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.


Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

Updated 23 April 2018
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Mohamed Salah named Premier League’s best player of the year at PFA awards

  • Egyptian superstar currently has 30 Premier League goals this season
  • Salah beat the likes of De Bruyne and Kane to the award

LONDON: Liverpool’s star forward, Mohamed Salah, was named the best player in the Premier League at the English PFA Player of the Year awards on Sunday.

Salah said  when he left the Premier League he had always wanted to return as he did not get a chance at Chelsea. “It was very clear in my mind, I will return back to the Premier League and I will show everyone my football,” he said after receiving the award adding that he was a changed person when he return to England’s top league. “I am very happy for this award, and very happy for my teammates and what we are doing in the Premier League,” the striker said.

When asked about his impressive form, Salah said “I play for the team, not just for myself,” and praised his teammates for their support: “The players help me a lot to be here.” 

The Egyptian, who was the clear favorite to pick up the prize, was going head-to-head with Manchester City’s Premier League-winning midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.
The other four nominees were David De Gea, Harry Kane, Leroy Sane and David Silva, though nobody expected them to pip Salah.
The PFA Player of the Year award is voted for by the players from England’s 92 professional clubs in the Premier League and Football League.
Salah, in his second spell in England following an unsuccessful move to Chelsea in 2014, also leads the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.
Currently top on 30 goals for the season, Tottenham’s Harry Kane is just four goals behind with four games left to play.
The Tuesday after the PFA awards, Liverpool and Salah face the Eygptian’s old team Roma in the Champions League semifinals.