Import brings wealth of experience to Mariner Men's Soccer

August 7th, 2013

Import brings wealth of experience to Mariners
by Josh Aldrich Nanaimo Daily News

Farhad Abdulgani has come to the Vancouver Island University Mariners with the intention of helping people.

At first, this will happen on the field with the men's soccer team, and then in time, he is hoping it becomes his profession.

It has been a long road for the 25-year-old international midfielder, who was born in Iraq and moved to Oslo, Norway when he was seven.

This will be his third stint in North America for school and soccer, and the Mariners will be counting on him for veteran leadership as they opened their Pacific Western Athletic Association training camp on Wednesday at Merle Logan Field. It is a role he looks forward to filling.

"When your main goal is to win, you try and do everything to win," said Abdulgani. "If you need to motivate the guys, it doesn't mind me, I'll do whatever it takes to win a national championship."

In life, it is his goal to be a positive influence on people and to help them through their issues as a sociology major.

"My main goal is to help people, to try to understand how people feel and to try to help them by understanding them the most," he said.

The six-foot-two midfielder has certainly been through a lot in his soccer playing life to draw on for leadership.

Despite being born in the Kurdistan province of Iraq, he grew up playing soccer in Norway, after his family - including all five of his brothers and his sister - moved to Oslo when he was young.

Still it was his goal early on to play for his native land.

He played in the for a second division team in Norway as an 18-year-old and was set to tryout for the Iraqi U-21 team, but with the country embroiled in conflict, that opportunity was washed away.

Instead, a search for a place to play in North America led him to Simon Fraser University for the 2009 season, but he lost most of that year after suffering a torn ACL. He returned to Norway, but came back to SFU for the 2011 season, the Clan's first as an NAIA school. This meant they were a probation team, and despite going undefeated in regular season play, they were ineligible for the post-season. He stuck around and played for the Victoria Highlanders' Pacific Development League team during the summer.

He returned to Norway again, but wanted to comeback to North America to continue his education and play soccer. He was put in touch with VIU head coach Bill Merriman, who was looking for top veteran leadership to fill some holes after a large graduating class that included captain Matt Meharassa.

"You can tell he has played at a very high level, and with his experience you can tell he is going to be a big help to this team," said Merriman.

Abdulgani joins a veteran group that includes new captain Dan Cato, and former all-Canadian Chris Arnett and Brady Morrow who have both returned after a year off.

He also has some versatility, with the ability to play midfield and striker, though he will likely spend the vast majority of his time in the centre of the field.

Abdulgani describes himself as a ball distributor with strong technical skills with an aggressive edge, pushing the ball forward.

Wednesday was his first chance to play with his new team, and he likes the mix of players and the level of coaching.

Merriman echoed those sentiments.

"It looks positive, there's some nerves and some little mistakes being made, but that's to be expected in your first training session," he said. "I think it will come together as a good group."

There is a lot to sort out with this new group of players.

Merriman was not afraid to utter the word rebuild, though he adds that does not mean expectations are any lower than normal, coming off of three straight trips to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships, including a silver medal in 2012.

"(Rebuilding) is what happens with university ball, you get that core group that you work with and sooner or later they all have to graduate," he said. "Our goal is to win trophies and do well."

JAldrich@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4243