Duo blaze trail in Europe
As the first Jordanians to grace European football, Abdallah Deeb and Odai Al-Saify will be guaranteed a place in their country's footballing history. Deeb paved the way last June with his transfer from Jordan's Shabab Al-Ordon to KV Mechelen of Belgium, while his compatriot and former team-mate followed suit shortly afterwards when Greek side Skoda Xanthi reportedly paid $800,000 USD for his services.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the two youngsters spoke about the importance of the transfers to their careers, and to their country's footballing status.
"Playing professional football in Belgium will be a great chance to develop my career," said Deeb, who made a name for himself at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007. "Very few people knew about the level of football in my country before I joined Mechelen, and hopefully this move will help Jordanian players get the attention their fine performances deserve."
Deeb's former team-mate at Shabab Al-Ordon was equally enthusiastic when quizzed about his move. "Playing with Skoda Xanthi will be a morale booster and will give me a fresh incentive to push on in my career. Being in Europe is very important for any player seeking to improve his potential, and I think playing there will enable me to be more of an asset to the Jordanian national team," Al-Saify said.
This is not the first international experience for the duo, however, with both having enjoyed spells at other professional outfits in the Gulf. Deeb honed his skills at Bahrain's Riffa Club, while Al-Saify plied his trade with Al Dhafra Club of the UAE. That said, the pair agreed that playing in Europe's leagues would be a totally different experience.
"To be honest, what we're going to experience in the Old Continent will be a huge step up from what we're used to," said the 22 year-old Deeb. "I didn't experience the full force of professional football in my spell in Bahrain, so I'm looking forward to Europe, where the focus on the physical side of things and strict nutrition are even more important."
Al-Saify, who is set to join Skoda Xanthi on Thursday, said, "Personally, I regard my spell with Al Dhafra as a failure. I had a lot of problems there and instead of playing in my usual attacking position, I was assigned a role as a defensive midfielder. I expect things to be totally different in Greece. Everything is well organized there and I'm familiar with the team and the way it is run, all of which will enable me to develop my skills."
When asked about the possibility of more Jordanian players, or Nashama as they are known locally, following in their footsteps, Deeb said there been interest in players from other clubs and that he believed strongly in the abilities of his compatriots and their potential to play in Europe.
"There's no room for negativity in the mind of a player," said the versatile midfielder. "Football is now like any other career. Any player looking to be contracted by a big club abroad has to improve his skills with every game. There are many talented individuals in Jordan who are well capable of playing in Europe."
"Unfortunately, it's a fact that the level of football in Jordan has suffered," concluded Al-Saify. "It is, therefore, our mission to help get things back on the right track. After that, I'm sure Jordanians will become a more familiar sight in European football."