UAE hoping for safe hands not hot head from goalie Naser
The 30-year-old Al Ahli stopper, who is also a policeman, has one of the longest charge sheets in Asian football
There is no question Majed Naser has the talent to fill the void of absent United Arab Emirates captain Ali Khaseif at the Asian Cup but can the notoriously hot-headed goalkeeper keep his cool in the pressure cooker environment?
The 30-year-old Al Ahli stopper, who is also a policeman, has one of the longest charge sheets in Asian football.
From head-butting opponents, slapping managers, throwing chairs on the field and even assaulting a referee, Naser has routinely masked his goalkeeping talents with his failure to keep his temper in check.
In spite of the issues, UAE coach Mahdi Ali saw fit to include Naser in his squad for this month's Asian Cup in Australia after a year-long ban for spitting at a referee was overturned in November.
A place in the 23 raised questions for some but then skipper and first choice Khaseif pulled out to complete national service just as the team boarded their fight to Australia and Naser was suddenly first choice.
"He promised to abide by our rules and training regimes, and that he will keep out of trouble," Ali said of Naser's inclusion.
"We want to benefit from his presence and it's a chance for him to prove that he is up to the responsibility."
Ali's is a familiar statement echoed by many of Naser's previous coaches as they tried to help him following previous indiscretions.
In 2001, he threw a rock at a linesman and assaulted the referee during a youth team match for home town side Fujairah but that did not prevent Al Wasl stepping in to sign him a few seasons later.
He was handed a 13-match ban for assaulting a linesman in 2007 and then a further 17 games in 2012 for slapping an opposing manager on the back of the head at the end of a league match, which led to the 2007 Gulf Cup winner announcing his retirement from the game.
He swiftly retracted that premature decision but only two months later, with former Argentina great and fellow hot-head Diego Maradona as his manager, he head-butted an opponent 10 minutes into a Gulf Club Champions League final match and was banned for six months.
A new start came with a shock move to Al Ahli and he played a handful of games in their title-winning campaign last term before earning the surprise recall for a third Asian Cup after several years out of the international fold.
He is expected to start in their Group C opener against Qatar on Sunday before matches against Bahrain and Iran and he was relishing yet another second chance.
"It is a new challenge for me," the goalkeeper said. "What had happened earlier with my behavior is behind me. I am looking forward to give my best for my team and my country."
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