EghtesadOnline: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has named Iranian football player Ali Karimi as 'Asian Maradona'.
'Around the turn of the millennium, Islamic Republic of Iran fans witnessed a special time in their country's footballing history as a number of talented players made their breakthroughs. It can be argued that none of them retains the kind of recognition and fame that Ali Karimi has,' AFC website reported on the eve of Karimi's 39th birthday, according to IRNA.
The website then recounts the story of Karimi's emergence as a super star in Iranian football, saying, 'After learning his trade as a teenager at Naft Tehran and hometown club Saipa, Karimi's introduction to the men's game came at Fath Tehran.'
'The club doesn't exist today, but it will always be remembered as the second division side that gave an 18-year-old Karimi his senior debut in 1996.'
'He immediately caught the attention of other clubs with his displays for Fath and it seemed it would be only a matter of time before he left for bigger things.'
'In 1998, before he had turned 20, Karimi made a high-profile move to Iranian giants Persepolis.'
'If there were any doubts as to whether the young talent could make it on the biggest stage, none would remain by the time Karimi departed from Persepolis in 2001.'
'In his three-year stay at the club, Karimi played a part in the league-and-cup double in his first season before clinching the league title again in 2001.'
'With his stock rising, Karimi soon made the move abroad - but not to Europe, as many thought he would.'
'Instead, he took the short flight across the Persian Gulf to join Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates.'
'It was a decision that took many by surprise but Karimi proceeded to do what he knew best: weave his magic.'
'He became Al Ahli's go-to man and contributed 44 goals from midfield in four seasons.'
'Karimi's best season in the red jersey of Al Ahli came in 2003-04, when he topped the league's scoring charts with 14 goals.'
'That wasn't all; Karimi then netted both of his side's goals in the 2-1 win over Al Shaab in the President's Cup final, as Al Ahli lifted the trophy for the second time in three seasons.'
'For Karimi, 2004 was turning out to be a great year as even better things awaited him that summer.'
'Looking back, Ali Karimi's career is a story of a player who thrilled fans in four countries and beyond with a knack for the extraordinary and an undying desire to win.'
'It is only fitting that he is recognized as one of Asia's footballing icons.'
Ali Karimi born on November 8, 1978 is an Iranian coach and retired footballer. He has played for Fath Tehran, Persepolis, Al-Ahli Dubai, Bayern Munich, Qatar SC, Steel Azin, Schalke 04, Tractor Sazi, and the Iran national team for which he scored 38 goals in 127 appearances. In 2004, he became the fourth Iranian player to win the Asian Footballer of the Year.
He announced his retirement at the end of the 2013–14 season and, on 11 April 2014, played the final game of his 18-year career. He is currently manager of Naft Tehran.