(CNN) — An international footballer who played for the United Arab Emirates, and who became an internet sensation after scoring a backheeled penalty, has died following a car accident near the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi.
Theyab Awana, a 21-year-old winger for local club Bani Yas, was one of the country’s brightest prospects after winning the 2008 AFC Under 18 Cup and was instrumental in the UAE reaching the quarterfinals of the 2009 FIFA Under 20 World Cup.
“Theyab Awana has passed away on Sunday night after a horrible traffic accident on Sheikh Zayed Road in Abu Dhabi,” the UAE Football Association confirmed in a statement on Monday.
“God blesses his soul and wholehearted condolences to his family, friends and fans.”
Last year he won a silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games after the UAE reached the final and had been picked for both senior and Olympic national teams.
But it was his actions during a friendly against Lebanon in July that brought him international recognition.
With the UAE leading 5-2, Awana stepped up to take a penalty.
Instead of conventionally striking the ball he twisted around and backheeled the ball into the corner of the net.
He was immediately substituted by then coach Srecko Katanec, who was angry at what he saw was a lack of respect for the opposition.
Yet the fans didn’t agree. Instead the YouTube clip of his penalty went viral. More than 1.2 million people have since viewed it.
“On behalf of AFC and the Asian football family, I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the UAE football community, family and friends of Awana,” the Asian Football Confederation’s acting president Zhang Jilong said in a statement.
Awana’s death comes soon after another young Emirati player Saeed al Nooby, who played for second division side Al Dhafra, also died in a car accident.
“We had just returned last night with the club officials and players after visiting the family of Saeed al Nooby and paying our condolences,” Bani Yas’ Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira told the Dubai-based newspaper the Gulf News.
“An hour later I got a call from the club’s manager informing me of the accident and I rushed to the hospital but Awana had died.
“It will take some time for the club and his teammates to get over Awana’s death. We have lost a man, a player and a boy and it will be hard to replace him.”