Record-breaking brothers shine on the pitch

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2007, 12:00am

Ali is a name that conjures up images of 'The Greatest'. But to the local fraternity, the name Ali is synonymous with style, grace and sportsmanship on the hockey pitch.

The Ali brothers have become part of Hong Kong's hockey folklore since the foursome burst on the scene 10 years ago to become the SAR's most famous sporting brothers.

Asghar, Akbar, Asif and Arif Ali came as a breath of fresh air in the mid-90s as the four brothers quickly made their mark with their dazzling stickwork, winning many fans for their hockey skills and their tight-knit brotherhood.

The Hong Kong-born foursome are the only four brothers in the world to have played at a major multi-sports competition on the same pitch at the same time. Local hockey officials are hoping to get them listed in the Guinness World Records.

The brothers set the record during the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, giving the local Pakistani community something to be proud of.

The Ali brothers are the newest crop of siblings to represent Hong Kong at international level, but their act will be hard to emulate considering they have played in not one but three Asian Games in 1998, 2002 and 2006 - that is another one for the record books.

The brothers played together for the last time at last year's Doha Games when Asif and Asghar decided to hang up their boots at international level.

While the Ali brothers are considered the backbone of the national team, the players really rose to prominence with Shaheen, Hong Kong's most famous and successful hockey club.

Records have also tumbled in the domestic league as the brothers helped Shaheen win many titles and awards. The club has won a record 13 First Division titles, two Premier League titles, 10 Holland Cups and many other honours in the club's

25-year history, thanks largely to the Ali brothers' contributions.

Shaheen convenor Ahmed Khan saluted the brothers and said they would be remembered for their dedication, skill and fair play. 'Their hard work, their never-say-die attitude and their sportsmanship have made an immense impact on the game here. The four brothers are always willing to learn more about hockey. They also like to help out on the coaching side. That's what makes them so special,' Khan said.

'Arif [the youngest of the four brothers] has worked with me at KCC [Kowloon Cricket Club], developing mini-youth hockey. It was one of the most successful junior training programmes we had in recent years.

'Akbar and Asghar are now lending me a hand running several training courses at Shaheen. This has attracted more than 150 youngsters. Asif has always given me very positive feedback. He is a calming influence on the team,' Khan said.

Asghar, 35, the eldest of the Ali brothers, is Hong Kong's most prolific striker with hundreds of goals to his credit at club and national level. But Arif, the youngest of the four at 26, is the first Hong Kong player to turn professional, plying his trade in the Malaysian league.