BY OWAIS AHMED AND FOWAZ HUSSAIN
As the sun sets and night falls on a crisp Saturday, a soccer player enters the field with a determined gait. With stadium lights beaming down on the backs of the players, Tarek Morad crouches to the moist grass, cupping his hands around his face—words of supplication embracing his heart and commanding his attitude. The game-clock counts down the last few seconds of warm-up and Morad shouts words of encouragement to his fellow teammates.
Tarek Morad, rose early the morning of August 8th, the first day of try-outs for UC Irvine’s division one soccer team and the 8th day of Ramadan, Islam’s month of fasting and charity. In anticipation of what he knew would be an exhausting day–a stark understatement–Morad consumed his mother’s suhoor, a pre-dawn meal in preparation for the day’s fast.
“We practiced twice a day,” recalls Morad. “And sometimes I wouldn’t even eat dinner after breaking my fast. I’d take a shower and go back to sleep because I’d be so tired.”
Loading up on carbohydrates and proteins, Morad would leave his apartment by 6:45 AM. Practice ran from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM, followed by a strict regimen of praying, attending classes, and resting, only to be followed by another two hours of practice from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
Morad, a third year Psychology and Social Behavior major, and a devout Muslim, talks about his strong ties to soccer and Islam.
“My teammates know that I am Muslim and I take pride in being Muslim. Every opportunity I get, I talk to them about it.”
Signing with the UC Irvine Soccer team during Ramadan, Morad remembers the utter shock on the faces of his teammates after explaining to them the concept of fasting.
“Everyone was shocked that I couldn’t eat but when I told them that I couldn’t even drink, they wouldn’t believe me.”
Playing soccer since the age of four, Morad led his junior college team to win the state championship and now plays for the University of California, Irvine. The state win monumentalized Morad’s success as an up-and-coming soccer player, giving him the pedestal he needed to be recognized and drafted by UCI soccer, a team currently ranked 1st in the Big West Conference and 8th in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA).
“I love soccer, but Islam always reminds me of something I love even more,” explains Morad. “Faith is really important because it gives you a sense of accomplishment no matter how your practice or games go.”
Morad hopes for a career in soccer, contending with major league, national, and international teams. However, he understands the value of education and it’s importance in rearing a family and earning credibility in today’s world.
“If I get the chance, I definitely will pounce on the opportunity to play in bigger leagues, but I don’t know what’s going to happen to me in the future. I want to make sure I stay on top of school and get a good education because it is important.”
Aside from balancing his commitments to education, soccer, and religion, Tarek enjoys his free time with his family. A student, professional soccer player, and, above all, Muslim, Tarek Morad endeavors to be successful in all aspects of his life.
OWAIS AHMED is a 4th year English major at the University of California, Irvine
FOWAZ HUSSAIN is a third year Public Health Policy major at the University of California, Irvine