Sacir Hot has a demeanor and maturity well beyond his years. (Photo courtesy of FC Motown)
By Michael Lewis
When he was a freshman at Boston College in 2009, Sacir Hot was taken back by a comment from one of his teammates.
Amit Aburmad, a 23-year-old Israeli midfielder told the 18-year-old defender, “Hey Sac, you play like an old man.”
Hot took it as an insult and replied with a question, “What do you mean by that?”
To which Aburmad responded, “No, no, it’s a compliment. You look and feel like an old man when I play with you.”
Eventually, Hot got what his Eagles teammate had meant. “I kind of understood that perspective on why he said that,” he said.
Now, it’s not that Hot played slowly, he actually played wisely, usually making the correct choices as a defender well beyond his years.
Not surprisingly, that “old thinking” has seeped into Hot’s consciousness — or perhaps it always has been there. He is, more or less, an old soul. The FC Motown head coach’s birth certificate might say he’s 27, but when he speaks, Hot sounds like a man who is decades older.
Hot has had a way of putting things into perspective.
For example, after FC Motown signed midfielder Dilly Duka, Hot talked about his plans for the veteran.
“With Dilly, you roll out the ball to him and let him be Dilly, the creative Dilly from MLS,” he said. “It’s not so much managing him. I’m not trying to teach him how to play the game. I tell him what system we play in and what I expect from him a little bit tactically. The rest is on him. I expect and I’m sure he will take over games. It’s nice having someone who that can individually take over games, can win you games.”
For example, after his Morristown, N.J. team upended Cosmos B in the Northeast Region final, 3-2, Hot was philosophical. FC Motown survived an 11th-hour rally by Cosmos B, which scored twice in stoppage time and almost added the equalizer then.
“Three-zero would have been a satisfying result,” he said at the time. “The two goals that we conceded in stoppage time really put a damper on things. We did win, but to give up two goals in extratime really kind of killed the enjoyment of it. But at the end of the day, we won, so I have to realize I have to be happy for that.”
For example, after FC Motown defeated FC Mulhouse Portland in the national semifinals last Saturday, Hot realized how difficult the path has bad.
“We squeezed out the West Chester game, the Cosmos B game and this one, we squeezed out,” he said. “The guys fought to the end. Soccer’s a cruel sport, man. On any given night, this game could have went the other way. I want to congratulate Portland. They were phenomenal. Hats off to them. They were one of the strongest teams we’ve played this year.”
And when he talked about Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. National Premier Soccer League final between FC Motown and Miami FC 2, Hot saw the importance of the Jersey hosting the match on so many levels.
“It’s colossal, this game, cream of the crop,” he said. “You always want to test yourself against the best opponents. It really shows where you stand in the scheme of things when you play against the best. And then on top of that to playing against the best in front of our friends and families it’s awesome.
“Red Bulls are a lot closer to New York. You don’t see too many professional teams play further than Montclair, New Jersey. So, it’s nice to be able to bring this kind of attention and this kind of atmosphere to Morristown. Morristown can be considered one of the treasures of New Jersey. So, it’s nice to have all eyes and attention on Morristown and Madison — they’re right next to each other — in the final. That’s something that’s huge for our club.
“That’s one of our mission statements — to create a local club that can bring out the local fans in the Morristown area to see exciting soccer.”
It’s not that Hot has traveled around the world for most of his life, but some of it could come from experience. In high school, he earned plenty of honors on the soccer pitch at Fairlawn H.S. and kicked for the football team while earning second-team accolades. He was captain of the Red Bulls’ Under-16 and U-17 teams and represented the U.S. U-20 time four times. He played at Boston College for two seasons before signing on as the Red Bulls’ fourth Homegrown Player in 2011. Hot played in one match — against FC New York in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup — before he was released the following year.
“I feel everything happens for a reason,” Hot said. “I don’t regret signing at all and I loved it. Even though it was a short stay, it opened doors for a lot of things in my life. I was 19-years-old, and I was playing with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez!”
He eventually tried his luck in Germany, training with Borussia Moenchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund before signing with KSV Hessen Kassel in 2013. Then he returned home to pursue a soccer career as a coach.
Hot’s demeanor hasn’t not gone unnoticed by his players who are not that much older than their coach.
Center back Hani Nasr, 28, admitted he was surprised to discover Hot was a year younger than him.
“He is kind of an old soul because I was shocked when he told me a week ago that he was younger than I am,” Nasr said. “He seems so experienced the way he talks about the game and the way he coaches us. That was a little bit of a surprise, but he’s been great, especially with me personally.”
Nasr noted that he has gotten good tips from Hot, a former center back.
“So, that’s great to work with, someone who has played at the professional level with the Red Bulls,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better coach.”
FC Motown’s other center back, Julius James, 34, who has performed for the Trinidad & Tobago national team, has worked under his share of head coaches during an 11-year professional career. Still, he hasn’t seen someone quite like Sacir.
“It’s really cool to see someone [like that],” he said earlier this week. “That’s why we can’t put age to anything anymore. Through experiences people can be more mature.
“I am really excited about Sacir, how he deals with different situations, everything, everything. He has a real calm demeanor. You know Sacir is a young coach, but I’m excited for his future of what he has seen so far. Sacir has a lot of intangibles you just can’t teach.”
Perhaps that Hot maturity runs in his family; his parents have Bosnian and Albanian backgrounds. His 14-year-old cousin Kenny Hot plays for PDA and is set to compete at the club’s youth development academy at the U-17 level next year.
“I go watch him play,” he said. “He plays like an old guy, too. He plays like an old man, not physically, but mentally. I don’t know if it’s in our blood line or not. But I take it as a compliment.”
Given how full his plate is — as soccer coach, scout for the Red Bulls and many more duties with the club, every day is a full day for Hot.
Besides coaching, Hot’s FC Motown’s responsibilities include paperwork for signing players, obtaining international clearance for newcomers, ordering hotel rooms and food for out-of-town trips, scheduling fields and games and sometimes working the team’s social media. He also recently went on a week’s trip to Jordan as part of New York City FC U-15 coach Medhi Ballouchy’s Kickstart Joy, bringing soccer to children in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.
Then there is his day job. You know, the one that pays the bills. Hot is a project manager for a civil construction company that works with PSEG substations in New Jersey.
“It’s never really a nine to five job,” he said. “Project managing is when you wake up until a respectable eight o’clock or nine o’clock at night. It’s really an all day thing for that. A couple of our guys are in the same boat. We have two civil engineers on our team. These guys really do have good careers in their jobs. It’s amazing they are able to stay in shape. When I was done playing, it took me only six months to say ‘Hey, I can’t work and play at the say time.”
Hot then laughed.
He has learned to keep his two passions a part.
“You disconnect, you really just disconnect,” he said. “Once you wake up in the morning, you’ve got to take care of your job. Obviously, you’ve got to do your work. The times I have off and work is slow, you got to disconnect. Otherwise, it gets sloppy because I forget to put everything on hold.”
And oh yes, about that name Hot. It is not short for anyone else.
“It’s always been Hot,” the FC Motown head coach said.
Of course, that name gives headline writers a field day to create some intriguing titles on top of stories. Some media members don’t like to use names in quirky ways in a headline, fearing it will make fun of the person.
Hot hasn’t gotten, well, hot, over it. In fact, he has embraced it.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “That’s awesome. If you’ve got that cool of a last name, you might as well use it to your advantage. And it could be for good or worse. Who knows? If i coach down the road at the higher level and we’re doing bad, maybe it will be used in a wrong way. It’s funny. I’m all for it.”
Sounds like the voice of a young, but wise coach beyond his years.
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