Although Zef Kabashi might be the project manager for a Manhattan construction company, Metropolitan Building Services, he is known in the ever-growing soccer community for constructing top soccer teams and coaching them to championships while emphasizing player development and sportsmanship. The Carle Place resident has coached the Queensborough Community College men to the past three City University of New York (CUNY) community college titles and four championships out of the last five years and was recently honored by the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association as December’s Personality of the Month.
“The state of our community college soccer has improved drastically over the past decade…that is a credit to the hard work of our coaches, especially Zef Kabashi at Queensborough,” said CUNY Athletic Conference Executive Director Zak Ivkovic. “His teams are quality each and every year and he is the type of coach whose hard work and care are evident in his teams, both in the quality of soccer and the teams’ cohesion and attitude.”
“It’s great to win the past three CUNY titles as well as four out of the last five. Knowing that all the time and effort I put into working with the players to achieve these results and making it happen is rewarding. I’ve won the CUNY title each time with a different team as there are only a handful of players to have won it twice during my tenure,” coach Kabashi said. “It’s motivating to know that I’m developing as a coach and my efforts are paying off with such great results. Winning the CUNY championships has made the experience that much more validating.”
Kabashi was born in and grew up in Queens before his family moved to Hicksville when he was a teenager. His father Kolj took him to all the Cosmos games at Giants Stadium before the original Cosmos team folded in 1984. He was at Pelé’s retirement game on Oct. 1, 1977, but he vaguely remembers it as he was 17 months old. Kabashi grew up playing in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) for New York Croatia and New York Hota. He also played center midfielder for the New York Hota senior team that competed in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and Northeast Super Soccer League, the highest level of soccer in the area after the original North American Soccer League folded several months after the Cosmos did.
Kabashi played one year for Nassau Community College where he was named to the National Junior College All-Star Team and completed his Bachelor’s Degree at Molloy College. When he was studying abroad in Belgium, he trained for a team in the national league’s Fourth Division, Stade Leuven (named after their stadium), but returned home to New York to complete his studies before signing the contract being offered to him.
Back in New York, Kaz Gungor asked him to start coaching youth soccer. Kabashi has since coached Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) teams, both boys and girls, from such diverse clubs as Auburndale, Carle Place, Farmingdale, Garden City and the Huntington Boys Club for nearly two decades. He now holds US Soccer’s prestigious “A” License and will attempt a UEFA License in the future.
“The teams I coached all started out in the Third or Second Division of the LIJSL and I guided them up into the First Division,” Coach Kabashi said. “Now I’m currently the Director of Coaching for the PDB Soccer Academy, where I coach the Under-15 boys and assist the Under-16 boys as well as run a clinic for boys and girls, ages 3-9, on Saturday mornings. PDB is representing the CJSL in the Region 1 Champions League.”
The Carle Place resident also served as an Eastern New York Olympic Development Program (ODP) coach for three years and led the Boys-Under-16 South team to the Regional semifinals. After his son Lucas Paul was born three years ago, he resigned from ODP to spend more time with his family.
“I enjoyed ODP. It was something I always wanted to do and I was lucky enough to have had the chance,” the 39-year-old said.
The proud Kosovar-American also coaches Team Kosovo in the summer Cosmos Copa tournament. The team is made up of players like Kabashi who were either born in or whose families come from Kosovo in the Balkans.
“It is very important for players and coaches to take risks and try new ideas. Motivating players and guiding them to achieve goals is something I work on diligently by developing relationships with my players and leading by example,” Kabashi stated. “Each player is unique in his or her own right. Building a rapport with them allows me to learn who they are as individuals, thereby guiding me to help them grow as students of the game.”
All while emphasizing sportsmanship as Kabashi is the only coach ever to receive the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association Sportsmanship Award while coaching two different teams, the Hostos Community College men in 2007 and the Queensborough Community College men in 2011. Congratulations to coach Kabashi, Eastern New York’s Personality of the Month for December.
—Submitted by the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association