Dallas' loss is TFC's gain

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:59 AM ET

Abdus Ibrahim is just 16-years-old and until last week, he was playing professional soccer in Dallas, some 1,500 kms from his family's home in Minneapolis, Minn.

Sure, he was earning $103,000 US -- an allowance fit for prince -- after being signed by Major League Soccer's Dallas FC, but it came at the price of loneliness for Ibrahim, who is called 'Ibby' by coaches and teammates alike.

It got so bad that he told Dallas management he was ready to quit the sport altogether rather than be separated from his family any longer.

LARGE INVESTMENT

Dallas, who had invested a first round draft pick in the then 15-year-old in 2007, was faced with losing him and getting nothing in return.

A trade was an option, but with no MLS franchise in Minneapolis, all seemed doomed until Ibrahim informed them he had family-- an uncle -- in Toronto.

Toronto FC director of soccer Mo Johnston got involved and made a deal that would bring the youngster north of the border for an exchange of draft picks next year and a piece of any future transfer fee that might come the club's way.

Yesterday, the 6-footer was scrimmaging with TFC at BMO Field as if he had been there all season.

"I am really pleased to be here with this club," he said after a 90 minute workout under the watchful eye of coach John Carver. "It is everything I expected it to be."

Ibrahim said he already is feeling comfortable in Toronto and that's because he's back with family and unlike many teenagers, he admitted he wasn't ready to be living on his own.

"Yeah, I like having everything right there for me at home," he said. "I don't have to worry about food, laundry or any of that stuff."

So how does a 16-year-old go from high school to a job that pays $103,000?

As a standout -- twice high school player of the year in Minnesota -- he was named to the Generation Adidas team that recruits young American players and pays them to stay and play in the U.S. rather than go to Europe, which Canadian star as Owen Hargreaves was forced to do.

It's a four-year contract that also allows him to play for TFC as a development player without it being counted against the league salary cap.

In the end, however, Ibrahim is still very much a youngster and Carver said that he is very aware of that fact.

"I've sat him down and talked to him about his (pay packet) and how to look after his investments," Carver said. "But the lad has a real good head on his shoulders. He's far more mature than any 16-year-old I've ever dealt with."

It doesn't mean Carver is going to throw him in against the Kansas City Wizards tomorrow afternoon.

"The problem most often with young stars is that they might have the talent to play at (MLS) level but are not physically ready yet," he said. "If you watched Ibby on the practice pitch you saw he was right in the thick of it, so I think he can handle the physical side."

But Carver wants him to practise some more against the experienced TFC professionals before he'll send him out for a league game.

"It might be sooner than later," the TFC coach said. "But it won't be (tomorrow)."


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