DOHA // Mohammed Khalfan al Rumaithi, the president of the Football Association, believes the victorious Olympic team deserves to be hailed as the "golden generation" after they cruised to their third title in four years by winning the Under 23 Gulf Cup last night. Coming together six years ago, the team clinched the U16 Gulf Cup title in 2006 before adding the Asia U19 Championship in 2008. Last year, they earned rave reviews as they reached the quarter-finals of the Youth World Cup in Egypt before translating that potential into something tangible with a 1-0 win over Kuwait in the U23 final.
"Yes they deserve to be called the golden generation," al Rumaithi said. "In four years they have clinched three titles - the U16 Gulf Cup, the Asian U19 Championship and now this. We were very close to reaching the semi-finals at the Youth World Cup in Egypt last year." Hassan Ismail, the team's goalkeeping coach, echoed al Rumaithi's sentiments and said: "This team should be called the golden team. The players and the coaching staff have worked as one through the years and we have been reaping the rewards. We have kept pushing each other on, kept challenging each other and bringing the best out. I am really proud to be associated with this team."
Ahmed Khalil, the hero of UAE's triumph at the Asia U19 Championship triumph in Damman, was again the star of this tournament with five goals, including a stunning winner in the 33rd minute of the final last night. The Al Ahli striker dived head first in to meet an Abdulaziz Haiqal cross from the right and flicked it into the ground, past Abdulaziz Mabrouk, the stunned Kuwait goalkeeper, and into the net. The goal sparked jubilant celebrations in the dugout with Mahdi Ali, the coach, exchanging high-fives with his substitutes and coaching staff. The celebrations were matched in the stands by the UAE fans.
Amer Abdulrahman, who was picked among the five most impressive players at the Youth World Cup last year, was adjudged Player of the Tournament, but it was a consummate team performance that saw UAE keep Kuwait down. "This is a team that we have worked hard on," said al Rumaithi. "This is not a result of one or two years, but of six years of hard work. Now this team is setting the bar for all the other national sides.
"We really have to take care of them so that we can have quality players. When players stay longer together, with the same coach, this is the secret of this team's success. So we are trying to follow that with all the teams." The next assignment for this team is the Asian Games in November. Hopes of a medal are high. "It is a continental championship and we should aim for a medal, hopefully," said al Rumaithi.
Ismail added: "It's my belief that the team is in its best form and ready to deliver the goods. I have noticed that in the faces and eyes of everybody including the administrative, technical and medical staff. "Also, the positive results here will motivate the team for the upcoming challenges like the 2010 Asian Games in China and the 2012 Olympic Games in London." firstname.lastname@example.org