Going into the final of the AFC Under 19 Championship against Uzbekistan, Ahmed Khalil had just one wish - to return home with the cup and dedicate it to the Rulers and fans. His dream did come true, but with a bonus - he returned home with not one, but two trophies. The striker, 17, scored twice to lead the UAE to a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan and that show earned him the Most Valuable Player of the tournament gong.
Khalil was the top scorer of the tournament in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, with four goals and three of them came when it mattered the most. He rattled Australia with a fourth minute strike in the semis and then sealed the UAE's first-ever win in the continental championship with a brace in the final. The young Emirati hero, however, remained humbled in his moment of glory. "I thank God for the award, but I did not come here to achieve personal glory," he said.
"We were here to win the tournament and that is the most important prize for me." Khalil, who older brother Faisal plays in the senior team, put the UAE ahead after 33 minutes with a stunning shot into the top left corner of the net from a free-kick 25 yards out. "I believe that goal is one of the best in the tournament," said the delighted UAE coach Mahdi Ali. Uzbekistan equalised in the 64th minute when Sherzodbek Karimov's corner was headed on by Sherzod Azamov to Kenja Turaev, who put the ball in the back of the net from close range.
Their joy was, however, short-lived as Khalil fired home a rebounded shot in the 72nd minute when the Uzbek goalkeeper Usmonov Doniyorjon had punched away Ahmed Ali's shot. "This was not just my individual effort - the whole team has contributed to this award," added Khalil, who plays for Al Ahli in the Etisalat Pro League. "I won this award because they helped me to score and I dedicate our historic achievement to all the UAE Sheikhs and people who were behind us."