Soccer was the link that brought Wally Disponette and Emmanuel Nfor together. But from there it has grown into a lasting friendship.
“Outside of my passion for the game, this guy has probably the next best passion,” Disponette said with a smile. “We’re close on this passion thing and how much we like the game of soccer.”
Their friendship started at the end of 2012 when Disponette was looking for an assistant coach. Disponette, the head coach of Bondurant Middle School’s girls soccer team, was conducting practice. Nfor and his younger brother came to the field to kick around the ball.
Disponette said he remembered seeing Nfor play around eight years earlier for Western Hills and remembered that he liked how he finished a score. Nfor knew Disponette was a soccer coach.
But that day was the start of something more.
“I was looking for a replacement and he showed up on the field,” Disponette said. “I just approached him and started a conversation. I told him I was looking for an assistant and he jumped right on board. We’ve been buddies ever since.”
And from there, a friendship blossomed.
“It was meant to be and from that moment, things have just fallen in place,” Nfor said. “It’s been a great ride and we’re definitely going to keep it going. Once I started coaching under him, that’s where not only that professional relationship grew but also our friendship. Since then I go to his house almost every other week. We just sit and talk for hours on end. Coaching was an avenue to build that friendship and it’s expanded from there.”
Disponette first got into coaching soccer when the coach of his son’s YMCA team was a no-show.
“When a coach didn’t show someone had to take over,” Disponette said.
From there, he read books, watched videos and went to high school soccer games to learn more about the game.
That led to 24 years of coaching soccer. He’s coached YMCA and club teams in several places, including in Versailles, Harrodsburg and Shelbyville.
He served as the head coach of the girls soccer team at Bondurant for 13 years.
Nfor grew up playing soccer in Cameroon, where he lived for 12 years before his family moved to the United States 10 years ago.
Nfor played soccer at WHHS and played at Campbellsville University for two and a half years. He transferred to Kentucky State University after his father passed away in 2012.
He coached club level and youth soccer teams, but that conversation with Disponette was the start of coaching at the school level.
“He’s definitely my mentor as far as how to work, especially in the school setting,” Nfor said. “He showed me everything that needs to be done. He sat back, watched me mess up and then told me how to fix it. He has just thrown so many things my way and I have just been lucky enough to soak it in, and now I get to use it at the higher levels as I go on and on. There are so many lessons I have learned from working with Coach that I know I am going to implement as a coach.”
After coaching under Disponette with the girls team, Nfor moved on to coach the boys soccer team at Bondurant. And for the upcoming season, he will be the head coach for WHHS boys.
He credits Disponette for getting him into the school system and giving him the experience that helped him get where he is now.
Disponette’s health led to him to resign after this past season. In January, Disponette found out he had melanoma and had an operation done for it Feb. 3. Then, in March, a biopsy revealed he had throat cancer. He underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy as well as 35 days straight of radiation.
He had his last treatment a month ago and gained the ability to talk again around a week ago.
“I thank God because I couldn’t do all that I have done by myself and for also getting me through the condition I am in,” Disponette said.
And even through this rough time, Disponette enjoyed the World Cup along with Nfor. The two used it as a coaching tool.
“We spoke in advance about an upcoming game, made a prediction on it and then we met up and talked about it more,” Nfor said. “Spending that time together, interacting and trying to learn as much as possible from each game and why somebody was doing what they were doing is what our relationship has been built on.”
After being homebound for a few months, Disponette is now able to go back to the place he loves.
“When I can get up and walk, I come to the soccer field,” Disponette said.
Although, his health made him step down from coaching, he plans on returning to the sideline in the future.
“We’ll see where it is,” Disponette said. “I decided to step out all this year. If it all goes well, maybe I can get back into it next season.”
Disponette may not be a head coach this year, but he’ll still be at the soccer field this fall season, watching his friend and fellow soccer enthusiast lead the Wolverines. And Nfor looks forward to what the future brings for their friendship.
“I can never thank him enough and I don’t think there is anything I can do to repay him except maybe bring him a state title,” Nfor said. “I’m going to try to do that as soon as possible. It’s been a fantastic time and I hope we have more fantastic times working together for sure.”