Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

Omar Abdulrahman has been dropped by the UAE. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Omar Abdulrahman's UAE omission could be stroke of genius

LONDON: Omar Abdulrahman produced one of his best displays of the season on Sunday with two goals for Al-Ain in a 3-2 win at Al-Jazira — a performance that came shortly after the star was dropped by the national team.
The UAE are heading to the King’s Cup in Thailand for their opening games against Slovakia and Gabon, but Abdulrahman will not be there.
In January, Abdulrahman and striker Ali Mabkhout were hit with four-match domestic bans for breaking a team curfew the day before the UAE met Oman in the final of the Gulf Cup. UAE lost and Abdulrahman missed twice from the spot.
The ban did not extend to the national team, but Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni refused to select the two stars. It is a risky strategy, but it might just be the shot in the arm that Abdulrahman needs.
The 26-year-old playmaker should be at the peak of his career, but, instead, appears to be on the edge of stagnation.
Abdulrahman has been regarded as one of the best players in Asia for several years. There was the trial with Manchester City in 2013 and links with Arsenal and Nice. Then came a starring role at the 2015 Asian Cup, eight MVP awards on the way to the 2016 Asian Champions League final with Al-Ain, and the AFC Player of the Year award.
Talk about Abdulrahman’s next destination reached a climax, but instead of making the expected move, he has stayed in the UAE. His form has failed to reach the same heights since that decision. The Gulf Cup was a disappointment for both player and country as was qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Al-Ain’s Croatian coach Zoran Mamic expressed his frustration with his star player in a 2018 Champions League play-off win against Malkiya of Bahrain in January. “‘Amoory’ is a very important player, but he did not make a good match,” Mamic said. “He made mistakes in many passes, wasted a lot of opportunities. Not good for Asian football.”
Abdulrahman was named man of the match by the AFC then, an example of how reputation and past exploits allowed him to get away with under-performance.
There is no doubt that Abdulrahman is still a major talent and force, but his name is rarely linked with the big European clubs these days. Perhaps there is a realization that the UAE star will not going to be tempted out of his well-paid comfort zone.
Many believe he should do his utmost to go to a top European league and blaze a trail for others. Alternatively, he could stay and try to return to former heights. Staying and failing to perform at his best is the worst outcome.
Depriving the player of something that he may well have taken for granted — a starring role for his country — could be a masterstroke from Zaccheroni.
Abdulrahman’s performance at Al-Jazira is encouraging. A few more of those and the national team will welcome him back with open arms.
 


Susie Wolff back Saudi Arabia's Formula E debut to inspire women throughout the Kingdom

Updated 39 min 20 sec ago
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Susie Wolff back Saudi Arabia's Formula E debut to inspire women throughout the Kingdom

  • History-maker backs Ad-Diriyah weekend to inspire more women to get behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia.
  • F1 legend Massa set to make his Formula E debut for Wolff's Venturi team.

LONDON: Susie Wolff knows all about making history in a male-dominated world.
The intrepid Scot became the first female driver in 22 years to take part in a Formula 1 Grand Prix meeting when she drove in a practice session ahead of the 2014 British GP.
As a test and development driver at the Williams F1 team, Wolff repeated the feat at that year’s race in Germany — and in the following season in Spain and Silverstone.
Now, Wolff is treading new ground again after becoming the first female team principal in Formula E, the all-electric car series.
It is apt, then, that Wolff’s debut as boss of the Monaco-based Venturi team will be at this weekend’s history-making inaugural Saudi Arabian E-Prix.
The race, which takes place in the Ad-Diriyah district of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and which also features the debut of the Gen2 car, comes just six months after the lifting of the ban on Saudi women driving.
Wolff said this was a hugely “progressive and positive move,” which will boost “equal opportunities for future generations of girls and women” in the Kingdom.
Now the wife of the boss of the all-conquering Mercedes Formula One team, Toto, Wolff hopes this month’s race will encourage a new generation of female drivers to get behind the wheel.
“Can Saudi Arabia produce a top woman racing driver? The first thing to know is that these things don’t happen overnight,” the 36-year-old, who retired as a racing driver in 2015, told Arab News.
“I think it’s already a big step forward that women in Saudi are allowed to drive.
“Women are driving and can be inspired and become very passionate to take it to the next level and go on to a race track. It always takes only one (person). Sometimes in life you just need to believe it.
“I believe that there are a few Saudi women who are already racing in drifting, so I think that over time, with the right support and the right level of inspiration, that it could be something that could happen in the future.”
In 2016, Wolff — whose racing career encompassed several disciplines such as the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaf (DTM), the German Touring Car series — launched an initiative called Dare to Be Different aimed at inspiring more women into motorsport.
Wolff regrets that she was not able “with the timing to put on a Dare to Be Different event” in Riyadh, but hopes to launch it at next year’s race.
She is, however, thrilled that at least seven female racing drivers will take part in a Formula E test the day after the Saudi race.
Those confirmed for the test include the UAE’s Amna Al-Qubaisi, who started karting at 13 and has competed internationally in Formula Four. Her father Khaled was the first Emirati to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Wolff’s choice for Venturi, meanwhile, is Switzerland’s Simona de Silvestro, who competed in two Formula E races in 2015 and was a test driver with the Sauber F1 team the year before.
“Saudi Arabia has been very supportive of trying to get Saudi women out on the race track,” she said. “I think it’s going to be fantastic to see women getting the chance to drive in Formula E.
“I was in Riyadh in September, my first time (there). I was very heavily briefed as a woman going, but I was very positively welcomed and was very positively surprised by the enthusiasm to have the race there; the track looks fantastic.
“As the season-opener, it’s going to be very exciting for Formula E to go to a new destination.”
Venturi finished a disappointing seventh in last season’s championship, but have been buoyed by the addition of the former F1 star Felipe Massa.
Wolff is delighted to have someone of the caliber and experience of the Brazilian, who won 11 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career, on board.
She said Massa and his teammate Edoardo Mortara can secure “regular top-eight finishes” as she targets slow but steady progress.
“I made it clear from the beginning that this is a three-year-plan,” Wolff explained.
“This year it’s about consistency and being consistently in the points.
“It’s difficult to aim too high in terms of race wins and regular podiums because obviously the level of Formula E is getting tougher and tougher as there are more and more manufacturers.”