Thenational - When the Etislat League players of the UAE step out on the Tehran pitch to play Iran in their World Cup qualifier on Monday they will not be lining up against an old foe.
Eman Mobali, 25, the creative Iranian midfield player, is considered by many to be good enough to play in a top European league. But a bad tackle on a fellow Iranian international during a league match three years ago has seen him shunned by his country.
Mobali, who instead of being in Iran will be playing for Etisalat League champions Al Shabab in a friendly against the French club Lyon tomorrow, had been dubbed the “Asian David Beckham” for his impressive free kicks.
Experts believed that Mobali would make such an impression for Iran during the 2006 World Cup in Germany that he would seal a move to a top European club straight after. But he was not picked in the Iranian squad for the finals, with many suggesting his omission was at the behest of the then captain Ali Daei.
Mobali and Daei fell out after the young star made a career-threatening tackle on the Iranian goal-scoring legend during a local league game between Foolad and Saba Battery in 2005. That incident reportedly forced Foolad to sell Mobali to Al Shabab.
Mobali has since struggled to get back into the national side. The former Iran coach Branko Ivankovic confessed that Mobali’s foul on Daei indeed was a deciding factor for him not being invited to the national team.
Mobali, who made his international debut as an 18-year-old in 2001, urged the Iranian management to give him another chance and said: “I have been with the Iran national team for more than seven years, but I have continuously been a reserve player.”
“I promise that if I start in two games I will show my potential. This year, I am fully fit and in great form. Even at Al Shabab, unlike previous years, I am playing in a defensive midfield position, and this is a new experience for me which can add value to my performance in Iranian team.”
But with Daei now the coach of Iran, Mobali’s international career is unlikely to flourish. He has not been included in the 23-man squad for the Asian qualifier against the UAE. Though disappointed, Mobali believes he can concentrate on his club career and make it a success.
“People like Ali Karimi [he clinched a deal with Bayern Munich with his performances for Al Ahli] had to play a lot for the national team, so they struggled a bit in Europe,” said Mobali. “I can stay focused on my club commitments.”
The game will be Mobali’s farewell in the green of Al Shabab. He is headed for Al Wasl on a one-year contract, reportedly worth Dh1.2 million (US$33,000), after spending three years at Al Shabab and winning the league title last week.
“It was great to win the title this year, especially because this was my last year at Al Shabab,” said the player considered to be one of the most talented Asian players of his generation.
“I think I will be at Al Wasl next season. They are a good side and I really like the club.”
But he eventually would love to play in Europe – preferably in Italy, and particularly for Roma.
“I love Dubai though and I want to stay here. I will go to Europe only if I have a good offer. The UAE league is really good and I am happy here. It is a tough league, not as easy as it may seem,” he added.
“I will try to go to Europe maybe after two years. I am 25 and I believe my best football is still ahead of me. I have a good chance of making an impact in Europe.”