The most charitable description of Fan of Amoory is that it is well-meaning propaganda meant to exhort young boys to follow their dreams and work for them. In the glory of the UAE.
In the story, a young teen (Jomaa Zaabi) from a prosperous family wants to become a professional footballer like his hero Amoory. But his father wants him to focus on school and duties at home; he forbids both his sons from playing the game.
Amoory and his friends have too much talent and are too devoted to the game to give it up. After all, Amoory has his own little gym, his own little goals, his own little field with lights. Their coach takes them to an academy tryout, and when none of them are accepted, Amoory convinces his friends to start their own academy 😮. With proper training from a better local coach (as opposed to a foreigner!), they reach a tournament final (against a lot of foreign players).
So how did this somewhat far-fetched movie happen?
About the UAE United Arab Emirates
First expressed in the 1800s, we often forget the admonition that power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Like Qatar and Saudia Arabia, the UAE funnels its massive oil riches into a fabulously wealthy but strictly controlled sovereign state. Besides prison, crimes (such as adultery, abortion, and consuming alcohol) can be punished by flogging, death by stoning, or amputation.
The country is ruled by the Sheiks of 7 emirates (sheikdoms), of which Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the largest and wealthiest. UAE’s population is 10 million; less than 12% are Emirati citizens, and the rest are immigrants (expatriates). In an effort to diversify away from oil, the UAE funds initiatives to develop other industries, entertainment being one of them. Which is how they got this movie.
Accordingly, the film (aka عاشق عموري) promotes a combination of national pride and tourism. It appears the UAE has a film industry incubator that helps young people like Writer-Director-Producer Amer Salmeen Al Murry and his brother create appropriately-themed films that also vitalize tourism.
Who is Amoory?
In the film, the main character is nicknamed Amoory because he is such a big fan of the UAE player whose poster hangs on his wall. The footballer’s hair resembles that of David Luiz of Arsenal/Brazil, and the player is Omar Abdulrahman, known as Amoory, who played for club Al Ain FC and was the 2016 AFC Player of the Year.
This fascinating 2018 article by James Piercy details Amoory’s gilded cage dilemma, which prevented the player from going to Europe. Originally born in Saudi Arabia, his parents were from Yemen. On identifying his talent, the Saudis offered the boy citizenship. But the UAE offered citizenship to the entire family and also signed his 2 older brothers to play for Al Ain.
Sadly, in just 2 short years since this film, the real Amoory is now without club after apparently not taking his job on the national team seriously enough.
Although the film has some dirt field soccer scenes, in general this story could have taken place in America, with middle class White parents either putting education over sports, or else buying everything a child needs to succeed. For example, it’s incongruous when Amoory runs away from home to go to the tryout, but on his first trip to Al Ain’s stadium, he buys at least $300 of fan gear for himself.
In some ways the story reminded me of the social aspirations of the comedy Troop Beverly Hills, which told us that yes, rich kids have problems too, such as money management.
Another issue I have with the film is its Bollywood length at 1 hour 49 mins on Netflix. Director Al Murry is a big fan of Bollywood films, and in his first feature, the only thing he didn’t incorporate was a dance sequence.
While I don’t recommend this film for entertainment purposes, it’s good for UAE tourism. The scenes of the desert and the bridges to the island of the capital of Abu Dhabi inspire me to visit someday when this pandemic is over. Assuming they let me in after writing this review. 🙂
5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5
- Released: 2018-02-08 (Abu Dhabi)
- Title: عاشق عموري
- In Arabic with English sub-titles
- 1 hour 49 mins
- I watched this on Netflix
- Director: Amer Salmeen Al Murry
- Stars: Jomaa Zaabi
- Watch the Trailer