After October 2017, Anwar Ali became one of the most prolific prospects in Indian football. A ball-playing center-back itself is a rarity in the country. But to have one with such a matured head on his shoulders at 17, Anwar had already become a darling to the Indian fans.
Success followed too. After representing the country at the U-17 level in the FIFA World Cup, he also joined the senior team camp soon after. But everything came to a halt for Anwar Ali in 2019 when he was barred from playing football by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) after being diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardio Myopathy, a congenital heart condition.
Now, after a truckload of legal quagmire, on-field brilliance, and thorough determination, Anwar Ali is back playing football at the highest level. FC Goa roped in the 21-year-old on an 18-month-long loan move ahead of the winter transfer window. Finally, as the window opened on Juanary 1, Anwar Ali became eligible to represent the Gaurs in the upcoming matches.
The young center-back, with a wide smile on his face, addressed the press ahead of his new chapter.
"It was difficult for me when I got to know about my health problems. But on the field, I've never thought about these problems because while playing football, you only have to focus on the game. I had long waited for this opportunity to play in the ISL and I am glad that FC Goa signed me," Anwar Ali said.
After his ban, Anwar Ali was playing in local leagues in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Delhi. Anwar was part of the Delhi FC setup, owned by his mentor Ranjit Bajaj, before joining FC Goa. Asked how important the contribution of Delhi FC was in his journey, the young defender said:
"Delhi FC's contribution in my journey was very important because I didn't have any other option. After AIFF had banned me, Ranjit Bajaj helped me in playing wherever I did."
Anwar further opened up about his initial reactions when he found out about FC Goa's offer.
"Firstly, I got to know very late that I had an offer from FC Goa. Ranjit Sir told me there was an offer from an ISL club but didn't disclose which club it was from. But the day I found out about it, I was elated as I had been waiting for this day for a long time," he said.
Asked by Sportskeeda if there were any other ISL clubs in the hunt for his signature, Anwar Ali said:
"I don't know if any other clubs had made an approach because offers don't come directly to me. It would go to the team I was playing for. Ranjit Sir didn't tell me about the offers immediately because it could've distracted me. So he told me at the very last moment. I don't know if other clubs had made an offer, but Sir chose FC Goa for me. Because the kind of football they play, it's also the style of football I like to play."
Furthermore, in response to a Sportskeeda query about his interaction with new FC Goa boss Derrick Pereira, Anwar Ali said:
"I've played under him [Derrick Pereira] earlier at the U-23 level. He knows me, how I play and what I can do on the field. Right now, he hasn't given any specific instructions but has asked me to focus on defense."
"My aim is to again represent my country at the senior level" - Anwar Ali opens up about his future ambitions
Although Anwar Ali's ambition and potential are high, FC Goa have an incredible amount of quality, particularly in the center-back position, at their disposal. Asked if the young man felt he could make it straight to the starting lineup, Anwar Ali said:
"Yes, it will be tough to get into the starting lineup straightaway. To get a chance everyone in this team has to show they deserve to play. In defense, I'm not the only center-back, 6-7 are there. But if I play well whenever I get the opportunity, I'll obviously get a chance."
While there are still clouds of doubts around the role Anwar Ali will play at the club, the young defender has been incredibly appreciative of FC Goa.
"FC Goa has been supporting me since the very first day. They have treated me very well. If I get an opportunity to play, I'll obviously try to do well. This is a very good group of players, everyone motivates each other," he said.
The new year ushers in the hour of making and breaking resolutions. But Anwar Ali seems to be too determined a guy to be deterred from his aim.
"Now my aim is to again represent my country at the senior level. I haven't played for India in a long time. So my focus is to do well in the ISL and carve out an opportunity to play for my country."
Before ending the virtual press conference, Anwar Ali had one last message for FC Goa fans:
"My request to the FC Goa fans is that the team is now going through a phase of highs and lows, but they should stick by us and support us throughout. That's all we need."
FC Goa will next face Kerala Blasters on December 2 and if the stars align, Anwar Ali could start knitting the next chapter of his journey.
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