x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Niazi the unlikely Toa hero

The Pakistani doesn't like cricket like much of his compatriots and prefers fast-running and fast-moving games like the sevens.

DUBAI // The bright pink shirts dappled with hibiscus flowers are not the only things that screams originality about the Gulf's newest club, Toa Dubai. They have also ignored the conventional route for recruiting players. The Emirates League side have one of the most cosmopolitan squads of any of the 161 sides at The Sevens this weekend. Their second team are known as the "Toa-ratis", based on the fact that all but two of their players are Emirati. The first team have two ex-Samoa internationals, including Trevor Leota, the peroxide blond tank, yet their leading light yesterday hails from the rugby backwater of Pakistan.

If stereotypes are to be believed Adnan Niazi should have been more concerned with how Mohammed Yousuf and Co were doing against New Zealand, rather than throwing miss passes and scoring tries. "I don't care about cricket," said Niazi, who dotted down two tries in Toa's 40-7 win over Dubai Dragons third team. "I don't mind Twenty20, but the rest is too slow. I like fast- running and fast-moving games, which is why I like sevens."

The 24-year-old fly-half first picked up a rugby ball when he was 16 at the suggestion of his cousins in his native Islamabad. He has been living in Dubai for five years, where he is studying to be a chartered accountant. Next year he is expected to debut for the full Pakistan side when they play in division two of the Asian Five nations. "I am looking forward to representing my country," he said. "Two of my cousins have already played for them, so I want to follow."

In the top tier of the local competition, Luke Sinclair's disappointment at being cut from the Arabian Gulf squad was compounded when he suffered a serious knee injury playing for Dubai Exiles against the Dragons. @Email:pradley@thenational.ae