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.


Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

Updated 23 September 2018
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Work still to be done for Egypt's Al-Ahly in quest for African Champions League glory

  • The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title
  • Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2

CAIRO: Al-Ahly coach Patrice Carteron has warned his players against complacency in their forthcoming African Champions League semifinal clash against Setif of Algeria, even though his side swept through with a 4-0 quarterfinal second-leg victory over Guinea’s Horoya in Cairo on Saturday.
The Egyptian giants took a step closer to a ninth continental title with the win against the Guineans after a goalless first leg. From the moment Walid Soliman opened the scoring after 32 minutes at the Al-Salam Stadium, the result was never in doubt as the Reds put in a dominant performance.
Second half goals from Islam Mohareb, Salah Mohsen and Ahmed Fathy confirmed the win.
“It was a good performance, especially as the pitch was poor,” Carteron said. “We are happy to go through but we controlled the game, especially in the second half when we were at our best. We adjusted our offensive strategy at the break and that made a difference.”
Attention immediately changed to the first leg against Setif in Cairo on Oct. 2.
“We know that the game will be very tough as Setif are a strong team but this is the semifinal of the Champions League, you know that any game is going to be tough,” added the Frenchman.
Setif defeated defending champions Wydad Casablanca of Morocco 1-0 on aggregate and will host Al-Ahly in Algeria in the second leg on Oct. 23.
“Setif were the champions in 2014 and we know that we are going to have be at our best if we are going to the final,” said the 48 year-old, who also coached TP Mazembe of Congo to the 2015 title. He is aiming to deliver similar success for Al-Ahly, who last lifted the trophy in 2013.
“When I took the job three months ago, the target was clear: to win the Champions League. That is still the objective and we have taken a big step toward that today.
“Standards in the competition are getting better all the time and results in the quarterfinal show this,” Carteron said, adding that he and his players had taken note of how Mazembe had been knocked out at the last-eight stage.
“Now we are in the semifinal and we have to prepare as well as we can to face Setif. It will be a big challenge but we are looking forward to it.”
Setif reached the semifinal after a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Morocco on Friday to take the tie 1-0 on aggregate following a win on Algerian soil a week earlier.
Goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba was the star of the show in Casablanca and made a number of fine saves to deny the defending champions.
It was a feather in the cap for coach Rachid Taoussi, a Moroccan who coached Wydad from 2002 to 2003.
“We managed this game very well,” Taoussi said. “We withstood the pressure. It is not easy to keep out such a team, especially with their fans behind them. In the end they had to play long balls and that made it easier for us to defend.”
While Morocco may have lost its sole representative left in the competition, Taoussi is flying the flag for his homeland. “I am proud to be Moroccan. I respect Wydad and the supporters a lot. It’s not easy for anyone to come here and play like we did.
“It is also a demonstration for those who constantly criticize the skills of Moroccan coaches. I’m so happy. That said, the most important thing for us now is to think about going even further in this competition, that is, reaching the final. We have one more step to go; we will give everything until the end.”
The other semifinal sees a third North African team trying to reach the showpiece event as Esperance de Tunis take on Clube Desportivo de Agosto of Angola.