Soccer

Akram Afif: The assist king at the heart of host country’s chances in Qatar

Qatar’s primary playmaker Akram Afif is maybe the World Cup host country’s biggest asset and fear wrapped up in one.

The 25-year-old striker, topped Asia’s participant of the yr in 2019 and extra well-known for establishing objectives than scoring them, has turn into important to the Gulf Arab state’s soccer success.

“Always, when he is there, he finds solutions for the team. Without him it would be a big problem,” mentioned former Qatari ahead Mohamed Mubarak al-Mohannadi.

During the Asia Cup match in 2019, which Qatar gained, Afif’s assists provided most of the 9 record-setting objectives Almoaz Ali scored.

Afif “can make something happen in a second. He’s exciting. He plays off the left, likes to cut inside and he can score goals,” mentioned Tim Cahill, the retired Australia ahead who’s chief sport officer at Qatar’s Aspire Academy, from which Afif graduated.

The strikes that Afif units up are so crucial to Qatar’s success that if one thing goes awry and Afif shouldn’t be on the pitch the whole lot may unravel.

“When Akram does not play, the national team is a lot less dangerous. Offensively, it’s almost toothless and you can really see it in the team’s confidence levels,” mentioned Ahmed Hashim, editor of Qatar Football Live, a Twitter channel, and a longtime observer of the sport in Qatar.

“Akram staying fit and at his top levels is very, very crucial for Qatar.”

That is maybe why Qatar’s league wrapped up its fixtures earlier this yr and Afif, together with Qatar’s different gamers, have been sequestered in a collection of nationwide coaching camps in Spain and Austria since the starting of the summer season.

Afif was born in the Gulf Arab state the place his Tanzanian-born father of Somali descent was enjoying for distinguished native membership Al Ittihad. Akram’s older brother Ali performs for Al-Duhail.

Afif has lengthy been touted as one of the most promising skills in the area and has performed in Belgium with Qatari-owned Kas Eupen in addition to turning into the first Qatari to characteristic in Spain’s La Liga with Sporting Gijon.

He returned to Qatar in 2018 to affix main membership Al Sadd, the place Spanish World Cup-winner Xavi Hernandez performed after which managed till final yr.

The Qatar World Cup is Afif’s huge alternative to play on the world stage and, maybe, to attract the consideration of scouts and golf equipment past the Gulf Arab state, Hashim mentioned.

“He still has a lot of potential even at the age of 25. This is his moment.”


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