Senior Martin Shehata balances his education and his career as a professional soccer player.
Martin Shehata is putting his best foot forward.
The 21-year-old is a student and a budding soccer star. “I’ve spent the past few years working toward my marketing degree while also playing professional soccer,” said Shehata. The fact that Shehata has been able to do both is a testament to his ability and the campus community’s willingness to help him pursue his dreams.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Shehata came to Tacoma with his family at the age of ten. “My dad wanted to come to the United States to find a better job,” said Shehata. “The U.S. government has a visa lottery where millions of people apply and my dad did that every year and, on the thirteenth try, he got accepted.”
The family eventually settled in Tacoma. “My uncle lived in Tacoma so it made sense for us to come here.” Shehata says the first few years were an adjustment but he settled in—thanks in part to soccer. “I started playing for a team in Browns Point then played for a team in Federal Way and finished my youth career with Washington Premier FC.” he said.
As it turns out, Shehata was something of a natural. It helped that he also really enjoyed being part of the game. Shehata worked hard to develop his skills by playing for different teams and participating in soccer camps. He was on the varsity soccer team while a student at Stadium High School. After graduating, he enrolled at Tacoma Community College (TCC) and played for its soccer team.
Shehata has lived in Tacoma for 11 years. Even so, his connection to Egypt remains strong. Most of his extended family lives in Cairo. Shehata has dual U.S. and Egyptian citizenship which means he is eligible to play for both countries’ national teams. “It would be incredible to be able to represent your country at that level,” he said.
And that’s what Shehata is trying to achieve. Shehata hopes to be part of the Egyptian men’s 2024 soccer team. Globally, there are a seemingly endless number of soccer (football, fútbol) teams, clubs, leagues and organizations. The rules vary but, in order for Shehata to be considered for the Egyptian team he needs to be on the pitch.
Shehata currently plays for a semi-professional team in Seattle called Nido Àguila Club Amèrica. “It’s connected to a team club in Mexico,” he said. “That club has academies across the United States, including in Seattle.”
The semi-pro team keeps Shehata’s skills fresh, but it doesn’t fulfill the requirements he needs in order to be considered for the Egyptian Olympic team. Checking that box means competing internationally for a professional club. Shehata played for the U-20 (Under 20) Egyptian national team while a student at TCC and hopes to be part of the U-23 team. “That’s the team that ends up becoming the Olympic team,” he said.
Staying eligible means playing for weeks, if not months, in different countries including Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates is about 7,500 miles from Tacoma. “It’s a 14-hour flight,” said Shehata. When it’s nine in the morning here, it’s eight at night there.
Shehata, made it work, with an assist from staff and faculty at UW Tacoma. “I haven’t had to take a quarter off,” he said. “My professors have been amazing, they’ve always been more than willing to help me.”
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