Emerging Montreal Impact star and Concordia engineering undergrad earns his iron ring
During Shamit Shome’s initial years at Concordia, only a few of his fellow students knew they had a professional soccer player in their midst.
“When I first came, nobody knew who I was,” says Shome, a midfielder with the Montreal Impact club of Major League Soccer (MLS). “It was just easier that way. I went to my classes, got the work done and went home.”
A few of his close friends found out in the first term of his electrical engineering undergraduate program at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. But it wasn’t until last April, when news cameras started showing up to interview Shome in the hallways, that his secret identity got out to most of his classmates.
“Some guys from Montreal knew what the team was. It’s pretty big here, so they were surprised. They were like, ‘Oh, what the heck? I’ve heard about you, but I didn’t know this was you,’” he recounts.
“It was definitely cool seeing all the reactions. A couple of people, when I first told them, were like, ‘The academy? The youth team?’ And I was like, no, the pro team.”
Growing up on soccer
Shome’s parents, who emigrated from Bangladesh to Edmonton before he was born, had him playing organized soccer at a young age.
“That was the main sport they knew about and thought it was the easiest one to get into,” he explains.
“They did that when I was like five or six. I was just playing for fun, but as I got a bit older, people started to tell my dad, ‘Hey, this guy seems like he could be really good. You should put him into a club level and take it a bit more seriously.’”
So Shome joined a club team in Edmonton. From there on, he says, he started playing at a decent level and constantly striving to get better.
“Around high school, in grade 11, I had a really good season. I played for the provincial team and signed with a professional team’s academy, FC Edmonton.”
He played a year there in the academy and signed with the pro team while he was in his first year at the University of Alberta studying engineering. He had a good first season as a young player, and got the chance to enter the MLS draft.
“Thankfully, Montreal picked me.”
‘It’s kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle’
Now in his fourth year with the Impact, Shome says what made him stand out as a young player was his intuition.
“People say I was always kind of ahead of the game and able to read the game well,” he says. “I had a lot of energy, so I was willing to put in the hard work to cover a lot of ground.”
Shome admits the transition to professional soccer wasn’t easy at first: “It’s a different level in terms of how quickly the game is played, how quickly guys are thinking, just how physical and athletic it is. So that was definitely an adjustment at first, but once I was able to overcome that, the rest was pretty doable.”
And Shome hasn’t let his challenges on the field affect his goal of getting a university education. He chose Concordia because of its reputation for having a more practical approach to learning.
“The labs were the hands-on stuff that made it more interesting,” says Shome, whose father is a civil engineer. “They gave me the experience in what I’m actually doing as an engineer.”
Shome flags time management as the most difficult aspect of balancing his schoolwork with a professional soccer career.
“It’s a heavy load, especially engineering,” he explains. “With the team, we train almost every day. We travel a lot for away games. A lot of time I’m missing classes, I’m missing labs and I have to reschedule all those and make everything work and fit in the correct time slots.”
It’s a lot to handle, but Shome found a way to make it work.
“It’s kind of like a big jigsaw puzzle. I had to figure out what I would do and when. So that was definitely the hardest part, but thankfully I’ve been able to finish and accomplish it all.”
Graduating under COVID-19
Shome’s fondest memories from his five years at Concordia will be of all the great people he met along the way. “When you play professional soccer, it’s kind of hard to meet people,” he says.
“I met a lot of new friends through school, people who really helped me connect with the city and feel comfortable here. That helped my transition to fully living in Montreal.”
Shome completed the final year of his electrical engineering in isolation this spring, and while it’s too bad his iron ring ceremony has been postponed and that he won’t be able to attend his convocation ceremony in person, he won’t let it overshadow his best memories of Concordia.
“I’ve tried to stay positive throughout the entire experience,” Shome says of coping with the COVID-19 shutdown. “There are definitely people around the world and in Canada who are going through much worse than I am, even if I’m stuck at home. At the end of the day, all I can do is stay positive and hope we can all overcome this together.”
He adds that it’s made him realize how important it is to stay connected, not just through the phone but in general, because no one ever knows what’s going to happen.
‘The world is putting a firm stance to stop racism’
Shome made sure to keep busy over the past few months.
“Obviously I couldn’t play soccer,” he says. “So I was doing a lot of exercising and working and going for runs. That’s stuff that I obviously enjoy, so that made it a lot easier. Besides that, I’ve just been reading good books, listening to music, finding ways to make time pass by, but enjoying the time as well.”
Like so many of his classmates, Shome has been following the Black Lives Matter movement closely over the past weeks.
“The world is starting to come together in terms of what’s been going on recently,” he notes.
“In the past there would be a lot of protests for a couple days and it would die down and then the same thing would happen again. This time I feel like the world’s putting a firm stance to stop the racism. Hopefully we can use this to start more change.”
He says he definitely knows people who were victims of racism and, growing up, he often heard people making racist remarks even without realizing.
“So that’s a problem where hopefully we can start to gradually change the way we view people of colour,” he says.
“It’s not something that will happen overnight. It’ll take time and there will be mistakes along the way, but as long as everybody sticks together, we can try to improve what’s going on around the world.”
Shome relates that playing pro soccer has been an opportunity to be part of a more diverse group of people.
“I know for me, and probably for a lot of other players, that while growing up we may not have been surrounded with the diversity that we’re presented with in a professional sports environment. Just meeting all these different people of different cultures, who come from all over the world, is really enlightening in terms of what they face, what they see and how they’re treated,” he adds.
“It’s been a big eye opener, both playing professional sports and being in university and seeing a gradual shift, and just realizing that there’s so much diversity. Education helps bring people together and realize the wrong that’s going on in this world. By being educated on the issues we can progress and change.”
Find out more about Concordia’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.