Fresh from his international debut for Afghanistan, Olympic FC midfielder Zelfy Nazary now turns his attention to his next task – his club’s upcoming Finals Series campaign.
Nazary made his debut on Sunday, 19 August as a substitute in a 0-0 draw against Palestine at the Afghanistan Football Federation Stadium.
He came off the bench in the 69th minute in front of 5,000 screaming fans in Kabul and is now set to return for Olympic FC’s forthcoming quest for championship glory.
Olympic have finished second behind Lions FC after an impressive campaign, which sees them not only secure a finals berth, but also the advantage of hosting a home semi-final against third-placed Western Pride FC this Sunday afternoon at Goodwin Park.
Nazary has scored four goals in 22 appearances for Olympic this season and his newly-acquired international experience will no doubt be a huge asset heading into the pressure cooker that is the Final Series.
Reflecting on the surreal experience of representing his country, Nazary was still buzzing.
While usually deployed as a central attacking midfielder for Olympic, Nazary played as a defensive midfielder in his 20-minute cameo for the national team.
“It was a fantastic week for me, making my debut for the national team, and playing in front of a home crowd in Kabul in Afghanistan,” he said.
“The atmosphere was fantastic, the stadium was packed two, three hours before the game and as soon as you walk into the stadium you get goose bumps, and people are just shouting, it was fantastic.
“It was a dream come true to be honest, I couldn’t ask for anything more, you know going there, I wasn’t expecting to play, but I got the chance and yeah I hope I did alright.”
Olympic FC head coach Ben Cahn believes the international call up is a testament not only to Nazary himself, but also a reflection of the direction the club as a whole are heading in.
“It’s something he really deserves and a good reflection of the environment we’ve created here as well,” he said.
“Zelfy came to us at the start of the season, looking for some more exposure and to be involved in a more professional environment, and to develop as a player, so it’s a great achievement for him and for the club to see him represent his country.”
Cahn also credits the involvement of the senior players in Olympic’s squad such as ex-Brisbane Roar defenders Matt Mundy and Shane Stefanutto in Nazary’s rapid development.
The role Olympic FC have played in ensuring the 23-year-old midfielder received the opportunity to line up for his country is not lost on Nazary either.
“I just want to thank the club and the coaching staff for helping me through all this and to all those people for their love and support,” he said.
With his international debut under his belt and the next Afghanistan camp not until October, all that remains to be seen now is whether Nazary can use his new-found international experience to help guide Olympic FC all the way to the NPL championship.
NPL Semi Final
Olympic FC (2) v Western Pride (3)
Sunday, 2 September
Goodwin Park, Yeronga
Watch LIVE on FQ Facebook and YouTube
Words: Samuel Johnson