Ellertson has Nigerian roots, American loyalties
Sept. 18, 2007
By Stephen Wade
SHANGHAI, China - When Tina Ellertson's grandmother was dying four years ago, she spoke about her granddaughter and envisioned her playing for the national team.
Tina Ellertson's grandmother was Nigerian, and it's Nigeria the United States will face Tuesday. The game will be critical in deciding which two teams from Group B advance to the quarterfinals of what has become the most competitive tournament in Women's World Cup history.
'On my grandma's death bed she spoke of me: `I see Tina playing with the USA jersey,'' Ellertson said, retelling the story Monday. 'This is the true story. I can get emotional just thinking about it.'
Ellerston, a defender for the United States who was a high-scoring forward at the University of Washington, has African roots and American loyalties.
Her mother, Eka, was born in Nigeria and her father, Joe, is from Ghana. They came to the United States in their youth, started a family and will be among the flag-waving fans early this morning at Shanghai's 34,000- seat Hongkou Stadium.
'They are going to be standing in the stands with a USA flag and a Nigeria flag because they are that proud,' Ellertson said. 'This game is very meaningful to me, for sure.'
Joe Frimpong - that's Tina's maiden name - encouraged his daughter to play soccer as a child. She and twin sister Crystal were both college stars - Tina at Washington, Crystal at Florida. Both were approached to play for Ghana's national team.
'We just decided to pass up on that, and a good thing we did or I wouldn't be here today,' Tina said.
Ellertson is one of three mothers on the 21-player U.S. roster, and her 6-year-old daughter, MacKenzie, and husband Brad will also be among the screaming fans Tuesday.
Ellertson's never been to Nigeria, but she and her American teammates shared a flight a few days ago with Nigeria's national team.
'I got to talk with them (Nigerian players) a little bit,' Ellertson said. 'I told them where my mom is from. It really does mean something to me.'
The No. 1-ranked Americans - undefeated in 49 straight games and looking for a third World Cup title - need only a tie against Nigeria to advance to the quarterfinals from Group B. North Korea, favored to get the other spot, plays Sweden today.
Although she's played 23 times internationally for the United States, Ellertson has not played in the first two games. Getting the nod were defenders Kate Markgraf, Christie Rampone, Stephanie Lopez and Cat Whitehill.
'To be able to step out on that field and play a game in my first World Cup, I mean I'm waiting for that,' Ellertson said. 'But I understand my role. If I do get in, great. If I don't, just being a part of this experience has been great for me.'