x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hamdan Al Kamali hopes for French future

The Emirati defender, on loan from Al Wahda, has no desire to return to Pro League and targets first-team place in Ligue 1.

Hamdan Al Kamali will represent the UAE at the London Olympics, and play against the host nation at Wembley Stadium. Karim Sahib / AFP
Hamdan Al Kamali will represent the UAE at the London Olympics, and play against the host nation at Wembley Stadium. Karim Sahib / AFP

ABU DHABI // Hamdan Al Kamali hopes Lyon take up the option this summer to extend his contract at the French Ligue 1 club as the national team defender has no aspirations to return to the Pro League.

The centre-back became the first Emirati to sign for a European club after Al Wahda accepted a proposal in January of a six-month loan deal with an option of a one-year extension. The 23 year old has played seven reserve team games for Lyon and wants the chance to stake a claim for a spot in Remi Garde's first team next season.

"I want to stay in Lyon, I love France, I love the club, the structure, management and I am very happy here," Al Kamali said. "My aim is to get into the starting Xl of the first team. I do not want to go back to the UAE Pro League."

Wahda are yet to hear from Lyon about any plans to translate the loan deal into a permanent one.

"Hamdan has a six-month loan agreement up to June 30," Khaled Awadh, the deputy chief executive, said.

"If Lyon wants to buy him, they have that option. But so far they haven't communicated with us."

Lyon had been chasing Al Kamali for six months before he eventually signed and it took the intervention in January of Sheikh Diab bin Zayed, the Wahda chairman, to resolve the protracted deal.

Kamali says he has acclimatised well to life on and off the field in east-central France.

"I am very happy in Lyon personally and professionally, Kamali said. "The club is very happy with my development and performances, the standard here is very high and everyone from the president, players, management and all the staff have been very nice and down to earth to me since day one and have welcomed me to settle in.

"The coaches here are very professional, the training is very intense. I am learning something new every day in training which is very good for me."

Al Kamali could have laid the foundations for his UAE teammates to follow him to Europe.

Omar Abdulrahman, the Al Ain playmaker, is sure to attract interest should he perform well at the Olympic Games this summer.

"I am an ambassador for Al Wahda and I represent my country in Lyon and in France," Al Kamali said. "I have played seven games until now and all of them have been great. My performances have been very good and I am adapting to the French style of play".

Al Kamali will be reunited with his teammates for a training camp next month ahead of London 2012 where they have been pitched in Pool A with Great Britain, Uruguay and Senegal. They will begin their Olympic campaign against Uruguay at Old Trafford before taking on the hosts at Wembley Stadium on July 29.

"I can't describe my feelings; I am very excited and looking forward to play in such big historic stadiums like the Wembley and Old Trafford," Al Kamali said. "It is every players dream to play at Wembley and Old Trafford, where legends have played and I am no different. The other teams and players would want to be in our position but we deserve to be here in London and to play at Wembley and Old Trafford."

Mahdi Ali will take 11 overage players in his initial 45-man training squad for the Olympics. However, he can only take three players over the age of 23 to London. Ismail Matar, a former teammate of Al Kamali's at Wahda, is in contention.

"I really don't know about the team selection as it is in the hands of the manager," Al Kamali said. "Mahdi Ali will decide on the final team. I am sure every player will give his best for the country to be selected and will be ready to give their all if they are called up, for one cause, which is UAE. I just can't wait to lead the team out of the tunnel at Wembley and Old Trafford."

Should Lyon decide not to sign Al Kamali on a permanent basis, he will return to Wahda to find a new manager in charge. Branko Ivankovic, the former Iran coach, has been hired to replaced Josef Hickersberger.

"Hickersberger has done a fantastic job with Al Wahda, and he always supported me and gave me confidence as a player," Al Kamali said. "I have not spoken to him recently but I wish him the best of luck for the future."

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