Football: Young player signs with Caley Thistle

Rahan Ali practises his football skills at Littlebourne yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Rahan Ali practises his football skills at Littlebourne yesterday. Photo by Jane Dawber.
A casual remark by Fiona Ali has proved prophetic. Her son Rahan leaves for Scotland tomorrow.

When Rahan (15) started to demonstrate talent on the football paddock, she told friends that ''we should send him back to Scotland''.

Rahan will join Scottish premier side Inverness Caledonian Thistle as a schoolboy signing. He will go to school at the Royal Inverness Academy.

''It's a bit sad to lose Rahan,'' his mother said.

''But it will give him an opportunity in football that he would not get if he stayed in Dunedin.''

The positive for the parents is that it will give them the excuse to visit their family who still live in their old home town of Inverness. Rahan will stay with his grandfather Bert Smale.

Fiona and Shokit Ali immigrated to New Zealand 17 years ago and Rahan and younger brother Kasam (13) were both born in Dunedin.

The brothers have been members of New Zealand age group teams in football and futsal and have impressed experienced football coaches with their talent.

The parents took Rahan to the Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle clubs for trials last September. Inverness Caledonian Thistle youth coach Charlie Christie had played schoolboy football with Shokit Ali. He was impressed by Shokit's son's potential and offered him a contract.

Christie told Shokit that, at the age of 15, Rahan was as good as older players in his youth team.

Rahan had mixed feelings about going to Scotland.

''I didn't know if I wanted to leave Dunedin and my family yet, because I'm still quite young,'' he said.

''But it is a good opportunity and I had to go for it.''

Rahan and his mother leave Dunedin tomorrow to travel to Scotland.

''I'm excited. It will be a new experience for me,'' he said.

''But I'm also nervous about going to a new school and into a new environment.

''It will be quite cold over there.''

Rahan has demonstrated football takent from a young age and is keen to demonstrate this in Scotland and gain a professional contract when he gets older.

''I've had that dream since I started playing football at the age of 7,'' he said.

''I want to make it my job and play football all day. I just enjoy the game so much.''

Rahan has studied the club's form on the internet.

''Inverness is the second-best club in Scotland behind Celtic,'' he said. He was impressed with the club during his visit in September.

''They have a lot better coaching and the club is well organised,'' he said.

''The quality of the football is a lot more competitive than it is in Dunedin.''

The club has Astroturf playing fields and this allows players to develop their skills in good conditions.

There will be 20 players in Rahan's under-17 age group at Inverness Caledonian.

''I am one of the youngest in the group and it will be hard,'' he said. He does not get paid during his first two years at Inverness but will join the payroll at the club if he advances to the over-17 age group.

The home ground at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium is packed most weeks, with about 7500 attending the premier side's home games.