Saudi Arabia star Fahad Al-Muwallad makes La Liga bow to create history

Fahad Al-Muwallad came on for the last ten minutes against Leganes. (@LevanteUD)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia star Fahad Al-Muwallad makes La Liga bow to create history

  • Midfielder comes on for Levante for last ten minutes of Spanish league game
  • 'What comes next will be better'

Fahad Al-Muwallad made history on Monday when he became the first player from Saudi Arabia to play in La Liga.
The attacking midfielder came on for Levante as an 80th-minute substitute for Enis Bardhi in Levante’s 3-0 away win at Leganes to make new ground for players from the Kingdom. The on loan star from Al-Ittihad is best remembered for scoring the goal against Japan that sent the Green Falcons to the World Cup, but he will now go down as the first to play in Spain’s top league.
“Thanks to God for my first participation in La Liga,” said Al-Muwallad in his post-match interview. “I would like to thank (head of the General Sports Authority) Turki Al-Sheikh for his support that continues until now. I would like to say that this is the start of something good and hope to give you all something to be proud of. What comes next will be better.”
Muwallad has had to wait 16 games for his chance and will now fancy his chances of featuring in the last two against Barcelona and Celta Vigo.
“It was about time,” football presenter Khalid Al-Shenaif said on Al-Rotana. “But it’s beautiful, we did expect it sooner. But what happened, what happened today, firstly it’s our trust in the head of the General Sports Authority who said “just be patient, you will see something that you will like in your players.” It confirmed that our players in the Saudi League see themselves as something and can make their mark in one of Europe’s top division. So let’s be patient and put our feet on the ground with our beautiful footballers.”
News of Al-Muwallad’s involvement will be welcome news for Saudi Arabia coach Juan Antonio Pizzi who will have been concerned that one of his key players was going to be short of match action heading into the World Cup. Al-Muwallad was one of nine players from the Kingdom to join Spanish clubs on loan in January as part of a deal between La Liga, the General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, but they have struggled to get game-time
Abdullah Al-Hamdan, the 19-year-old striker, was the first of the nonet to play a game other than a friendly in March. The Al-Shabab striker came on in the 81st minute of Sporting Gijon’s U-19 league game against Oviedo, a game his side won 2-0.
Ali Al-Nemer, the Riyadh-born midfielder, became the first of the Saudi players to make the bench when Numancia played Albacete in the Second Division on Feb. 25, but Al-Hamdan beat him to getting the first minutes.
Other than that, the Saudi Arabia players have failed to make an impact at their adopted clubs. Hopes were high in the Kingdom that established internationals Salem Al-Dawsari, Al-Muwallad and Yahya Al-Shehri would get some game time at their respective loan clubs, especially with a World Cup on the horizon, but none of the trio have made a matchday squad until Monday.
Al-Dawsari, who has won 26 caps for his country, made the traveling squad for the Europa League game with Lyon in February, but he failed to make the cut for the matchday 18.
Similarly, Al-Muwallad made the extended squads for Levante’s league games against Espanyol and Real Betis, but didn’t make the final 18. Levante, though, have already struck a sponsorship deal with with Saudi Arabian mobile and telecommunications operator Jawwy on the back of Al-Muwallad’s move.
With more than 40 international caps, Al-Shehri headed to Spain as the most experienced of the nine players, but he has struggled to make an impression at Leganes. Asier Garitano’s side were short on attackers in March, but they opted to call up youth teamer Gabri Salazar, who has been playing for Leganes B in Spain’s fourth tier, rather than Al-Shehri, their January signing from Al-Nassr.
The other Saudi Arabia players on loan are Nooh Al-Mousa (Real Valladolid), Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem (Rayo Vallecano), Ali Al-Namer (Numancia), Marwan Othman (Leganes B) and Gaber Mostafa (Villareal B).
“The arrival of Saudi footballers in Spain comes after a rigorous scouting process,” read a La Liga statement in January. "Spanish clubs have worked for months to capture the player which best fits their team and improves their squad.”
The lack of match action does not come at a financial cost to the Spanish clubs as no loan fee was paid for any of the players while their salaries are being paid by the General Sports Authority.


Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

Updated 25 June 2018
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Iranian fans attempt to disrupt Portugal’s sleep at hotel

  • Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based
  • Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent

SARANSK: Hundreds of Iranian fans spent several overnight hours surrounding the hotel where Portugal’s national team is based, making loud noises in an attempt to disrupt their opponents’ sleep before a decisive World Cup match later Monday.
Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was filmed by Portuguese TV RTP late at night by the window using gestures to ask the Iranian fans to be silent, but Monday morning there were still a few dozen of them playing loud music near the hotel in the Saransk city center.
Iran can only advance to the next stage of the World Cup if it beats the European champions. Portugal only needs a draw, but also aims to take the top position in Group B ahead of Spain.
Saransk police said they received their first calls about the noise about 11 p.m. Sunday, when a first wave of Iran fans arrived and started singing outside the hotel. That forced Ronaldo to show up, which convinced supporters to leave.
Then a second wave came and did not stop making noise for several hours. Police then blocked roads nearby, but the main avenue across the hotel was still open, which allowed Iran fans to keep their effort in smaller numbers.
Iran fan and IT consultant Mehdi Fayez arrived Monday morning after reading messages from supporters saying they needed to trouble Portugal to stand a better chance of winning the match.
“I love Ronaldo, I love Portugal, but this is a big game. We have to do all it takes,” a still joyful Fayez said, as he held an Iranian flag on the back of his head.
Montreh Fayoud, one of the several Iranian women that are attending their first World Cup, disagreed.
“We were coming back from dinner and saw all these Iranians here. When I found the reason, I decided to leave,” she said.
At about noon on Monday Portugal players had a quick walk around the hotel, but it is uncertain whether they will walk around the city as they did before other matches in Russia.