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  • Ian Livingston Brooking

Rising to the occasion: The Story of Saif AlHameli

On Nov. 12, 2017, the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer team won the Sun Belt Tournament for the second straight season by defeating Georgia State 2-0.

While senior forward Martin Melchor would score one of his seven season goals in the final five minutes of the Sun Belt Championship game, the other goal was scored by the unlikeliest of players.

A five-foot-eight, 140-pound midfielder by the name of Saif AlHameli.

AlHameli, originally from the United Arab Emirates, played soccer over in Spain before coming to Coastal Carolina. However, there were no spots on the roster left when AlHameli came to Coastal in 2014.

AlHameli talked about what he did to pass the time and how he prepared himself to make the team the following the year.

“After I heard that there were no spots left on the roster, I went ahead and played club soccer that fall,” said AlHameli. “I also played intermural, and the final of the intermural league was against the coaching staff. In that game, I played really well, and the coaches were really impressed. I then tried out in the spring and got on the roster.”

In his first year on the team, AlHameli appeared in 10 matches and logged nearly 250 minutes of playing time. However, his time on the field nearly tripled the following year, and his role on the team became much greater, though AlHameli says he doesn’t pay attention to things like that.

“I just go out and play,” said AlHameli. “I think that is why I have been playing.”

Assistant Coach Kyle Russell talked about AlHameli’s work ethic and what it is like to see him on the pitch.

“We preach hard work and guys never giving up,” said Russell. “So for us, a guy like Saif, he has to come in and earn it. He is not as big or fast as everybody, but he is extremely technical and he has a very high soccer IQ. He has a pretty extensive background, playing quality soccer over in UAE and in Spain, it is just that he just had to go through some adversity to get to where he is at today.”

Of the 38 goals scored by the Chanticleers in the 2017 season, 23 of them were scored by a combined three players – Frantzdy Pierrot, Martin Melchor and Romario Piggott. However, no goal would be as important as Saif AlHameli’s rocket in the 31st minute of the Sun Belt Championship game.

AlHameli opened up about one of biggest moments in his soccer career.

“The occasion was perfect,” said AlHameli. “I had all my friends there. My family was watching, and I got to win a bet I made with Ryan Willoughby.”

The bet was if AlHameli scored in the final, which AlHameli said was ‘unlikely’, then Willoughby would have to dye his hair blonde.

And what made that championship goal even sweeter for AlHameli was the fact that his wonder goal against Georgia State redeemed his own goal against Howard. AlHameli accidentally knocked the ball into the back of the net in the final 10 seconds in the game against Howard.

However, Romario Piggott would score just three minutes into overtime to seal a 2-1 win and keep the Chanticleers in first place of the Sun Belt.

AlHameli knew he had to redeem himself after almost costing his team the game against Howard.

“I knew I had to score,” said AlHameli. “Those few games after that I came so close to scoring and then I was able to find the back of the net in the championship game.”

Garrett Lillie, freshman defender for the Chanticleers, said that it was a great moment to see a teammate that has gone through so much to make that type of play.

“The first thing anyone will ever tell you about Saif is that he is the nicest kid,” said Lillie. “He’s quiet, but he is so respectful. Coastal is a very tough program. A lot of kids come here and people transfer in and out. The fact that he will be here for four years when he originally was an intermural guy says a lot about his work ethic and love for the sport."

While the season doesn’t begin for another four months, AlHameli is already looking ahead to his senior year.

“We definitely want to win the Sun Belt again and make it back to where we went last season in the NCAA Tournament,” said AlHameli. “As for me, my goal is to win everything and get better every game.”

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