SI.com’s Grant Wahl tells the story of Nick Pugliese, the only American playing professional soccer in Afghanistan. A year ago, Pugliese graduated from Williams, where he had been captain of the school’s soccer team. In the year since, he took a job with a telecom company in Kabul only to leave soon thereafter to make far less money -- $300 per month -- playing professional soccer for a team called Ferozi FC that went on to win Afghanistan’s domestic cup.
To be sure, it’s quite an adventure, and one that is being captured on Pugliese’s thoughtful blog, “Nick Plays Football in Kabul.” But why is he doing it? "I'm using it as a way to explore the types of lives that young men are living in Kabul, which is probably different from what you see portrayed in the day-to-day media," the Rochester, N.Y., native tells SI. "The interesting question to me is why I've been accepted as a member of the community in spite of or because of my status as an American. Through these soccer teammates, I've become part of the community."
Pugliese points out that he has melted the social barriers through soccer: "It speaks to the power of: Can you play or not? Can you help my team win? If so, you're valued," he says. "That's been one of the most positive things I've experienced here. If you're valued on a soccer field, that opens so many opportunities to be seen as valuable as a person and to actually form friendships. Soccer is the link. I think my trying to be as humorous as possible and laughing at things is the second link. Then you spend time together, and it's easy to find things to relate over, even if you can't communicate it through words."