Behind the Brand: Raqeeb Popoola

The U of A's Golden Bears soccer team's striker knows he can follow through on a great play in the making.


Raqeeb Popoola kept outrunning the camera.

You can catch Popoola, a Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation student who also plays striker for the U of A’s Golden Bears soccer team, in the university’s  new brand story video, Leading with Purpose, where he sprints around a soccer field at night. 

But be advised: his pace in the video is not his top speed.

“For the shots where I’m running, the camera was in a cart,” he says, “so I had to match the speed as I was running.”

This proved difficult for the first few takes. Popoola’s sprint would carry him out of frame as the self-powered cart couldn’t keep up.

Yet even after he slowed down, the production team still put him through his paces. His appearance in the video is brief, but the shoot took 2.5 hours and didn’t start until 8 p.m. Popoola ran the same 100-metre stretch of field dozens of times.

“It was definitely a bit of work, but they let me walk back,” he says with a laugh. “Some of my teammates told me I could have gone a bit harder after they saw the video.”

Popoola grew up in Calgary and was drawn to the University of Alberta by the twin strengths of its kinesiology and soccer programs.

“I was trying to find a balance between my athletic and academic aspirations,” he says.

As a second-year student, Popoola is still assessing where those aspirations will take him after graduation. Current considerations include work as a physiotherapist, going on to medical school, or maybe playing pro soccer somewhere. Whatever route he takes, he says it’s the teamwork on and off the field that have given his game and his studies a sense of purpose.

Wherever he winds up, Popoola says his time as a Golden Bear has played a major role in shaping his character. On the team, he can both demonstrate and benefit from solid  leadership. He names the soccer teams’ captain, Noah Cunningham, as a major mentor.

“Noah is someone who always puts the team first,” Popoola says. “He wishes for and demands the best of everyone around him, which is a great example for us.”