Starting fresh

Concordia student proves his value with Impact Academy

Hussein Awada was discovered by the Lebanese national team at age 10. Photo by Oz Veeysel-Demirtas.

When Concordia student Hussein Awada left his home country of Lebanon for Montreal last December, he had at least two objectives in mind: finishing school and playing professional soccer. Within a month of his arrival, Awada was on his way to accomplishing both.

Awada, who had been playing in the Lebanese Premier League with club Al Mabarra, notified the university that he was looking for a team and was then referred to the Montreal Impact Academy.

The Academy is the reserve side for the Montreal Impact and is currently in its inaugural season as a Canadian Soccer League team. While many of the players in the squad are still in their teens, head coach Philippe Eullaffroy knew 20-year-old Awada had the talent to make it after watching him during a team practice in January.

“He came out of nowhere,” said Eullaffroy. “He said he was studying at Concordia and wanted to know where he could play high-level soccer and they sent him here. So we thank Concordia University for giving us the opportunity to see the talent of this student.”

Awada grew up in Baalbeck, Lebanon, located roughly 86 kilometres away from Beirut. National-team recruiters discovered Awada while he played youth soccer for Hoda Al Resaly at the tender age of 10. He spent five seasons with the fourth-division club and Awada said the team’s head coach Abbas Al Outa played a major role in making Awada a successful player.

Between the ages of 11 and 17, Awada was travelling three to five times a week from Baalbeck to the capital for national-team training.

While Awada recently took part in the 2008 U19 Asian Football Confederation championship, he claimed he gained a lot of experience and responsibility with the national team when he participated in the 2004 U14 AFC championship in Qatar.

The midfielder/forward had a successful stint with second-division team Al Nahda Club at 16, which garnered him a lot of attention from division one teams. Soon enough Awada transferred to Al Mabarra—a Lebanese Premier League club based in Beirut—for the 2008-09 campaign.

At 18, Awada said he learned to live independently and began thinking about his future while alone in Beirut. He said that though his career as a footballer had been taking off, the possibility of a war prompted him to seek a better life in Canada.

“Before coming to Montreal, I scored a goal for my team in Lebanon and my teammates wanted me to stay with them. But at the same time, I had to think about my future,” Awada said. “As you know, you can’t tell when the war will start and end in Lebanon.”

Montreal was an obvious destination for Awada as many of his family members live in the city. However, his mother Wafaa Wehbe and father Melhem Awada are still in Lebanon.

As the soccer season starts in the fall back home, Awada said he is just getting used to the weather and starting the season in the summer. He is presently taking a few English-as-a-second language-courses to help break the language barrier and is confident his English will improve with time.

As for the Academy, Awada has already shown a lot of promise by leading the team in goals and hopes to make the Impact’s first team. He is also aware that there is the possibility of playing for the Stingers if that doesn’t happen.

“If I don’t do it and the university team calls me to play with them, or whatever the situation is, I’ll make a decision. But I can’t leave football,” he said.

Awada said it has been difficult juggling school with playing for a team that practises every day and plays many of its away games outside Quebec, but plans to pursue studies in finance after completing his ESL courses.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 1, published June 11, 2010.