Monday,17 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1381, (15 - 21 February 2018)
Monday,17 June, 2019
Issue 1381, (15 - 21 February 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Saudi-Spanish experiment

Nine Saudi footballers are currently playing in La Liga as the Kingdom gets ready for the World Cup. Marawan Zayed reports


Saudi footballers
Saudi footballers

Seven Spanish teams welcomed nine Saudi players in January in a unique attempt by the Saudi Football Federation to have its national team do well in the World Cup. The nine players moved to teams across the first and second Spanish divisions as part of a Saudi-Spanish partnership that aims to enhance the capabilities of these players as well as give them a glimpse of what they’ll see in Russia.

The multi-year partnership, which was first announced in October, is between the top professional association of the Spanish football league system, La Liga, the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation. The partnership includes both an academy partnership and scouting for local talent from the Kingdom’s young footballers.

Out of the nine players, only three moved to La Liga clubs, all on loan, while the remaining six moved to Segunda Division (La Liga 2) clubs, on loan as well. The aim of the move is to give the stars of the Saudi national team much needed experience that will surely help them compete in the World Cup as they bid to book a place in round 16 at the expense of the teams in their group: Uruguay, Russia and Egypt.

All the players moved to Spain for free with even their salaries being paid by the Saudi federation, showing how keen and determined the Saudi federation is to make the most of this partnership and the most of their first World Cup appearance since 2006. The move is the first of its kind and the Spanish federation has made it clear that even though they did not pay to sign any of the players, they watched them closely plenty of times to ensure their clubs will benefit from them. “Spanish clubs have worked for months to capture the player which best fits their team and improves their squad,” a statement from the Spanish federation said.

The players that moved to La Liga in the first division are Salem Al Dossary who went to Villareal, Fahd Al Moawalad who signed for Levante, and Yehia Al Shahry who moved to Leganes, while the other six who made it to the second division are Nouh Al-Mousa to Real Valladolid, Marwan Othman to Leganes’ junior ranks, Abdulmajeed Al Sulaiheem to Rayo Vallecano, Ali Al Namer to Numancia, Jaber Mostafa to Villareal B, and Abdullah Al Hamdan to Sporting Gijon.

Whether the move will prove to be successful is early to tell but it surely is a bold and brave decision by the Saudi federation as they hope to improve the quality of their rising stars as well as their big names. If two or three players manage to shine for their new clubs then the decision will certainly be fruitful and give the younger generation hope that their country will stand by their side and push them forward if they have the required talent and personality.

It’s not about making all nine players shine as much as making the most of each separate experience. Even those who won’t do that well will go back home next season with a great experience that will benefit them in the future.

Let’s just hope this partnership won’t get in the way of the Egyptian national side that will be hoping to overcome the Saudis, Russia and Uruguay to make it to round 16 in the World Cup.

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