Local Man Finds Second Home Playing Soccer in Afghanistan

It started with an internship in a foreign land synonymous with terrorism and danger, but for one local 23 year-old, that land became a second home to play the game he loves.

Two years ago Nick Pugliese, of Penfield, took a chance on a telecommunications job in Afghanistan after graduating from college. He soon realized that soccer was his true passion.

"Right when I was on the field it felt like I was home again," Pugliese said. "This is what I was meant to do."

Soccer has always been in Nick's blood. His father taught him the game at an early age. Nick then became a four year letter winner at McQuaid and then went on to play college soccer at Williams. He said it was the lessons he learned on the pitch that helped smooth the transition to life in Afghanistan.

"Soccer always brings together a lot of different people," Pugliese said. "It teaches you that if you work hard and play for the team these guys will become your friend regardless of how different they are from you."

Nick was playing for the company soccer team when he was scouted by a coach from a local professional club. In April 2013 Nick quit his job and joined Ferozi FC in Kabul where he made $300 a month playing central midfielder.

"I think the criticism of what I was doing was extremely risky is based on the misperception of what life is like in Kabul." "It's much safer and much more mundane. People have the same concerns, trying to have a job, boys want girlfriends, they are interested in soccer, worried about their family, that's it."

Nick played for Ferozi FC through the end of last fall. It culminated in a win in the Kabul Cup final before returning to Penfield in December. The first American to ever play professional soccer in Afghanistan is proof that there is no divide that can't be crossed by the global game.

Initially it was just an opportunity to play and do something that I enjoy and it became something much more than that, it became a community and a support network," Pugliese said. "Soccer has that power no matter where you are, it is location independent. That is one of my biggest takeaways from this whole experience."

Nick says he won't be playing in Afghanistan next season, but would like to go back and visit friends he made during his time there. He is in the process of putting together a short documentary called Kings of the New City, about four Afghans and an American who met everyday in Kabul, Afghanistan's New City Park to play pick up soccer.

Check out Nick's blog "Nick Plays Football in Kabul" at footballinkabul.com.
To support his film project go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/898266551/kings-of-the-new-city.

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