Asamoah Gyan - the name that first comes into the mind of a European fan at the slightest mention of the UAE Pro League, especially if you're a Sunderland supporter. The Ghanaian star has taken the league by storm since his move to Al Ain in the summer of 2011, and has continued his superb run of form, topping the goalscoring charts yet again. The league of course is not as popular as the English Premier League, La Liga or Serie A - but it has its quality and class. It has its thrills, entertainment and moments of brilliance endearing itself to its every follower, including this writer.
Many players have risen to the occasion and stolen the limelight during the course of the season. Former Wolfsburg star - Grafite, and UAE's rising talent - Omar Abdul Rahman, are just some of the names who've shined and lit up the league with their dynamic performances and have proven to be of immense importance to their respective teams, Al Ahly and Al Ain. But there's one player, one notable star that has gained the respect and endearment of every follower and supporter - that man is the outrageously gifted, Mohammed Abdul Razak Fadlallah; popularly known as Shikabala.
Signed on a season-long loan from Egyptian giants, Zamalek, the much travelled Egyptian international was acquired by Al Wasl - one of the country's greatest sides - seeking to re-establish themselves as a title contender after recent years of struggles, especially under the now departed Diego Maradona, who has caused some controversial incidents and commotion during his short stay in the Gulf nation.
Shikabala, a highly regarded footballer here in the Middle East, arrived under huge expectations and fan excitement among the Al Wasl faithful; supporters who've witnessed the likes of Farhad Majidi - a football legend in his native Iran - don the famous yellow jersey for several years scoring plenty of goals, and forever etching himself as one of the club's all time greats.
Many expected a similar impact from the gifted Egyptian with his array of skills and tricks - a package which made him a legend and a fan favorite at Zamalek - and a magical left foot to boot, one of the best I've ever witnessed.
With this enormous weight resting upon his shoulders, many players would have been daunted by the task, but not Shikabala. The Egyptian magician has taken UAE football by storm, causing mayhem to opposition defences, many who've looked foolish and struck in awe by the Shika. His every touch, run and constant movement from one side to the other has been an immense asset to "The Emperor" and its attacking armory led by a fearsome trident of Mariano Donda, Emiliano Alfaro and the magician himself.
Shika's dynamism and ability was shone since the very first day of the season. On that day, the Emperor faced rivals Al Wahda in what was expected to be a close contest. But with Shika by their side, Al Wasl outclassed their opponents with the Egyptian star rising to the occasion with his first goal- a trademark left footed finish after he cut inside from the right wing, skipping past a couple of defenders, and finishing with aplomb past the hapless Al Wahda keeper.
Shika didn't stop there as he upstaged his debut goal with an absolute belter against Ajman - possibly one of the goals of the season. This man not only scores beauties as you might presume, but also regularly lays chances on a plate for his teammates using his pace, trickery and creativity to devastating advantage.
He's the complete player, whose contributions haven't gone unnoticed:
“Shikabala is a great player, very skilled and experienced, even Leo Messi misses chances sometimes; but what I like about Shikabala is he will keep trying until he achieves what he wants, once, twice, three times, four, five times." Former club manager, Bruno Metsu
Metsu, who after being diagnosed with cancer was forced to leave the club, also told Sport 360:
“Only big players can do that, others will lose confidence after the second try, not Shikabala. He’s already shown his abilities by assisting and scoring and he still has more to give.”
Shikabala later paid tribute to Metsu after scoring against Al Dhafra by running towards and kissing a poster held by Al Wasl supporters that had an image of the popular Metsu on it; showing his human and affectionate side and further endearing himself to the Al Wasl faithful who regularly chant his name whenever he plays, whenever he has the ball to his feet, and whenever he goes on one of his marauding runs down the wing. He's now a firm fan favorite.
The Emperor, however, has been struggling recently, compounded by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Gyan's Al Ain - their first loss of the season. But if Shika stays away from the shisha (corny, I know), then the Emperor will bounce back, sooner rather than later.
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