By: Ellis Simon
Sept. 26, 2018
Salh Alzubidi, who as a junior forward on Lehman College’s men’s soccer team was the CUNYAC Player of the Year, didn’t play soccer for his high school team. His father, a native of Yemen, wouldn’t let him so he could concentrate on his studies at New Rochelle High School.
“He’s from the old school. He doesn’t believe in sports,” Alzubidi said.
Although he was born in the United States, Alzubidi spent most of his childhood in Yemen, where he moved with his mother and two brothers before he entered school. “My parents wanted us to experience living there, so we could learn the culture, language and religion,” he explained. “I didn’t do much there except go to school.”
Salh returned to the United States when he was 14 to live with his father, who owns a deli in New Rochelle, and older brother. He traveled by himself. His mother and younger brother followed five years later.
“When I came back, I didn’t speak English and didn’t know anyone here, except my dad and older brother,” Alzubidi said. “The language, the environment – everything was different.”
However, the family lived close to the local YMCA, where kids his age were playing soccer. “When I was a junior in high school, I started to kick the ball around,” he recalled. “I began to play with the other kids. We would get together outside of school to play. I discovered I liked (soccer) and was good at it.”
He eventually joined an indoor soccer team and caught the attention of the coach, who encouraged him to begin training to improve his skills. “It was hard to go all the time because of my dad, but when you really want to do something you do it. I always could find an excuse.”
Alzubidi enrolled at Westchester Community College after high school. He didn’t play for the soccer team his first year, however, friends encouraged him to try out his second year. He made the team, and told his dad he had a class at the time practice was scheduled. His first season playing for WCC, he tallied 13 points and was named the Rookie of the Year. His second year, he was Most Valuable Player.
Salh’s accomplishments gained the attention of Toma Gojcevic, head men's soccer coach at Lehman College, who recruited him to play for the Lightning. “’Coach G knew about me and came by and asked me if I’d play for him,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on playing after WCC. I was worried I couldn’t make all the practices. The coach said ‘Don’t worry. Just be there between 2 and 3:30 p.m.’"
“I recruited Salh because of his scoring ability, said Gojcevic. “Salh led our team last year with 18 goals. He was named Player of the Year in the CUNYAC, and he was also named Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year at Lehman.”
Sahl was an important contributor to Lehman winning the CUNYAC title in 2017. “Besides his scoring ability, Salh leads by example,’ noted Gojcevic. “He is a responsible player, he is always on time and he is always positive towards his teammates. He is a hard worker on and off the field.”
Since he transferred to Lehman, Sahl said he did better academically as well as athletically. He is majoring in Accounting and works hard to maintain his solid GPA while playing and working part-time in his father’s store.
After taking leave for spring semester this year, he expects to graduate some time next year. He is undecided about whether he will look for work as an accountant or in another field, or possibly, attend graduate school.
With the Lightning off to a 3-5 start this year, Alzubidi and his teammates have their work cut out to retain the CUNYAC title. He is confident the team will rise to the challenge, though, stating: “I think we will be fine when we play the other CUNY schools.”