x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Al Wahda winger Mahmoud Khamis is flying after injury left him grounded

Emirati wants to propel Al Wahda up the table during run-in after spending most of the season on sidelines, writes Amith Passela

Mahmoud Khamis brings skill and tenacity to the Al Wahda line-up and is keen to make up for lost time having misses a large part of the Pro League season following an ankle injury. Sammy Dallal / The National
Mahmoud Khamis brings skill and tenacity to the Al Wahda line-up and is keen to make up for lost time having misses a large part of the Pro League season following an ankle injury. Sammy Dallal / The National

For six frustrating months all Mahmoud Khamis could do was sit on the sidelines and watch his Al Wahda teammates play.

An ankle injury picked up in September forced the winger off the pitch, and eventually he had to travel to Germany for surgery before he was able to regain his fitness.

Upon his return, the 26-year-old Emirati immediately demonstrated what the Abu Dhabi side have been missing and can look forward to for the rest of the season.

He scored the only goal of the game in his first game back as Dibba Al Fujairah were beaten last month in the Pro League, and in his second game, this month, he turned creator as his cross was netted by Marcos Oliveira for the equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Al Wasl.

Though he was part of Wahda's side who went down 1-0 against Al Nasr on Monday, coach Branko Ivankovic has been excited by Khamis's return to form.

"What stands out for me in his play is his attitude and fighting spirit," Ivankovic said. "He has that confidence to try everything on the pitch. He is a strong player, despite his build.

"It is not easy for any player to return from a lengthy injury to come in and play at the same high level, but Khamis gave 200 per cent of his effort in the last three games he has played since his return.

"He has that kind of commitment, excellent fighting spirit and the mentality. All those attributes make him a key player for me. The team won't be the same without him."

The Croat said he had been impressed with Khamis after taking over in the summer and expected him to be an integral part of the side - before he was sidelined by the injury demons that have cursed the Wahda squad throughout the season. Khamis went down after just 30 minutes of the club's first game of the season, against Nasr in the Etisalat Cup.

"We spent a lot of time together during the pre-season training here and abroad, and having watched him train and talking to him, I had a good knowledge of his abilities and personality," Ivankovic said.

If doing without Khamis has been tough on Wahda, the player, too, has suffered from his forced inactivity. He had three months of treatment locally without any sign of a resolution to the problem, then went to Europe for surgery.

"I have had a few injuries and missed some games but this was the longest that I have been out of action," he said. "Obviously, I am glad to be playing again and, hopefully, I can contribute to the team even at this late stage of the season."

Khamis came through the Wahda academy after he was introduced to them by his older brother, Saeed, who played as a right winger, both for the club and the national team, before retiring from the game four years ago.

Mahmoud graduated to the first team in 2007 and was a member of the Pro League championship-winning team in 2010 and also won the Super Cup in 2012. He was called up to the UAE national team in 2008 and has 35 international caps to his credit.

Khaled Awadh, a long-time member and the assistant chief executive of the club, knows the diminutive winger from his childhood days.

"He showed early promise and after a successful period at the age-group level he got in to the first team when we had seven national team players in the line-up," Awadh said.

While he is enjoying his footballing exploits, Khamis is also looking long term; he is studying business management at Abu Dhabi University.

"Football is my game and my first love, but I have to stop playing at some point. I want to have some educational qualification and I take time off for some studies," he said.

But there is plenty of football ahead of him and Wahda before then, beginning with Saturday's trip to second-placed Al Ahli in the Pro League.

"Hopefully, we can finish on a high given the problems we have whad at the beginning of the season," he said.



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