By Dan Plouffe
It won’t be the first time Haider Kadhom represents Team Ontario in interprovincial competition, but the 17-year-old midfielder says it’ll be different this time around for the Canada Summer Games.
“It’ll be really exciting to go there and live the experience,” states Kadhom, who is perhaps more accustomed to a multi-sport environment than most soccer players; he owns a black belt in taekwondo.
“But I’ve never been a part of something like this before,” adds the veteran of two Ontario vs Quebec soccer series events. “It’s really, really exciting.”
The Canada Games will be all that much more special for Kadhom since he’ll have long-time teammate Montther Mohsen at his side wearing the trillium. The pair have played together since their under-12 season with the Gloucester Hornets. They won an Ontario Youth Soccer League east division title in 2015 at Gloucester before competing in the Ottawa Carleton Soccer League’s men’s premiere division for the past 2 seasons with the Ottawa Internationals.
“It’s amazing,” smiles Kadhom. “It’s always better to go with someone you know. We have good chemistry on the field. We’ve played with each other for awhile, so we know what we’re doing together. And off the field, he’s a close friend as well.”
The Internationals pals will be joined by another local pair with a long history together – future Carleton Raven Ricky Comba and Tony Mikhael, who chose to wear #38 because he was the 38th of 111 cousins in his close-knit family.
Comba and Mikhael began their competitive careers with the Nepean Hotspurs before moving on to the Ottawa South United Force, where they experienced a number of tough battles with Kadhom and Mohsen when OSU and Gloucester were neck-and-neck for top spot in the OYSL.
“It’s really nice playing with them,” signals Kadhom, noting they put aside the fact that they were once enemies on the field when they represent their province.
If anything, Comba and Mikhael are allies in the quest to snatch Team Ontario spots for players outside the GTA.
“It shows there progress we’ve made in the city,” underlines Kadhom, set to enter his senior year as a member of Louis-Riel high school’s sports-études soccer academy. “If anything, I think there could be more (players from Ottawa), but it certainly shows the steps we’ve taken to close the gap between us and Toronto.”
The local quartet’s age group also features several other Ottawa players who are now part of professional academies elsewhere in Canada, while the biggest star of the bunch, Kadhom’s Internationals teammate Jonathan David, is a Canadian youth national team player who recently graduated from Louis-Riel high school and joined a Belgian pro club.
“When you see guys reaching different levels, it motivates you to push your own limits as well,” indicates Kadhom, who was nursing an ankle injury prior to Canada Games but still sought to play as big a role as possible for his team (which competes in the second week of the Games). “I want to hopefully play as much as I can and win the tournament for Ontario.”