Words by Tom Danicek
Name: Abdelkarim Hassan
Club: Al Sadd
Position: Left back
In the aftermath of that shameful Qatari bow out from the 2015 Asian Cup, you could choose a suitable explanation out of wide range of candidates. If you were by any chance fed up by the well documented “Gulf Cup Champions Curse”, the overly tinkering coach Djamel Belmadi made for an easy target instead.
But there was also one rather intricate issue you might have come across: the Aspire Academy is a failure and it hasn’t been delivering as expected, some would say, and they would certainly have a case. The lucrative complex has been opened for about a decade now, yet we still haven’t seen any proper star produced that is capable of making headlines week in, week out. That much is undeniable. However, it obviously doesn’t tell the whole story.
For instance, we shouldn’t ignore Ibrahim Majed, the 24 year old Aspire graduate who already has 70 international caps under his belt and was handed the captain’s armband after Bilal Mohammed got injured during the 2014 Gulf Cup. Plus, there’s this Abdelkarim Hassan, an even younger product of the Academy who’s about as ready to make switch to Europe as anyone could be.
The problem is they are both defenders. And those guys just don’t make it on front pages very often, do they? Yet from time to time, someone exceptional appears on the scene. Someone like Abdelkarim Hassan, an electrifying 21 year old fullback, who should already be able to generate universal excitement among all football fans.
What makes me say that? It occurs to me that as ambiguous as the term “modern fullback” generally is, the Al Sadd mainstay would probably fit the notion anyhow. In fact, he might even go a bit further and broaden it, as he’s incredibly strong and powerful, yet technically head and shoulders above every other starting fullback in the Qatari Stars League at the same time.
“The most exciting talent to come out of Qatar since Khalfan [Ibrahim]! What a development. First team member and ACL winner at the age of 18,” my dear consultant Ahmed Hashim replies immediately after I’ve approached him in order to get some second opinion from a regular Al Sadd observer.
We both together then went on to struggle to identify any weak spot on Abdelkarim Hassan, because there simply seems to be none whatsoever.
His enviable acceleration combined with some terrifying musculature allows him to overlap with ease as well as knock the ball past opponents effectively and on a regular basis. He’s also well versed in starting up some dangerous attacks while cutting slightly inside and timing his passes for moving teammates wonderfully. And to come even closer to perfection as an attacking fullback, he’s turned out to be a pretty prolific fullback over the years, while so far this season, he’s been directly involved in as many as seven league goals (including four strikes of his, out of which three were headers).
What makes Abdelkarim Hassan an even better asset going forward is the fact that he rarely gets carried away, let alone caught out too far upfront. In other words, he’s already a focused, composed and well balanced young lad, who understands the game from a tactical standpoint very well and barely ever makes a mistake positioning-wise.
Here, I’d like to remind you once again that the Doha born defender is only 21 years old and so all those aforementioned attributes don’t really go without saying. Quite the opposite actually: they only document how special this Qatari prospect is. And he’s always been of huge promise, mind you, as he was included in the preliminary squad for the 2011 Asian Cup just after he graduated from Aspire Academy (at 17 years and 123 days old). That must have meant something, right?
Nowadays, Abdelkarim Hassan is already a vital part of both his club and national side, having technically clinched the 2015 Asian Cup berth for Qatar with a winning goal against Malaysia, and the only worrying sign about his development is therefore a rather baffling lack of interest from European teams.
Pretty much no rumours at all have been heard yet about Hassan being pursued and given how even a splendid offensive star in Khalfan Ibrahim has been ignored thus far, you have to wonder whether European scouts even come to visit Qatar and evaluate local talent in the first place.