- Yemen aiming for strong finish in Group D of Qatar 2022 qualifiers
- Mudir Abdurabu has played in all of Yemen’s games
- Qatar-based defender hoping to lead his country to the global showpiece
There is no doubt that the conflict which has plagued Yemen since 2015 overshadows everything in this country overlooking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. But despite how bleak things have been during this crisis, the improved results enjoyed by the Yemeni national team over the last two years have given the people some glimmer of hope.
On 27 March 2018, Yemen made history when they qualified for UAE 2019 for what was their maiden appearance at the AFC Asian Cup. And while they suffered three straight group-stage defeats at the hands of IR Iran, Iraq and Vietnam, their appearance at the finals provided a solid foundation to build on.
The West Asian side then made a strong start to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifiers. They drew 2-2 with Singapore in Kallang and took a point from Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia, before recording their first win in Group D with a matchday-5 triumph over Palestine.
Reasons for success
One contributing factor to Yemen’s better results has been Mudir Abdurabu. The 27-year-old defender took part in the Russia 2018 qualifiers, where Yemen registered a solitary victory in the second-round group phase.
FIFA.com asked Abdurabu to explain Yemen’s recent successes, including their qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup and their impressive start to the Qatar 2022 qualifiers. “The secret behind our national team’s success is the hard work all of us put in to make the Yemeni people proud,” he said.
“There are huge differences between the current squad and the one that took part in the previous campaign. Perhaps the biggest change is that the current one has a host of young players who want to prove themselves and who aspire to do better,” he explained.
“Playing overseas as professionals has also contributed to the development of our squad,” added the defender, who had a stint in Bahrain before moving to Qatar, where he has been playing since 2018.
In addition to Abdurabu, there are nine Yemeni players plying their trade in Qatar. A few others are based in Oman, Jordan and Iraq. Playing overseas has helped enhance their abilities, something Abdurabu thinks has contributed to the successes Yemen have achieved.
“We benefited a lot from playing football abroad, particularly in the Qatari league. It’s a professional championship and one that has attracted several super stars and quality coaches. We’ve gained a great deal from playing against big names, which in turn has helped develop our character,” added the Al Arabi defender, who is currently on loan with Al Wakrah.
Saudi test awaits
After sharing the spoils with Singapore and Saudi Arabia, Yemen fell to a 5-0 defeat against Uzbekistan in the third matchday of Group D, in what was a major blow to the hopes of Sami Al Nash’s charges.
Abdurabu attributed the heavy loss to a “lack of domestic and international training camps in addition to the suspension of local football, which produced inconsistent performances”.
After securing their first win in the group against Palestine (1-0), Yemen suffered their second defeat on the next matchday at the hands of Singapore to slide to fourth position, four points behind pacesetters Uzbekistan.
Nonetheless, Abdurabu and his team-mates will have a chance to revive their qualification hopes when they take on Saudi Arabia on 8 October. They will be hoping for a repeat of their solid September 2019 showing against the Saudis, even if the defender himself admits that the game “won’t be easy”.
“Saudi Arabia are renowned for their good players and are one of the best teams in Asia. They don’t have any pressure because they have a very strong team and are the group favourites. I hope we’ll play well despite how difficult the game will be,” he said.
Regardless of the result, or how Yemen fare in the qualifying campaign, the West Asian side have gained immense respect thanks their solid performances and the courage of players, who have shown quality on par with the country’s finest agates.