When Bahrain’s Sayed Mohamed Adnan missed a vital penalty against New Zealand in the sides’ intercontinental play-off for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, many observers openly doubted the towering defender’s reputation and morale would ever recover from the blow.
Undaunted, Adnan has since overcome every obstacle in his path to become the first Bahraini player to star in Australia’s A-League, where he plies his trade for Brisbane Roar. In conversation with FIFA.com, the 28-year-old revealed the trials and tribulations encountered on the comeback trail, his first impressions of Australian football and his hopes for the future.
Attacking from the back
Adnan’s professional career began in earnest after he left homeland club Malikiya in favour of Qatar’s Al Khor. He went on to stay for six years, during which he played over 100 games and forged a reputation as a formidable defender with an eye for goal.
“I used to be an attacker first and foremost,” explained the physically imposing player, explaining how his positional change came about. “I was 18 at the time and playing a match in the Bahrain league. Three of our defenders got sent off and the coach asked me to move back to bolster the backline.
“The national coach happened to be watching,” he continued. “And when he saw how effective I was at using my height to intercept high balls, he called me up into the Bahrain squad. I’ve been a defender ever since but I still push up the pitch looking for goals whenever I get the chance!”
As for his time at Al Khor, Adnan stated that the experience “was enjoyable and educational". "I learnt a lot because I rubbed shoulders with coaches from Europe and Brazil, which helped me become a better all-round player,” he added.
Even by his own admission, Lady Luck has often played a major role in Adnan’s career, particularly in his move from Qatar to Australia. Indeed, the story of his signing for Brisbane Roar has something of the fairytale about it.
“At the end of last season I went on holiday to Australia,” the defender recalled with a smile. “I’ve got some friends in Brisbane so I headed over there. I would spend my evenings playing a bit of casual football with some guys, and one day one of them suggested I try for a second-tier side.
“So I spoke with a friend,” Adnan continued, “and he told me he knew one of the technical staff at Brisbane Roar, who managed to get me permission to train with the squad for two weeks. I was a bit out of shape but the coaches liked what they saw and a deal was signed.”
Being the first Bahraini to play in Australia is clearly a point of pride for Adnan, as is his choice of club. “Listen, I received a lot of offers but Brisbane Roar are the number one side Down Under. They are the A-League title holders and are playing in the AFC Champions League, so it’s no wonder I was keen to join them.”
Case for the defence
With the new season having got underway earlier this month, Adnan is part of a squad campaigning to retain the title they won last term. Though always a challenge for any incoming player to give his best under such a burden of expectation, the new boy’s task is all the harder given the vastly different conditions compared to the hot, dry climate of the Gulf.
“I’ve played in these conditions already and I've got used to them pretty quickly,” said Adnan, who is clearly determined to make the most of his new surroundings. “Getting used to the style of play worried me more at first. Brisbane Roar play a totally different game to the other Australian clubs and at first I was a little concerned that I might not gel with the other players.
“But it was only a matter of time,” he went on. “I’ve got my confidence back after going a long time without any competitive football and I think I managed to prove myself to the club and my team-mates.”
On the bench for the team’s opening match against rivals Central Coast Mariners, Adnan made his first appearance of the season in the dying minutes of the team’s second game against Sydney FC last Saturday. Brisbane Roar now have six points from two games, though Adnan is cautious when asked to assess their chances. “It’s a tough task,” he said.
“That’s because we’re the title-holders and the other sides will be trying their hardest to beat us. The secret to our success is that we play as a unit, not a collection of individuals, and that approach always gets results. Let’s hope we can keep the wins coming.”
Next year Brisbane Roar will be competing in the AFC Champions League, and Adnan is excited at the prospect of playing against the best of Asian club football for the first time in his career: “This is the main reason I joined Brisbane. In 2009 I was nominated for the Asian player of the year award, but without playing in the Champions League I didn’t have a hope of winning. I can’t wait to take part in the tournament.”
And though he may have made history by being the first Bahraini to play in Australia, Adnan is not resting on his laurels. For this attack-minded defender, winning is all that counts.