SYDNEY (Reuters) – United Arab Emirates playmaker Omar Abdulrahman has blossomed from “child prodigy” into one of the region’s most exciting talents and the Asian Cup is proving the ideal stage for the 23-year-old to enhance his reputation.
The Al Ain wide man made his mark at the 2012 London Games, when the Emirati side qualified for the Olympics for first time.
The skillful, shaggy-haired Abdulrahman continued to improve and underlined his worth by bagging Player of the Tournament in his country’s triumph in the 2013 Gulf Cup.
While several clubs in Europe’s top leagues were reportedly showing an interest in the left-footer, a move failed to materialise but that does not seem to have hampered his progress.
The UAE were unbeaten in Asian Cup qualification, with five wins and a draw, and were joint top scorers with Iran, many of them created by Abdulrahman.
It was not surprising then that the UAE were left sweating on the player’s fitness after he injured his ankle in this year’s Gulf Cup semi-final defeat to Saudi Arabia in November.
UAE coach Mahdi Ali included him in the Asian Cup squad despite the fitness concerns and was relieved when the player lasted the full 90 minutes of their opener against Qatar.
“Omar is a talented player and one of the main players in the team,” Ali told reporters. “I am very happy for him playing a full 90 minutes after one-and-a-half months of injury.”
Abdulrahman looked rusty in the first half in his first competitive match back but showed his class in the second as his team came back from a goal down to thrash Qatar 4-1.
Gifted with the vision and ability to find strikers with defence-splitting passes, he set up Ali Ahmed Mabkhout with a neat lofted ball over the head of a defender for the team’s opening goal in their 2-1 win over Bahrain in the second match in Canberra.
Former Socceroo Alex Brosque, who played alongside Abdulrahman at Al Ain for two years, said the Asian Cup was the ideal environment for him to flourish.