Former Prairie prep on world soccer stage

Hannah Kousheh scores a goal for Jordan in international competition

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IOWA CITY — When Hannah Kousheh stepped onto the soccer pitch in Tajikistan during the 79th minute of the senior Jordanian women’s team's 6-0 win over the United Arab Emirates, it was a first — for her and any female Iowan.

For the first time, someone from the state was playing at the highest level of soccer, an incredible achievement for the Cedar Rapids Prairie alumna. She tallied an assist against UAE and proceeded to knock in her first goal five days later during a match with Tajikistan.

“That was a huge moment,” Kousheh wrote in an email. “Just because that’s when it finally hit me that all of the years I’ve been playing have manifested into finally accumulating stats internationally.”

It’s more than just tallying an assist or a goal, though; this was a dream that was a long time in the making.

The games were played as part of Asian Cup Qualification Tournament, which is part of getting into the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. Jordan won all five games it played and has a good chance at qualifying for the World Cup.

When she was just 6, she began to play for the Cedar Rapids club team Premier Soccer Club of Eastern Iowa (PSC).

It soon became fairly obvious she was going places in the soccer world.

“She’s just an exceptional athlete,” former PSC coach Steven Robertson said. “Over time, she’s developed herself into a tremendous soccer player.”

After scoring 40 goals and racking up 20 assists during her high school career at Prairie, the talent, of course, was obvious. She spent a year with the Iowa soccer team, but decided to not pursue that further after having a solid freshman season.

She’s obviously stayed involved in the game, however, and even helps coach U12-U15 girls for PSC. It’s been a natural fit.

“Starting so soon after playing there myself has made it really easy for me to connect and communicate better to the girls,” Kousheh said. “Playing at the D1 level has also given me a lot of insight as to what kind of information the girls need to know at this age so they can be well-rounded.”

Robertson described her as simply a “fantastic” person and the coaching keeps her around and in training. It also keeps her incredibly busy.

Still a student at Iowa, she’s missed a lot of class time to play soccer. It’s part of the deal, but still certainly isn’t anything simple. She’s missing more time than a normal student-athlete would and doesn’t have all the benefits of being part of the program.

For Kousheh, however, it’s all worth it.

“Before every game where they would play the AFC music, little kids brought out each country’s flags and we would all line up for the national anthems,” Kousheh said. “Seeing that on TV all of these years growing up and then being able to experience it first hand was really impactful to me.”

The country of Jordan didn’t even have a senior women’s soccer program until 2005, which adds a whole other layer to her playing.

In fact, Jordan was the first middle-eastern country to host any sort of Women’s World Cup — the U-17 edition in 2016 — and there’s a sense of pride about what she’s getting involved in. She got a chance to meet Prince Ali bin Hussein, who has been instrumental in pushing for girls’ and women’s sports in Jordan while she was in-country.

He shared his vision for the team and the future with her and it seemed to have been received well.

“I am honored to help take part in the process,” Kousheh said. “Women’s sports in Jordan are young, and to be one of the pioneers that young girls look up to there is an incredible feeling.”

l Comments: jordan.hansen@thegazette.com

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