x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Dubai's Simon Pierre Feindouno is stepping out of his brother's shadow

The Guinea midfielder has created his own identity at the UAE Pro League club, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Simon Pierre Feindouno, left, says he has found inner peace through Islam since moving to the Emirates. 'When I came to the UAE, maybe God sent me here to become a Muslim,' said the Guinean. Jake Badger for The National
Simon Pierre Feindouno, left, says he has found inner peace through Islam since moving to the Emirates. 'When I came to the UAE, maybe God sent me here to become a Muslim,' said the Guinean. Jake Badger for The National

"Do you like my game, the way I play," asked Simon Pierre Feindouno as he walked towards his car, a modest make unlike the flashy models his teammates had just driven away in.

A mere confirmation was not enough for the Guinea midfielder. "Are you sure? What about the people in your office?" He asked the question three times before walking away satisfied.

Recognition is very important for the 27 year old and that had become obvious during the conversation we had under a dark, cloudy sky in the parking area of the Dubai club in Al Awir on Sunday night.

Feindouno was the last Dubai player to leave the building after the 1-1 draw with his former club, Kalba, and the playmaker was far from happy with the result.

Feindouno does not seem the sulking type, but he was probably sitting in the dressing room, reflecting on a game that Dubai should have won comfortably. He must have been rating his own performance as well, for he has come to the UAE to create his own identity, away from the shadows of elder brother Pascal.

Born in the Guinea capital of Conakry, Simon moved to France in 1998 when he was 12. Pascal had signed for Bordeaux that season and he managed to get Simon enrolled at the Nice academy. Five years later, Simon was given a three-year contract by Lens.

The then 17 year old had impressed in several French youth tournaments and a number of sides were interested in the talented teenager, but Lens got him first. He played for their second team for four seasons until he moved on loan to FC Istres in January, 2007. A year later, he signed a permanent deal with Istres, where he won the Division Three title in 2009.

Feindouno was doing well for himself, but he was always the younger brother of Pascal, the attacking midfielder who has played for some of France's biggest clubs such as Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne.

"I want everybody to know me and not through my brother, because my brother is a big player," he said, although he has a great admiration for Pascal. "I'm lucky to have him as a brother and he is my idol. I learnt a lot from him and I thank him for everything he has done for me.

"But [in France] I was disappointed with the lack of recognition of my talent. I lived in the shadows of my brother, which was difficult for me. I think they expected me to do better than my brother. So I decided to try my luck in another country."

Pascal went on to play in Qatar and through conversations with him, Feindouno got a good impression of life in the Arabian Gulf. So when Kalba came asking for him in 2010, he said yes.

A year later, he signed for Dubai and his performances convinced the club's management to extend his contract by another season. He was their only foreign player to be retained for this season.

"I am very happy to come to Emirates and play for Dubai club and I hope I can keep giving a better impression to everyone," Feindouno said.

The first few months in the UAE were not easy for him, though.

"I stayed for three months without my family, without my kids and it was a very difficult time," he said.

The move also cost him a place in the Guinea national team. He was part of their Olympic team, but since coming here he has been ignored.

"Before I came to the UAE, I played for the national team," he said. "I think they have a different impression of not just the UAE but Gulf football. They think if a player comes from France to the Emirates, he is not good. They think you come here only to take money."

Feindouno says that impression is misplaced and he believes the UAE league and the national team are getting stronger by the day.

"The league is getting tougher and tougher here because there are so many big players, professionals, and the local players have also improved," he said. "So this year, it is a very difficult league and I hope for next year, it will become even more difficult.

"I hope we will improve our level and the UAE team will win the Gulf Cup, Asian Cup, everything."

Feindouno is certainly enjoying being a part of this league and that is the reason he turned down "two offers from France and other countries as well" after his season with Kalba and opted for Dubai. Life in the UAE was also one of the reasons.

"I think life here is like, not exactly a vacation, but very quiet, relaxed," he said. "In France, it's always busy, busy. You don't have time for yourself or your family because you need to work, work all the time.

"Here, you have time … I have time for my family because we have only one training. So in the morning I have time for my kids. So Emirates, I like it."

Feindouno has also found inner peace here in the UAE - through Islam.

"The best thing to happen to me in the UAE is that I became a Muslim here," he said. "I cannot explain why I became I Muslim. It is something from God. When I came to the UAE, maybe God sent me here to become a Muslim. I feel very happy and the same my family also.

"And because I am feeling so good, I enjoy when I play."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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