Photo: Andrew McMurtrie. Stewart Abrahart is one of the best players on a very good Greater Atlanta Christian soccer team. Originally born in England, Abrahart has trained overseas for several years.
NORCROSS -- When Stewart Abrahart returned from his most recent trip to England, he tried to bring his accent back with him.
"I tried to act like I got it back," he said. "But I couldn't keep it up because it started to hurt and they weren't believing it."
It's been more than a decade since the GAC senior moved from his home in Essex, England, to Atlanta, and in the intervening years his British accent faded. It's more a hint now. Only the occasional word or phrase suggests a foreign influence. And soon enough, Abrahart will be a citizen of the United States.
"I am getting it hopefully in the next year. I have my green card. It takes a long process," he said. "Certain parts of (England) I do miss, but I definitely would rather (live in the) USA."
Well, not everything.
When it comes to sports, Abrahart turns first to soccer, and not the U.S.'s Major League Soccer. He watches the English Premier League, a Liverpool fan. And on the pitch, he has his Spartans a win away from a Region 6-AA title in tonight's showdown with Westminster. He considered playing football, but feared injury.
Like his accent, Abrahart's soccer experience is a mash of the two cultures.
Similar to his English peers, Abrahart didn't play team soccer as a youth. He played in his yard, with his father at first and eventually had a trainer come to the house.
Abrahart didn't play for a team until his family moved to Atlanta.
"It was a little weird (playing on a team)," Abrahart remembers. "The academies start out (in England) at like age 10, until then you don't really have anything to do. You don't have rec or anything at such a young age. It's weird they don't have anything for kids. Out there, they are more about teaching them the right stuff."
The early focus on fundamentals gave Abrahart an edge when he first started, and his dedication to the sport allowed him to keep it. In past years he made trips to England to train with West Ham United, a soccer club. He also trained in Italy.
"It's hard with school, because you can't miss too much," Abrahart said.
That's the American side showing. Abrahart values his education equally with his soccer. He plans to major in business at UAB next year as he continues playing.
"In England, it's soccer first. They don't care about education," Abrahart said. "The guys that don't make it go to college."
Abrahart considered attempting a professional path in Europe after GAC, but opted to stick with school.
"I really think I want to get my education first. I think if I keep it up, I'll become a better player. If I decide not to do it, which I hope I don't because I really enjoy it, but I can go with my education," he said.
"I would love to go pro, hopefully some day. Especially if I get my education, that would be cool."
For the Spartans, Abrahart plays center-midfielder, a position he long-ago left at the club level. He is first a defender.
"That is why I enjoy playing high school because that is what I used to do," he said. "I get to attack and no one expects it."
Like his accent and his approach to soccer, the center-mid position is a blend of his defensive talents with his long-taught fundamentals of ball control and footwork.
"It's easier to get fitness when you are older," he explained. "Technical is what you need to get when you are little."
And Abrahart's got both. A good mix of both of his countries. He only wishes he still had that English accent.
"That would help with everything," he said.
Especially with girls?
"I didn't want to say it, I didn't want to say it, but it really would."