London: Former UAE star Zuhair Bakhit has urged the Olympic national team to make the strongest of statements as they take on Uruguay in their opening match of the football competition at Old Trafford on Thursday night.
“I wish I could roll back the years and be part of this golden generation,” Bakhit told Gulf News here.
“They have done so well and given the UAE so many occasions to cheer. But on Thursday they are up against another huge moment in their career and I hope they can prove that they are capable of bearing the responsibility of playing on the world stage,” he added.
Based in London over the past year while getting treatment for a faulty nerve affecting his right eye, Bakhit’s glory days with the UAE national squad and his Al Wasl Club started in 1988. He went on to play for the country at the 1990 Fifa World Cup and retired from international football in 2001 after playing in five Gulf Cups and three AFC Asian Cups.
“This is a strong group of players we have, but it will not be easy for our team,” Bakhit said.
“But it’s good for our country to play in an Olympic Games and I would have loved to be here with them as part of the team,” he added.
Pitted against the likes of Great Britain and two-time gold medallists Uruguay, Bakhit did not seem too optimistic about the UAE’s chances of advancing in the 16-team competition.
“But if we do well in our first match, then anything is possible and we can go a long way,” he said.
“I think we have a nice group of players, and if I could go back ten years I would have loved to be with them. There are players like Ahmad Khalil and Amer Abdullah who play at a completely different level,” he added.
However, Bakhit said that none of the current crop of UAE players are “good enough” to strut their skills outside the Gulf region. “Our players are good enough to play in the UAE or in any of the Gulf countries, but they will not be able to play, either in Europe or even in Japan. Players anywhere else in the world are far too professional in their approach and besides our players get paid well enough here anyway,” Bakhit said.