Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all

Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all
Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah scores his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at Anfield. (AFP)
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Updated 26 June 2020

Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all

Mohamed Salah stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all
  • On Thursday night, without even having to lace up his boots, Liverpool’ Egyptian forward became a Premier League champion

DUBAI: Egypt’s Mohammed Aboutrika is arguably the strongest challenger. There are strong cases for Tunisian Tarak Dhiab and the Algerians Rabah Madjer and Riyad Mahrez. Also in the conversation could be Saudi Arabia’s Majed Abdullah and Sami Al-Jaber, as well the Kuwaitis Jasem Yaqoub, Fathi Kameel and Faisal Al-Dakheel.

But it’s hard to argue that Mohamed Salah now stands alone as the greatest Arab footballer of all time.

On Thursday night, without even having to lace up his boots, the Liverpool forward became a Premier League champion thanks to Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat of Manchester City. His growing, and glowing, medal collection already included gold from the UEFA Champions League, Club World Cup and European Supercup.

But it’s that desperately coveted English league title that has sealed his immortality among adoring Liverpool fans, and the rest of the world.

Since walking into Anfield with that effervescent, beaming smile on June 22, 2017, he has helped transform the club from challengers to champions (or, initially, as his manager Jurgen Klopp demanded, “from doubters to believers”). After 30 years of false dawns and broken promises, Liverpool are champions again. 

If the signing of center back Virgil Van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson Becker in the winter and summer following Salah’s arrival proved the final pieces of the jigsaw for Klopp, then Sadio Mané’s transfer from Southampton in the summer of 2016 could be said to be the first piece.

Salah, to switch metaphors, has proven to be the team’s catalyst to greatness.

After a couple of poor Premier League seasons either side of Klopp’s appointment in October 2015, Liverpool had just scraped into the 2017-18 Champions League by finishing fourth when the club paid Roma 35 million euros for Salah’s services.

In his first year at the club, Liverpool — playing some staggering high-energy football — finished fourth again. However, they stormed to the Champions League final in Kiev, where they lost 3-1 to Real Madrid in a match predominantly remembered for Salah’s tears after a first-half shoulder injury forced his substitution — and, of course, for Liverpool’s then-goalkeeper Loris Karius’ two awful mistakes.

Despite that disappointment, the season was a personal triumph for the man the Liverpool fans had nicknamed the ‘Egyptian King.’ He scored on his debut against Watford. And then didn’t stop scoring.




Liverpool fans celebrate winning the Premier League with a cutout photo of Mohamed Salah outside Anfield after Chelsea won their match against Manchester City. (Action Images via Reuters)

Early on in the season he scored his “road-runner” goal against Arsenal, in which he ran the full length of the Anfield pitch before finishing with ice-cool precision past Petr Cech. There was the brilliant curling effort in the snow against Everton that won the FIFA Puskas award for best goal of 2017. Against Leicester he scored a superb game-turning double, and against Tottenham a stunning last-minute solo strike to rescue a draw.

There were further goals against Arsenal and Chelsea. In a storming 4-3 win against eventual champions Manchester City he chipped the advanced Ederson from what seemed an implausible distance. In March he netted four against Watford and on the last day of the season his strike against Brighton meant he was crowned top scorer in the Premier League with a record 32 goals. He also turned in a barely believable man-of-the-match display as Liverpool annihilated Roma 5-2 in the Champions League.

In all, Salah scored 44 in all competitions that season and was named the PFA Player of the Year. He was now being spoken of in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite the Champions League heartbreak, and Egypt’s disappointing World Cup showing (in which he still scored twice), Salah would be back to his old tricks the following season.

The goals continued to flow as Liverpool lost just one Premier League match yet somehow still finished second behind Pep Guardiola’s brilliant Manchester City. For the second season running Salah won the golden boot, this time sharing it with Mané and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Redemption came, in spectacular fashion, in the Champions League.

In a second successive final appearance, Salah banished the previous year’s misery by scoring an early penalty as Liverpool overcame Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid to win the top European club trophy for the sixth time. Salah was the first Egyptian footballer to win club football’s greatest prize.

But it is the current season that has confirmed Salah’s and his teammates’ status as Liverpool legends. An astonishing 28 wins from 31 matches has seen the Premier League title wrapped up with seven matches still to play. After 30 years of disappointment, it was Salah’s last-minute goal against Manchester United in a 2-0 win in January that prompted a hysterical Anfield to finally sing “We’re gonna win the league.”

Not surprisingly, Salah is currently Liverpool’s top scorer again and could — by the end of the season — win the golden boot for a record-equaling third time, as well as score his 100th goal for the champions. Few of his predecessors can claim such a period of devastating excellence combined with team and individual prizes. 

Aboutrika — Salah’s boyhood hero — was a balletic dream of a footballer whose control, movement and passing evoked the great Zinedine Zidane at his finest. Madjer scored historic goals for Porto as they won the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup in 1987, and was one of the architects of Algeria’s sensational 2-1 win over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Mahrez is one of only 10 players to win the Premier League with two clubs and could yet taste Champions League glory with Manchester City. The aforementioned Gulf quintet, meanwhile, all represented their countries at the World Cup, but were beloved heroes closer to these shores.

But Salah is an international phenomenon who has transcended the boundaries of sport. From painted murals in New York City to ubiquitous advertising posters in his native Egypt and fashion magazines across the world, his irrepressible smile has made him one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.  

And, with a priceless Premier League medal in the bag, he is now the Arab footballer all others look up to.


Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
  • The 25-year-old left a strong field behind him as pre-race talk focused on battle between Kenyans and Ethiopians

A glorious run by Moroccan runner Soufiane El-Bakkali saw him win the gold medal in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Monday.

The 25-year-old, who finished fourth in this event at Rio 2016, won with a time of 8:08:90, ahead of Lamecha Grima of Ethiopia in second and Benjamin Kigen in third.

Before the final, all the talk had focused on the fact that no Ethiopian had ever won this event at the Olympics, while the Kenyans had won every 3000m Steeplechase gold medal since Los Angeles 1984.

But the Moroccan proved to be the ace in the pack, in the end comfortably stretching away from his opponents on the last lap and collapsing into tears at the finish line.

El-Bakkali had won the 3000m Steeplechase Heat 3 on Friday with a time of 8:19:00, ahead of Topi Raitanen of Finland and Alexis Phelut of France, who both qualified to the final.

Previously, he had won bronze in this event at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Qatar and silver two years earlier in London.

The Moroccan will now turn his attentions to the Men’s 1500m Round 1 — Heat 3 (3:27 a.m. KSA).


Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
  • 25-year-old produced some of Saudi delegation’s most competitive performances of Olympics, but will miss out on Thursday’s final

RIYADH: Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin has been eliminated from the men’s 400 meters at Tokyo 2020 after on Monday finishing fourth in the second semifinal at the Japanese capital’s Olympic Stadium.

Despite a fine run that saw him post a time of 45.37 seconds, the 25-year-old will now miss out on Thursday’s final.

Michael Cherry of the US, and Christopher Taylor of Jamaica, finished first and second and will be in the field of eight vying for the medals on Thursday. Steven Solomon of Australia came in third, 0.22 of a second ahead of Al-Yassin.

 

 

Al-Yassin had produced a thrilling run when winning heat two at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday to progress to the following day’s semifinals against some of the world’s best short-distance runners. A personal best time of 45.16 seconds saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The runner received his call-up to the Olympics on July 2, one of the last of Saudi Arabia’s 33 athletes to confirm his place in Tokyo.

His exit from the Games means that Tarek Hamdi, who will take part in the karate 75-kilogram category on Friday, is the last remaining Saudi at Tokyo 2020.


Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy
Updated 02 August 2021

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy
  • Elton Jose Xavier Gomes spent almost 10 years in Saudi Arabia playing for 4 clubs

JEDDAH: Elton Jose Xavier Gomes, the Brazilian who spent almost a decade playing football at four Saudi clubs, has expressed his warm sentiment toward the Kingdom in a video posted after returning to his home country.

The clip was taken by adventurer Thawab Al-Subaie, known as the Tube Tourist, during the launch of the Saudi Arabian Academy in the north of Brazil, founded by Gomes, who during a long, nomadic career played for Al-Nassr, Al-Fateh, Al-Qadisiyah, and Al-Wehda.

The video went viral on social media with Saudi football fans thanking the player for his comments and calling for him to be honored in the Kingdom.

Watch the Twitter video:

The video, taken inside the academy, shows the staff wearing the Saudi national team colors, with slogans and photos from Saudi Arabia adorning the walls of the new headquarters. In addition, a number of the academy’s talented children appeared chanting the Saudi national anthem.

It is not the first time Gomes has expressed his affection for Saudi Arabia on social media, having earlier appeared in his garden carrying the country’s flag. He also displayed the emblem of the Kingdom, consisting of the two swords, palm tree, and anthropomorphic camel, at the entrance to his house, which has become a landmark for residents of his hometown.

Known in Brazil as Elton Arabia, he also posted on Instagram and Twitter videos of his son and daughter singing the Saudi national anthem.

In a tweet about the video going viral, he said: “Saudi Arabia has given me a lot, and this is a small part that I give back to this great country. I taught my children the Saudi national anthem, and nowadays, I try and provide the correct information about the country that embraced me since the beginning of my professional career abroad.

“It is impossible to forget my fans and the Saudi people in general, nor the years I spent with you, and I cannot describe my feeling when I see your messages to me, thank you and I am really proud of everyone’s love for me, I will miss you and my country Saudi Arabia, and I hope to return to you soon,” he added.

Saudis expressed their appreciation for his deep feelings for their country on his Twitter account, and Prince Sattam bin Khalid Al-Saud said: “What the former professional player Elton Jose is doing reflects the player’s love and respect for Saudi Arabia, and this was certainly the result of the good treatment that the player had while he was here, and he presents an honorable image of Saudi Arabia that deserves respect and appreciation.”

Yossif Al-Hymmad said: “We loved you and we loved Brazil, when we saw what you did for us. Greetings to you, your family, and Brazil. It is very beautiful, and you are more beautiful in your manners.”

Another fan, Obaid Al-Anazi, said: “A beautiful video clip that carries a lot of loyalty, gratitude, and appreciation for a professional who left his Brazilian mark in Saudi football and seeks to make the mark of the Saudi Cup in Brazil.”

Growing up in Brazil, the diminutive attacking midfielder — who was nicknamed Elton Maradinha after the Argentine legend for his dribbling skills and long, curly dark hair — started his career with Corinthians in 2004 before moving to Romanian club Steaua Bucharest in 2007, the same year he started his Saudi journey with Al-Nassr.

There would also be stints in the UAE with Dubai club Al-Wasl, at Sport Recife in his home country, and a late-career spell at another Brazilian club, CRB. He called time on his career this summer after a season at Al-Hamriyah in Sharjah.


West Bromwich reject Al-Hilal’s bid for Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira

West Bromwich reject Al-Hilal’s bid for Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira
Updated 02 August 2021

West Bromwich reject Al-Hilal’s bid for Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira

West Bromwich reject Al-Hilal’s bid for Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira
  • Saudi champions offered $17m but English football club wants almost $30m

RIYADH: English Football League Championship club West Bromwich Albion has rejected a bid of $17 million from Saudi champions Al-Hilal for Brazilian midfielder Matheus Pereira, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah reported.

The English club has set a price of $30 million for the player, but it is expected that the Riyadh giants will test its resolve with an offer of $20 million to be paid over two installments and have lined up other deals in case the renewed bid fails.

An unnamed Brazilian player, who plays in his country’s national league, is believed to be at the forefront of that list, with Al-Hilal’s management receiving an initial approval to make a move.

Pereira, 25, however, remains a priority for new coach Leonardo Jardim and his board. He began his football career at the age of 15 with the Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, where he rose through the ranks to represent the first team.

He was sent out on loan three times by Sporting, the first in the 2017 to 2018 season to fellow Portuguese team Chaves, then to FC Nuremberg in Germany the following campaign.

In the 2019 to 2020 season, West Bromwich became the third team to take him on loan before making the move permanent last year.


Dutch runner Hassan falls, gets up and wins 1,500 meter heat

General View of athletes in action with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Jessica Hull of Australia in front on Aug. 1, 2021. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
General View of athletes in action with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Jessica Hull of Australia in front on Aug. 1, 2021. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
Updated 02 August 2021

Dutch runner Hassan falls, gets up and wins 1,500 meter heat

General View of athletes in action with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Jessica Hull of Australia in front on Aug. 1, 2021. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
  • The 28-year-old 1,500 and 10,000 meter world champion crashed to the ground when Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok tripped and fell in front of her as the bell went for the final lap

TOKYO: Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan kept alive her hopes of an unprecedented Olympic treble after picking herself up following a fall to win her 1500 meters heat on Monday.

The 28-year-old 1,500 and 10,000 meter world champion crashed to the ground when Kenya’s Edinah Jebitok tripped and fell in front of her as the bell went for the final lap.

There were gasps of disbelief from within the sparsely populated stadium as it appeared her hopes of a three-pronged attack on the 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m had disappeared.

General View of athletes in action with Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands and Jessica Hull of Australia in front on Aug. 2, 2021. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

However, the Ethiopia-born athlete got back to her feet and moved through the gears as she hunted the leaders down.

Needing to finish in the first six to qualify automatically for the semifinals, she ate up the ground to the leading pack and had the strength to cross the line in first place in a time of 4min 5.17sec.

She earned herself a round of applause from watching athletes including American Cory McGee, who had run in the previous heat.

“That was awesome,” said McGee, who qualified as one of the six fastest losers. “To be able to get up and focus like that and finish first is amazing.”

Jebitok, 19, said she was “devastated” after she trailed in 12th in her heat but she was subsequently reinstated and will be in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Her compatriot Faith Kipyegon is likely to be Hassan’s greatest threat after she coasted to victory in her heat in a time of 4:01.40.

“I am very happy with my performance,” said the 27-year-old. “I will not be focusing on Sifan. I will be concentrating on my own race if hopefully we meet in the final.”

 



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