A growing star

A+growing+star

PATRICK MAYR
SPORTS EDITOR

When Noah Abrams (’16) sat in the back of his dad’s car leaving the carpark of Chelsea Football Club’s training ground for the last time, he was devastated. After almost a year of training with the club’s youth academy team, Abrams was released from the club he had supported since he was five years old.

“I remember the drive back with my dad. It was one of the saddest moments of my life. Playing for Chelsea had become part of my life, and it was suddenly taken away from me,” Abrams recalls.

Possessing what varsity boys soccer coach Akay Mustafa describes as “elite-level shot stopping and handling ability,” Abrams’s raw ability has never been called into question. The recurrent hurdle which has followed him through his life has been his lack of height. At 5-8, Abrams stands at a physical disadvantage in comparison to other competitors his age.

Although numerous bone scans have confirmed that Abrams will experience another growth spurt, coaches at his previous clubs have demanded more immediate results and favored more physical goalkeepers than him.

Colin Grafton, Abram’s former middle school soccer coach, said that Abrams has all the tools that it takes to succeed in the game and praises his strong determination and hunger to always improve.
“I’ve been here for 12 years and he is probably the best keeper I have worked with,” Grafton said, “Unfortunately, due to the physical nature of English football, he has to put on a few inches.”

Abrams admits that “it kind of sucks that I’ve been judged more by my height rather than my ability, but for now it’s just another hurdle I have to overcome.”

At only 13 years old, Abrams’s young footballing career has taken him to all parts of London. Abrams has already played at Hampstead FC, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Tottenham Hotspur and hopes that “that it will pay off in the long-run.”

Abrams’s journey began on a Saturday afternoon during one of his games for his first club, Hampstead FC. After starting playing as a goalkeeper because he was “the slowest and worst athlete” of all of his friends at school, Abrams put in a dynamic performance that caught the eye of an Arsenal Football Club scout. Known for its world-class youth academy that has produced a conveyor belt of footballing gems, Arsenal invited Abrams to a trial. Following an impressive performance, Abrams spent two years training with the Arsenal Academy, an experience he views with ambivalence.

“Obviously training at Arsenal was an honor and the facilities and everything were great, but I just never fit in being the only American,” he said. “Also, I never broke into the team and made just one appearance over two years.”

Due to infrequent opportunities for playing time, Abrams decided to leave Arsenal in search of a club where he could get more time on the pitch.

Through Johnny Kumah, who runs an after-school football program for ASL Lower School students, Abrams was able to get a trial at Chelsea and after once again impressing coaches started training with the academy. Abrams said he felt instantly much more comfortable at Chelsea and says that the coaches treated him well from the outset.

Competition within the team was “brutal,” Abrams said, but he managed to make his mark on the team and Chelsea was just waiting for him to grow a few extra inches to sign him up on a schoolboy contract, which officially signs him to the club.

Unfortunately for Abrams, that moment did not come soon enough, and after seven months at Chelsea, the academy’s coaches called Abrams and his dad into their office and told Abrams that he would be released from the team. Although Abrams was hurt by the rejection of his favorite boyhood team, he is not discouraged. “Chelsea were really nice about it and encouraged me to continue playing. They also gave me a list of contacts from other football clubs in London,” he said.

One of the clubs recommended to Abrams was Chelsea’s north London rival, Tottenham Hotspur, where he has been since August 2011. After trotting across London playing for the city’s biggest clubs, Abrams said that he has truly settled in at Tottenham and hopes to stay there long-term.

“The atmosphere at the club is really good. All the coaches are really supportive and always keep me going even when I’m down,” he said.

The nurturing and supportive environment at the club has enabled Abrams to further improve and hone his skills and has invigorated confidence within him that was, perhaps, affected in the past.
Abrams also relishes the opportunity at Tottenham to train in close proximity with some of the players from the first team.

“Recently I trained with Brad Friedel and Scott Parker,” he said. “Everyone is really friendly and down to earth. Except William Gallas.”

Abrams has to balance a rigorous training schedule with his schoolwork. “What keeps me going is the determination to prove the people wrong for not believing in me in the past,” he said.

Whether going on to play professionally, in college or as a hobby, Abrams wants to continue with his biggest passion and see where it takes him.

Grafton said that Abrams has what it takes to go “a long long way” and that he will stand-out wherever he plays.

patrick_mayr@asl.org