Mongolian-American Aims for National Team Call-Up
Battogtokh scoring with club team FC Mongol United
With over 25,000 Americans claiming Mongolian ancestry, it was a matter of time before a Mongolian-American caused a blip on the soccer radar in both countries. That player, known as Bebe and Blake to his friends, is 23-year-old Bilegtuvshin Battogtokh who currently plays for Ohio Christian University of the NAIA.
In many ways, Bebe's story is much like those of other immigrants. In 2003 at age five, his family moved from Ulaanbaatar where he was born to the United States with hopes for a better life and more opportunities for them and their young son. His family eventually settled in Arlington, Virginia, home to one of the top five largest Mongolian-American populations in the U.S. Shortly after arriving to his new home, Battogtokh began playing soccer at recess as a way to connect with his new elementary school peers...and he hasn't stopped since.
Bebe played for his school team at Yorktown High School, while juggling playing for the local Annandale Boys and Girls Club and a traveling team from Arlington. He experienced a steady flow of successes, including being top scorer of his high school junior varsity team and making it to the semi-finals of the Virginia State Cup with ABGC, among numerous others.
Through a partnership with Annandale BGC, at age 16 he got the opportunity to train with the academy of DC United of Major League Soccer. About the opportunity Battogtokh says, "It was an amazing experience and it pushed me to keep working hard as a soccer player. Playing with DC United Academy players offered me the chance to learn from professional coaches."
All the while, Bebe was participating with a club team called FC Mongol United that is part of the Mongolian Soccer Association of America. The MSAA is a nation-wide group that organizes soccer opportunities for Mongolian players in the U.S., including the annual national tournament, while celebrating their shared culture. These tournaments were perhaps where the player experienced his most success, over several years winning the silver medal and the Golden Boot award in several high profile tournaments.
It was these standout performances that caught the eye of Ohio Christian University's head coach George Arroyo after seeing a highlight video of the player. 2020 has been a massive year for Battogtokh as he made his team debut and has tallied two goals and and assist so far.
About his playing future after college, Bebe says, "After graduation, I would love to become a professional soccer player in the United States." While that dream is common among college soccer players, his goals don't end there. "If I become a professional player in the United States, I am hoping I would get a call from the Mongolian National Team ...It has always been my dream to represent my native country on the world stage and I am willing to do everything it takes to reach that stage in my career." Battogtokh has not forgotten his roots and has a Mongolian flag hanging in his locker room to remind him before every match.
A desire by the player and the MFF alone would not be enough to see Battogtokh in a Mongolia jersey. Current Mongolian nationality laws do not allow for duel citizenship in most cases. Because the player was required to let go of citizenship of his homeland to obtain U.S. citizenship, he would seemingly need to re-apply for Mongolian citizenship which would mean losing his U.S. citizenship. The player may have some very difficult decisions to make moving forward.
While Bebe has not yet been contacted by the Mongolian Football Federation, other groups in Mongolia have already begun to notice him. He has previously been contacted by FC Ulaanbaatar of the Mongolian Premier League about a potential deal. About returning to Mongolia for his footballing career, Battogtokh seems very open to the idea, saying, "If there is an opportunity to play in Mongolia’s first division after graduation, I would carefully look into it!"
The young player offers something that the Mongolian national teams have been largely lacking, namely versatility up front, a knack for finishing, and (at 6 feet 1 inch) height. While Battogtokh is focused on earning his own spot in the Mongolian set-up, his success may have much wider ramifications. He could be the player that draws enough attention from the powers-that-be in Mongolia to open many doors for other Mongolian-Americans players moving forward.
Soccer Activities, Achievements, and Honors
Annandale Boys and Girls Club (2013-2014)
Arlington Travel Soccer (2012-2013)
Virginia State Cup semifinalist, top scorer for ABGC United U16 (2013-2014)
Yorktown High School (YHS) Junior Varsity Soccer, top scorer (2013)
YHS Varsity Soccer (2015)
Mongolian Soccer Association of America (MSAA) U.S. Soccer Tournament, top scorer (2014)
Mongolian Soccer Association of America (MSAA) U.S. Soccer Tournament, bronze medalist (2014)
Pyramid Cup Soccer Tournament bronze medalist (2012)
Lotus Cup Soccer Champion, Most Valuable Player (MVP) (2014)
OBGC August Capital Cup Champion (2013)
Khan Cup Soccer Champion, Most Valuable Player (MVP) (2013)
D.C. Mongolian League Best Young Player (2011-2013)
D.C. Mongolian League Best Forward (2014-2015)
D.C. Mongolian League Soccer Champion (2015)
D.C. Mongolian League Best Forward (2019)
Mongolian Soccer Association of America (MSAA) U.S. Soccer Tournament, silver medalist (2019)
Pyramid Cup Soccer Tournament, silver medalist (2019)
Ohio Christian University Men’s Soccer Starting Player (2020-2021)