Hamadi and Soccer: Joined at the Hip


Sofiane Hamadi knew that soccer was going to play a role in his life. But the path it took him on was far from how he had envisioned it. From suffering a debilitating injury at the worst possible moment to the hardships that come along with being foreign in the United States, the game of soccer has always seemed to find a way back into Hamadi’s life at the most opportune times.

Hamadi grew up in in Marseille, the second largest populated city in France.

Much like any young European boy, his career aspirations were to play for his country’s national soccer team.

“I started (playing) when I was 7, pretty young. In the beginning soccer was everything. I wanted to be a soccer player, because in Europe it’s like basketball or American football over here. It is the major sport,” Hamadi stated.

Hamadi kept it in his mind that this was going to be his career and nothing would deter him from achieving his ultimate dream until an unforeseen injury sent his childhood dreams crashing down.

“I was very close to being a pro at a certain time but I broke my hip, so I stopped soccer for a while, pretty much five years,” Hamadi added. “I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t go to school, so I was out for a year and it was very I hard. I was dependent on my parents because it was difficult for me to achieve small tasks like taking a shower. When I recovered from my injury I had no desire to play soccer anymore because it was such a traumatizing injury.”

With the injury at a relatively young age, Hamadi decided to move away from his home country to start his life with a new focus. Again, the game of soccer would not be too far behind him.

This new start began by Hamadi packing his bags and heading over to the neighboring European country of England.

Now this being his decision in life to pursue new opportunities, Hamadi knew the risk that he was taking.

“When I moved to England I was by myself, so I left France for a country I don’t know, a language that I don’t know, didn’t know where to sleep, where to eat,” Hamadi stated. “But life is a bet, and if you don’t experience life, you will have regret. So, I chose to not have regret and do what I want to do, whenever I want, and to be able to do that you have to be willing to take risks.”

With a strong sense of individualism and knowing that he had to get through these moments in life on his own, soccer came to the rescue and offered a new vision and focus in his life.

“When I was in England, I met some people who mentioned that I could study and play at the same time,” Hamadi said. “I originally was planning to come to America when I was 18, but it was not possible because it was too expensive. I didn’t know about school and scholarships, I couldn’t speak any English either so it was hard to communicate.”

Following a brief stint in England, he knew where he had to be and that was in America. Hamadi hopped across the Atlantic Ocean and found himself attending Genesee Community College in Batavia, New York.

While attending GCC, Hamadi would do just what he had intended, play soccer while taking on an academic workload. The soccer team (much like every year) was fully comprised of international talent.

Yet, Hamadi knew that he was having more hardships than some of his teammates from which he had developed a bond with.

“There was a lot of Brazilian, Irish, English, and Africans so the whole team was from abroad,” Hamadi added. “We were in the same position but not so much because I was a little bit older than them and I was going through harder things at the time like paying for tuition straight out of pocket.”

After a year at GCC, Hamadi saw his life take him on a different route yet again. He would transfer to Buffalo State but little did he know, as much as he had wanted to get away from the game of soccer, it would boomerang back into his life without his knowing.

“It’s funny because I wanted to play for the football team at Buffalo State and try out to be the kicker. Try something different,” Hamadi added. “When I was talking to them through email they were confused at my request because they thought the word ‘football’ in my email was me using the European term meaning soccer and not for the American version of football.”

Buffalo State men’s soccer head coach Howlett would then become aware of Hamadi and would discuss how this new experience in life was dejecting this young man’s demeanor and positive and cheerful attitude.

“My first interaction with Sofiane was through an email from the fashion and textile department saying that a young man had been in touch about Buffalo State and he was also a soccer player, then I reached out to him through email and asked him a little about himself and where he is at and if he would want to play soccer while being here.”

After much debate on whether or not to return to soccer after playing at GCC, Hamadi agreed to join the Bengals and have soccer return to his life, again.

Unlike his previous experiences in England and at GCC, it did not take long for Hamadi to find a temporary home while at Buffalo State.

“It was quick for him to bond with the players, he lives in a house where there is six of them (nine total, six Buffalo State soccer players). He is Muslim, and we have a bunch of other Muslims on the team so that connection was great straight off the bat,” Howlett stated. “I think with the personality that he has and the likeable nature that he has it was just very quick for him to really lock in with the team and find friends straight away.”

Hamadi’s living situation in the states is far more comfortable than it was in England.

“When I was in London I stayed in hostiles where every day you are seeing a new face and you are scared to lose your items,” Hamadi added. “With this, you live with your teammates and everybody is cool and there is no problem and everybody respects each other. It’s fun, it’s the college life.”

Although he might have found new friends and is on his way to achieving his ultimate goal of a master’s degree, the burdens of everyday life continue to press down onto Hamadi.

“The struggle of having no furniture here, having no bed, having no excess cash to eat. The struggle is the day to day for him right now,” Howlett stated. “He is a very smart young man and he pours himself into his academics.”

Yet, even with all of the hardships and burdens he carries, here is Hamadi walking on Buffalo State’s campus: full beard, hair tied back in bun, with the biggest of smiles as if he had just won the lottery.

“I always think of people behind me, there is a lot of people in the world who cannot feed themselves, that sleep on the street, have trouble clothing themselves,” Hamadi said. “I have seen people without legs, deaf, blind so I think why not look at myself in the mirror and not think that I have everything so that is why I have such a positive attitude and always have a smile.”

With Hamadi happy at Buffalo State, he still remains zeroed in his ultimate goal of achieving a master’s degree. Hamadi plans on transferring to a prestigious school so he can accomplish this task.

“With a master’s degree, it will be a proud moment for my parents and my family,” Hamadi stated. “For me personally it is an objective I set and something that I said I would do when I came to this country, I had to get this degree.”

Hamadi may not have achieved his initial goals with the help of soccer. However, he no doubt has seen his future and new life aspirations being helped by the beautiful game that continues to elude him.