Esmail Mattar draws inspiration from Federer, Bryant

Esmail Mattar draws inspiration from Federer, Bryant
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Published August 21st, 2015 - 19:37 GMT via SyndiGate.info

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Esmail Mattar (picture courtesy: alwahda-fc.com)
Esmail Mattar (picture courtesy: alwahda-fc.com)

Esmail Mattar has been a household name of sorts in UAE football for well over a decade. Al Wahda’s veteran striker burst onto the scene way back in 2003 with his heroics at the Youth World Cup and was awarded the Golden Ball after being voted the tournament’s Best Player despite UAE only making it to the quarters.

What made him an overnight star, however, was when he led from the front to take UAE to their maiden Gulf Cup of Nations in 2007. There has been no looking back since for Mattar, who had always remained an integral part of the UAE set-up for all the major tournaments.

Fast forward to 2015, Mattar is well past his prime and the last couple of years have been utterly disappointing. He has been either warming the bench or only used as a utility player for short bursts. While most would have written off Mattar contending that the old warhorse’s career is over the hill, Al Wahda’s new high-profile coach Javier Aguirre begs to differ.

According to the Spanish veteran, Mattar is the player to watch out for in the 2015-16 season and even rated him higher than the Chilean sensation Jorge Valdivia, who is set to join the team soon.

“I can tell you Esmail Mattar is the best player we currently have in the team and all credit goes to his work ethics you see,” said Aguirre, looking straight into the eye of the veteran forward, seated next to him at a press conference.

Revealing the secret of his transformation, Mattar said that he drew inspiration from other top athletes who too are in the twilight of their career. “My inspiration has been tennis legend Roger Federer and NBA star Kobe Bryant who have handled their age issues well and continued in the sport at the highest level for long. I have been following them closely and they still have the skills. They are older to me so I’m sure I can also keep going, at least for few more years,” said Mattar, who admitted that the last two seasons were absolutely disappointing for him.

“You can say, it was the worst two years of my career. Things were difficult not only on the field but also off the field as well. Staying on the bench for most part of the season also did no good to my confidence. It was a total disaster but this year I’m ready to fight for my place in the team,” said the 32-year-old, who chose not to blame Aguirre’s predecessor for his setback.

“You can say I had a lot of weight in the head and he [Aguirre] helped me to get rid of that. Then it was all about focusing on fitness and that’s what I have done as I was with the team from the beginning of the camp. Good training has put me in the best of shape and I’m all set to go,” revealed Mattar, who was looking forward to teaming up with Chilean star Valdivia upfront.

“I have teamed up with a lot of top players in the past and I don’t think playing tandem with Valdivia would be a challenge. I always believe in learning and as long as you are ready to learn and keep improving for the team it doesn’t matter whom you are playing with,” said Mattar, who felt that his team had the ability to go all the way this season.

“We surely have to team to be there at the top. I think many team have a good chance and the competition level has grown. However, our job is not to think about the opponents too much and think about our own game. Sometimes, you might not have a great start and might lose but that will not hamper our aspiration for this season.”

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