Young star's fitness tested during Ramadan

Paul Radley of The National reports on the aftermath of the Al Ahli-Al Wasl match.

Al Ahli's prodigious young striker, Ahmed Khalil, is still operating some way short of full capacity because of the effects of fasting, according to his manager, David O'Leary.

Khalil, the 19-year-old striker who is the brightest prospect in UAE football, was outstanding as his side thrashed Al Wasl in the Dubai derby on Wednesday night.

He profited from a neat link-up with Fabio Cannavaro, Ahli's captain, to score his first of the new season, then won a penalty on the strike of half-time, to pave the way for the 4-1 success.

However, the visibly-exhausted youngster was forced to make way midway through the second-half, when he was substituted by his fit-again brother, Faisal.

Ahmed Khalil was not the only one to suffer in the intense heat and humidity. His new strike partnership with Aristide Bance was starting to gel against Wasl, but Bance, too, made a premature exit due to cramp.

"I think Khalil has been very tired and fatigued because he has not been able to get much food into him," O'Leary said. "It is all about loading up before matches, because of what you lose during the game.

"Ramadan is a very tough time for athletes. He is a young man as well, and expels a lot of energy. When Ramadan is over, we will be able to control a lot better what we put into them to prepare them for the match, and we will be able to teach them."

O'Leary said introducing a greater awareness of nutrition to his players is part of his remit for moving Ahli towards a greater level of professionalism.

"One thing I have to start teaching them is how they eat," he said. "After a game they need to know how to replenish what they have lost, and how they eat building up to a match.

"That is another part of the process. We have to get them into good habits, habits that Cannavaro and myself have had for many years."