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.


Joe Root’s century seals England series win over India, maintains No. 1 ODI ranking

Updated 17 July 2018
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Joe Root’s century seals England series win over India, maintains No. 1 ODI ranking

  • This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings
  • Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker

LEEDS: Joe Root became England’s leading one-day international century-maker as an innings of exactly 100 not out on his Headingley home ground saw the hosts to an eight-wicket victory over India on Tuesday and a 2-1 series win.
This was Root’s second unbeaten century in successive innings after his 113 not out helped England level the three-match contest with an 86-run win at Lord’s on Saturday.
This latest hundred was also Test skipper Root’s 13th in ODIs, taking him past the England record of 12 he had previously shared with Marcus Trescothick.
Tuesday saw Root and one-day captain Eoin Morgan (88 not out) share an unbroken third-wicket stand of 186 as England, first in the ODI rankings to their opponents’ second, ended India’s run of nine straight bilateral series wins in style.
England, who will be bidding to win the World Cup for the first time when they stage next year’s edition, had said they would treat Tuesday’s match as a dress rehearsal for a winner-takes-all game at the showpiece tournament.
And that made the comprehensive manner of their victory all the more satisfying for Morgan’s men.
It was England’s bowlers who set up this win, with Adil Rashid and David Willey, two of the five Yorkshire cricketers in their XI, taking three wickets apiece.
But, after left-arm quick Willey had kept things tight early on, it was leg-spinner Rashid who did significant damage by taking two wickets in an over.
He bowled India captain and star batsman Virat Kohli (71), as well as dismissing Suresh Raina, on his way to three for 49 in a maximum 10 overs.
Willey, who took three for 40 in nine overs, received excellent new-ball support from Durham quick Mark Wood (one for 30).
Root, who was dropped from the final match of England’s preceding 2-1 Twenty20 series loss, told Sky Sports: “It feels fantastic.
“To come into a big series like this and perform how we have as a side is great.”
Morgan added: “I think we were outstanding. I think the tone was set by the bowlers early on, David Willey and Mark Wood were on the money. From that point there was no let up.”
Meanwhile Kohli accepted his side had been outplayed.
“I thought we were never on the mark as far as runs on the board were concerned, we were 25-30 short, and England were really clinical with the bat and in the field as well,” he said.
After Morgan won the toss, Rohit Sharma, who scored a superb century during India’s eight-wicket win in the series-opener at Trent Bridge, struggled to make two off 18 balls, his innings ending when he flicked Willey to Wood at deep square leg.
Opening partner Shikhar Dhawan made a fluent 44 before was run out by Stokes’s direct hit.
Dinesh Karthik, preferred to KL Rahul for this match, then made 21 before he was bowled between bat and pad by Rashid.
Kohli pressed on, however, completing a 55-ball fifty before Rashid struck twice in six balls as India slumped to 158 for five.
He bowled Kohli with a superb leg-break and had Raina caught low at leg-slip by Root.
James Vince, called up in place of the injured Jason Roy cut the first ball of England’s reply, from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for four.
Vince’s frustrating England career has seen him repeatedly get out on Tuesday he fell for a run-a-ball 27, although it needed a brilliant one-handed take by wicket-keeper Dhoni, from Hardik Pandya’s throw, to run him out.
But by then England were 74 for two inside 10 overs, well above the required run-rate.
Root, stumped off a Yuzvendra Chahal no-ball on 69, went to his century when he pulled Pandya through midwicket for his 10th four in 120 balls as England won with 33 deliveries to spare.
An elated Root celebrated by dropping his bat to the ground — the ‘mic drop’ gesture more associated with rock stars and stand-up comedians than cricketers.