Arif reunited with brothers at Shaheen
The Ali brothers are back together again - with Shaheen. After six seasons of playing for Kowloon Cricket Club, Arif Ali has returned to join his three older brothers in a bid to propel Hong Kong's leading club back to their glory days.
In a move that has surprised the local hockey community, Arif Ali announced this week that he had stepped down from the captaincy at KCC and that he had put in his transfer papers to join Shaheen.
'This could probably be the last season that some of my brothers might be playing.
'And since Akbar [Ali] is captain this season. I decided to return to Shaheen. But this is only for one season, I will return to KCC again,' said Hong Kong international Arif.
The last time all four brothers - Asghar, Akbar, Asif and Arif - played together in the same team was at the 2002 Asian Games in Pusan, South Korea, when they turned out for Hong Kong.
Shaheen, who could soon be by sponsored by Malaysian oil giants Petronas, are one league title away from beating the record for the most number of championships, which they jointly hold with Recreio - 13.
Arif hopes his presence will lift the team. Last season, Football Club were the top local club in the First Division while the South China Premier League title was won by the powerful team from Guangdong.
'I want to see Shaheen beat Guangdong and regain the title. I want Shaheen to become the club to have won the league title the most number of times.
'I believe that we can do it,' said Arif.
The move to get Arif back started after Shaheen failed to win their second successive match this season with things coming to a head after the 5-4 loss to Macau last weekend.
It was virtually a crisis following their draw with Bullets in the opening match of the 2004-05 season and marks one of their worst starts.
'The godfather of Shaheen, Shaukat Khan, had apparently called Arif and asked him to get back and rejoin the club. All these guys listen to him, he is the force behind Shaheen,' said Billy Dillon, vice-president of the Hong Kong Hockey Association. Apart from Arif, KCC defender Mustapha Mohammed had also moved to Shaheen.
Arif admitted that there were a 'lot of reasons' behind his return. Hong Kong's top professional, who has played the last couple of seasons in Malaysia, said he would return to Shaheen in a player-coach capacity.
'I have opened my own coaching company and I will be coaching Shaheen,' said Arif.
Meanwhile, Arif revealed that Malaysian oil company Petronas might back Shaheen this season to the tune of nearly $200,000. 'They are sponsors of my brothers' [Asghar and Akbar] garage and they are talking about putting some money in. It will be good for Hong Kong hockey if it happens.'