x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

'Everything I have is thanks to my country'

Sportsmen across the UAE are grateful and ready to celebrate National Day.

Al Ain's Rami Yaslam, centre, and his teammates will visit Tawam Hospital on National Day.
Al Ain's Rami Yaslam, centre, and his teammates will visit Tawam Hospital on National Day.

From the coast of South Africa, where Azzam is docked as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing prepares for the Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race, to Dubai at The Sevens ground, where the UAE rugby team will face off for the first time against the sport's best sides, the Emirates' sportsmen are readying themselves to celebrate National Day in style.

"I haven't even thought about what I would do if I scored a try on National Day. I would probably cry. That would be amazing and I would definitely be the happiest person in the world," said Mohammed Hassan Rahma, the Emirati wing for the UAE sevens team.

"Everything I have is thanks to my country, so I will be going out there to do all I can to give something back. That is why I want to put some scores on the board."

The UAE are playing at the Sevens as a separate nation for the first time, having previously participated as the Arabian Gulf.

"It will be a high point in my life," said Badr Fikree, the Emirati manager of the sevens team. "I'm here to serve my country. The rulers have given me everything I have in life, so to have the chance to represent them is really special for me.

"If we can put one between the posts, I can't even imagine how that would feel. I'm short of breath just thinking about it."

"If Mohammed [Hassan Rahma] scored a try, I would be on the pitch. Management aren't allowed on the pitch, so I would probably be arrested, but I would be so happy I don't think I would be able to stop myself."

Cyrus Homayoun, the UAE sevens player, said: "It is an honour for us to play together for the first time, and on National Day. We are making history, and it is great to be part of that.

"Changing from the Arabian Gulf to the UAE means the nationals have something to identify with better, with it being a national side rather than a regional one."

There are no Pro League games today, with the first three matches of the latest round kicking off tomorrow. It gives Emirati players a chance to take in the occasion

"I will take my family out to soak in some of the celebrations taking place in and around the city," said Subait Khater, the Al Jazira and national team midfielder. "It is a day to enjoy and have some fun with my kids while reflecting on the progress the UAE have made over the last 40 years."

Some Al Ain players will visit patients at Tawam Hospital. "I hope, as players of Al Ain, we can bring some joy to those who may not be able to be out to celebrate the day," said Al Ain's Rami Yaslam.

Wajahat Husain, the president, Abu Dhabi Cricket Council, said: "For a change, we have a musical concert to celebrate the Spirit of the Union. On the previous occasions we have had a seven-a-side tournament.

"It is with gratitude to the country's leadership we enjoy cricket at the Zayed Stadium and the UBL Twenty20 tournament that starts from December 9 at this beautiful venue will be part of the month-long festivity."

Khalid Yousef, one of the UAE's top amateur golfers, said: "I don't go overboard. On this occasion it may be dinner out with the family. Of course it is a joyous occasion for all those living in this country and there will be plenty of merriment."

Other sporting personalities will not be in the UAE, but will still mark the occasion. Saeed bin Suroor, the Godolphin trainer, will be on his way to Hong Kong for a race meeting.

"I will celebrate National Day with some of my friends," he said. "The 40th anniversary is a very momentous occasion and I wish we will also have success with Campanologist in Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at the Sha Tin Racecourse, a prize we won with Mastery last year."