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Ontario Tech standout playing pro soccer in Ukraine

After having a great run last year, Fadi Salback, a first year forward with Ontario Tech’s soccer team, has risen to the level of professional soccer by signing a contract with FC Podillya Khmelnytskyi in the Ukrainian Second League.

“Being called up to Podillya felt like everything I had worked for was starting to finally come into place. Now I just [have to] keep working hard, keep maintaining the same mentality, keep on being the player I know I am capable of being and continue to prove everyone wrong,” says Salback.

Salback, 22, was named Ontario Tech University’s athlete of the year in April.

He led the entire Ontario University Athletics (OUA) in goal scoring with 16 goals in 14 games, six of which were game winners. Those numbers enabled him to capture the OUA rookie of the year award, the first time for a male soccer player from Ontario Tech.

Salback’s goal output paced all players across Canada finding him a place in the U SPORTS all-rookie team, also a first for a male soccer player from Ontario Tech to be recognized nationally.

‘It’s always good when you have a player and they go to the next level,” says Ramin Mohammadi, head coach of Ontario Tech’s soccer team, on Salback’s rise to professional soccer.

“We still communicate through text and I will get an update. I want him to do the same thing he was doing before. I hope he doesn’t think that because he got it now, it’s done, because for him, this is the beginning of the road.”

Salback is not letting his new endeavour compromise his education and is continuing his software engineering degree through distance learning. With his current location seven hours ahead of Oshawa, he is keeping late nights to attend classes. His commitment to his studies matches his commitment to the sport.

Salback has risen to this level of professional soccer by means of hard work which also had an impact on the team.

“Fadi is (a) very enthusiastic, very hardworking and competitive individual. He wants to do everything 100 per cent. He also has that impact on his teammates, he wants everybody to work hard when we are in practice [or] in a game,” says Mohammadi.

Salback acknowledges this contract is the first step in his professional soccer career and he wants to take advantage of the opportunity.

Fadi Salback tussling with a defender from FC Uzhhorod in a game Oct. 11
Fadi Salback tussling with a defender from FC Uzhhorod in a game Oct. 11 Photo credit: Picture courtesy of Fadi Salback

“It’s my dream since I was a kid to come to Europe and play professional soccer and to finally get that chance, I’m going to put in the work and make sure not to waste it,” he says.

Salback says going to Ontario Tech helped him achieve this feat.

“He (Mohammadi) taught me to be a team player and to sacrifice yourself for others and he taught me unity which is really important,” Salback says.

“A lot of support came from the directors, the president and the athletic department…They all saw my potential and we did something great last year.”

Coach Mohammadi has a word of advice for others trying to follow in Salback’s footsteps.

“It’s hard work, it’s commitment, it’s coachability,” he says.

“You have to get up at 6 a.m., you have to practice seven days a week, you have to practice two times a day, also you have to go to school, you have to work, you have to [be with your] family. All these professional players have a family, you have to juggle.”