International student wants to go from ‘Pack to pro

Saudi student almost went pro already, now playing in Kamloops men’s league

Abdullah Almasar had just been offered a starting position as a striker with Al-Hilal Saudi, a professional soccer team back in his home country Saudi Arabia, but he turned it down to come to TRU to study English and business in 2009. This year Almasar is getting closer to what he has wanted since starting at TRU, a spot on the WolfPack soccer team.

“I hope one day I will be joining the WolfPack. Their players have been asking me since 2011, but I had an ACL surgery, so that’s why I couldn’t join them back then. I’m still having trouble with my knee a little bit,” Almasar said.

Abdullah Almasar at a Caracals practice. He hopes to get a chance to show off his skills on the WolfPack. (Tayla Scott/The Omega)

Abdullah Almasar at a Caracals practice. He hopes to get a chance to show off his skills on the WolfPack. (Tayla Scott/The Omega)

Once his knee allowed for it, Almasar started to play soccer in the Kamloops men’s soccer league. WolfPack players, who played in the same league over the winter, started noticing Almasar’s skills on the field. They encouraged him to contact head coach John Antulov but Almasar was still waiting for his injury to heal.

This year, Almasar has been playing as a striker for the Caracals, a team founded by international student Abdullah Abalkhail and made up entirely of TRU international students.

While playing for the Caracals, Almasar impressed ‘Pack players once again during a drop-in soccer game against them in January. This time when they told him to contact the coach, he did.

“A couple of the players in my program had told me about him. We said we’d give him a look,” Antulov said.

With the approval of Antulov, Almasar began practising with the ‘Pack.

“His speed looks good and his feet look good and he looks like he has got a bit of skill but at the same time we’ve got to see it on a full field and see how he competes with speed and quickness,” Antulov said.

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(Tayla Scott/ The Omega)

“It’s a process. Sometimes it takes a little longer than a couple sessions to identify players to see what they can do,” Antulov said. “The good part of it is we’ve got six or seven months to have a look at these players. So hopefully in that time he’s able to impress and get an opportunity.”

Antulov is busy recruiting and scouting new players for next sea- son. He hopes to have 30 to 40 players attend the ID soccer camp on Feb. 21 and 22. Antulov will be seeing more Caracals players at the ID camp like Oskar Gafarov, a striker from Russia and Emmanuel Frimpong a right-wing player from Ghana, who both hope to get a spot on the WolfPack.
The Caracals coach, Anas Al-jawaldeh, is happy that Almasar is getting closer to his goal of joining the ‘Pack.

“It’s going to be good for him, and for the WolfPack as well,” Al-jawaldeh said. “We have really good players. They can try the WolfPack. [Antulov] can find some good players so he can call them for the WolfPack in the future.”

If Almasar gains a spot on the ‘Pack, he will be looking to win trophies to add to his athletic resumé, in hopes of once again pursuing a professional soccer career.

“My wish is to play and get a prize with them so they can remember me as an international player, playing with the WolfPack,” Almasar said.

Almasar worries that his injury might hold him back from playing professionally, but won’t give up on his dreams just yet.