Aman's Journey Continues
July 22, 2012
By: Jocelyn Perry
SEATTLE - On a cold and windy autumn day at the Husky Soccer Field, senior forward Abdul Aman comes off the bench and substitutes onto the pitch. The Huskies are playing Stanford, and the game is tied 1-1 with halftime quickly approaching. With `Washington' emblazoned on his purple jersey, Aman bolts past the Cardinal defenders and nets a low-post, game-winning goal in the 41st minute.
For some, that may be another `W' to mark in the win column after years of specialized training, but for Aman it means a lot more.
The sixth-year senior took a less traditional route to Montlake. Aman was born in Ethiopia, where he lived with his family for seven years until having to move to Nairobi, Kenya where they stayed for nine more years. Having a several brothers and sisters, their interest in soccer began rubbing off on Aman. Between the popularity of the game in Kenya and his siblings' influence, he quickly learned he was going to be in love with the sport forever. Even when he and his friends didn't have a traditional ball to play with, they would fashion their own balls out of plastics tied with socks and would play for hours on hours barefoot, anywhere, anytime. Aman's love for the game was so strong that when his brother went on a trip to Saudi Arabia, he brought back cleats as a souvenir.
Aman's brother was also responsible for sponsoring his brother and a few of his other family members to the US. With hopes to earn some money and get an education, the Aman family decided to pick up and move to Seattle. 16 years old at the time, Aman enrolled at Nathan Hale High School and wanted to get on the soccer field to start scoring goals as soon as possible. Because of his lack of formalized training on a club team, the natural striker was forced to play in the midfield. Regardless, Aman earned a starting position at midfield, scored 14 goals and was named First-Team All-Metro League.
But it wasn't always about the soccer. Aman decided to make some assists off the field and took on a part-time job to help out his family. All of a sudden, Aman was juggling a new country, a new educational system, a new soccer team and a new language. "I didn't play on any competitive clubs like Crossfire," said Aman. "All my relatives here only talk about how you make money and how you buy cars. But my passion was soccer. Even when I played on the U15 national team in Kenya. It's always been my passion. So when I came here it was still my passion, but I didn't have anyone to tell me (how to get involved). And especially because I didn't speak English well, it wasn't easy trying to get into the system."
Realizing his dream, Aman and his friend decided to transfer to rival high school, Kingco 4A member Roosevelt for stiffer competition. Aman suited up for the Rough Riders and delivered. The forward earned All-State honors and was the top scorer with 12 goals in 2007. With equal fervor for success in 2008, Aman began looking to what could be next. He attended some Husky games as a fan while in high school and fell in love with the program immediately, but knew with his non-existent club experience playing for the purple and the gold wouldn't be easy.
"My dream was to play for UW since I came to Seattle," Aman remembers. "But if you're not playing competitive soccer you can't just walk in. You have to build up how good you are. I loved seeing UW and all the big buildings from I-5 and I knew I wanted to play here."
With offers in hand from major programs such as Gonzaga and Florida International, Aman decided to enroll at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham where he could play soccer and have a chance to work on some classes. There, Aman scored 27 goals and was named the NWAACC North MVP. Working to save some money and studying fervently, Aman started playing in the PDL. Assistant coach Brandon Prideaux came to a few games for some Husky players, and things started to fall into place for Aman. Prideaux noticed him and encouraged Aman to keep playing and taking the necessary credits to be able to transfer to UW. Aman pushed and pushed and then around September of 2011 he was finally eligible to play for his dream school.
The Huskies had a tumultuous season last year. After starting the season with the memory of a narrow miss to the NCAA tournament, the Dawgs took the field, battled opponents and finished with a 12-4-2 record and second place in the Pac-12 conference. Despite their strong overall and conference record, the Huskies again missed postseason play.
"It was exciting, you know?" asks Aman. "I had a chance to play competitive soccer with good players. We worked hard. I like it. We have a good coach, good assistant coach. Everyone's good. Jamie's a good person. He's taking everyone to the next level so everyone is working out for the team. We gave 100% and when we didn't make the NCAA tournament it was hard. It was a little frustrating but it felt good to play on this level."
Because Aman transferred from so many schools, many thought the fifth-year senior's next step would be to play professionally. He was picked up in the supplemental draft by the Seattle Sounders with the 15th pick of the third round (53rd overall). The Sounders wanted to send him to the USL Charleston Battery to get him ready for the majors. But Aman sat down, remembered his goals and went back to head coach Jamie Clark with a thought.
Aman's goal was always to graduate from the University of Washington, and his love was to play the game of soccer. After sitting down with Clark, they agreed to petition for a difficult, uncharacteristic sixth year. "Actually I was talking with Jamie and just as a joke it happened," said Aman. "After I got drafted and everyone was excited. Especially the Seattle Sounders. They wanted to send me to Charleston to build me up and then send me to the majors. Then I talked to Jamie because I wanted to finish my education and I thought it was a better idea to stay at UW to help myself and play better and workout with the team from the beginning of the season. I came back for the education."
With the help of the coaching staff, Aman petitioned and was granted his sixth year. He sustained an injury while playing for Clarke University in 2009 and provided the league with many documents from Africa to obtain his sixth year.
"Getting a sixth year of eligibility was incredible for Abdul," said head coach Jamie Clark. "After last season he had a lot of pro scouts interested in him, but he still had over a full year of school left to complete. Without the pull of playing one final season at UW, the lure of pro soccer may have pulled him away from school. When the NCAA granted him this extra year it meant he could complete his degree while also playing his final collegiate season. I'm delighted he chose to return to finish his degree and think that he is going to have an incredible senior year."
Now the Cristiano Ronaldo fan has another year to play with the Huskies, but this year Aman will return as a veteran. His advice for the 14 newcomers: "I just want to tell them to listen to the elders. And respect everyone. And work hard! If you work hard then you can get what you want. It's kind of frustrating when (you're new) and you don't have experience at this level. It's not going to come from the start."
"Abdul is a young man that has worked incredibly hard to get where he is," added Clark. "He's only a college student and he's already had more detours and stops along the road than most people have in an entire lifetime. These hurdles and hardships are the exact reason why he is so focused at making the most of every opportunity."
And now that he has achieved his goal to play for the Huskies and is close to completing his undergraduate degree, Aman has a new goal. "As a team, our goal is to win the Pac-12. We want the championship this year. And I believe we can do it. We have a good squad this year."
Aman will graduate with a degree in American Ethnic Studies in winter 2013. Speaking six languages, he hopes to work with those who struggle with English and help translate after graduation, and continue playing soccer for as long as he can. Aman's brothers and sisters have gone on to run businesses and start families, but Aman keeps his family's passion of the beautiful game alive.