18 year-old Ali Husni is regarded as one of the most naturally gifted footballers in the Iraqi league and has been hailed as the future of the Iraqi midfield.
Al-Minaa Al-Basri have long been searching for the heir to the great maestro Hadi Ahmed of the 70s and 80s, and with this young starlet, the club may have finally found him.
Ali Husni Faisal was born in 1994, in the province of Basra and progressed through the youth ranks of the grand old Basra Port Club under the supervision of Mohammed Abdul-Hussein, and is in his first full season with the first team.
Last year, he was named player of the tournament at the Iraq School Championship, and lifted the cup for the Basra Tarbiya XI, with a 5-1 victory over Baghdad Al-Karkh XI.
He has rocketed to stardom this season, and the player credits God, first and his own perseverance, commitment and diligence, and the life long dream of donning the blue jersey of his hometown club, known to its clubs supporters as Al-Safana.
Ali, a self-confessed Real Madrid fan, incidentally wears the same number jersey of his idol and Madrid’s deadly rivals, Barcelona and Spain player Andrés Iniesta.
The boy from Basra, despite the passing of his father in February, has gone from strength to strength after the appointment of Ghazi Fahad as coach of Al-Minaa at the turn of the year and has become a permanent fixture in his starting line-up, netting three goals this season.
However it could all have been very different had he first taken the advice of doctors and hung up his boots.
At the start of the 2012-2013 season, the attacking midfield star had spent most of the early season on the sidelines with severe stomach pains and suffering from anemia, a decrease of red blood cells in his blood, which threatened his future in the game. Many at the club believed his football career was over.
Initial tests were not encouraging and doctors believed it would affect his physical abilities as a sportsman, however after treatment, his health gradually returned and after positive results, doctors gave him the all clear to resume training.
Al-Minaa had a poor start to the season and ended the first stage of the league with only 18 points, but are now riding high in 8th place. The player credits the new coach for the quick turnaround of results, noting the new found ‘team spirit’ and improving ‘attitude’ of the players in addition to the new tactics applied by Ghazi Fahad.
While he loves pulling on the blue shirt of his childhood club, Ali is looking to the future after a great season and has received offers from Al-Jawiya, Al-Talaba, Zakho and Basra rivals Naft Al-Janoub.
He was forced to turn them all down because of his contract with Al-Minaa, but would he consider moving to play for Al-Minaa’s neighbours Naft Al-Janoub.
Even if I move, Al-Minaa is my second home… I put Al-Minaa fans on my head (a gesture of respect), but this is what is required as a professional and if Naft Al-Janoub is a possible option, I will have to think about it.
The youngster has international aspirations, and after Hakim Shaker was forced to rebuild his youth team before the World Youth Championship in Turkey, with many of his players in Petrović’s national squad, Ali Husni has come to the fore, and may lead the Iraqi midfield.
However it seems that while the Iraqi fans see him as the future of Iraqi football, Hakim Shaker wants to stick with his own players.
I have been training for the last two weeks and the coach captain Hakim gave me the opportunity because of the Iraqi fans. Frankly, I imagine that the coach will base his side on the same players who took part in the qualifiers because he knows them but I hope that I will be one of the new additions and get an opportunity.
While gaining a call-up to the youth team, the star of Ghazi Fahad’s youthful side has already caught the eye of the national coach Vladimir Petrović, according to the player, however he doesn’t feel the time is right for him to make that step-up to the seniors.
“The national team masseur Abu Abdullah once told me that Petrović admired me, and it was very likely that I would be one of his selections, but in the future, I don’t currently feel that I’m ready to play for the national side. The reason is because I have not played for the nasheen (Under 17s), or the shabab (Under 20s) and it is difficult to go directly and play for the national team.”
However his remarks are not out of fear, as he explains “If I was afraid I would not have played for one top teams in the league, but I like to produce,” indicating to the interviewer that the national team is not something small or just talk.
Would he accept an invitation? “Of course, I would go, any player would be honoured to play for the national team, but it has its time, urgency leads to remorse.”
It will not be long before we see Ali Husni running the midfield of Asood Al-Rafidain as the national team’s new midfield general.