RIYADH: Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Shabab extended their competition lead to four points with an emphatic 4-0 victory over struggling Riyadh rivals Al-Nassr at Mrsool Park on Saturday in a match that is still being talked about several days later — but for all the wrong reasons.
With two minutes left on the clock and Al-Shabab leading 3-0, manager Carlos Hernandez brought on veteran Nawaf Al-Abed for Brazilian winger Sebastian Junior, commonly known as “Seba.”
Play had stopped for Abderazzak Hamdallah to take a penalty for Al-Nassr, but the remainder of the match and the few days since have been shaped not by the Moroccan’s fourth miss from the spot this season or by former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo adding a fourth Al-Shabab goal in added time to put the icing on the cake of a famous victory, but by an exchange that happened just outside the pitch perimeter.
As Seba left the pitch behind his own team’s goal, making his way past the Al-Nassr bench, TV footage showed the Brazilian exchanging words with Al-Nassr official Hussein Abdulghani. The two had to be separated by staff members from both clubs, with Abdulghani seen gesturing to Seba to get out, while the player responded with a wry smile.
While Abdulghani’s exact words cannot be heard, footage examined by Arab News shows Al-Shabab President Khaled Al-Baltan in the stands telling off the former international defender, saying: “This is Saudi Arabia, we don’t call people monkeys in this country. Shame on you”.
Abdulghani stared back in silence as Al-Baltan and an unidentified fellow official continued to shout from the stands: “This does not belong in our sports. You are on TV; you should not say things like that here.”
Al-Nassr later issued a statement denouncing “false accusations” against Abdulghani and calling on Minister of Sports Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al Faisal and the Saudi Football Federation to step in.
“We stand behind our executive manager, Hussain Abdulghani, in the face of these false allegations,” read the statement, which also questioned why the official had not been sent off immediately if he had spoken the words as claimed.
Al-Nassr’s statement also referred to previous controversies involving the two teams, including a string of negative comments that followed the side’s 4-2 over Al-Shabab in February 2020.
In turn, Al-Shabab issued a brief statement confirming it has lodged a complaint to the Saudi Football Federation after Seba complained of “an insult by an official at Al-Nassr club.”
The club also tweeted pictures of the player in action against Al-Nassr with the caption: “We love you, Seba.”
The player’s Instagram account saw an outpouring of support from fans of Al-Shabab and other Saudi Pro League clubs, while there were also a few abusive remarks among the 25,000 comments his pre-match training photo received.
Sebastian Junior has since turned off comments on his Instagram posts.
Late on Monday night, the Saudi Football Federation’s discipline and ethics committee provisionally suspended both Al-Baltan and Abdulghani for 15 days.
The committee said that it needed more time to complete its hearing sessions and make a final decision on the case.