Asia 50 No.1, Omar Abdulhrahman: Europe, Suarez and shaving his famous hair

Omar Abdulrahman is our No.1 player in this year's Asia 50. The United Arab Emirates' superstar sat down for a long, candid interview with us and no topics were off-limits...

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FFT: How does it feel to be named as the winner of FFT’s Asia 50 for the first time?

Omar Abdulrahman: I feel very proud to be picked as No.1 in Asia, ahead of so many fantastic players. This gives me motivation to work even harder in the years to come.

FFT: Who were your football heroes growing up?

Of course I believe I can play for these (big European) clubs. We must believe in ourselves

OA: I loved to watch Zinedine Zidane, he made football look so simple. This is what makes the best players stand out, an ability to make the incredible seem simple.

The way he played intrigued me, I wanted to try to copy what I saw from him on the pitch. I’ve tried to do that since – his control, his vision.

Of the current players out there, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are out of this world; they are superstar players with amazing abilities. Andres Iniesta is also someone I admire - his touches, his passing; this is a style that I enjoy watching.

I try to look at the best practices from all the greatest players, to take the positive aspects of the way they play and make myself a better player. I want to learn the best way forward to develop myself.

FFT: You spent some time training with Manchester City earlier in your career – what did you learn?

OA: What I remember most is the discipline and the professionalism of the academy. Every training session was as important as a game – it was given the same value.

I still remember that time at Manchester City and I try to do the same now with Al Ain or the UAE national team.

Preparation is so important; you must give 100 per cent in training so you can give 110 per cent in a match.

FFT: You’ve played in some big tournaments, where does the London 2012 Olympics rank?

OA: It was one of the highlights of my career, of course. I was at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 too but playing at some of the most famous stadiums in the world in 2012 was special and I also feel that personally I played very well in that competition.

Luis Suarez is a fan of the young midfielder

FFT: How did you feel when Luis Suarez wanted your jersey after UAE played Uruguay?

OA: It was great. After the game, Suarez spoke to me and said he thought I had great potential and that I should keep training hard. I was excited to get his jersey and used these words as extra motivation.

FFT: And is it true Ryan Giggs also came to the dressing room and gave you his shirt after your match against Great Britain?

OA: Yes, it is true I got Giggs’ shirt but it was after I left the dressing room. He just handed it to me. I can’t remember exactly what he said but I also met Daniel Sturridge at that time and he told me he thought I was good enough to play for a European club. Hearing players like that say such kind words is a great feeling.

FFT: Is Giggs the best player you’ve ever played against?

OA: At the Olympics in 2012 I remember so clearly Luis Suarez, Ryan Giggs and Aaron Ramsey. They were all at a different level. Suarez was at Liverpool, Giggs was at Manchester United, Ramsey was at Arsenal at the time – they did the simple things well but it seemed every little thing they did would benefit the team tremendously.

FFT: Do you watch a lot of European football?

OA: My time off is hard as I’m always thinking about when I am next playing football. If I’m not playing, I’m watching for sure.

I watch the European leagues, I watch Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid – it’s exciting to watch these big teams and I like to see how technical the game is. It’s on a higher level.

FFT: Are you good enough to play in any of those teams?

OA: Of course I believe that I can play for these clubs and with these players. We must believe in ourselves. I know I can do it, especially as I would be supported by excellent teammates who would help me fit in.

I feel I am capable and, god willing, one day I will get the chance to play in Europe.  

[NEXT: The World Cup, European temptations and pet tigers]