Hamid Al Kamali became the first Emirati to play in the Uefa Champions League when he came on as a substitute in the closing stages of Valletta FC's 4-0 defeat to FC Qarabag of Azerbaijan in Baku on Tuesday night.
Late entry or not, Al Kamali managed to distinguish himself in the last minute of the match, when he cleared a header off the line to prevent a certain goal.
Al Kamali, 21, joined the Maltese champions on a one-year loan from Arabian Gulf League side Al Wahda a month ago, and his introduction in the 84th minute gave him the distinction of being the first player from the UAE to taste any sort of competitive action in European play.
Valletta, already down 1-0 from a loss in the home leg last week, went behind in the 15th minute to goal by Qarabag’s Brazilian striker Reynaldo Silva.
The loss in the second leg of the second qualifying round means Valletta depart the competition after a 5-0 aggregate loss.
The contest was as good as over after two goals were scored in the first 10 minutes of the second half by Chumbinho and Danilo Dias, giving the home said a 3-0 lead.
Leroy George made it 4-0 with 10 minutes to go, but the ordeal for Valletta was not over yet.
Defender Jonathan Caruana had been sent off earlier in the game for drawing a red card, and late in the second half, midfielder Ryan Fenech, a Maltese native, received a second booking for making a reckless challenge, leaving his team to finish the match with nine men.
Al Kamali will have to wait awhile longer to play his second Champions League match, but his first will nonetheless have a special place in UAE football history.
Al Kamali’s older brother, Hamdan, also plays for Al Wahda and is a member of the UAE national team.
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