Sam Asfahani is a busy man. Invoices for exorbitant amounts of money swamp his desk and he is in the middle of training a new batch of University Sports captains up to the standard required by BUCS. You sense that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Despite the intense schedule and challenges that he is facing over the coming year he is upbeat and ambitious, clearly at home in the role of Sabb Officer.
“I’ve been settling in great and the team has been really useful. It’s great having experienced hands on board like Tim (Ngwena, YUSU President) and Ben (Humphrys, YUSU Academic Affairs Officer). It takes us a while to know the job, and not just the job but the Union, and having them around has meant a really good dynamic.”
It’s typical of Asfahani to want to hit the ground running. There were plenty of sceptics when he said that York would have a full size, 3G pitch in the pipeline by the time he left office but his ability to dare to dream is having a dramatic effect on sport at York.
This year all 3,500 York Sport members will be issued with a York Sport Discount card entitling them to discounts at 8 clubs, bars and restaurants. For the former Langwith Chair it’s about giving something back: “It’s little things but its trying to make people feel like they are actually part of something.”
Another section of the York Sport Community imperative to Asfahani’s vision of the future are elite athletes. As a former British International American Footballer the pressures of sport at the top level are familiar to him. During his election campaign he spoke of the importance of making those who represent their country feel valued and supported.
“It’s little things but its trying to make people feel like they are actually part of something.”
Now, thanks to a grant of £6,000 a year for three years from the alumni fund, Asfahani will be able to do just that , as he sits on the board that will decide which individuals to allocate grants to.
“It’s just us doing what we can to help our international athletes” he says. “We’re proud of all of them and it about time we started giving back to people who are playing at the top level.”
This kind of cultural shift in the University attitude toward the sporting elite will be difficult to change at an institution unashamedly more concerned with its academic capabilities but this, at least, is a start.
Asfahani has the uncanny ability of truly understanding the needs of sport at its highest levels without being remotely exclusive in his attitude to participation.
The professionalism that has seen him move to help those at the top of the sporting pyramid has also led to him re-arranging BUCS fixtures to give the weary 22 acres pitches as much time to recover as possible during the winter months. By the same token he speaks with pride of York’s record of “some of the highest participation in the country” and is effusive in his praise of the College Sport system.
Promoting the dual aims of improving York at the highest level while giving back to every York Sport member right down to intermittent gym users will be difficult, but a challenge that he will undoubtedly embrace.
Whatever happens over the coming year it is inconceivable that Sam Asfahani will be resting on his already notable laurels. This is a job that he has had his eye for a while but, comfortingly, it seems that his drive to be York Sport President comes from a real desire to implement his vision.
Whilst some candidates for sabbatical position have been accused of careerist tendancies, no such charge can be levelled at the man currently leading York Sport. Asfahani is the real deal. There is one point in the interview where his positive, proactive philosophy is exemplified best as he simply says: “This is a year that we can really push it.”