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The beast that is Ali Adnan

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Ali Adnan of Iraq kicks during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Asian Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Iraq at ANZ Stadium on June 18, 2013 in Sydney, Australia
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 18: Ali Adnan of Iraq kicks during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Asian Qualifier match between the Australian Socceroos and Iraq at ANZ Stadium on June 18, 2013 in Sydney, Australia

The breathtaking and scintillating performances of Iraq’s No.3, the indomitable lion, Ali Adnan, have been the highlight of the Iraqi Shabab (“youth”) team’s matches at the FIFA World Youth Cup in Turkey.

His goal against England, that brought Iraq level at 2-2, epitomised his never-ending dynamism and drive, in the 93rd minute of the game, he cut inside from the by-line, bamboozling the opposition with his trickery, before darting past the English defence and blasting the ball past the keeper.

His eagerness to get down the flank with his marauding runs; the ability to strike the ball from anywhere outside the penalty box with such ferocity and accuracy, and his all-round physical superiority over his competitors have caught the attention of observers at the tournament, and there have been rumours that scouts from clubs from top European leagues have been watching the 20 year-old.

Ali Adnan Kadhim Nassir Al-Tamimi was born in the Iraqi capital on December 19, 1993.  The attack minded left back comes from strong footballing stock with both his father and uncle having played at the top level during the 1970s and 80s.

His father Adnan had played for the Iraqi youth team in 1977, and won the AFC Asian Youth Championship in Tehran, and was a part of the squad of the first Iraqi youth side to play at the World Youth Championship in Tunis, that same year. However, even though he played for first division clubs Al-Shabab, Al-Tijara and Al-Rasheed, he never made the accent from club football to senior international football.

His uncle, Ali, is considered one of the best strikers in the history of the national team, and like his nephew had a sweet left foot, which earned him 35 goals for the national team, from 1970 to 1980, which was national record until Hussein Saeed broke it in 1982.

Ali regards his father as his idol and teacher in both life and sport, always emphasising the importance of committing to training and respecting others, believing that football gives to those who give all. Throughout his career, his father has been by his side and is often seen at the Nadi Baghdad stadium watching his son from the sidelines.

From a every young age, his father had drilled into his son, the need to strike the ball the hardest possible and attempt shots from outside the penalty, an attribute that his father and his uncle had been known for in their playing careers, and now a trait and legacy that Ali has continued.

Baghdad-born Ali Adnan is a graduate of the prestigious Ammo Baba Football School, situated opposite the Al-Shaab Stadium, where he spent the early part of his football education.

In his five years at the school, and despite being one of the youngest kids at the time, he excelled and progressed from the Baraem (“Buds”) and Ishbal (“Cubs”) teams. The player sees his time at the school as an important foundation of his career and a key part of his development.

He moved from the school, to one of Iraq’s top clubs Al-Zawraa Sports Club – joining one of the best youth set-ups in the country, and also his uncle’s former club, playing at nasha’een (Under 17) level and then the youth team. After spending a season in the youth team at city rivals Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, he transferred to big spenders Nadi Baghdad.

There he first played for the club’s youth side and was invited to the senior team by head coach Yahya Alwan, at a relatively young age but because of the depth in the squad, he returned to the youth set-up.

It was only after Karim Kurdi was appointed head coach of the club in 2010, that Ali became a regular with the seniors.  

The coach was able to give the attacking left sided player the confidence in his own abilities and Ali went from strength to strength, dislodging his idol and team-mate, the Iraqi international Basim Abbas on the left flank, first at club level and then with Iraq.

On December 3, 2012 at the age of 18, he announced his arrival on the international stage when he made his debut for the national side against Bahrain in Doha. In the process, Ali became the first graduate from Ammo Baba’s football school to play for the senior team, only eleven years after the foundation of the school.

The player had not been selected by Brazilian coach Zico prior to the Bahrain game, but after he left the job, due to a dispute over unpaid wages, Hakim Shaker, Ali’s youth coach, was appointed to take charge of the senior side, and his first decision was to take the step to call-up the left back for the game.

His display cemented his place as the best left back in the country,  winning plaudits for his displays at the WAFF Championship and has gone onto play eighteen times for the national team, with a minor blip in Changsha when he was sent-off in the recent Asian Cup qualifier against China.

There has also been foreign interest for the player. During the 2013 winter transfer window, the player received an offer from Saudi club Al-Ittihad of Jeddah, to replace Croatian player Anas Sharbini. However the deal fell through when his agent was unable to complete the transfer. The player had been expected to fly to Saudi Arabia to hold negotiations but obtaining a visa to Saudi Arabia would have taken two days and the transfer window would close on the following day, so the deal could not be completed.

In Iraq’s five matches in Turkey, the left back has been head and shoulders above anyone else on the field, and if he continues to get better, Ali Adnan could be playing in one of Europe’s top leagues in the near future.

A bright future beckons for the young star.