MUSCAT // The UAE striker Ismail Matar has flown home from the Gulf Cup base in Oman following the death of his father on Sunday. Matar, 26, flew back to Abu Dhabi from the team's hotel in Muscat and was not sure if he would rejoin the squad in time for the opening Group B match with Yemen tonight at the Police Stadium in Wattaya.
Matar won the most valuable player and the top scorer awards in the last championship which the UAE won on home soil in 2007. And he was awarded the Golden Ball in the 2003 FIFA Youth Championship in Abu Dhabi. His absence would mean that the only two strikers coach Dominique Bathenay picked, Mattar and 17-year-old Ahmed Khalil, who is out injured, could miss the tournament. "We can't ask him if he can go and play at this time of difficulty," said a close associate and an administrator of his club Al Wahda, who didn't want to be named. "It is a very difficult time for him and it will be better to leave him alone for the time being. "If he decides to join the team in Oman, it is up to him. Of course, Ismail's absence will be a severe blow to the team. He is one of those players no coach or none of his teammates would want to miss on the pitch. "I just hope he can get over this and make up his mind whether to rejoin the team or not. I don't think anybody has a right to force him to play in the Gulf Cup."