Across the gridirons (American football fields) of the United States, an accomplished American player of Kurdish origin has emerged to stun millions who have watched him play. This is the story of Alan Ali, a talented athlete whose journey from Texas to the National Football League (NFL) has been one of personal achievement and a celebration of his deep Kurdish roots.
A patriotic American with proud roots in Kurdistan
Alan Ali’s story is all about diversity, dedication, hard work, and a strong connection to Kurdistan. His father, who hails from Halabja, made his way to America in the early 1990s to pursue higher education, where he eventually met and married Alan's American mother. The result of this union is a patriotic American who is proud of his Kurdish roots and misses no chances to highlight his background inside and outside of his professional life.
Alan, like many second-generation Kurdish migrants around the world, is well educated about his homeland, his people, and what it takes to be a Kurd. Mr. Ali, Alan’s father, took it upon himself to instill the Kurdish spirit, culture, and history in his son and raise him in a way so that, later in life, the resilient spirit of his half Kurdish side would help him become one of the most outstanding American football players.
From Texas to the NFL
Alan’s passion for American football became evident to his family when he was only seven years old. From that tender age, everyone was certain about his bright future, and he knew he would find his way to excellence. Eighteen years later, in May 2023, Alan joined the NFL after signing a contract with the Minnesota Vikings, a remarkable achievement for any football player.
However, it was not an easy journey. Before reaching the top league, Alan proved his talent in college playing at both Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Texas Christian University (TCU). At the latter, he earned the prestigious honor of First Team All-Big 12, a testament to his skills and hard work. His college football journey included participating in the College Football Playoffs and the National Championship Game, where he played in front of millions of fans, displaying the prowess of a determined athlete.
In an exclusive interview with Kurdistan Chronicle, Alan was asked about his plans to introduce American football to Kurdistan. He explained that he planned to visit his homeland again next year and aims to organize a free youth football camp to teach children the ins and outs of the sport.
First time in Kurdistan
Alan visited Kurdistan for the very first time ten years ago. He described the initials moments in his ancestral land as astonishing and unforgettable. “I loved every minute of being in Kurdistan. The Kurdish people I met there were some of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met,” he said.
What stunned him the most, however, was the fact that Ahmadi Gate at the renowned Citadel of Erbil was named after his great-great-grandfather, as his grandmother was originally from Erbil.
Proudly hoisting the Kurdistan Flag
Alan’s pride in his Kurdish identity is evident on and off the field. During various games across the United States, he has been seen wrapping the Kurdistan flag around himself to celebrate victories. In this act, as he said, he shows that he is proud of being a Kurd while carrying a message of unity and representation. In a country where many might not recognize the word “Kurdistan,” Alan takes every opportunity to raise awareness about the Kurds, their painful past, and their prosperous future.
“Basically, I want to let people know that I am proud to be a Kurd and that it is an honor to be able to carry that flag,” he explained.
Inspiring the next generation
Being one of the first, if not the very first, Kurdish-American football player in the NFL comes with great responsibilities, which Alan well acknowledges. He hopes that he has what it takes to become a source of inspiration for the young generation to follow their dreams relentlessly while remaining proud of their background. He firmly believes that hard work, self-belief, and a strong connection to one's roots can propel individuals to achieve their dreams, just as they did for him.
Alan Ali's story is more than just a tale of sporting triumph; it is a powerful narrative of bridging cultures and celebrating one's heritage on a global stage. From the plains of Texas to the mountains of Kurdistan, Alan's journey exemplifies the potential for success and recognition that lies within all Kurds worldwide.
As he proudly carries the Kurdish flag on the gridirons of the NFL, Alan Ali proves that no matter how far one may be from their homeland, their heart can still beat strongly for their roots.
Sardar Sattar is a translator and journalist based in the Kurdistan Region. He has an MA in English Studies from the University of Lodz, Poland. He has translated several books and political literature into Kurdish and English. He writes regularly for local and international newspapers and journals.