Abu Dhabi: When Iziq Iakopo Foa’i landed in Abu Dhabi last February after his mum took a job here as a teacher, little did he know that the UAE would play a crucial role in shaping his dream of becoming a professional rugby player.
Now the 16-year-old is keen to not only continue his education, but also to get spotted by talent scouts as he hones his skills.
“I was in Qatar for a year but did not play any rugby there,” said Iziq, who will be a Grade 11 student at Cambridge High School when the academic year starts in September.
“I knew about the Dubai Sevens, but was not sure that I would get a chance to play and do well in rugby. Back home in New Zealand, I only used to play rugby league, which is quite different to rugby union.”
After quickly settling down in Abu Dhabi, the teenager, who has the ideal build for the game, is one of the youngest players in the 30-strong UAE Under-19 squad.
Iziq played for the Abu Dhabi Harlequins during the Dubai Sevens in December last year and is one of the rising stars at junior level. The Harlequins lost in the semi-finals to the eventual winners Dubai College by two points, but Iziq had done enough to make his presence felt.
“I have made it into the squad and hopefully will be part of the UAE team that travels to Kazakhstan in October this year for the Asian Five Nations event,” Iziq said.
While Iziq’s roots are in the Pacific islands, he was based in Auckland, New Zealand, and therefore harbours a dream to become an All Black. But before that, the promising teenager is keen to make his mark at junior level and get spotted by scouts.
This, he hopes, could lead to a move to the UK, where he could continue his career and academic studies.
“Playing here in Abu Dhabi and Dubai gives me more opportunities,” he said.
“Many representatives of clubs in the UK come here and, if you’re up to it, there is every chance of getting picked up to play at club level.
“When I came here, I was not aware that such opportunities existed. But now that I know they do, I am keen to try and get snapped up by a club and pursue my education.”
Already over six foot tall, Iziq now trains twice a week and is battling the summer heat to stay fit. “Though right now studies are my first priority, I also want to keep my rugby going. My main aim now is to try and keep improving my game and then hope for the best,” said Iziq.