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At 25 years of age, Eisa Ahmed missed out on the London Olympic squad.
At 25 years of age, Eisa Ahmed missed out on the London Olympic squad.

Olympics hurt is Eisa Ahmed's motivation at Al Wahda

Ignored by Mahdi Ali, the full-back is out to 'work hard and improve for the future'.

Eisa Ahmed is the definition of the modern Emirati footballer. He is fluent in English, aspires to play in Europe and is active on social media - Twitter handle, @Eissa_Santo28.

The Al Wahda full-back contributed to his side's 2010 Pro League championship, was part of the 2011 Super Cup-winning side and has seen action in two Asian Champions League campaigns.

He again is a regular for the Abu Dhabi club, comfortable anywhere across the back line, but his most fervent desire is to be recalled to the senior national team, with whom he has been capped seven times, and play in the 2015 Asian Cup, in Australia.

The UAE made history by qualifying and playing in the Olympics for the first time, but Ahmed was not part of Mahdi Ali's squad.

"Every player wishes to be on the Olympic team. However, with not being selected I do not feel like less of a player," Ahmed said. "It just makes me want to work harder and improve myself for future opportunities that may arise.

"I was not disappointed but just a little bit confused that Mahdi Ali did not call me to discuss this subject," he said.

Mahdi Ali has been tipped by many to make UAE competitive again and win a major trophy. He enjoyed success at London 2012 with the Olympic team, who led Luis Suarez's Uruguay at Old Trafford, were tied with Ryan Giggs' Great Britain with 20 minutes to play and drew with Senegal.

"I do not know Mahdi Ali as a person, but as a coach he has been effective in a positive way for the UAE Olympic team," Ahmed said.

"I am pretty sure he is one of the luckiest coaches out there to have such a fantastic team to work with. There is a huge chance for the UAE national team to achieve a major title since Mahdi Ali is combining the best of the players from the Olympic team and the first team."

Ahmed, at 25, is a few years older than the crop of standout Emiratis often known as the "golden generation", and to get back in the national side he would have to push aside one of them.

A thoughtful footballer, and the son of a star player usually known as "Eisa Santo", Ahmed has opinions of each of the major issues involving domestic and regional football.

He endorses the move to a 14-team league. "I agree with the expansion of the Pro League," he said. "In the recent years, we had less games and a lot of breaks in between which affects the players negatively, physically and mentally.

"Being a professional player, it is mandatory to play more games in order to achieve greater physical success so I do think more teams and higher intensity was a good decision."

He concedes that the leagues in Japan and South Korea have been the strongest in Asia for several years, in terms of quality of play, attendance and sponsorship income.

He believes the UAE can catch up, but it will take time. "I can't honestly say if the Pro League will be the best league in Asia, but it has the potential to be the best," he said.

"There is growing attention on the UAE Pro League and teams are working harder than ever.

"The investments into famous foreign players also invite more focus on to the teams from outside countries. People are starting to notice us now."

sports@thenational.ae

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