As we continue sharing the stories of our fellow Beijingers, I have come to realize Beijing is what it is because of the many people here who make it special. One of these people is Abdinasir Ahmed, a Somali soccer player and soccer school co-founder who has been in the capital for nearly 30 years. But Abdinasir, who goes by Nasir, is more than just a footballer. He’s what I’d consider an ambassador of hope, togetherness, and cooperation, all qualities he exhibits in his job here at the Somali Embassy.
When did you come to Beijing and what brought you here?
I originally came here in 1992 in order to study at Beijing Sport University.
What are some of your first memories of arriving to Beijing?
We first flew to Dubai and then from Dubai to Beijing. One thing I will never forget is that in Dubai it was excruciatingly hot, and then arriving in Beijing it was extremely cold as winter was approaching. Such an incredible contrast in temperature from one destination to another.
Was the weather in your hometown much different than in Beijing, and if so, did it take you a while to adjust?
In my hometown, Mogadishu, it is sunny most of the time, and the temperature is usually somewhere in between 15 to 37 degrees Celsius year-round. The rainy season is from June to August, but in my hometown, we do not really have a winter like we have in Beijing. It took me at least a year to get used to Beijing’s weather.
Was there anything else it took you a while to get used to?
During my first year, the local food took me some time to adjust to, but as time went on I started to try Chinese food more, and now like it.
What is your hometown food like?
The food in my hometown is very similar to Arabian food, that’s why I consider 1001 Nights to be my favorite restaurant in Beijing. The food there reminds me of what I eat back home.
Did you imagine at that time that you’d still be here more than 20 years later?
No, my plan was to go home when I finished studying.
What’s changed the most since you first arrived?
Everything has changed. Especially the people. Locals are more open than they were back then, and they’re willing to have normal conversations with foreigners. Locals used to be very shy around foreigners. For example, in the past if I were to invite my Chinese classmates out for dinner, they’d say no. But all that has changed.
Are you still doing what you came here to do more than 20 years ago?
Well, I came here on a scholarship to study sports, and after graduating, I worked as a PE Teacher from 1998 to 2014. Then, some Chinese friends and I started a soccer school in Beijing called HI KICKER Football Academy. So, I’m still involved in sports, but it goes a little further than that now.
That is awesome! So when did you start playing football? And do you still play now?
I started playing soccer when I was five years old. Since then, I played a lot back home and while in Beijing. I also work with the IFFC League here in Beijing. The IFFC, or International Friendship Football Club, is a soccer league for foreigners established back in 1994. I played in the league from 1994 until 2015. I do still play too, four or five times a week. I would say soccer will always be a part of my life, whether its playing, coaching, or organizing.
So, is your whole life centered around soccer?
Well, not my entire life. Every Mondy to Friday, 9am to 4pm, I work at the Somalian Embassy as a coordinator and translator.
Can you share with us your three favorite places in the city (aside from your home)?
1. For bread I always go to Assaggi, a great Italian bakery.
2. 1001 Nights in Sanlitun.
3. Si De Park and Chaoyang Park, where I go to play soccer.
For the most part, I usually like to hang out in the Sanlitun area.
What are five of your most memorable experiences in Beijing?
Ha… There are so many, it’s hard to remember them all…
1. The first one was my graduation day!
2. Secondly, I know that whenever I leave Beijing, I miss it very much. So all of Beijing is memorable for me.
3. When my favorite soccer team, Beijing Guo’an, became Chinese Super League champions in 2009.
4. Last August my long-time friend Kagashani from Tanzania passed away in his home country, and we organized a soccer tournament to raise money for his wife and two children. We raised RMB 85,000 to help his family.
5. Meeting so many great fellow athletes and sports fans here who help one another, play together, and respect one another.
What’s one piece of advice you have for relatively recent arrivals (within the last year)?
Respect the rules and culture of this amazing country!