The son of avid soccer players, Jennifer and Rami Alafranji, Zade has been dribbling and kicking since he learned to walk. His father, who emigrated from Saudi Arabia as a teenager, owns a soccer shop in Davis. His mother played at University of California, Davis, where the pair met. They met playing soccer.
So it’s no wonder that their children are huge fans of the game and quite talented at it, too. And yet, they are dedicated Waldorf parents, which might seem conflicting with a goal of encouraging their children to take their athletic talent as far as it could go.
Zade played competitive soccer throughout middle school and as a Sacramento Waldorf School freshman, he played on the school team while also playing on a travel team. A defender, he says he loves the competitive aspect of the sport, he loves winning, and he loves the thrill of playing soccer.
None of that diminished when he joined the no-cut, all-are-welcome team here. It was the power of relationships that made the team strong, and successful, Zade notes.
“As a freshman, a lot of seniors really took me under their wing,” he says. “It made things a lot easier integrating into the school, building those social interactions.”
“When you’re at school, playing sports, you’re always going to have fun,” he says. “Being on the school team gives you the opportunity to really cement relationships with those people you’re going to school with. It’s a fun environment where you really get to play for your school.”
The last two years, travel soccer overlapped with the school’s season, so Zade opted to play basketball in his off-season, which added fun and variety to his athletic efforts.
“After school, having that extracurricular opportunity at school with people you know, I’ve built a lot of really strong relationships through that,” he says. “You can always continue sports outside of school, but when you play on your school team, you deepen your connection to your school in powerful ways.”
Zade is humble in his storytelling, and almost won’t admit that he played on the Nor Cal State Team that took 22 California teen soccer players to the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden. His team beat England in the finals. Read more about the Gothia Cup.
And, he might not mention that he was one of 31 boys selected nationwide by Generation Adidas Select International, to practice with the Real Madrid Academy at Real Madrid City in Madrid, Spain.. He casually shares that he played against and got to know teen soccer stars from all over the world.
What he’ll say is that soccer is fun and exciting, no matter where he plays, because of the opportunity it gives him to meet great peers, make new friends, and hone his skills. That camaraderie, that friendliness, that easy-going humility, all comes from the Waldorf approach to athletics, where everyone is welcome and encouraged. Zade is truly a soccer star; but he won’t be the one to toot his own horn. He just wants to get out on the pitch and kick the ball.
Early into his senior year, Zade verbally committed to attend Macalester College in Minnesota to play soccer. He’s excited. “The academics are so strong, and I feel prepared both academically and athletically to pursue going to a school like that,” he says.
We know he’ll go far.