Saudi Arabia's Hussein Abdulghani denied chance to become one of oldest international players at 41

Saudi Arabia's Hussein Abdulghani denied chance to become one of oldest international players at 41
Hussein Abdulghani will miss out on winning his 135th cap for Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 27 February 2018

Saudi Arabia's Hussein Abdulghani denied chance to become one of oldest international players at 41

Saudi Arabia's Hussein Abdulghani denied chance to become one of oldest international players at 41

LONDON: Hussein Abdulghani’s hopes of resurrecting his international career at the ripe old age of 41 have been dashed after his club side refused to release him for the historic friendly match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
Abdulghani was in line to make his first appearance for the Green Falcons since 2014 after Juan Antonio Pizzi recalled the defender to the squad and then picked him in the starting XI for the game at Basra International Stadium.
But the Green Falcons appear to have jumped the gun as they first needed the permission of his club side, Bulgarian club FC Vereya, because the game falls outside the FIFA International Match Calendar.
The Bulgarian club sent an email to the management of the Saudi Arabia team saying they would not be releasing the player. They have a league game against Slavia Sofia on Sunday. Abdulghani only moved to Bulgaria in September from Al-Nassr and would have been free to play had he stayed in the Kingdom because the clubs in the Saudi Pro League have released their players for the unscheduled friendly.
“The players of the national team who were called up to participate in the friendly match on Wednesday against Iraq, have joined up with team,” read a statement from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. “At the national team’s training camp in Jeddah all the players called up were present, except for the defender Hussein Abdulghani because of his commitments with the Bulgarian club FC Vereya.”
The decision comes as a blow to Abdulghani as he was set to win his 135th cap and cement his position in fifth place in the Kingdom’s all-time international appearance makers.
Abdulghani is the second starting XI player coach Pizzi squad will be without for Saudi Arabia’s first match on Iraqi soil since 1979. Al-Shabab’s Hattan Bahebri, who had been named in midfield, has pulled out after tearing ligaments playing in a training match against Al-Ittihad on Saturday. He is expected to be out for more than a month. Al-Hilal’s Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, 31, has been called up as a replacement.