Kriralok Desk: Ali Ashfaq shocked the football world in 2013. Every year, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) selects the best goalscorers in world football. Where Ashfaq surprised everyone by occupying the second place after Cristiano Ronaldo.
The ‘IFFHS’ Striker of the Year takes into account national team and continental club level goals. Ali Ashfaq scored 23 goals in 2013. Out of which his number of goals in international matches for Maldives was 14. And he scored 9 goals at the AFC level for the New Radiant Club of his country. Portuguese superstar Ronaldo had 25 goals. He scored 16 goals for Real Madrid club and 9 goals for Portugal in the UEFA organized tournament. Ashfaq beat famous footballers like Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the award of ‘IFFHS’.
Ashfaq scored 10 goals in the 2013 SAFF tournament. Which is a single season record in South Asia’s best football tournament. Ashfaq owns the highest 23 goals in SAAF history. 18 goals India’s Sunil Chhetri is in the second position. Ashfaq’s Maldives won the SAFF title twice.
In 2001, Ashfaq started his club career as Valencia himself. Since 2007, he has played in Brunei’s Muda Makhota Football Club. He also played in the Police Club of Malaysia. 37-year-old Ali Ashfaq is now playing for his country’s club Eagles.
Ali Ashfaq scored 398 goals in 442 matches in his club career. Besides, he scored 58 goals in 97 international matches for his country. Currently, Ashfaq is ranked 10th in Asia’s all-time best international goal scorer list. At the top is the former great Ali Daiyi of Iran. He is still ahead of Harry Kane and Olivier Giroud in the number of international goals.
In 2014, Ashfaq was selected as the best foreign footballer in the Malaysian League. In 2008 and 2009, he ranked in the top ten in the list of the best footballers in Asia. He has won the Maldives best goalscorer award seven times. He has been selected five times as the best of the year in Maldives. He became the only Maldivian footballer to be the top scorer and best player in the SAFF Championship. Made the first international hat-trick for Maldives.
In 2014, the Malaysian police team played a major role in winning the league title. Ali Ashfaq scored the second highest goal of the season with 18 goals. Edward Wilson of Liberia was the top scorer with 19 goals. He has competed with footballers from Brazil, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Nigeria and Spain. He was the only player to score two hat-tricks in the entire tournament.
Ashfaq not only made Maldivian football proud, but introduced South Asian football. After Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013, Ashfaq’s place in the list of ‘IFFHS’ is a big event. But Ashfaq himself never wanted to be a footballer. His coming to football is accidental. His brother Ashfan used to play school football. Ashfaq used to study in the same school. One day, his brother’s team was short of players and he was called. He was only 9 years old then.
But talent cannot be hidden. So he was found by Valencia when he was only 16 years old. His sudden debut is for that club. The influential footballer Ali Umar was banned for three matches in the domestic cup tournament of Maldives. Ashfaq got a chance in his place. Ali Umar was later elected vice-president of the Maldives Football Federation.
Ali Ashfaq can be called a complete footballer. He played not only the forward position, but also as a winger. If necessary, he performed his duties in the midfield. Put on the number seven jersey and beat the field. His speed, dribbling and incredible ability to score goals – easily set him apart from others on the field. That is why any foreign opponent takes a separate check before taking the field against Maldives to stop Ashfaq. South Asian footballers have a weakness in free-kicks. But Ashfaq has developed his own identity as a free-kick specialist.
India’s Sunil Chhetri is ahead of Ashfaq in international goals in South Asia. His number of goals is 86 in 133 matches. As a player of India, there is no doubt. But Ashfaq is ahead of Chhetri in the number of goals throughout his career. Chhetri scored 302 international and club goals. Ashfaq’s club football score is 398.
Ashfaq is also ahead of others as a leader. He served as the captain of the national team for a long time. Ashfaq’s presence in the field means that the team is energized. Be it club football or international competition. Ashfaq’s mentality is as hard as steel in the field. That’s why he is called ‘The Man of Steel’.