Jordan’s Sharara provides vital spark

  • Jordan’s Mohammad Abu Zraiq only called up ahead of the Morocco match

  • Midfielder dazzled against Palestine and won Man of the Match

  • Player talks about that stellar performance and participation at Qatar 2021

When Jordan coach Adnan Hamad announced his final squad for the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™ on 26 November, Mohammad Abu Zraiq was not among those who arrived at Hamad International Airport in Doha the following day. However, a twist of fate meant that the player known as Sharara (which translates as 'Spark') would star for Al Nashama at Ras Abu Aboud Stadium on Tuesday for the team’s final group-stage game against Palestine. Abu Zraiq had been called into the squad a few days earlier to replace Anas Al-Awadat, who had tested positive for COVID-19, and was used as a second-half substitute against Morocco. Any doubts about the merits of his call-up early were dispelled against Palestine, with the midfielder playing a key role in Jordan’s 5-1 win to earn the Man of the Match award. Asked about his unexpected participation at the FIFA Arab Cup, Abu Zraiq told FIFA.com: “It was destined to happen to me. Even though I wasn’t included in the original squad, I kept in touch with my team-mates and encouraged them to do their best. The moment I arrived in Doha, my goal was to help them and do all I could for the national team. “The confidence of my team-mates and the technical staff, as well as the fans, was the main reason behind my good performance. They all motivated me to do everything possible to help the team win and secure a spot in the next round," explained the 24-year-old, who led Al-Ramtha to the Jordanian League title last month.

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 07: Mohammad Abu Zraiq of Jordan is awarded Man of the Match following the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 Group C match between Jordan and Palestine at Stadium 974 on December 07, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Oliver Hardt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Standout performance

Abu Zraiq’s spark of brilliance against Palestine came in the eighth minute, when he earned a penalty after a dazzling solo run that saw him evade four players before being upended in the box by Palestine captain Abdallatif Albahdari. Baha Suleiman converted the ensuing spot-kick to put Al Nashama ahead. Abu Zraiq continued to impress with his dribbling, pinpoint passing and shooting. Indeed, only a smart save by Amr Kaddura denied him a second after a sumptuous long-range strike early in the second half. Speaking about his fine performance against Palestine, Abu Zraiq said: "It was an important game. I had to be fully focused to help my team-mates. We succeeded together and got a good result as well.”

Early promise

Abu Zraiq discover his passion for football at a young age, when a hyperactive, mischievous steak led his uncle to dub him 'Sharara'. The nickname has followed him in his football career, which to date has taken in spells in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The player paid tribute to his older brother Youssef, who has supported him throughout the journey. “I initially took up football as a hobby, but since I’ve turned professional, it’s became a job for me with many things to take care,” he explained. “The support I received from brother was great. He took care of me and motivated me to do better. The fact that I succeeded and am here today is down to my brother. I did my best help the team win against Palestine and qualify for the quarter-finals," he added. Who knows, perhaps the spark provided by Abu Zraiq and the team’s emphatic victory over Palestine could be the catalyst for a run all the way to the final in Qatar?

DOHA, QATAR - DECEMBER 07: Mohammad Abu Zraiq of Jordan runs with the ball during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 Group C match between Jordan and Palestine at Stadium 974 on December 07, 2021 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Francois Nel - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)