Ahmed Abdullah Ali: Revisiting an Eritrean-Emirati legendary Soccer Player & Coach.

It was the summer of 1999 in beautiful San Diego, California that one of the greatest soccer players in the world gave an interview to the writer of this article. Many years have passed since and today as Eri-Internationalsports.org which during that time was taking just baby steps landed an interview with this legend of a soccer player that most people may not be familiar with. Ahmed Abdullah was born in Eritrea during the time of Ethiopian occupation. Ahmed started playing soccer at a very young age where he played for Ambaissora in the Eritrean league from the late sixties until the early seventies. He was considered by far the most skillful soccer player as he dazzled the passionate soccer fans in Eritrea and Ethiopia every Sunday afternoon. As a player he was also selected & forced without choice to play on the Ethiopian teams of that era. During this period Eritreans were heavily mistreated. Their right to self determination taken away and as a result Ahmed left Eritrea in the mid seventies to make a career in the United Arab Emirates.



After arriving in the Emirates Ahmed quickly joined the AL-AIN Sports Club which at that time was building its brand as one of the best teams in the history of Asian soccer. Ahmed Abdullah, who was a forward for Al Ain scored a record 124 league goals in 17 seasons with the club. He has been at the same club a total of 37 years as a player and in his current role on the coaching staff. During his playing career, the proud son of Eritrea and an international sensation has been blessed to wear the jersey of the great Al Ain teams. He also remained as a coach with the team that won the 2002-2003 Asian Football Championship(AFC) Champions League. The team came close to repeating the feat in the 2005 season, only to lose out to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad.

The former Arab League Golden Boot winner is a married father of four children who are all successful including one of his sons who is pursuing a professional career at the moment. While his eldest son had a short lived career with Al Ain his middle son is a graduated from university and his younger son Majid is currently playing with Al Ainawi where he has a potential to reach hopes the first team. Meanwhile his only daughter is still a student in College where she is pursuing medical studies.


May be the Eritrean National Football Federation should reach out to him. He can help Guide Eritrea’s Red Sea Camels to the next level. As an assistant coach for many years for Al Ain club, Ahmed Abdullah has worked alongside several successful Al Ain coaches including the late Bruno Metsu, who helmed Al Ain to the 2002-2003 continental title, as well as Czech coach Milan Macala who was in charge at the AFC Champions League final two years later. However, his best cooperation came with this past year’s World Cup Finalist coach of the Croatian National team Zlatko Dalic, who was a coach at Al Ain before he took on the Croatian team.



Coach Ahmed standing left of yellow jersey after a win with his club Al Ain in the Emirates.

Eri-Internationalsports.org will profile information that can be very beneficial to help the ENFF with ideas on how to put back the national program on the right track. The Croatian model of grass roots movement is something that should be emulated as Croatia has proven with many years of dedication it continues to enjoy a great soccer tradition. Meanwhile. the Legend Ahmed Abdullah should be congratulated as he has proven to be a great player, coach and human being. A great piece of information to know is based on an interview he did many years ago, as a player he has never once been ejected or gotten a card even though he was a target of many legs that wanted to have a piece of him. Instead he ended up being one of the best ever in the United Arab Emirates as well as Asian soccer.


Pictures courtesy of Al Ain club.

For Eri-Internationalsports.org

Mike Seium

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