Abu Dhabi: Veteran striker Esmail Mattar faces a race against time to be fit for the Asian Cup, scheduled to be held here in the UAE after fracturing his cheekbone during the Arabian Gulf League match against Sharjah.
Mattar was elbowed by Brazilian midfielder Igor Coronado in the second half during his team’s 3-2 loss against Sharjah. Though he continued to play till the final whistle, it was later discovered after a test at the Khalifa Hopital that there was a fracture and he needed surgery.
Ahmad Al Rumaithi, Al Wahda Club’s chairman of the board of directors, confirmed Mattar will be going under the knife on Tuesday evening. “The referee didn’t see the incident and no foul was called, but Mattar was hurt badly and will be undergoing surgery today. He will be out of action for at least a month,” said Al Rumaithi.
The Al Wahda veteran was named in the 28-man squad announced by UAE coach Alberto Zaccheroni in October for the third camp in Barcelona, Spain after a gap of one year.
The 35-year-old, capped 95 times by the UAE, was back in the scheme of things of Zaccheroni as the country was gearing up to host the AFC Asian Cup. He later also figured in friendlies against Yemen and Bolivia which UAE won 2-0 and drew goalless, respectively. Mattar last scored for the UAE in their World Cup qualifier against Iraq, which they won 2-0, at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi in November 2016.
This was the second blow for Zaccheroni ahead of the campaign. He had earlier lost star midfielder Omar Abdul Rahman, who was ruled out of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup after scans confirmed a tear to his anterior cruciate ligament and he also needed surgery.