x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

'Al Shabab is like my home' for team captain

Adel Abdullah has spent a lifetime either rooting for Al Shabab or now representing them on the field as the team's captain.

Adel Abdullah, right, has dedicated his life to Al Shabab, first as a fan as a child and now as team captain. But he knows in a few years it will be time to step away from football for a spell and dedicate himself to his wife and daughter.
Adel Abdullah, right, has dedicated his life to Al Shabab, first as a fan as a child and now as team captain. But he knows in a few years it will be time to step away from football for a spell and dedicate himself to his wife and daughter.

When Adel Abdullah pulled on an Al Shabab jersey for the first time, he was eight years old and oblivious to the future that lay ahead of him.Football was only a for fun then and moving to the club was just a change of scene from neighbourhood games with friends.

Gradually, a burning desire to play for Shabab took shape in his heart. He would spend hours sitting in the stands watching the first team train, and he would not miss any of their games.

Seeing club legends such as Bakhit and Khamees Saad - both members of the UAE team that went to the 1990 World Cup - in action, Abdullah started dreaming of emulating these heroes and devoting his entire life to the club.

"When I was young, I never thought I would be playing football at this level," said Abdullah. "Playing for the Shabab first team was only a dream for me. Later, when I became 13 and 14, I started focusing more on the first team games and the league.

"Abdulkhalid Fadl, Bakhit Saad, Khamees Saad were among the many players who influenced me. I wanted to be like them and give my best for the team when I get a chance."

His opportunity came when the midfielder made his first team debut as a 19 year old, and he has since risen up the ranks at the Dubai club.

Seeing his work ethic and leadership qualities, Paulo Bonamigo nominated Abdullah as his captain, and the player's commitment on the pitch has vindicated the coach's decision.

"Adel is one of the most important players that we have at the club," the Brazilian coach said. "He has very good relations with all the players, coaching staff and the administration. He shows a lot of leadership on the pitch and off it.

"As a player, he has a great attitude and a big heart. He is very committed and plays a big part in the style we play."

Abdullah's commitment to Shabab was evident from the day he made his debut. He never wanted play for another club, although he endured some really difficult times.

Before the league turned professional, his salary from the club was not great, and he worked at different jobs to supplement his income. But he was always there at the training in the evenings, working hard on developing his game.

Today, he is a full-time football player and earning enough money to fulfil his wildest dreams, but he prefers to live moderately.

"You get really good money in the Pro League, enough money for you to buy everything you dream of," Abdullah said.

"But if you don't think about your future, then you are gone. What's the use of a Bentley or a Ferrari if you are not thinking about and preparing for the future?

"I prefer a more modest lifestyle. I prefer to drive a BMW, which is priced between Dh150,000 to Dh200,000. That's enough for me. I don't like to go over the limit. I don't forget who I am and I don't want to live like taabaan [glitter]."

Abdullah also remains thankful to Shabab's support during his times of struggle before the-professional era.

"Al Shabab is like my home," he said. "You hear players saying this very often about their clubs, but I really mean it and I am proud to be saying this. They have provided me everything ...

"Shabab were really my second family. They raised me, gave me everything and they gave without me asking anything. What I am doing for the club now is nothing compared to what they have done for me. It is only a small compensation. Now I am 31 years old and almost finishing my career, and I would like to finish my career at Shabab and not anywhere else. Shabab and football have been everything in my life, so if I leave Shabab and stop playing football, I will not know what to do and where to go."

Abdullah knows he will have to make that call sooner rather than later. He does not see himself playing for more than two or three more years, and then he wants to devote his time to his family. He has a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter at home, who has not received much of her father's time.

"Sometimes she cries and says, 'father take me to this place, I want to play, I want to buy this'," Abdullah said. "At times, I feel really guilty about not being able to give her and my family enough time.

"Honestly, the wives of football players are really suffering because they are not getting enough time and attention from their husbands. But for me, it will happen soon. In two years I will be free and then we will have enough time."

Abdullah plans on taking a complete break from football after his playing days are over. He wants to spend quality time with his daughter and wife, going on holidays and fulfil his daughter's demands.

"I have left a big gap between me and my family, and I have to close that," he said. "So I will stop completely for two or three years, and spend time with my family. Taking a complete break for two or three years will also help me to recharge after all these years of running, training, thinking, concentrating, pressure, and all those other things that come with professional sports.

"So, for two or three years, I will not receive any calls and answer nobody. I will just take care of my family. Later on, I will surely come back to football because football is my life. I don't know what to do other than football."

When he returns, coaching is not at the top of Abdullah's wish list, as he would rather be the team manager.

"Coaching is a big headache, so perhaps I will get into administration or become the manager of the team," he said. "That's easier. Just sit, drink coffee, make a call, 'where are you, come now, we are starting training'. You just manage things. I feel this is better, an easy job."

arizvi@thenational.ae


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