Words by Hamoudi Fayad
Ali Mabkhout’s stellar 2014-15 campaign was hard to top, especially considering how high he has risen. From your average Arabian Gulf League forward all the way to this deadly, Cristiano-like left-winger at the Asian Cup. Ali Mabkhout is now classed as part of the Golden Emirati generation, the one that includes the likes of Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil.
His performance rise stretches back to late 2014, where his quick start with Al-Jazira warranted him a spot in the starting line up of the national team immediately before the Asian Cup. Luckily for Mabkhout, he had the Gulf Cup to prepare. Despite it being a non-FIFA tournament, the Gulf Cup is often seen as a tournament for the region’s stars to shine in. With competition increasing year by year, Mabkhout took his chance to stand tall with a tally of five goals in the tournament and subsequently a repeat of that number to be crowned as Asia’s top goalscorer, in the 2015 edition of its Asian Cup.
There was no sign of stopping for the 25-year-old, who received offers from a reported seven clubs during the January and July transfer windows in 2015. Nothing materialized after rejections by the Al-Jazira board, but those actions seemed to have thrown him off his real job: scoring. Three goals in 8 matches alongside a saddened version of Mabkhout have seen his year teeter off into the abyss. Yet still, his hard work is providing great help to a lackluster Al-Jazira side, who stand in a dire 10th place as we move into the second half of the season.
Highlight of the Year: His scoring form at the Asian Cup
Ali Mabkhout led the UAE to the third place finish with five goals to his name, which is unprecedented for an Emirati star in the making, or any Emirati, for that matter. In fact, the UAE as a whole had only managed to score five times at one Asian Cup once (in 1996), and three tallies were the maximum for an individual before Mabkhout arrived on the scene.
His runs from the left wing as well as the right were deadly and most notably tormented Bahrain in the first minute of the match-up, or a strong Japan side early on in the quarter-final. On top of that, Mabkhout’s penalty proved to be the decider in the bronze medal game.