Chennaiyin FC forward Rahim Ali has received a call-up to the Indian national team ahead of the Hero Intercontinental Cup in June. Igor Stimac has released a list of 41 players for the National Camp, which is scheduled to begin in Bhubaneswar on May 15.

Ali, who last played for the Blue Tigers in March 2022 during friendly games against Bahrain and Belarus, is among the players returning to the squad. The forward has scored six goals and provided one assist for the Marina Machans in all competitions this season.

Ali has not had the best start to his national career as he only has one assist to his name from six appearances so far. But he will surely make the most of this opportunity and impress Stimac, as India continues to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar next year.

The 23-year-old reckons the call-up has come at the right time and is ready to grab any opportunity that comes his way. 

“Definitely, this is the perfect chance at the very right time. I missed the previous National Team camp due to an injury. I am thankful to Igor Stimac for keeping his faith in me and giving me a chance. I am now looking forward to fully utilizing this opportunity,” Ali said in an interaction with Khel Now.

Sunil Chhetri, the constant presence in the Indian national team, will lead the squad from the front. Ali, who has idolized the Indian skipper throughout his career, acknowledges how Chhetri's presence motivates him in every aspect of the game.

“Chhetri Bhai is someone who has been an idol and has inspired me a lot. His presence is something that pushes me to do better,” he said.

The competition for the forward line will be intense, as it includes the likes of Manvir Singh, Sivasakthi Narayanan, and Ishan Pandita. However, the Chennaiyin FC forward is not concerned about the challenge to his starting position, as he believes that the competition with other players is actually beneficial for everyone.

“We have a lot of good strikers in the team and it will not be an easy task. But I believe a better company and competitive colleagues help every one of us to grow. And I am eyeing to work hard and bring my best for my country. The rest I guess will follow,” opined Ali.

The forward has labeled Pritam Kotal as one of his best ‘critics’, who will join the preparatory camp after a successful season with ATK Mohun Bagan.

“Pritam Da is one of the seniors who always keeps me pushing and I guess is my best critic,” he said.

Ali will be accompanied by his club teammate Anirudh Thapa, a regular starter under Stimac, in the national camp. He has also talked about his growing partnership with Thapa, who has been a tremendous source of support for him throughout the years.

“(Anirudh) Thapa has always been a great support on and off the pitch. We have been sharing the dressing room for a long time so naturally, we push each other,” Ali concluded.