Hamdan Al Kamali back in from the cold to lead UAE Olympic side

The defender will captain team against Uzbekistan after not playing against Australia. Audio

March 13, 2012 (Tashkent Uzbekistan) UAE National football coach Mahdi Ali, left, and team captain Hamdan al Kamali hold a press conference one day before the final match against Uzbekistan for a place in the Olympics in London March 13, 2012.  (Sammy Dallal / The National)
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TASHKENT // Hamdan Al Kamali's return from exile will be complete tomorrow when the Lyon centre-back starts for the UAE's Under 23 side and wears the captain's armband in the winner-goes-to-London-2012 match versus Uzbekistan.

Mahdi Ali, the UAE coach, confirmed the decisions at the pre-match press conference today, with Al Kamali sitting at his side.

Al Kamali, the only Emirati playing outside the country and the first to join a leading European side, had been left out of the U23 team for the February 5 match versus Iraq, which came as the former Al Wahda defender was pushing for a loan move to the French Ligue 1 club.

He was recalled from Lyon and was on the bench in the 1-0 victory over Australia on February 22. Mahdi Ali said he did not use Al Kamali because he had not played a competitive match in several weeks. Some, however, were concerned that Lyon might not agree to let the player rejoin the team again because the UAE had not used him on February 22.

However, he was allowed to rejoin the U23 side in training in Turkey last week, and clearly he impressed his coach sufficiently to regain both his position and the captaincy.

Al Kamali also has been a regular in the senior national team side, and was a key member of Al Wahda's 2010 Pro League championship side. His coach at Wahda, Josef Hickersberger, conceded in January that Al Kamali's form had not been up to his usual high standards, perhaps because he was distracted by the prospect of the move to Lyon.

He seemed keen for the match in Tashkent to begin.

“It will be a very difficult game for both teams,” he said. “We worked very hard for the past month, and for a long time, to achieve this moment.

“We will do all our best to succeed and to reach our goals and our people’s dream. We are ready for this game, the players, the staff, the administration. We are working very hard to have a positive result for this game.”

After more than a month of training in France, which has suffered a harsh winter, Al Kamali could bring practical knowledge to the UAE side about playing in bad weather; the forecast in Tashkent calls for a 90 per cent chance of rain and temperatures around 8 degrees Celsius.

“I shared this information on bad weather with my teammates,” he said, “But we had a camp in Turkey with the same weather, and we know that in this type of weather you need to be careful with the field and type of shoes you are using. For this game, we know this requires special attention.”

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Al Kamali has been a key member of the age-group sides that won the U19 Asian Cup in 2008 and the U23 Gulf Cup in 2010 and took the silver medal at the U23 Asian Games in China in that same year.

In his recent absence, the Al Shabab defender Mohammed Ahmed served as captain. Notably, the UAE won both games in which he wore the armband, each by a 1-0 score.