Author: 
Mahmoud Ahmad, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Thu, 2005-12-15 03:00

JEDDAH, 15 December 2005 — In front of more than 60,000 fans, former Saudi international Yousuf Al-Thunayyan said goodbye to football at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, with his club Al-Hilal winning the testimonial match against Valencia 2-1.

Al-Thunayyan, one of the best players in Saudi history, was the captain of Hilal club when it racked up the trophies. That’s why the club held a testimonial to honor one of its greatest sons, and they provided a fitting finale to the friendly against the Spanish side Valencia, with a winning display.

Al-Thunayyan broke into tears when he saw the crowd, and was taken around the stadium in a car accompanied by his son to say his goodbye to the cheering crowd. During the break, Al-Thunayyan received a number of gifts from princes, club officials, and fans. He was presented with checks, cars and other gifts.

Hilal proved a tough opponent for Valencia and played with an attacking flair reminiscent of the days when Al-Thunayyan orchestrated the attack. Yasir Al-Qahtani wasted more than three chances in the first half before he scored the first goal for Hilal in the 31st minute. He outran Valencia defender and went with the ball inside the penalty box and struck true. Hilal continued to pressure Valencia but went into the break 1-0 up.

In the second half, Hilal’s striker Abdullah Al-Jamman scored the second goal in the 70th minute from a nice set piece. Valencia came alive in the 79th minute and pulled one back following a nice shot inside the penalty box. Al-Thunayyan was introduced into the game in the last 15 minutes of the match, and he showed flashes of his brilliance that had left many a defense bemused.

Known as the philosopher of the Saudi football, the very mention of Al-Thunayyan strikes fears in the hearts of opposing defenders. Born in 1965 in Riyadh, he started playing football almost from the time he was able to walk. Searching for new talents, Hilal scouts discovered him as he was playing in a Ramadan tournament. They quickly offered him a position at the club. Initially, his father objected to him playing at such a young age but he relented after constant pressure from his son. The 16-year-old Al-Thunayyan joined Hilal’s junior team in 1980, and, four years later, he way playing in the club’s first team. He achieved his first title in 1985 when Hilal won the King’s trophy. In his second season with Hilal, he scored 12 goals and was ranked second best scorer. Hilal fans began to recognize the talent of the new player.

In 1986, Al-Thunayyan helped Hilal take the Saudi league trophy when he scored the winning goal against rival team Al-Nasr in the final match. He also achieved the first outside championship when he scored the winning goal against Al-Bahrain of Bahrain in the final match in Gulf Cup in Riyadh.

His career has not been squeaky clean: In 1990, he was suspended for three months for spitting at a referee. He was also banned for unsportsmanlike behavior from playing with the national team during the Gulf Cup in Qatar with the national team in the 1994 World Cup in the US.

He led his team to winning the Asian Cup with the national team in Qatar in 1988 and in UAE in 1996. He also achieved the Arab Championship in 1998, and qualified with the Saudi team in 1998’s World Cup.

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