Afghanistan football teams recent rise in the football map has been phenomenal to say the least. The war affected nation has come out of its troubles to claim a well deserved victory in SAFF Cup 2013, overcoming the challenge of India in the process. That win brought joy and happiness to the Afghan people after a long time, and it lead to wild celebrations. That performance was inspired by an attacker, who was playing much better than the experienced campaigners even at the slender age of 21. Sandjar Ahmadi, Afghanistan’s architect of their historical win.

Ahmadi, a skillful attacker, is settling well in Indian Football after joining I-League club Mumbai FC. His goalsocring prowess and versatility have been a welcome addition to the Mumbai FC team which was tagged under “anti-Football”. He scored vital goals in SAFF Cup against Nepal and India as well. It was a sweet revenge for the Afghans over India, who gunned them down in the final hurdle in their last attempt. He has carried that goal scoring form to I-League and has notched up 2 goals already for Mumbai FC. THT’s resident author Joseph George caught up with the Afghan youngster Sandjar Ahmadi, who is set to grace Indian Football lovers by weaving his magic in the subcontinent.

Q) How big was winning the SAFF cup for a nation like Afghanistan?

Sandjar Ahmadi: The SAFF was a very important win, because it was the first time that Afghanistan won a cup. After winning the SAFF Cup some joy came into the country. Afghan People were extremely happy and they celebrated for days. It was incredible how much happiness it brought in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been described as a terrorist country, but through sport we have shown the other side of Afghanistan.

Q) How do you rate Afghanistan’s chances in Challenge cup next year? Is there any other international assignment before that?

Sandjar Ahmadi: We have a good and young team.  I think we have a good chance in the challenge cup next year. Before Challenge Cup, we also have a friendly match against Pakistan.

Q) India defeated Afghanistan at home in 2011. While Afghanistan returned the favour in a neutral venue this year. Is it an indication of a power shift in the SAFF region?

Afghanistan's Sandjar Ahmadi in action against India in SAFF Cup

Afghanistan’s Sandjar Ahmadi in action against India in SAFF Cup

Sandjar Ahmadi: In SAFF Cup 2011 we also had a good team, I think it was better than the SAFF Cup 2013 team, but we lost in final against India by the decision of the referees. And in this SAFF Cup we wanted revenge, and we were very happy to get India in final.

Q) Do you follow Afghanistan Premier League? How has this league helped Afghanistan football?

Sandjar Ahmadi: I’m following the league in Afghanistan a little, because I have friends there who play in it. The Afghanistan premier league helped the country a lot to make football better and as a result we have more quality players now. And it is easier to find players for national team

Q) What brought you to I-League? You could have got into any of the top Indian clubs, what promoted you to join Mumbai FC?

Sandjar Ahmadi: (Haroon) Amiri is playing in Mumbai FC. He is a good friend of mine, and he told a lot about the I-league. That’s why I came to Mumbai FC.

Q) You seem to have settled in quite well at Mumbai FC, banging in some goals for the team. What targets have you set for yourself with Mumbai FC this season?

Sandjar Ahmadi: I’m focused on the season with Mumbai FC and will give everything to help the team in further. My target is to achieve the highest (position) with Mumbai FC at the end of the season.

Q) How is it playing alongside Haroon Fakhrudin Amiri. Judging by your performances on the pitch, he seem to have eased you to Indian Football. Can you enlighten us more?

Sandjar Ahmadi: Haroon Amiri is a good friend of mine, we understand each other well. He is also a good player. On the field he plays in his position and me in mine, and we both give 100% on the field for the team.

Q) You have registered 2 goals in 5 matches for Mumbai FC so far? How many goals are you targeting this season?

Sandjar Ahmadi: Yes, I have scored 2 goals until now and hope that there will be more. I will try my best to score as many as possible.

Q) You also seem to have a knack of scoring some important goals. Which is the most memorable one?

Sandjar Ahmadi: My most memorable goal was my first goal for the Afghanistan National Team against Sri Lanka in SAFF Cup 2011. My goal against Nepal in semi final (SAFF Cup 2013) and my goal against India in the final of SAFF Cup 2013 are also special.

Q) Mumbai FC is playing their home matches in Pune. Don’t you find it strange?

Sandjar Ahmadi: We don’t have a Stadium in Mumbai and it’s just not possible to play in Mumbai. But stadium in Pune is also a nice Stadium and there are also many Afghan fans there, I’m glad to see it.

Q) You are comfortable playing across the front positions. Which position suits you the best?

Sandjar Ahmadi: I am satisfied with my (current) position. But I can also play in other positions.

Q) How different is football in India from that of Germany?

Sandjar Ahmadi: Yes the football in India is different from that of Germany. In Germany, football is faster than India, and also harder. I must also first adjust to Indian football.

Q) How difficult was it for your family to move to Europe due to the war?

Sandjar Ahmadi: It was not easy for my parents to move (away from) Afghanistan because all (our) family was there and everything else. But they moved because of us, they wanted a better future for us.

Q) Do you think of settling down in Afghanistan in future?

Sandjar Ahmadi: I was very young when we arrived in Germany. And I grew up there and finished my school. I’m from Afghanistan and Afghanistan is my country, but I don’t think that I’m settling in future in Afghanistan. Germany is also my country and my family is there.

Q) Who is your favourite Indian Football player and why?

Sandjar Ahmadi: I don’t really have a favorite Indian player, because I don’t know so much about them. I’ve heard a lot about Sunil Chhetri and I have also played a few times against him. He is a good player.

TheHardTackle would like to thank Sandjar Ahmadi for taking his time of and doing this interview.