Dubai: UAE striker Esmail Matar hopes teammate Omar Abdul Rahman’s trial at Manchester City this week will be the first of many overseas opportunities for Emirati footballers following their Olympic Games debut.
Abdul Rahman, 20, was pictured on Manchester City’s website in training alongside the likes of Carlos Tevez and Nigel De Jong at the club’s Carrington training ground on Tuesday, as the team returned for pre-season.
Amoory, as Abdul Rahman is better known, confirmed on Twitter on Monday that a five-day trial under the tutelage of Roberto Mancini had begun, ending secrecy over the arrangement between his club Al Ain and the English league champions.
“I’m travelling to Manchester for the experience of becoming a professional player, wish me luck,” tweeted Abdul Rahman. “For clarification that’s Manchester City.”
It comes after Great Britain and Manchester City’s Micah Richards heaped praise on the young forward for his performances in the group phase of the Olympics, where the UAE put up a credible display. They suffered narrow defeats to Uruguay 2-1 and Great Britain 3-1, before drawing 1-1 with Senegal, with Abdul Rahman setting up two of his nation’s three goals.
Matar, 29, the UAE’s top scorer in the competition with two goals, told Gulf News that Abdul Rahman’s City trial could be the start of greater things to come.
“I think it’s very important not only for Amoory as a player, but the UAE as a country,” he said. “It’s important to be among a group of strong players to see how different and difficult it is to play at the highest level.
“Amoory showed people at the Olympics he could play in any team in the world with his skill and quality. I’m very happy for him but I hope it’s not the first time a UAE player is able to play and train at the level of Manchester City.”
The only Emirati to join a club in a major European league so far was Matar’s Al Wahda teammate Hamdan Al Kamali, who had a six-month loan spell in France with Olympique Lyonnais last season, although he didn’t make a senior appearance.
Matar said: “I think after the Olympics it won’t just be Hamdan getting the experience to go abroad. There are many players like Omar in the UAE that have the quality to play in Europe.
“After we played in a high level tournament, with confidence and quality, against the likes of [Luis] Suarez, [Edinson] Cavani and [Ryan] Giggs, why not?”
Matar added: “It’s important our players want to go and work, because it’s not easy abroad. Nobody will help you over there, you have to depend upon yourself. It’s not like how they deal with us here, whereby if you don’t work nobody will question you. Here it is about emotion, not quality.”
Himself a hot prospect for European clubs back in 2003, when he beat the likes of Spain’s Andres Iniesta to the golden ball award at the Fifa World Youth Championships, Matar was never released by his club, but he’s not bitter.
“This happens everywhere in the world. Clubs don’t want to lose their best players — that’s normal. It’s the club’s right to hold on to their talent,” said Matar, who was linked to Chelsea and Inter Milan.
“I don’t look to the past because you can’t return back there. I focus on the future and I’m thankful for what I’ve achieved. I don’t know if I had a chance to play abroad. But I always believed in myself and that’s the most important thing.”