By Sam Donnelly, Staff Writer

FIle  photo Fazal Nabi of the UNH men’s soccer team made a stop at Providence College before coming to Durham.

FIle photo
Fazal Nabi of the UNH men’s soccer team made a stop at Providence College before coming to Durham.

It all started for New Hampshire men’s soccer junior forward Fazal Nabi when he was around the age of 8. He laced up his cleats in the brisk fall air and took the field. With the lights of Fitzpatrick Stadium shining down upon him, the game would begin. Despite being small and undeveloped his father had him playing not just with people his age but in a men’s league.

“I was 8 playing against 20 and 30 year old guys,” Nabi said. “He wanted me to learn the hard way, that was when I began to love the game.”

His father [Mohammad] was the head soccer coach at Portland High School in Maine for over a decade until the late 1990s. Nabi used to sit on the sidelines while his dad coached the Bulldogs. He would watch and learn from exposure.

“I would just kick the ball around on the sidelines,” Nabi said. “I learned a lot about the game itself just from watching that game.”

Soccer has always been a love for Nabi, but getting to UNH has been a journey, one that has motivated him in all aspects of his life.

Nabi played at Portland High School and was a four-year varsity player and was named to the All-State team each of those four years.

“I learned quickly,” Nabi said. “I needed to in order to contribute to the team and be successful. Soon though I was comfortable, and the game came much easier.”

His junior and senior seasons he was team captain and led the Bulldogs to their first state championship game since the days his father coached. In the offseason, soccer didn’t stop. Nabi played for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy and travelled all over the country to play in showcases.

“It helped me get my name out there,” Nabi said. “Playing the highest level of competition at my age group was just another way for me to improve my skills and intelligence.”

Nabi was named the Maine Boys Gatorade player of the year in 2011 and decided to attend Providence College where he played soccer on full scholarship. Everything was going as he expected it too until he reached college.

At Providence Nabi found success on the field, starting for the Friars in 16 games and registering two assists, but off the field, college was a struggle.

“I wasn’t doing well in school,” Nabi said. “I was a freshman, and I was young. I needed to make a change.”

Nabi’s poor grades and lack of organization forced him to walk away from Providence, and from college soccer. This would be the first time he was away from competitive soccer since he was a child.

“It was what was best for me at that time,” Nabi said. “Leaving was the best thing I could do.”

Nabi returned home and attended the University of Southern Maine. He took time away from the commitment of college sports and focused on his studies.

“You miss not going to practice everyday,” Nabi said. “You miss travelling with the team and just playing for a school. It was hard.”

Although Nabi was not playing for USM, he was still playing on the side but in a much less competitive setting.  After about two years away from the game, UNH head coach Rob Thompson reached out to him.

“I knew Rob for six or seven years,” Nabi said. “We talked and I decided to give it a look. My family and I decided it was time for me to go back. The transition was much easier this time.”

Thompson coached Nabi for four years at the U.S Soccer Development Academy and some of the UNH players at the time had played along side Nabi in showcases around the country.

Since arriving on the UNH campus, Nabi has been focused, but this time not just on soccer. He is majoring in business and now understands the importance of education.

“At some point I won’t be playing soccer,” Nabi said. “I want to get my education first, and I can use it as a good backup plan.”

His success is not just in academics. On the field, Nabi has helped the Wildcats immensely. He has started 10 games and played in every single one this season. He is second on the team with four points and had a two-goal performance in a win against Hofstra on Sep. 19, where he scored his first collegiate goal. Something that was a long time coming, but for Nabi it is more about the team.

“It was nice to get those goals and be back,” Nabi said. “But the Hofstra game showed how good we can be. We are trying to play that way all the time.”

Life after college is something he has dedicated plenty of thought to. Despite working hard towards his education, Nabi is still going to chase his passion.

“It’s been my dream to play at the professional level,” Nabi said. “I have some family friends that play and told me to call them up when I’m out of college.”

Nabi is comfortable where is he now and the journey to UNH is not something he would change. It has taught him a lot about life and himself.

“Everything I have gone through in my life has brought me here,” Nabi said. “I’ve learned from everything and I know someday soccer will end. Everything I have learned has helped me be prepared for that and anything else.”

Nabi and the Wildcats will take the field on Saturday at Bremner Field against UMass Lowell at noon.