Rebels’ Zabielski awaits word from London squad
Ridgewood's Przemyslaw Zabielski (right) traveled to London to try out for professional soccer team West Ham United. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2012 2:32PM
The dream of playing in the top soccer leagues in Europe is something that few high school players in America realistically think about. But Ridgewood senior Przemyslaw Zabielski got the opportunity of a lifetime last month in London.
Seemingly out of the blue, Primier League club West Ham United called in the defensive stalwart for a tryout. While there hasn’t been any word yet on returning to West Ham or linking up with any other English team, just getting the chance to show his skills in such a setting is a dream come true for the Poland native who came to Harwood Heights in 2008.
“I was surprised they even called me,” Zabielski said. “I thought at first that it might be some sort of advertisement because I never thought people from England would contact me. They said they got my information through some web site and saw a video on YouTube and some scouts saw me play here and asked if I wanted to go there.”
Once the shock of the invitation wore off, the subject of the price of the trip proved to be an obstacle. Luckily, Zabielski has family in London that offered him a place to stay and got some help to pay for the airfare, and it was off to England on May 16, for the tryouts on the May 20.
After adjusting to the time zone and seeing some sites it was showtime at Upton Park in East London. It was an experience that nothing at Ridgewood or playing with his club team F.C. United could quite match. But it just took one touch of the ball to calm him down.
“I was a bit nervous when I got there being in a stadium where 50,000 to 60,000 people watch the team play,” Zabielski said. “It was empty, but still (intimidating). We warmed up for about an hour and then played a game. Right when I got the ball, I felt that I have to do it, my game has to pick up. If I’m nervous, I wouldn’t do well on the field. When I got my first pass of the ball I didn’t concentrate on the stadium or scouts. I was just playing my game. After we played, they asked me to stick around for another game. I was happy that they asked me back. It must mean they liked me and maybe they want to see me play more.”
He played on the right side of a three-man back line. He’s played defense at the varsity level for the Rebels for the past three years, being defensive player of the year the past two, All-State honorable mention this past season and one of the captains of the Class 2A state runner-up campaign of 2010.
“It’s exciting stuff for him and me knowing I coached a kid in our program that did such great things for us has the potential to do great things beyond this,” said Ridgewood head coach Robert St. John. “He has been unbelievable and the anchor of our defense for those three years. He’s a great kid, too. He works so hard, and you would never know he’s only been here a few years. When I talk about him to other teachers, they glow. They adore him. He’s even helping me coach our summer league this year.”
During his stay he saw the celebratory parade of another London-based club Chelsea after their UEFA Champions League victory.
Despite being a fan of arch-rival Manchester United, it was a scene he never thought he’d be a part of and only added to the memories of such a whirlwind trip.
While he awaits to hear from West Ham or scouts from other clubs who were at the tryout, Zabielski has a full summer ahead of him with competitions with F.C. United and helping with the Ridgewood summer league. Should the call not come from across the Atlantic, he has another fine opportunity awaiting him at North Park University in Chicago.
Whatever happens, Zabielski has gotten further in his pursuit of the dream of playing professional
soccer than most, and he is grateful for it.
“It would be a hard decision (if they called me back to England), but I’d still have to continue my education,” Zabielski said.
“My mom said to me that it’s what I love to do. I would like to play in college here, but I’d probably be set for the next few years playing pro over there. It would be a life-changing moment.”