Omar Bugiel interview: The Sutton striker during his non-league journey to the EFL and the Lebanon national team | Soccer News

Omar Bugiel knows a lot about hard grafting.

He had to put in a lot of money to get where he is today – but there’s no doubt he would have done it any other way.

There’s pride in his voice as he details his story, but also a tone of overriding humility. It was a journey that took him from Munich, in his native Germany, to Worthing, Sutton and the Lebanese national team.

And it all started when he was a teenager in 2010, as he explains in an exclusive interview with sky sports.

“I was liberated in 1860 in Munich when I was 15 and my mother asked me if I would be interested in going abroad for a year and then coming back and continuing my studies”, explains the young 28 year old man. “When you get released early, you feel like your dream is over, so my main focus was education once football didn’t work out.

“I went to Chichester College for a year, I really enjoyed it and I found the love of football again. We were doing a few lessons, sessions and then playing football every day. That’s what I loved because every day you were on a football pitch. Fast forward 10+ years and I’m still here!”

It was during that first year that he met former Brighton defender Adam Hinshelwood – his tutor at university – and his father – Crystal Palace legend Paul – the latter giving him a home in- above his head as he found his way to the UK.

He admits to being indebted to them for the role they played in his career progression.

“They’ve been the biggest part of my journey. Not many people let a stranger into their house and stay with them, which I did for the first four or five years of my room stay.

“Staying there helped me a lot because I was able to go and earn my own money and then pay rent. I worked behind a bar, in a golf club, in a supermarket and even ended up on a construction site to earn money to save for my first car because I wanted to do everything myself, it was not easy, but I succeeded.

“I still can’t believe they picked me up and took care of me like my own mum did. That’s why I’m still in touch with them. They’re just part of my family now and I never will. forget what they did to me.”

Bugiel bounced around the non-league scene on the south coast for the first three years, appearing for Selsey, Burgess Hill and Bognor Regis, before joining the Adam’s Worthing side in 2014 – and staying there once moved to work at Brighton Academy.

He says it was ‘a horror show’ when he first arrived at Woodside Road but things changed dramatically when George Dowell bought the club in March 2015 things started to turn

“The club moved a lot when George took over,” he said. “He’s someone I still talk to on social media because of what he’s done for the football club since I left. Look at them now: they’re an Isthmian Premier League club which pushes for promotion and I think they get up to 2,000 people for a game.

“It’s a community football club and they give young players an opportunity where other clubs can’t. Going there as a young footballer knowing you’ll actually play makes a difference.”

Forest Green was alerted to his talent after hitting double figures in three successive seasons and in February 2017 he signed for the club while still in the National League.

However, this movement could, very likely, have been finished before it began.

“It was the craziest week of my life,” he said with a deep sigh. “I went there for a trial from Monday to Friday and they pulled me on Friday and said they wanted to sign me. I couldn’t believe this was happening and then on Saturday I got made my debut, scored a goal and got an assist, which was a dream start.

“I put everything into it. If you talk to people who know me, they can support me on that because maybe I wasn’t the most talented footballer, but with my transplant and my hard work there where others did not graft, I deserved to make this move eventually.

“Not many people know this, but that day I went home to see all my friends to celebrate and my career could literally have ended in a matter of hours. When I got home, I walked past Portsmouth, I had a burst tire all of a sudden and ended up crashing my car.

“I’m still grateful to have walked away unscathed. After that I put my head down and was able to help the team get promoted to the EFL.”

While at Forest Green, a call came out of nowhere.

“Once I started scoring a few goals I got a random phone call from abroad but I ignored it because I thought it was a scam. My uncle [German actor Kida Khodr Ramadan] rang me up and asked why I ignored the number – I had no idea what he was talking about!

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Highlights from the Papa John’s Trophy play-off match between Wigan Athletic and Sutton United

“He said it was the manager of Lebanon trying to introduce himself and talk to me about an opportunity to play for the national team – I was shocked. He has some contacts there and he is involved with a sporting director in Lebanon, telling them his nephew played in England and they should see me.

“Once the season was over and we managed to get promoted, I flew to Beirut to get my passport sorted to try and get involved in Asian Cup qualifying in 2017. I wouldn’t have never thought I would get a call up for the national team; I know it’s not the greatest country, but to play for Worthing and possibly get called up to the national team is great.”

Having enjoyed traveling there in his youth, given his father’s heritage, the landscape was semi-familiar to Bugiel. It took him a while to settle in, but he now has 10 international caps and hopes more will follow.

“It took me a while to make my debut because I was new to a team that had been playing together for a while and I was only 24 so they didn’t really talk to me at first. Luckily, there were two other players with German parents and they spoke the language, so it was useful to hang out with them.

“It took almost a year to make my debut, against Singapore, and it was a really nice time. Even now, I’m involved in World Cup qualifying games. It’s a tight group and it third place will be tough, but this month, going there, I will fulfill another dream of being in the final round of qualifying for the World Cup.”

In the meantime, however, there are pressing issues at the national level.

Bugiel joined Sutton in 2019 and, after the 2019/20 campaign was cut short due to Covid, he helped them win the National League title last summer.

This term, EFL newcomers Matt Gray have stormed League Two – they currently sit in fourth place, outside the automatic promotion places by goal difference only – and have booked a place in the Papa John’s Trophy final for the first time with a 7-6. win on penalties against Wigan on Tuesday.

He even scored the club’s first goal as an EFL side – against Forest Green, ironically – on the opening day of the season – there were no celebrations, however.

The U’s are riding the wave generated by last season’s promotion – and they’re not about to be out of it anytime soon.

“We still can’t believe how far we’ve come,” he says. “We managed to keep most of the core of the team together, added a few players, and then it’s just about adhering to the manager’s philosophy.

“I know we’re not the biggest club and we don’t have the best players in the league, but it’s only about the players you have on the pitch. We have to be together and even if we lose games, the manager is not too depressed about it because we know we can try to put things right in the next game.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet League Two match between Sutton United and Rochdale

“We are now coming to the stage of the season where points matter because we are going to start to feel the pressure from other teams who have managed to strengthen their squads during the January window. We will just see where that takes us. . .

“I don’t think the pressure is on us – it’s more on the bigger teams who have been in the league for a number of years. We’re just the new ones and I don’t think anyone takes us too seriously, but when they play us at Gander Green Lane they always tend to score a run most of the time because they think it’s an easy place to come.”

The archetypal phrase many footballers fall back on these days is to take it game by game, or words to that effect.

Bugiel laughs as he says this. But he wants the season to progress that way – and then makes doubters eat their own words.

“It made me laugh at the start of the season because I saw predictions and Sutton was at the bottom of the table,” he recalls. “People didn’t know us or how we played, and then, when it came to games, they saw we weren’t that bad.

“If we do the play-offs, the automatics or suddenly fall out of it, what we have achieved is great for the football club because I wouldn’t believe we would be in the play-offs now if you had asked me there. two years old.

“Hopefully we can go on and achieve something that people didn’t think we could.”

Sky Sports

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