Get to know Roshn Saudi League’s Al Ittihad: A Jeddah giant with rich history, now led by Nuno Espirito Santo and featuring Ahmed Hegazi
Mention Al Ittihad to any football fan in Asia and their famous black-and-yellow stripes will immediately come to mind.
This is a giant of the continental scene, and there is always interest whether they will add to an already large trophy cabinet in Jeddah.
So, here is a guide to this Roshn Saudi League heavyweight.
Where to start? There are some fine attacking talents in Morocco striker Abderrazak Hamdallah, league top scorer in successive seasons from 2018-20, as well as Brazilian stars Igor Coronado and Romarinho. Saudi Arabia’s Haroune Camara also helps out on the goal front.
Former Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leeds United winger Helder Costa provides flair on the flanks. Former Palmeiras star Bruno Henrique and Egypt defensive midfielder Tarek Hamed have formed a formidable pairing.
The latter’s compatriot Ahmed Hegazi, formerly of West Bromwich Albion, and Brazil international Marcelo Grohe have made them ironclad in defence.
Nuno Espirito Santo does not need much introduction.
The Portuguese tactician made his name in La Liga with Valencia and then earned a move to former European champions Porto. In May 2017, he headed to Wolves and led them to promotion back into the English Premier League during his first season.
Once there, he established the club as a force in the top tier and in 2021 moved to Tottenham Hotspur. The now 49-year-old then accepted Al Ittihad’s offer in July 2022.
After just missing out on the title last season, Al Ittihad look determined to go one better this time around.
Just one defeat in the first 14 games, against champions Al Hilal, shows the Tigers are likely to be in the mix.
The team are hard to beat, with just six goals conceded so far. They are also becoming increasingly prolific in front of goal, with their last two wins over Al Batin and Al Fayha featuring five goals.
Silverware has already been secured with this term’s Saudi Super Cup. They beat Al Nassr 3-1 in the semi-finals, then Hamdallah’s brace earned a 2-0 victory in Sunday’s final against Al Fayha.
One of Asia’s oldest clubs were founded way back in 1927, in Jeddah.
It was 1982 when the first of, so far, eight Roshn Saudi League titles came to the Red Sea port. But the club’s golden era came in the following two decades.
From 1997 to 2009, the Tigers won the title seven more times.
It was in the mid-2000s when they really made their mark internationally. In 2004, Al Ittihad became champions of Asia, with a stunning come-from-behind final win over Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea.
A year later, they repeated the continental triumph in dominant fashion with stars such as Mohammed Noor, Mohamed Kallon and Joseph-Desire Job.
They remain the only team to have won back-to-back AFC Champions League trophies.
Al Ittihad play their home games at King Abdullah Sports City.
It is one of Asia’s premier stadiums and not only plays host to their matches, but regularly puts on Saudi Arabian internationals and cup finals.
One of the biggest football games, and the biggest attendance, came back in 2018 when 62,345 fans crammed into the arena to watch Brazil defeat Argentina 1-0.
Football is usually the main event, but as befitting the name, there are other sports that have thrilled spectators. These include WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble in 2018 and various world championship boxing bouts.