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.


UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

Updated 21 September 2018
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UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

  • Emirate Cricket Board backs plan to help UAE national side find more talent.
  • Second T10 League to increase to eight teams with star-name players returning.

DUBAI: The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has backed the UAE-based T10 league’s Talent Hunt program designed to unearth stars for the national side.
ECB board member Zayed Abbas welcomed the league’s announcement that is hoped will only enhance the ECB’s own initiatives aimed at finding and developing both Emirati and expatriate players who can go on to represent the country.
Any talented players that emerge from the T10 programme will feed into the UAE’s four cricketing councils.
Abbas told Arab News: “Any talent hunt that takes place here that can feed into the national team is welcome. Once it takes place then our national development programme management and team will be involved with them to set the criteria and the activities and plans going forward.
“At the end of the day, the T10 League is an approved league in the UAE. Their activities and the league are approved by the ECB and ICC so any talent hunt programme of theirs is definitely part of the UAE cricket board’s agenda.”
Casting the net farther for fresh faces in the UAE national team has been an ongoing pursuit for the ECB and is even more necessary following the disappointment of Dougie Brown’s men failing to qualify for this year’s Asia Cup, taking place on home soil, which offered the potential to showcase the UAE team to the country’s enormous cricketing community.
Hong Kong qualified at their expense, and considering the similarities between Hong Kong and the UAE as expatriate dominated countries with a local population waiting to be engaged, it is a case of what might have been. The impact could have been significant had the packed crowds of Dubai been able to witness captain Rohan Mustafa and Co. go up against the likes of MS Dhoni.
The ECB’s support — sought well in advance of the announcement and following discussions that have been ongoing since the culmination of the inaugural edition last year — will come as a major boost to the chairman and founder of the T10 league, Shaji Ul-Mulk.
It is also the latest in a series of expansions to the second edition of the T10 League, due to take place from Nov. 23-2 Dec. Two new teams have already been added, taking the number of franchises to eight and the tournament will be played across 10 days rather than the four of last year in Sharjah.
England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan will return to lead the Kerala Kings in the defence of their title and he will be joined by a star-studded cast in Rashid Khan, Shahid Afridi, Sunil Narine, Shoaib Malik, Brendon McCullum, Daren Sammy and Shane Watson.
They will be joined once again by two UAE players in each squad — and one in each matchday XI, a further reminder of the T10 League’s investment in UAE cricket.
“The global talent hunt is designed to unearth the unsung heroes from the cricketing world, especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh,” Ul-Mulk said.
“This programme will help the talent not only to get a job in the UAE and be able to display their cricketing skills at international level. The ECB is part of this programme and the good top-class cricketers will have a chance to play for the UAE national team.”
Mohammad Azharuddin and Wasim Akram have been announced as Talent Hunt directors and will oversee the searches in India and Pakistan respectively.
Abbas hopes that these ex-players-turned-scouts will add even greater gravitas to the T10’s plans to enrich the sport in the UAE and that the ECB’s own aim to grow the game among Emiratis is supported in everything T10 does.
“These players are considered legends of cricket so the more names you have at this level the better your product can get and the more successful you can get,” said Abbas of Azharuddin and Akram.
“These programmes are open for all, but the more effort (T10 organizers) put into the Emiratis (the) better for us because that will make a huge difference in the country’s national agenda and the sport’s agenda. 
“If you develop your own players there is nothing like it.”