Bend It Like The Saads
Dearborn brothers Soony and Hamoody Saad, now both playing for the Wolverines, are breaking stereotypes and records on the soccer field.
Brothers Hamoody and Soony Saad led the University of Michigan to its first NCAA semi-finals for the Men's Soccer College Cup in the program's 11-year history. Straight from the heart of Dearborn, the dynamic duo have paved the way to success for many young athletes.
"I think we were definitely instrumental in our team's success," said Soony. "I know our coaches were saying that they were going to start to look in Dearborn for recruiting and starting camps."
Sophomore Hamoody Saad is the Wolverines' second best in assists with seven, one of which led to the nationally televised game-winning goal that his brother scored against Wisconsin on Nov. 12. The 5-foot-11 midfielder recorded 19 points and six goals and was also named to the All Big Ten second team for 2010.
At 5-foot-10, forward Soony Saad, 18, is ranked second in the nation among goals (19) and was named the 2009 Gatorade National Soccer Player of the Year. He also received Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2010, becoming the first in Wolverine history to do so.
The Making of a Legacy
At Dearborn High School's gym entrance, to the left is a large glass showcase with Soony Saad written in large black channel lettering. Though the school takes great pride in its ESPY-nominated rising star, Soony says he really hasn't done much.
"Winning an ESPY award or Gatorade player; it's not my ultimate goal," Soony said. "I have a lot to work toward … there are also better things to achieve and I haven't really done anything yet."
Both brothers have aspirations of playing professional soccer–a lifelong dream that doesn't seem to be far-fetched. Since the early ages of three and four, the Saad brothers were introduced to soccer by their father, Ali.
"He turned our living room into basically a soccer field," Soony said. "Any chance we would get, we would play soccer, and that kind of grew with us until even now."
Hamoody and Soony also have two older sisters–Summar, 22, and Hanan, 21. They are of Lebanese descent and are practicing Muslims. As children, the siblings were all on one team coached by their father, who instilled in them the importance of close family ties. In the Saad household, the only sibling rivalry that occurs is during a FIFA video game on the Xbox.
"We really don't fight against each other." Hamoody said. "We always want to be on the same team … . We just like to watch each other do magical things."
The brothers share an inseparable bond on and off the field. They each have similar tattoos paying homage to an important figure in Islam who fought tyranny. They even share the same friends. Charlene Makled is a relative and close friend of the pair who says they each have great qualities.
"One thing about Hamoody that makes him unique is his sense of humor." Makled said. "It sometimes tends to hide behind him being so reserved when you first meet him, but once you get to know him he is always cracking jokes and making people laugh and smile.
"Soony is a huge family guy and loves spending time with kids, whether it's teaching younger kids about the (soccer)," she adds, "or just playing games with his younger cousins."
The athletes live in Ann Arbor throughout the school semester and are both undecided on their majors. Soony, however, mentioned taking German classes in case an opportunity presents itself in Germany for a big club.
Hamoody graduated from Dearborn High School in 2009 and Soony followed in 2010. They both played soccer under varsity head coach Sean Gordon. Gordon entered his fourth year coaching Dearborn soccer in 2010. Within that time, he coached Hamoody for one year and Soony for two. He said that "in reality, they were both beyond the potential stage and were already soccer stars" and that they are complimentary in their game.
"Hamoody functions as the distributor and Soony as the finisher," said Gordon. "Hamoody is a creator and very skilled technically in all facets of the game ... Soony has learned the art of scoring goals. He is deadly from 35 yards in and as soon as he gets the ball, his first instinct is to find the net."
Becoming Wolverine Soccer Stars
The transition from high school soccer to the collegiate level was a drastic one, according to the former Pioneers. There were differences in athleticism and game significance. Soony said that every game matters in college, including the easier ones because there's always something to fight for.
The change of game levels also included recognition. Though the pair likes to stay grounded and humble under media exposure, they already have young fans that look up to them. On Halloween, Michigan soccer head coach Steve Burns received an e-mail from a mother of two young sons who asked for two Michigan jerseys with numbers 8 (Soony) and 17 (Hamoody).
"It was two kids from Dearborn that wanted to be me and my brother for Halloween," Hamoody said. "Everyone (their teammates) was laughing it was kind of funny but cute."
As Arab Americans, the Saad brothers have broken many stereotypes in their many achievements on the soccer field. They both emphasized that many athletes in Dearborn don't pursue their sport due to skepticism. However, Hamoody and Soony both firmly believe in determination.
"I see kids everywhere playing sports and you never really hear of them later in life," Hamoody said. "But I think that's just because they're distracted or they quit because they think nothing's going to happen.
"I think Dearborn has a lot of potential with younger athletes, they just have to put their mind to it."
With large support group from family and friends, their passion for the game of soccer reassures a promising future in professionalism.
"We just have a strong relationship with the game," added Soony, "so it's something we always want to keep doing even when we get older."