x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Glove story behind rise of stopper Ali Kasheif

Had Ali Kasheif remained a defender he might never have made it as a professional footballer at Al Jazira and would probably still be living in Fujairah.

Al Jazira's Ali Kasheif only donned the gloves when his goalkeeper was sent off in an Under 12 match.
Al Jazira's Ali Kasheif only donned the gloves when his goalkeeper was sent off in an Under 12 match.

Had Ali Kasheif remained a defender he might never have made it as a professional footballer and would probably still be living in Fujairah.

But a twist of fate forced him to take up duties between the posts in an Under 12 match for Fujairah FC after his team's goalkeeper was sent off - and the club did not have a replacement on the day.

And that is when his journey as a goalkeeper began.

Kasheif was encouraged by Abdulmoula Keishar, his Egyptian coach at that time, to continue with his new role and he soon progressed through the ranks at the club.

He became Fujairah's first choice stopper when Majed Naser, the UAE's No 1 goalkeeper, moved to Al Wasl in Dubai.

Pretty soon it was Kasheif's turn for a big move, and he transferred to Al Jazira, the Pro League pace setters, in 2007 on a five-year contract.

His fine performances with the Abu Dhabi club soon saw Kasheif included in the national team squad.

A rapid rise to the top culminated in leading the Under 23 team to a historic silver medal at the Asian Games in China last November and he was then selected as back-up in the senior national team to his former Fujairah teammate Naser for the Asian Cup in Qatar.

"I wouldn't know for sure how much it changed my career [switching from defender to goalkeeper] but it certainly was the best thing that could have happened to me, because I have had unprecedented success as a goalkeeper," said Kasheif, 23, who is three years younger than Naser.

"Majed was the first choice goalkeeper and a senior player when I was at Fujairah.

"We knew each other for a long time until he got a break at Al Wasl in Dubai.

"That's when I got the break to play in the first team.

"It was a big step forward when I was signed by Jazira.

"They were one of the big teams in the country and we have been runners up in the league for three times in the last three years. We are in a good position this year."

The league title has been the club's target in the past five years and no team has been as consistent as Jazira.

They just have not been able to translate that consistency into a title, after finishing second three times and third twice prior to that.

"Jazira have built a strong squad with a lot of local signings besides the strong foreign presence," Kasheif said.

"No other team has been as consistent as Jazira for the past five years.

"We were unlucky not to have won the league in the past two years but the time is not far for us."

Kasheif filled a huge void at Jazira as the club had struggled to find a suitable replacement for Saeed Juma, the UAE international whoquit the game after the 2003/04 season.

The 2010 Etisalat Cup was the first trophy Kasheif won with Jazira and he hopes to remain with the Abu Dhabi giants when his five-year deal comes up for renewal at the end of the next season.

"This is a club with a bright future and I want to stay with them," he said. "I am very comfortable with my time at the club and looking forward to better times ahead. This is a team with a bright future and I would like to be a part of it."

Kasheif lost his mentor in September, when his father past away, but he takes inspiration from his memories.

"I use to discuss my game and career with my father, and followed his advice," he said. "Now I am old enough to carry on with my work on the guidelines laid by my father."

The Asian Games silver medal is Kasheif's best achievement in the game so far but he believes more trophies will come with his time at Jazira.

Kasheif had to watch from the stands as the senior national team finished bottom of their Asian Cup group, but he believes the UAE have potential.

"It is a new team and needs time," he said. "The majority of the players are from the [Under 23] squad that had some success at the age group level while only three were left from the team that won the Gulf Cup in 2007. It is a young team and they will come good from this competition."

apassela@thenational.ae

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