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Omar prefers club duty over AFC awards briefing

China’s Wu Lei and Iraq’s Hammadi Ahmad, other contenders give UAE playmaker big thumbs-up

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Omar Abdul Rahman means business and he is not ready to harm his Al Ain Club’s Arabian Gulf League’s aspirations for what could be one of the biggest nights of his career on Thursday.

UAE’s ace playmaker, who has been nominated for the continent’s premier individual prize, up against China’s Wu Lei and Iraq’s Hammadi Ahmad, gave the pre-awards press conference a skip to take part in his side’s match against Al Dhafra yesterday.

“He couldn’t be here because he is busy with his commitments for his club Al Ain today in the local League, but will be here tomorrow. He had informed us well in advance though,” said AFC’s head of media operations Chetan Kulkarni.

Clearly, the pain of losing the Asian Champions League title at home last week would be haunting Abdul Rahman and he has put his personal stardom behind for his team here.

Abdul Rahman’s side were held to a 1-1 draw in the second leg in front of their fans at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium by Korea Republic’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, who claimed the title with a 3-2 aggregate win. And the result deprived Al Ain of a second AFC Champions League to add to the inaugural title the club claimed in 2003. Al Ain captain Abdul Rahman, however, walked away with the 2016 AFC Champions League’s Most Valuable Player award and is now firm favourite to win the Asian Player of the Year. The award ceremony is scheduled to be held Thursday at the capital’s Emirates Palace.

The other nominees Lei and Ahmad were all praise for Abdul Rahman and felt it was great to be nominated in the Emirati’s company.

“We were supporting Al Ain to win this year’s AFC Champions League and we were not looking for individual awards. Omar is a worthy player and he gave his team the best and let the best man win the Player of the Year award,” said Ahmad, who plays for Air Force Club, winners of this season’s AFC Cup, and the Iraq national team. He was both the top scorer and most valuable player of the 2016 AFC Cup.

Lei, who is the all-time top goalscorer for his club, Shanghai SIPG, with 114 goals and holds the record for being the youngest person to have played in a professional Chinese football match aged just 14 years and 287 days, also rated Abdul Rahman highly: “Omar is an excellent player and I have watched his game. He is a very good player but for me it is the first time in the Chinese League and I’m happy with the way I have performed.”

The nominees in the women’s category are Caitlin Foord and Lisa De Vanna, both from Australia, and Tan Ruyin of China.

“It is a great honour for Australia and it has shown how far we have come. I was been looking for this award as a long-time achievement and not just this year and it is more about what we achieved in the Olympic qualifiers this year,” said de Vanna, who has made over 100 appearances for her national side including three FIFA Women’s World Cups and two AFC Asian Women’s Cups.

“It was a massive honour when I won the young player’s award. To be nominated now for this also a great honour. Hopefully one of us can go on to win for Australia,” said Foord, who holds the record as the youngest ever Australian to play for the Matildas at a Fifa World Cup, having played in Germany at the age of 16 years and 230 days.