RICHMOND, Va. -- When Kofi Nti arrived in Richmond more than a decade ago, he hoped to make an impact as a player with the Richmond Kickers.
“He was very strong, he was very disciplined, he wasn’t the flashiest player but just did the job,” said former teammate Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi.
As news of his sudden passing spread Monday, it became obvious Nti's impact went well beyond the soccer pitch.
“He was mild mannered, soft spoken and everybody just loved him, said Adu-Gyamfi.
Nti collapsed and died Sunday morning at church, according to friends.
“It does give me comfort that it was the church. He loved church, he loved soccer he loves God,” said Adu-Gyamfi.
A cause of death has not yet been determined.
The day before his death, Nti was seen with friends and fans at Saturday's home opener for the Richmond Kickers.
A native of Ghana, Nti served as Community Director with the Richmond Kickers Youth Soccer Club.
In that role, he helped oversees hundreds of young soccer players who take part in the Kickers recreational programs.
"We encourage you to talk to your children about this loss and ask that you let us know if we can be helpful to you or your child," Richmond Kickers Youth Soccer Club president Rob Ukrop said in a letter to Kicker families.
“I can’t put a value on what Kofi meant or did for us. When somebody loves your kids as much as he did and cares about them, follows up when injured, asks how school was, talks about being good people, faith, he’s so much more than just a coach,” said parent Leon Brownlee. Kofi has coached Brownlee’s son Tyler for the last three years. “He challenged him to better himself. Wouldn’t accept mediocre but also focused on player development,” he added.
Before coming to Virginia, Nti led the University of Ghana soccer team to win the University League in 1999.
With no immediate family in Virginia, friends are working to raise money so his body can be transported back to his mother in Africa.
"Coach is too simple a word to use when referring to Kofi because he was so much more, a mentor, friend, and confidant who truly loved what he did and his passion was such a positive influence in so many young and old lives alike," a message on a GoFundMe fundraising page said. "Kofi truly cared so deeply about every child he has ever coached - he treated each and every one as if they were his own.
"He listened, encouraged, developed, supported and challenged without judgement, he was one of a kind; that is why his name is and always will be spoken with great admiration and respect. He left an imprint on all who have had to privilege to call him coach. To say he will be missed by both players and parents is an understatement. His shining spirit and big bright smile will never be forgotten - his spirit will forever be a part of each and every one of us and will always be there on the pitch...rest easy my friend... your legacy lives on."
“He’s touched so many lives within our rec program, our ADP program, our classic and elite travel programs, he just had an infectious personality, great smile, great laugh just enthusiasm for life he loved kids,” said Ukrop.
The Richmond Kickers will Host a Memorial Service to Honor Nti Thursday March 30 from 6:30 to 8pm. At Commonwealth Chapel South campus 3505 Old Hundred Rd S, Midlothian, VA 23112. They are asking everyone to wear red since Nti’s favorite teams were the Kickers and Manchester United.
“Gonna leave a void in our lives that I’m not sure will ever be filled,” said Brownlee.
This is a developing story. Friends and members of the Kickers soccer family can submit memories and photos here.