The sun was just starting to rise as I sat down with Mahmoud Abdulla, a young football player from Syria. His eyes lit up as he talked about his passion for football. But behind his love and pursuit of the beautiful game, lies a much more inspiring story: a tale of grit, determination and overcoming countless odds.
Living in Syria for 12 years, Mahmoud Abdullah Chouihna possesses one dream: to make it big in the world of football. Mahmoud's journey started when he was just eight years old, when his cousin in Syria introduced him to football. It was there that he first fell in love with football, and his passion for the sport never wavered.
He was lucky enough to be picked by his school coach, Ghanem, as the only player from the school to be mentored and trained. "He saw something in me," he said. With his mentor's help, he became more and more involved in the game and eventually joined the Al Ittihad Club in Aleppo, Syria.
However, his dreams were abruptly put on hold when he started facing one of his first major challenges: his home country of Syria. Being born in a war-torn nation posed many issues and ultimately led him forced out of the country because of political reasons that could cost him his safety. He had to start life in a new country, and the challenge of being an immigrant in a foreign country was difficult and overwhelming at first, but with time, it became easier for him.
In Dubai, UAE, he had to start from the ground up and find his way among new people, languages and cultures. He is an outsider in a sport that has long been dominated by players with homegrown ties and support.
"In the beginning, it wasn't easy," Mahmoud admits.
"Nobody wanted an outsider on the team, but I showed them that I was good enough and that I would help the team. Football literally saved me from being bullied when I was young."
Slowly but surely, the tide started turning in his favor, and he became an indispensable part of the team.
Mahmoud's biggest setback came when he suffered an ankle injury that ruled him out for three months, just four months before his trials in Europe. It was a tough time for him, both mentally and physically. But Mahmoud didn't give up. He worked hard, going to physio every day during Ramadan, while studying and working at the same time. He knew he had to push himself to come back stronger, and he did just that. His dedication paid off, and he was able to recover in time for the trials.
Up until today, Mahmoud continues to defy all odds. He trains long hard and so he can strengthen his weakness and capitalize on his strengths. While his pace and ball control while dribbling is his forte, he believes he needs to improve his body shape and physical aspects if he wants to become a professional football player — something he is determined to achieve.
"I think working hard and believing in yourself is the most important and having a good support system."Mahmoud said.
Armed with sheer determination, Mahmoud Abdullah Chouihna's story serves as an example of how one can defy all odds and adversities to make their dreams come true. His inspiring journey is a testament to the power of believing and never giving up.
Because of his undeterred spirit, Mahmoud has been able to achieve greatness out of something he adores: playing football. Through hard work and determination, he has been able to realize his dreams of becoming a professional footballer, showing us all what can be accomplished when we put our minds to it.