x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Al Kamali hopes to catch London eyes at Olympics

The Al Wahda defender wants to play in Europe and hopes he can shine at the 2012 Olympics in London to attract suitors.

Kamali, right, has the talent to play in Europe, according to Josef Hickersberger, his coach at Al Wahda.
Kamali, right, has the talent to play in Europe, according to Josef Hickersberger, his coach at Al Wahda.
Hamdan al Kamali has set his sights on playing in Europe and he hopes the 2012 Olympics in London will open the door for him.
"My biggest ambition is to play in the Olympics next summer as there is no better place for me to be noticed than in London," said the Al Wahda centre-back, 21.
"I am even ready for a move now if I can strike a decent deal with a renowned European club. If not, I hope the Olympics will provide that opportunity."
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Al Kamali led the UAE to their first Under 19 Asian Cup victory, in 2008, as well as two Gulf Cup age-group titles. He also captained the team to the last eight in the U20 World Cup in Egypt in 2009 and was a member of the nation's silver medal-winning side at the Asian Games in China last November.
"There are many young players from this age-group team who want to play abroad," said al Kamali. "It will be a very good experience for us and certainly improve our game by playing in stronger competitions. And it goes without saying how much the UAE football will benefit."
Few Emirati players have ventured abroad.
Typically, UAE clubs do not want to lose their best local players because the talent pool is relatively small but must provide every player on the pitch aside from three foreigners. Also, many UAE players are comfortable playing in the domestic league and are not keen to take the risk of moving to a foreign country and adapting to a new lifestyle.
But al Kamali claims that is the mentality of an older generation of players. He also stressed it was not money that drives young players, but experience and the chance to make a name for themselves on a global stage.
"Times have changed," he said. "The younger players want to be international stars and the only way they can achieve that is by playing outside their countries. Of course, we are very comfortable and earn as much as any international players but we want to achieve more in football.
"We have only heard of players from poorer nations trying to strike it rich, but I want to make a big name and also play to improve my game."
Al Kamali has spent all his career with Wahda, coming through the production line of their academy after he was picked from his school team in Baniyas.
He made it to the club's first team at 17 but his debut, against city rivals Al Jazira in the President's Cup in February 2006, was inauspicious. He received a direct red card for a foul on Tony, the Ivorian forward, and that led to a penalty and a goal. Wahda lost the match 2-0.
"I went for the ball and the momentum made it look like a bad foul on Tony," al Kamali said. "It wasn't a good start for me in the club's first team. It cost us the game but I learnt from that experience."
Josef Hickersberger, the coach for the most of the last two-and-a-half seasons at Wahda (he had a five-month spell as Bahrain's national coach in 2010), agrees that London would be the ideal place for al Kamali to be noticed if his ambition is to play in Europe.
"He is one of few Emirati players who can play in Europe and the London Games is the best place for young players with such ambitions to be noticed," said the Austrian, who has both played and coached in the World Cup.
"Hamdan must be prepared to change the lifestyle as well as the work regime if he wants to play in Europe. It is not easy for any player because of the different kind of workload, which may be to work twice a day.
"If he can adapt to that, certainly, Hamdan can make it to any European club team. For a defender, he has got quality besides being young, fast, decently built; he possesses good tactical understanding. He has to play at his best to be noticed."
Ismail Matar, al Kamali's senior teammate in the club and national team backed the young defender's ambitions.
Matar was allowed to leave Wahda on a six-month loan to play for Al Sadd in the Emir's Cup in Qatar in 2009. He passed up the opportunity to play overseas after he won the Golden Boot at the U20 World Cup in 2003, an award for the best player as voted by journalists.
"I wasn't sure how to adapt outside the country at that time and now I feel I have passed that stage to play abroad," said Matar, 28. "But if players like Hamdan receive that opportunity, they must be allowed to play outside the country.
"Not only he but all who wish to play abroad must be released by their respective clubs. There are many players from the national team, within the age-group squad who are good enough to ply their trade abroad. And if they are given a decent offer and a chance to play outside the country, why not?"
According to Khaled Awadh, Wahda's deputy chief executive, the club will not stand in the way of al Kamali, or any other player, if a decent offer is made for their services.
"There is no problem in releasing Hamdan or any other player if they come up with a decent deal," he said. "In fact we will help them to fulfil their ambitions to play in Europe or elsewhere if they are going to benefit either financially or through the experience."
 
apassela@thenational.ae