3/15/2017 8:30:16 AM

WAITING IN THE WINGS

WAITING IN THE WINGS

HE MAY not have bloomed in Spain the way he had wanted to, but Akram Afif keeps his cool and is determined to make a mark.

Akram, one of the most talented Qatari players of his generation, became the first from the country to move to La Liga when Villarreal signed him last summer before loaning him out to rivals Sporting Gijon.

But the ASPIRE Academy product could not quite find his footing at Sporting either. The 20-year-old has made only seven appearances for the club so far and did not figure even in the 18-member squad in their last five games.

But back at the Al Sadd Stadium, where he had tormented many teams while helping Qatar to fourth place at the Asian Football Confederation’s Under-23 Championship last year, Akram showed his flashes of brilliance. The winger, sporting the senior national team colours against Azerbaijan in a friendly last week, came up with a trademark solo run in the second half and set up Rodrigo Tabata inside the box only to see the Al Rayyan captain messing it up.

Asked about lack of enough chances at Sporting, Akram, who previously had a productive spell at ASPIRE Academy-owned Belgian side KAS Eupen, said he would not give up.

“Every player wants to play full time. It’s true that I’m not getting enough minutes at Sporting at the moment, but I keep working hard at trainings to improve my skills and overall level to grab my chance. Football in Spain is totally different from that in Belgium and I’ve to bide my time. I’m confident of making it,” Akram told Doha Stadium Plus in an exclusive interview.

“I’m only 20 and have age on my side. If I wasn’t patient, I could’ve come back to Qatar. I’ve set lofty targets in my career. I’ll pursue it with all my effort,” said Akram.

The former Sadd player is eager to pass on all experience he has gained in Spain to his Qatar team-mates as they look to pull off wins in the crucial games against Iran (March 23, home) and Uzbekistan (March 28, away) in the 2018 World Cup qualification.

“I’m passing on all my experience to the Qatar team-mates. I believe it’s my duty to do so, especially at a time when we get ready to play Iran in what could be our most important game of 2018 qualification. We must strive to beat them,” said Akram, who helped Qatar win the Asian U-19 Championship in Myanmar in 2014. 

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