Ali Ashfaq

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Ali Ashfaq
Ashfaq 2015 Maldives.jpg
Ashfaq with Maldives during a World Cup qualifier in November 2015
Personal information
Date of birth (1985-09-06) 6 September 1985 (age 30)
Place of birth Malé, Maldives
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)
Playing position Forward
Club information
Current team
PDRM FA
Number 7
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2001–2005 Club Valencia 125 (110)
2006–2007 New Radiant 60 (40)
2007–2008 DPMM FC 7 (2)
2008–2011 VB Sports Club 40 (57)
2012–2013 New Radiant 51 (66)
2014– PDRM FA 58 (41)
National team
2006–2010 Maldives U23 7 (2)
2003– Maldives 73 (46)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 30 November 2015.
† Appearances (goals)

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 31 December 2015

Ali Ashfaq (born 6 September 1985), nicknamed "Dhagandey", is a Maldivian professional footballer who plays for Malaysia Super League side PDRM FA and the Maldives national team. He is a forward and serves as captain for Maldives. He is widely regarded as one of the best players in south Asia region along with Baichung Bhutia.[1][2] He is noted for his strength, amazing dribbling skills and the capability of beating any sort of defenders, according to many coaches. He is a free-kick specialist and a clinical finisher. His trademark style of scoring is beating couple of defenders and rounding off the keeper to score. He is considered as the best Maldivian footballer ever most notably when he was named as the "World's 2nd Best Top Goal Scorer" in 2013 by IFFHS.[3][4] He was also named as South Asia's Best Player in 2014 by eultimategoal.com.[5]

Ashfaq has been noticed by some big clubs in Europe like Portugal's Benfica, European giants FC Porto, Turkish club Bursaspor, and many clubs within the Asia, but he refused those offers.[6] However, he is the first ever Maldivian footballer to play abroad, and the only player to win a title with a foreign club. In November 2003, Ashfaq was honored with the most prestigious awards a Maldivian footballer would get, in the age of 18 – Maldivian Footballer of the year and Golden Boot Award in 2003 season.[7] With Club Valencia, New Radiant, VB Sports Club and PDRM FA, he has won Dhivehi League ten times, six FA Cup, four President's Cup, two Cup Winners' Cup, three Charity Shield, two POMIS Cup and one Malaysia Premier League.

Ashfaq began his professional career with Club Valencia, where he played for five years. In 2001, he won his first trophy, Dhivehi League. He was crowned as the top scorer of Maldivian football season in 2003, 2004 and 2005 consecutively. In 2006, he signed for New Radiant and won various trophies and he was named as Haveeru Best Footballer of the year in 2007 in his two year period with New Radiant. Ashfaq moved to Brunei's DPMM FC in October 2007, and he joined VB Sports Club after two months and stayed with them until 2011.[8] He again re-joined New Radiant in 2012, and during his time, he completed his 300th career goal and won all the domestic cups with the club in 2013 and moved to PDRM FA for 2014 season. In November 2014, Ashfaq won the Best Import Player Award in the Malaysia National Football Awards, for his outstanding performance with PDRM FA in 2014 Malaysia Premier League.

Ashfaq made his international debut for Maldives in December 2003, at the age of 18. He has since been capped over 70 times. Ashfaq is the Maldives' all-time top scorer with 46 goals. He scored his first international goal in 2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Mongolia, he scored four times in the match. In 2008, he won the Most Valuable Player award in 2008 SAFF Championship. He was among the Top 10 Players of Asia in 2008 and 2009.[9] He also was shortlisted among the Top 10 Players to watch by espnfc.com in 2012.[10] He took over captaincy in 2009, and he led Maldives to the semi-finals at 2009 SAFF Championship. In September 2013, he became the all-time top scorer of the SAFF Championship after scoring 10 goals in the 2013 SAFF Championship with altogether of 18 goals.[11] In May 2014, Ashfaq won his first medal as the captain of Maldives as they finished third in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.[12] On 31st December 2015, Ashfaq ended his last SAFF tournament from the semi finals after losing by 3-2 to India, remaining as the all-time top scorer of the SAFF Suzuki Cup with 20 goals.[13]

Early life[edit]

Ashfaq was born in Malé, the capital of Republic of Maldives, where he grew up with his mother and brother Ahmed Ashfan. He reputedly showed a keen interest in football since a very young age, and preferred playing football to attending school. He was the captain Majeediyya School football team when they played in the Inter school Football Tournament those years. The local football team, Club Valencia, took an interest in him, and in 2001 joined Club Valencia and thus started his professional football career.[14]

Club career[edit]

Club Valencia[edit]

2001: Beginning of club career[edit]

On 26 October 2001, Ashfaq played his very first match in 2001 POMIS Cup tournament against Thailand's BEC Tero Sasana FC, wearing the Club Valencia jersey for the very first time. Ashfaq got the opportunity in 2001 POMIS Cup, due to the three match suspension faced by Ali Umar. In that match, Ashfaq created wonderful chance to score a goal as he edged past two defenders and goalkeeper, but he left for Ali Shiham to score.

Ashfaq scored his first goal for the club after beating the veteran sweeper Kappi and his powerless shot went into the left corner of the net in the second match of 2001 POMIS Cup as Valencia beat Victory Sports Club by 1-0 on 30 October 2001.

In the semi final game of 2001 POMIS Cup, Ashfaq assisted Ali Shiham to score Valencia's first goal against FC Kochin of India. Valencia won the match by 2-0 against Indian side and guaranteed a spot from the POMIS Cup final that year.

In the 34th minute of POMIS Cup final, Ashfaq beat Katey and was left alone, but his shot was denied by Ismail Zariyand. Ali Umar came in for Ashfaq in the 53rd minute of the game. In front of 5819 spectators, Ali Umar scored the only goal of the match from the spot to name Club Valencia as the Champions of the 15th POMIS Cup.

2002[edit]

On 8th June 2002, Ashfaq netted his first goal of the season on their 5-0 win against Eagles. Ashfaq played his first international club tournament against Mohun Bagan of India in 2002-03 AFC Champions League Qualification on 9 October 2002. On the first first leg in Kolkata, Ashfaq leveled the game when Valenica was 2-1 down.[15][16]

On 21 August 2002, the youngster claimed his first hat-trick against Veymandoo Zuvaanunge Gulhun. Ashfaq managed to score 12 goals in his first full team debut season for Club Valencia.

2003[edit]

In the 2003 season at Club Valencia with 36 goals by his side he ended the season with the Best Player of the Season Award.[17]

2004[edit]

On 6 April 2004, Ashfaq played his very first match in a AFC Cup tournament against Hong Kong's Happy Valley AA and he netted a brace on that game which Club Valencia won by 2-1 in Maldives. However, Happy Valley AA beat Club Valencia in the second leg at their home by 3-1 on 21 April 2004. Though, Ashfaq managed to get his name on the score-sheet on that day.[18]

2005[edit]

He was the Top Scorer for three years in a row, scoring 37 goals in 2004 and 34 in 2005. By the age of 20 he had scored 110 goals for Club Valencia.

New Radiant Sports Club[edit]

For the 2006 season, Ashfaq joined New Radiant, who finished third place in the 2005 AFC Cup the previous year. In a team that included other notable players like Ibrahim Fazeel, Ali Umar, Sobah Mohamed and Ahmed Thoriq, Ashfaq could not maintain his high goal-scoring rate, and lost the Golden Boot to his teammate Fazeel. But he managed to score more than 40 goals during his time with the New Radiant. He played remarkably well and helped the Blues win many titles.

Brunei DPMM FC[edit]

In October 2007, Ashfaq and Fazeel both moved to Brunei DPMM FC, which competed in the Malaysian Super League. He was praised by the Malaysian media for his impressive performances. he made 7 appearances in which he scored twice. However he was reported home-sick and wanting to come back to Maldives. In 2008 he transferred from DPMM FC to the Maldivian VB Sports Club for a transfer fee of €13000. The Brunei side tried their best to hold the Maldivian striker but he chose to return to his homeland.

VB Sports Club[edit]

He joined VB Sports Club, and became the captain. In his first season, he couldn't manage to show his best potential. But in the second season with VB, he returned to the stage, scoring 33 goals for the club, and played a major role in winning VB, their first ever league title. In 2009, he was named Best Player of the Maldives for the third time, and top scorer and season's best player.

2010[edit]

In the season, due to numerous suspensions and injuries, caused him to miss a big part of the season, but still managed to score 30 goals. It was the first year in which, VB won the President's Cup. In the final, Ashfaq scored four goals, and made one assist in the 5–3 win over the local rivals Victory SC.

2011[edit]

Ashfaq kicked off the season with two goals in the Milo Charity Shield game against Victory on 13 February 2011. Their first victory of the season came on 30 March 2011, in Dhivehi League against New Radiant by 3–1, which Ashfaq managed to score once in the match. On 7 April 2011, he scored his first hat-trick of the season against Club Eagles on their 9–0 win in the league. VB were the champions of 2011 Dhivehi League with 47 points while he scored 14 goals in the league.

On 11 May 2011, Ashfaq scored his only goal of 2011 AFC Cup against Sông Lam Nghệ An in Vietnam. VB didn't advance to the knock-out stage of the tournament that year. In FA Cup final, Ashfaq netted four times to help VB win the championship after beating Maziya by 6–4 on 31 October 2011. In 2011 season, he scored 22 goals for the club.

For his impressive performance throughout the season, Haveeru named Ashfaq as Maldivian footballer of the year, while he also received 2nd best player of the season award from the Football Association of Maldives.

Controversies

From mid-2010 there were rumors that Ashfaq was having problems with VB Sports Club, and had started to miss practice sessions. The rumors were not believed until 25 February 2011, when VB announced that Ashfaq had been stripped of the captaincy only a few days after the club had won the Milo Charity Shield. Ashfaq said, "After yesterday’s practice I was informed that I am no longer the captain. Don’t know the reason now. But after the last season, I suggested the club to give the armband to someone else. I told them I have been wearing it for the last three seasons and believed it’s time for someone else to take the responsibility. But the club refused at that time and told that I should keep the band".[19]

Ashfaq then went missing shortly before the team went to Indonesia for the AFC Cup 2011 opener against Sriwijaya F.C., and the club failed to locate him before their departure. According to Haveeru news, Ashfaq said later that his reason for not going was that he considered the club to have restricted his rights.[20]

Return to New Radiant[edit]

2012 season[edit]

Ashfaq rejoined New Radiant on 19 December 2011, after being released by VB Sports Club. In season 2012, New Radiant faced VB Sports Club in the first game of the league and Ashfaq managed to score a hat-trick against his previous club. Ashfaq helped New Radiant win the league and to get qualified for the 2013 AFC Cup.

New Radiant also won the President's Cup title after beating Victory Sports Club on penalty shoot-out. Ashfaq netted just one goal in President's Cup, and he totally scored 22 goals for New Radiant in 2012.

2013: 100% winning record[edit]

Ashfaq had a challenging, impressive but also one of the successful season with New Radiant in 2013. Ashfaq's first goal of the many came on his first game of the season. He scored the opener from the spot in the FA Charity Shield victory over Maziya by 3–1. In the first game of the league, Ashfaq scored 4 goals for the blues in their win against VB Sports Club by 4 goals to nil.

On 5 March 2013, New Radiant played Sun Hei SC of Hong Kong in the 2013 AFC Cup. Mohamed Umair scored the only goal for New Radiant from a good ball delivered by Ashfaq. New Radiant packed three points in home and departed to Indonesia on 12 March 2013, for their second match in AFC Cup against Persibo Bojonegoro. Ashfaq scored five times against the Indonesian side and caught worldwide attention.[21][22] On 3 April 2013, Yangon United defeated New Radiant by 2 goals in Myanmar.[23]

Ashfaq suffered a soft tissue injury (left hamstring muscle) and missed two matches in a row in 2013 AFC Cup against Sun Hei SC and Yangon United. Ashfaq recovered from injury and came back for New Radiant on 16 April 2013 against Eagles in the league and scored once.[24][25] On 1 May 2013, Ashfaq scored a hat-trick against Persibo Bojonegoro in home.[26] He also scored his 300th career goal in the 80th minute from the spot in the same match.[27] He had scored 5 goals against Persibo Bojonegoro in the earlier encounter.[28][29] No other player except Lionel Messi and Ashfaq was able to score 5 goals in a continental tournament.[30] Ashfaq has managed to score in every AFC Cup that he participated, since 2004, becoming the top scorer of Maldives in the competition, also becoming the first Maldivian player to score five goals in two consecutive AFC Cup tournament. New Radiant beat Malaysia's Selangor by 2-0 in the extra time and qualified to the Round of 16.[31] New Radiant was knocked out of the tournament after losing to the champions of 2012 AFC Cup, Kuwait SC from both legs in an aggregate of 12-2. Ashfaq scored 1 out of 2 goals against Kuwait SC after penetrating the defense line in the first leg in home.[32]

New Radiant announced just before the President's Cup final that the club has decided not to renew the contract with Ashfaq as he wanted to play for a foreign club in 2014.[33] For the last game of Ashfaq before departing to Malaysia's PDRM FA, many supporters were present at the National Stadium to bid farewell for the national captain. Ashfaq scored one-last-goal for New Radiant in the final minutes of the game. Maziya was defeated by 4-2 in the final of President's Cup.

In 2013 season, Ashfaq scored a remarkable 44 goals for the blues and won the best player and top scorer award in that year. New Radiant finished the season with a 100% winning record.[34]

PDRM FA[edit]

2014: MPL Champions and Best Foreign Player in Malaysia[edit]

On 10 December 2013, Ashfaq scored his first unofficial goal for PDRM FA in a friendly match against Penjara, where the match ended with 2-0 for PDRM. He continued his impressive scoring form with PDRM in pre-season tour held in Indonesia from 12 December 2013 to 19 December 2013. He managed to score one goal in each match against Persitara North Jakarta and Kwarta. He also scored twice against Persires Bali Devata FC in a friendly game. PDRM participated in an invitational tournament "Trofeo Persija 2014" on 28 December 2014. PDRM lost two games of the tournament against host team, Persija Jakarta by 2–1 and Arema Cronus by 2–0. He was already adjusting to the game of PDRM on the tournament.

Ashfaq made his official debut for PDRM on 21 January 2014 in 2014 Malaysia FA Cup against KL Spa. He also scored his very first competitive goal for PDRM FA in that match.[35] On 27 January 2014, Ashfaq scored his first goal in Malaysia Premier League against Penang while PDRM beat them by 7–1. On 14 February 2014, He scored his first hat-trick in the league against Perlis. His second hat-trick in the league came on 28 March 2014 against Kedah. PDRM released Ashfaq on 19 April 2014 to participate in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup with Maldives national football team. He returned to Malaysia to join the club on 31 May 2014. He missed two matches from the Malaysia Premier League on that period.[36]

On 20 June 2014, Ashfaq won the 2014 Malaysia Premier League with PDRM and became the first ever Maldivian player to win a title in abroad. He scored 17 goals for PDRM in 20 matches in the league. He continued to impress Malaysian football fans later in the Malaysia Cup as he scored twice against the Super League side, Sime Darby in their first match in the tournament. On 20 August 2014, PDRM surprisingly won the second game of the

"I am really thankful to the management of the club for the trust on me and giving the chance to stay with them for another two years. It was the best offer for me and my career, so I decided to stay with the them." – Ashfaq told to media after renewing his contract with PDRM FA

group stage against Malaysian football giants, Selangor in a score-line of 2–0 while Ashfaq scored broke the deadlock from the spot for a foul on him. Ashfaq netted thrice in the last two games against T-Team in the group stage of Malaysia Cup and helped PDRM to finish the group at the top. PDRM were knocked out of the tournament after losing to Pahang on aggregate score of 3–2 in Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

On 13 November 2014, Ashfaq won the "Best Import Player Award" in 2014 FA Malaysia Football Awards. He scored 27 goals from 30 matches in his first year in Malaysia.[37]

Ashfaq renewed his contract with PDRM for two years on 20 November 2014.[38]

2015: Top 3 Best Foreign Players in Malaysia[edit]

PDRM camped in Hong Kong in December 2014 and played two friendly games against Pegasus and Hong Kong Rangers. Ashfaq managed to score a goal against Pegasus FC during the tour. In January 2015, PDRM travelled to Maldives for an invitation from Maldives FA to play in the 2015 POMIS Cup.[39] PDRM played their first game in POMIS Cup against Ashfaq's previous club, New Radiant, and won the match by 1–0.[40] PDRM's drew with Maziya by 2–2.[41] In the last game on group stage, PDRM won the last game of the group stage by 1–0 after beating the Malaysia Super League side, LionsXII and secured a place from the final of POMIS Cup.[42] PDRM came to the finals with no goal from Ashfaq. But, after an exciting game, PDRM won the final match by 5–4 after beating Maziya in the extra time with a hat-trick from Ashfaq and won the 2015 POMIS Cup title.[43]

Ashfaq and the team were not lucky enough to kick-off the Malaysia Super League with a win. Even though they lost to LionsXII in the first game in Singapore,[44] But, PDRM beat the defending champions of the league, Johor Darul Ta'zim, by 1–0 at home.[45] He scored a brace against Kelantan as they beat The Red Warriors by 4–0 at Kota Bharu.[46][47][48] On FA Cup Round of 32, Ashfaq broke the deadlock against Sabah while PDRM won the game by 3–0 and advanced to Round of 16 of the FA Cup.[49] PDRM lost to Sime Darby by 4-2 on Round of 16 game. Ashfaq suffered a hamstring injury in his right leg while playing against Perak on 14 March 2015 and missed the game against Sarawak.[50] Ashfaq came back on the field on 11 April 2015 and he managed to score a goal against Felda United FC.

On 18 April 2015, PDRM won against Sime Darby by 4–1 and Ashfaq netted twice in Selayang. PDRM kept the winning ways as they beat Terengganu at home by 3–0, with Ashfaq netting once. In match day 16, he scored the only goal for PDRM against Selangor which ended as 1–1 draw. It's again Ashfaq got injured after Selangor game and missed the match against Sarawak at Kuching. He also missed the away game against Terengganu on 22 August 2015 due to injury. Ashfaq scored the last goal for PDRM in 2015 Malaysia Super League in their win against ATM on 22 August 2015. Ashfaq scored 10 goals from 17 matches in the league.

Ashfaq scored 3 goals from 6 matches in Malaysia Cup against Pahang, Penang and PKNS FC in Group D.[51][52][53] PDRM knocked out from group stage of the tournament.

On 14 December 2015, Ashfaq was nominated with Dickson Nwakaeme of Pahang and Luciano Figueroa of JDT for the Best Foreign Player Award in Malaysia Football Awards 2015.[54]

2016[edit]

PDRM announced that Ashfaq will stay with them for 2016 season – the final year of his contract with the club which made on 2014 for two years on 17 December 2015.[55] PDRM played two games on their pre-season in Bangkok, against Osotspa Samut Prakan and Bangkok Glass, which they managed to draw by 1–1 and won 2–1 to Bangkok Glass.

International career[edit]

Ashfaq started his international career in 2004 being part of the Maldives senior national team.

2005: First SAFF Championship[edit]

Ashfaq lost his place for the 2003 SAFF Championship National Squad to his fellow national team striker Ahmed Thariq. Ashfaq's first SAFF Championship was the 2005 South Asian Football Federation Gold Cup in Karachi. He managed to score two goals against Afghanistan and one against Sri Lanka in the group stage. Maldives were knocked out by India in the semi-final.

2008: SAFF Championship glory[edit]

Maldives and Sri Lanka co-hosted 2008 SAFF Championshi, in which Maldives won their first ever SAFF Championship title. Despite his goalless run throughout the tournament, Ashfaq assisted six goals for the side and was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.[56] As a result, he was included in the list of www.goal.com's Asia's top ten performers of 2008.[57]

2009: SAFF Championship finalists and captaincy awarded[edit]

Ashfaq became the captain of Maldives national football team at the age of 23, in 2009.

During the 2009 SAFF Championship, Ashfaq as the team captain scored three goals. Maldives lost the title to India in the final after penalties. Ashfaq was the runner-up to Most Valuable Player of the tournament and but was voted the best player of the tournament by the Bangladeshi media.

2011: SAFF Championship semi-finalists[edit]

The 2011 SAFF Championship was hosted by India, and all the matches took place in New Delhi. The Maldivian side went to the tournament with high hopes after replacing their Argentine coach Diego Cruciani with their previous 2009 coach Istvan Urbanyi. Maldives with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh was placed in what was called the Group of Death. Maldives' first match was against Nepal. In the final minutes of the first half, Ashfaq scored with an brilliant world-class long range shot, which was also praised by the international media as the best goal of the tournament. The match ended in a draw. The Maldives–Pakistan match also concluded as a draw, but was criticized for an average performance. Maldives were knocked out in the semifinal by the eventual winners, India.

Ashfaq was included in the "Eastern promise: Ten to watch in 2012" shortlist by John Duerden of www.espnstar.com.[58]

2013: Record breaking year[edit]

Maldives played their first friendly match of 2013 against Pakistan in which the Maldivian drew by 1–1. However, in the second match Maldives won by 3 goals, out of 3 Ashfaq scored 2. His 1st goal was the most notable as he dribbled past 3 defenders and the goal keeper as well.[59]

In the 2013 SAFF Championship held in Nepal, Ashfaq scored 6 (double hat-trick) vs Sri Lanka.[60] Maldives won the match by 10–0, breaking their own record of winning with the biggest margin set in a 9–1 win against Afghanistan in 2005. In the 10–0 thumping of Sri Lanka, Ali Ashfaq beat Lionel Messi's record of scoring 5 goals in a continental tournament match. Moreover, Ashfaq set himself another record by being the all-time top scorer of SAFF Championship with 14 goals in total. He continued his fantastic form and scored 4 in the 8–2 thumping of Bhutan.[61] With this, Ashfaq has 18 goals in the SAFF Championship.

2014: First ever AFC medal for Maldives[edit]

In the opening match of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup against Myanmar, Ashfaq set up Mohamed Umair for a goal and scored the final goal himself in a 3-2 defeat.[62] He continued his fine form with two goal in a 2-0 win over Kyrgyzstan.[63] In the last match of the group stage, Maldives drew 0-0 with Palestine and secured a place from semi-final. Even with the greatest skill of Ashfaq, Maldives lost to Philippines by 3-2 in extra time[64] and had to play third place play-off. Maldives and Afghanistan fought for the third place until the 120 minutes of the game which ended as 1-1. Maldives beat Afghanistan on penalty shoot-out by 8-7 and won the first ever medal from an AFC tournament, also the team played under the captaincy of Ashfaq.[65]

2015: Last SAFF Championship[edit]

Maldives played Tajikistan on 26 March 2015. Ashfaq was sidelined as he was recovering from a hamstring injury he sustained in Malaysia Super League.[66] Tajikistan beat Maldives by 2–0 at National team.[67] In Manila, on 3 September 2015, Maldives was beaten by Philippines in a friendly game which ended as 2–0.[68][69][70] FAM gave rest to Ashfaq on this match because he had to play competitive matches too tightly in Malaysia Super League.[71]

Maldives were grouped alongside Qatar, China, Hong Kong and Bhutan in Group C in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualification (AFC) round 2.[72] On 11 June 2015, Maldives played their first game of the qualifiers against Qatar in home and was narrowly defeated through a 99th-minute goal by 1–0.[73] Later on 16 June 2015, Maldives lost to Hong Kong by 2–0 away from home. Both of the matches, he was not in a good form.[74] Ashfaq could not participate in the China game due to some personal reasons, which Maldives lost to China in a 4–0 score-line in Shenyang.[75] On 8 October 2015, Ashfaq scored a hat-trick against Bhutan in their home and came off the pitch on 59th minute which ended as 4–3 to Maldives.[76][77] Maldives lost their home game against Hong Kong by one goal on 12 November 2015.

On 26 November 2015, Ashfaq announced that 2015 SAFF Suzuki Cup would be his last edition of the tournament before his retirement from international football.[78][79][80][81][82][83]

Maldives camped in Malaysia to prepare for the SAFF Suzuki Cup on 13 December 2015.[84] Maldives played several matches during the camp, including the game against Ashfaq's club, PDRM FA.[85]

On 24 December 2015, Maldives faced Bhutan on their first game of 2015 SAFF Suzuki Cup. With 63% possession of the match, Maldives beat Bhutan by 3-1 as Ashfaq scored a stunner after beating couple of defenders outside the area.[86][87] In the second game of the group stage against Bangladesh, Maldives won narrowly by 3-1 score line after scoring two goals during the late minutes of the game.[88][89] Ashfaq scored a penalty against Bangladesh on 26 December 2015.[90] Ashfaq came in to the pitch as a substitute player in the 76th minute on 28 December 2015, which Maldives lost their first game against Afghanistan by 4-1.[91][92] On 31 December, Maldives got narrowly beaten by the rivals India by 3-2 in the semi finals of the SAFF Suzuki Cup and got knocked out.[93][94]

2016[edit]

Ashfaq announced that his club, PDRM, didn't release him to national team to participate in 2016 Bangabandhu Gold Cup on 5 January 2016.[95]

Player profile[edit]

Style of play[edit]

Ashfaq plays an attacking role, most often playing as a striker. He is frequently cited as "South Asia's best attacking player", he is known for his dribbling ability, agility, speed, on-ball skills and powerful shooting as well as accuracy in passing and shooting. He is predominantly a left footed player, though, he is also able to control the ball and finish well with his right foot.

A prolific goalscorer, being more of an individualistic attacker. He is famous for rounding off goal-keepers and scoring, also for his flair in beating players during one-on-one situations and while penetrating defense lines. He is an extremely fast player with great acceleration, which made him a threat for opposing defenses when he undertake individual dribbling runs mostly during through balls and counter-attacks. His great pace and technical ability enable him to undertake individual dribbling runs towards goal, usually starting from the halfway line, either sides or center of the pitch. He is also a strong and powerful player who could shield the ball from the opposition.

From a tactical standpoint, He usually plays in a free role. He is capable of attacking on either wing or through the center of the pitch. He could manage himself effectively in limited spaces, and would attract defenders only to quickly dash out of the melee or give an assist to a free teammate.

Reception[edit]

Ashfaq has, however, been criticized for his poor work-rate during some big matches with Maldives.

Exhibition matches[edit]

Exhibition matches table as of 5 November 2015
Date Location Head coach Opponent Result Goals
27 May 2015 Shah Alam Stadium Malaysia Dollah Salleh England Tottenham Hotspur 1–2 (L)[96]

Malaysia XI vs Tottenham Hotspur[edit]

Former PDRM FA and Malaysia national football team coach, Dollah Salleh gave chance to Ashfaq to take part in the Malaysia XI match against English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur FC when FA Malaysia decided to include 4 of the foreign players currently playing in Malaysia.[97][98][99][100]

"Ali Ashfaq was the best foreign player in the Malaysian league last season and I know the extent of his abilities" – Dollah Salleh

"It's an honor for me. I want to justify Dollah's decision by scoring and helping the team to win. Training has been good and we are working well with each other." – Ashfaq

Key Battle

Fourfourtwo.com's key battle for the Malaysia XI and Tottenham Hotspur game was Malaysia XI's striker Ali Ashfaq and the Spurs' Belgian born defender Jan Vertonghen.

"Long hailed as one of the best foreign players in Malaysia in recent years, Ashfaq will get to test his ability against arguably one of the best defenders in the Premier League, Jan Vertonghen (if both start the match as predicted). As Tottenham have strong players on both flanks, it might force Malaysia XI wingers to take on a defensive approach, leaving the Maldivian as the creative lynchpin to supply the ball to Paulo Rangel, who is likely to start the match and face the taller and more physically imposing Federico Fazio. Knowing Ashfaq, he will drift all over the place and exploit any room which is vacated by the Tottenham's marauding full-backs, so the Belgium international has to keep an eye on him."[101]

The match

Ashfaq played for his official number "7" on the match and he was a favorite of the match.

As expected, Ashfaq kicked off with the Malaysia's in Shah Alam Stadium. Regardless of the less balls supplied for Ashfaq during the first half, coach shifted to his original place in second half. With this change in the game, Ashfaq was brought down by Tottenham defenders for a couple of times while he was dribbling past them. He had been a threat for Tottenham's defense line, even though he couldn't find the back of the net during the 90 minutes.[102]

Maldivian local channels broadcast live this historical match to let all Maldivians dream come to true – to see Ashfaq playing against a European club.[103][104]

Malaysia XI vs Liverpool FC[edit]

In July 2015, Ashfaq got chance to play for Malaysia XI against English Premier League side Liverpool FC. But unfortunately, he suffered a leg injury while he was practicing in Male' with Maziya to maintain fitness during league break.[105][106]

Outside football[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Ashfaq became a father on 21 October 2006 following birth of a son. The child, Mishal was born in the capital of Maldives. After his second son, Vishal's arrival on 14 October 2014. Then it was Eashal, who was born in Malaysia on 1 July 2014.

Philanthropy[edit]

Ashfaq met a boy with down syndrome during a practice session. He made the boy's dream come true of meeting him and gave a jersey to the boy in a function organised by New Radiant on 29 September 2013.[107]

On 15 August 2014, Ashfaq donated one of his football boots to support the Palestine Relief Fund set by Maldivian Red Crescent. His boot was auctioned to raise funds to help the people in Palestine.[108]

Commercial endorsements[edit]

In January 2013, MILO unveiled Ashfaq as their brand ambassador in Maldives.[109][110] According to Milo, under the ambassadorship program he will feature in the advertisements of Milo in the Maldives. These include TV commercials, billboards, posters and road shows and events conducted by Milo.

In May 2013, Maldives Olympic Committee appointed Ashfaq as their sports ambassador.[111][112][113] He also received Maldives government's green passport as he became the ambassador of Maldives Olympic Committee.[114][115] "This is a great success, an honor. I will work with the government and sports associations to improve and promote the Maldives sports sector. I would like to thank senior members of the Olympic committee for this great honor. I am very pleased." – Ashfaq said to media.

Ashfaq became the brand ambassador for State Trading Organization's local brand "Noo-Fahi" for two years in August 2014.[116] Zott Yogurt appointed Ashfaq as their ambassador in Maldives in 2014.

Career Statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of 24 December 2015. [117]
Club statistics
Club Season League Cup[a] League Cup[b] Asia Other[c] Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Club Valencia 2001 Dhivehi League 4[d] 1 4 1
2002 14 11 0 0 2 0 2[e] 1 5[f] 0 23 12
2003 19 19 4 3 0 0 6[g] 9[h] 32 32
2004 11 20 3 4 1 0 6[i] 3 1[j] 3[k] 23 30
2005
Total 44 50 7 7 3 0 8 4 16 12 125 110
New Radiant 2006 Dhivehi League
2007
Total 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 60 40
DPMM FC 2007–08 Malaysia Super League 7 2 7 2
Total 7 2 7 2
VB Sports Club 2008 Dhivehi League
2009
2010
2011 13 14 2 4 3[i] 2 1 2 19 22
Total 13 14 2 4 0 0 3 2 1 2 19 57
New Radiant 2012 Dhivehi League 18 21 1 0 2 1 21 22
2013 18 31 2 0 2 3 7[i] 9 1[l] 1 30 44
Total 36 52 3 0 4 4 7 9 1 1 51 66
PDRM FA 2014 Malaysia Premier League 20 17 4 1 6 6 30 24
2015 Malaysia Super League 17 10 1 1 6 3 4[d] 3 25 17
2016
Total 37 27 5 2 12 9 4 3 58 41
Career total 93 95 10 6 16 13 10 11 6 6 322 316
  1. ^ Includes the Maldives FA Cup and Piala Malaysia
  2. ^ Includes the President's Cup and Malaysia Cup
  3. ^ Includes the FA Charity Shield, Cup Winners' Cup and POMIS Cup
  4. ^ a b All appearances in POMIS Cup
  5. ^ All appearances in AFC Champions League Qualification
  6. ^ one appearance in FA Charity Shield, four appearances in Cup Winners' Cup
  7. ^ one appearance in FA Charity Shield, four appearances in Cup Winners' Cup, four appearances in POMIS Cup
  8. ^ two goals in Cup Winners' Cup, seven goals in POMIS Cup
  9. ^ a b c All appearances in AFC Cup
  10. ^ one appearance in FA Charity Shield, two appearances in Cup Winners' Cup
  11. ^ All goals in Cup Winners' Cup
  12. ^ Appearance in FA Charity Shield

International[edit]

As of 31 December 2015. [118]
National team Year Apps Goals
Maldives U23 2006 3 1
2010 4 1
Total 7 2
National team Year Apps Goals
Maldives 2003 3 4
2004 4 3
2005 4 3
2006 0 0
2007 2 1
2008 7 0
2009 9 6
2010 1 0
2011 16 6
2012 6 1
2013 7 14
2014 5 3
2015 9 5
Total 73 46

Appearances[edit]

Result list in Maldives home for all games

Goals[edit]

Scores and results list Maldives' goal tally first.

Honours[edit]

International[edit]

Club[edit]

PDRM FA

New Radiant Sports Club

VB Sports Club

Club Valencia

Individual[edit]

  • Maldives National Youth Award: 2014
  • www.eutimategoal.com's Best Player of South Asia: 2014
  • Special Recognition Award by FAM for becoming Malaysia's Best Import Player of the Year: 2014
  • Malaysia's Best Import Player of the Year: 2014
  • Haveeru Special Award for becoming the World’s 2nd Best Top Goal Scorer of the Year: 2013
  • IFFHS World’s 2nd Best Top Goal Scorer of the Year: 2013 (23 goals)
  • SAFF Championship Dream Team: 2013
  • All-time Top Scorer of SAFF Championship: 2013 (18 goals)
  • New Radiant SC’s Supporters Player of the Year: 2013
  • New Radiant SC’s Excellence Award: 2013
  • New Radiant SC’s Best Goal of the Season: 2013 (against Persibo of Indonesia in AFC Cup)
  • New Radiant SC’s Best Player of the Season: 2013
  • Top 10 Asian Player to Watch: 2012
  • Bangladeshi Media’s SAFF Championship Player of the Year: 2009
  • Fans' Favorite Player of South Asia: 2009
  • Top 10 Asian Players of the Year: 2008, 2009
  • Most Valuable Player of SAFF Championship: 2008
  • Top Scorer of SAFF Championship: 2005, 2013
  • FAM Best Player of the Year: 2004, 2009, 2011 (2nd place), 2013
  • Haveeru Golden Boot: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013
  • Haveeru Maldivian Player of the Year: 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013
  • Maldivian Top Scorer of the Season: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013

Records[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]