By Tyler Lewis
Zelfy Nazary is chasing the dream.
The Afghanistan international is playing for the Dandenong Thunder in the NPL, and chasing his dream of becoming a full-time professional player.
Like so many with aspirations of being an elite athlete, he spent the early days of his childhood in the street, dreaming of the big-time.
“Those first days I think I was five or six – those are the days I started playing football,” he said.
“As I remember, I was a young kid playing on the street, and since then I have just loved the game.”
Nazary grew up in Afghanistan as a youngster, before migrating to Australia with his father.
“It has been 14 or 15 years since I have been here and ever since I have been playing football, chasing the dream you could say,” he said.
Since arriving in the land down under, Nazary feels it helped him enhance his ability on the pitch as it led to him pulling on his nation’s threads.
“I think coming to Australia gave me the exposure to expose myself, and of course playing here has helped me a lot,” he said.
“Playing in the NPL while working hard, giving myself a chance to make the national team and luckily enough in 2018 I got the call to go and represent my country.
“I was stoked, I couldn’t believe it.
“When I got the phone call that I was in the squad, I called my parents, spoke with mum and dad, (and) they were buzzing, they were just as excited as I was.
“The game was in Afghanistan as well, so I went back and that was the first time I went back.
“Playing in front of the home crowd, it was just a dream come true.”
From his five matches so far for Afghanistan, Nazary has managed to squeeze one past the keeper and into the back of the net against India – a moment he will never forget, but not one he is content with. He wants more.
“When you play at the highest level, when you score it is just another feeling,” he said.
“You just want to score again and the feeling… I can’t describe it, it is probably the best feeling as a player.
“To score for your national team is just an amazing feeling.”
He’s currently plying his trade in the NPL, but Nazary’s dream is to play in the A-League as a full-time professional.
“I am still chasing that dream – I am still only 25 so hopefully in the next few years I get a chance to play in the A-League or any other professional league abroad,” he said.
With his dream still in the works, Nazary is working tirelessly to give himself an opportunity to go higher, while still relishing the opportunity to play in front of the Thunder faithful.
“To be honest, I just need to work hard at training and games, stay healthy and hopefully I get a chance,” he said.
“The most important thing is staying injury-free and performing in games.
“Hopefully one day I get the chance.
“It is pretty special to play at Dandenong because I have a lot of friends who live in Dandenong – a lot of Afghans follow me to the games.
“They support me and it feels like playing at home – it is a nice feeling playing in Dandenong.
“The crowd helps, especially at Dandenong when you have a highly-supportive group that comes to the games.
“Not just Afghans – at the first games we had over 2500 people.
‘When you have a big crowd, it gives you energy, you want to play well, you want to do well to win the game, and make them come back again to support you.”