Afrden Asqer: Never Lost my Confidence

After returning to China after going out in the U20 Asian Cup, Captain Afrden Asqer was interview again. The following is a concise version presented in the first-person view.


On Confidence

Confidence, I never lost it.

On the last day of 2022, Guangzhou lost 0-1 and failed to relegate to the Chinese Super League. Such a result made me feel very sad inside.

But I knew that I couldn’t be gripped by negative emotions for too long, because I would be embarking on a journey for my country in half a month.

In this year’s U20 Asian Cup, it was said that we were put into the group of death. Indeed, Japan and Saudi Arabia are the champions of the last two Asian Youth Championships, and Kyrgyzstan is not weak either.

But to be honest, the confidence in our team was stronger after we learned about this grouping.

This confidence comes from the usual training of our team.


The Grind

There had three practices a day, morning, noon and afternoon, day after day. Although the intensity is high, each training session is finely arranged by the coach, with a total duration of about two hours.

Under this fine training arrangement, we have increased our physical strength, sharpened our will, and more importantly, we have clarified the core of the team’s tactics – high pressure and defensive counterattack.

This is our team’s characteristic.

In addition, we played eight warm-up games in Dubai and Europe in the last two months, including against such a strong team as Croatia U20.

Each of these games was very rewarding for us.


The Tournament

On March 3, we had our first opponents of this tournament, Japan.

To be honest, Japan is the hardest opponent I have ever played. They are one of the top teams in Asia, much, much ahead of us ……

The next game against Saudi Arabia, although the situation is very unfavorable to us. But in order to get out of the line, we must take the opponent. Compared to other teams, we are more confident to face Saudi Arabia, at least psychologically we are not afraid of them.

Because we played against Saudi Arabia in last year’s Asian qualifying tournament, the whole team knows this opponent very well.

We are very happy that with the efforts of the whole team, we took down the opponent 2-0 and took the initiative to qualify for the tournament in our own hands. The win cannot be considered reasonable, but it was a surprise.

In the third match against Kyrgyzstan, if we win, we can get out of the group, and even if we don’t, we may go out of the group because of the goal difference. But before the game, the team didn’t count the points because we never count the points, we just follow the manager’s request that we must win against the opponent. Therefore, in the last round of the group stage, the team had to stand more forward and be aggressive than before, with the aim of getting all three points.

Although we got a draw in the end, luck was on our side.

The moment we got out of the tournament, I felt that all the hard work we had done all year and all the winter had paid off. We also saw that as long as we believe in our coach, and as long as we resolutely implement the tactics that suit us, the goal of the World Youth Championship is not impossible!


The Elimination

Out, physically and mentally exhausted

In the last game, we lost to Korea 1-3 after 120 minutes.

The moment the final whistle blew, I knew our dream was shattered and my role as U20 national youth captain was coming to an end.

After the match, I saw Li Hao’s tears. As a member of this family, I had done everything I could, but it was really frustrating and regrettable to get such a result.

I went back to the hotel at night, physically and mentally exhausted, and although I was tired, I couldn’t sleep, I tossed and turned, looked out the window, stared at the ceiling, and didn’t sleep all night, my mind was full of the replay of the game.

In the first half, I was attacked at least 3 times, but the referee didn’t show a yellow card. As a player, I don’t think I should comment on the referee, but the referee’s decision was really unfair to the Chinese team.

For 90 minutes, China and South Korea played 1-1, and from the second half to overtime, three or four of our players were taken off because of cramps. In fact, the team’s fitness wasn’t bad, no one had cramps in the previous 3 games, and we had one day less rest than Korea. If we had enough rest, or if we had overtime, the result would have been different.

It’s just a pity ……


The Faith

The next day, on Weibo, I wrote this, “When you give everything to the team, the team will reward you in the same way.”

This was my epiphany and what Coach Antonio asked of me.

When he handed me the captain’s armband, he told me.

“I am for everyone and everyone is for me.”

The coach believed in me and I couldn’t fail him. So every game, I was the team’s striker, the single arrow, and also the first line of defense for my team

In the first minute or the 90th minute, I have to give my all to press high and hold off the opponent’s advance.

Against Saudi Arabia: 88 minutes of madness in front of the field

Although we fought for a miracle, unfortunately, we couldn’t make it last.

When I stepped on the plane back home, a reporter asked me to give myself a score, and I said I would only give myself a 7.


And Beyond

The future? Play well.

Overall, the tournament met the most basic expectations, and I actually had the opportunity to do better in some details. For example, in the group game against Kyrgyzstan, if I could pass the ball well or protect the ball in the second half, the result might have been different.

This Asian youth tournament, I know the gap between the Chinese team and the top teams in Asia, which is not clear in a sentence or two, it is something that has been accumulated for decades. It’s not just our national youth that has a gap, but all national teams at all levels have a gap with the best teams in Asia.

I can’t say where this specific gap is, this problem needs to be analyzed by everyone together in all aspects.

In this tournament, many fans have noticed a lot of differences in the national youth, that is, there are more Xinjiang players like me. For example, Baiheramu, Motalifu, Hilzati and so on.

The main reason why we can all stand to this platform is because the country strongly supports the development of the cause of soccer in Xinjiang, no matter where, the children of Xinjiang have more opportunities to contact soccer, so Xinjiang players can slowly emerge.

Some time ago predecessor Sun Jihai talked about the advantages of soccer in Xinjiang, “the number of children owned by minority families is higher, children are not so ‘delicate’, and