You’re too small. You’re too short. You’re not good enough. Alexander Makubaya, the freshman sensation who has injected new life into the Brock men’s soccer program, has heard it all before. But as Blue Jays star Marcus Stroman says, “height doesn’t measure heart.”
The knock on Makubaya has always been that he was too skinny. From a young age, physicality became an issue; and if that wasn’t enough, he suffered a concussion while still in middle school, forcing him out of class and onto the bench for months. Today, his short 5’9” frame only holds 130 pounds, making him the lightest player on the active roster. He knows and his coaches know that he has muscle to gain — and although his opponents know, they still cannot get him off the ball. While he seems like an easy target to physically challenge and body him off, much like Toronto Football Club (TFC) star Sebastian Giovinco, he has an elusive ability that few can compete with. His flashes of brilliance down the left touch line are compounded with his lightning speed and smooth touches. When he pulls up on a dime, he sometimes looks like he has the ball on a string, he has made defenders look downright silly with his ball control this year. Makubaya is now the leader in goals and points for a Badgers team now in a playoff spot, one year removed from a disastrous two-win season. It has taken years to build on his natural abilities to reach the elite level he is at today, and he does not regret a single moment.
Coming from a family where soccer is religion, Makubaya claims that he had cleats on when he came out of the womb — which is probably only a slight bit of an exaggeration. Makubaya had a tough act to follow as his brother Keith was signed by Major League Soccer’s TFC and made two appearances for the senior team. Putting multiple children through high-level sport can definitely be a strain, and Makubaya gives all the credit to his parents, who hail from Africa.
“Playing in an academy is expensive, and practicing three to four times a week is a strain.”
“They played a big role in allowing me to pursue my passion in soccer, from driving me to early morning practices every weekend and to tournaments,” he said of his parents. “They allowed for my passion to grow by not pushing me into the sport, they let me develop my own love for the game.”
Fast forward to the second game of the 2017 season against the Windsor Lancers. Makubaya plays a ball through to Alejandro Puentes, who makes no mistake in putting the ball in the back of the net. It’s a play the two have connected on countless times in St. Catharines, but never before on Alumni Field representing their hometown university. Both products of the Niagara-born “Elite Soccer Training Program,” the two have grown up playing together and now get to be teammates at their local university, an opportunity that Makubaya cherishes.
“Playing alongside my friend for all these years has helped me tremendously both on and off the field. Learning about the game together and growing as players. That was a big factor.”
Getting both Puentes and Makubaya to attend Brock and play on the varsity team is a milestone recruiting success for the soccer program. The coaching staff have been well aware of Makubaya’s talents for quite some time. Makubaya has known Coach Lucia Ianiero for some time, and when he knew there was an opportunity to continue his career at Brock, he knew that he and Puentes had the ability to make change.
“It’s cool to play in your hometown and try and build something up,” Makubaya said.
He also added in that a big factor in his decision was the intensity and passion of the crowds he saw at Badgers’ sporting events he attended while growing up here. Moving forward, assistant coach Erik VanWissen hopes that, “other players from our region see the talent that we are recruiting, and in turn, attract them into coming to our university. We have an exciting program and big things are to come.”