Few things are better than doing what you love for a living, but being able to do so alongside a long-time friend is truly special. For San Antonio FC players Shawn Chin and Aly Alberto Hassan, soccer created a professional and personal bond between the two since the early days of their career.
While growing up playing for rival clubs in their respective hometowns during their early teens, the two South Florida natives first became familiar with each other as foes on the pitch. Chin played for West Pines FC, while Hassan played for rival Weston FC.
“When I was about 13 or 14 I heard about this kid who was scoring a lot of goals around the area,” Shawn Chin said. “Every time they had a game I would hear Aly Hassan’s name.”
Just as Hassan was starting to build a reputation with Weston, Chin was doing the same for himself in West Pines.
“They used to say there was a kid playing for our rival team with long, straight jet-black hair, believe it or not,” Hassan said. “His name was Shawn Chin. We always played against each other and knew each other well. It was kind of a tight soccer world in South Florida.”
Eventually the two ended up on the same team; they would often play as guests on each other’s club and became friends through the sport. Their friendship on and off the field continued to develop through the years, and when they went off to college, they kept in touch and communicated frequently.
In 2012, Hassan signed with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL). As fate would have it, the Strikers signed Chin just one year later, re-uniting the two former rivals-- this time on the professional stage. In 2014, Chin and Hassan reached the final match of the season, playing in the 2014 NASL championship, where they narrowly fell to the San Antonio Scorpions at Toyota Field.
Hassan parted ways with the club shortly thereafter in pursuit of other opportunities while Chin continued to play for the Strikers for another season. Then, in 2016, Chin moved to the Alamo City to be part of the San Antonio FC roster ahead of the club’s inaugural season.
History repeated itself just a year after Chin’s move to San Antonio. Following a successful trial with San Antonio FC, Hassan put ink to paper and officially joined the club’s roster, reuniting with his old friend yet again ahead of the 2017 season.
Now, the two are preparing for the upcoming USL campaign and are looking forward to being on the pitch as teammates again. Their journey to professional soccer hasn’t been easy, however growing up alongside each other has helped them both in a competitive and collaborative sense.
“I think it’s pretty cool [that we’re both playing for San Antonio FC],” Hassan said. “We always had the same goals while growing up, and it’s always good to surround yourself with people who want to accomplish the same things as you and push yourself through.
“There were days in the offseason when one of us didn’t want to go out there [to train] early in the morning or even at night sometimes, but when you have someone there doing it too then there’s a little more motivation. It’s easier to do it with someone than by yourself.”
For Chin, pairing up with Hassan at SAFC will be just like old times.
“Back home we used to hang out off the field and train together,” Chin said. “So here it should be the same, always training and hanging out. Last time we were here together we made it to the championship. It was good memories then, so we plan on making some good ones now.”