11-year-old soccer star gets a kick out of the sport in Spain
By Steve Stein
Nobody is surprised that Nathan Shammo got the opportunity of his lifetime last summer when he was selected among hundreds of kids at a camp in Brighton to attend an FC Barcelona soccer clinic for nine days last month in Spain.
Not Marianne Johnson, Nathan’s second-grade teacher at Randels Elementary School in Flint, who spotted his soccer skills, witnessed his passion for the game, and got him involved in travel soccer with the Flushing Football Club.
Not Ben Staley, Nathan’s coach for three years with the Flushing Football Club.
Not John Phillips, Nathan’s current coach on the ‘06 boys team in the Michigan Wolves-Hawks East travel soccer program.
All have seen Nathan’s goal-scoring wizardly. All think he has a bright future on and off the soccer pitch.
“Nathan is a delightful kid whose name will be known some day in the soccer world,” said Johnson, who has stayed in touch with the now 11-year-old fifth-grader even though Nathan’s family moved last year from Flint Township to Macomb Township.
“Soccer is Nathan’s major focus and a great outlet for him because he’s in a constant state of motion,” Johnson said. “He has amazing soccer skills. It seems like he can hit the net from anywhere on the field.”
Staley went a step further with his praise for Nathan’s soccer acumen.
“Nathan is the most gifted soccer player I’ve coached in my 13 years as a coach,” Staley said. “He’s a phenomenal scorer with great skills on the ball. He’s leaps and bounds ahead of other kids his age.
“He isn’t the biggest kid or the fastest kid. But he’s a hard worker, and it seems like a soccer ball is connected to him 24 hours a day.”
Nathan hadn’t played a game for Wolves-Hawks East as of early February because the season hadn’t started yet.
But Phillips, who also is director of player and club development for Wolves-Hawks East, had seen Nathan play in about a half-dozen practices over two months.
“You can tell Nathan has a good soccer brain,” Phillips said. “He also sees the field well, his technical skills are good, he’s creative with the ball, he’s athletic, he’s quick, and he doesn’t shy away from tough spots. He’ll fit in well with us. He has a lot of potential.”
Johnson has been an important part of Nathan’s academic life. The young man is holding his own at Sequoyah Elementary School in Macomb after struggling earlier in the classroom.
“Nathan is going to be a great soccer player someday, and he loves that I recognize that,” Johnson said. “That’s important because I tell him all the time that he has to have a Plan B besides soccer. He can’t play soccer all his life. First things first, he needs to make sure he graduates from high school.
“I’ve [told] him that even a great player like [Real Madrid star Cristiano] Ronaldo needed to get a good education so he could speak intelligently when doing interviews.”
Johnson feels she connected with Nathan when he was an impressionable second-grader because of a shared interest: soccer.
“We would kick the ball around and talk about soccer. He probably thought I was an OK teacher because of that,” she said with a laugh.
Johnson’s daughter Emily, now 19 and a sophomore soccer player at Concordia University Chicago, also connected with Nathan.
“Like Nathan, Emily also has so much energy and needs an outlet,” Johnson said.
The Shammo and Johnson families lived on the same street in Flint Township.
“Sometimes we’d take Nathan to his soccer games,” Johnson said. “Soccer dominated our family’s life, so we understood that commitment.”
Nathan said it’s his dream to be a professional soccer player someday.
Maybe even become the second Chaldean player in Major League Soccer following Shelby Township native Justin Meram, who is now with Orlando City after scoring 37 goals in seven seasons with the Columbus Crew.
“That would be great,” Nathan said.
Nathan’s three older sisters -- Alana, 17, Nella, 15, and Annessa, 12 -- are helping him achieve his dream. They often play goalie when he wants to practice shooting.
Nathan’s parents are Haithem and Zena Shammo.