Yokohama v Al Ain: Kaku aims to repay fans' love with Asian Champions League title

Paraguayan playmaker talks of his love for UAE club ahead of final's first leg against Yokohama F Marinos

Al Ain's Paraguayan midfielder Kaku has been instrumental in the club's run to the Asian Champions League final. Photo: Al Ain
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Alejandro Sebastian Romero Gamarra, more commonly known as Kaku, has been one of Al Ain’s standout players during their incredible run to the Asian Champions League final.

The Paraguayan attacking midfielder, signed last summer from Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun, scored in the memorable semi-final victory against Al Hilal last month, and has proven the perfect foil for teammate Soufiane Rahimi, the 2023/24 tournament’s top scorer.

Kaku, wo has also played for New York Red Bulls, is expected to be integral again in the final against Yokohama F Marinos, where Al Ain will attempt to emulate their class of 2003 in winning Asia’s premier club competition. They remain the only UAE side to do so.

Kaku spoke ahead of the first leg of the final which takes place at the Yokohama International Stadium in Japan on Saturday.

On taking to life in the Garden City

“I will be honest with you, the first impression and the truth since I have arrived here, I fell in love with Al Ain Football Club and the peaceful and beautiful green city, which the club is considered an integral part of.

“I do have great fun while being here. I also feel, to a great extent, as if my origins are from this place, I feel that I have Ainawi [Al Ain supporters] origins, in addition to that great amount of sincere love, so I find myself in love with wearing the kandoura and I do have great fun while doing this.”

On his first knowledge of Al Ain

“One day I had the chance to attend one match at Qatar’s Fifa World Cup. Before that match, I went to Dubai Mall and saw the Al Ain T-shirt and I liked the logo and the design, so I did not hesitate to buy it and wear it to attend the Argentina match in Doha.

“This was exactly a year before I have received the club’s offer; at that moment I had a great feeling, and for that reason, I decided to come to the place where I feel at ease and happy. I am currently living a beautiful experience and I live at the city of Al Ain, this beautiful city that amazed me from the first sight.”

On his favourite games with Al Ain

“One the most beautiful moments in my professional career that I cannot forget is when I played my first official match in the Adnoc Pro League, in addition to our most recent match against Al Hilal, which was very interesting for me. I even lost control over my emotions that day and I could not suppress my tears while expressing my happiness over qualifying to the Asian Champions League final.

“So it was an emotional moment for me in my professional career, but I do have confidence that there are beautiful moments and more interesting one to come with the Al Ain team.

“Also, I do remember that one of the best moments for me was when my family came to watch me play in my first appearance for the first time in my professional football career. Also, when my father came to the United Arab Emirates for the first time, and in that moment, I was overwhelmed with great happiness.”

On his Al Ain highlights

“In my opinion, the best match I have ever played with Al Ain was against the two Saudi clubs of Al Nassr and Al Hilal in the Champions League. But, if you are asking me over the best moments in my professional football career with Al Ain, I can say they are yet to come.

“This is because we are all looking forward to climb the ladder to reach the podium after claiming the Champions League title. I also promise the fans of Al Ain to work very hard in order to be able to live the feeling of the champion together on the final night.”

On the team’s leaders

“In my opinion, the two leaders of the team, Khalid Essa and Bandar Al Ahbabi, have the spirit of real leadership and the professional mentality. They also have a great love for this team and we consider them a role model.

“They are like this in our eyes and also in the eyes of the young players, who are looking to follow the correct path and approach, while Khalid’s and Bandar’s hearts are full with great love for Al Ain and the city – exactly the same as what is in the hearts of the members of one family.”

On repaying the Al Ain fans

“I have already promised you that we will reach the final of the Champions League, so here we are today at the final stage. I also wish to make history, and we are only one step away from achieving this ambition.

“Thank you for all that love you have showed me on the street or in those moments I have spent with my family at the malls. I appreciate this from you, and I hope we can achieve our great ambitions together.

“I am looking forward to claiming titles and I do dream that my sons can see what their father had managed to achieve with the big team of Al Ain over his football professional career at the United Arab Emirates. I am enjoying my time at the city of Al Ain and I do wish to be able to play for many years at this place."

Updated: May 10, 2024, 1:22 PM