x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Matar shoulders expectations with a smile

Ismail Matar made the final five on the shortlist for the AFC Player of the Year Award last week, but he has had little time to celebrate.

DUBAI // Ismail Matar made the final five on the shortlist for the AFC Player of the Year Award last week, but he has had little time to celebrate. The Al Wahda a striker has instead been fully focused on the UAE's 2010 World Cup qualifier against Iran. Matar has been working hard in training for the must-win game, but with a smile. He is a bundle of energy on the pitch and there are always words of encouragement for his team-mates.

There is little sign of any nerves or pressure in the camp as the UAE prepare for a game that will decide the fate of their 2010 World Cup campaign. "This nomination doubles the responsibility on me," said Matar. "I am really honoured, because it is a recognition of all the effort and toil that players put in day in and day out. "I have to make sure I live up to the reputation, playing for the club or nation. It has certainly increased my motivation to do well for the country. I hope to continue the good work and win the award.

"That will be a great moment not just for me, but for the whole country and football in the UAE." arizvi@thenational.ae