12/28/2016 8:09:03 AM

Starting with a bang!

Starting with a bang!

ALMOEZ Ali had scored an opportunistic goal for Lekhwiya against Al Kharaitiyat in the 12th round with virtually the last kick of the game and coach Djamel Belmadi rewarded the player with his first-ever start in the Qatar Stars League, against Al Shahaniya last week.

The lanky player did not disappoint as he struck once each in either half and provided an assist to Youssef El Arabi’s first goal. As El Arabi collected the match ball as souvenir, Almoez walked out through the tunnel, unassuming as always.

It has been a memorable year for the forward, who played his part in Qatar’s fourth-place finish at the AFC Under-23 Championship at home last January. And the 20-year-old, who had spells at ASPIRE Academy-owned clubs KAS Eupen in Belgium and Cultural Leonesa in Spain, is happy to have made an impact at Lekhwiya.

“It has been a truly memorable year. I’m happy to have won the Emir’s Cup with the club. I started getting more minutes with the first team and I also received my senior national team call-up,” Almoez, who plays as a winger and idolises Real Madrid great Cristiano Ronaldo, told Doha Stadium Plus.

The player thanked Belmadi for his trust and support.

“I’ll be thankful to the coach for his support. He always asks me to maintain positional sense and stay wide to find space. For an young player like me, it’s important to have the coach’s confidence. It was great on his part to start me in the match against Shahaniya ahead of proven performers Ismail Mohammed and Ali Afif. I’m happy that I could do a good job,” he said.

Al Moez said he wanted to first cement his place at Lekhwiya and then look for opportunities abroad.

“My priority is to put in a lot of hard work during training and games to fast develop as a complete player. I would then start thinking of playing in Europe. I had been there before so I know what it takes to get there again. Akram Afif (currently playing on loan at Sporting Gigon from Villarreal), who is like a brother to me, has shown us the way by becoming the first Qatari to play in the La Liga. It should inspire several youngsters, including me, to follow in his footsteps,” said Almoez, who also thanked the ASPIRE Academy for moulding him as a footballer.

“Aspire is a great institution which taught us the basics to become a professional player. The days at the academy are the most memorable days in my life. We learned several values there and I owe a lot to Aspire,” he said.

Almoez said he was confident of helping Qatar progress to the 2018 Asian U-23 Championship in China and doing well there. 

“We had a memorable championship at home last January and we were so disappointed to lose to Iraq in the third-place play-off and thus miss out on Asia’s final berth at the Rio Olympic Games. We want to make amends in the China edition, the qualification of which will begin in July. 

“I also want to make the most of my stint with the senior national team and help our country qualify for the World Cup in Russia. I believe we still can make it. That’ll make us confident ahead of the tournament in Qatar in 2022,” he added. DSP

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