Arif played for Zeytinburnuspor before signing his first professional contract with Galatasaray on 1 June 1991. He made 29 total appearances in his first season with the club, scoring four goals. Arif made fewer appearances the following season, providing four goals in 18 appearances as the club achieved a domestic treble (Süper Lig, Turkish Cup, and Turkish Super Cup). The next season, 1993–94, was Arif's most successful to date. His nine goals in the league helped Galatasaray earn another league title. Arif finished his first stint with Galatasaray after winning the 1999–2000 UEFA Cup, totaling six league titles, four cup titles, and four other cup titles.
Arif left Galatasaray for Real Sociedad at the start of the 2000–01. However, he regretted joining the club, saying "the only thing I wanted was to move to a European team... I didn't even think about it, I signed the first offer I received." Arif was plagued by injuries during his tenure, and he left the Spanish club after six months, scoring one goal in two appearances. He signed with Galatasaray on 14 November 2000. The following season, Arif won the Gol Kralı award, an award given to the top scorer of the Süper Lig, en route to his seventh league title with the club. Arif closed out his professional career with a Turkish Cup win in 2004–05.
Arif began his international career with the Turkey national under-21 football team in 1991, scoring one goal in 10 caps. He participated in the Akdeniz Cup with the Turkish Olympic team in 1993, and earned his first senior team cap in 1994. His senior international career lasted from 1994 to 2003, where he scored 11 goals in 60 appearances.