'It is one of the best moments we are living these days'
For Al Ain's three Brothers Abdulrahman, these are the best of times. They have arrived at a blissful junction of togetherness and accomplishment, with the promise of more to come.
Khalid, Mohammed and Omar Abdulrahman each plays professional football for the same championship side. Each is in the first team. They live with their parents and three siblings in the Garden City. Two of them have married in the past year and two could represent the UAE at the London 2012 Olympics this summer.
"It is one of the best moments we are living, these days," Mohammed said through an interpreter. "Al Ain had been seven years away from the championship and now have won the championship."
Added Khalid: "There is nothing greater than the family, and living together. And the football, too, it's something wonderful."
Said Omar: "It's also a good feeling to represent the UAE in the Olympics and play in Old Trafford and Wembley. With the motivation of winning the league here, we will take even more confidence to London."
Sets of brothers playing in the Pro League is not unusual. But three, in the same championship side? It may be unprecedented.
Khalid is the eldest, at 23, and plays left-back, and the brothers agree he is the fleetest of foot. He also seems the most thoughtful, often pausing to organise his thoughts before answering a question.
Mohammed also is 23, and he usually plays on the left side of midfield. His brothers are left-footed, and he is not, but he is good enough with his left foot that some believe it is his stronger. In an interview, he seemed the most voluble and cheerful of the three.
Omar, 21, has recently returned from knee surgery and plays as the second forward or a playmaking midfielder. Unlike his brothers, he is not married.
When asked which of the brothers is the smartest on the field, Mohammed said: "None of us is an idiot, but maybe Omar being in the position he is, as playmaker, makes him the smartest."
Omar, who scored the memorable goal to beat Australia in an Olympic qualifying match, is likely to be in the UAE first team at London, and Mohammed also has been invited to the training camp.
Each of the three is slightly built, technically proficient and very quick.
"If you played them three-on-three, you'd never get the ball back," said Liam Weeks, the head of performance analysis at Al Ain.
"They all have the skills and the tricks. They're very similar players: they get the ball down, their first touch is very good, their heads are up before they receive the ball, they know what they will do. And each of them will come off the pitch, after 90 minutes, physically shattered. They play at a very high intensity."
They believe this is an age when players of their size and technical ability are in the ascendancy.
Khalid said: "The general view of a footballer is that he should be muscular and big, but we like to show that short little footballers also have abilities and are doubly skilled than the big ones, and that's why they get more attention."
Said Mohammed: "Most of the prominent teams now, most of the players are not big ones, so technique is more important than big bodies."
Theirs is a footballing family to the nth degree. It includes their father, Abdulrahman, and elder brother Ahmed, 29, as well as their mother and two sisters. The three younger brothers are at the centre of it. When they are not playing football, or training in football, they watch videos of football or play football against each other on PlayStation. "We are following football always," Omar said.
After an Al Ain match, the brothers return home and watch a video of the game. "We watch the whole match again, not just the three of us, but with our father and brother," Omar said.
Mohammed added: "We discuss the mistakes made during the match and we try to rectify it for the coming match."
Their parents are Yemenis who moved to Saudi Arabia, and the three brothers were born in Riyadh. They became UAE citizens when they moved to Al Ain and joined the club.
Khalid and Mohammed agreed that Omar, who is generally considered the most gifted of the trio, benefited from playing against them as a child. "Certainly, he made use of our experience before him, and even Ahmed and our father," Mohammed said.
They enjoy being in on the pitch together, as they were for the whole of Al Ain's most recent match, and they believe supporters do, too.
"It's a kind of enjoyment for the fans when the three of us are on the pitch," Khalid said. "Before we played in the same team, we were playing at home as kids, so we have our own football language that we understand, and because of that we can make easy what looks difficult."
They rarely quarrel, they said, even when they were children, and watching them interact makes the idea of "jealousy" seem ludicrous.
They disagree on little, aside from "favourite football teams and players". For Khalid it is Barcelona and Lionel Messi. For Mohammed it is Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo. "The Brazilian Ronaldo," he added, "not the Portuguese." For Omar, it is Barcelona and Andres Iniesta, and Zidane.
Their hobbies are slightly different, too. Khalid surfs. Mohammed likes to travel. Omar prefers socialising with friends.
The Brothers Abdulrahman hope that they are in the same Al Ain side for as long as they play in the UAE. But they are open to the idea of one of them leaving the country
"If one of us gets the chance to leave, we will wish him well," Mohammed said.
"We are part of a family, and we like being together, but there can be an advantage in another country. You could go into a new career there; it could be another future."
Said Omar: "Now, we are for Al Ain, but if a chance comes we will think about it because ambition is limitless."
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