Qatar forward Almoez Ali stole the show at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, where he led his country to their maiden continental title.
The 24-year-old’s goal scoring prowess in the winning run put his exceptional talent in the limelight, raising expectations for a brilliant future.
Following the start of his recent partnership with Red Bull, Almoez discloses key things in his life that are of interest for every professional footballer.
In an interview, the Al Duhail forward speaks about his early days, how his career developed, the lessons learnt from various experiences, his future prospects and the focus on Qatar’s participation in the 2022 World Cup. Excerpts:
Q: How did you achieve success at such an young age?
As a young football player, I had big dreams to become a star like the Qatari players I used to watch, such as Khalfan Ibrahim, Hassan al-Haydos and the top scorer Sebastian. My ambition was to reach that level of accomplishments. With the help of God, I was able to achieve such scores and even more. This was the fruit of the collective efforts of the team I play with, who helped me reach to the top.
Q: Was qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup your first achievement?
Qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand was the actual kickoff of my career. We had in fact won the AFC U-19 championship, and reaching the World Cup was a dream come true. The last time the national team had qualified for the World Cup had been before 28 years, and I had the honour of being the team’s top scorer in the U-20 World Cup, when I was only 19 years old.
Q: What about your experience with the Aspire Academy?
The Aspire Academy phase was very important and tough for me as a player at such a young age. We’d have high level, intense, tough morning and evening drills day-in day-out, with players that were all of a professional level, and played with major clubs, while I played with a minor team. There was a great gap in terms of training capacities, and I had to work twice as hard to come close to my Aspire teammates. It was tough, but the level of the training and the coach’s guidance were very useful. The team also helped me enhance my skills.
Q: Can you describe what you felt when you joined the Red Bull team that brings together Qatar’s legends in the world of sports?
It is wonderful to join the Red Bull athletes’ family alongside the sports legends here in Qatar. I am so glad to be part of the RedBull family, and happier still to know that a giant world-class company, known for its support for sports and athletes all over the world, has got my back. I am extremely proud to be in the same team alongside my brothers, namely my superhero and Rally legend Nasser al-Attiyah, the High Jump icon and 2x World Champion Mutaz Barshim, the exceptional squash star Abdullah Tamimi, as well as e-Sports FIFA Champion Ahmad al-Meghessib. Barshim and Tamimi used to be my classmates in Aspire Academy, and I’ve seen with my own eyes how Red Bull took them under its wings.
Q: Has being the top scorer in the Asian Cup put you under additional pressure?
I was only 22 years old when I became the best scorer in Asia. I am now at the age of 24, and during these two years I’ve learned that psychological pressure is no myth, though it can be relieved with concentration and continuous work. I will be focused on winning, and seizing all the opportunities for that end. The title itself has caused me a lot of psychological pressure at first to be honest, but it was eased with time, and I can now play with much more tranquillity and self-control.
Q: Have your European experience improved your skills?
My experience in Europe was indeed very beneficial. At a young age, I got to travel to Belgium, Spain, and Austria, and this had a great impact on me and taught me self-reliance. I was learning something new every day, such as discipline, commitment to the team, teamwork, and modern football that is played differently than in Asia in terms of offence, ball possession, attacks through half-chances, dealing with the rival team’s strengths and weaknesses, and many other European tricks.
Q: You must be eagerly looking forward to represent Qatar at the 2022 Word Cup. What are your plans for that?
Competing in the World Cup has been my dream ever since I was a child. It is the most exciting event that every football player wishes and dreams to take part in. The best thing about this 2022 World Cup is that we will enjoy home advantage and we will be playing among our own football fans in Qatar. My dream is to show an excellent performance with the team and for myself. To achieve that, my plan is to keep learning more and more every day, in order to present a special and honorable performance level for my team and my country at the World Cup.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2020