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Azil Jahanbakhsh

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Azil Jahanbakhsh was born and grew up in Iran, but, after the tragic death of his older brother, moved with his family to Germany to have a fresh start. In Germany, he was discovered as a soccer star and moved to New York to play soccer, where he would settle down and start a family.

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On June 14th, 1963, Azil Jahanbakhsh was born. Coincidentally this is the same day as Flag Day, and Also Donald Trump’s Birthday. Azil was born in Tehran, which is the capital city of Iran. He grew up in a two parent household, with both of his parents being educators. His mother’s name was Nayereh Kabiri and she originally spoke Farsi. She was a sports instructor and also a women’s volleyball and basketball coach at a local club in Iran. Azil’s fathers name was Vahedy. He originally spoke Turkish and had a career as a school teacher, then he soon became the school’s principal. Ultimately, Vahedy worked for the Department of Education in Iran. All-in-all, Azil came from what he stated as a average middle class background.

In 1976, his family endured a life changing tragedy. When Azil was 12 years old, his 18 year-old older brother, Attila Jahanbakhsh, passed away in a tragic car accident. This tragedy hit his family hard, but it especially impacted his father. Nayereh was completely shook at the whole incident, which caused him to become nearly mute for over 6 months and talked to nearly no one. After about a year after the accident had occurred, his family had a meeting. This was when Azil’s father broke it to the family that he felt like he should leave Iran and begin somewhere else, where everything was new and would be a fresh start for him.

So, in 1977, both of Azil's parents retired from their jobs and their family departed to Frankfurt, Germany. When they arrived, Azil was only in 8th grade and spoke absolutely no German. His family lived there for just over 4 years, and Azil eventually caught on to the German language. In June of 1981, Azil graduated from a high school in Frankfurt. Right after his graduation, his father decided that wanted to move back to Iran to be with his family and speak his original language. At the time, the Iran/Iraq war was taking place. His father told Azil that he was his son and he would take him with him, but that he was strongly against the decision. This was because Azil would have most likely been drafted into the Iranian Military. Still being only 18 years of age, Azil was beyond nervous and took a couple of days to think over the decision. He then asked his father, “since you gave me this opportunity, what would you have done if you were me?” His father replied with “Go to Australia”. After this, Azil and his father went to the Australian embassy and applied for immigrant status. At the time they were only taking certain amount of formalities and they put Azil in a line waiting to see if he would be able to move to Australia.

In the meantime, Azil was a big time soccer player for his high school in Germany. Luckily, his coach used to play for a 3rd league German team in Frankfurt and knew an American scouting coach. This scout visited Frankfurt and attended one of Azil’s games. He was very convinced that he wanted Azil to play for him at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. So right after the game. Azil explained how:
[Azil speaking] “My coach came and told me, he said ‘hey, this guy says he’s interested in you if you want to go to college in the US’”
He bent down, tied his cleats, and accepted the decision by the time he stood back up.

Although he had never been to America, His thoughts towards the country were very positive. He had watched the 1980 Olympics, which was the same year where the Miracle on Ice took place. While living in Germany at the time, he still pulled for United States in the Russia vs. United States hockey game, while his father was pulling for Russia. Furthermore, the soccer scout was willing to help Azil financially so he took the opportunity he was given. Immediately after this, Azil went to the United States Embassy in Frankfurt and applied for student visa but was denied twice. The second time he went, the gentleman working for the embassy told him:
[Azil speaking] “There is still hostages in Iran and we do not want no Iranians in this country”.

So, Azil called the U.S. soccer scout back and told him that he was very thankful for the offer he was given, but that he was not going to be able to make it due to the US Embassy’s policy. The scout luckily knew a senator in New York who was possibly going to be able to help Azil out. This senator sent a letter to the U.S. embassy in Frankfurt and Azil explained how:
[Azil speaking] “The whole mood changed; they gave me a visa within half an hour.”

So, on August 20th, 1981, Azil was off to the United States. He flew into the New York’s JFK airport. When arriving to the United States, he was completely confident in his English tongue due to the fact that while he was in Germany, he studied four years of the English language. Although, once he got to America:
[Azil speaking] “I thought my English was very good until I came here; I had a hard time understanding.”
This was due to the rapid pace that Americans spoke at. From the airport, his college was over 200 miles away. He expressed his arrival to America by stating,
[Azil speaking] “I got lucky.”
This was because, once Azil arrived in the United States, he went directly to the State University of New York in Plattsburgh and was playing soccer, which made him have a much more welcoming and enjoyable experience.

Azil found friends very quickly. Part of this was due to his teammates and captains, who helped make his arrival feel a lot more normal and fun. Azil explained how culturally, there was a lot of differences from the life he lived before. He was use to the European lifestyle and atmosphere, which was a lot different, but not necessarily in a good way. He stated how he was treated a lot like a foreigner and outsider while living in Germany. The change between moving from Iran to Germany was described as being just as big as the change from Germany to the USA. Part of this is due to the fact that while he was in Germany, he lived with his parents; who still had Iranian culture all throughout their household. Within the time period of living in three different countries, Azil described America’s foundation as, “the easiest lifestyle by far.”

When the time came in 1988, Azil had 2 kids, a daughter named Janelle and a son name Keon. Although Azil was eligible to declare U.S. citizenship by the time he was 23 (which was in 1989), he waited until he was 31 (which was in 1998). Azil explained how his Father, Vahedy, who sadly died in 1992, did not want Azil to declare his American citizenship. Azil states how:
[Azil speaking] “He begged me; he said please don’t do it.”
He did this because of Iran’s policy of not recognizing the dual citizenship process at the time. Because of this, his father was worried that Azil would not be able to go back to Iran under any circumstances. Azil finally decided that America was going to be the place where he would live out the rest of his life, so by choice, he became a citizen of the United States of America in 1998. Two years after this, on September 10, 2000, his last son named Mateen Jahanbakhsh, whom is now one of my great friends, was born. From living in three different countries by the time he was 19, playing college soccer, and having three amazing children, Azil’s journey has undoubtedly been one to remember.