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Guangzhou R&F’s Moroccan hitman sets sights on MLS, not Europe

Guangzhou R&F’s Abderrazak Hamdallah dreams not of a move to a big European club, but of playing in the MLS to be reunited with his brother in the USA, the Moroccan revealed on his club’s website.

The striker has scored 17 goals in 16 league games since arriving on transfer deadline day in March yet has had problems settling in due to communication problems. He is unable to communicate with anyone in his daily life fluently due to the club translator struggling with the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, and Hamdallah himself having a poor grasp of English.

The interview details how, for the past six months, the 23-year-old has lived a solitary existence in his Zhujiang New Town apartment with only his cat for company. Time differences make it difficult to communicate with friends and family over the net, and his solitary existence also manifests itself on the pitch – he plays lone striker for R&F. Despite this Hamdallah has quickly become one of the most feared strikers in the CSL.

Abderrazak Hamdallah and his cat

Hamdallah and his cat Mimi

One of three children, Hamdallah is very close to his family and used his first prize money from playing professionally in Morocco to buy a new house for them. He then spent a successful year playing in Norway before moving to Guangzhou R&F. His the club have struggled to find a suitable translator for him because Hamdallah’s Moroccan dialect of Arabic is very different from the version spoken by the considerable Middle Eastern population in Guangzhou (which is also usually the dialect taught in Chinese language schools). Hamdallah is not fluent in English either and relies on his brother’s help when he is visiting from America.

Hamdallah is R&F's top scorer but has been guilty of missing many chances

Hamdallah has already scored 17 CSL goals for Guangzhou R&F

Given this, it is perhaps no surprise that Hamdallah prefers to stay in his apartment and talk to friends and family on the phone when not playing or training. He is not completely shut-off from life in China though as, like most young people, Hamdallah has a WeChat account which he uses to communicate with teammates and is similar to many expats by still finding a way to use Facebook.

Hamdallah plays as a lone striker on the pitch in Sven Goran Eriksson’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and the Moroccan feels that his willingness to go it alone is an asset here and rejects criticism that he is too greedy. Sven agrees and it is scarcely believably but Hamdallah’s goal tally could be even higher were he a more clinical finisher and had he not missed seven games through injury.

One further things which sets Hamdallah apart from many Chinese and foreign players in the CSL is that he does not dream of moving to a big European league. Instead, he dreams of a move to America and being reunited with his brother.

For a young man who has coped so well in an unfamiliar situation without the comfort of his loved ones around him, defenders in the MLS must be worried about what he could achieve if the solitary striker on the pitch had somebody to keep him company off it.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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