Junior Spotlight: Ali Naeem

Shahar Syed: Hi my name is Shahar Syed. I’m from publications. Welcome to our weekly athlete spotlight. We’re here today with varsity junior, the goalie of the soccer team– Ali Naeem.

Ali Naeem: Hello!

Shahar Syed: So Ali, when did you start playing soccer?

Ali Naeem: I started playing soccer when I was really young. Around the age of three or four.

Shahar Syed: What got you into soccer?

Ali Naeem: I just always loved kicking around the ball, and it was one of the most interesting sports to me.

Shahar Syed: What made it interesting for you?

Ali Naeem: A lot of the people I know play it. And it’s probably the most famous sport in the world, so it made me that much more interested in it.

Shahar Syed: Did you have older siblings who played soccer?

Ali Naeem: My sister played when she was younger, but she wasn’t really into it like I was.

Shahar Syed: What made you into soccer?

Ali Naeem: I’m a pretty competitive person, and I just like the sport because it’s fast paced, and I like running around a lot. I mean, even though I play goalie, and we don’t move as much it’s still pretty fun for me.

Shahar Syed: Well what makes soccer different from other sports? Like basketball is fastpace and competitive.

Ali Naeem: I think soccer is one of the sports where you get one of the biggest workouts. Usually soccer players run like 9.5 miles a game. I mean again not me as a goalie, but still I just like being out on there on the field also.

Shahar Syed: Before you told me you weren’t always a goalie, you were a striker before, or midfield–

Ali Naeem: Yeah I pretty much played everywhere else when I was younger. But I slowly moved into playing keeper as I grew up, because I just found it to be something I was better at compared to the other positions.

Shahar Syed: When was the first time you played keeper?

Ali Naeem: The first time I played keeper was in the spring season of AYSO, probably when I was around 10,11 or 12 years old. And we needed a keeper to block the penalty shots after a game in a tournament. And I just said okay why not, I’ll do it, I just dove for the ball and I got it, and I fell in love with the feeling of blocking the ball.

Shahar Syed: Do you think your experience playing other positions have helped you as a keeper?

Ali Naeem: Yeah because you get a lot of perspective from where someone is going to to come from on the field what they’re going to do how they’re going to shoot it. You are kind of able to anticipate more how people are going about to scoring and stuff. So it’s easier to read when someone’s going to shoot or not going to shoot.

Shahar Syed: What’s your favorite part of playing keeper?

Ali Naeem: Just leaping in the air, and getting a ball that everybody thinks you aren’t going to get: it’s too high up there, too hard of a shot, too good of a shot, too accurate, but you get up there, you get in the air, and you smack it out of there. And everyone is amazed with your athleticism because not that many people can jump that high or far, and get the ball and make sure it doesn’t get into the net.

Shahar Syed: Do you think that, you being pretty tall and long–

Ali Naeem: Yeah I’m about six foot and my arms are pretty long

Shahar Syed: Do you think it helps as a keeper

Ali Naeem: Yeah that really helps a lot more because if someones short its kind of hard for them to reach more or as much someone who’s tall. Most professional keepers are tall and pretty lengthy .

Shahar Syed: No pun intended, but what are your goals for soccer?

Ali Naeem: Most of it is like have a lot of fun, my last season is next year, so of course I want to get much deeper in CIF than in previous years, yeah that’s probably about it.

Shahar Syed: When did you start playing varsity for school?

Ali Naeem: This is actually my first year of varsity, I played two years of JV won both years league. My first year of JV, I actually never lost a game, and then we won league both years, and second year of JV I actually was the only goalkeeper for the team, and it was a pretty good year.

Shahar Syed: Do you think goalkeepers have the most responsibility of all the soccer players?

Ali Naeem: Well when it comes to a goal happening most of the time they look at the goalkeeper. It’s really easy to be blamed as the goalkeeper for anything happening back there because you have the whole field in your view, so it’s like if you don’t really communicate well to your defense on what’s going around them it’s hard for them to blame anyone but you, but other than that I think it’s easy being a goalie because I know how to talk well and make sure everyone’s doing their job.

Shahar Syed: Do you feel like the pressure every gets to you?

Ali Naeem: Yeah the pressure does get to you, especially when people start to yell at your for things that maybe you should’ve done, or like everyone’s going to have pressure when it comes to big games and stuff, you just got to get over it.

Shahar Syed: Do you have one big game, I guess your favorite game you’ve ever played?

Ali Naeem: Yeah last year actually on JV against Diamond Bar, it was actually the last league game, and it was us versus Diamond Bar, whoever won that game won league basically, it was pretty intense. And the first time we played Diamond Bar in league they had beaten us 1-0, and then we we went to Diamond Bar, and that was the last game, and we actually destroyed them 5-1. That was a really good game for me also; that’s when I started blooming or growing as a goalkeeper.

Shahar Syed: What did you do differently that game, what made you feel like blooming?

Ali Naeem: I just became much more aggressive than I was before, I blocked a couple shots that I wouldn’t block before. Also I mean the only goal that went in was a penalty kick, which is a 50-50 shot, so I wasn’t disappointed with that. I was really happy with that game, it was probably my best game.

Shahar Syed: What do you think caused the attitude shift?

Ali Naeem: Probably the feeling of you want to be a league champion, it’s the last game, and its diamond bar its our rival, so you just want to get out there and beat those guys hard, and the game before we had lost to to them, so you want it even more even more. Plus Diamond Bar only has one field so Varsity is watching too, and you want to leave that good impression and show the varsity coach that you’re ready for next year.

Shahar Syed: How different is it from playing from JV to Varsity

Ali Naeem: Oh man JV, i mean you move up with some of the people you’ve been with from the beginning, but probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed from JV to Varsity is in JV the shooting is not as accurate or as strong as Varsity, because people at varsity are at a higher level, so of course the people on Varsity are going to shoot harder and shoot more accurately, so that would be the biggest difference.

Shahar Syed: How have you adjusted for that?

Ali Naeem: When you play with better people, you play better yourself, so when I play with better people who shoot better, it’s easier for me to block those shots that are harder to get, maybe in a practice it would be much easier to shoot than in game, so if it’s easier to block in practice that’s a harder shot, during a game I’ll be able to block any shot.

Shahar Syed: And what are your expectations for the soccer team next year?

Ali Naeem: Our original JV team from last that have a couple of sophomores that were freshman last year and a couple of juniors that were sophomores last year, and that team actually won league, and we were really strong team and we dominated most of the time, and we’ve been playing with each other for years and years, with club teams and AYSO teams, so I feel like we’re going to be much better because we have that connection and know the styles of playing.

Shahar Syed: That’s all the questions I have, thank you for your time.

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