Benji Ashtar sat in his family’s kitchen as he found out his new high school was called Denmark, like his father’s native country — where his parents met and where he was born in 2005.
Now, after playing a season with the Danes, Ashtar has the opportunity to move back to the country Denmark for an opportunity to play professionally.
“This is like a good step to play for the national team,” Ashtar said. “If I go play for this team in Denmark, get scouted and am offered a contract, then you know it's a good step in that direction.”
Spending the first five years of his life in Denmark, no sport was more popular than soccer for Ashtar. His grandfather, whom Ashtar will live with while in Denmark, played in Israeli leagues while growing up, so Ashtar was dribbling a soccer ball as early as 2 years old.
Ashtar and his family moved from Denmark to the United States in 2010. As Ashtar continued to progress at the sport, his father realized more and more that playing professionally in Denmark was an opportunity.
“To make the team, it's like 20 percent connections and then like 80 percent from the clips I send,” Ashtar said. “I sent some of my high school clips from Denmark and some of my old club clips, but my dad was in talks with the team pretty much the whole time.”
Ashtar will join Aalborg BK in Aalborg, Denmark. Depending on how he plays during his time, he could gain a contract on the professional level team with more doors opening up to eventually make the Danish national team.
“It's a really good experience for me to go over there,” Ashtar said. “European soccer is a lot different from American soccer. I haven’t seen my grandparents in a while and they’re super excited about watching me because they’ve never seen me play. Just getting the opportunity to go over there and play for my home country makes my family pretty proud.”
Though he has not seen much growth in his game from playing at the club level, Ashtar said his season at Denmark High School prepared him perfectly for the move across the ocean.
“Playing at Denmark has gotten me a lot more playing time, making me more comfortable on the ball,” Ashtar said. “I've learned a lot from a tactical standpoint and have just been given overall confidence. This was my first year on the team and it was a really good experience. They're really friendly and awesome and made me feel at home.”
The rest of Ashtar’s immediate family will stay in the Denmark High School district. This will allow Ashtar to continue doing online school at Denmark while he chases his dream of playing professional soccer.
The food and the colder weather get Ashtar excited about making the move, but he is even more excited about dedicating a majority of his time to getting better at the sport he loves.
“I like finding flaws in my game,” Ashtar said. “It is like being able to improve something in soccer is really fun. Coming out and practicing by myself and seeing improvements in-game motivates me.”
In his one season at Denmark, Ashtar was a second-team All-County selection and was one of the fastest players in the county. He helped lead the Danes’ offense to a Final Four appearance in the Class 7A tournament, the furthest run in Denmark history.
“I want to make my hometown proud,” Ashtar said. ”It's kind of ironic I'm playing at Denmark High School. I think I had a decent record and helped them go decently far. I want to be remembered by my pictures in the school yearbook for sure and have people say, ‘That’s Benji.’”