Yasser Al-Qahtani bowed out in the same style with which he graced the football field

Saudi Arabia forward Yasser al-Qahtani celebrates his goal against Tunisia at the 2006 World Cup.
Updated 16 April 2018
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Yasser Al-Qahtani bowed out in the same style with which he graced the football field

  • Al-Qahtani announced his retirement last week after a long and successful career.
  • Al-Qahtani scored 42 goals in 108 appearances for Saudi Arabia.

Yasser Al-Qahtani ended his playing career with the same style that was ever-present on the pitch. An emotional video showed the Saudi Arabia striker hanging up that iconic number 20 shirt in the dressing room before draping an Al-Hilal scarf around his neck.  
 It was a fitting end to an epic career. The video was trending just hours after another Al-Hilal league title, the fifth for the player. Add lots of cup triumphs, two AFC Champions League finals and it is clear his was a successful career.
The same can be said about his time on the international stage where he represented the Green Falcons over 100 times. This writer was present in Munich during one of his biggest moments when he got the first goal in Saudi Arabia’s opening game 2-2 draw against Tunisia at the 2006 World Cup. Al-Qahtani had announced his arrival on the global stage and he looked at home. A year later, he led his nation to final of the 2007 Asian Cup with four goals along the way and was then named the AFC Player of the Year a few months later.
He had everything that a striker needs. Pace — just look at his goal against Tunisia when his speed took him between two defenders into the area — a fierce shot, great close control combined with fine aerial ability. In short, he lays claim to be the best West Asian striker of the 21st century.
However, as fine as his career was, there is a what-might-have-been aspect too. He could have starred in Europe. I talked to Tunisian defender Rahdi Jaidi, then with Bolton Wanderers in the English Premier League, after the 2006 World Cup clash and he was impressed with the striker.
“He is a fine player,” said Jaidi. “He could easily play in England, he is strong, fast and direct and I am sure he has a bright future.”
 Bolton were linked with the player as were Middlesbrough. Al-Qahtani sounded like he was ready for the challenge.
“I have no clue what is going to happen next,” he told Arab News in 2007. “I hope to play in Europe ... it’s a dream. I would love, for the benefit of my team, to play in Europe and gain more experience — I would love to go to England or Spain.”
Winning the AFC Player of the Year award brought with it a trial at Manchester City. According to former City goalkeeper John Burridge,  Al-Qahtani arrived in England with a large retinue and was none too pleased at being the target of a “welcome” challenge from big center-back Richard Dunne. The time was seemingly all wrong and the player never made it back to Europe.
It is a shame as it would have been fascinating to see “The Sniper” in the big leagues. He could have been a success. Still, he gave fans at Al Hilal years of effort, goals and trophies. The Saudi Professional League will not be the same without Yasser Al-Qahtani.


From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

Updated 25 April 2019
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From near-death in Libyan desert to Saudi Arabia in 40 years: A history of the Dakar Rally

  • Race will start in Jeddah and make a stop in Riyadh before ending in Qiddiya
  • Take a look back at the most momentous moments

LONDON: A new and exciting chapter in the prestigious history of the Dakar Rally is ready to be written as the world’s biggest and most challenging rally confirmed it will debut in Saudi Arabia in January 2020.

1977: Inspiration
Biker Thierry Sabine gets lost in the Libyan desert while competing in the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After being rescued from the sands on the verge of death, he vows to share the scale and magic of the desert with the whole world.

1978: A dream come true
On 26 December 1978, a field of 170 adventurers starts its 10,000-kilometer quest through Algeria, Niger, Mali, the Upper Volta, and Senegal. A total of 74 vehicles make it to the finish on Place de l’Indépendance in Dakar, with Cyril Neveu at the helm.

1983: Ickx on all fronts
Celebrities and the best drivers and riders in the world heed the call of the Dakar. The combination is a successful one, with the six-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans Jacky Ickx and comedian Claude Brasseur taking the spoils in the fourth edition.

1986: Tragedy strikes
Thierry Sabine and Daniel Balavoine die in a helicopter crash alongside pilot François-Xavier Bagnoud, journalist Nathalie Odent and radio technician Jean-Paul Lefur. Gilbert Sabine, the father of the creator of the race, takes over as director.

1992: Africa from north to south
The Dakar takes a break from the capital of Senegal to pit the competitors against the challenge of a lifetime. The drivers and riders have to tackle a route of almost 12,500 kilometers through 11 countries to cross Africa from one side to the other and reach Cape Town in South Africa. Stéphane Peterhansel (motorbikes) and Hubert Auriol (cars) stand atop the podium at the end of the Odyssey.

1998: Peterhansel rolls a six
The biker with a blue bandana emerges victorious from a clash of titans with Orioli and Arcarons to become the undisputed master of the category in the 1990s. His sixth win catapults him past Cyril Neveu as the event record holder. “Peter” has since added seven car victories to his tally!

2000: At the foot of the pyramids
The Dakar marks the turn of the century next to one of the seven wonders of the world: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Reigning champions Richard Sainct (motorbikes) and Jean-Louis Schlesser (cars) both manage to defend their titles against this prestigious backdrop.

2001: Miss Dakar
No one suspects that this will be the last Paris–Dakar. In contrast, everyone sees Jutta Kleinschmidt, who had made her Dakar debut in 1988 on a motorbike, become the first woman to win the rally, this time racing at the wheel of a Mitsubishi 4×4. She remains the only female winner of the event to date.

2009: Rising from the ashes in Buenos Aires
The Dakar picks itself up and crosses the Atlantic to rise from the ashes. A new era dawns with 4 million spectators turning out in force to cheer on the drivers and riders in the majestic landscapes of Argentina and Chile.

2012: Pacific Challenge
After three years with a route starting and ending in Buenos Aires, the organizers break the mold with a finish on the Pacific coast of Lima, Peru.

2014: Dizzying heights
Bolivia becomes the 28th country to host the Dakar. The Altiplano and Salar de Uyuni introduce a new test for the competitors: extreme altitude, which takes a toll on both their bodies and their machines.

2020: Chapter 3
In the wake of its first foray into Paraguay in 2017, the Dakar adds the 30th country to its list. In Saudi Arabia, the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the competitors will face challenges such as the “Empty Quarter,” a pristine expanse that has never been explored fully before.