x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Omar looks to the spirit of 2007

After surprise recall, the UAE veteran Mohammed Omar has set his sights on repeating Gulf Cup glory.

Mohammed Omar captained the UAE to Gulf Cup glory in 2007.
Mohammed Omar captained the UAE to Gulf Cup glory in 2007.

AL AIN // Mohammed Omar is living the dream being he was recalled for the national team for their title defence of the Gulf Cup in Oman starting next week. The former captain and striker fills the void left by the young Ahmed Khalil, 17, the hero of the Under 19 Asian champions and later named the AFC Young Player of the Year, who has been ruled out because of injury.

"It really is a surprise to be called up for national duty," said Omar, who retired from international duty after he became the first Emirati player to hold the Gulf Cup aloft in the 35-year-history of the competition. "There are a number of good memories but to hold the Gulf Cup as the captain beats them all. Now I get an opportunity to re-live that dream. I wanted to go out on a high and there was no better way to step down after winning the Gulf Cup.

"I had a few years to enjoy the game I loved at the club level. And I continued to play with the same passion and commitment. "It was some kind of a reward when this call-up for national duty came, I couldn't say no. "It is a great honour for me to be called up from my retirement and more important is to give my best for the country at the hour of need. "I felt I was playing pretty well at present and have been doing my job as a striker for Al Nasr. I hope I can continue with the same kind of form that I am in at the moment and use all my experience to help the team."

The former captain has been in remarkable form and has scored nine goals in 10 games in the Pro League, one behind Al Jazira's Fernando Baiano. Omar moved to Nasr at the start of the season and is the only player to have played professionally for five different UAE clubs. He was signed by the nine-times league champions Al Ain in 2001 for a then record Dh3million transfer from Al Wasl. He won three league titles, a Super Cup and the inaugural Asian Champions league for Ain. He crossed over to Jazira and after his international retirement joined the promoted Al Dhafra in the middle of last season.

"It has been a wonderful journey when I look back on my playing career. I couldn't have wished for more," said Omar. "Football has been my life and I have worked hard all through my career to live as a professional player even from those early days when professionalism was virtually non existent. "I am also thankful for all those who have kept faith in me. I am just as delighted as I was when I was called for the national duty for the first time in 1996. And this time I feel really honoured to be in this UAE team."

Omar, still cherishes the goal he scored past Gianluigi Buffon when Ain stunned the Italian giants Juventus in a friendly, hopes all his experience will help the team to retain the regional crown they won in 2007, when it was held in Abu Dhabi, beating Oman 1-0 in the final. apassela@thenational.ae