Secret Striker

DSC06731Ibrahim Arsali came from a close knit family and was raised in Kalkan Village near to the city of Antalya in Turkey. Like most of the village, his family worked as market gardeners, growing peppers, tomatoes and aubergines. Ibrahim, the youngest of 7 siblings was also supported by the family to go to University.
Together with a secure and supportive upbringing, Ibrahim also had a natural talent and a passion for football. Having signed for Antalya Spor at the age of nine, his eye for goal gave him a potential career in the game. Unfortunately his father Ali became vehemently opposed to his sons playing the game. When Ibrahim was 13, Ibrahim’s uncle broke his leg badly and was left with a disability. Ali declared that football was too risky and forbid Ibrahim from playing.
To Ibrahim, football was everything and from this point on, he was on his own, having to train and play in secret. This took some organising and not only that, all the other schoolboy players had their fathers with them, fighting their corner when they were overlooked by the manager. Ibrahim was a striker and all strikers want to play for 90 minutes every match. They hate being on the bench. Ibrahim also hated the nepotism that was evident in football.
A career in football became less likely but with his family’s financial support, Ibrahim left to study Hotel Management at the University of Antalya. In the final year he took a placement in the hotels along the Antalya coast.
It was there he met his English wife Roanne. They were married and initially settled in Turkey. Ibrahim let his wife know about his secret and continued to play football.
When the decision came to settle in the UK, they moved to Lady Bay in Nottingham where Roanne had been brought up.
Ibrahim was now in his early 20’s and no longer the quiet teenager. More confident and decisive, he saw the nearest football club just happened to be Nottingham Forest. Ibrahim knew that he had 250 more goals to score in his playing career, so why not give Forest first chance to pick him!
Nottingham Forest suggested that he approached Andy Freeman at Dunkirk FC where he could be assessed.
After two seasons with Dunkirk, Ibrahim had adapted to English football. He found the attitude of players similar to those in Turkey. The positive difference for him was that clubs in England were managed better and had better facilities.
His goal scoring ability really came together for three seasons playing for Santos in the Notts Amateur Alliance league. Winning the league twice and scoring 33 goals in one season meant his name was becoming well known within the Nottinghamshire football community.
Meanwhile, back in Turkey, father Ali was still oblivious to his son’s weekend hobby!
Several seasons playing for Boots Athletic, followed by knee surgery and raising two daughters resulted in Ibrahim calling time on his playing career in 2010.
With the family settled in Woodthorpe, Ibrahim wanted to stay involved with the sport. He had noticed that many younger referees did not have the playing experience that he had. Strikers in particular get to know all the ‘tricks in the book’ when it comes to getting the better of the defender. Maybe he could stay on Nottinghamshire’s football pitches every Saturday and give something back to the beautiful game.
In August 2012 he took the first of several referee qualifications, completing level 6 in 2014 and selected for the Nottinghamshire FA Open Age County Cup Finals. His progression continued, completing level 5 this year and being selected for the Referees Development Group; which identifies and supports ambitious referees. In acknowledgement of this, Ibrahim is one of four referees selected for the Iber Cup Tournament in Portugal this June. With 25 nations represented, and academy sides from the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Olympique Marseille and Seville; Ibrahim’s experience and judgment will be tested further. Having officiated in 200 matches already (almost 3 times the minimum required) he is excited for the future.
He thanks Dave Plowright, Mark Birkett and Robin Bourne of the Nottinghamshire FA for their support and guidance. The next level may well see him officiating at semi-professional level and then maybe televised premiership football.
Let’s hope his father is not watching, otherwise the secret is out!

Officiating at Wollaton Sports Ground Nottingham

Officiating at Wollaton Sports Ground Nottingham

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