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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Theyab Awana: remembering talent

by Alice Johnson

© Photographs courtesy of Bani Yas Football Club, Theyab Awana practising at the grounds of Bani Yas football club
© © Photographs courtesy of Bani Yas Football Club
© © Photographs courtesy of Bani Yas Football Club, Theyab Awana practising at the grounds of Bani Yas football club
© © Photographs courtesy of Bani Yas Football Club, Theyab on the pitch – where he was most happy
© © Photographs courtesy of Bani Yas Football Club, the Al Wasl Coach Diego Maradona poses with members of Theyab Awana’s family following the young player’s death

The tragic death of the promising young Emirati football player serves as a reminder to stay off the phone whilst driving.

The untimely and tragic death of the 21-year-old footballer Theyab Awana in September shocked the entire UAE, as well as football fans in the region and all who knew him.

The talented national team player died in a car accident on Sheikh Zayed Road whilst on his way to Abu Dhabi from Dubai on 25 September 2011. Awana was as a winger for local football club Bani Yas and was part of the UAE under-23’s team which won a silver medal in the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.

Since his death, however, positive strides have been taken to create awareness of the dangers of texting and using the phone whilst driving – it’s believed Awana was using his smartphone at the time of the crash.

The young footballer had gained numerous accolades in his short career; winning the 2008 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Under-18 Cup and playing a leading role in the UAE, reaching the quarter finals of the 2009 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Under-20 World Cup. He also won seven caps for the senior national team. What’s more, he became a worldwide internet sensation earlier this year, after playing in a friendly match against Lebanon in July. During the match, the UAE team were awarded a penalty kick, which Awana squared up to take. However, instead of kicking the ball head-on, during his run up, he turned and back-heeled the ball into the goal. The footage of the impressive goal went viral online, with millions of viewers tuning in to view the star’s performance. The UAE won 7-2 and Theyab became famous over night.

Upon hearing the sad news of his death, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai and Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of the Interior and President of the Bani Yas club, visited Theyab’s family to offer condolences.

Theyab’s father Awana Ahmad Al Musabi received all those who came to offer condolences at the family home, for three days after his son’s untimely death, including Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court and the Al Wasl Coach – the famous Diego Maradona. “Football is about more than just goals and numbers, it’s about passion and compassion,” Maradona, said following the young footballer’s death.

A close-knit team

Theyab’s brother Fawaz – a winger for Bani Yas – was the last person to see his brother before the fatal crash. “I know this is Allah’s will, and I am trying to understand this but I can’t. I always thought my day would come first,” Fawaz said. “Ever since Theyab’s death, I have been praying for his soul and reading the Quran for him.”

The Bani Yas team are more than just a group of football players who meet on the pitch, but young men who grew up together and have been playing with each other since childhood, according to their coach Jorvan Vieira. “Some of the players are very close,” he told Al Shindagah. “Bani Yas is very different to other clubs; 80 to 90 per cent of the players grew up together and have played football since they were 10 years old. Now they are 21, and they’ve been together for 11 years. Most of them were also neighbours growing up. It’s not easy [for them to deal with the death],” he said.

He added that every member of the team has worked extremely hard and without their hard work the club would not be in the UAE Pro-league – the Emirate’s highest football division. Vieira has known Awana’s family for many years, having coached Theyab’s brother Fawaz. “I have three or four groups of brothers in my team; some of them have younger brothers that play in the under-14s and under-19s with other brothers. It’s tough and difficult for them to accept this death,” he said, adding that many of the players didn’t want to return to the club after Theyab’s death. “The boys still carry a lot of pain – they keep Theyab in their minds, they think about him quietly but they still don’t want to speak about it,” he said of the young footballer’s grieving team mates.

Preventing further accidents

Just a couple of days after the accident, Theyab’s father appealed to drivers not to use smartphones or mobile phones whilst driving, so that similar accidents could be prevented in the future.

Acting quickly after the tragic accident, the Abu Dhabi Traffic Police enforced new regulations concerning the use of mobile phones while driving – raising the fine to Dhs1, 200, six black points and imposing a law impounding the drivers’ car for a month.

Despite his death in such tragic circumstances, the memory of the young football player will live on for many years to come. The Dubai Charity Association is planning to build a mosque in Theyab’s honour.

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