Standing at the crossroads, Anwar Ali, in between his blood test and CT scan on Thursday said, “I just want to play football”. The U-17 World Cup star’s career has been left hanging in the balance ever since he was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition last year. If not playing football “saves him from an untimely death”, Anwar believes he “might die lifting bricks” or doing some other menial jobs.
This is what the promising centre-back told the owner of his childhood club, Minerva Punjab, after being diagnosed with the condition last year, which eventually led to the termination of his contract with ISL franchise, Mumbai City FC, following consultations with top doctors in France and Mumbai.
Belonging to a poor family that struggles to make both ends meet on a daily basis, Anwar, 20, did not give up hope. He started training at his native near Jalandhar, and landed a contract with Mohammedan Sporting FC for the upcoming second division I-league, now the third tier in the Indian football structure.
His club secretary Bilal Ahmed Khan was with him as Anwar underwent blood tests and CT scan at a private hospital in Kolkata.
The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) medical committee will decide on his future in competitive football based on the test reports.
But Anwar said he is doing perfectly healthy, having got a couple of clearance certificates from doctors in Punjab, including from the renowned PGIMER in Chandigarh.
“I really don’t know what the reports will be but I know, for a fact, that I am doing fine. I have no problem at all. I want to play and make a career out of football,” the defender, who impressed with his skills during the World Cup three years ago, told PTI.
Anwar, who has also been a part of AIFF’s developmental side Arrows after his promising beginning at Minerva, added, “I have been training here (in Kolkata) twice a day for the past two to three weeks and I have not felt any problem.
“Before that, I was doing my practice at my native and was doing all strenuous activities.” Anwar was one of the top performers in the World Cup, which India hosted, and was immediately seen as one for the future.
Impressed with his skills, national coach Igor Stimac summoned him for a camp, but he soon found himself out of action after three cardiologists said a career in football for him involves too much risk. When contacted, I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said the final decision will be taken by the AIFF’s medical committee.
“Based on the reports of the tests that he is undergoing today, the federation’s medical committee will take a call. It will take about five days to a week for them to sit and go through the reports,” Dhar said. While Anwar has got full backing from his father, his new club Mohammedan Sporting’s management has also extended him support, standing by him in his “hour of need”.