Saudi legend Sami Al-Jaber urges young Arab players to follow in Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool footsteps

Wolves' Sami Al Jaber (R) controls the ball during the match Wolves vs Southampton Aug. 5, 2000, in Wolverhampton. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi legend Sami Al-Jaber urges young Arab players to follow in Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool footsteps

DUBAI: Sami Al-Jaber still gets goose bumps when he recalls his time as the first Saudi Arabian to play professional football in England.
The striker made only a handful of appearances for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the second tier of English football at the turn of the millennium, but the team’s army of fanatical supporters left him with memories he will never forget.
“They loved the club. The passion they had, you can’t believe. It gives you power and will make any player play their best,” he told Arab News.
“They always told me that they believed in me and knew I was good. I only played five games, but I could feel their passion every time I received the ball.”
Now retired, Al-Jaber is one of Saudi Arabia’s most celebrated footballers. Nicknamed “The Legend,” he helped the Kingdom reach its first-ever World Cup in 1994, scoring one goal and setting up two others in a thrilling 4-3 victory over Iran to help the Green Falcons qualify for the tournament.
He went on to represent his country at four World Cups, scoring in 1994, 1998 and 2006, with a tally of 46 goals in 156 appearances for the national team. In 1996, he was a member of the Saudi squad that beat the UAE on penalties to win the Asian Cup.
Al-Jaber joined Wolverhampton, popularly known as Wolves, in 2000, on loan from Al-Hilal. He was 27 and, nagged by injury, struggled to make an impact on the pitch.
But his move helped pave the way for future Arab stars, including Liverpool’s Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah and Leicester’s Algerian playmaker Riyad Mahrez, to light up the English game.
Al-Jaber’s one regret is that he failed to ply his trade in Europe earlier, giving himself time to adapt to the colder weather and higher standard of football.
“I really learned a lot of things in the eight months I was there, about discipline and professionalism. We were just getting started in this regard in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Al-Jaber points to the stratospheric rise of Liverpool’s Salah as an example of the benefits Arab footballers can hope to gain by going to Europe early in their careers. The Egyptian has been one of the standout performers in this season’s Premier League, but even he took time to adapt to football outside his homeland.
Salah played for Basel in Switzerland and had an unsuccessful period at Chelsea in England before spells in Italy with Fiorentina and Roma that caught the eye of Liverpool. He is now in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and has scored 32 goals for his club in all competitions this season, winning praise for his pace and trickery.
“There are so many Salahs in the region, but he went as a young player to many clubs and then he gets the chance at Liverpool and he is ready, he already knows and has adapted to the European game. That would have been a better option for me,” said Al-Jaber.
Highlights:
-International debut in a 1-1 draw with Syria in 1992.
-Last international performance in a 0-1 defeat to Spain at the 2006 World Cup.
-International career lasted 13 years and 285 days.
-Among a small band of elite players to have scored in World Cups 12 years apart. Others to have achieved this feat include Pele, Maradona and Michael Laudrup.
-In January 2008, Al-Hilal held a testimonial for Al-Jaber against a Manchester United team featuring Cristiano Ronaldo. Al-Jaber scored a penalty in a 3-2 win.


Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

Updated 23 June 2018
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Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard beat Tunisia and power Belgium to brink of World Cup last 16

  • Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday
  • Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium

MOSCOW: Romelu Lukaku drew level with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the World Cup goalscoring charts on Saturday, scoring twice as Belgium moved to the brink of the last 16 after a 5-2 romp against Tunisia.
The victory leaves the Red Devils top of Group G with two wins ahead of their clash on Thursday against England, who play Panama on Sunday.
After also scoring twice in the opening 3-0 win against Panama, Manchester United’s Lukaku showed clinical finishing with two first-half goals in Moscow, matching Ronaldo’s tally in Russia.
Not to be outdone, Belgium captain Eden Hazard scored in either half, including an early penalty at the Spartak Stadium, before substitute Michy Batshuayi added their fifth.
Tunisia’s consolation goals came from defender Dylan Bronn and captain Wahbi Khazri.
The Belgians were criticized by coach Roberto Martinez for starting slowly against Panama in their first group match but flew out of the blocks in Moscow.
Hazard — having been on the receiving end of some bruising tackles in Belgium’s opener — was sent tumbling after just five minutes but converted the penalty to open his Russian account.
Midfielder Ferjani Sassi picked up an early booking for complaining when Tunisia’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears, just before Belgium added their second goal.
Ali Maaloul’s weak pass on the halfway line was collected by Dries Mertens, who sprinted away and put Lukaku clear.
The striker coolly hit his shot inside the far post, just past the outstretched glove of Tunisia keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha, in the 16th minute.
Tunisia responded two minutes later, Bronn leaping highest to head home a free-kick from his skipper Khazri on 18 minutes, only to be later carried off after landing awkwardly following a collision.
With half-time approaching, the Belgians grabbed their third goal.
After earlier squandering two clear chances created by Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku converted his third opportunity just before the half-time whistle.
Thomas Meunier put him in behind the defense and Lukaku tucked his shot away, celebrating with De Bruyne, who started the move.
The Manchester City midfield maestro turned provider again after the break for Hazard.
The Chelsea star sprinted onto De Bruyne’s lofted pass, held off two defenders, rounded keeper Ben Mustapha and tapped home Belgium’s fourth goal in the 51st minute.
With one eye on the England game, Martinez took off Lukaku, then Hazard as the half wore on and for the final 22 minutes brought on Batshuayi, who could have scored five.
The Borussia Dortmund forward had a chance cleared off the line, was twice denied by Ben Mustapha’s saves and hit the crossbar, finally converting a cross for Belgium’s fifth goal.
Tunisia captain Khazri grabbed their second goal just before the final whistle of their second defeat in Russia.