Omar Abdulrahman’s star has reached a new high after he was named Asian player of the year at the Asian Football Confederation Awards in Abu Dhabi.
Commonly known as “Amoory,” the 25-year-old playmaker had a “close, but not quite” run leading up to Thursday’s ceremony, but opportunities lie ahead as his United Arab Emirates side strive to reach the FIFA World Cup finals in Russia in 2018, while he is still urged to take up an offer in Europe, although he has unfinished business in Asia.
His Al Ain club reached the final of the AFC Champions League, but fell to South Korean outfit Jeonbuk Motors, while the UAE had some big results in third-round World Cup qualifying, but missed a chance to stamp their mark on Group B and face a tough run to take one of the top two spots guaranteeing a berth in Russia.
Abdulrahman was born in Saudi Arabia, but has represent the UAE since joining Al-Ain 10 years ago and the club’s run in the Asian Champions League helped propel him to the award, which he said relied heavily on others.
“It is a great achievement to have been given this honour,” Abdulrahman said after receiving the award.
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“But in general, this trophy is not just for me, it is for everyone — from the players to the coaches and the management at both Al Ain and the United Arab Emirates national team.”
The award went to a UAE player for the second year in a row, indicating the strength in the nation after Ahmed Khalil won last year.
Abdulrahman picked up eight most valuable player awards throughout the Champions League tournament and scored three goals, but they missed out on the title after a 3-2 aggregate defeat, prompting Abdulrahman to say he is eager to make amends for that disappointment.
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“According to the statistics, this has been my best year as an individual, but despite this I did not win the AFC Champions League title, so this is what I am hoping to achieve next year.”
“My aim is to also win the AFC Player of the Year for another time.”
A major step toward that final goal would be to reach Russia.
The UAE sit fourth after an opening win in Japan, a 3-1 win at home to Thailand and a 2-0 victory over Iraq in their latest outing. However, they have fallen to two teams above them on the table, falling 3-0 to Saudi Arabia in Jeddah and 1-0 at home to Australia.
The third-placed teams from each group advance to Round Four of qualifying — an intercontinental play-off — but the UAE will be targeting the top two — currently Saudi Arabia and Japan — who receive their tickets to Russia.
Their Saitama Stadium encounter saw a come-from-behind effort to win 2-1, but the two losses mean they head toward the return game against Japan on March 23 in a precarious position, but Abdulrahman was upbeat.
“Of course, our target and our ambition is to get to the World Cup, and we had a really strong start with the win over Japan,” Abdulrahman said. “It’s a good chance, although it’s still a difficult chance, too. But nothing is impossible. If we continue to work hard, we can qualify. There is no secret, no magic formula. There is team unity and a team cooperation, and with the work of our coaching staff and the effort of the players, God willing, we will get to the World Cup.”
He has spoken of his teams more often than not when asked about award. When asked about the AFC award after being shortlisted, he said: “The Asian Champions League means far more to me than being Asia’s best player. I hope to be number one with the whole team. If I win the best player and we lose the championship, it doesn’t mean anything — we’ve lost everything. It only matters if you win the final. So I hope to win both.”
Abdulrahman put great stock in their Champions League campaign, calling the final the game of his life.
However, calls remain for the big-haired star to move to Europe.
“Of course, I dream of that, but at the moment I have a specific target with Al Ain,” Abdulrahman said ahead of the loss. “Once I achieve that, only then can I think about playing in a professional league. Europe is always an ambition, but like I said, only after achieving my ambitions with my club. If the chance to turn professional is still there at that point, then it’s something I would consider.”
After the loss there was a subtle change in the outlook.
“If a good offer comes along [from Europe], of course I would have to consider it. We must remember though that Al Ain are a massive club and a team that everyone wants to play for.”