For the majority of college soccer seniors, the year after their final fall season playing college ball marks the end of competitive involvement in a game they’ve been involved in for at least a decade.
Some of the lucky few end up drafted and sign with a Major League Soccer team, or perhaps the USL or NASL comes calling.
An even smaller slice of former DI players head abroad, and one of those from last fall is David Najem. A former midfielder in the New York Red Bulls Academy, Najem played four years in the Ivy League with Columbia, making 64 appearances, scoring 10 goals and adding 11 assists. After graduating early in December 2013, he made the move to Germany, where he ended up in the Fourth Division with a small club called FC Eintracht Bamburg.
The 91st Minute recently caught up with Najem to discuss how his first year in Germany has gone.
TDS: First of all, where in Germany is FC Eintracht Bamberg, and how did you end up there?
David Najem: My club is located in the city of Bamberg, which is a relatively popular city for tourists in the Bavarian region of Germany. It is near Nurnberg, and only a couple hours from Munich.
After graduating in the winter, I had the opportunity to go on trial with the Nurnberg reserve team for several weeks. A couple other clubs were also in and out of sessions observing. So when the situation with Nurnberg fell through, FCB was the club interested in moving forward with me.
Strictly from an on-field perspective, what have been some of the biggest adjustments to playing soccer professionally?
I think the importance of being a two-way player is really evident in the professional game. Every position has its duties on both sides of the ball, and recognizing and executing those duties is the difference between winning and losing at this level.
You spent the last four years in New York City and grew up in New
Jersey. What’s been some of the biggest differences (aside from the
language) that you’ve had to go through off the field?
All my life I’ve always been so close to home. Now, being so far away and not being able to take a train home to Jersey has been a huge difference for me off the field. Not being able to see family and friends regularly is a change for me, but I know it’ll be that much sweeter when I finally do get to spend some time with them over the holidays.
How’s your German coming along?
I find the German language very difficult. However, after being surrounded by it every day in the locker room and in the city, I am getting more familiar with it. I am also taking a German class to speed up the process a bit. English is also the second language here so it definitely makes the transition a little smoother.
Did you ever consider trying to play in Major League Soccer or lower division soccer in the States? Why did you want to head abroad?
Growing up I’d always dreamed of playing overseas. As I got older and matured, I realized how great it would be for a variety of reasons. Experiencing a new (soccer) culture, gaining lifelong international experiences, and continuing to learn the sport from a new system and perspective proved to be more important to me than playing in the United States at that point in my development and life.
What are your overall goals, both individually and from a team perspective, for the current season?
My individual goals are fairly simple in that I want to continue to develop my overall game technically and tactically, while getting as many game minutes as possible.
We’ve had a rough start to the season so far, so this season as a team we are looking to get back on track and contend in our competitive league. It’s important for us to win some of the derbies coming up, and steal points from the strong reserve teams at the top of the table.
How did playing soccer at Columbia and in the Ivy League help you improve as a player?
The combination of attending Columbia University and playing in the Ivy League is rewarding on so many levels. The people I’ve met, played with, and played for have all had a huge impact on not only the way I play the sport, but also how I live my life in general. I was surrounded by talented and hardworking individuals who had contagious work ethics, which can easily be applied to sport and life.
Your little brother Adam is doing pretty well at Akron. Any funny youth soccer stories from when you guys were growing up?
Yes, I’ve been able to follow almost all of his matches this season. He’s always been a really fun and exciting player to watch.
This may not be too funny from our mom’s perspective – but growing up we played a lot of soccer inside the house, particularly in the living room. After breaking a few valuables the rule became: no ball playing inside. However, there was no stopping us once the weather got colder. So we eventually made a new rule for her: no buying valuable/breakable items for the living room. I think to this day she’s decorated with that rule in mind.