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Taking Tempe: striker Illy Rassouli’s story

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(Video by WCSN’s Allyson Cummings)

The Arizona State Men’s Club Soccer team has no difficulty standing out in a crowd. This tight-knit group travels in bunches, often laughing and carousing their way across campus on the way to practices or classes. The team stands out for its worldliness and eccentricity, a cultural melting pot so to speak.

Many of the players come from international backgrounds, and a large portion of the team speaks English as a second language. Though the players may not look or sound like one another, they have quickly grown into one of Coach Eisa Shamrouk’s most cohesive units.

Shamrouk has helped lead the Sun Devils to a 4-2-1 record heading into the second half of the season and he attributes much of the team’s success to their chemistry. “This team gets along really well and that makes my job easier,” Shamrouk said.

The team chemistry is not the only factor easing the load for Shamrouk this year. A surprising source has sparked success for Sun Devil soccer. French exchange student Illy Rassouli has propelled the Sun Devil strike into a force to be reckoned with this year. Rassouli scored nine goals over the teams’ first seven games.

Rassouli’s success on the scoring end has been nothing short of a revelation for the Sun Devils, as his late game heroics have stimulated the Sun Devils in crunch time. One September weekend, Rassouli scored a stoppage time equalizer that salvaged a tie against the University of Arizona. Two days later, his second half hat trick headed a Sun Devil comeback victory over New Mexico Tech.

The success of Rassouli has catapulted the Sun Devils into contention for a Southwest Section title, and the story of how Rassouli chose Arizona State is just as intriguing.

Born to an Iranian father and a French mother in the city of Grenoble, France, Rassouli found a passion for soccer at an early age. Rassouli’s father decided to pass on his love for the game and the skill set he accumulated throughout his years as an Iranian national team player to his son when Rassouli was merely a boy.

When Rassouli was six years old, his parents signed him up for his first club team and he never looked back. His talents as a striker developed over the years and his ambitions destined him for a higher level of soccer. Eventually, Rassouli wound up playing striker for the University of Grenoble, his hometown school.

After three years at the University of Grenoble, Rassouli discovered an urge to travel. Versed in French, English, Spanish, and even a little bit of Persian, he found himself equipped to study almost anywhere his heart desired. As a global politics major, Rassouli faced endless options before ultimately deciding on venturing to America.

In his search for a final destination to study abroad, Rassouli desired, “a big school, a good school academically, and a place where I can learn all about American academics.” School was not the only decision that factored into Rassouli’s decision as he explored the possibility of playing soccer in America as well.

Enter Arizona State.

In Rassouli’s quest to find an American university that would satisfy all of his ambitious desires, Rassouli encountered the Arizona State Men’s Club Soccer Facebook page and was sold on the prospect of becoming a Sun Devil.

Illy Rassouli enrolled in Arizona State for the Fall 2012 semester, and after a journey of over 5750 miles from Grenoble, France, his transition was complete. At Arizona State, he continues his study of international relations and his soccer career.

Many of Rassouli’s Sun Devil teammates share similar stories of voyaging from around the world to study and play at Arizona State. Rassouli relishes the fact that many of his contemporaries do not speak English as their first language because, “soccer is a common language. It’s a good thing to have because we are all from different parts of the world.”

Rassouli’s appetite for adventure has not yet subsided and cities away games as his favorite part of club soccer at Arizona State. “When we go out of state to play games, I am very happy. I like to travel and spend time with my teammates.”

Armed with a record of 4-2-1 and a superstar striker like Rassouli, Coach Eisa Shamrouk has one goal for the team this year – Nationals.

For the Sun Devils, the road to the national tournament goes through El Paso. Both Sun Devil losses have come at the hands of the University of Texas El Paso Miners, and the Miners will host the regional tournament for the Southwest Section in late October.

Though the Sun Devils have struggled against the Miners this year, they will have ambition on their side. If all goes according to plan, Rassouli will travel far more than he had initially expected during his time in America. From Grenoble to Tempe and hopefully to Nationals, Rassouli will be learning about America far beyond the confines of the Arizona State campus.

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