FLINT – Considering everything he’s been through, moving from the Flint City Bucks Academy program to club USL League Two shouldn’t be a barrier for Ali Qurbanali.
Qurbanali, 17, will be in the lineup for the 2019 National Champions Flint City Bucks when they host Rebels FC in an exhibition match at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Atwood Stadium.
The 5-foot-4 center-forward is only the second player to move into the Academy’s first team, but that’s not what makes him unique.
Instead, Qurbanali, his mother, and five siblings escaped the turmoil of Afghanistan in 2014, feeling like Pakistan before moving to the United States two years later when Ali was 12.
Things are always tough for the family as Qurbanali’s mother, Aqleema, has two jobs while Ali works at a gas station. His father is dead.
Qurbanali follows events in Afghanistan as her mother and older sister use Facebook to stay in touch with relatives who remain in the war-torn country. They work to bring their uncles and aunts to the United States
“The Taliban don’t like us and it wouldn’t be safe for them to stay there,” Qurbanali said in a press release. “You can try to support them, but there is nothing we can do financially. All we can do is pray for them.
“To be honest, seeing what is happening in Afghanistan really motivates me to work harder to achieve my dream. I want to become a good footballer and return to Afghanistan to help the community and my loved ones.
Qurbanali plays for Midwest United U-19, which is based in Grand Rapids and is part of the MLS Next development program.
“My dream is to play professional football and I have to take whatever comes in front of me,” Qurbanali said. “When I first came in for the Flint City Bucks Academy team tryout, I told them I was looking forward to playing in the first team. I think I have the ability to play this. level.
Now he will have that chance.
Bucks Academy coach Michael O’Neill has said Qurbanali has “fast feet and quick brains” and is eager to see how his star pupil performs against Rebels FC on Saturday.
“I think it will be a great experience for him personally,” said O’Neill. “He’s going to be surrounded by a lot of high quality players who play the same brand he wants to play, so he’s going to be able to show his skills and quality.
“Plus, selfishly for me having coached him and the rest of the Bucks academy, it’s a pretty proud moment that some of these kids are called up to the first team and play Atwood in front of the fans. Hope he enjoys the experience.
“He’s someone defenders dread playing against just because of his ability to handle the ball so quickly and his ability to pull you in and win free kicks or jump at you.”
To earn a spot with the Bucks, Qurbanali had to overcome a broken right leg that sidelined him in his junior season at Lansing Everett High School. He broke his tibia and fibula, then missed his senior season at Everett due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Injuring at a young age made me even more determined to be a good player in the future,” he said. “It was really difficult sometimes because I was scared. I thought, “I probably won’t be able to play football anymore”, but I still had my therapy every day.
Saturday’s game is dubbed the first responders night in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. All first responders and their families will be admitted free of charge and there will be a pre-game ceremony in honor of the first responders.
A children’s area will also be set up for young people in the southwest corner of the stadium.
Tickets cost $ 5 for youth 12 and under, $ 10 for adults, and $ 15 for reserved VIPs. They can be purchased at ticketmaster.com, Flint Prints in the Ferris Wheel building in downtown Flint or at the game.
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