The 21-year-old was diagnosed with a heart disease that nearly ended his career.

It has been a week of resurgence. The resurgence of the national team, Igor Stimac and lastly, Anwar Ali. There are very few Indian football fans, who aren’t aware of Ali’s health condition, which nearly forced the teenager to stop his foray into the sport. The AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers have proved that Ali is not only a fighter off the pitch, but a dependable character on it as well.

It has been a brilliant comeback. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that Ali’s comeback journey will be at par with many celebrated Indian movies.

How the comeback started?

Way back in October 2019, the All India Football Federation barred Anwar Ali from playing the sport. The 19-year-old was suffering from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Many players around the world have heart issues, but are allowed to play. Unfortunately, fate didn’t favour Ali and he had to stay away from football.

Finally, in August 2021, the Indian starlet was allowed to get back into action by the apex body. Ali meanwhile, started his trade with Delhi FC. He played in the I-League Qualifiers and Durand Cup for the club.

Anwar Ali
Anwar Ali signed for FC Goa in January earlier this year (Courtesy: ISL Media)

At the fag end of the same year, there were reports that claimed that Anwar Ali would make a move to Indian Super League side FC Goa. Before officially signing for the club, the centre-back started training with the team for the task ahead. Finally, the club unveiled their new central defender on January 1, 2022.

Anwar expressed his aim, “Now my aim is to play again for my country because it has been a long time since I played for my country. If I will do well in the ISL, then I will get the opportunity to play for my country.”

Ali didn’t play against Kerala Blasters the next day. However, he made his debut in the next match against Chennaiyin FC. Notably, the lad won the “Man of the Match” in his very first appearance after the comeback. That’s how it started!

Donning the national colours

After a promising ISL campaign, Anwar Ali got a call for the national camp. On March 23, 2022, he made his debut in a friendly against Bahrain. However, his competitive debut came against Cambodia on June 8. He played all three matches in the campaign and elevated his experience with each and every outing.

Anwar Ali
Anwar Ali started all three matches for India in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers (Courtesy: Khel Now)

Meanwhile, his pairing with Sandesh Jhingan has attracted critics too. In football, it is necessary to field a destructive defender along with a ball-playing one. Jhingan and Ali seem perfect for India’s cause.

Ali’s first international goal came against Hong Kong, when in the second minute, he smashed a loose ball from a short corner into the top right corner of the net. It was nothing new, as he had scored four goals in seven matches in the I-League Qualifiers. He now proved in front of a wider audience that he’s not only a great defender, but also a threat at the other end!

What Next?

India have a lot of centre-backs in their squad. Currently, Ali’s challenge will be to fixate his position in the starting lineup. He has to keep in mind that Chinglensana Singh will soon be fit to play. Thus, in the upcoming matches for the country, he has to give his 100% effort in every fixture and training session.

Ali has a year left on his contract at FC Goa. As of now, there are no reports of the defender leaving the club. The new season will be starting in another few months. The Durand Cup will be commencing from August 16. Reportedly. FC Goa’s new tactician Carlos Pena will treat this tournament as a preparation for the ISL.

Anwar Ali has to make sure he draws Pena’s attention and wins his trust. FC Goa might sign two foreign centre-backs. Thus, Ali has to ensure that he performs better than the foreigners to grab his place in the first eleven.

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