KENYA BROWN - Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Emmanuel Sabbi has his sights set on taking his soccer career to the highest level in Europe as he looks to make a name for himself at Odense BK in Denmark.
While Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, and several other young Americans have been garnering the headlines in the press for their performances with their respective teams in Europe's biggest leagues, the 22-year-old attacker has been steadily raising his game in the Danish Superliga. While not as strong as the big five leagues - EPL, La Liga, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, and Serie A, Denmark's top flight has produced some quality players.
The likes of Peter Schmeichel, Michael Laudrup, Brian Laudrup, and Christian Eriksen started out in the league and went on to achieve success outside the country with a host of other European clubs. And Americans have been no strangers as Brad Friedel, Michael Parkhurst, Benny Feilhaber, and Heath Pearce have played for a time in the country.
Sabbi, the son of Ghanaian parents, can reach the same heights as his trajectory is currently on an upward trend following his move to OB from Hobro IK prior to the start of this season.
After spending three seasons at Hobro, where he helped them to retain their first division status until the 2019-2021 season, the Italian-born but Ohio-raised man decided it was time to test himself with a stronger team. So far in the season, he has acclimated himself well in the OB lineup as they look to contend for a European place.
"I´m very happy here at Odense," Sabbi told Yanks Abroad. "The boys have been great in welcoming me and we already have great relations. I´m not much for judging myself, but I think I´ve had a good run already and scored some goals. But I need to improve every day so I´m working hard at that."
After turning heads at Hobro, there was much speculation as to where Sabbi would head next in his soccer odyssey. There was rumored interest from teams in Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Hungary, and Sweden. There was even talk towards the end of last year of then 2. Bundesliga team Dynamo Dresden looking to sign him. However, he would go on to sign a pre-contract with OB in January 2020 as he felt they would provide him the best opportunity to further develop his game.
"OB is a big club in Denmark with a lot of history and it´s certainly a step up for me. I had a great time in Hobro but I needed a new challenge to improve my game and I´m certain that I can elevate and become even better here in OB," said Sabbi.
The former Las Palmas man has played an important role for OB this season as he is one of the key players in their attacking lineup. At present, he has played in 12 games in all competitions, scoring three goals in the process.
It appears that playing for a more attack-minded team like OB fits well for Sabbi. With the talent to play on either wing or as a center-forward, he can certainly be an unpredictable player for the opposition to stop. And he feels just fine with this role as he learns from some of the best players currently playing in Europe.
"I can play in every position and I don´t really have a preferred place in that way. But it´s cool for me to change positions as I can use both feet and hopefully help my teammates. I follow the major leagues and I really like players like Wilfred Zaha, Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, and of course Lionel Messi. Great players like that inspire me every day," said Sabbi.
And it also good that he has the backing of his coach Jakob Michelsen as he looks to become one of the top players in the Superliga.
"My coach wants me to perform well, work hard, score goals, and make assists. But at the end of the day, it doesn´t matter who makes the goals, we just need to win and I´m here to help the team," Sabbi stressed. "Of course, you want to score and assist a lot, but if OB achieves their ambition this season then I´m happy because the team has accomplished something."
Sabbi has seen a lot during his time in Europe. One of the things that he has witnessed is the rise of his American counterparts as they have gone on to play with some of the biggest teams on the continent. With Pulisic at Chelsea, McKennie at Juventus, and Dest suiting up for Barcelona, it has been a fantastic period for the Americans in Europe as they make inroads with their respective teams.
This is where Sabbi sees himself in the future and he knows he can only reach that stage if continues to grind hard in games for OB and hopefully makes it to the European stage with them so he gets further exposure.
"I have a lot of respect for the things they have achieved already and it´s a big inspiration for me," he said "They are great players and you just want to see them perform well. Seeing that I feel I must reach that level but nothing comes for free so I need to work harder every day if I want to attract the interest of the biggest clubs in Europe."
Turning to the national team, one of the big omissions from Gregg Berhalter's roster for their November friendlies was Sabbi as he put on some impressive displays in the weeks leading up to the games. With the team still looking for the right mix of players to form a competitive side ahead of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup, one with his skill and athletic ability would have deserved a call-up. However, that did not come.
That doesn't mean that the current U.S. Under-23 player has not lost any desire to eventually suit up for the senior team. It just makes him push harder.
"Nothing would make me prouder. Representing your country is an honor and if I get the call I would definitely go and wear the Stars and Stripes-shirt. The U.S. national team has had some great World Cups in the past since hosting in 1994 and they will host again in 2026. So being part of that would mean a lot to me," said Sabbi.
When pressed on whether he felt he deserved a call-up, Sabbi said he would leave that up to others to decide.
Taking the chance on a professional career in Europe can be a big gamble for an American player. A new culture, language, and customs could make one yearn for home. But Sabbi, like many of the other young Americans across the continent, has not looked back since forgoing a commitment to play collegiately at the University of Akron. The skies the limit for the young man and he hopes that his gamble will pay off with further success down the line.
"I have not regretted that for a single moment," he said. You just don´t make a decision like that overnight and I knew that if I wanted to succeed as a footballer I had to go to Europe.
Yes, it´s been tough at times, but I´m happy here in Odense and I´m ready to take the next steps in my career in this great club. "