Rhys “Figo” Nyanfor is a student with a story that is filled with war, loss and hope.
Nyanfor is a freshman majoring in electronic engineering and plays for the Francis Marion University’s men’s soccer team.
Nyanfor was born in Liberia in 1993 during a civil war. He was too young to remember much, including his own parents. The only thing he knows is that his aunt was responsible for him.
The civil war made it unsafe for Nyanfor to remain in the country, so his aunt moved them to the Cote D’Ivoire when Nyanfor was two years old.
They lived there for about five years, and when his aunt felt that the civil war had cooled, they moved back to Liberia.
They lived in Liberia another two years in which the civil war continued to rage. The next move was to Ghana in 2002. Nyanfor and his aunt both lived in Ghana for six years.
It was in Ghana that Nyanfor discovered his passion for soccer.
“[Soccer] is a big sport in Africa, so when I was 10 years old, I started my soccer career by playing for my middle school which Ghanaians call JSS,” he said. “I later got recruited from my school to play for a club called Feyenoord, which is a club in the Netherlands that has a branch in Ghana.”
Nyanfor played for one year and then joined another club, PUMA FC. He played there until 2007.
After all this time, Nyanfor never saw his father. He had no recollection of who his mother was and his connection to his father was the only thing he remembers.
It was in 2007 that he found out about his father.
“My aunt told me,” he said. “I don’t know how she found out, she just all of a sudden knew where my dad was.”
His dad had moved to the United States trying to find refuge from the civil war. From then it was a six-month period in which the American Embassy interviewed Nya-nfor, so he could move to live with his father.
It was during the interviews that Nyanfor found out about his mother. She was still in Liberia. He has yet to meet her and has only talked to her a few times on the telephone.
“It is hard to think there is a woman out there claiming to be my mom who I have never met,” Nyanfor said.
The hardest part for Nyanfor was not knowing his mom and dad. He never had any connection with them until he was 14. Before that, his parents were his aunt and uncle.
“It was a difficult transition,” Nyanfor said. “I kept thinking of my uncle as my dad, but my dad was really in the United States. I had to adjust to who my real parents were. I still have problems with identifying who is who.”
In 2008, Nyanfor moved to Columbia, S.C. to live with his dad. He went to Ridgeview High School and graduated in 201l.