My passport is Indian but my heart is Emirati, says football fan
Abu Dhabi - He hails from the football-crazy Malappuram district in India.
Published: Tue 15 Jan 2019, 9:18 PM
Last updated: Tue 15 Jan 2019, 11:27 PM
Rasik Ossan Kunnath is an Indian expat who sees the UAE as a school which has taught him important lessons of life. He came into spotlight after a photo went viral with him holding a poster: 'My passport is Indian but my heart is Emirati' during the India-UAE football match of the AFC Asian Cup.
Indian football fan cheers UAE at Asian Cup, honoured
"I came here as a 21-year-old in 2008. I found that the leadership rules in a selfless way. Everyone is treated equally here. Everyone respects one another irrespective of nationality, religion, profession, colour or status. Even a barber like me can lead a normal life. My customers, mostly Emiratis, have over the years become friends. I came to know more about Emirati culture from them. I hail from the football-crazy Malappuram district and found the same passion among Emiratis here. All these factors made me develop a strong bonding with the UAE," he said from Abu Hamdan Salon in Baniyas.
So when the UAE faced India at Zayed Sports City Stadium, he was confused as to whom to support. It was a case of split loyalties.
"I had spent 21 years in Kerala and 11 here but the time here has shaped my character. So, my mind was divided when I went to the stadium with my brothers Muhammad Ajmal and Shuhaib. But I didn't realise my feelings conveyed through the poster will get such attention."
Though India lost the match and are eventually out of the tournament, Rasik finds solace as his UAE hero Ali Mabkhout scored goals and the host nation have reached the knockout stage. And more reason to cheer came as Major-General Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the General Authority for Sports and Vice-President of the Supreme Organising Committee of the AFC Asian Cup UAE, honoured him at the stadium.
"Al Rumaithi sir hugged me. It was an emotional and proud moment. He asked about my passion for football. I told him about my busy weekend work at saloon and how my owner Abdul Gafoor and Santhosh gave permission to watch the match. Sir told me not to miss any UAE match. I hope the UAE lift the cup at home. It will be a historic achievement. I link these recent developments in my life to my lucky charm - my eight-month-old baby boy Muhammed Rushdan and wife Mufeeda."
After the meeting, Al Rumaithi presented the Abu Dhabi Sports Council shield to Rasik, who now gets free tickets for the UAE match.