Boris Kabi, the lower league star in the UAE. Entering his 6th season in the Gulf nation albeit with a new club, Boris Kabi has become a familiar name across Emirati fans’ lips, whether they are supporters of clubs based in the depths of the country near Ajman, Dibba and Ras Al-Khaimah or the richer teams located in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. “It first occurred, my move to the UAE, when my agent took notice of the teams in the country while I was at Olympic Safi [Morocco]”, the year that culminated in the professionalism of the now controversially named Arabian Gulf League. “Back then, I said yes without hesitation… and to this day, I have no regrets”.
Kabi is clearly immersed in the league’s level of play, however it is not just the football that catches his eye. “We are offered a beautiful living environment” Kabi continues, “my family is safe, the people are extremely respectful and you simply cannot ask for more”. Four of his five Emirati seasons were situated in the one-club city of Ajman, where he scored 67 league goals in 114 games. The leading goalscorer, the foreigner and most importantly the captain. “As a foreigner, the extra pressure goes on you. You have to be 200% at all times, ready for the challenges ahead” Kabi explained, “that is without me speaking about my captain’s armband, where the pressure doubled as I wore it – an honour for years.”
Boris Kabi completed his signing for Dibba Al-Fujairah in late July 2015, the newly promoted club and Champions of the UAE First Division despite challenges from the legendary Al-Shaab team and the fairly bigger Dubai Club. Kabi unfortunately was on the end of a tough relegation in 2014/15 where Ajman lost a 3-1 lead to Al-Wasl in the second to last game of the season. Not only that, but Ajman missed a 2-on-1 chance in the 89th minute, a goal that could have helped them avoid relegation. Nevertheless, Boris bounced back and now joins Bilal Najjarine and Bakare Kone as foreigners under the revered German-Lebanese manager Theo Bucker.
Foreigners, he says, haven’t helped each other out as much between the clubs. This is different to what Abdoulaye Kanoute said about Lebanon where he befriended African footballers from clubs on the other side of the nation to help acclimatising to the surroundings. Kabi, on the other hand, says that “Saying foreigners are a helping hand to each other is saying a lot,” he expressed. However “I exchanged good time with Diaky Ibrahim (Al-Ain), Boubacar Sanogo (Fujairah) and a certain Simon Feindouno of Kalba. Driss Fettouhi who was on my team was the player I befriended the most”.
Moving on to his role on the pitch, Kabi says that his managers ask him to “score goals, work hard and be on the ground for what I am [striker]”. Basic instructions that led him to success in a high tempo field of play in sweltering conditions. How he receives the message is not a problem despite his mother tongue being French because “football is a universal language”.
And his ‘job’ led him to an unforgettable moment when he scored the winner against Al-Jazira in the 2012/13 Etisalat Cup to help the Orange lift the trophy against all the odds in front of 8,523 fans. “Unforgettable memory, see Ajman happy, the whole city in Orange, it was magical” were the exact words of Boris Kabi towards that moment. He emphasises on the point of a trophy, no matter the value of it, is still a trophy. “It was very important for me to bring home a trophy in Ajman, I signed there at the time for this. I told people closest to me that I will bring the first trophy of the history in Ajman, people thought I was crazy but no. Incidentally it was also my first trophy as a footballer and I hope to win another one.”
There was one more, extremely important thing to ask Boris before closing in on our conversation. The fans. Kabi played for Kuwait SC, one of the biggest clubs in Kuwait with one of the largest and most passionate groups of supporters. Kabi also had a 1-year stint at Saudi club Al-Ra’ed, who he said that despite their status as a mid-table club “You could end up training with more than 1000 people watching you where even in Europe we do not see this type of thing. This happened every day, not just one one specific occasion”. But when I asked him why the UAE doesn’t see the same commanding fan bases across the country, he says “it is an interesting question, but I will not be answering it because I ask myself the same question every day.” Clearly, the Kuwaiti and Saudi fan bases captured Kabi’s love more however Ajman is where his heart is at.
We would like to thank Boris Kabi for answering our questions and becoming part of our interview list. Follow him on Instagram: @kabiborisofficiel