Barely four months ago, Abdulraheem Jumaa’s chances of appearing in the FIFA Club World Cup UEA 2010 looked decidedly slim. Desperate to help out his team, the Al-Wahda Sports Club midfielder could do little more than kick his heels on the sidelines as he continued his recovery from knee cartilage damage.
Sent for surgery at the end of the 2009/10 season, the 31-year-old nonetheless celebrated his return to action in September, and it is easy to imagine his joy when he learnt he would grace the global stage. His dream came true when he was sent on to replace Fahed Masoud 63 minutes into Al Wahda’s opener against Hekari United FC, but the best was yet to come eight minutes later when he pounced on a half-cleared ball to head his side’s third in a 3-0 win.
According to team-mate Ismael Matar, it was a moment he more than merited. “Abdulraheem is a very good player,” he told FIFA.com. “He deserved it. Because of his injury, he suffered a lot trying to get back to his best. That’s why he fully deserved the goal he scored.”
One of the more experienced players at the club, Jumaa made his first-team debut in 1997. Since then, he has won 115 international caps for the United Arab Emirates, leaving him perfectly placed to relate the pressure his team was under as they started their campaign. “Our nerves influenced how we played in our opening match,” he said. “We wanted to do better than Al Ahli last year. At least we’ve got past that first obstacle. The pressure was palpable, but the first goal freed us and we started playing better and won the game.”
That win is sure to boost confidence ahead of their quarter-final meeting with Asian champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma F.C. of Korea Republic, but Al Wahda fans will go into the match with a certain trepidation. Five losses in the AFC Champions League group stage suggest the Abu Dhabi outfit could find the going tough, even if they did manage to beat Iranian side Zob Ahan, eventual runners-up to Seongnam Ilhwa FC.
“Seongnam are Asian champions,” said Jumaa. “It will be an all-Asian match. The team that plays the best will win it and I hope the fans will be behind us, as they were in the opening game. We got off to the start we wanted by beating Hekari, but the next match will be very important because it’s going to be a genuine test. I hope the players will be focused and that we play better than we did in the first game.”
Whatever happens, the veteran midfielder is delighted to be appearing in his first FIFA Club World Cup, an experience to fit alongside all his international outings. “Every footballer wants to play in the Club World Cup,” he said. “It’s a competition that brings together several teams of an excellent standard. Thanks to God, I was able to play in the opening game and score a goal. That’s more than I’d even hoped for. I’ll try to get the most I can out of taking part in this tournament.”