DOHA // Subait Khater, the UAE's bustling midfield enforcer, has decided to call time on his international career after the Asian Cup.
Khater, who plays for Al Jazira in the Pro League, is making his third appearance in the Asian Cup since his debut for the UAE in 2000.
He has since won more than 100 caps for his country, but the 2007 Gulf Cup is the only medal he has won on the international stage.
"I want to end my career with the national team on a positive note," Khater said after a training session on Saturday night.
"I want to return home from Doha satisfied with my performance and knowing that I have played a distinctive role in the UAE's progress into the second round and ahead.
"I have taken this decision after a lot of thought - it is final and irreversible."
In the two Asian Cups that Khater has taken part in, the UAE failed to progress beyond the group stages in China (2004) and Vietnam (2007). The 30-year-old is hoping to improve on those performances at this year's tournament, starting with tomorrow's opening game with North Korea.
Elaborating on the reasons for his decision, Khater said he was struggling to cope with the physical and mental demands of playing for both club and country.
"I have been playing for national teams for 17 years now and have given everything I have," he said. "But the last few years have been difficult. There is a lot of stress and it has affected my performances on the pitch, for both the club and the national team.
"I have found it difficult to play for both the national team and the my club, so I have decided to retire from international football at the end of this tournament.
"It is a good time in UAE football and the presence of some good players has helped make this decision more comfortable for me. There are a lot of youngsters who have done really well and they are the future of UAE football. So I know if I leave now, it will not have a negative impact on the team."
With this mix of youth and experience, Khater hopes the UAE will have a good run in the competition.
Their best show in the continental championship has been a runner-up finish at home in 1996. They finished fourth four years earlier in Japan (1992), but have not made it beyond the group stages in five other appearances.
"We know we are in a tough group, but we should be able to qualify for the second round," Khater said of Group D, which as well as North Korea also includes Iraq and Iran.
"There cannot be any excuses. The Football Association have provided everything that is needed for the success of the team."
"There are lots of national teams here in Doha who do not get the same facilities that are available to us. This puts a bigger responsibility on us as players. If we get negative results, there will be absolutely no excuses for us.
"We have to do everything we can to give back to the FA and the country for their support. The government and the leadership have never failed us, or any other athletes."