As India reached the final round of the AFC Asian Cup, the players delivered a breakthrough performance throughout the tournament, reaching the final round of the AFC Asian Cup for a record second consecutive time ever.

A watershed moment in football for India, several players upped their mantle and performed at the biggest stage, proving themselves as worthy contenders for the future. The likes of Liston Colaco, Suresh Wangjam, Akash Mishra, Roshan Naorem, and several others shone bright when it mattered the most.

A player which stands out among these is Anwar Ali, who once on the brink of ending his career due to a heart condition, fought hard, climbed through the ranks, and made his name heard across the supporters in one of the most vital matches of all time by scoring the opening goal and leading India from the front.

Within the first two minutes of the match, the defender was in the right position to net the ball past the Hong Kong goal and put India in the lead in a match which India eventually won 4-0 in their final group stage clash against Hong Kong at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.

“It was a great feeling because I never thought I’d score a goal for India at a senior level where there are such quality players around me. This is a great day for me and my family and I’m very happy about it,” said Ali to Star Sports in an exclusive post-match interview. 

An ever joyous moment, it was even more special for Ali for a reason, that being, it unlocked his potential to continue his career in football which had once banned him from playing professionally. Suffering from Hypertrophic Myocardiopathy (where the heart muscle wall becomes abnormally thick and affects the pumping of the blood). The medics came to a conclusion that the 21-year-old couldn’t play again following which the AIFF (All India Football Federation) medical committee barred him from practising with a professional club.

Cut down to four years later, the boy from Adampur scored a goal for India, a feat which no one would have otherwise imagined to happen. After having shown promise with his ball-playing ability and other technical aspects in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season with FC Goa, he was selected in the squad by head coach Igor Stimac. Following which, he played three friendlies where Stimac found him bankable to start as a centre-back and did so in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.