x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Al Fahim may bid for two UAE stars

The potential new owner of Portsmouth says he wants to bring Hamdan al Kamali and Ahmad Khalil to the English Premier League.

Ahmed Khalil, left, playing for Al Ahli could be a English Premier League star for Portsmouth next season.
Ahmed Khalil, left, playing for Al Ahli could be a English Premier League star for Portsmouth next season.

ABU DHABI // Two stars of the UAE U20 side could be playing in the most glamorous football league in the world after the potential new owner of Portsmouth said he wanted to sign the team's captain and leading striker.

Sulaiman al Fahim told the Arabic newspaper Al Bayan that he would try to sign Al Wahda's Hamdan al Kamali and his international teammate Ahmed Khalil, who plays for the Dubai-based Al Ahli, if he completed his takeover of the English club. Mr al Fahim, a board member of Hydra Properties, is completing due diligence on his proposed purchase of Portsmouth and expects to conclude the deal before the English football season starts in August.

"Once we have completed the deal, I will start serious negotiations with Al Wahda and Al Ahli clubs to bring Ahmad Khalil and Hamdan al Kamali to the English Premier League," he told Al Bayan. "I just hope that the two players will be able to pass their medical tests and be able to play next season." Neither club is aware of any interest in its players from Portsmouth but Khaled Awadh, the assistant chief executive of Al Wahda, said the club would not stand in al Kamali's way.

"He has not approached us so far," he said. "But we are open for talks if one of our players can benefit from playing in the Premier League. "If he has intentions of signing local players he is expressing his own views. But we don't see anything real as for now, and we don't take such issues seriously until someone speaks to us directly with a tangible deal. "Hamdan has a three-year contract with us running up to July 2012 and he is a very exciting young player with a great future. So anyone who wants him will have to come up with something substantial." Al Kamali, 20, is one of the key players in the Wahda defence, and will captain the UAE team in the Fifa U20 World Cup from September 24 to October 16 in Egypt.

Khalil, 18, was the star of the UAE side in the U19 Asian Championship last year, where he was the competition's top scorer. He was also named Player of the Tournament and was crowned Asian Player of the year at Fifa's annual gala in December. Mr al Fahim declined to comment further yesterday; his spokesman, Ivo Ilic Gabara, said it was too soon to talk about new signings for Portsmouth. "The acquisition of Portsmouth is not complete yet," he said. "He is still not the owner of the club, so it would be completely inappropriate to talk about hiring players.

"An offer has been made, which is under due diligence. Once that process is completed, we can move to the next stage, which would involve hiring players and making changes at the club." One stumbling block for Portsmouth signing Emirati players is tight UK laws on the granting of work permits to non-Europeans. The UK Border Agency has a points system which states that a non-EU football player "must have played for his country in at least 75 per cent of its competitive 'A' team matches for which he was available for selection during the previous two years", and his "country must have averaged at least 70th place in the official Fifa world rankings over the previous two years".

The UAE's average Fifa ranking from June 2007 to May 2009 is 109, and Khalil and al Kamali have not been regulars in the senior national side because of their age. If a player does not meet those criteria, the club wishing to sign him may appeal if it believes the player is special and "able to contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in the UK". Nashat Akram, the Iraqi international, was denied a visa to play for Manchester City in Jan 2008 because Iraq was outside the world's top 70.

apassela@thenational.ae arizvi@thenational.ae