PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – The Florida Roots semi-pro soccer team is one of the youngest teams in the National Premier Soccer league, not just in how long they’ve been around, but also in the fact that their players are young.
However, one of their players is much younger than the rest as he’s still in high school.
“In the games I’m very visibly younger than most of the players there, I’m smaller, but I would like to think I surprise them a little bit when I get the ball at my feet and show them what I can do,” Florida Roots player Ben Lebdaoui said.
Lebdaoui is just 17 years old and is heading into his senior season playing for the Arnold Marlins.
He might be young, but he’s not letting his age affect him on the field.
“Being the youngest one on the team, I’m also the slowest and the weakest just kind of by default, but it challenges me every single day to become better and to keep up with these guys and I think I’ve been doing a good job of it, getting a few starts and getting consistent minutes every game, its just been a great experience,” Lebdaoui said.
Even though Lebdaoui was a part of the state championship winning Marlins squad this past year, moving up to this league was definitely an adjustment for him.
“In this team and this league, there is no time to think with the ball, you gotta know what your dong right away, and so the speed of play and just the strength and physicality of this league, its just really been a challenge but I think I’ve improved a lot through it,” Lebdaoui said.
Since he still has another year with the Marlins, Lebdaoui plans on bringing his experiences playing in the National Premier Soccer League to the high school level.
“Going from this type of practice to going back to high school, I’ll be bringing some intensity that we have here that isn’t found so much in high school, and hopefully that will maybe rub off a bit on my teammates and we can pick up the level at our school and maybe even be better than last year,” Lebdaoui said.
The Roots only have a few games left this summer and no matter what happens in those, Lebdaoui is just glad to play for his local team and happy he could change some attitudes when it comes to younger athletes.
“It’s encouraging honestly, to have people be surprised by my age it tells me that I play better than how I should be,” Lebdaoui said.
The Roots play on Saturday night against Southern States FC in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.