x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Golden oldies who may go to London

Who would be on the shortlist for overage UAE Olympians when they travel to London this summer?

Ismail Al Hammadi, centre, could be one of the over 23-year-old players the UAE choose to take to London.
Ismail Al Hammadi, centre, could be one of the over 23-year-old players the UAE choose to take to London.

Whom do you like? Ismail Matar? Ismail Al Hammadi? Or maybe the bad-boy goalkeeper Majed Nasser?

A fascinating but oft-overlooked aspect of the Olympic football tournament is this: each team may bring along three players over the age of 23.

They may not use them in qualifying, but once a team is in, the doors fly open for the oldsters, and many nations go hunting for veteran players to aid in a push for gold.

At Beijing in 2008, no fewer than 38 overage players competed in the 16-team tournament. Among them: Ronaldinho, Robinho, Thiago Silva, Javier Mascherano, Juan Riquelme, Peter Odemwingie and Roy Makaay. The US brought along Brian McBride, who at age 36 was the oldest man in the tournament.

Who would be on the shortlist for overage UAE Olympians when they travel to London this summer?

Matar, the Al Wahda forward, would be at the top. Aside from an in-form Ahmed Khalil, no Emirati is a more consistent source of goals than Matar, who was hero of the 2007 Gulf Cup championship.

Al Hammadi, the tireless Al Ahli left-side winger, was perhaps the best player for the senior team during their doomed World Cup qualifying campaign.

A few years ago, Subait Khater, Al Jazira's holding midfielder, would be an easy choice, but he is 32 and seems to be slowing.

Among the defenders, Jazira's attack-minded left-back Abdullah Mousa is an interesting option.

And then there is Naser, the national team goalkeeper in recent years.

Khalid Essa, the current first-choice Olympic keeper, has at times seemed shaky. But would the Football Association consider Naser, recently suspended for 17 matches after attacking the Ahli coach Quique Sanchez Flores?

A year ago, Jazira's Ali Kasheif would have been an easy choice, but he is coming back from surgery and remains out of form.

The medal winners in 2008, Argentina, Nigeria and Brazil, each brought a full complement of three overage players. Ivory Coast, however, brought none and still reached the quarter-finals.

Perhaps the UAE, too, will take to London only the youngsters who qualified to go.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae