When the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa begins in June, University of Cincinnati fans will have a rooting interest - in New Zealand.
The All Whites, as they are known, will be competing in their first World Cup since 1982 and only their second ever. On the roster is Tim Brown, who played for the Bearcats from 2000 to 2003 and was second-team Academic All-America in 2003.
Playing in the World Cup used to be Brown's goal in soccer. These days he's got more in mind.
"Now that we have qualified, that goal has grown slightly to performing with distinction at the World Cup," he writes during an email exchange. "That will be a massive challenge. I really want to get some respect from the many who believe we shouldn't be there."
After graduating from UC, Brown began playing professional soccer, a route that took him to the Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer Leagues Second Division, to the Newcastle United Jets in Australia, to the Wellington Phoenix FC in New Zealand. He is vice-captain of that team.
He was chosen captain of New Zealand's team in the 2009 Confederations Cup last June by coach Ricki Herbert.
"My finest achievement as a sportsperson," he calls the title.
Brown, 28, was born in England but moved to New Zealand, his mother's home country, when he was around 4. By the time he was 17 he was playing for the Miramar Rangers AFC soccer club, which led to an opportunity with New Zealand's Under-20 team.
He started attending Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, but says he received about a half dozen scholarship offers from U.S. colleges. Brown chose Cincinnati because of its soccer program and the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning.
He helped lead the Bearcats to the Conference USA regular-season championship and an NCAA tournament appearance in 2003
"I played four years as a Bearcat and loved every moment of it," he writes.
"Playing soccer and attending DAAP proved to be a big challenge during my time at UC. At the time, and I am not sure if it has changed, there were few athletes in that particular school. I am very proud to have graduated from DAAP cum laude as an NSCAA Academic All-American. As a professional athlete in this part of the world I am one of the very few to have a degree. It is something that will set me up for life after sport. I would like to go back to school at the end of my career, possibly in the U.S., to do my masters."
New Zealand, in Group F, begins World Cup play against Slovakia on June 15. Meanwhile, Brown is trying to help turn Wellington into a perennial winner.
"In many ways my career has come full circle," he writes. "I love playing professionally in my home town."