SoccerNation is spotlighting youth clubs from all over these United States of America. Powered by soccerloco, the SoccerNation Club Spotlight Series h
SoccerNation is spotlighting youth clubs from all over these United States of America. Powered by soccerloco, the SoccerNation Club Spotlight Series has already taken us all around Southern California and to some very special soccer spots across this great country. From the Hawaiian Islands to the Eastern Seaboard, we are on a mission to showcase the people and organizations helping to build the future of the beautiful game.
In the latest edition of the SoccerNation Club Spotlight, we returned to San Diego for an engaging chat with Sami Nedjar, the Technical Director of San Diego United. Sami is a well known personality in the local soccer community, and we got to know quite a bit about his soccer background, his love for helping young people get into college, and his work on and off the field with San Diego United.
Here’s Part 2 of the conversation.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): How would you summarize the relationship of San Diego United with other clubs in the surrounding community, region, and beyond?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): I think our club tries very hard to work with our local competitors. We have had some success as a club, and there are some areas where there will always be fierce rivalry present with anyone else. But overall, I hope we are seen as a club that tries to work well with other clubs. I think it’s awesome to see the whole San Diego soccer community coming together in trying to obtain an MLS team. I really hope that comes to fruition. It will be nice for our kids to be able to see outdoor soccer at the highest level possible in person. I am also hopeful that we will be able to bring a women’s professional team to our incredible city.
Although we are mostly an East San Diego County soccer club, we have had players travel from El Centro, North County, the coast, and the South Bay. We do not heavily recruit in those areas, but it is nice to see players willing to travel out our way to be part of the program. In that regard, we have made a great connection with the community of City Heights. Kyle Hagenburger, and now Chassion Griggs, the current boys coach at Crawford High School, have been incredible allies for us as a club. Seeing the amount of extra time and effort they put in has really been awesome to watch. Every one of these kids that come to our club are from different backgrounds. At the end of the day, they all come together to play the beautiful game. If we can play a small part in helping players get more opportunities, that is what is all about, no matter where they’re from. This is where I feel our relationships with others in the soccer community are most important.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Sami, how would you assess the current state of youth soccer in America?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): I would say that youth soccer across this country is in a state of flux. I do not mean that in a negative way. There are a lot of changing parts. We have just readjusted playing by the birth years again (like the rest of the world does). I am a tad embarrassed to say that I was around when the change was made to go to the August – July playing age. Boy am I getting old!
The number of players and the play on the field have just been changed. We are know going 4v4, 7v7, 9v9, and 11v11. We are now adjusting play out lines, the new ‘no headers’ mandate, etc.
I think it is good that the United States Soccer Federation is finally making some impacting decisions. The downside is that some of these changes will be met with opposition. And some of these changes are hard to implement in real soccer games. But I think overall our game will become better through some of these changes. But it takes time to see these results and in America people want results right away. We must be patient.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Tell us about your soccer upbringing. Who are some of your soccer idols? (Players, coaches, community members, all of the above, etc.) And how did you start living and breathing the beautiful game?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): I was lucky enough to fall in love with soccer at a very young age. I first played soccer in San Clemente (AYSO) when I was 10 years old. I moved to Oceanside a year later, and continued to play through the local YMCA. Since it was in the dark ages when it came to soccer in the states, there was not a lot soccer on TV. But I was fortunate enough to come across two TV shows on PBS, ‘All-Star soccer’ which was a highlight show from England, and the incredible ‘Soccer Made in Germany’. Two of the first players that I remember following were Sammy McIlroy of Manchester United and Franz Beckenbauer, the legendary German.
I was blessed to be able to witness many games live at an early age, watching the NASL outdoor version of the San Diego Sockers. Lucky for me, I figured out where the players came out after the games, and in the course of two or three seasons, I was able to amass autographs from all of the San Diego Sockers players, including the great Mexicans Hugo Sanchez and Leo Cuellar, Kaz Deyna, and many more. I also was able to meet superstars from the other teams. I had a really cool Mikasa kickoff soccer ball with autographs from Kyle Rote Jr., Trevor Francis, George Best, Georgio Chinaglia, and the incomparable Johan Cruyff, to name just a few. I had that ball for the longest time, and it was always one of my most prized possessions. Unfortunately I got those autographs with regular ballpoint pens, so they faded over time. But the memories of getting them was awesome, and can never be taken away.
That story about meeting all those idols of mine when I was a kid is one of the main reasons why I am so enthusiastic about a program I’m building called “Ask a Pro”. Youth players get to ask professional players questions, and get real answers from them. They also get to meet these players and get autographed items from them and share conversations with them. These interactions can be truly priceless. They can inspire young people, and when young people get inspired, who knows where that inspiration can take them.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Sami, thanks so much for your time.
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): My pleasure. Many thanks to SoccerNation! ‘
(Stay tuned to SoccerNation.com for the next edition of our Club Spotlight Series, powered by soccerloco.)