x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

No plans to slow down from Jazira's Subait Khater

The Al Jazira midfielder is one of the UAE's most decorated players but has no plans to slow down and reflect on his past achievements.

Subait Khater, centre, is one of the most decorated players in the country.
Subait Khater, centre, is one of the most decorated players in the country.

Perhaps the most telling characteristic of the successful sportsman is this: his accomplishments are so many and so varied he no longer remembers the details.

Subait Khater certainly is a member of that old-school fraternity, and not only because league and national team statistics from previous decades often are incomplete.

He is simply more interested in future endeavours than past.

"The highs and lows are part and parcel of a sportsman's life, but when you are still playing, they get forgotten soon," the 30-year-old midfielder said. "I have enjoyed the success I have had and some of the achievements for the club and the national team.

"I am still looking ahead, like a first league title for Al Jazira, another Gulf Cup and a maiden Asian Cup for the country. When you are looking ahead, the past doesn't feature much in my mind.

"Maybe I can relive the past when I have stopped playing."

Khater shows no signs of nearing the end of his career. He continues to wear the No 24 shirt for both Jazira and the national side.

He broke into the first team with Al Ain 13 years ago, at the age of 17, and has become one of the most decorated players in the country.

He was part of five league championship sides while with his hometown club and won an Asian Champions League medallion, along with a Gulf Club Cup, with the Garden City side.

Add in four President's Cup titles, a Super Cup and an Etisalat Cup after joining Jazira in 2008 and a key figure in the UAE's 2007 Gulf Cup championship side, and it is easy to see how Khater might have trouble sorting out the biggest moments in his career.

Khater is the second of three boys in his family and is the most successful in his chosen career.

"I use to play with my friends on any available space before joining the Al Ain academy," he said. "I think I was about nine and that's where my career began. It was the game I enjoyed most and to make a living from it was really great for me."

He is unsure when he first received a call-up to the national team, but believes he was 18 at the time. He has played in more than 90 international games for his country and scored nine goals.

Many of Khater's goals have been of the stunning variety, particularly those from free kicks; he has long been known as a dead-ball specialist.

Again, however, the sheer volume of his exploits on the pitch defy his ability to rank one goal as better than any other.

"I have had some memorable moments on the pitch and scored some goals," he said. "There are so many instances when I have either scored or created a scoring opportunity for both the club and the national team. There are so many of those instances it's hard to single out anything.

"Winning the Gulf Cup for the first time for the country was one of the biggest achievements. And with Al Ain, I enjoyed winning the league five times, the President's Cup four times and the Asian Champions League in 2003 in a fantastic, seven-year period."

Khater has spent more than 12 years in the country's top flight and feels it has improved enormously in his time.

"Now the competition is more equal than it was 10 years ago," he said. "There are no weak teams in any domestic competition. Even the ones that are at the bottom are capable of winning over the top team in the league on their day.

"There are a lot of young players coming out of the system and that's already proven from the success the national team has had in the age-group competitions.

"In our time, there were less opportunities to play outside the country. But now with the age-group tournaments at the club level as well as at regional and international levels, it is very good experience for the youth players."

Khater strongly believes young players should be given the opportunity to play abroad as professionals. He believes the entire Olympic squad deserves to play outside the country and would like to see local clubs release young players when an opportunity arises.

"Players like Ahmed Khalil, Omar Abdulrahman, Theyab Awana and many of those in the Olympic squad have the potential to play abroad in stronger competitions.

"If they get the opportunity, the local clubs should be able to release them. If we can get them to play in strong leagues abroad, we can have a stronger national team."

Khater, too, had dreams of playing abroad but his club contract does not allow him to pursue that ambition.

Khater is married with four children, three boys and a girl. He likes to travel and drive fast cars, and is a big fan of Zinedine Zidane, the former World Player of the Year. Khater is also an avid supporter of Real Madrid, the Spanish club.

When the domestic game turned professional in 2008/09, Khater decided to cross over to Jazira, signing a five-year contract with a team that has twice finished second in the league and won the Etisalat Cup. He believes it was a good decision.

"I had been at Al Ain all my life and had a lot of success and enjoyed a good part of my playing career at the club, but I still needed a change," Khater said. "And when the opportunity came, I decided to move. I don't have any regrets."

 

apassela@thenational.ae