ALI Abbas feels stronger than he ever has.
Forget that the Jets midfielder is approaching 35. After two seasons away from football, Abbas is adamant his game is getting better every day.
The silky-skilled attacker will make his 150th A-League appearance in the F3 derby against fierce rivals Central Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
"I made my A-League debut with Newcastle. Now I am back here for my 150th game. It is very special to me," Abbas said.
And if all goes to plan, the fan favourite has more milestones ahead.
"It is a really proud moment for me to be representing the Newcastle Jets - the team I started with in the A-League," he said.
"Hopefully I can continue and reach more than 200.
"The body is getting stronger day by day. I feel light and I'm sure I have another two-to-three years in me. If I stick to what I have been doing, looking after my body, eating well, I will easily reach that.
"I am contracted until the end of the season. I hope to stay here.
"My goal is to be a part of this team and do something special next year ... I want to win something before I retire."
Abbas made his debut for the Jets in 2009 after signing a six-month contract as an injury replacement for Shaun Ontong.
The Iraqi international spent three seasons in the Hunter before stints at Sydney FC, in Korea at Pohang and with Wellington.
Thrown a one-year career lifeline by the Jets, Abbas has been used almost exclusively as an impact player in his 14 appearances.
"I try to use my experience to change the game," he said. "I want to score goals, I want to win games, I want to impress the coaches and win a spot in the first XI.
"I had an issue with my hammy. I couldn't sprint, I couldn't do anything freely. In the last five weeks I have managed to make it perfect.
"I am more free now. I can sprint, I can do a lot of the stuff I was scared to do," Abbas said. "Now I am 100 per cent and if the chance comes around, I have to take it."
The Jets went down 1-0 to the Mariners in their first encounter in round one - Abbas's return match.
"We did very well in that game and deserved to win," Abbas said "Hopefully we take the positives from that game ... I am sure we can get a good result."
Abbas is a devout Muslim and has been observing Ramadan, which ended at sundown on Wednesday.
For 30 days he has abstained from eating and drinking from dawn until dusk. Teammates Ramy Najjarine. Liridon Krasniqui and Syahrian Abimanyu are also Muslims.
"The first two weeks was hard and the last few days has been harder," Abbas said. "I have to get up each day at 4.30am to eat. I try to put as much as I can in my system, eggs, rice, bread, juice, water ... everything I need to get through 14 or 15 hours. Then I have a little rest before going to training.
"At training I have lots of energy. After 3pm, I get very thirsty and a little hungry. It has helped me get rid of a couple of kilos that I wanted out of my system, which is good.
"I have been doing this since I was 12 or 14 and am used to it.
"Two weeks before Ramadan starts I practice fasting for six hours then four hours every day to get my system used to it."
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