Around the World and Back: The Story of Omar Jarun

Peachtree City has never been a place to get much national recognition. Every once in awhile, a story about "The Town Where Golf Carts Dominate Traffic" will appear, but other than that a large amount of the population are unaware of the city's existence. That is not to say the town has nothing to tie its name to aside from recreational transportation, however. Rutledge Wood, Kelley O'Hara, Dwight Smith Jr., and Sam Martin have all called the city home. There is one name, though, that a number of people outside the soccer community do not know. That name is Omar Jarun, and this is his story.

Born in Kuwait City, Kuwait on December 10th, 1983 to an American mother and Jordanian father with Palestinian heritage, Jarun began his life in a very dangerous part of the world. With tensions brewing in the Middle East, things soon erupted into violence in 1990 with the First Gulf War. When bombs and missiles went off near the apartment in which he lived, Jarun and his family made the decision to leave the area and come to the United States, and, at six years old, Jarun arrived in Peachtree City.

Growing up with a passion for soccer thanks to his father, Jarun and his talents climbed through the ranks of the Georgia youth soccer system as a member of the local AFC Lightning. Jarun played high school soccer for McIntosh, and following his graduation in 2002, he went on to play at the collegiate level for the University of Memphis. Already an extremely talented player, Jarun took advantage of his two years with the Tigers, playing in thirty-five matches and scoring eight goals as a defender before transferring to the University of Dayton in 2004. Jarun shined with the Flyers, scoring nineteen goals in thirty-nine appearances over his junior and senior seasons. During his Dayton career, Jarun also took part in the "Path2Pro" model set up by the Premier Development League, suiting up for Fort Wayne Fever (2004) and Chicago Fire Premier (2005) eight times over two seasons and scoring one goal during his tenure with the Fever. Following his college graduation, Jarun turned professional, signing with the Atlanta Silverbacks of the USL First Division in 2006.

Jarun joined the Silverbacks in a very trying time for the franchise. Having only made the playoffs twice since 1999, Atlanta was struggling to get quality talent out on the pitch, and things were not looking good for the club. When Jarun arrived prior to the 2006 season, things took a turn for the better. Despite not qualifying for the playoffs that season, the club saw a jump in both performance and fan interest, finishing 10-5-13 on the year with average attendance up by roughly 33%. The 2007 season saw the payoff of the previous year's growth, as the Silverbacks finished fourth in the league with a record of 12-7-9, making it all the way to the league final before falling to Seattle Sounders, who would announce plans to move to MLS two months later. Jarun played in forty-five matches over his two seasons with the Silverbacks, scoring one goal.

Following the 2007 season, Jarun received an offer to join Vancouver Whitecaps FC, and the move would turn out to be a great decision for his career. Jarun played in twenty-four of the club's thirty matches in 2008, scoring his one and only goal in a 3-2 away loss to Carolina Railhawks FC. 2008 marked the greatest season the Whitecaps would experience as a member of the USL First Division, as they finished 15-8-7, second on the league table. The Whitecaps marched through the post-season in high style, capping off a historic season with a 2-1 win in the league championship against Puerto Rico Islanders, the sixth league championship in the club's twenty-four year history.

During the ensuing off-season, Jarun made his first journey overseas, joining Flota Świnoujście of the Polish second division in 2009. Jarun spent one and a half seasons in the Polish system with Flota before transferring to MKS Pogoń Szczecin halfway through the 2010 season. Jarun finished out 2010 with Pogoń before heading back to the U.S. to join FC Tampa Bay of the North American Soccer League. After just seven matches with Tampa, Jarun was called back to Poland by the coach that brought him to Flota back in 2009, Petr Nemec. Jarun joined Nemec in 2011 at Morski Związkowy Klub Sportowy Arka Gdynia (better known as simply Arka Gdynia) of the Polish Ekstraklasa, the top level of Polish football. Following a relegation season for one of the most storied franchises in Poland, Nemec left the club under mutual circumstances in 2012, and with Nemec gone, Jarun decided to leave Arka. In one of the more successful stretches of his career, Jarun tallied sixty-four league appearances in Poland over four seasons, scoring two goals. 

Jarun signed with Belgian Pro League club Royal Charleroi SC in 2012, however things did not work out in Belgium, so Jarun decided to come back to North America and sign with Ottawa Fury FC prior to their first season in the NASL. Jarun scored two goals with the Fury in 2014 as the club finished eighth in the league at 7-6-14 and failed to qualify for the playoffs. In the summer of 2015, Jarun left Ottawa and signed an eighteen-month deal with Indian I-League club Bharat FC. Jarun scored three goals in thirteen matches with Bharat before announcing his retirement from professional football in June 2015. Following his retirement, Jarun returned to the United States.

On the international front, Jarun embraced his Palestinian heritage, making his debut for the Palestinian National Team in a 2010 World Cup Qualifier against Singapore on October 8th, 2007. Ever since FIFA's recognition of Palestine in 1998, conflicts in the region have prevented the team from training together on numerous occasions, leading to poor performances out on the pitch, as well as multiple forfeits due to an inability to get to matches. In a number of different incidents, politics have spoken louder than sports, with one specific event occurring during the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, where one of the Palestinian players, Sameh Mar'aba, was arrested trying to cross the Israeli border because he was carrying a large sum of money, and was not released in time to play in the final. Things have been on the up for Palestine in terms of performance, however, due in large part to the leadership of Omar Jarun. Jarun made a total of fifteen international appearances with Palestine over seven years, going 4-5-6 over his career. Highlights of his international career include:
  • A 2-0 win over Afghanistan in 2014 World Cup Qualifying in Palestine's first ever home match on June 29th, 2011,
  • A 2-2 draw against Saudi Arabia in the 2012 Arab Cup Group Stage,
  • A 1-0 win against the Philippines in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup Final, the one and only championship in Palestinian National Team history, and also Jarun's final match for Palestine.
Following his return to Peachtree City, Jarun began Elite Soccer Training, a youth soccer training program that operates out of MOBA Soccer Academy. When the academy was awarded a PDL franchise in 2015, Jarun decided to come out of retirement to play one final season in his hometown with Peachtree City MOBA. Jarun appeared in eight matches in 2016 with the club, helping guide MOBA through their first season. Jarun scored both goals in the club's first ever win, a 2-1 road victory against Tri-Cities Otters FC, as well as the first of two goals in the club's first ever home win, also a 2-1 victory against the Otters. Prior to the 2017 season, Jarun became an assistant coach under owner and acting head coach Volker Harms, however halfway through the season, Jarun took over head coaching duties for a couple of matches, including the club's first win that season against Nashville SC U23. In November 2017, it was announced that Jarun would become the manager of Peachtree City MOBA, bringing in his former Whitecaps teammate Nicholas Addlery to be an assistant and former Silverbacks goalkeeper Felipe Quintero to be the goalkeepers coach. A lot of questions remain unanswered heading into the 2018 season, but with Jarun at the helm, things look bright for the franchise.

While the name Omar Jarun may not be as widely known as that of Kelley O'Hara, Jarun truly built up quite a career in the soccer world, and continues his work with local club Peachtree City MOBA, both as the PDL manager and a coach in the youth system. His story is one of hardship and ecstasy, and is truly one that should be known by the residents of Peachtree City. The PDL season is fast approaching, and should you find yourself wondering where you will find a celebrity in the area, look no further than the grounds of MOBA Soccer Academy, where the talents of Omar Jarun continue to be on display, developing the youth soccer stars of tomorrow and the professionals of today.

#MOBAProud

Photo Courtesy: Morski Związkowy Klub Sportowy Arka Gdynia, Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Ottawa Fury FC, New York Times, Peachtree City MOBA

All records are listed in W-D-L format.

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