09 Dec 2021 | 11:24 | Football
VILLANOVA, Pa. – It was the pivotal moment in Villanova’s most recent victory, a 1-0 home pitch triumph over Butler last Saturday afternoon. As a second half substitution, senior forward Seidu Shamsudeen found himself in the right place at the right time with just more than 10 minutes to play in regulation.
“The ball kind of came to me from Jorge (Garcia),” he says. “It lined up in front of me. Everything kind of worked out perfectly – the touch, the finish, everything. I made good contact.”
The exciting result capped a stretch of the calendar that has become all too familiar for Shamsudeen, who has endured a series of injuries over the course of his college career. In this instance, an eye injury had kept him idle for several weeks in September and he has only recently begun to rebuild his conditioning.
“I just tried to be ready to give the team what I could when my chance came,” Shamsudeen says of his 19 minutes on the field in a win that pushed the ‘Cats record to 6-2 overall, 2-0 BIG EAST.
With another week of training under his belt, Shamsudeen believes his fitness level leaves him in good form as the Wildcats prepare for Saturday’s match at Xavier (4 p.m./BEDN on Flo Sports).
“I’ve been doing extra runs after practice and feel much better now,” he states. “At this point I just want to be there for the team in whatever role they need me to play.”
Shamsudeen is the third native of Ghana – his hometown is Bolgatanga – to find a home in the men’s soccer program at Villanova. 2015 graduate Oscar Umar and 2019 alumnus Theo Quartey both came to Villanova and became lineup fixtures. Shamsudeen himself came to the United States in 2014 and enrolled at the Cantebury School for his secondary education.
His knack for creating offense made him an intriguing prospect to college coaches from the start. By the time he was a sophomore at Cantebury he had begun to focus on three programs: Villanova, Penn State and Virginia.
“For an international student like myself I needed a place where I could get the academic support,” he states. “I thought Villanova offered that.”
The presence of Quartey on the roster also played a part in the decision.
“Theo was here, and I spoke to Oscar about the school,” he recalls. “If felt like I was already familiar with Villanova before coming here.”
The tests Shamsudeen could not have foreseen when making his selection would present themselves in the form of physical setbacks. A tibia injury in his senior year at Cantebury presented an early hurdle. Then, after donning the Blue and White as a freshman for a preseason scrimmage against Virginia Tech in 2018, he suffered a broken bone in his foot, a development that would sideline him for the entirety of the ’18 regular season.
“That was pretty rough,” he says now. “I was young and didn’t really know how to handle injuries.”
Shamsudeen returned to the field ahead of the 2019 fall season, but a series of other injuries cropped up. The most significant of those was a hamstring issue that lingered for much of the season. Yet he was able to contribute, appearing in 16 games producing a pair of goals, including a game-winner in a 2-1 victory at La Salle.
By the spring of 2020, Shamsudeen finally felt back in peak form. Alas, the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled that spring’s campaign and pushed the fall season into the spring of 2021. He started three games of the condensed spring campaign only to be felled by what he calls “another unfortunate incident.”
“I collided with a defender at the Providence game and tore my LCL,” he notes.
That led to a summer of rehab work heading into this campaign. He returned in time to make an impact in the season opener, scoring a goal in a 2-0 victory over Rider on Aug. 26. Not long thereafter came the eye injury.
“It’s been a lot of ups and downs,” he states. “I tell people I’ve spent more time on the sidelines at Villanova than playing for Villanova. I’ve learned to support the team when I’m not playing. When I’m healthy I just try to make the best out of it that I can.
“The support I’ve received at Villanova has been everything to me. When you’re an international student, it’s especially important. I have a host family in Connecticut but even they are pretty far away. The people here help support you and that helps you keep pushing through adversity. I knew I was going to need that. It’s part of the reason I chose Villanova.
“Knowing that people care about you, I think gives you that extra gear to keep pushing through rehab when you are injured.”
As a savvy veteran who has watched this team develop, Shamsudeen is excited about what lies ahead for this side.
“The hunger that we have as a team is something I’ve noticed,” he states. “In the previous years I was here, we may have had a lead or started well but weren’t able to finish. This year, we have so much talent and depth. Coach Carlin has found a way to use every single one of us. Each game it’s been a different individual to come in to make an impact.”
In his own situation, Shamsudeen is most eager to be able to compete regularly at 100 percent.
“For me personally, staying healthy and finding ways to impact the team as much as I can are the top priorities,” he says. “I am going to keep working on my fitness and finding my role on the team.”
Shamsudeen is on schedule to graduate with a degree in Political Science with a minor in Social Justice. Due to the injuries and COVID-19 he retains two years of eligibility beyond 2021. The option of returning as a Villanova graduate student is a possibility ahead of his hopes to pursue professional soccer.
“I have been very fortunate in that I was given a path to pursue education and soccer at the same time,” states Shamsudeen. “Whenever I am done playing, I want to go back home to help kids that are in the shoes I was once in. That is why I am a political science major. I’d like to be an advocate for kids. From where I’m from in Bolgatanga, there’s not a lot of opportunities so I’d like to go back to help at some point in the future.”
For now, though, the focus is on soccer, beginning in Saturday’s key BIG EAST match against the Musketeers.
Shamsudeen is most eager to put the series of “unfortunate incidents” behind him.