x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Omar uncertain of future

Rashid Omar, the UAE's No 1 table tennis player, is worried by the state of the sport in the nation.

Rashid Omar was the UAE’s standout performance at the World Team Cup Classic.
Rashid Omar was the UAE’s standout performance at the World Team Cup Classic.

DUBAI // Rashid Omar, the UAE's No 1 table tennis player, was recognised as a world-class talent at the World Team Cup Classic in Dubai last week but now faces uncertainty about his future in the sport. 

Despite the national side losing all three matches at the Al Nasr Sports Club, Omar won five of his six games against players ranked above him in the world and his performance was the main positive from an otherwise disappointing event for the hosts.

Lateef Sunmola, the Nigeria coach, believes Omar can beat the best. Yangjun Duan, the Canada coach, was hugely impressed and two top South Korean clubs have invited him to train with them free of charge. The UAE's No 1 player is, however, not sure he can take up the offer as he does not know how long he will be playing the game. 

"In these past two days, I got two invitations to train with two of the best clubs in South Korea," said Omar, 22, who is ranked a modest 360 in the world due to a lack of playing opportunities.

"The coach [Park Ji] got it for me. It's for free training and it is an honour for me to have such a high-level team willing to host me. But will I be going? That is the question. 

"We have the Olympic qualifications next year, but will I be playing till then? I don't know. With the present situation now of this sport in the UAE, it is difficult to think about the future. 

"After this we have the GCC Club and Arab Club. We have the Asian Games in November. After that we don't know. Will I be there, will I not be there? I don't know. I also have my personal life."

Despite his dilemmas, Omar turned in a superb performance for the UAE in the Intercontinental Cup with his five victories. Sadly, those were the only matches that the UAE won, losing 1-3 to Canada, 2-3 against Nigeria and 2-3 to Australia. Nigeria triumphed in the Intercontinental Cup to take their place in the main draw of the World Team Cup Classic, but Sunmola said his team were fortunate to beat the UAE.

"We were lucky," he said. "Nigeria were so lucky to beat them. That tall guy, Rashid, is playing fantastic and he can go a long way. He is a really big prospect and has the ability to beat anyone in the world. I can assure you of that." Omar's only loss came against Canada's Xavier Therien after being a set and 6-1 up. "Rashid, he is really a talented player," Duan said. "He has good forehand and backhand, and a good all-round game. His backhand defence is probably a little weak, so he needs to work on it. His attacking game is good on both sides. His top spin is also very good.

"He probably needs more international competition experience. He has to play more outside, more pro tour tournaments. He needs to play different kinds of players and gain in experience." 

For that to happen, Omar is seeking financial security - a sponsorship deal that will allow him to focus exclusively on table tennis. 

"I need sponsors, I need support," he said. "If I take the offer to train in South Korea, what happens here? Who will provide for me over here? If there is anybody who willing to do that, then I am ready 100 per cent. If someone is willing to secure my future, I am ready."

arizvi@thenational.ae