Austin grad Lual has plenty to offer Packer soccer program
Published 8:17 pm Thursday, August 24, 2017
Austin grad Abi Lual knows what it’s like to take the hard way in sports. Now he’s ready to share what he’s learned to the next generation of Packers.
Lual moved to Austin from Kenya in 2009 at the age of 15 and he didn’t have a single friend in town. He was shy in the classroom and on the soccer fields.
Now Lual not only has some friends, he’s also having an impact on the future of Austin soccer. After playing college soccer at Riverland Community College and playing with F.C. Minneapolis, Lual is taking on the role of C squad coach for the Packers this fall.
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Lual is very familiar with the battle facing C-squad players as he didn’t crack the full-time varsity lineup until his senior season with Austin in 2012, when he emerged as one of the top players on a team that went 16-4 overall.
“If you make C squad, that’s not the end of it,” Lual said. “If you keep working during the offseason and during the season, [Austin head coach] Jens [Levisen] will see that and he’ll bring you up. If you’re not happy, work hard. The coaches are always watching.”
Lual can relate to some of the current Packers who have moved to Austin from other countries and he knows how big the adjustment can be. He said the first couple of years for him in Austin were tough, but playing soccer — something he has done since he was eight years old — helped him form new friendships and find a sense of belonging.
“Without soccer, I wouldn’t have met a lot of the great people I’ve met in my life,” Lual said. “I’m looking forward to working with the new kids, and we have a few playing varsity. I’ll be there for them if they need anything and I’ll make them feel confident. Hopefully they’ll have a good season.”
Levisen is glad to have Lual back on board in a coaching role. He recalls Lual’s rise with the Packers and thinks he could be an inspiration to younger players.
“I think about who he was when he first joined our program and how quiet and reserved he was,” Levisen said. “We saw him grow with his physical strength and his mental strength into his senior year, where he was able to score goals and develop his technical skills. I think his story is great to share with our players.”
F.C. Minneapolis, where Lual played last year, is a non league professional soccer team that serves as a pathway to professional soccer for some players. Lual still has two years remaining on his contract with the team and he’s hoping to get back to playing next season.
“I learned a lot about hard work there,” Lual said. “It’s a whole new level and everybody’s really competitive. It was a good experience and hopefully it’ll get me somewhere in the future.”
Whenever he finishes his playing soccer, Lual would like to get into coaching for the long term.
“I always wanted to coach, but I just never had the time for it. When Jens got a hold of me this year I was really excited to come and coach,” Lual said. “I learned a lot from Jens [as a player]. He taught me how to be confident.”
Lual is now the one teaching younger players to be confident, including his younger brother Anga, who is on the C squad. Lual likes what he’s seen from the team so far this season.
“From what I’ve seen, Austin soccer is going to be good for awhile,” Lual said.