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
0

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.


Drew Brees brilliance, Tom Brady’s bumbling and buoyant Bills — NFL Week 3 review

Updated 25 September 2018
0

Drew Brees brilliance, Tom Brady’s bumbling and buoyant Bills — NFL Week 3 review

Here is Arab News’ weekly examination of all the talking points from the NFL...

Has Drew Brees’ loyalty cost him greatness?
There are very few records left to break for the New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees. In Sunday’s thrilling overtime win against divisional rivals Atlanta Falcons, Brees broke Brett Favre’s record for the most completed passes in NFL history. In the coming weeks, he will likely overtake Peyton Manning’s NFL record for career passing yards — Brees needs just 417 more to claim that record.
Yet, for all his numerical greatness, he has just one Super Bowl ring. Since 2006, Brees has been the Saints’ quarterback, and the stars aligned in 2009 as his efforts clinched an emotional Super Bowl for the team. But he has not been back to the Big Game since, and one has to wonder whether, if he had had the attacking weapons at the disposal of Manning and Tom Brady over the past decade, he could have won a few more. When he does finally call it a day, he will look back fondly on a fantastic career, but perhaps with a touch of regret that — in a sport where titles matter — he will not be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Brady, John Elway and Joe Montana.

Is the Patriots dynasty finally waning?
Speaking of Brady, we are in uncharted waters with the New England Patriots after losing to the previously winless Detroit Lions for back-to-back defeats. Over the past 15 years, that has only happened six times. Worse still, onlookers labeled it one of the low points in Bill Belichick’s 19 years at the franchise. The usually potent and formidable attacking line of the Patriots has not clicked at all this season. There is hope for Pats fans, though, as they have made similarly bad starts before and gone on to win the whole thing. But there is a nagging feeling that this is the beginning of the end for this all-conquering Patriots dynasty.

The NFL is anything but predictable
Hollywood loves an underdog movie about gridiron — think “Any Given Sunday” — but in the NFL, life sometimes imitates art. In the first two weeks of the season, the Buffalo Bills looked like a high school team. This week, they turned up to face the much-fancied Vikings in their own back yard and trounced them 27-6. Meanwhile, the league’s dark horses, Jacksonville, were far from championship-winning material in a dour 9-6 loss to the Titans. A lot of non-sporting nonsense surrounds the NFL, but at its core is an intriguing, exciting and highly unpredictable sport.


We could watch the Kansas City Chiefs every week
The exploits of Patrick Mahomes make the Chiefs the most exciting team to watch in the NFL at the moment, but their blistering offensive line and sometimes shambolic defense mean their games have been high-scoring blockbusters. They became the first team to score 38 points or more in a game during the first three weeks with a 38-27 win over San Francisco, but they have also conceded 92 points in those three matches. Not bad, considering they are spearheaded by Andy Reid, the man sacked by the Eagles for making them too defensively minded and negative.