You never know how far your talent can take you. Just ask Zakaria Amro.
He started playing soccer in his hometown of Asarum, Sweden, around age 5. Although he played many different sports, Amro decided to concentrate exclusively on soccer when he was 12. He felt that it offered him the best opportunity to succeed as an athlete.
It was a good choice.
By the time he was in his teens, he was a formidable defender and played on several local soccer club teams. During his time as a high school athlete in the city of Sölvesborg, Amro decided to put together a highlight reel of his recent matches. He sent the link to several college soccer coaches, with one making its way in January 2022 to the College’s men’s soccer coach Keith Wiggans, 4,574 miles away in Charleston, South Carolina. Wiggans liked what he saw.
“His movement was good,” recalls Wiggans. “His ability on the ball was intelligent. I was impressed with him right away.”
Wiggans signed the 6-foot-4-inch Amro to play for the Cougars one month later.
But college coaches were not the only ones to get their hands on Amro’s highlight reel. A soccer scout for the Jordanian U20 national team was also very impressed. He contacted Amro and invited him to the team’s training camp.
“I didn’t expect that,” says Amro. “It just came out of nowhere.”
Even though he was born and raised in Sweden, Amro’s parents are from Jordan, and he holds dual citizenship.
So Amro traveled nearly 2,000 miles from Sölvesborg to Amman, Jordan, to attend the tryouts. The Jordanian coaches were impressed with his talent and offered him a spot on the roster – something he had been dreaming about ever since he was a child.
“This is an incredible honor for me,” he says. “I think for a player there is nothing bigger than to represent your country.”
Just one problem: The Jordanian U20 National Team was scheduled to play in the Asian Cup qualifying round during the middle of CofC’s fall season. But knowing this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Wiggans gave him the time off.
“Whenever somebody gets an opportunity to represent their country,” he says, “it’s amazing.”
This past September, Amro boarded another airplane and traveled 6,311 miles to Amman to play in four matches with the Jordanian U20 National Team. The team finished the tournament with three wins and a draw to win their bracket and advanced in the Asian Cup. They will play their next matches in March.
Amro hopes to continue playing for both the Cougars and the Jordanian U20 national team. “Gaining international experience will help me improve as a player,” he says. “I think I’m in a good situation right now to be challenged both professionally and personally.”
Eventually, he hopes to turn professional.
“I definitely want to get a degree. That’s a big goal,” says Amro, who hasn’t decided on a major yet. “But also, I want to get drafted to the MLS [Major League Soccer] and then hopefully go to some of the big European leagues.”
Have talent, will travel.
Featured image by Mike Ledford