Exclusive: Omar Abdulrahman on Rafael Nadal, inspiring Emirati youth and scoring against Barcelona
UAE and Al Ain playmaker Omar Abdulrahman will be attending the Mubadala World Tennis Championship on Thursday for a special meet and greet with fans. We caught up with the current Asian player of the Year ahead of his appearance at Zayed Sports City.
You’re promoting the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. If you could be one tennis player, who would it be and why? Rafael Nadal will be competing, and is a fellow Nike ambassador. What do you admire most about him?
“If I were a tennis player, I would rather be someone similar to Rafael Nadal. His strength lies in his ability to focus on the court, which allows him to take advantage of his opponents’ weaknesses. He is very entertaining and I personally enjoy watching him.”
We have seen the impact major sporting events in the UAE can have on encouraging young Emiratis to take up sport. How important is that and how do you view your role in inspiring the next generation of sports stars?
“Sport is very important to live a positive life and it allows you to do things others can’t. As an athlete I advise all youths to avoid being idle and start practicing sports because it lets you a have clear mind. I know I am not perfect, but I like to stay positive and I encourage those who follow me to be the same. I would appreciate it if someone points out my shortcomings as I try to be the best version of myself and remain a role model and inspiration to all young people.”
In the MWTC, Abu Dhabi is hosting another world-class sports event, and will next year stage the Fifa Club World Cup. What message would you have for people in the UAE ahead of this week’s event?
“I would support any sports tournaments happening in the UAE as a way to support my country and show it in the best light possible. I am confident all sports fans in the UAE would back the tournament and I encourage them to be there to live the excitement.”
You recently played against Barcelona in Doha. What was that like, and did you get to speak with any of their star names during the event? What did you learn most from the experience?
“Barcelona are my favourite team and I was really happy to play against them with Al Ahli Saudi Arabia. It was an amazing feeling. When you enjoy watching a team on television and then meet them on the field — it made me really happy to be among all these amazing players and it motivated me to keep going forward to reach their level. I could learn so much from all those players like [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, Neymar, [Andres] Iniesta and [Ivan] Rakitic. It was a pleasure to watch their ball control, creativity and quick decisions. I believe that no matter how high you reach, you can always learn from others.”
You scored a Panenka penalty in that match. What did it feel like to do that against Barcelona and how would you teach Nadal to do that if you had the chance? He is an avid Real Madrid fan.
“My goal against Barcelona was unexpected and I thank God that it succeeded. I took the penalty this way because it was a friendly match and I wanted to come out of it with a good memory. I wouldn’t call it “Panenka’s” penalty kick — I would call it [Zinedine] “Zidane’s”, since he is my inspiration. I am going to teach Nadal some of these football skills at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship and I am sure he will teach me some tennis tricks.”
Fans wishing to meet Abdulrahman can do so at Zayed Sports City on Thursday. “Amoory” will conduct an autograph session from 2pm.
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Updated: December 29, 2016 04:00 AM