Hussein Ali could be Gulf Cup hero for Iraq

Iraq's midfielder Hussein Ali (L) vies for the ball against Yemen's midfielder Abdulwasea Al-Matari during their 2017 Gulf Cup of Nations group match at Al Kuwait Sports Club Stadium in Kuwait City on December 29, 2017. / AFP / Yasser Al-Zayyat
Updated 02 January 2018
0

Hussein Ali could be Gulf Cup hero for Iraq

KUWAIT: Hussein Ali has cemented his place in the Iraqi national side after making his debut only four months ago and is now the darling of his nation’s fanatical supporters after his outstanding performances at the 23rd Gulf Cup in Kuwait, where he has picked up the man-of-the-match award in each of the three games he has played in. He is on course to be named the player of the tournament.

Iraq’s great footballer Ahmed Radhi, who scored Iraq’s only goal at a World Cup finals, told Kuwaiti TV sports show Lobby Khaleeji that he’s the one player who gets him out of his seat,“like Messi when he gets on the ball for Barcelona and causes havoc in the penalty area.”

Hussein, 20, has the world at his feet and reportedly has several contract offers from top Saudi and Qatar clubs, however he’s not always been in such demand. A gifted footballer in his youth, he was often overlooked by youth coaches because of his height. Standing at a mere 5ft 3in, he struggled to make the cut ahead of more physically developed players.

This could have stalled the careers of many others, but not Hussein, a player that was destined to make it as a footballer. If you ask him what he fears most about life, he will tell you, the only thing he fears is failure, which is why he gives every inch on the field and is never one to give up or concede defeat. That overwhelming determination to succeed has seen him win both a league and cup winners’ medal by the time he had turned 20 and he is now a regular in Iraq’s senior side.

Growing up, the Al-Zawraa No. 9 was always seen by his coaches as a gifted footballer and the young Hussein has seen and traveled the region, playing football for teams in youth tournaments. At just 12 he was part of a 22-man Iraqi Under-14 squad that participated at the Asian Under-14 Games in Doha where he met and took a memorable photo as a memento with Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud, then a player at Al-Gharafa. Hussein was one of the youngest players in the squad but eight years on, he is the only member of the side to have made it at the top level in the Iraqi league.

He was born in Baghdad on Nov. 29, 1996 and comes from Al-Sadr City, “the city within a city.” The player started in the youth system of Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya for their Ishbal or cubs team until he enrolled at the Ammo Baba Football School. There he was trained by the Habib Jafar, a former player of the tournament at the Gulf Cup and also a native of Al-Sadr City. Like his mentor, Hussein began his career as a right winger but he is more than just a right sided attacker. Hussein has a versatility to his game and has already proven that he can play anywhere in midfield, whether it be in the center, out-wide on either wings or as a playmaker.

What strikes you when you first see the youngster is how he never seems overawed whatever comes before him, whether it is the dreadful state of the pitches in Iraq or the occasion, a league game in a provincial town or a big city derby against the local rivals, Hussein gives everything on the pitch. He is the type who would dribble past every player on the opposing team and either finish promptly past the keeper or pass it to a team-mate for an easy tap-in. A complete street footballer, or shaabiya as you would say in Iraq, he is equally capable of winning the ball back for his team with a lunging tackle and score a last-gasp winner from the edge of the box.

Like many talented players of his stature, Hussein has a low center of gravity and another thing that is noticeable are his powerful thighs, obviously something he has been working on in the gym. This makes it almost impossible for taller and more physical defenders to knock him off the ball. The midfielder has incredible stamina and rarely does he exhibit any exhaustion or break a sweat when he comes off at the end of the match, despite covering every blade of grass.

What is evident is that there is a lot more to come from this exciting young playmaker and Hussein could be the key to Iraq winning the Gulf Cup for the first time in 30 years.


Maurizio Sarri wants to meet Eden Hazard to discuss Chelsea future

Updated 18 July 2018
0

Maurizio Sarri wants to meet Eden Hazard to discuss Chelsea future

  • Maurizio Sarri says Eden Hazard is one of the top two or three players in Europe and he wants to meet the Belgium forward
  • Hazard is taking time off after the World Cup along with Belgium teammate Thibaut Courtois

LONDON: Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri says Eden Hazard is one of the top two or three players in Europe and he wants to meet the Belgium forward face-to-face to discuss his future.
Hazard said at the World Cup in Russia that “it might be time to discover something different“ after spending the last six years with Chelsea. He has been linked with a move to European champion Real Madrid, which recently sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.
Hazard is taking time off after the World Cup along with Belgium teammate Thibaut Courtois, whose future is also the matter of some debate.
Sarri says he doesn’t just want to phone the players who have yet to return to preseason training because a “telephone call without looking in their eyes will not give any certainty. I want to meet them face-to-face and understand what’s the best thing to do for everyone.”
Sarri says Hazard is “one of the top two or three European players,” adding that he hopes “to improve Hazard but that will be difficult.”
In his first news conference as Chelsea coach since joining from Napoli, Sarri said he will play in a “slightly different way” to predecessor Antonio Conte, who won the Premier League in his first season and FA Cup in his second after changing to a three-man defense.
Chelsea has already signed holding midfielder Jorginho from Napoli this offseason. Sarri says he would like more quality in the midfield area to fit his preferred approach, while adding that he could also adapt to the players he currently has in the squad.
Chelsea didn’t qualify for this season’s Champions League.