Omar Abdul Rahman was UAE’s star performer at Olympics
His exploits with the UAE Olympic football team have earned him praise from all quarters. Some English fans, always supportive of true sportsmanship, were so delighted with the influence the diminutive playmaker had on the UAE’s opening match against Luis Suarez’s Uruguay last week that the official Manchester United website opened up an online discussion on Mahdi Ali’s team revolving around Omar Abdul Rahman and his exploits.
The 70,000 crowd at the Group A opener between UAE and Uruguay lapped up the UAE’s thrilling display, as attacks orchestrated by Abdul Rahman squirmed and snaked their way through the Uruguayan defence time and again.
Fans loved the dainty moves, the subtle feints, and suddenly the UAE had garnered the support from large sectors of the capacity crowd while earning themselves the respect of the footballing world.
Suddenly, Abdul Rahman, the baby of the UAE squad at 20, had become a man.
Fondly called “Noodles” by his teammates and friends for his curly bush of hair, Abdul Rahman was the go-to man for the UAE during the competition.
While not discounting the contribution of the other members of the country’s football squad, the Al Ain playmaker was the main man, and it was simply a delight to watch him.
He was confidence personified and his movement was slick and defined many an UAE attack. At the same time, he never failed to track back and help in defence.
In other words, Abdul Rahman turned the football field into his own domain, a fiefdom that he was not very keen on surrendering.
But ultimately, like all good things, the UAE’s presence in the football competition came to an end on Wednesday after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Senegal, also making their debut at the Olympic Games.
Liverpool’s bÃªte noire Luis Suarez traded shirts with Abdul Rahman, while Napoli striker Edinson Cavani put his hand over his shoulder and praised him for his display. The 20-year-old had earned the respect of the best.
“He came to me and asked if I would like to give him my shirt and I agreed because I treat him [Suarez] like a brother,” Abdul Rahman said later.
The tournament may be over for the UAE, but their players have reportedly attracted attention from European clubs, with Omar Abdul Rahman already touted as a possible signing for Portuguese giants Benfica. But the UAE star has his own ambitions.
“Playing abroad for a professional club, especially a small club, would be a dream come true for me,” Abdul Rahman told Gulf News after Senegal match.
“Of course it would be great to get a break in a big team too, but then I would rather prefer being in a small team so that I can build my career over a period of time,” he added.
But then Abdul Rahman is realistic as well. He is well aware that it is hard for some UAE players to leave their obligations in their homeland.
“But I would love to see how things go for my career outside the comfort zone,” he insisted.
“First I will go home and then I will know where I am headed.”
His coach Mahdi Ali is not averse to one of his brilliant students moving to pastures new.
“I don’t know if he has had contact with any other clubs. That is strictly between the player and his club,” Ali said.
“I would be more than glad to see our players play in Europe so that they get the experience and pass it on to the team.”