For many sports students, the end of their studies at a college or university means the end of their playing career.

Dearborn-based football team Cedars FC challenges this notion and enables former, current and aspiring college players to compete in a semi-professional league.

As high school and college students kick off the football season, Cedars FC proves that peer-to-peer competition doesn’t end after senior year.

Lift off the ground

The team was formed two years ago and brought together two local Dearborn squads: The Dearborn Stars and Michigan Sporting merged into a larger club that incorporated the city’s Lebanese heritage into its colors and team name.

Cedars FC played in the Michigan Premier Soccer League last year but has since moved to the United Premier Soccer League, which gives the team a bigger platform to showcase talent.

advertisement

Cedars FC in action (Denise Allen photo)

“We have a mix of veterans and current college players from many local schools,” said Mo Salman, Cedars FC head coach. “The majority of the players in the league are former college players and those who have played at a high level abroad. The league itself was very competitive this year and a lot of the teams we played against have players who can even play at a professional level. The change from MPSL to UPSL got us a lot more attention. “

Meet the trainer

Born and raised in Senegal, Salman grew up playing soccer “since he started running”.

After moving to Virginia in 1985, he moved to Dearborn in 1998, where he began coaching his son’s youth football teams. His coaching career expanded and eventually earned him coaching positions at Fordson High School.

One of the challenges to the Cedars FC head coach role is managing talent from all of the city’s high schools, Salman said. Players will join the team at Dearborn High, Fordson, Edsel Ford, Crestwood, Divine Child, and elsewhere once their high school careers are over.

advertisement

Members of the team also include students who have played at colleges like the University of Michigan, Adrian College, Wayne State, Schoolcraft, and even extra-state schools like Bowling Green University.

Cedars FC in action (Denise Allen photo)

These former high school footballers who once faced heated city school rivalries are now teaming up to win games for Cedars FC.

“These players have high expectations,” said Salman. “We have a list of about 36 players who pick 20 players on game day and then pick the 11 starters. These guys have often played together or against each other, so it wasn’t difficult to play them together as a team. “

The season

Cedars FC had a successful debut season at UPSL, playing home games at Fordson High School in front of many family, friends and fans. The team’s last record was 8-1-1, taking the club first in the Midwest East Division while winning all five home games.

advertisement

“It was a great performance for the team,” said Salman. “When we started I had doubts because the availability of players changed from week to week. We had such a large and diverse group of players and personalities and we were able to do what we did against really tough competition. “

The team’s season ended on July 6 with a loss to Detroit United FC in the championship game of the Midwest East Division with a final score of 4-0.

Detroit United FC moved into the UPSL National Playoffs, but lost in the first round.

Salman said one of the team’s most important goals is to develop young players, including international players, and give them the opportunity to play at the next level.

Cedars FC in action (Denise Allen photo)

“The endgame for this team is to take some of the younger children and give them the opportunity to play competitive football at a much higher physical level,” he added. “We have a lot of younger talent on this team who deserve to be revealed. I can count at least five who could easily play for the Lebanese or Iraqi national team. Ultimately, we hope that these children will be talked about or read about on a national level. “

advertisement

The veteran leader

At 33, Haroun Odeh is one of the oldest players on the team and takes on the role of the seasoned leader that all big teams have. Odeh graduated from Fordson in 2006 and now works as a high school language teacher but still plays the game he has been passionate about since childhood.

“The kids I play with are much younger and eat (and) breathe football like I did at that age,” said Odeh. “Now I’m a kind of role model in the team. It’s a different perspective as you get older. One of my favorite things to do is motivate them to take them to the next level. For these guys, I want them to focus on earning scholarships and getting to the next level. There are endless possibilities for the guys on this team. “

What is still ahead of us

Salman said he hopes to have a more formal testing process for Cedars FC next year that limits squad size. He added that local businessman and team owner Dr. Ned Fawaz is committed to expanding the club and possibly traveling internationally to play football.

advertisement

For now, Cedars FC is focused on growing the Dearborn team and continuing to play well in the UPSL.

“I really enjoy having a team from Dearborn that people love to see,” said Odeh. “I intend to play as long as possible until I am a setback for the team. Every year we will have new seniors graduating from high school and looking for a place to play. We are all proud of it and hope that it will continue to grow for future generations when the older ones leave. “

Cedars FC in action (Denise Allen photo)

Copyright 2021 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit – All rights reserved.