Let's talk about soccer. We interviewed Omar Belahna, a student athlete and midfielder at the West Virginia Institute of Technology. Omar started his American adventure a few months ago. We asked his thoughts and feelings between his studies in Business Management and the games in the NAIA Division I Championship - River States Conference.
First of all, what is your balance so far on this American adventure. How are you and how is it going?
Until now, I think the balance of my American adventure is very good. I had the opportunity to meet many people from different parts of the world, to be able to relate to them and learn their language and culture. Regarding soccer, I was able to compare myself with several very strong talented players, I had the opportunity to play a lot this season and to begin to understand the mechanics of soccer in the United States. We had a bit of an unlucky season this year, but I think we can do better and make up for it in the next one. Regarding the studies, the professors help the students a lot and are very helpful, especially knowing that you play sports, and therefore this facilitated things a bit at the beginning, but in any case you have to give your best and always study. So as an assessment so far, I think it's quite positive and I'm very curious to find out what the future holds for me.
When did this desire to try this experience first appear in you and why?
Honestly, since I was a kid, I have always had this desire to travel and try new experiences, but above all, to be able to come to the United States one day. So, once I finished high school, I wanted to find a way to be able to continue my studies and above all to continue playing soccer, which is my true passion. So I began to inquire for the United States, as I knew there was a possibility of receiving scholarships and thus being able to continue playing while studying for a degree. So, after a lot of research on the internet, I was able to get in touch with Jesica from Sportlinx360 and, with her help, to fulfill my dream and come here to the United States.
What was Sportlinx360's support to help you get started?
I think that the support that Sportlinx360 gave me was fundamental, without them I would never have been able to be here. They helped me from all points of view. Informative, as they helped me to better understand what it meant to leave and become a student athlete in the United States, what I should have done throughout this journey and how to get a scholarship, the exams I should have taken and the timeframe, and above all, from a recruiting point of view, they helped me to evaluate and choose the best offer for me and my family. They also supported me from a bureaucratic point of view to be able to obtain the visa within the established time frame and leave. I still remember the first call with Jesica where I still didn't know any of this and where I was undecided about what to do, and I never imagined that a year later I would leave for the United States. I have to thank Jesica and Elitza very much for the help they have given me.
From the classrom to the field. What main differences have you noticed between Italian and American soccer? What impressed youpositively about the States?
I found the United States as a new world: regarding soccer, there are many differences with the Italian one. American soccer is characterized by the fact that it is played from August to November between Ranking matches and Conference matches, and then for the rest it is Off-season, so during the season we play a lot and are very busy with matches and training. Another big difference is the time, here in the US the time is held from 90th to down, so there is no need to ask the referee every time how long it is ahahahah, and the clock stops every time the game stops. In the fields there is always a large scoreboard that keeps time, so players can constantly check it. Exchanges are unlimited and when a player exits, he can re-enter again later. These are the biggest differences, besides the fact that during the matches, in most cases, many of the University students come to follow and cheer the team. From a scholastic point of view, here in the United States, homework is also assigned during university courses, and for the rest the study courses and exams are within everyone's reach if you try hard.
Let's talk about your passion. When does the desire to play soccer arise and who is your idol among professional soccer players?
I've always had it in my mind to only play football. I started when I was 4 and have never stopped since. I have been lucky enough to play at a competitive level in the past and from that moment on I have had my first and greatest desire to become a professional player someday. I hope I can achieve this for myself and my family. As a child I really liked watching Gattuso's games and trying to take an example from him for the desire and wickedness he put on the field, but today I really like Casemiro from whom I try to learn as much as possible and take an example as a game in his same role and I am very inspired by him for his qualities.
So we can conclude, what do you expect from this experience?
From this experience I expect to grow a lot and mature, learn to be more independent and try to get to know as many people and cultures as possible. And I hope, through hard work, that I can achieve my goals and become a professional player in the future.