Ali Ashfaq (born 6 September 1985), nicknamed “Dhagandey”, is a Maldivian professional footballer who plays for Maldivian club Club Green Streets. He is a forward and serves as captain for Maldives. He is widely regarded as one of the best players in South Asian region along with Sunil Chhetri and Bhaichung Bhutia. A prolific and individualistic goalscorer, he is a free-kick specialist and a clinical finisher. His trademark style of scoring is beating a couple of defenders and rounding off the keeper to score. He is considered as the best Maldivian footballer ever most notably when he was named as the “World’s 2nd Best Top Goal Scorer” in 2013 by IFFHS. He was also named as South Asia’s Best Player in 2014 by eultimategoal.com. In March 2016, Ashfaq completed his 50th goal mark for Maldives national team.
Ashfaq had been noticed by some big clubs in Europe like Portugal’s S.L. Benfica, FC Porto, Turkish club Bursaspor, and many other clubs within Asia, but he refused those offers. However, he is the first-ever Maldivian footballer to play abroad, and the only player to win a title with a foreign club. In November 2003, Ashfaq was honoured with the most prestigious awards a Maldivian footballer would get, in the age of 18 – Maldivian Footballer of the Year and Golden Boot Award in 2003 season. With Club Valencia, New Radiant, VB Sports Club and PDRM FA, he has won the Dhivehi League ten times, six Maldives FA Cups, four President’s Cups, two Maldives Cup Winners’ Cups, three Maldivian Charity Shields, two POMIS Cups and one Malaysia Premier League.
Ashfaq began his professional career with Club Valencia, where he played for five years. In 2001, he won his first trophy, Dhivehi League. He was crowned as the top scorer of Maldivian football season in 2003, 2004 and 2005 consecutively. In 2006, he signed for New Radiant and won various trophies and he was named as Haveeru Best Footballer of the year in 2007 in his two-year period with New Radiant. Ashfaq moved to Brunei’s DPMM FC in October 2007, and he joined VB Sports Club after two months and stayed with them until 2011. He again re-joined New Radiant in 2012, and during his time, he completed his 300th career goal and won all the domestic cups with the club in 2013 and moved to PDRM FA for 2014 season. In November 2014, Ashfaq won the Best Import Player Award in the Malaysia National Football Awards, for his outstanding performance with PDRM FA in 2014 Malaysia Premier League. Ashfaq was the vice-captain of PDRM for 2016 season and made the record of first-ever Maldivian to captain a club abroad.
Ashfaq made his international debut for Maldives in December 2003, at the age of 18. He has since been capped over 70 times. Ashfaq is Maldives’ all-time top scorer with 53 goals. He scored his first international goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Mongolia, he scored four times in the match. In 2008, he won the Most Valuable Player award in 2008 SAFF Championship. He was among the Top 10 Players of Asia in 2008 and 2009. He also was shortlisted among the Top 10 Players to watch by espnfc.com in 2012. He took over the captaincy in 2009, and he led Maldives to the semi-finals at 2009 SAFF Championship. In September 2013, he became the all-time top scorer of the SAFF Championship after scoring 10 goals in the 2013 SAFF Championship with altogether of 18 goals. In May 2014, Ashfaq won his first medal as the captain of Maldives as they finished third in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup. On 31 December 2015, Ashfaq concluded his last SAFF tournament from the semi-finals, remaining as the all-time top scorer of the SAFF Suzuki Cup with 20 goals.