Historic FIFA Club World Cup run by Al Hilal symbolises increasing strength of Roshn Saudi League
Al Hilal are 90 minutes away from reaching football’s summit.
On Tuesday, the AFC Champions League holders defeated South American counterparts Flamengo 3-2 in a thrilling FIFA Club World Cup semi-final. After Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina in November at the FIFA World Cup, a victory that kick-started the tournament, here were the Roshn Saudi League winners downing a Brazilian powerhouse.
It provided another example of football’s startling rate of development in The Kingdom.
Al Hilal are the first reigning Asian champions to get into the final and the first from Saudi Arabia. It goes without saying that they will be the first from Asia to lift this trophy, if they down Real Madrid on Saturday night at Morocco’s Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium.
Reaching the global showpieces also reflects well on Roshn Saudi League’s increasing strength.
Beating the African champions Wydad AC in front of a fiercely passionate Moroccan crowd was impressive, in itself. Beating the South American champions with a composed and mature performance was another level.
UEFA Champions League and La Liga holders Real Madrid will be an even bigger challenge.
It is testament to the depth of Al Hilal’s squad they are in this historic position. Saudi Arabia internationals Salman Al Faraj, Yasser Al Shahrani, Abdullelah Al Malki and Mohammed Al Breik did not make the journey from Riyadh.
Mohamed Kanno missed the Flamengo game through suspension.
There is the spectacular Salem Al Dawsari, however. The wideman made international headlines with his audacious winner against Argentina in November and cemented that reputation with two first-half penalties against Flamengo.
His somersault celebrations are becoming increasingly familiar to football fans, everywhere. This comes in a week when he was awarded second place as the Best Footballer in Asia in 2022 by China’s media giant Titan Sports, second only behind Son Heung-min of Tottenham Hotspur and South Korea.
Playing in football’s grandest games, at both club and national-team level, not only improves players, but adds to the reputations of these individuals and their leagues as a whole.
Saudi football continues to make great strides. We can gauge how far it has travelled, once again, in Rabat this weekend.