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.


As it happened: Saudi Arabia 0 Uruguay 1

Updated 20 June 2018
0

As it happened: Saudi Arabia 0 Uruguay 1

7.50PM: FULL-TIME: Saudi Arabia 0 Uruguay 1. The World Cup dream is over for the Green Falcons. They will be playing for Arab bragging rights in Monday's game against Mohamed Salah's Egypt...

7.36PM: It's the Saudi Arabia fans we can hear in the stadium in Rostov...they believe. And they're urging their Green Falcons on to find this equalizer...

 

7.28PM: Saudi Arabia are doing their bit to keep the score close, but if we're being honest - this is not the Uruguay team we have come to know and...become acquainted with... over the years.

A poor showing from the South Americans in this World Cup so far, especially as they were many people's "dark horses" for the trophy...

7.20PM: We've had some fantastic games at this World Cup so far, it's safe to say that this is not one of them...both sides seem content with the status quo - Uruguay for the three points, Saudi Arabia to avoid another humiliating defeat...

7.08PM: Into the second half, the game has drifted into the realms of 'midfield stalemate' at this point, but the Saudi Arabia fans are keeping the faith...

 

6.47PM: HALFTIME - Uruguay 1 Saudi Arabia 0 - something to work with for the Green Falcons. But they must be more clinical in the final third when they manage to get that far up the pitch...

6.39PM: Saudi Arabia trying to wrest back control of this game, especially in the middle of the pitch. Russian fans will be cheering for Uruguay, as if it stays like this, the host nation will qualify for the last-16. They're even showing the match live on the famous Moscow Metro trains...

 

6.30PM: Uruguay took their time to come into the game, but one lapse at the back from Saudi Arabia and there was Barcelona talisman Suarez to tap it home. Uphill struggle for Saudi Arabia now, who in 120 minutes of football at this World Cup, have had just one shot on target...

6.25PM: GOAL - Luis Suarez scores from a corner with a deft finish, it's his 52nd goal for Uruguay...

6.20PM: Uruguay haven't clicked here so far, and Saudi Arabia are holding their own. They are passing and moving much better than last Thursday and they are stopping any potential Uruguay break from the off. A marked improvement from Pizzi's team...

6.12PM: Phil Neville, former Manchester United and England defender on BBC: "Saudi Arabia have actually started this game very brightly. They had a quick corner that Uruguay weren't prepared for there, but the ball in just lacked quality."

6:08PM: A much brighter start from Saudi Arabia in this game than against Russia, the fans are hopeful of a better Green Falcons showing too...

 

6:00PM: We're under way - Saudi Arabia must improve from that Russia game, let's see how the fare early on...

5:50PM: All smiles from Saudi players before the game...they're on their way out now in this crucial game, kick-off just a few minutes away...

5.45PM: Saudi Arabia Starting XI: Al-Owais, Al-Breik, Osama Hawsawi, Al Bulaihi, Al-Shahrani, Bahbir, Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Jassam, Al Dawsari, Al-Muwallad.

Saudi Arabia make four changes after their 5-0 opening-night hammering against Russia.

Goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf is left out, meaning Mohammed Al-Owais comes in. Elsewhere, Ali Albulayhi starts in the back four, while Hatan Bahbri moves into midfield and Fahad Almuwallad is in to lead the attack.

Pizzi spoke of his "feeling of shame" in the wake of their Russian nightmare. Expect Saudi Arabia to come out with all guns blazing...

5.40PMUruguay Starting XI: Muslera, Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres, Sanchez, Vecino, Bentancur, Rodriguez, Suarez, Cavani.

5.30PM: Just last Thursday, Saudi Arabia were thrashed by Russia. Now in the way of the Green Falcons is Uruguay - who boast one of the most fearsome frontlines in world football in Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez. Everyone believes Uruguay will win, there's no pressure on Juan Antonio Pizzi's men. Can they cause a monumental upset? Join us, to find out...