x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hamdan Al Kamali's move to Ligue 1 can break logjam for UAE footballers

When Al Wahda did not move, Al Kamali removed himself from the side. Wahda relented. Common tactics in Europe; revolutionary here.

Hamdan Al Kamali's move to the French club Lyon could shake the foundations of UAE football.

How top national players interact with their domestic clubs may have just changed irrevocably. The career paths of the nation's best young talents could also now lead them abroad, finally, and at an early age.

Al Kamali may be the first successful instance of "player power" wielded by an Emirati footballer. Lyon wanted him; he wanted Lyon. When Al Wahda did not move, Al Kamali removed himself from the side. Wahda relented. Common tactics in Europe; revolutionary here.

The UAE's football leaders long have recognised that a key tactic in arresting the nation's slide into international irrelevance is to allow young players to hone their talents abroad.

Historically, club officials have backed the idea, too - as long as it did not pertain to their own Emirati stars.

Al Kamali's move could break this logjam. Yes, the tall and quick defender, a natural leader, a regular in Wahda's 2010 championship side, seems best prepared to make the leap to a Ligue 1 club. But the likes of Amer Abdulrahman (Baniyas), Omar Abdulrahman (Al Ain) and Ali Mabkhout (Al Jazira) also could find suitors.

The risk to domestic football is not as dire as perceived; clubs will not have their half-dozen best Emiratis stripped away.

Instead, if will be a player here, a player there, and if they survive the crucible of international club football, they will return to form the nucleus of stronger national teams.

 

sports@thenational.ae