Afrim Nezaj has worn many hats during his career. (Photo courtesy of ENYYSA and the Nezaj family)
The Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association will induct Afrim Nezaj into the Eastern New York Soccer Hall of Fame.
The ceremony will take place at the Hall of Fame Lunch celebrating Eastern New York’s 50th Anniversary at Marina del Rey in the Bronx on Saturday, Nov. 5.
The native of Kosovo moved to the Bronx at the age of 10, living in a three-bedroom apartment with 15 members of his extended family.
Nezaj is the embodiment of the American Dream as he built a small sports empire in the past four decades.
He is the owner and operator of Afrim’s Sports and has reinvested in the community to support five indoor training locations for soccer teams in the area as well as an outdoor facility. He runs several programs in conjunction with the Capital District Youth Soccer League and Eastern New York that provides access to training and games to the thousands of youth soccer players in the Capital Region. As an active CDYSL board member, he has supported numerous youth soccer initiatives over the years.
The Altamont, N.U. resident has balanced not only running a facility-rental focused business but has done so in a way that supplements the gaps in the summer and winter when youth soccer leagues are not hosting regular season play.
Nezaj also founded and is the president of the Albany Alleycats Soccer Club and brokered the merging of the boys side of the program with New York Elite to help promote boys and girls premier club programming. When the COVID-19 pandemic made it extremely challenging for clubs and teams to find places to play, Nezaj worked with the club and high school soccer community to provide safe and appropriate facilities for children to continue to play soccer.
ENYYSA trustee Chris Le said, “Afrim always reminds us to stay humble and not forget that there is a place for everyone to learn, grow and fall in love with the game of soccer, and that we are a part of a community where every player, family, team and club is important.“
Nezaj holds the U.S. Soccer “A” coaching license and has coached local teams at all levels for many years. He also was an All-American player at Albany State and played professionally for the Pennsylvania Stoners, Rochester Flash, New York Nationals and Albany Capitals in the very challenging era of American pro soccer between when the original North American Soccer League died in 1984 and before Major League Soccer kicked off in 1996.
He has established multiple professional teams in the area, most recently the New York Shockers competing in the NPSL for the men and WPSL for the women.
“The Shockers give players who love the game the opportunity to continue playing at a competitive level well past their younger years,” CDYSL president Cathleen Knauf said. “With a growing empire and in addition to spending time with his large family, Afrim still takes time to give back to the sport that he loves in many ways.”
Nezaj was inducted into the Albany State Hall of Fame in 2008, the CDYSL Hall of Fame in 2010 and was honored as the Eastern New York personality of the month in April 2020.