Alex Zidani comes from a winter sports culture, born in Switzerland and spending the early years of his life there before moving to America. But while he came from a country where snowy mountains are king, soccer was the sport he fell in love with after watching his older brother play for the first time.
“I went to one of his games when I was 7-years old, and watching him play… I don’t know, I just wanted to be out there as well. So I signed up the next season, and played rec. The love never died out after that. Eventually we kept moving up the ranks until we were top in the state and qualified for the Gothia Cup in Sweden. That was an unreal experience, playing against professional academies. We only won one game against a side from there in Sweden; the others went to work on us, but it was a great experience.”
The Sarasota Storm went 1-0-2 in the group, beating Vasteras SK 1-0, and then losing to Skene IF and Danish club BK Skjold by a combined 0-7 scoreline. It was an experience that proved formative to the young winger, giving him a taste for Europe and a higher level of play than was often found in America.
“It’s every kid’s dream to try to play in Europe. America is great as a growing country, but the dream is Europe. It’s such an accomplishment to make it overseas and to earn a name for yourself. I never got sick of the training, and that’s how I knew that I wanted to continue and make the leap into the pro game in Europe. I was always productive on the field, and every day I continued to enjoy it.”
And so it came to be that Alex bought a one-way ticket to Ireland to go on trial with Wexford Youths in the Irish Premier League this summer. “It was the first thing that came into my view,” Alex told SoccerViza.
“I have family there, and they gave me the news that their local team, Wexford Youths FC, was looking for an attacking winger, someone who could potentially bring something different to them. They were promoted after last season so they were looking for something new to help with this season’s campaign. It ended up being half a chance where they liked my video, and invited me on trial, and I made the most of it.”
Alex signed with Wexford through the conclusion of the 2016 season, and will be considered a favorite to re-sign for next season if he’s able to make the most of his chances for the Youths. As a player, he seems to be what they’re looking for - a dynamic attacking player who can take on defenders and finish his opportunities.
Meanwhile, adjusting to the new country hasn’t been without its challenges, but being in a position to have football every day is something that is allowing Alex to continue his development as a player and to learn valuable information going forward as a professional.
“It’s tough at times. You’re moving to a foreign country, there’s no friends outside of the team, but we’re mid-season so it’s all business. The level of play is good, it’s very intense. The facilities and the fields are beautiful and well kept. Dealing with paperwork as a foreigner is always frustrating, but it’s part of the business aspect. Playing professionally is something that is just very different; I’ve always been one of the better players on my team, always a starter. Now I’m having to work for something that has always come naturally. It’s something I’ve really learned being over here, how hard it is to get included into a squad. To start as a trialist, earn a contract, and be the 24th man on the roster and struggle rung by rung to climb up the ladder into relevance. It keeps me training day after day, even on off days, so that I can keep working my way up.”
Having gone through this first vital experience is something that will help him in the future as more opportunities come. The necessary perseverance, the patience, the resolve, and the knowledge of what to expect going forward.
“I know what to expect now,” Alex continued. “I know what to do. I feel like for whatever’s next, it’ll be just a little bit easier because now I know what’s going to happen in that two-week frame while on trial. I know the severity of it, and what it’s going to take for me to succeed again.”
For the self-described laid back, relaxed Floridian, it’s all a dream in the process of coming true. But as with every dream, there’s the reality of what happens when you wake up. Alex is preparing himself for that, living a spartan lifestyle. He doesn’t go out, he doesn’t party, he left the nonsense behind in college so that he can focus on making the most of the game he loves most. Now his free time, his recreational time, is spent on the game that he is building a career out of. It’s watching games, it’s studying the industry, it’s reading, it’s leaving no stone unturned for finding an advantage to help continue past this season with Wexford, to grab another contract for 2017 and beyond.
You can follow along with Alex’s progress this season by following SoccerViza’s social media.