• Hawke's Bay United footballer's inspirational life story

Hawke's Bay United footballer's inspirational life story

Hawke's Bay United football side's midfielder Ahmad Othman boasts a life story most Kiwis would struggle to comprehend.

Now 21, Othman, arrived in New Zealand in 2016 as a refugee from Syria. He couldn't speak English and after spending one month in Auckland his family settled in Wellington where life was so much easier than in Syria.

When he was 14 he moved to Lebanon with his brother for a brief period as his mother feared for their safety and sought a better life for her children.  It was during a visit home to see his family in Kobani, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border, when Othman (pictured above during a visit to Nelson  Park School) experienced his first taste of terror.

He was watching his brother play football when he heard what he described as a "big sound." He didn't know at the time but what he heard was the explosion from a car bombing which caused multiple deaths.

It was enough to convince his mother to take the family to New Zealand, a country Othman knew nothing about before his arrival. He enrolled at Wellington High School where he gained a decent grasp of the English language and joined the Island Bay Football Club.

Football took him places. Othman played for Team Wellington in the National Youth League and Wellington Olympic in the Central League before linking up with Tasman United in the New Zealand Football Championship.

This summer he has been a regular starter for Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United in the Championship which is also known as the ISPS Handa Premiership. When Othman isn't playing or training he is happy to share his inspirational life story during school visits or with youngsters he is coaching.

"If it is something positive for them I am happy to share it," Othman said in the countdown to Hawke's Bay United's 10th round clash against Auckland City at Napier's Bluewater Stadium on Sunday.

While he has been shining as an attacking midfielder, Othman, is happy play any role. Having recently gained New Zealand citizenship he hopes to represent the All Whites in the future but his immediate goal is to secure a professional contract.

"Every player wants to make it to the Pro League. Here in New Zealand Wellington Phoenix is the professional team and it's pretty hard to crack the side.

"This year I was hoping to get some trials overseas but Covid-19 is making that hard at the moment. Hopefully it won't be too long before I can try something overseas," Othman explained.

"But New Zealand will always be home. And I can't say how much I appreciate what Carl [Hawke's Bay United co-manager Hunt] and his family have done for me here in the Bay."

 He agreed the Auckland City team will arrive in Napier with a good reputation.

"They have quality players but we are not bad as well. We have won three of our last four games and drawn the other. We can do a lot of damage with the players we have," Othman said.

"We have players who are young and can run and do the hard work. Hopefully we can come up with the three points."

Othman remembers when arrived in the Bay a week before the season started. Hawke's Bay United hard a lot of injuries and lost their first five games.

"It takes time to start playing like a proper team. But now look where we are ... we are a very strong team," Othman added. 

Hawke's Bay United co-coach and centre back Bill Robertson confirmed fellow defender and co-captain Fergus Neil will have to pass a fitness test tomorrow after collecting a groin strain which forced him out of last weekend's 4-1 victory against Hamilton Wanderers to be considered for Sunday.

Versatile forward Gavin Hoy has recovered from an ankle injury and is available. It will be interesting to see if Hoy and Neil return to the starting line-up. Robertson and co-coach Chris Greatholder should reward last weekend's starting XI and allow Neil and Hoy to provide quality impact off the subs bench.

"It's good to have so many players challenging for starting spots. This is a good problem for Chris and I," Robertson said.

He pointed out Auckland City, who are first equal on the table, are a benchmark side but he's confident the sixth placed hosts can have a realistic attempt at securing the win.

"We've had a good run being unbeaten in our last four games. We're at home and we're confident," Robertson added.

The likely Hawke's Bay United squad for Sunday's 2pm clash:

Scott Morris (GK), Jim Hoyle (co-captain), Jackson Woods, Kaeden Atkins, Hugo Delhommelle, Karan Mandair, Gavin Hoy, Sam Pickering, Ahmad Othman, Cameron Emerson, Jarrod McKechnie, Fergus Neil (co-captain), Zac Madsen, Bill Robertson, Oscar Mason (RGK), Manyumow Achol, Jorge Akers.