It took Ahmad Hatifie all of three seconds to think of his number one moment in his international career with Afghanistan: “Oh, I have a great story for this.”
The story begins with Afghanistan playing a friendly against Pakistan, in Afghanistan, the first match on Afghan soil in 30 years. If that was not memorable enough for Hatifie, he added to the experience by scoring Afghanistan’s second goal in a 3-0 win, a perfect curling shot to the bottom corner, sending the packed stadium into an uproar.
“It was tremendous, unbelievable,” Hatifie said. “I actually can’t even put it into words.”
Despite his pride in scoring the goal, a moment out of the spotlight shines even brighter to Hatifie. In the few days following the match, Hatifie had to go export some pictures, so he went to the store, did what he needed and headed back to where he was staying, but on the way back he started thinking something was up.
“I looked behind me and there was this group of kids just following me,” Hatifie said. “It was really strange at first…I could tell they wanted to talk to me but neither of us really knew what to do.”
That’s when one boy, no older than ten, came out of the group, holding a magazine.
“He kind of held out this magazine, and on the back page there was a picture of me after I scored that goal against Pakistan,” Hatifie said. “I could tell he wasn’t quite sure if it was me, so I told him it was.”
“I signed the magazine for the boy and he kind of bragged about it to all of the other kids,” Hatifie continued. “And this one girl didn’t have any paper or anything but still wanted me to sign something so she had me sign her arm. It was such a humbling moment for me, to realize that you mean that much to people over there…it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Hatifie, a California native with Afghan parents, has made 34 appearances with the Afghanistan National Football team since 2011, and netted four goals over those appearances. Prior to joining the national team, he attended UC Davis, where he captained the team in 2007 and helped lead the Colts to an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. His senior season was cut short with a serious leg injury, but it was far from the end of his soccer journey.
Following his senior season, Hatifie joined former NPSL side Bay Area Ambassadors in the 2012 campaign. This opportunity then helped him prepare for his chance with the national team in 2013.
“The NPSL is the perfect median between excelling at a pro level and preparing,” Hatifie continued. “It really got me prepared for the national team.”
Hatifie’s chance with the national team then helped him get recognized by scouts in India’s top flight, the I-League, and Hatifie spent a memorable season with Mumbai FC.
“It was obviously kind of scary to go halfway across the world to live in a country where I didn’t know the language or know anyone,” Hatfie said. “But it was a great opportunity and I would have been banging my head against the wall if I hadn’t taken it.”
Following his time in India, Hatifie moved back to California to be closer to his family and he joined CD Aguiluchos USA, where he made an immediate impact, helping lead CDA to a first- place finish in the Golden Gate Conference and a spot in the national semifinals. For his teammates and club, Hatifie’s presence and experience cannot be overstated.
“It’s great playing with someone of that level and experience,” CDA striker and two-time Golden Boot winner Simon Rawnsley said. “His awareness in the middle of park and speed of play helps us dictate the pace of the game and he’s a good role model for our younger players.”
CD Aguiluchos Chairman Roger Amaya had many positive thoughts to share as well.
“Hatifie is great. He’s very focused and has the complete respect of the players and coaching staff.”
From here, Hatifie will continue playing at a high level and hopes to get called up for Afghanistan’s upcoming matches against Vietnam and Cambodia.
Regardless of where his career goes from here, Hatifie is thankful for his experiences.
“To me, playing for your country is the highest honor you can get as a footballer and it’s just been an incredible experience.”