International football provides players with the opportunity to get themselves noticed, which is what the members of the United Arab Emirates squad will be hoping to do when they host the FIFA U-17 World Cup later this month.
It is a tournament the Emiratis will be aiming to go far in, especially with their fans watching on from the sidelines. But for UAE striker Faysal Hussein in particular, the upcoming world finals will give him the chance not just to do his country proud but to follow in the footsteps of his big brother Mohammed, who represented his nation in the same competition four years ago.
Recalling his older sibling’s contribution at Nigeria 2009, young Faysal told FIFA.com: “I watched the matches at home with my family. We were all very excited about it. Mohammed would call us before each game and ask us to pray for him and the whole team. I have some good memories of the time we spent in front of the TV set, even if the team didn’t go very far.”
Currently with the UAE squad at their pre-tournament training camp in Spain, Faysal hopes to venture further than the Round of 16, which is as far as his brother and his colleagues got four years ago: “We’re aiming for the last four. That’s the objective we’ve had in mind since we started our preparations and I’m hoping we can achieve it.
“We’re looking to do big things and the fact that we’re the host nation means we have to give the very best of ourselves,” he added. “We’re the home team and every player has to show 150 per cent of their potential, not 100 per cent.”
Lining up in Group A alongside Brazil, Slovakia and Honduras, the Gulf nation have quite a task on their hands, one that begins on 17 October, when they take on the Central Americans at the Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Aware of the importance of the opening match, Faysal said: “We just can’t afford to concede a goal and we’ve got to do our best to score one. Winning the first game would be a great start and it would see more and more supporters to get behind us.”
A family of football lovers
Faysal took up the game at a very early age and joined Al Jazira when he was eight. He chose to become a striker, just like his brother Mohammed, three years his senior and a big influence on him.
“My relationship with Mohammed is different to the ones I have with my other brothers,” explained the youngster, who has always listened to what his older sibling has to say, even more so now with the big event coming up fast. “He’s very excited about me playing in the World Cup and I really look up to him. He’s told me that before each game I should set a personal objective in accordance with the team’s overall goals.”
Mohammed Hussein made two appearances for his country in the group phase at Nigeria 2009, but failed to get on the scoresheet. Faysal is hoping to do better but faces stiff competition from Mohammed Khalfan, Mohammed Al Akbary and Zayed Al Amiry for a place in the starting line-up.
A promising front-man, Faysal did his prospects no harm by scoring in a friendly against Panama last Sunday, a goal that has merely whetted his appetite: “I really want to score. Luck wasn’t on my brother’s side at Nigeria 2009, but I know I can hit the back of the net in the world finals.”
His family are sure to be cheering him and the rest of the UAE team on over the next few weeks, with no one shouting louder than Mohammed. As he explained, the younger of the Hussein boys is expecting nothing less: “It’s an honour and a source of pride for my family that we will both have appeared in this tournament. They’re all supporting me, from my father to my little brother Abdallah, who’s only seven but is already wearing the Al Jazira shirt.”
Who knows, in years to come the Husseins could well be sitting in front of the TV watching Abdallah maintain the family’s proud FIFA U-17 World Cup tradition? For now, though, all eyes are on Faysal.