Jerusalem to Doha: This week in Middle East football
At 34-35, most footballers plan their life after football or already been retired. It’s the nature of football. But in some cases, there are players who are, like wine, getting better with age, and in late ages capable of breaking records and win titles. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a good example for this kind of footballers.
This season we got a Middle Eastern example for it. After a terrific season in the Europa League and the Israeli Premier League, Hapoel Be'er Sheva has secured on Saturday night its second consecutive title. One of the key players in the team is 34 years old Israeli-Palestinian star Maharan Radi – the biggest Palestinian footballer in Israel in recent years.
Despite his age, Radi had a great season in 2017, scoring 8 goals, passing 6 assists in 35 games. With this title, the Sulam-born midfielder have broken a prestigious record - he became the third player only in Israeli football, to win five consecutive championship titles – with two different teams. This impressive achievement came after Radi won the title with Maccabi three times in a row between 2012 and 2015, and two with Be’er Sheva in 2016 and 2017.
"It's as exciting as the first championship. This is the secret in this profession - the love for football, and I'm happy that's my job. I always have the hunger for football and I can’t see myself outside of football”, Radi told the local press moments after The Camels have defeated his ex-club – Maccabi Tel Aviv – 2-1 in a dramatic away match. Age is only a number.
After long weeks of struggles, Hilal Al-Quds has finally secured the Palestinian West Bank Premier League championship. Khadr Obeid’s team got a 1-1 tie in their tough match against Al-Khadr Bethlehem. Al-Khadr led 1-0, but on the 80th minute, Oday Dabagh, this season’s revelation who scored 9 goals for Hilal, notched another one and concluded the match score. A goal that count as a title.
This is the Jerusalemites first championship title since 2012, and the club will take part in next year’s AFC Cup qualifications.
Mabkhout Goalscoring LTD.
The Arabian Gulf League got a new champion – Al-Jazira. The Abu Dhabi club has secured the title with a hammering 5-0 victory against Hatta. Despite the victory and triumph of the precious silverware, the club’ striker – Ali Mabkhout – stole the show again. With another hat-trick, Mabkhout have reached his 31st goal this season, equalized Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan’s record, as the two are the two most productive players in the league’s history. His thirty one goals are more than what seven teams in Saudi Arabia, nine in the UAE and six in Qatar. Mabkhout have proved this season that he is by far the best striker in the Arab countries. The only question is when he will be bringing these numbers to the Emirati national team.
Once in Barcelona, Nowadays in Qatar
Al-Sadd and Xavi have met Seydou Keita and El-Jaish in the Qatari Crown Prince Cup final on Friday evening. The ex-Barcelona duo has played each other for the first time in the Qatari League, and this time the Spanish went out on top of the Malian. Xavi have helped his team to win 2-1, and celebrated his first title in the gulf country. Al-Sadd started with Baghdad Bounedjah’s goal in the 21st minute, but El Jaish tied through the superb Uzbek forward Sardor Rashidov, who scored twenty minutes. In the second half Al Sadd went up back again, as Algerian Jugurtha Hamroun bombed from the edge of the box in the 73rd minute. With this move by the Algerian hitman, the thousands of fans in the Al Sadd Stadium in Doha have celebrated in ecstasy, as the club listed its 66th title in club’s history. Xavi good be pleased. From the European titles factory of Barca, he marked a first in the Qatari titles monster of Al-Sadd.