It has been a long and arduous journey but Andre Senghor, the tall and athletic Baniyas striker, is finally seeing his hard work pay off. He has scored in every game so far this season and tops the Pro League scoring chart with 10 goals.
And with his excellent record, the 24-year-old Senegal international has silenced his critics, who wanted him replaced before the transfer window closed on September 19. The reason, they argued, was that Senghor produced as many poor performances as he did goals.
The criticism used to trouble him. "I was always under pressure to prove my worth when I first arrived [in the UAE] five years ago," he said. "I have managed to stay focused on my game. It is not unusual to criticise any player, but there are also others who are very supportive."
Senghor's journey began in 2006 when, having just turned 20 and against the wishes of his mother, he travelled to Al Ain with his agent for a trial. He was signed as a youth player for two years, but was loaned to Al Karama of Syria and Raja Casablanca in Morocco, before Al Ain gave him a three-year contract.
"I am ever so thankful to Al Ain," he said. "They gave me the first break and that kept the fires burning for my family back home. My brothers were better players than me, but they didn't succeed.
"When I left school for football, my mother was against it. I left home against her wish, but now I am glad that I made it. I was able to help them lead a decent life."
Senghor spent the 2008/09 season in shadows of Jorge Valdivia, the Chile international, Andre Diaz, the Brazilian striker, and Soufiane Alloudi, the Moroccan forward, as Pro League clubs are only allowed to field three foreign players. But he had some opportunities and netted seven league goals from 11 games in that season.
However, Al Ain decided against keeping him as one of their three foreigners and sold him to Baniyas, where he became a first choice. He was joint fifth in the scoring chart with 13 league goals last season. "It was sheer hard work and some good fortune that I am topping the scoring charts this season," he said after claiming his 10th league goal and helping his team beat Al Nasr 1-0 on Tuesday.
In the previous match, he scored twice against his old club in a 3-0 victory and appeared to gesture to the Al Ain officials in the stands, but says he holds no ill feeling against his former employers.
In total he has scored 13 goals in 10 games in all competitions so far this season.
Senghor also earned an international cap in a friendly against Oman during the 2008/09 season as well as winning the President's Cup and the Etisalat Cup with Al Ain.
The striker comes from a family dedicated to the game. His brothers, Pierre and Basin, are both full-time players in Senegal, but the lack of chances in their home country convinced Senghor to take a risk and move abroad, in spite of his mother's protests.
"My mother was against me leaving school to play full-time," said Senghor, the youngest of three boys and four girls. "I can understand her plight because my brothers couldn't make a living out of football.
"I had to take my chances. I also had a burning ambition to become a professional player. This is a game I enjoyed most all my life. I was a big fan of Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid was my favourite team.
"I also wanted to help my family, provide them a decent life. My father is a pensioner. My mother was against me leaving school early, but now she is very happy. For us, life was a struggle when I first arrived for a trial with my agent at Al Ain. Thank God, I made it.
"I was also happy when I moved to Baniyas because I was sure to be in the regular line-up. This is a club where they have some very talented young Emirati players and I am very glad to be a part of this exciting team."
Baniyas are considered by many pundits to be in with a chance of winning the title this season.
The 3-0 drubbing of Al Ain certainly made the rest of the Pro League take notice.