Law student a foreign soccer star

Law+student+a+foreign+soccer+star

Laura Owens

With his second year of law school coming to a close, Jason Sabio has decided to take a leave of absence from the University of Alabama. His reason? To dedicate himself to the Philippine National Soccer Team for nine months.

“You only live once,” he said.

In mid-February, Sabio made his debut with the national team in a match against Mongolia. The Philippines won 2-0, and on the second goal, Sabio had the assist.

At the time of that game, Sabio had only been with the team for nine days and he said he couldn’t believe he was going to have playing time in the game. He stayed in for roughly 26 minutes in the second half.

“Fortunately the coach was impressed with my ability and the team as well,” Sabio said. “We had tune-up games before the match, and I actually started. The starting center back was not there; he hadn’t arrived yet from England, so that’s why I was playing.

“I was just happy to be on the team, happy to be dressed, and then at halftime, the coach told me I needed to be warm and ready to play.”

Sabio, 24, was born in Manila, Philippines, but has lived in the United States most of his life. He first lived in New York, and then moved to Huntsville, which he said he still calls home.

He attended Birmingham-Southern College to get his undergraduate degree, playing soccer while there. After graduation, he played soccer in Germany where a team offered him a contract to play professional soccer, but he declined, opting to teach school and coach high school soccer instead.

Mike DeRosa, a close friend of Sabio’s, said Sabio earned his nickname in his year as a soccer coach.

“Everyone calls him ‘The Coach,’” DeRosa said. “He won a state title coaching the [John Carroll High School] team, so he’s huge into soccer.”

After a year with the high school team, he was playing soccer semi-pro in the U.S. before he went to the Philippines, meeting the head coach of that time along with some of the players.

“They’ve been asking me to come over there and try to integrate into the team, but with law school and finals, I couldn’t do it,” Sabio said. “For some reason, this semester I just said, ‘Why not?’ and it worked out unbelievably well.”

He leaves Thursday for an 18-day trip to play in matches and tournaments in Asia and the Middle East. For the summer, he has jobs with two law firms but will still split his summer between soccer and work.

DeRosa, a law student at Hofstra University in New York, said he hopes to specialize in a sports management type of law and may be Sabio’s manager in the future.

“It kind of depends on how popular he gets in the Philippines and how well we can market him,” DeRosa said. “I plan on going there with him in the summer and seeing if we can actually make something of him.”

After spending nine months with the team in the professional season, Sabio will return to the U.S. in summer of 2012. His projected graduation date from law school is August 2013.

“Law school will always be there,” Sabio said. “I already have my bachelor’s, and I’ve spoken to the dean of the law school in depth, and he says I have to do it too.

“It’s not an opportunity that many people get. I forwent playing professionally in Germany because I had obligations here in the States, so this is my second chance, and I think I have to do it.”