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Tasman United striker Adbulla Al-Kalisy called into Iraq U23 squad

Wednesday, November 08, 2017
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He may have trained with the All Whites earlier this year but Abdulla Al-Kalisy could be set to represent Iraq, not New Zealand, on the international stage.

The 21-year-old Tasman United striker, who is the son of Iraqi immigrants, has been selected to play in two friendlies against Oman in Doha, Qatar, next month as Iraq begins preparing for the AFC U-23 Championship in January.

He may have trained with the All Whites earlier this year but Abdulla Al-Kalisy could be set to represent Iraq, not New Zealand, on the international stage.

The 21-year-old Tasman United striker, who is the son of Iraqi immigrants, has been selected to play in two friendlies against Oman in Doha, Qatar, next month as Iraq begins preparing for the AFC U-23 Championship in January.

Al-Kalisy is expected to miss Tasman's next two games, against Southern United and Team Wellington, although is he hoping to delay is departure by a day so that he can suit up against Southern at Trafalgar Park on Sunday.

"At this point I think the new coach, he's proving to be rather fair in that it is equal opportunity and whoever performs [will get a chance] so I'm hoping to go do what I can and try make it into the squad for the tournament in January," Al-Kalisy said.


As a dual citizen, Al-Kalisy said it would be an honour to represent either Iraq or New Zealand on the international stage. However, it was the former that has given him the first opportunity to do so.

"When I left the Middle East I thought that I had also left behind the possibility of playing for the Iraqi national team again, because I was with them in their preparations for the Olympics and then they changed the staff and all that and I was left out of the final squad," he said.

"When I came to New Zealand I thought that was kind of it so I set my ambitions on playing for New Zealand.

"But I'm a dual citizen and I have a sense of belonging for both countries in different ways so really I would love to play for the All Whites but just as much I would love to play for Iraq and, in saying that, it's not a matter which I feel more belonging to it's just that this is an opportunity that I can't pass up, to play for Iraq."

He said the call-up came out of the blue, with Ziad Yousif, an independent mediator who tracks overseas-based Iraqi players, keeping the football association up to date with his progress in New Zealand.


"There's a lot of kids like me who could possibly play for the Iraqi national team but have citizenship somewhere else, so he kept an eye on me when I came here with Tasman. It just came out of the blue. It happened so fast."

The former Auckland City and Waitakere United attacker has been in good form for the early ISPS Handa Premiership leaders, scoring a double against Hamilton Wanderers in the opening round.

Although Tasman have depth up in forward positions, with Kieran Smith and Lyle Matthysen expected to be available for Sunday's game against Southern, Al-Kalisy's absence will still be felt.

"I'm gutted to be missing the Team Wellington game for sure, and possibly the Southern game as well, but we have a lot of depth in the squad and there's a lot of people fighting for positions so no doubt that Davor [Tavich] and the boys have what it takes to do it and we can keep going."

 







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