Mohammad Ali Karimi Pashaki (Persian: محمدعلی کریمی پاشاکی, born on 8 November 1978) more known as Ali Karimi, is an Iranian professional football Winger and Deep-lying Forward who is currently playing for Schalke 04 in Fußball-Bundesliga. He was awarded the Asian Footballer of the Year in 2004.
Karimi began his career with Fath Tehran youth club and joined Persepolis F.C. in 1998. Internationally, Karimi has been capped 112 times since making his debut in October 1998, and has scored 36 goals. He has participated in five major tournaments including 1998 Asian Games, 2000, 2004, and 2007 Asian Cups and 2006 FIFA world cup.
Karimi started his professional career with second division side Fath Football Club in 1997 where training was conducted on the streets with a plastic ball.
In 1998, Karimi joined Persepolis football club, which won the domestic double in 1999 and the championship again in 2000. He attended a trial with Perugia Calcio, but the transfer was aborted when Perugia deemed the transfer fee too high. There was also reportedly an offer from Spain’s Atletico Madrid — but Karimi remained at Al Ahli because he wanted to stay close to home.
Karimi signed with Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates in 2001. In that season Al-Ahli managed to win its first trophy, when they became the Winners of the President Cup in 2001-2002 season.
He scored a league-high 14 goals for Al Ahli in 2004.
On 3 May 2005, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich’s website announced that they signed a one year contract with Karimi who became the third Iranian after Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian to try his luck with Bayern. In October 2004 Iran hosted Germany in a friendly game in which Karimi played. The magazine Kicker picked Karimi as the man of the match. FC Bayern’s scouts studied Karimi in Dubai closer and came back with a recommendation not to sign the player due to doubts over his fitness. Felix Magath decided to go ahead with the signing despite the negative recommendations.
On 13 August 2005, Karimi made his starting debut for Bayern when Felix Magath put him on the starting line-up of a 5–2 victory against Bayer Leverkusen on the second day of Bundesliga, in which he played on the left side of the midfield. Karimi made an assist to Roy Makaay for Bayern’s second goal followed by his first goal in the Bundesliga. He came off in the 58th minute for Brazilian international Ze Roberto and received a warm ovation from the traveling Munich fans. Karimi scored on his first UEFA Champions League appearance against Rapid Vienna on 22 November 2005. On 17 December 2005, Karimi played for 88 minutes and scored a goal in Bayern’s 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund.
Karimi made his 25th appearance for Bayern on 4 March 2006 against Hamburg, which resulted in an automatic 12-month extension to his one-year contract that would expire on 30 June 2007. Unfortunately, he injured his ankle in the same game which sidelined him for 6 weeks.
In the 2006–07 season, Karimi was often kept on the bench. Karimi expressed his belief that it would be his last season with Bayern and his contract would not be renewed. It was confirmed that Red Bull Salzburg made an offer from Karimi, which he rejected. Al-Ahli also made an official bid for him, which was eventually vetoed by Felix Magath as Munich’s midfield was depleted by the sudden retirement of Sebastian Deisler. On 29 May 2007 Bayern Munich announced Karimi would be leaving the club, though his new club was not yet known.
On 3 July 2007, Karimi announced that he had signed a two-year deal with Qatar Sports Club. Karimi was believed to have put pen to a contract worth around £3.2 million, with a clause allowing him to return to Europe at any time.
Persepolis’ then chief executive, Dariush Mostafavi, reached an agreement with Karimi after a one-hour-long telephone conversation. Persepolis would have to pay Al-Sailiyah in order to release Karimi from his contract. Mostafavi claimed the release fee was around US$ 310,000. Karimi signed with Persepolis on a one-year contract on 6 September 2008.
Karimi scored his first goal since his return to Persepolis in the Tehran derby. With Esteghlal leading 1-0, Karimi equalized for Persepolis two minutes from time. On 9 October 2008, Karimi scored a hat trick against Abumoslem but could not prevent Persepolis losing 3-4.
However, Karimi’s contract was not extended reportedly because of a strained relationship with Persepolis chief executive Abbas Ansarifard. While Ansarifard claimed that the club offered Karimi a contract but he did not show up, Karimi claimed that Persepolis kept him waiting for four weeks for nothing.
After joining Steel Azin, Karimi scored for four consecutive matches at the start of the season. On 14 August 2009, he scored the second goal in Steel Azin’s 4-3 win over Saba. He scored a brace against Shahin in Steel Azin’s 2-1 victory. On 4 December 2009, Karimi converted a penalty in the 52nd minute against Pas FC to score his 11th goal of the season. On 6 March 2010, during his team’s match against Saipa, Karimi was sent off for pushing Majid Ayoubi after Ayoubi had fouled him.
In January 2010 it was reported that Al-Ahli made an offer of US$500,000 to sign Karimi on a loan deal until the end of the 2009/2010 season, which was rejected by Steel Azin. It was reported that he had been sacked by the club for not fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
On 31 January, 2011, Karimi signed for Schalke under a five-month deal upon passing a medical examination. He made his debut 5 April 2011, coming on for Raúl in the second half in a Champions League quarter final match against Inter.
Karimi made his debute for Iran national football team in October 1998 in a match against Kuwait. That same year, he won the Gold Medal with Iran at the 1998 Asian Games. Karimi scored one of Iran’s two goals in the final against Kuwait.
He was also one of Iran’s main players in its 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign. In 2001, after losing to Bahrain and drawing with Thailand, Iran finished second in their qualifying group and had to play a home-and-away play-off with the Republic of Ireland for a spot at the 2002 World Cup. Karimi started as an attacking midfielder in the first game in Dublin, and used his acceleration on the break and his dribbling to attack Ireland’s defence. However, he was also off target on a number of occasions, and Iran lost the match 2-0. They won the return leg 1-0 but missed out on the final.
At the 2004 Asian Cup, Karimi scored five goals that made him joint top scorer. Iran finished third in the overall tournament, behind Japan and China. In the quarter final, Karimi scored a hat trick in Iran’s 4-3 win over South Korea. His first two goals were headers and the third a finish on a low cross from Mehdi Mahdavikia. Karimi was given the prestigious Asian Player of the Year award in 2004, joining his fellow Iranians, Mahdavikia in 2003, Ali Daei in 1999, and Khodadad Azizi in 1996. He also won the 2004 West Asian Football Federation Championship with Team Melli.
Coming off a serious ankle injury, Karimi had a poor World Cup finals at Germany 2006. He was unable to exert much influence on proceedings as the Iranians lost 1–3 to Mexico and 0–2 to Portugal. He was substituted in the 65th minute of the Portugal game and kicked the team’s sports bags by the dugout. Iran’s then manager Branko Ivankovic said he may drop Karimi in the upcoming game due to disciplinary reasons. Karimi did not play in the 1–1 draw against Angola, but Ivankovic attributed Karimi’s omission to his refusal to play because of an injury.
Karimi played in 2007 Asian Cup.
In May 2008, Karimi was banned from playing in the national team after he made criticisms towards the IRIFF in the Ardebil training ground, but has been reinstated in the national squad after intervention from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
In October 2008, Karimi retired from Team Melli. Ali Daei, the then Iran football coach, said Karimi will never be called up again. In February 2009, Karimi announced that he is ready again to serve his country, if he was to be picked by Team Melli coach, Afshin Ghotbi.
He played in 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification for Team Melli and on 10 June 2009 Karimi scored in a 1–0 victory over U.A.E. to keep Iran’s 2010 World Cup qualifying hopes alive. On 17 June 2009, he played in Iran’s 1-1 draw with South Korea, a result that eliminated Iran from the 2010 World Cup finals. During the match, a number of Iranian players, including Karimi, wore green wristbands, which are interpreted to be a show of support for Iranian opposition leader Hossein Mousavi, who accused the Iranian government of vote rigging in the 12 June election. Western media reported after the game that the players who wore the green wrsitbands have been banned from the team for life, while a newspaper in Iran reported that the players concerned have retired. On 24 June 2009 FIFA wrote to Iran’s football federation asking for clarification on the situation. The Iranian football federation replied that no disciplinary action has been taken against any player. On 3 March 2010 he returned for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification match against Thailand. Karimi was not picked to be part of Iran’s 2011 AFC Asian Cup squad as Ghotbi decided to use younger players in his position.
He is currently the third most capped player and the third highest scorer of Iran.
Awards and honours
- AFC Asian Cup
- Appearances and goals: 2004 (Third Place) (5), 2007 (Quarter final)
- Asian Games
- AFC/OFC Cup Challenge:1
- Azadegan League
- Winner: 2
- 1998/99 with Persepolis
- 1999/00 with Persepolis
- Runner up: 1
- 2000/01 with Persepolis
- Winner: 2
- German championship: 1
- 2005/06, Bayern Munich
- UAE Cup: 2
- 2001/02, Al-Ahli
- 2003/04, Al-Ahli
- UAE League
- Runner up: 1
- 2003/04 with Al Ahli
- Runner up: 1
- German Cup: 1
- 2005/06, Bayern Munich
- Hazfi Cup: 1
- 1999/00, Persepolis