Three-time MVP, two-time city champion, three-time conference champion and Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations semi-finalist Sameer Fathazada is the ORU men’s soccer team’s newest addition this season.
“I remember following my older brother everywhere with a ball and kicking it around. I used to watch him play and then eventually play with those older guys,” said Fathazada. “I got into soccer as soon as I could walk.”
The Canadian native describes his journey to soccer stardom as exhilarating. Graduating from David & Mary Thomson Collegiate High School in 2015, Fathazada has been the top ranked goal scorer for three consecutive years in Ontario. He is currently seeking to continue his scoring campaigns across the Summit League, but the new striker has yet not seen playing time with the Golden Eagles.
“I had an issue with the NCAA, I didn’t go to school for two years after graduating high school, which hurt my eligibility,” said Fathazada.
According to NCAA rules, each player is allowed to take a gap year before going back to school and still maintain all four years of eligibility.
Fathazada quickly learned about the rule, “For every other year you take off, you lose one year of eligibility. Thankfully I got all four of my years back after a long appeal.”
Nonetheless, Fathazada would have still been given the opportunity to play soccer with or without the NCAA’s approval; it just wouldn’t have been in the United States.
Fathazada went to Germany when he turned 16 to see how he compared with the other players there. After a seemingly successful trip, he was invited to come back after he finished high school and turned the legal age of 18 to be able to sign.
“Playing in Germany was an incredible experience. When seeing the level and mentality of the players compared to those back home, it really pushes and motivates you to be better.
“It’s a completely different experience,” said Fathazada. “There are all kinds of sports, however, in Europe it’s mainly soccer so competition there is a lot harder. People breathe and live soccer there, it’s a lifestyle.”
In addition, Fathazada expressed that his time overseas was life-changing, “I had some really tough times. I faced a prolonged injury, [but] I became more of a man with my experience in Germany.”
Normally, young talent is discovered at an early age, and usually athletes like Fathazada are recruited to play professional soccer in other nations. This makes it difficult to find collegiate talent. Most likely, these young athletes sign at 18 years old, the average age of a freshman in college.
“I was at a point where I had to look at my options and see whether I could go pro or go to school,” said Fathazada.
“[ORU] came to me with a really good offer that I couldn’t say no to, and I really liked the campus and program when I visited. So I made my decision to come here,” he said.
Eager and waiting for the chance to lace up, Fathazada is ready to join his newfound brothers on the pitch.
“I’ve been really looking forward to fighting for the jersey and school. I feel like a little kid again.”