Jordan Beam remembers vividly some of the last words he heard from his father.
Jordan’s father, Shane Beam, was a fixture in the Covington and Newton County soccer community. He, along with Jordan’s mom Kharmin, is the reason why a four-year-old Jordan started chasing soccer balls in the first place.
But when Jordan’s dad passed away on Jan. 29 after succumbing to brain cancer, it elicited a response that most may not expect to hear from a now-15-year-old eighth grader.
“My dad passed away three days before I was supposed to leave for Germany,” Jordan said. “Going to Germany to play soccer was one of the things he really wanted me to do. He gave me plenty of things as far as encouragement and inspiration. He knew what my dream was, and some of the last things he said to me was, if I wanted it, go for it.”
Whereas some may have been too distraught to make the journey that Jordan was about to make with his Puma-sponsored Gwinnett Soccer Association (GSA) club squad, the Cousins Middle School student didn’t hesitate to hop the plane with his teammates.
In fact, the loss of his father ignited something extra in him.
“Losing my dad was hard,” Jordan said. “But honestly, it did nothing but really inspire me to push myself and train more, and want this more and more. It didn’t put me down. It only inspired me and made me push myself that much extra.”
Falling in love with the game
Jordan talks candidly about the malady that took his dad away.
“He had a brain tumor, and it affected his whole left side of his body,” Jordan said. “He really and truly had no control of his left hand or left leg.”
Jordan said when his dad went to have it surgically removed, the doctors extracted 98 percent of it, and things seemed to be improving.
“He started doing really well,” he said. “And then he had to do chemo, and it killed so much good stuff as well as the bad stuff, and things just kind of went down from there.”
Interestingly enough, almost in the same breath that Jordan recalled his father’s last moments, he also remarked on his own first moments on the soccer field.
“My dad always played the game when he grew up,” Jordan said. “And when I was about three or four years old, it was the first sport Mom and Dad put me in.”
Fast forward about 10 years, and Jordan could very well be considered one of the area’s top emerging soccer talents. In addition to his work on the GSA club team, Jordan also stars on Eastside High’s junior varsity squad. And currently, he’s one of just two selected Georgians on an Olympic Development Program team that’s made up of 16 athletes from all across the Southeast.
That team is currently playing in Argentina.
It’s all kind of surreal to him now. Traveling abroad. Having a chance to try out for the Atlanta United’s Development Academy. Hob-knobbing with young elite players like Christian Pulisic — an American-born 17-year old pro who’s playing for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga, as well as the United States national team.
“As far as I’m concerned, Christian’s the best young player in the game right now,” Jordan said.
Jordan also talked about the experience playing abroad as something that richly adds to his game. He said the competition he sees in the states — particularly in Georgia — and what he goes against abroad doesn’t really compare, which is good, because those tussles with tougher international foes helps shape him for his highest aspirations.
“My goal is definitely to go pro, and these experiences are priceless because they help me get a feel for how things are different on the international scene,” he said. “But it really doesn’t matter where I play (professionally). Just the thought of being able to achieve that is cool, because when I first started soccer, I never even thought about going this far. As I got to be about 12 or 13 years old, I started to realize I had potential. I noticed the capability I had, and I really started to love it and take it seriously.”
Keeping Dad’s legacy alive
When Shane and Kharmin Beam were really in the thick of things in terms of their involvement in Covington’s soccer community, the pair opened and ran Upper 90 Soccer Training Academy. And the way its popularity quickly built and was sustained, helped reinforce to Kharmin that local enthusiasm for the game of soccer was alive and well.
When Shane’s cancer began to get the best of him, the rigors of keeping the academy running while taking care of family began to be too much for Kharmin to bare.
“After my husband passed away, we did have to close it,” she said. “It just became too much to handle, and we just couldn’t do it.”
But the passion for it is still there. You can tell, based on the way Kharmin talks about the game in general. And she believes the need for such an academy is also still present.
“So many kids would come and do some really intensive, technical training,” Kharmin said. “I think if someone else could open one around here, it would probably do well, because there’s just so much happening here locally in the game.”
Maybe that mantle could one day fall on Jordan. But first, there’s a matter of capping off his pursuit of a professional career.
“If I can do the thing I love the most, and do it for a living, that’s just the highest level,” Jordan said. “And if I play pro, I want to do it at the highest level, which I think is in Europe right now. Europe is the biggest place and has the best players in the game right now. Players like (Lionel) Messi, (Cristiano) Ronaldo, those are the best in the world. There’s nowhere else to play when you want to be with the best.”
Jordan’s personal favorite player is Neymar who plays for La Liga club FC Barcelona and the Brazil national team. And it’s not necessarily because Jordan tries to pattern his game after him, either.
“He’s one of those dudes that’s good at embarrassing people,” Jordan said. “He’s got skills that make people look very bad. I don’t really play anything like him, but I love watching him.”
Jordan said he just as intensely loves taking every chance he can to hone his own game, which is why he’s relishing his opportunity to play against elite amateur talent in Argentina right now. He says his vision — his ability to read a play and “judge stuff before it happens” — is the strength of his game. He wants to work on improving his weak foot.
On his ODP squads, he plays center back, but for his club squad and at Eastside, he’s an attacking mid. The diversity of his roles on various teams helps his comprehensive knowledge of the game grow. And growth is his main objective now.
Despite his early successes, he has, in no way, considered himself to have arrived. He’s not satisfied with where he is, even though he realizes the great strides he’s made. But the dissatisfaction serves as constant fuel to get better. It’s all apart of what Jordan hopes is the beginning of a career that will extend his father’s legacy and make his family proud.
“I would definitely think if my dad was here now to see where I am, he would just say, for one, that he’s definitely proud of me,” Jordan said. “But then he’d tell me to not ever feel like you’re finally here and that’s enough. He would say never settle for what you have. Always want more. Go to that next level, keep achieving more.
“He would never want me to go pro and just be content with being pro. He would say go pro and become one of the best, and keep going. That’s what I want to do.”