x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Asia crowns a shining star in Khalil

Ahmed Khalil crowned an unforgettable month by winning the coveted Asian Youth Player of the Year award at the AFC Awards gala in Shanghai.

Emirati players, from left to right, Rashed al-Falasi, Ahmed Khalil al-Junaibi and Amir al-Hammadi, celebrate after scoring a goal against Uzbekistan during their AFC U19 Championship final in Dammam on Nov 14 2008.
Emirati players, from left to right, Rashed al-Falasi, Ahmed Khalil al-Junaibi and Amir al-Hammadi, celebrate after scoring a goal against Uzbekistan during their AFC U19 Championship final in Dammam on Nov 14 2008.

Ahmed Khalil crowned an unforgettable month by winning the coveted Asian Youth Player of the Year award at the AFC Awards gala in Shanghai. Khalil, the top scorer at the AFC Under 19 Championship and the tournament's Most Valuable Player, was picked ahead of Uzbekistan's Sherzodbek Karimov and the South Korean Lee Jong Ho.

The starlet, 17, is only the second player from the Gulf to win the award. Oman's Mohammed Amor took the honour in the inaugural ceremony in 1995. And the Al Ahli player dedicated the award to his family and nation. "It's a very good feeling to win this award and I want to present this award to all my family members, particularly to my mother and brother," said Khalil. "This award is also an achievement for UAE football too.

"My next goal is the Fifa Youth World Cup next year. I want to do my best and score more goals for our country. Don't worry, we will do our best." "This award is a great success for him and the UAE," said Mahdi Ali, Khalil's youth team coach, who guided the side to the Asian title earlier this month. "The whole nation is proud of him after his show in the AFC Under 19 Championship, and this is just another feather in his cap.

"The boy has a great future ahead of him and he is surely going to win many more awards in the coming years." Khalil's coach at Al Ahli, Ivan Hasek, was also glowing in his tributes. "We all are delighted that the best young player in Asia is from Al Ahli," said the former Czech international. "We all are proud of him. He is one of the biggest talents in UAE football and I am happy to be working with him. I believe he has great potential to go higher and higher."

Hasek has expressed fears that Khalil could be heading for a breakdown or burnout if the workload on the teenager is not reduced. A hectic recent schedule of matches and ceremonies has hit the youngster and he is suffering from back problems, which forced him to skip training with his club. "The UAE FA needs to decide what is their priority," said Hasek. "They need to decide whether he will play for the Under 20 or the senior national team. He cannot play for both.

"This is not physically possible for a 17-year-old and I will fight for him. He has got a big future ahead of him. He will be the face of football in the UAE and a superstar for Ahli. "So we need to protect him. If people are not going to respect him and his body, they will wreck his future. If he keeps working hard and stays injury-free, nothing can stop him from a glorious future." It could have been a double celebration for the UAE in Shanghai, but the irrepressible Ismail Matar was pipped by Server Djeparov of Uzbekistan for the Player of the Year award.