Making the grade: Alashe and Stanko pursue degrees during FC Cincinnati break

FC Cincinnati’s Fatai Alashe and Caleb Stanko started taking online courses during the preseason, but both say the downtime during the COVID-19 suspension has helped their studies.

Photo credit: Joe Schmuck

By the time he was 3 years old, FC Cincinnati midfielder Fatai Alashe already was kicking around a soccer ball with his older brother. Despite growing up in the college-football crazed state of Michigan, Alashe, who is of Nigeran descent, was introduced to soccer at a young age by his father, Waheed.

But while the game has always been a big part of life for him, the importance of getting a quality education also was something Alashe’s parents stressed early on.

“When we were kids, our parents instilled in us that education is important,” Alashe said, via video conference call on Thursday. “I saw my older brother go through college, and life after college when he wasn’t playing soccer anymore, trying to get a job.”

With the MLS season on hiatus and Ohioans ordered to shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, FCC players and technical staff are doing whatever they can to stay fit and prepare for the start of the season, whenever that might occur. Alashe is taking advantage of the quarantine to further his education.

He already owns an economics degree from Michigan State University. But with the MLS season on standby, Alashe is using the extra time to work toward his master’s in business administration from the University of Cincinnati.

“It helps, the quarantine thing, with time,” Alashe said. “It’s something that I decided to do. It’s more about taking the free time I had before and put it to use. If we were in season, it would have to be second fiddle to work. It is nice to have this time to focus on it a little.”

Alashe is taking two online courses, which encompasses about an hour per day. And he’s not alone.

One of Alashe’s FCC teammates, midfielder Caleb Stanko, also is pursuing a college degree, and some other business interests.

Stanko is working on an online undergraduate degree in business finance from Liberty University, with a course-load requiring about six to eight hours per week. Both players began taking courses during the preseason, but they agreed that the quarantine has helped.

“My grades have gone up a little bit,” Stanko said, with a laugh. “Soccer’s our job. That comes first. During a normal week when we’re playing, we do have some free time, until it gets closer to the weekend and I focus more on the game. It’s just about time management. So, it’s been easier.”

Stanko is getting some practical experience in the business world as well by managing a couple of rental properties in the Cincinnati area. He bought a house in November that is currently being rented to one of the Cincinnati Bengals players, although he wouldn’t divulge who. Stanko also owns an Airbnb.

“You never know when it could be your last game or last season,” Stanko said. “It’s just being prepared for whatever comes after that. Also, I’m interested in business. It’s nice to learn more about that. Right now, I have some rental homes, and it’s something I really enjoy. Learning about different aspects of business through my (education) exposes me to things that I might be interested in.”

Of course, it’s not all serious business for the two 26-year-olds during the break.

Alashe is trying to improve his level on Fortnite while binging ‘Money Heist’ on Netflix and a Sergio Ramos documentary on Amazon Prime. Stanko just finished watching ‘Tiger King’ on Netflix while cultivating his vegetable garden.

All this amid the realization that their primary vocation, professional soccer, remains on indefinite hold.

“It’s a different world that we live in,” Alashe said. “It’s best to prepare yourself for life after soccer. For me that means getting more education. I’m just trying to do the most that I can while I still have the time.”

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