FC Goa defender Mohamed Ali feels that the Gaurs have a great opportunity to display their brand of football on the Asian stage after becoming the first Indian side to qualify for the AFC Champions League.
"All the 10 teams [in the ISL-Indian Super League], everyone wants to play in the AFC Champions League. This is a great opportunity for us to show our (attacking) style of play and what we can do. We are ready for it," he said during an Instagram Live session with FC Goa.
Having recently penned a two-year extension that will keep him with the club till 2022, he has also vowed to make it back into the playing XI under new coach Juan Ferrando.
"It was a difficult task because I didn't have a contract but I was expecting a call soon. As soon as I got a call that FC Goa is retaining me, I was on cloud nine. I'm looking forward to getting back to the playing 11. We are going to focus on one thing, that is the ISL trophy. And then the AFC Champions League," Ali stated.
The Caranzalem-born Goan looked back at his struggles and went on to explain how then principal at Don Bosco's High School in Panjim, Fr. Edwin Baracho, and the Physical Education teacher, Francis Raposo, supported him through his journey.
Being raised by a single mother, Dilshad Bi Ali, Mohamed said, "Fr. Edwin and Sir Raposo were the two pillars who always supported me. They literally slogged for me.
"Even when there was no food at home, Fr. Edwin used to feed me in the hostel or pay my fees when my mom could not afford it," he exclaimed.
Having started his youth career with Goa United, he spent time with Dempo and Sporting Clube de Goa junior teams as well. He also featured for Goa Professional League sides Santa Cruz Club of Cavelossim and Laxmi Prasad. The 28-year-old started his professional playing career with Dempo SC in 2015 and helped the Golden Eagles attain I-League promotion the next year.
With Dempo opting out of the I-League in 2016, he joined NEROCA FC and went on to win the I-League second division once again before FC Goa recruited him during the ISL Players Draft.
"I was a little nervous for my first season (at FC Goa) playing at such a big platform and I cannot forget the first match against Chennai (Chennaiyin FC) with players like Jeje (Lalpekhlua) and others playing in the opposite team," Ali recalled.
"The coach (former coach Sergio Lobera) told me to play my game. So remembering that, I played all the games with the same motivation. After that I got a MCL (Medial Collateral Ligament) injury. My second season was a bit up and down, and the same in the third season."
Mohamed Ali has made 24 appearances in the ISL, 17 of them in his first year and has only 26 minutes under his belt in the 2019-20 season. He will hope that injury troubles are in the past and he can nail down a place in the first XI.