Minerva Punjab will cross swords with Iran's Saipa FC on 12th February at the Takhti Stadium in the 2019 AFC Champions League Qualifiers. The team currently sits 10th in the sixteen-member Persian Gulf Pro League and is being marshalled by the legendary Ali Daei.
Born in Arbdail and graduated from the Sharif University of Technology, Ali started his professional club career with his hometown club Esteghlal Ardabil in 1998. His performance with Bank Tejarat caught everyone's eyes as he scored 49 goals in 75 matches.
Debuting for his country in the 1993 ECO Cup against Pakistan, Ali had been a regular and prominent member of the senior national team as well. In the Asian round of the 1994 FIFA World Cup Qualifications, he was named as the top scorer with four goals in five matches.
Then 27, the striker would score eight goals in the 1996 AFC Asian Cup, helping Iran to reach the semi-finals of the tournament and becoming the record highest goalscorer in the history of the tournament. The record was kept intact for 23 years before being broken by Qatar's Almoez Ali in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
The world witnessed took note of his goalscoring prowess and a move to Europe soon became a question of when rather than if. Ali Daei signed with then Bundesliga club Arminia Bielefeld for the 2017-18 season. Having scored 7 goals in 26 matches, Bayern Munich roped him for the next season.
Representing the Bavarians 23 times in the Bundesliga and scoring six goals, Ali Daei helped Bayern Munich win the league that season and also become the first Asian to play in the UEFA Champions League in the process.
Wanting more playing time, he penned the deal with Bayern's crosstown rivals Hertha BSC for whom he scored a brace against Chelsea and a solitary goal against AC Milan in the 1999-2000 UEFA Champions League.
His phenomenal goalscoring exploits in the national colours didn't end with the 1996 AFC Asian Cup sojourn. He represented Iran in the 1998 and 2006 FIFA World Cup but couldn't score a single goal. Ali Daei scored seven goals in the 1998 Asian Games, where Team Melli won the gold medal and helped his side reach the quarter-finals of the 2000 AFC Asian Cup. He was also a part of the bronze-medal winning 2004 AFC Asian Cup squad and scored his 109th and last goal against Costa Rica in an international friendly match in 2006.