The defender has implored the authorities to let him continue playing despite suffering from a rare heart condition.

From herding cattle in Punjab to taking the pitch and scoring a long-distance free-kick against Argentina at the Estadi Municipal Els Arcs on August 6, 2018 and playing a World Cup in between, the journey of Anwar Ali has been nothing short of a trailblazer. After two years since the match against Argentina, he stands at the cusp of giving up on what would have looked like a glittering career – one that started well only to end abruptly.

Anwar Ali has been diagnosed with a rare condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), which makes heart muscles unusually thick and affects the pumping of blood. The condition was traced during a Mumbai City FC medical check-up, who then sent him to France. The youngster was on contract with the Islanders, which has now been broken mutually.

AFC and AIFF have both advised the 20-year-old to not play competitive football again, and according to some reports, the AFC rulebook does not stop the player from playing. UEFA, however, bans players with the above-mentioned condition. MLS, the American football league, allows players with HCM to participate as well.

Professor F. Carré- Head of Sports, Medicine at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Rennes in France, the doctor who diagnosed Anwar, said that basketball players in USA play with this heart condition. He says, “It would have been easier if Anwar was 35 years old. The risk, in that case, would have been for an year or two. But he’s 20 and has a career of at least 10 years.”

On being quizzed whether this condition has a medical treatment or drug, professor Carré outrightly denies. He says that there are anti-arrhythmic drugs, but they are not very good for physical performances. 

Currently with Mohammedan Sporting club, Anwar Ali is waiting for his future to be decided by the Federation. On September 24, he wrote a letter to the AIFF asking for an official copy of the decision made by the AIFF Medical Committee. Anwar wrote –

I have come to know that AIFF has already decided that I should not be allowed to play professional football in view of my heart disease. It’s very disheartening to know that neither was I called to the hearing nor was I allowed to adduce any type of evidence.

I have not even been given an official copy of the decision of the Medical Committee and I only came to know the same through digital media.“

Anwar Ali rebuts that he has passed several medical tests in the past, one even conducted by FIFA (prior to the World Cup) and this condition should have been discovered and barred him from playing had it been so grave. He played several tournaments for Indian Arrows and even joined the NT camp, showing no symptoms whatsoever. His doctors, too, suggest that he’s asymptomatic, but still have advised him to participate in low-risk sports.

The confusion, for Anwar Ali, began when some doctors in India allowed him to play, with yearly screenings and precautions like AED while training and during matches. All I-league, ISL and Second Division League matches have an AED and a person trained to run it available.

Khel Now understands and opines that medical conditions should not be taken lightly at any level. We also believe that FIFA should have universal rules clearly laid down for cases such as this, saving a player from incertitude.  AIFF should have acted more swiftly, and not allowed the situation to continue in limbo.

The Federation should not just advise Anwar Ali to give up that sport that made him an overnight star, but give him options to participate in other areas of the game that continues to pay him to earn his livelihood. Khel Now sources have revealed that two MLS clubs are keenly looking at the situation, and could offer him a trial. Our sources have also revealed that he has an offer to join an ISL club’s coaching team, and the onus now lies on the player, who’s waiting on AIFF’s decision.

ALSO READ: Report: AFC suggests ‘not allowing’ Anwar Ali to play competitive football

Football at the top level pays much more than coaching or any other aspect of the sport, but it would be ill on the player’s part to ignore his health. Khel Now also propounds that a Central government job arranged by the Federation can also be a viable option, but Anwar Ali doesn’t have much education to back his credentials on that footnote. However, it is one option that will mean he has security for the future and would help him move on in life.

Khel Now further suggests that the player must not look at the situation emotionally but holistically and choose an option that gives him financial security for the future, while also allowing him to be there to support his family.

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