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WESTERN CONFERENCE BUZZ: Belmar’s Eye for Imagery on Display

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 04/23/20, 8:52AM EDT

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FC Tulsa’s Nigerian quartet staying connected; Phoenix’s Lubin, King welcome new four-legged friends


New Sacramento Republic FC signing Kharlton Belmar is proving just as good behind the lens of a camera as he is in front of one in action in the Championship. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In his time in the USL Championship, current Sacramento Republic FC forward Kharlton Belmar has been the centerpiece of some tremendous photography documenting his exploits on the field.

But that passion for the still image is one the 2015 Championship Rookie of the Year also possesses himself, with his Instagram page @kbshootz showing off his ability behind the lens.

“It really starts with my mom; she went to art school before she had me and she’s an amazing artist and painter so over the years I picked that up through her,” Belmar told SacRepublicFC.com’s William Strome recently. “Once she introduced me to it, I started drawing cartoons and anime type of stuff then once I strayed away from that I started being more interested in realism and street art like graffiti. I always took art classes because I liked art in general, but I was never really into drawing objects and that stuff. I always wanted to kind of do my own thing, but the art classes allowed me the opportunity to kind of stop and do that during the school day."

“I’m more favorable to capturing people in a city environment where there’s just so much going on and there’s a lot to see and take in and everyone has such different emotions, so I was always drawn towards that side of it.”

Photography has proven a nice sideline for the standout striker, who entered this season just eight goals away from 50 regular-season tallies in his career. A USL Championship Finalist with Sporting Kansas City II in the 2017 season, he’s been excited by the reception he’s received since arriving in Sacramento as Republic FC looks to add to its trophy case this year.

“I honestly could not believe it; I was telling my mom that,” Belmar told Strome. “I mean, I’ve had big receptions in Nashville, but that one [in Sacramento], I couldn’t put that into words. It felt like I hit the jackpot in terms of hospitality, and it made me that much more excited to get here. 


Kharlton Belmar has been the center of attention for numerous memorable photos during his time in the USL Championship, including this shot taken after scoring for Sporting Kansas City II on the road against Phoenix Rising FC. | Photo courtesy Michael Rin

“I’ve told everyone who has asked me what I’ve thought of this so far and I’ve told them it’s been a dream come true experience so far, I just can’t wait to get onto the field and pay homage to what I’ve seen so far from the city and the fans the clubs.”

FAMILY AND FOOTBALL IN TULSA: The incoming Nigerian trio of Solomon Kwambe, Mfon Udoh and Raphael Ayagwa were among the big additions to FC Tulsa’s squad this offseason, joining fellow Nigerian Toby Uzo at the club.

The theme of the journey of all four players to this point of their careers, though, has been one of family and football, as recounted in a piece by FCTulsa.com last week. From early experiences of the game that saw Udoh playing in cleats so bare the socks stuck out the front like a tongue, to representing the Super Eagles at the international level, the connection to those still back home is one that remains strong.


Nigerian imports Solomon Kwambe (left) and Mfon Udoh are hoping to sparkle as brightly as the gold on the FC Tulsa City Kit this season. | Photo courtesy FC Tulsa

“I still support my family. It’s common,” said Ayagwa. “In Africa, if one person has made it from the family, it’s believed that you are representing the family, so you have to take care of the family.”

Maybe as important during the current suspension of the season, though, is having the support system each player and Head Coach Michaen Nsien – who is also of Nigerian descent – to connect into as the players wait to return to the field.

“It is very, very tough [to be so far from home],” said Kwambe. “Each day, every day I try to talk to my family. We’ll talk for a couple of hours, but it’s difficult. The presence of people that are familiar to you, Rafa, Mfon, Toby, I think it helps a lot. It helps because being here alone is going to be very difficult.

“It would be so hard to be by yourself all the time, to be alone, only be on the phone talking to people. But here I can talk to people in a way that’s normal to me, we can crack jokes in a normal way like in Nigeria. We feel at least some relief from the loneliness.”

NO DOG DAYS FOR RISING FC: There are plenty of ways you can pass the time while social distancing. Some USL Championship players have taken to TikTok, while others have picked up their controllers to enter the gaming realm.

For Phoenix Rising FC’s Zac Lubin and Darnell King, however, there has been a new four-legged addition to their respective families that’s now taking up plenty of their downtime.

King and his wife Kim adopted a new puppy – named Havoc Henry King – earlier this month, with the half-Rottweiler and half-cattle dog mix a perfect fit for the family.

“I grew up with Rottweilers and my wife raised Australian cattle dogs. I was sold right there,” King told AZCentral.com’s Rob Kleifield. “It just fits [us] perfectly.”

Lubin’s new arrival – a half-pit bull and half-heeler named Lennie – has been part of their family a little bit longer, with last year’s All-Championship Second Team selection having picked out the new pup from Desert Tails Shelter in Scottsdale on March 1. The excitement and enthusiasm that Lennie has brought to Lubin and his girlfriend Brenna has been a handful to say the least, but it’s been well worth the fun in-between individual training and team Zoom sessions.

“Between her, and having Brenna (here), it feels good,” Lubin told Kleifield. “I haven’t felt isolated like a lot of people are. She just brightens up everyone’s day, not just ours, but everyone she comes in contact with.”

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