Luke Pavone arrives in Petah Tikva, Israel, this week to begin preseason work with his first professional club, Hapoel Petah Tikva FC.
It has not been the easiest road to a professional career, with Pavone overcoming a number of injuries that he has suffered throughout his career, but now that the moment has arrived, Pavone has achieved what he has always wanted to.
“It’s been my dream my whole life, I worked really hard for it,” Pavone commented. “Some injuries here and there pushed (my professional career) back a bit, but now that it’s here, it’s amazing.”
Now the question that may come to mind is: why Israel? And for Pavone, the answer came thanks to a birthright trip and family ties to the area.
“I was there on a birthright trip and just absolutely fell in love with the country,” Pavone said. “I fell in love with the people, I want to go back and be able to give back to my country by doing what I love.”
Pavone joins the professional ranks following an impressive career in New York, in college and the NPSL. Pavone started his career with UMass before transferring to Buffalo State, where Pavone was a second-team All-American player with the Bengals in 2017, scoring eight goals and notching six assists along the way. All in all, Pavone scored 19 goals and recorded nine goals in his career with Buffalo State, and left a huge impact on the school.
“Luke has worked extremely hard to get to this point and I am glad that he has had the good fortune to make this happen,” said Buffalo State Head Coach Mark Howlett. “I’m looking forward to seeing how he does at the next level and we are very proud and excited to have him moving on to represent Buffalo State.”
In addition to his time with Buffalo State, Pavone spent summers with both FC Buffalo and the Rochester River Dogz/Lancers. All in all, his experience in the NPSL with multiple teams helped prepare him not only for his college season, but his upcoming professional career.
“If you have the ambition to play professionally you have to stay busy over the summer and the NPSL is a great way to keep playing over the summer and play at a high level and keep training,” Pavone continued. “It was definitely beneficial for me.”
Pavone made an impact on both FC Buffalo and Rochester, and FC Buffalo co-owner Nick Mendola has knowledge of Pavone’s skill set as both a teammate and an opponent.
“I remember how adamant our coaching staff was that Luke was an exciting prospect and could be a difference maker for our club when he transferred from UMass to Buff State, and it’s always a terrific feeling when someone like that turns out to be a terrific human being,” Mendola said. “We’re so excited to follow his progress as a professional. When someone has worked that hard and earned an opportunity like this, you feel great for that person. And yes, we feel great even though he scored against us with Rochester.”
Pavone’s goal against FC Buffalo was not only his first for Rochester, but it was the first goal in Riverdogz history. Pavone played with Rochester for three summers, including most recently playing a game with the Lancers this season ahead of his arrival in Israel. All in all, Rochester is proud to see such an integral player in their history begin his professional career.
“We are so proud of Luke and what he has accomplished and overcome through the years,” Rochester Lancers General Manager Marc Mandell said. “Injuries have plagued him his whole career and he doesn’t let them stop him from doing what he loves. The Lancers family will miss him and be rooting for him.”
Hapoel Petah Tikva FC is Pavone’s second team he’s spent time with in Israel, as he trialed with another second division club. The club was interested in signing Pavone, but he had not yet obtained Israeli citizenship. After gaining citizenship, Hapoel Petah Tikva FC showed interest, and Pavone chose to begin his career in Perah Tikva, a city of 236,000 people just six miles east of Tel Aviv. While the location of the club is one of the main reasons Pavone chose to begin his professional career, the distance from home and the climate also provide two of his biggest challenges.
“First and foremost, the climate is extremely hot, so that’s something I’ll have to get used to…plus I’m 10,000 miles away from home, but once I get adjusted and everything I’m just going to be ready to go play soccer.”
That said, Pavone is no longer nervous to get started on his professional career.
“A few weeks ago when I first signed I was pretty nervous,” Pavone admitted. “But then I’ve been testing my fitness and I told myself ‘Alright, you know what, you’re ready for this,’ and now I’m just ready to get over there and start my job.”
Playing in a country that’s close to heart, Pavone could not ask for a better place to begin his professional career: Petah Tikva, fittingly known as the “Opening of Hope.”
Contributor: Daniel Cermak/NPSL.com
Photo Credit: Nate Fischer, Rob Daniels Photography, and Buffalo State Sports Information