Local Goalies' Careers Are Poised to Go Global
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
On a Sunday afternoon in April at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Boyds, Abdul "Bill" Hamid stood menacingly in the goalkeeper's area as the D.C. United under-18 development academy team played, shouting direction at his defenders: where to move, where opposing players were making runs from, when to push forward.
At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, Hamid mans his position with a presence that demands attention from anyone near the field -- his teammates, the opposition and spectators. On the sideline a few feet away, fellow goalkeeper Samir Badr watched his teammate. A day earlier, it was Badr barking orders to defenders, going airborne to snatch crosses before the balls found rushing attackers.
While Badr plays with flash, Hamid's style is blue-collar. Both are among the top goalkeeping prospects in the United States, which has produced some of the world's top netminders. Badr is an under-17 national pool player who also plays for Robinson High School. Hamid is an under-20 national pool talent. Just teenagers, both have set their sights on European professional contracts. And both may find themselves playing overseas by the end of the summer.
Badr recently returned from a training stint with two Portugese clubs, FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon, and said he is set to sign a reserve contract with Porto this week.
Hamid nearly inked a reserve deal with Scottish club Celtic a year ago before issues with a work visa got in the way. Now, with less than a month remaining before he graduates, Hamid has drawn strong interest from two European clubs.
"They're both a little different in the kind of goalkeepers they are, in their style," D.C. United General Manager Dave Kasper said. "They're both very good athletes, they both read the game very well. Technically, there are things they need to work on, but they both have the ingredients that it takes to be a successful [professional] goalkeeper."
Hamid's size -- and talent -- have had him on the national radar for nearly five years. His father, Sully Hamid, a Sierra Leone native, is president of Premier Athletics Club, a youth soccer organization in the area that had Bill playing with kids older than him since he was 4.
"Bill is a little bit of a special case," said Judah Cooks, who coaches D.C United's under-18 academy. "He's always been larger than most kids his age, he's pretty much been in the top in the country since he was 13. When he was 16 . . . I think he started to truly see he could possibly make it."
In November 2007, Hamid went on his first trial with a European team, flying to Scotland for an audition with Celtic, the country's premier club. After a strong trial, Hamid returned to Glasgow last spring.
"Stepping on [the field] with players like [Shunsuke] Nakamura, one of the best free-kick takers in the world, it was an amazing experience," Hamid said. "I actually vomited on the very first day I walked onto the field. Not even probably 10 minutes after I walked on. I was young, I was kind of scared."
Hamid's nerves eventually settled, and he impressed the staff of the prestigious European side. The work visa issues prevented him from signing then, but recently he traveled to Europe for trials with three European clubs he declined to name, although he acknowledged two teams were eager to move forward. Hamid could sign a reserve contract as early as July.
"I feel amazing but it's more grateful," Hamid said. "There's so many 18-year-olds in this country that are pushing, I know so many pushing to go to Europe. So knowing I have the opportunity, I feel grateful."