Al Kamali: UAE footballers need foreign contact to develop

The 23-year-old Olympique Lyonnais central defender is hoping the 2012 London Olympics can act as a catalyst for Emirati footballers moving to Europe
UAE Olympic captain and France-based defender Hamdan Al Kamali says he hopes the under-23 national team's 2012 London Olympic experience leads to more Emirati players heading to Europe and that's how the talent will best develop.

The 23-year-old became the first UAE footballer to join a top European club when he signed with Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyonnais from Al Wahda on loan in January.

Speaking to, Al Kamali said he hopes the London Olympics can act as a catalyst for more Emirati footballers to move to Europe as he believes they have the talent.

“We have a lot of talent back home, but our football can only progress if we get more contact with foreign championships,” he said.

“Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed has done a lot for football and the UAE Football Association takes care of training youngsters.

"I hope that taking part in the London Olympics will attract attention to Emirati players and that they’ll get the opportunity to play abroad.”

UAE, who had never qualified for the Olympics before, have been drawn into a difficult group alongside hosts Great Britain, Uruguay and Senegal however Al Kamali was hopeful they could progress to the knockout stage and beyond.

“We’re pleased to have been drawn in such a difficult group as we can only improve by facing these opponents," he said.

"It won’t be easy for us, but we’re happy because we’ll be playing in Europe’s most prestigious stadiums, like Wembley and Old Trafford. I hope we can show the whole world the progress Emirati football has made.”

He added: “Our main goal is to get out of the group. If we manage to do that, things will become easier for us as we’ll only be one match away from the semi-finals. I hope we can reach that stage.”

Follow Ben Somerford on

Follow Asia on and for the latest in Asian footballing news, features, and analysis