Shamit Shome: The Montreal Impact's renaissance man
'It's pretty hectic': Engineering student mixes pro soccer with full course load
It's midday on a Tuesday and media cameras are set up outside a fourth-year engineering class at Concordia's downtown campus.
There is no way for a CBC crew to just blend in and students notice the lens peering into their classroom. There is small a buzz.
Two of the students approach after class, and one asks what's going on, before learning the subject of interest is a pro athlete who has apparently been keeping a low profile in school.
"You have a professional soccer player in your class," I tell them, and it's clear this is news to them. "It's Shamit Shome, he plays for the Montreal Impact."
"Really? Shamit? No way. That's so cool."
Shome makes his way out of the classroom a few moments later.
"Well they all know now," he laughs.
Watch as Shome talks about balancing soccer training with his studies:
Not that he was trying to hide it — but Shome is a rare breed of professional athlete.
He didn't give up on his studies or put them on hold when he turned pro. He's balancing a full course load as a senior for an electrical engineering degree while breaking into the starting lineup on a team in North American's top soccer league at the same time.
Family guides Shome to stick with education
Shome, 22, is a first-generation Canadian.
His father came to Edmonton in the 1980s from Bangladesh on a student visa with a scholarship to study civil engineering. His mother came to the city at the same time and studied IT.
"The way I was raised, coming from a South Asian family, education is really important, so my parents really pushed me in that direction," Shome says.
Shome practises with the Montreal Impact every morning, his afternoons are spent on campus taking classes, and his evenings are usually spent in the library doing course work.
"It's pretty hectic," he concedes but for Shome, school also has served as his relief from the rigours and stress of trying to make it as a pro soccer player.
He is in his third season with the Impact and he's blossoming into a regular fixture in the lineup. This season he's appeared in 25 games and started in 17. But for the first two years he didn't see much of the field. He practised full-time, but he only played in the games for eight minutes in 2017. In 2018, he played fewer than 250 minutes.
"When soccer wasn't going well and I wasn't playing, at least I had [school] and I was doing well and I could focus on other things. But at the same time, I have to make sure I don't get too obsessed with school where I can't perform well enough with soccer, and that's probably the challenge now that I have to face because I'm starting to play more regularly," Shome says.
Shome is set to earn his iron ring and graduate with an electrical engineering degree in May 2020.
A proud multilingual Canadian
Shome grew up in Alberta speaking English and Bengali. When he arrived in Quebec in 2017, he says he didn't speak French at all. But a short three years later that's changed. He now does post-game interviews in French and has adopted a slight Québécois accent.
"I'm proud to say that I've [learned to speak French]. I understand why people want us to learn French when we come here to play." Shome says. "That's the culture that Montreal is."
Many athletes say they plan to learn French when they arrive to play in Montreal. But few actually follow through. Shome did — in between his full course load at school and his full-time training regiment with the Montreal Impact.
"Being Canadian for me is everything that Canada represents, the multiculturalism, the diversity, and I feel like I represent that," Shome says.
The Voyageurs Cup is another piece of Canadiana that Shome would like to embrace.
It's the trophy given annually to the winner of the Canadian Soccer Championship and also represents a ticket into the CONCACAF Champions League.
Montreal has advanced to this year's final where they will play their arch rivals Toronto FC.
"For me to be a part of that is very special. We're playing a team in Toronto which we have a very big history with, so I'm excited to be a part of this," Shome says.
The Canadian Championship also might represent the Impact's last chance to salvage something from their season as their chances to make the league playoffs have faded into a deep longshot.
The home-and-away series begins in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 18, with the return leg in Toronto on Wednesday, Sept. 25.