When fans recall Al Jazira's first league champion-ship, in 2011, the names Ricardo Oliveira and Matias Delgado, Ibrahim Diaky and Bare are sure to be mentioned. As well as Subait Khater and Juma Abdullah, Khalid Sabeel and Abdullah Mousa.
Eventually, admirers of that attack-oriented team, who lost only once in league play, will get around to the goalkeeper, Ali Kasheif, who actually was Jazira's most valuable player. He made two or three impossible stops in every game, especially early in the season, when he turned in six clean sheets in nine outings and Jazira built an unassailable lead.
Kasheif is not a raving madman, like some keepers. He does not scream at defenders who are rude enough to allow a quality chance. He wears black, not Day-Glo orange. His quiet yet relentless excellence makes him easy to overlook – although it was a bit more difficult than usual today in an Asian Cup qualifier in Vietnam.
Make no mistake: it was Kasheif whose saves kept the UAE from defeat in a game the hosts dominated in the middle of the match. He seemed to make at least one save of every sort. The point-blank block. Catches from long range and short. Tips over the bar. Punch-outs. The fading stretch to parry a hooking shot. And, in the 86th minute, a violent dive to his left to push away a deflected shot.
UAE are becoming known for Omar Abdulrahman, Ahmed Khalil, Ali Mabkhout among others, but Ali Kasheif might be the hardest man to replace. We don't always notice. Mahdi Ali surely has.
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