United Arab Emirates arrived in Tahiti with the goal of making their way into the last eight of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Things have not, however, turned out that way for the Middle Easterners. Defeats at the hands of the hosts and Spain in Group A have consigned them to a painful, early elimination, though as always in a tournament of this calibre, there are positive conclusions to be drawn.
“If there’s one thing that we’ve learned, it’s that playing against the big teams at this level is a whole new experience,” young UAE star Adel Ranjbar told FIFA.com. “If you make the slightest mistake here, you pay for it, though we are learning from the errors we’ve made. We gave as good as we got against Tahiti and Spain and we had the chances to beat them. We’re getting closer every time.”
As those words show, the 25-year-old wide man, who has turned 25 in Papeete, is as mature off the sand as he is on it. The first person to spot his ability was his United Arab Emirates coach Marcelo Mendes in 2009, six months before the Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai, though it was not until the Intercontinental Cup 2011 that the world began to sit up and take notice of him.
“Adel is becoming an important player, not just in the Emirates but in Asia too,” remarked Mendes at the time. “He’s small and though he’s not very strong, he has the kind of technique that’s hard to find.”
A hero of the people
Ranjbar has since gone on to become something of an idol in Satwa, the Dubai district where he grew up. And while to describe him as an idol might sound like an exaggeration, it is anything but in the area where he hails from.
“I come from a very small community and I’m proud that I’m the reason why they all love beach soccer,” said the local hero with a smile on his face.
While being a role model also brings responsibilities with it, he is more than happy to shoulder them: “I came from nowhere and thanks to beach soccer I’m now an international footballer competing at the highest level. I tell everyone, kids especially, that they have to have faith in themselves and work hard to achieve their dreams.”
As he went on to reveal, not without excitement in his voice, Ranjbar has a hero of his own to look up to: “All my life I’ve idolised [Zinedine] Zidane, and I’ve still got a poster of his up in my room. As for beach soccer players, I like Brazil’s Jorginho because he has incredible technique. I’d like to be like him.”
Before signing off, Ranjbar spoke of what beach soccer means to him on a personal level: “This sport has been so important in my life because it’s given me the opportunity to play around the world and, more than anything else, to wear my country’s jersey."