PARK CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – The first time Franck Tayou met Abel Sebele, affectionally known as Shadow, he knew he had made a lifelong friend.
“We bonded right away – being from Africa, coming from similar backgrounds and sharing stories of our childhood,” said Tayou. “Shadow had a smile that was infectious, he was very loving and an unbelievable player.”
Sebele was Tayou’s host on a recruiting trip at West Virginia University, where the Camaroon native would commit to play collegiate soccer.
“There’s nothing like playing with your friends,” said Tayou. “I think that’s something that’s so underrated, especially when you all come from different places to a team with the same goal.”
When the two were no longer on the same college soccer team, they kept in contact, with hopes that one day they may play for the same team again. In 2014, that dream became closer than ever with the inception of FC Wichita, the city’s minor league soccer club.
“There were a core group of guys from my university,” said Tayou. “We all got on a call and said, ‘hey guys, wouldn’t it be great if we could all play together again?’ FC Wichita gave us that opportunity.”
Tayou had originally planned to join his former teammates in Wichita, but ended up backing out. Little did he know, it would be his last chance to play with Sebele, who died in a traffic incident in 2016. He was just 26 years old.
“For quite some time I had regrets, but as I’ve gotten older and navigated through life, I understand that everything happens for a reason,” said Tayou.
Now, the four-time Major Arena Soccer League MVP is in Wichita to honor his late friend and teammate.
“He loved the club and he loved the city,” said Tayou. “He would have given anything to win a championship here, and if I’m able to do that, it would be an honor.”
With each Wichita Wings game, Tayou becomes one step closer to that goal, as the team eyes its first title in franchise history.
“We have a great opportunity to win a trophy for the Wings and I’m glad to be a part of that,” said Tayou. “I know looking down on us and seeing that I’ve carried that wish, he would me smiling down on us and he would be happy.”