Having a ball

TAQA people —
Malcolm Greenslade has seen his life change dramatically since returning to the UAE to work for TAQA at the group’s headquarters. Now he is playing international rugby for the Emirates and cutting a dash on the wing

Images of pearl divers from a bygone era are brought into sharp focus every time Malcolm Greenslade pulls on his coveted UAE rugby jersey.

At 25, he made his debut for the Emirates against Hong Kong last November in the 53-7 defeat at the Dubai Sevens stadium. While it was a bone-crunching introduction to international rugby, it was a day he will never forget.

“What does playing for the UAE mean to me?” says Mr Greenslade, a Human Resources Assistant at TAQA in Abu Dhabi. “Everything. It’s a tremendous honour. I will always remember before the game, our captain, Renier Els, told us what hoyamal means. It’s an Arabic word and is now the team’s motto.

“Hoyamal was used by pearl divers, and these guys had very lonely and dangerous lives. They were out at sea for days on end, and hoyamal was a word they used to describe ‘inner strength’ … it was a call to action,” he adds. “When our captain told us that story, you really did feel that inner strength and you have to when you are playing against the top teams. So before every game we now shout hoyamal as our call to arms … it’s extremely uplifting.”

Mr Greenslade qualified to play for the national team after being born in the UAE. His dad, Matthew, works in the oil and gas industry, and he spent his early childhood in the Emirates. After being educated in England, Mr Greenslade moved back to Abu Dhabi in 2011 when he joined TAQA from Spire Health Care. Here, he talks about his love for rugby, the art of concentration and his international future.

When did you start playing rugby?

I was 11 when I went to the Oratory School in Reading and I had no idea what the rules were. My brother, Martin, helped me understand the game. I eventually played for the A team and the first team before I left to attend Loughborough University in Leicestershire. During my three years there, my rugby career on the wing stopped apart from playing the odd game.

When did you start playing again?

When I moved to the UAE, I contacted the Harlequins in Abu Dhabi. The club is fully affiliated with the Harlequins in England. They send over their coaching staff to work with us in training sessions. There is a strong bond between the clubs and the former England international Nick Easter has been over here to help us. Playing for the Harlequins has helped me at international level.

So when did you break into the UAE national team?

My first game was against Hong Kong last November. It was an unbelievable occasion. Straightaway, you notice the difference in the quality and class of the opposition. We were beaten by nearly 50 points that day, but it was still a good result for us. We performed well, despite being thumped.

What does it mean to you to play for the emirates?

This is the country where I was born and where I grew up. This is the country where I live and work. It is a massive honour to play international rugby for the UAE.

What are your goals?

To make sure I’m selected and to prolong my international career. I want to start winning games for the national team. We want to create a higher profile for UAE rugby union by getting some wins under our belt. I also want to play rugby league for the UAE and help the country qualify for the 2017 World Cup.

What is the difference between club and international rugby?

The club scene is very strong here. But it’s the level of intensity at international rugby and the opposition you are up against, like Japan, that’s the big difference. The Japanese players are all professionals and qualified for the last World Cup in New Zealand. Along with Hong Kong, they are very tough to beat.

Are there any similarities between playing rugby at international level and your work at TAQA?

Concentration is vital. If you get your concentration levels right, it will improve your decision making. In rugby, you have to make decisions quickly. In HR, you have more time to take stock of the situation. But concentration is the key.