‘The Jordanian Messi? I don’t like this nickname!’ Musa Al-Taamari on his career so far, life at Montpellier and the rise of Jordanian football

Musa Al-Taamari (26) has had quite the week, scoring Jordan’s second goal to clinch victory in the AFC Asian Cup semi-final over the much more illustrious South Korea. Last summer, he became the first Jordanian national to play in Ligue 1, joining Montpellier Hérault SC from Belgian side OH Leuven on a free transfer. Since then, he has made 16 Ligue 1 appearances, scoring three goals and providing three assists. He sat down with Ligue1.fr at the start of the season to discuss his career to date:

Tell us about your journey so far, starting with your childhood in Jordan…

I was born in Amman, the capital, into a family that loves football. I’ve always loved football and I began playing for a club when I was 8-9 years old, at Shabab Al-Ordon. Since I was very young, I dreamt of making a career out of football and playing in one of the five big leagues, but my mother wanted me to concentrate on my studies. It’s not that she didn’t believe in me, she just said that it would be difficult to make my dream come true in Jordan. However, I was stubborn and challenged her, I wanted to see where football could lead me. In the end, I climbed the ladder with Shabab Al-Ordon until I reached the first team and the Jordanian top flight at 19 years old. 

And after that?

After only a few matches, I had the fortune to be called for the national team. I was very proud. One year later, I was loaned to another Amman club, Al-Jazira, with whom I won the Jordanian Cup and with whom I was able to take part in the AFC Cup, the second club competition in Asia. I was fortunate enough to score a few goals in this competition (Six goals in seven games) which helped me to secure a move to secure a move to APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus) in 2018.

You mentioned it before, but could you tell us more about the popularity of football in Jordan?

It’s the number one sport. Everyone watches the games on TV, whether it’s games from Spain, France, or England.. many Jordanians are supporters of the big European teams and, of course, of our national team. There’s a real passion for football. 

What did you know about Ligue 1 at the time?

I knew it was a difficult league, physical, one of the five big European leagues. With APOEL, I was lucky enough to play in the Champions League and Europa League and play against teams since as Ajax and Sevilla FC, who we managed to beat in the home game. These are competitions and matches that stir incredible emotions, I wanted to rediscover that. I started to build my dream in Jordan, and here I am today in France, in one of the world’s best leagues. I know the Jordanian people are proud of me and I will do my best to continue this dream. 

You’ve made over 50 appearances for your national team, a team that regularly competes with Australia and gave a good account of itself against Spain and Serbia recently

The 2026 World Cup qualifying draw happened recently. We’re in a group with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Cambodia. Our objective is to qualify for the next World Cup. There’s also the Asian Cup next year, we are aiming for the semi-finals!

Update: Jordan will face Qatar in the AFC Asian Cup final this Saturday, 10th February 2024, kick-off 3pm GMT.

What is Jordan’s style of play?

We give everything on the field, we have “Grinta”! Above all, we play football now. A few years ago, we played more of a long ball game, but things change, notably thanks to our Moroccan coach Hussein Ammouta. The changes are now bearing fruit! For example, in June, we played against Serbia and we were the better team. Unfortunately, the match ended in a 3-2 defeat but we were winning 2-1 with 10 minutes to go and were much the better team. A few days later, we managed to beat Jamaica! We have a good team, talented and cohesive. 

You are the first Jordanian to play in Ligue 1. Do you see this more as pressure or motivation?

It’s a strength and a source of pride, obviously! However, being the first Jordanian in Ligue 1 isn’t a means to an end in itself. I need more. Right now, I need to show that I’m capable of playing at this level, and Montpellier is a perfect club for that! I understood it in how the players welcomed me here. 

Which means?

They aren’t only good players, but also guys that do everything to help me since the first day I arrived. It’s the opposite of what I experienced in Belgium, which was much more of cold atmosphere. Here, everyone comes to talk to me, everyone helps me to integrate. I’m not alone, they try to make me feel like part of the family, which makes me want to give everything on the field to help the club. 

Which players have helped you the most since you arrived?

Mamadou Sakho is a great guy. It has only been a few weeks but we are already close. We talk alot together and share jokes.. he translates for me and helps me with the language, but he’s not the only one! Téji Savanier helps alot, as do Wahbi Khazri and Jordan Ferri, but Mamadou is top.

In between your time in Cyprus and arriving at Montpellier, you played three seasons in Belgium, with Leuven. Did that cultural proximity help with your adaptation to French life? 

It definitely played a part, yes. The Belgian league is also very physical but, as I explained before, my dream was to play in one of the top five European leagues and at a big club like Montpellier. When the club made contact, I would have had to have been crazy to refuse. I owed it to myself to accept the offer and see if I had the required level to succeed in Ligue 1. After Belgium, it was logical to go to France to continue progressing. 

For those that won’t have seen you play yet, can you describe your playing style?

I love one on ones, I am a good dribbler and I’m fast with the ball at my feet, but I also love combinations, playing one-twos, a team game. I don’t play just for myself. Sometimes I find myself running through the middle but I am really a winger. Of course, as seen in Belgium, I can come off the right wing back into the middle, but I will always do what the coach asks, whatever is best for the team. 

Do you have objectives for the coming season?

I would like to score more goals and also provide more assists. It’s really simple, I want to do better than I did in Belgium in every aspect!

How do you feel about being called the “Jordanian Messi”?

I know certain people call me that but I don’t like the nickname. I first heard it over in Cyprus, where the supporters are a little bit crazy. When I arrived at APOEL, the president had sold a lot of important players and the team hadn’t been getting the results they were used to, but as I was giving everything and scoring a lot, the supporters adored me and started calling me the “Jordanian Messi”. In the end, the season ended very well, we became champions and I was named the best player in the Cypriot league. The APOEL supporters are something else, I miss them sometimes and the club will always be special for me because it’s the club that brought me to Europe and it’s the biggest club in Cyprus!

GFFN | Jack McArdle

 

 

 

 

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