One of the rising talents in the world of Iraqi football, Amir has been training with the U23 Iraq football team and has impressed coaches with his talents. Currently based in the USA, he is now assessing his next move in order to further his career. We sat down with Amir Aldaraji for this exclusive interview with IraqFootball.me:
Being an Iraqi has always been a huge part of my upbringing and it’s one of the many reasons I want to play for Iraq. My family moved to the USA in 1994, where I was born later in 2001. At home, we speak a lot of Arabic and my Iraqi heritage and shaped who I am today. There are loads of Iraqis in Virginia, which means I’m hanging out and seeing a lot of Iraqis too. I’ve been to Iraq many times before, and my origins are something I take great pride in.
I come from a sporting family – my uncle used to play for Talaba, and his son, Alaa Mhawi, currently plays for the Iraqi national team. Football has been huge in our upbringing. After turning ten, I started to play academy football and eventually signed for the Barcelona academy in San Diego a year later. A coach saw me playing for my school team and invited me over for trials. It was a huge two years and I learnt a lot about the game, and it felt like a dream come true to play football in front of so many people.
My dad has been a huge influence and has supported me endlessly during this time too. On the pitch, the player I look up to the most is Ronaldinho – I feel like our style of play is similar, where we both play to entertain the fans through skilful football and beating opponents. As a winger, I also like to cut in and influence the game from inside whilst creating chances for my team.
When I turned 14, I started to receive invitations to various MLS clubs for trials at clubs such as Dallas, LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire. It was difficult to accept these offers due to school at the time. I also received an opportunity to play for the USA U15. I attended the camp and played two games for them, which was a really good experience.
After turning 16, I made the decision to move in with my uncle in Chicago once Chicago Fire U18 signed me for their team. I played two seasons with the club and did really well, before getting scouted for the Iraq youth team, who took notice of me. The Iraqi FA sent me an invitation to join in with a trial. I played a couple of friendly matches in 2018, but I picked up an injury right before we were supposed to start a tournament. It was a decent opportunity to familiarise myself with Iraqi football and it felt natural for me to fit in with the team and squad. My uncle in Chicago is a bodybuilder and he used to make fun of me for being skinny, so he’s encouraged me to bulk up and I’ve been working hard in the gym to give me an advantage. I’m not afraid of the physical challenges when it comes to football.
I am currently in Iraq for the Gulf Cup U19 tournament, but unfortunately the matches wont go ahead because of the current situation with the coronavirus. We have been training in preparation for it and the team feels good, but it’s a shame that this happened.
I have some trials lined up in the summer but with this current situation, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of football. I’m looking at Sweden, the MLS and I’m open to looking at different teams to progress my career. I had a good time with Chicago U20 but I feel that I’m ready to make the step up to professional football rather than to continue at youth level. I’m hoping my future will be resolved soon.
My current objective is to find a club and start to make a name for myself in world football. I trust myself to work hard and I know I have the talent to succeed. Over the next few years, I will continue improving my football and make people aware of my name. I have a lot to offer on the pitch and I want people to know about my skills. With Iraq, I want to also work my way up with the national team. I’d love the opportunity to join the national time and I hope to return Iraq’s name on the footballing map.