Meet the UAE Football Team Playing in Front of Neymar Jr. this Month
© Naim Chidiac
Dubai-based Al-Rijab is jetting to Brazil this week for the biggest five-a-side tournament of the summer.
It’s not every day that a small Emirati football team gets to play in front of one of the world’s biggest sporting stars. But the dream has turned into reality for the Dubai-based Al-Rijab (or الرجاب), who won the chance to represent the UAE at this year’s Neymar Jr’s Five tournament.
Flying out this Wednesday 18 July, Al-Rijab – which means ‘the camels’ in Arabic – will compete at the world final at the Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr in Praia Grande on 21 July 2018. It won’t be easy – the lads are up against 61 other countries from around the world.
“We cannot wait to see Neymar Jr.,” says team member Abdullah Al-Jarfi. “This is the main reason we applied. We hope we will meet him and take the final – we will do our best this tournament.”
Knowing each other from other football events and tournaments in Dubai, the six-member team - also comprising Abdullah Al-Ansari, Omar Al-Shalali, S. Mohamed Al-Qarooni, Hamzah Ba Rahim and Taha Hussein – decided to unite and apply for the national heats of this year’s Neymar Jr’s Five earlier this year.
“Abdullah, Omar and Mohamed had entered Neymar Jr’s Five before, but didn’t make it to the final,” says Al-Jarfi. “So we put this team together and made it. The Dubai heat was very difficult, and interestingly, the team we met at our heat was also the team we met at the national final [held in Sharjah].”
Al-Rijab features members from various nationalities – including Emirati, Bahraini and Yemeni – and who are between the ages of 19 and 27.
“We’ve never been to Brazil so we are really excited,” continues Al-Jarfi. “We’re proud to represent the UAE and we want to make the people here proud. Even our team name is pure UAE.
“We want to do better than the previous [regional] teams that have entered, so we will do our best.”
Asked whether they were worried about any of the teams competing, Al-Jarfi reveals they are not thinking about it.
“We’re treating all the teams equally,” he says. “Five-a-side is not the same as eleven-a-side – so I think, here, both teams have equal luck to win.”