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

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.

Ahli triumph, Ittihad draw in AFC Champions League

Updated 37 min 46 sec ago

Ahli triumph, Ittihad draw in AFC Champions League

  • Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1
  • Ittihad played for a draw against FC Lokomotiv in Tashkent

JEDDAH: Saudi sides Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad returned to action on Monday for Matchday Four of group stage play in the AFC Champions League 2019.

Ahli defeated Persepolis FC of Iran 2-1 in a Group D match thanks to  Omar Al-Somah who struck twice on minutes 30 and 84 at the Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.

The Iranians avoided a shutout when Shoja Khalilzadeh scored in the third minute of injury time.

The victory avenged a 2-0 defeat on Matchday Three against Persepolis and gave the Jeddah-based Ahli 6 points in the group with Persopolis on 4 points.

Ittihad, another Jeddah-based club playing away to PFC Lokomotiv in Tashkent, Uzbekhistan, settled for a 1-1 draw  in the Group B match.

Ittihad won their last match against 10-man Lokomotiv on Matchday Three behind a penalty goal in injury time by Fahad Al-Muwallad.

On Monday, winger Al-Muwallad was again in good form, his 10th minute corner kick finding Brazilian forward Romario Ricardo da Silva who  converted for the match icebreaker.

Temurkhodzha Abdulklholiqov tallied the equalizer for the hosts eight minutes before the halftime break. Lokomotiv team captain Islom Tukhtakhodjaev was shown the red card in the 75th minute. The result had Ittihad on seven points in Group B from four matches and Lokomotiv on four points.