When the Louisville City FC was established late last year, Israeli midfielder Guy Abend was one of the first three players signed by the soccer club, which is currently tied for fifth in the United Soccer League’s 12-team Eastern Conference and calls Slugger Field home.
A quiet 24-year-old with a ready smile, Abend explained that he was born in Israel, but spent the first six years of his life in Washington, D.C., where his father was the regional manager of El Al Israel Airlines.
“I started playing soccer at the JCC [Jewish Community Center] in Washington,” he said. Although he was only 6 when his family returned to Israel, Abend’s love of soccer had already taken root.
Back in Netanya, Abend grew up playing for a local team, and, at age 14, moved to a premier league club, Maccabi Netanya. At age 17, he signed his first seniors contract and started playing for Israel’s national under 21s team. He played three years in Netanya, a year in Kfar Saba. Then he played three years in Rishon L’Tzion, where he was made captain of the team at age 21. He also served three years in the IDF.
“Last year, I almost signed in Ashdod FC from first division in Israel,” he said, “but things didn’t go the way I wanted.”
That disappointment soon became a new opportunity. Abend spoke with an agent who encouraged him to try out for the new squad here because Louisville City Coach James O’Connor had seen him on You Tube.
This is the first year for the team in the USL league, and, while most of the players are Americans, the roster is truly international. In addition to Israel, Louisville City FC players come from Britain, Denmark, Serbia and Ireland. Two of the league’s teams are based in Canada and the rest in the U.S. from St. Louis east.
This year’s 28-game season, split evenly between home and away games began March 28, continues through October and will be followed by the playoffs. With 13 new league teams this year, Abend believes soccer’s popularity will grow rapidly..
As a professional athlete, most of his time is spent training, traveling and playing, but Abend is looking to use his limited spare time well. “I am planning to study here,” he said, with the intent of pursuing a degree in business. “I will have to find a program that will let me do both soccer and study,” he added.
“Soccer is all-consuming,” he said, yet Abend wants to be part of Louisville’s Jewish community. He’s looking to make connections in the city and hopes to teach children soccer and become a Hebrew tutor.
He also spends part of his downtime in the kitchen. “I like to cook, and I’m starting to cook new things here.” He likes to read. “I have to start reading English books because I need to improve my English.”
Abend is the youngest of three children. His father, Arie, had a 30-year executive career with El Al and now works for Amiel Tours, specializing in all types of Israel trips, including for JCCs and Jewish Federations. His mother, Tali, is a clinical psychologist, his brother, Rany, is completing his Ph.D. in psychology and next year will start post-doctoral study at the NIH. His sister, Dafna is an elementary school English teacher.
The team set Abend and the other players up in nice apartments. Abend adds “Louis Waterman helped me a lot settling down. He is really helpful for everything.”
Going forward, he says, “I would like to help as much as I can. When I served in the Army, I was recognized as an athlete, so my service wasn’t typical. I contributed to the community, and I can give a hand here.”