Ali Adibi’s wealth of soccer experience benefits the FC Tulsa Spirit women’s team.
Ali Adibi, left, is head coach of the FC Tulsa Spirit. He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, including a son who practices law in Tulsa.
Ali Adibi is a veteran of all phases of the game of soccer, whether playing or coaching college, playing on the international scene, coaching a professional men’s team or currently coaching FC Tulsa Spirit, a high-level women’s amateur team.
He even has his pulse on the burgeoning retail business of soccer equipment and gear as part-owner and operator of Soccer USA, the largest soccer store in Oklahoma. He recently sold his part of the business in Oklahoma City but still owns the Tulsa location.
Adibi excelled in soccer in his native Iran and at age 17 was selected to play on the Iranian Under-20 National team for three years. His memories include traveling to many locales, including Japan, China, Korea, Greece, Germany and France.
“In one of our last games in Europe, we played against Crystal Palace, a well-known premier team in England, and I injured my left foot,” Adibi says. “Being a left-footed player, they told me I wouldn’t be able to use my left foot much. For four months, I spent five to six hours a day just kicking and working with my right foot. It was hard work, but at the end of the four months, no one could believe that I wasn’t right-footed.”
After playing for eight years in the Premier League in Iran, he came to the United States in 1978. He eventually landed in Bethany, Oklahoma, when he earned a full soccer scholarship to Southern Nazarene University.
After a successful collegiate career, Adibi coached one year at Southern Nazarene before moving to upstate New York, where he coached for two years at Cornell University and three years at Elmira University.
He also coached an earlier version of the Tulsa Roughnecks from 1992-95, leading the team to the divisional playoffs in 1993 and 1994. In 1994, he was named Coach of the Year in the United States Interregional Soccer League.
“We brought some college players in from Chicago and New York,” he recalls. “We were always among the top two or three teams in the league.”
Eight years ago, the Women’s Premier Soccer League formed and became the largest women’s soccer league in the world.
FC Tulsa Spirit was born, and Adibi was been at the helm ever since.
The Spirit team members range in age from 17-35, and about 95 percent were collegiate players, according to Adibi. Players, who are from all over the world, do not get paid but are provided housing.
“We have had girls from Japan, Jamaica and Brazil,” Adibi says. “We are even looking at a girl from Norway for this season.”
The Tulsa Spirit’s regular season consists of 14 games from late May through the end of July. Home games are played on the Oral Roberts University campus. Teams in the Spirit’s division are from Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas.
Adibi makes some interesting observations about his coaching experiences.
“The American kids are very coachable,” he says. “Where I come from, kids resent everything. I think it’s the culture. Here, the kids are very coachable. They want to learn and improve. I think in another 10 years, the U.S. will have one of the top teams in the world.”
As for whether Tulsa — which also is home to the new Roughnecks FC pro team and the Athletics amateur team — is becoming a soccer city, Adibi says it has long held the title.
“Tulsa has always been a soccer town,” he says. “I think both teams are a big help for our young generation of soccer players.”