From Beijing to Indianola

From Beijing to Indianola

by Seth Nailor

Ivy Zhang, a 28-year-old sophomore midfielder, who hails from Beijing, China, made her way to Simpson through connections of Head Women’s Soccer Coach Aziz Haffar.

Zhang came to the United States for the first time in 1994 to train for her job at Kinko’s. In 1999 she returned to the United States to find work on her own for herself. She returned because she said she believes the United States is a good place for her to build a better life.

Zhang was working in a Boston restaurant when chance encounters helped lead her to Simpson. One of Zhang’s customers at the restaurant knew Haffar from playing soccer with him in the Des Moines area. He mentioned this to Zhang, and he told Haffar about her when he returned to Iowa.

Haffar began the recruiting process by calling Zhang. After communicating with Haffar, she decided to attend Simpson, without ever visiting the campus.

Haffar said he believes that Zhang made this courageous step because of her desire to go to college and improve her life, and she found a way through soccer.

Zhang has been playing soccer since the age of twelve and spent five years training with her team in Beijing. Her summer workouts in China consisted of four practices per day beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 8:30 p.m.

One of the most difficult things for Zhang on the field has been adjusting to the different style of play in the United States. “I feel different when I play with my team,” said Ivy. “The styles are different, it feels more physical at Simpson.”

Haffar said he knows the challenges that Ivy has faced learning the different style of game.

“Ivy is an extremely talented soccer player,” said Haffar. “She is very disciplined, respectful and committed. She has the desire to succeed that goes beyond what is expected.”

Her desire to succeed has reflected onto the Simpson soccer team. The women are 7-1 and 2-0 in the conference, ranked preseason no. 1 by the IIAC coaches. The Storm travel to Loras on Saturday to take on the returning conference champions.

Zhang’s desire to succeed also stretches into the classroom, where she majors in international management and minors in computer science.

“She is very determined to succeed not only on the soccer field but in the classroom,” said Haffar. “She is willing to take it upon herself to get a degree.”

Zhang said she likes it here at Simpson and credits the way professors interact with students as one reason why.

After she graduates, Zhang plans to retrace the trip that led her to Indianola. Zhang said she wants to have her own restaurant in Boston and work there until she is able to make the trip back to Beijing.

“If I can make good money for six to 10 years,” said Zhang, “then I can go back home.”