Arab footballers in Europe

Columnist Tom Bushell wonders if a UAE star could be on his way to Manchester City

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After the fantastic performance of UAE football players at London 2012, it was only going to be a matter of time before they started being linked to European clubs. You’d think that newly promoted clubs would be keen to look at some of the UAE squad, and maybe a couple of championship teams would be tempted. Look at Nottingham Forest: with their new Kuwaiti owners, it didn’t take them long at all to get Arab players on trial.

But no, we’re not talking ‘smaller’ clubs here – we’re talking the Premiership champions. Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City have taken UAE playmaker Omar Abdulrahman on trial. Such is the size of Man City – and their UAE connections, of course – that many are saying this is a PR exercise to raise the profile of the Al Ain man. Put him in at Manchester City and other clubs may suddenly become interested. PR exercise or not, it will be a great experience for the 20-year-old who, given how well he played at the Games, has a big future.

Because of the Abu Dhabi connection, City can play a great hand in helping the development of our home-grown players. Putting them on trial and coaching them for periods throughout the year is only a plus for UAE based players. With Hamdan Al Kamali the only player to have been based abroad during the past season, at Lyon, it will be good for others to experience the same.

UAE coach Mahdi Ali is certainly a fan of his players gaining that European experience. ‘We would be very pleased to see UAE players in Europe. It would give us more experience and the team would benefit.’ Spot on.

Away from football, and while Team GB’s success at the Olympics is great for Britain, it has also paved the way for us to see some of the team’s big stars pay a visit to Dubai. The organising committee of the Dubai Marathon has personally invited Team GB’s Mo Farah, who scooped the 5,000m and 10,000m Olympics double, to compete in next year’s event. Ahmed Al Kamali, the race coordinator who presented Farah with one of his medals in London, says he will speak in more detail to Mo after the Olympics, but is keen for him to add a touch of glamour to the Dubai event. Fingers crossed.

Tom Bushell guests on The Grill (Sat 5pm, Dubai Eye) and hosts Dubai 92’s Tom & Dan Show (Sun-Thu 4pm).

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