It is has been nearly a decade since the silky skills of legendary Colombian Carlos Valderrama and his unmistakable mop of hair graced the pitches of the South America. However the coming month at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia a young doppelganger will be apparent, in the unlikely form of a teenage Australian midfielder of Afghan and Nicaraguan extraction. Mustafa Amini’s physical likeness may be minimal, but the ‘Afro’ is distinct and is set to be a feature of Colombia 2011.
If Amini can replicate just a small amount of Valderrama’s genius then Australia will be a team to watch in Colombia. The Young Socceroos will face Ecuador, Spain and Costa Rica, and with such Latin flavour in Group C, a dose of El Pibe’s short-passing inspiration could be the difference between qualification and an early exit. Indeed, Amini has shot to prominence in a short of space of time in his homeland with a playmaking style, not dissimilar to that of the Colombian great.
The 18-year-old’s prominence has been accentuated by a large shock of tightly-curled red hair, helping him enjoy cult status among A-League followers. Indeed, fans of Central Coast Mariners have taken to donning ‘Amini wigs’ in support of their hero. His Mariners team-mates even made a bet with Amini that that the hair had to remain uncut until after Colombia 2011.
Rapidly rising star
Not that Amini is all image and little substance, with the Sydneysider making waves with a number of outstanding performances for club and country. Despite a modest build, Amini has a comfortable presence among senior footballers, and it is easy to forget that his national league debut was only last October.
Recently Amini secured a move to German champions Borussia Dortmund, although he will spend one more season with the Mariners before moving to the Westfalenstadion. Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp, renowned for possessing an eye for young talent said of Amini: "He can definitely play football and is a really great talent."
Unsurprisingly Amini is thrilled by the prospect of a move to the German giants where he will link up with Socceroo rising star, goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak “I’m really excited to be joining Dortmund, they’re a big club with amazing supporters,” said Amini. “First of all I want to have another great season with the Mariners, as well as a good U-20s World Cup in Colombia.”
Amini, who speaks fluent Farsi and Spanish, was a cornerstone of the midfield as Australia narrowly missed a maiden AFC U-20 championship en route to qualifying for Colombia 2011. Despite his youth, Amini has shown enough ability to receive a call-up for the national U-23 team that recently commenced their qualifying campaign for the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament.
Amini’s debut A-League season has been helped along by a player with his own rich experience of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Alongside Amini in the heart of the Mariners midfield last season was Patricio Perez, a member of the Argentina squad that won Netherlands 2005, and who featured as understudy to a certain Lionel Messi.
Now it is the turn of the young Australian to show his wares on the world stage. Young Socceroos’ Dutch coach Jan Versleijen says Amini’s playing style is reminiscent of a player that oozes classic Ajax élan; Finland’s Jari Litmanen. “We are looking for technical players with good awareness and technical insight,” Versleijen told FIFA.com. “Mustafa has all these things and this probably made things easier for him to play initially as a 17-year-old in the A-League, despite the physical competition.”