x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Strange feelings for the Strang family

When Murray Strang turned out for the UAE this morning, his family where torn between their homeland, Scotland, and their son, and brothers, adopted nation.

Murray Strang scored against his home country, Scotland, and played against Kenya on the Saturday morning of The Sevens.
Murray Strang scored against his home country, Scotland, and played against Kenya on the Saturday morning of The Sevens.

DUBAI // The Saturday of the Dubai Rugby Sevens always starts with the hazy feeling of the morning after the night before, but one set of supporters were never going to miss their early morning appointment yesterday.

The Strang family booked a holiday to Dubai months ago for this weekend on the assumption that they would be able to watch Scotland play in the world series, then fill in the gaps with some social rugby besides.

Circumstance decided otherwise, however, and provided 14 minutes they will probably never forget, when son and brother Murray played for the UAE against his homeland in an international sevens match.

The Abu Dhabi Harlequins fly-half obviously has a sense of occasion. In the third minute, he jinked over the line to score against his homeland, which was the perfect way to celebrate his 30th birthday.

"I always keep tabs on how Scotland are doing, and this is probably the first game I have not supported them," Strang said.

"My family are across and they have been holding up a UAE flag for half the games and a Scotland flag for the other half."

One of the Strang tour party, brother Grant, plays club rugby as a No 8 alongside two of Scotland's try-scorers against the UAE, Kerr Gossman and Ross Miller.

Strang also played with great distinction for the same club, Glasgow Hawks, before moving to the Emirates with his job as a chartered surveyor in 2008.

"I matched up in my head before the tournament that there was a chance we might meet on the second day and I was really excited about that, knowing it was my birthday as well," he said.

"It was a dream come true to play against them. Having played in Scotland for so long before coming out here, I always aspired to playing for them.

"Now, running out in a UAE shirt with all my adopted country-mates, it was a brilliant experience. Scoring that try was the icing on the cake."

Dave Matasio, the Dubai Wasps flanker, could empathise with Strang when he, too, was granted the chance to play against his homeland, when the UAE faced Kenya in the Shield semi-final.

Matasio had been on the cusp of playing for Kenya in the past, before moving to Dubai with his job as an IT consultant in 2007.

"It did feel like I was going against my mother and it felt hard to take them on," Matasio, 34, said.

"I was debating whether to play or not to play, but I thought I should for the love of the game."

One of the few players to be representing the country of his birth was Mohammed Hassan Rahma, the Emirati wing.

He had his hands on the ball for the first time in international rugby against the Kenyans, and made a second half break, before being hauled in by the imposing defence.

"It is completely different to how it looks on the TV," Rahma said. "The guys are bigger and tougher than I thought."

pradley@thenational.ae