Al-Hilal face fight to keep star Syrian Omar Khribin

Syria and Al-Hilal forward Omar Khribin was named Asian Player of the Year in 2017
Updated 08 February 2018
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Al-Hilal face fight to keep star Syrian Omar Khribin

LONDON: Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal are set to face an end-of-season fight to keep hold of Omar Khribin with a number of Chinese Super League clubs mulling over a summer move for the Syrian star.
Big-spending Hebei CFFC, Shanghai Shenhua and Tianjin Quanjian are in the running to sign one of the Middle East’s hottest properties in the summer transfer window with Arab News understanding that the 24-year-old is open to a move east.
Al-Hilal signed the forward on a permanent deal in January 2017, for around $11.5 million. His performances have gone from strength to strength ever since, for both club and country.
“A fee of around $15 million is being talked about, though it would take place in the summer at the earliest,” a senior official at the Syrian Football Association told Arab News.
Khribin spearheaded Syria’s attempt to qualify for this summer’s World Cup, and his performances on the Road to Russia, as well in as the 2017 AFC Champions League, have won him plenty of admirers in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere.
In the final round of qualification, Syria were placed in the same group as China and performed well, narrowly missing out on an automatic spot in Russia to finish third behind South Korea, before losing in a playoff to Australia.
Khribin was the leading goal scorer in the AFC Champions League, scoring 10 goals as the Riyadh giants reached the final only to lose narrowly to Urawa Reds of Japan in November.
Such form saw him named Asian Player of the Year, beating off strong competition from China’s own Wu Lei and Omar Abdulraham of the UAE.
“There are a number of Chinese clubs looking at the situation,” a leading Chinese agent told Arab News.
“Some already have a full quota of foreign players so the summer transfer window would be the earliest they could make a move, though there is also the possibility of waiting until the end of the season.”
It has become more difficult for Chinese Super League teams to sign foreign players for more than $7 million, after the implementation of the so-called “transfer tax” in 2017. Clubs that are in debt must pay an amount equal to the transfer fee into a football development fund.
Khribin would not be the first Syrian in the league. Firas Khatib signed for Shanghai Shenhua in 2013 and earned plenty of fans with his goals and all round attacking play in the season-and-a-half spell in China’s commercial capital.
Al-Hilal declined to comment.


FIVE OTHER ARABS WHO COULD SHINE IN CHINA

OMAR AL-SOMA: Another Syrian forward who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia and also has lots of admirers across Asia. Chinese clubs are perhaps the only ones able to afford his talents.

ALI MABKHOUT: The 27-year-old striker has spent his entire career with Al-Jazira in the UAE. He could be tempted east by the prospect of a new challenge.

FAHAD AL-MUWALLAD: The exciting winger has been sent to Spain for some La Liga experience with Levante, and once that stint is over, his exciting talents would go down well in China.

MOHAMED ELNENY: The defensive midfielder has been with Arsenal since 2016, but while the Eygptian has made more than 30 appearances for the Gunners, he is not an automatic starter.

HUMAM TARIQ: The talented Iraqi playmaker has been around for years despite being just 21. He lacks a little consistency and a move to China could do him good.


Historymaker: Saudi teen secures Kingdom’s first ever Olympic gold medal

Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Assiri wins historic first gold for the country.
Updated 18 October 2018
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Historymaker: Saudi teen secures Kingdom’s first ever Olympic gold medal

  • The victory marked Saudi’s third time on the podium at the two-week Youth Olympics
  • I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, said the gold medalist

BUENOS AIRES: It is said that the karate-ka who has given the necessary years of commitment and meditation to the sport is both fearless and tranquil. They can, it is said, be calm even in a burning building.

Last night, inside a furnace-like Europe Pavilion at the Youth Olympic Park, and in front of Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Assiri won the Kingdom its first ever Olympic gold medal. And welcomed it, initially at least, with utmost calm. 

Defeating Masaki Yamaoka of Japan 8-0 in the Men’s Kumite -61kg final, the 17-year-old Saudi immediately thanked his opponent and bowed to the various officials, before turning to his coach, removing his red gloves slowly, and greeting him with a starch salute. Only afterwards, once these rituals of respect were over and his opponent had slipped away, did Al-Assiri explode with joy, his face contorting into beautiful agony as he screamed in guttural Arabic and jumped around the mat.

“I am so happy, so proud,” he said, his prize glinting in the spotlight of the world’s media. “This is the first gold medal for Saudi Arabia and our first medal ever in karate. I have been working towards this moment for 10 years, especially in the past two when my training intensified. I came for gold and this is the result of years of serious work. It was very difficult, but I am just so proud. Thank you to Allah.”

The victory marked Saudi’s third time on the podium at the two-week Youth Olympics, after bronze medals in weightlifting and 400m Hurdles. It is a stellar return for a country that brought only nine athletes to Argentina and has won just one medal at this level before, a bronze in equestrian four years ago. Yousef Jalaiden, the chef de mission for the Saudi delegation, had confidently predicted medals earlier this week, but even he admits expectations have been exceeded.

“We are very happy right now,” Jalaiden said, watching as Al-Assiri, wrapped in the Saudi flag, posed for photos with Prince Fahd bin Juluwe bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the head of the delegation. “It’s our best achievement ever at an Olympics — be it Youth or the full Olympics. We are so happy — we hoped for three medals, like I said before, and we got them,”

Karate is making its Olympic debut this week ahead of Tokyo 2020 and Assiri had secured his place after winning at the first qualifying event in Croatia this summer. In front of vocal support from Saudis and Egyptians, he was handed the historic victory after his offensive front-footed display culminated with Yamaoka fouling four times during their bout.

“During training, people from other countries were all telling us Mohammed would take gold, but for us it was never a certainty,” Jalaiden added. “We expected him to reach the final, but when you get to a final, anything can happen. He has been training exceptionally hard though and it has all paid off.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Egypt’s Yasmin Nasr El-Gewily won the Women’s Kumite 53kg final, defeating Japan’s Rinka Tahata 2-1. “Egypt are our neighbours and we have an excellent relationship with them, so today it is like our nation is one,” said Jalaiden. “We have both enjoyed great success here.”