abrupt end when the escalating COVID-19 pandemic shut down professional sports matches.

It was then, after years of experiencing the highs and lows of professional European soccer and living in a new country during a global pandemic, that Possian decided to reassess his career.

“Not that I regret anything, I’d given it my all, I’d tried,” he says of the decision. “However, it was time for me to come back to the States.”

Serving As a Role Model

Possian hasn’t hung up his cleats, however. He coaches a local youth travel team and captains the Maryland Bobcats, which currently sit at the top of their group in the National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) league.

Possian’s DC SCORES network is strong at the Bobcats, too. His teammate and 2023 NISA Golden Ball winner Darwin Espinal is “like a brother,” and played with Possian on the Lincoln DC SCORES team.

Helping other young people find teammates and mentors like he did at DC SCORES is one of the most rewarding aspects of Possian’s work with the organization. “I describe the role I embrace at DC SCORES as giving back what I have received,” he says.

His day-to-day role involves helping to develop DC SCORES’ soccer curriculum and liaising with numerous schools across the District to ensure that teams have everything they need to thrive in DC SCORES’ award-winning program.

4-b7109e.png Part of Possian’s role at DC SCORES involves supporting coaches and poet-athletes get the most out of the program.

He makes sure to find time to connect directly with poet-athletes, too, and share some of his own DC SCORES experiences. “I want to be the best role model for all the kids,” Possian says. “I’m able to testify that you may be from one background, you may have so little, but if you make good use of it, it can become something fruitful.”

Possian says DC SCORES changed his life, and those of many of the classmates he first encountered when he arrived from Côte d’Ivoire nearly twenty years ago. “I’ve witnessed DC SCORES keeping kids off the streets, protecting kids from abuse,” he says. “DC SCORES gives students the ability to express themselves and have a social life.”

“DC SCORES has been able to provide a safe environment where everybody can enjoy life to the full,” Possian adds. “I’m truly grateful for that.”

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