Interviews

Mousa Tamari: "I don't like being called the Jordanian Messi"

Mousa Tamari: "I don't like being called the Jordanian Messi"

Interviews
Publish on 02/16 at 15:58 - G. BOXALL

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Mousa Tamari spoke to Ligue 1 this summer before embarking on a journey with Jordan's national team that would see him reach the Asia Cup final. Find out more about the first Jordanian to play in Ligue 1 Uber Eats.

Can you tell us a bit about your background, starting with your childhood in Jordan?

I was born in Amman, the country's capital, into a football-loving family, like everyone else in Jordan. I've always loved football and I started playing club football at the age of 8 or 9, with Shabab Al-Ordon. Ever since I was young, I'd dreamt of making a career in football and playing in one of the five major leagues, but my mother wanted me to concentrate on my studies. It's not that she didn't believe in me, but she told me it would be complicated to live out my dream in Jordan. But I stood up to her a bit, I wanted to fight and see where football could take me. In the end, I climbed the ranks with Shabab Al-Ordon and ended up in the first team and the Jordanian first division at the age of 19.

What happened next?

After just a few games, I was lucky enough to be called up to the national team. It was a great source of pride for me. A year later, I was loaned out to another Amman club, Al-Jazira, with whom I won the Jordan Cup and played matches in the AFC Cup. I was lucky enough to score a few goals in this competition (6 in 7 games), which surely helped me sign for a team in Cyprus, APOEL Nicosia, in the summer of 2018.

"Jordanians are proud of me"

You've already touched on this, but could you tell us a bit more about the role of football in Jordan?

It's the number one sport! Everyone watches the matches on TV, whether it's the Spanish, French or English championships... A lot of Jordanians are fans of the big European clubs and, of course, our national team. There's a real passion around football.

What did you know about League 1 Uber Eats at the time?

I knew it was a tough, physical league, one of the big five. With APOEL, I was lucky enough to play in the Champions League and the Europa League and to come up against teams like Ajax and Sevilla, who we beat on home soil. These are competitions and matches that give you incredible emotions. I wanted to get back to that. I started building my dream in Jordan as a child, and now here I am in France, playing in one of the best leagues in the world! I know the Jordanians are proud of me and I'm going to do everything I can to keep living that dream.

You have played more than 50 matches for Jordan, a team that regularly holds its own against Australia and that recently put in a good showing against Spain and Serbia...

The draw for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers was made a short while ago. We've been drawn in a group with Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Pakistan or Cambodia. Our aim is to qualify for the next World Cup. There's also the Asian Cup early next year. With the team and the coach we have, we're aiming for the semi-finals (Jordan reach the final, losing 3-1 to Qatar).

What style of play does the Jordanian team play?

We give everything we've got on the pitch, we've got what we call 'grinta'! And above all, we play ball now. A few years ago, there was more of a long game, but things are changing, thanks in particular to the new coach, Moroccan Hussein Ammouta. And it's bearing fruit. For example, in June, we played against Serbia and we were better than them. Unfortunately, the match ended in a 3-2 defeat, but with 10 minutes to go, we were leading 2-1 and we were much better than them. And a few days later, we managed to beat Jamaica. We've got a good team that plays well and sticks together.

"My goal? To show what Jordanians are capable of."

You are the only player in the Jordanian team to play in Europe. Why aren't there more of them?

Because European clubs don't watch matches in Jordan! If they came to watch us, they'd recruit Jordanians! We have a lot of very good players. It's also my job to show what Jordanians are capable of. When I was in Belgium, at Louvain, my club put two of my compatriots on trial. Things went well for them, but they were unable to stay for administrative reasons. In Cyprus, APOEL also recruited another Jordanian, but he's no longer in Europe, having moved to Azerbaijan. While there are not many Jordanian players in Europe, there are a good dozen in the Middle East, in leagues such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

You're the first Jordanian to play in League 1 Uber Eats. Is that more of a pressure or an added strength?

It's a source of strength and pride, of course! But being the first Jordanian to play in France is not an end in itself, I need more. Now I have to show that I'm capable of performing at this level. And Montpellier is the perfect club for that. I've realised that from the way the players have welcomed me here.

What do you mean by that?

They're not just good players, they're also guys who have done everything to help me from day one. It's the opposite of what I experienced when I arrived in Belgium, where it was much colder. Here, everyone comes to talk to me, everyone tries to integrate me. I'm not alone, they try to make me feel like part of the family. It makes me want to give everything on the pitch to help the club.

Who were the players who helped you the most when you arrived?

Muhammad (Mamadou Sakho)! He's a very good person. It's only been a few weeks but we're already very close. We talk a lot together, we joke... He translates a lot of things for me. But he's not the only one. Téji Savanier is very nice to me, as are Wahbi Khazri and Jordan Ferri. But Mamadou is the best!

Between Cyprus and Montpellier, you played for three seasons in Belgium, at Louvain. Was coming to France, a country culturally close to Belgium, a way of making it easier for you to adapt?

That was a factor, yes. The Belgian league is also very physical but, as I explained earlier, it was above all my dream from a very young age to play in one of the five big European leagues and for a big club like Montpellier. When the club contacted me, I would have been mad to refuse. I had to accept and see if I had what it takes to play in Ligue 1 Uber Eats. After Belgium, it made sense to move to France to continue to progress.

For those who haven't seen you play yet, can you describe your style?

I like one-on-one, I dribble well, I'm quick with the ball at my feet... But I also like combining a lot, playing one-two, playing well as a team. Don't think that I only play on my own side. I've sometimes helped out up front, but I'm a wing player. After that, like in Belgium, I can start on the right and work my way back into the middle. But I'll do what the coach asks me to do, whatever's most useful for the team.

Have you set yourself any targets this season?

I'd like to score more goals and make more assists. Quite simply, my aim is to do better than I did in Belgium in every area!

Last season there was the 'Vietnamese Messi' in Ligue 2 BKT, in Pau, and this year there is the 'Jordanian Messi' in Ligue 1 Uber Eats...

I know some people call me that, but I don't like the nickname (laughs). They invented that nickname in Cyprus. The fans there are a bit crazy (laughs). In fact, when I arrived at APOEL, the chairman had sold a lot of important players and the team wasn't doing as well as usual. But because I gave everything on the pitch and scored so many goals, the fans adored me and invented a song that referred to me as the "Jordanian Messi"! In the end, the season ended very well, as we were champions and I was voted best player in the Cypriot league. But the APOEL fans are something else... I miss them sometimes and this club will always have a special place in my heart because it's the club that brought me to Europe and it's the biggest club in Cyprus.

Finally, what's the craziest moment you've experienced on the pitch?

Maybe it was that match at Anderlecht with Louvain at the start of last season. We'd been playing for 10 minutes when I found a mobile phone on the pitch. I picked it up and went to the referee to give it to him. At first he thought it was mine, but it wasn't! It hadn't been thrown by fans, I think someone had lost it during the pitch inspection or even before!

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