x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirati teenager Khalid Al Kamali has his eyes on the ball

With a sporting nature in his blood, the 19 year old is focused on reaching the top levels of snooker.

Khalid Kamali, 19, has already represented the UAE at tournaments in Canada and Iran.
Khalid Kamali, 19, has already represented the UAE at tournaments in Canada and Iran.

Khalid Al Kamali was destined for a career in sports. It is the genes he has inherited.

His elder brother, Abdullah Al Kamali, is a professional footballer, who became the first Arab to play in Brazil when he signed for Atletico Paranaense in 2008. At home, he has turned out for Al Wasl and Al Ahli, and now plays for Sharjah.

Hamdan Al Kamali, the Al Wahda defender who is on loan at Lyon in France, is a cousin, while two of his uncles are Ahmed Al Kamali, the president of the UAE Athletic Federation, and Mohammed Al Kamali, the secretary general of the National Olympic Committee and chairman of the Olympic Council of Asia's Culture Committee.

Al Kamali, 19, loves football. He watches all the Sharjah matches because of his brother, but remains a Wasl fan. But he never considered that sport as a career option. He did dabble in athletics for a couple of months at the invitation of his uncle, but chose to stick with a game he had fallen in love with at first sight.

Eight years ago, Al Kamali went to the Dubai Police Officers club with a cousin. Another of his uncles, Salah Ibrahim, was on the snooker table and the youngster watched him and his cousin play.

"They asked me to join them," Al Kamali said. "I had never played before, but I was hitting the balls really sweetly."

He said that Nick Barrow, the UAE snooker coach, was there and watched him play, and then asked him to practice with the national team.

"I started going there every day," Al Kamali said. "Barrow never had to ask me again to come, I went there by myself.

"It's a very attractive game. I cannot tell you what attracted me to it, but I just fell in love with snooker."

That was in 2004, but hard work did not start until 2007. Balancing his studies with his love for snooker, he started putting in the hours on the table that the sport demands.

Gradually, the dividends are coming through.

Last year, he carried the UAE flag at the World Under 21 Championships in Montreal and the Asian U21 Championship in Iran.

He made it to the knockout stages of both the tournaments.

"I played really well and achieved some good results," Al Kamali said. "I could not pass the last 32, but I am improving and I believe I can do it next time.

"My performance gave me a good morale boost moving forward. I know I could have done better. So I will work harder now to perform much better than this and achieve good results."

A student of business management at the Dubai Men's College, Al Kamali plays at the Dubai Snooker Club every day, spending more than four hours honing his skills and giving hope to officials, who had been looking at the future beyond the snooker stalwarts, Mohammed Shehab and Mohammed Al Joker.

"I believe he has a good future," said Obaid Khalifa, the UAE coach. "We cannot find another Shehab in the next 10 years, but because these youngsters are looking up to him, they want to be like him, we can hope for a bright future."

Al Kamali, a huge fan of Ronnie O'Sullivan, the English professional known for his rapid playing style, and is clearly inspired by Shehab's work ethics and the way he manages his job, studies, family life and snooker.

"Mohammed Shehab is studying, is married and has children; he has his job as well, but he is still working hard at his game and playing at a very high level," said Al Kamali, who still has two-and-a-half years left to complete his studies. "So I have learnt from him how to manage my time."

Al Kamali also has no qualms about missing out on all the fun youngsters his age usually have.

"I do those things sometimes, but I love this game and I have to give it my full attention," he said. "I have to give so many hours for this game."

Al Kamali hopes to qualify for the main tour some day. He talked his father into agreeing to a stint at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, England.

"I told my father about the academy in Sheffield," Al Kamali said. "I told him I would like to go there for a couple of weeks. He said, 'Yeah, sure. Just focus on your studies first and then this is not a problem'.

"I want to be a professional and play on the main tour. Only 95 or 96 players from around the world play on the main tour and I want to be one of them. I know I will have to work really hard and I will do it."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae