Hong Kong International School’s Mahir Sadhwani prides himself in being one of the city’s best at stopping footballs from passing the goalposts.
The star goalkeeper helped HKIS win its first ever Super Apac championship – a prestigious five-day tournament with 11 top international schools around Asia that happens once every four years. Last year, it took place in Shanghai.
Mahir was brilliant in the final match against Seoul Foreign School (SFS), holding them scoreless as HKIS went on to win 3-0.
“It was one of the proudest moments of my career,” Mahir said. “We had a heartbreaking loss to SFS the previous year, and we hadn’t played them since that loss, so it was a bit of a revenge match. Winning the Super Apac was probably our school’s greatest football accomplishment too, so it was a good feeling when all of our hard work paid off.”
The 18-year-old certainly does work hard. In addition to training full-time with HKIS, Mahir also plays for the Hong Kong Football Club, and trains at MRD Goalkeeper Academy, a school focused solely on developing elite goalkeepers.
“I train six days a week; school training is on Mondays and Wednesdays, club training is Tuesdays and Fridays, and I train with MRD on Thursdays and Saturdays,” he said. “I also go to the gym four times a week to keep my strength up.”
“I always want to get better and play at the next level, so that keeps me motivated.”
Born in New York City, Mahir started playing football once he moved to Hong Kong at the age of nine. He said he fell in love with the sport instantly.
“For me, soccer is a way to escape everything stressful going on in my life,” he said. “It’s a break from school, from studying – everything. It allows me to channel myself into something productive and rewarding.”
Although becoming a professional goalie is a long-term goal, Mahir stays humble and reminds himself to take it “one step at a time.
“Right now I’m focusing on finding a good university where I can play on the varsity soccer team for four years. I’ll have to see where that takes me.”
Mahir understands how difficult it is for student-athletes in Hong Kong. “During this last semester it was especially difficult balancing school with soccer,” he said.
“I’ve had to study for my SATs and school exams and complete my university applications.”
His advice for students in similar situations is to “stay focused no matter what”.
“It’s the most important aspect to developing any sport,” Mahir said. “Hong Kong is a fast-paced city, and with the high pressures from school and social life, it’s easy to loose sight of your goal. Use your coaches, teammates, and family to keep you in check, on and off the field, and always remember what you’re working towards.