DUBAI // Mahdi Ali has little doubt about who should be crowned Asia's Youth Player of the Year at today's AFC Awards Gala in Shanghai. Ahmed Khalil is the front-runner for the crown after his sensational show in UAE's triumph at the AFC Under 19 Championship in Dammam earlier this month. Uzbekistan's Sherzodbek Karimov and the South Korean Lee Jong Ho are the other players in the fray.
Karimov, the Uzbek captain, excelled at the U19s, but ended up on the losing side in the final. Lee's story is the same, he was the Most Valuable Player of the U16 Championship, where South Korea lost to Iran in the final. Khalil performed when it mattered the most, scoring a brace in the final to clinch the title for UAE and that could help his chances of success. "All the three players are very good, but personally I believe that Ahmed deserves to win the award purely on the basis of his performances in the big games," said Ali, the coach of the triumphant UAE U19 team. "He was instrumental in us winning the tournament.
"He was brilliant right through the UAE's campaign in the AFC U19 Championship and raised his level even higher in the important games,". "In our group game against South Korea, he equalised in the stoppage time and we went on to win the match. In the final, he scored the opening goal and the second after Uzbekistan had equalised. So, purely on merit, I believe he should win the award." If Khalil is crowned Asia's Youth Player of the Year tonight, it would be the icing on the cake for the 17-year-old, who topped the goal-scoring chart at the AFC U19 Championship and was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.