(Updated: Mar 3, 05:28 PM) SAN JOSE – Olasunkanmi A. “Anthony” Abass Jr. has been named this year’s winner of the Alexander Arellano Memorial Award, a distinction that goes to the club’s Best Teammate.
The award is named after the late son of club owner and manager Nick Arellano and his wife, Norma. Alexander, affectionately known as the “Mo Man”, died in 2012 at the age of 25.
The award will be presented to Abass Saturday night at 7 pm at the stadium when RSJ opens its 2020 season against Pajaro Valley United of Watsonville.
Abass, 36, is with his second stint with the club.
Born in California, and raised in Nigeria, Abass played at De Anza College before joining RSJ around 2009. He said he has the warmest memories of young Alexander being around RSJ.
“You knew the Mo Man was going to be in the locker room for the game, laughing and cracking jokes,” Abass said. He said simply having the younger around was special.
“I was quite honored to get this award,” he said.
Abass said he originally joined RSJ in 2009 after playing at DeAnza. He wanted to stay in shape for the summer.
Abass said he originally wanted to play forward for RSJ, the same position he played at De Anza. That experiment, he noted, did not last long. Nick Arellano, then and now the team’s manager, called Abass over to assess things not long after seeing him play up front.
“You’re playing as a forward is not working,” Abass recalled being told.
So, Abass moved to the RSJ midfield and defense. He played for the team for six years before moving home to Fresno.
“Yeah, it’s been a minute,” he joked when asked about his longevity at RSJ. He said he keeps in touch with some of his teammates, such as Jesse Kehoe. Others, he said, he has lost touch with.
The young defender and midfielder of yesterday is now the team’s oldest player. Many of his teammates are a decade younger than him.
Abass said he can read the game better. He can tell players what to expect. He can help to encourage substitutes to be ready because they may be called upon to play. Pay attention. Make an impact. Learn from mistakes.
“Don’t make the same mistake twice,” he added.
The Mo Man would be pleased with those words.