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Defensive midfield player for the Al Jazira football Club, Abu Dhabi, Khamis Esmaeel comes from a sporting family and played competitive volleyball for Emirates Club. Life Beyond Sport talks to one of the UAE’s soccer talents about his decision to turn his hand to soccer.
Name: Khamis Esmaeel,
Team: Al Jazira and UAE National team
Position: Defensive Midfield
Age: 33 years old
Height: 6 feet
Car: Bentley GT
Honours: Pro league winner, Presidents Cup winner, Gulf Cup winner.

Q: What is your favourite travel destination both within and outside of the GCC and why?
A: My favourite destination inside of the GCC is Saudi Arabia, but outside of the region it would have to be the city of Barcelona in Spain. The city has great history, culture and a fantastic football team.
Q: How do you like to relax before a big game?
A: I like to relax before a game by reading or listening to the Koran and being able to fully meditate and pray before an important game as helps me to relax my mind and settle into the right frame of mind where I am focused and relaxed at the same time. Because the football demanding at this level I try to give strict attention to dietary support from the club regarding diet and how it affects my conditioning. Since we have to travel a lot and play this is quite important.

Q: If you were not a professional footballer what would you be doing?
A: If I was not a professional footballer I would definitely be playing volleyball for a living. I really like the game. All of my brothers have been and are involved in the UAE game at club or
national level. We all grew up playing the game. However, I am the last of five brothers and they all played before me and looking at football advised me that that the future of football in the UAE is much brighter than that of volleyball. I then decided to go forward with the opportunity provided to me by Al Jazira since they were always my first choice when it came to playing football in the UAE at professional level. The position of midfield defense is competitive but I always look forward to the opportunity to play competitively and hard for the next three to four seasons.
Q: What sports do you like to play?
A: I come from a sporting family and a long line of the sportsmen in my family. My father played football before it was professionalized in the UAE and all the boys are keen sportsmen. Since I have been at Al Jazira though my family is very supportive of how I play and develop my game of football. They watch all my games and comment accordingly of they feel that I did not play well. But I must say that the Al Jazira Football club have fully supported by need to develop myself as a footballer with access to a good educational opportunity. I study Media and Communications at Al Jazira University in Dubai and consider myself very lucky to be able to pursue my education and play professional football for my club and country. The work of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council has been very active in driving forward these learning experiences for the upcoming talent of the Etisalat Pro League.

Q: Who is your favourite player and league and why?
A: My favourite player is Xabi Alonso when it comes to a non GCC player, but my favourite Arab player is Ismail Matar. He has done alot for life the UAE game and the confidence of the players in the international scene both on and off the playing field, as well as in competition. Whenever I am able to watch Alonso play in Europe I always get something to develop my game and test it out on the field.
Q: What car you drive?
A: I drive a Bentley GT, it’s an amazing car.

Q: What message or role can Emirati football players send to young Emirati footballers who aspire to have a professional career, challenges and rewarding lifestyle it offers?
A:  At Al Jazira we are very mindful of the challenges that young players have when it comes to the being able to manage a professional football career, your considerable first time income and a material lifestyle that football gives. Al Jazira is one of a number of clubs that provide support programmes that focus on the young players’ ability to receive talks from past players and their experiences. It was clear how the UAE footballing community and the society were negatively affected by the death of Diab, a young former UAE talent who died in an unfortunate driving incident. This will make us a better rounded and balanced players and people that are able to handle the challenges of playing professional football in the UAE. We have had some great players come and speak with us on the past in regard to personal conduct and career progression. We have had players like Christian Veron of Argentina and former African and World Player of the Year, George Weah.
Q: How did you feel about UAE’s victory in the 2013 GCC cup final against Iran?
A: Firstly, it was a great experience winning against Iran in the GCC Cup, a great experience.
We played for a full 120 minutes and the fitness and endurance really paid off in order to do that. When that decisive goal came it was great for us. We are the first national team to take the Asian Cup and the GCC Cup so we are really, really happy about that achievement.