Theyab Awana one of the UAE’s brightest stars died on Sunday, tragically killed in a car accident. He was just 21. Awana was returning from a training camp held at Al Ain ahead of the team’s qualifier with South Korea on October 11 when his car struck a road repair lorry. Awana passed away in the hospital. His brother driving with him is in critical condition.
Awana became an internet sensation in July this year with his cheeky backheel penalty kick in a friendly against Lebanon which the UAE won 6-2. The YouTube video clip went viral gathering more than 2 million views. Mostly from fans who delight in novel ways to hoodwink a goalkeeper. It was not exactly the most graceful execution of a backheel but it had the effect of bemusing the Lebanese goalie into a stupor.
The national coach Srecko Katanec took a dimmer view substituting Awana immediately for disrespecting the opposition. Probably not so much on the grounds of the backheel as much as showing his backside.
The incident brought him instant fame but he was much more than that as a player. As a 18 year old he caught the eye in the 2009 U20 World Cup where the UAE entered the quarterfinals. Earlier, Awana’s bright play was a factor in the national team winning the 2008 U18 Asian Football Championships. He would have been an important part of the senior squad at the 2012 London Olympics. There is enough to suggest he would have invited comparison to Nasir Khamees who represented the UAE in the 1990 World Cup.
Jorvan Vieira, the coach for Baniyas, the club that Awana played for had just returned from the funeral of Saeed al Nooby, a player for second league Al Dhafra also killed in a car accident when he was informed of Awana’s accident. Before he got to the hospital Awana had passed away. The second death in as many days has the UAE calling for changing the culture of speeding on roads.