The UAE will kick off their 2018 Asian Games campaign under a shroud of shame after Al Ain youngster Mohamed Khalfan Al Harasi was sent home in disgrace for sparking a mass brawl in a friendly.
The 19-year-old has been banished from UAE Under-23’s head coach Maciej Skorza’s squad for the Games, with the nation’s campaign getting underway with the junior Whites taking on Gulf neighbours Syria in Indonesia on Tuesday.
Skorza’s side will be keen to shift their focus from the unsavoury matter, which saw Al Harasi erupt in anger after a collision with opposing captain Adib Zainudin during the 93rd minute of Friday’s 2-0 warm-up loss to their hosts at Shah Alam Stadium.
The incident caused players and members of coaching staff from both teams to clash, forcing referee Suhaizi Shukri to prematurely end the match.
The outburst – of which young Boss midfielder Al Harasi later claimed was fueled by being spat on, without naming the alleged perpetrator – provided an unwelcome distraction just four days out from the UAE’s Group C-opener at Soreang’s Stadion Si Jalak Harupat.
Al Wahda centre-back Salem Sultan, however, attempted to draw a line under the incident as the Whites instead turn their attention to the tournament – where they will be hoping to replicate their showing from eight years ago.
The UAE reached the final in 2010, going down 1-0 to Japan as Yuki Saneto’s sole goal earned the Samurai Blue the trophy in China.
Sultan, one of the more experienced members of the squad at 25, insists he and his colleagues are ready to concentrate on matters on the field rather than off it.
“We are ready to emerge in a dignified manner and to take a positive result at the start of the road towards qualifying from the group,” said Sultan, part of the Clarets side that won the Arabian Gulf Cup and Super Cup in 2017/18.
“The morale of the players is very high and everyone is excited to participate in this tournament, which will be the focus of the attention of millions in Asia.
“The goal for all players is to compete and then honour the UAE flag and raise it high.”
UAE Asian Games squad: Abdulrahman Al Ameri, Mohammed Al Attas, Zayed Al Ameri (Al Jazira); Ahmed Rashid, Khalid Ibrahim, Mohammed Al Shamsi, Salem Sultan (Al Wahda); Ali Eid, Hussein Abdullah (Al Ain); Abdullah Juma, Hamad Jassim, Majed Surour (Sharjah); Ahmed Mohammed, Ismail Khamis (Shabab Al Ahli); Jassem Yaqoub, Rashed Omar (Al Nasr); Shaheen Surour (Fujairah); Abdullah Hassan (Hatta)
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