The curtain has come down on yet another long season in Europe but memories linger of the Arab players who have excelled in leagues throughout the continent, capturing headlines and helping their clubs clinch trophies. Before the summer break starts in earnest, FIFA.com takes a quick look at the standout Arab talent from the season’s competitions and their finest performances.
Two Algerians and a pair of Egyptians
After winning the Greek championship with Olympiacos last season, the Algerian double act of Rafik Djebbour and Djamal Abdoun were instrumental in their side retaining the crown this season before helping them to victory in the Greek Cup, the 16th time Olympiacos have claimed the double in their history. Djebbour scored the first goal in their 2-1 cup final win in Piraeus against Atromitos, a fitting end to the season for the league’s top scorer, with 20 domestic goals to his name. Abdoun, meanwhile, came joint first in the list of most passes completed alongside teammate and Greek international Jose Holebas.
Over in Switzerland another Arab duo have been impressing football fans, with Egyptian internationals Mohamed El Nenny and Mohamed Salah leading Basel to their 16th league championship. El Nenny was consistently impressive, but Salah was the star of the show, contributing several game-changing goals including his strike against Tottenham Hotspur which took Basel through to their first ever UEFA Europa League semi-final, where they were defeated by eventual champions Chelsea.
El Nenny and Salah were not the only Arabs to make their mark in continental competitions. Moroccan midfielder Nordin Amrabat was part of the Galatasaray side that reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League before Spanish giants Real Madrid beat them 5-3 on aggregate to end their challenge. There was consolation for Amrabat in the form of Galatasaray’s 19th league title, a campaign that saw the Moroccan feature in more games for his club than any other player with the exception of Uruguayan international goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and striker Burak Yilmaz.
Al Habsi makes history
Wigan Athletic may have dropped out of the English Premier league, but Omani international goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi still managed to make history as the first Arab player to lift the FA Cup, one of the oldest cup competitions in the world, and book a berth at the next UEFA Europa League. Al Habsi enjoyed an excellent season, appearing in 34 games for his club before an injury to his left shoulder prevented him from representing his country in the latest qualifiers for Brazil 2014.
The 31-year-old shot-stopper was justifiably proud of his achievement: “It’s an achievement for all Arabs, for the people of the Gulf and Omanis in particular. I’m the first Arab to win the FA Cup and it’s a proud moment for us all.” He added, “I feel proud and grateful for the support that Arab and Omani fans gave me in the final.”
Across the Channel, Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam saw his side Saint Etienne claim the French League Cup. Tunisian Khalid Ben Khalfallah lifted the French Cup with Bordeaux while his fellow countryman Fabien Camus led Genk to victory in the Belgian Cup.
In Portugal the Moroccan-Algerian pairing of Issam El Adoua and El Arabi Hilal Soudani took Vitoria Guimaraes to their first-ever victory in the Portuguese Cup. Striker Soudani played a major role in the campaign, his cup final goal proving a fitting end to a glittering season and prompting Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb to sign the young Algerian on a three-year contract.
Arabs played a central role in a number of other tournaments around Europe. In Cyprus, former Tunisian international Selim Benachour led APOEL F.C to their 22nd league title. The Cyprus Cup meanwhile was won by Apollon Limassol, spearheaded by Moroccan Rachid Hamdani.
After a career which has seen him move between Egypt’s Al Ahly, Kuwait’s Al Arabi then back to Egypt with Ismaili before returning home to play for MC Alger, 22-year-old Amir Sayoud is currently plying his trade for Bulgarian outfit Beroe Stara Zagora, with whom he won the Bulgarian Cup. Meanwhile, Tunisian striker Hamza Younes has had a wonderful season with Romania’s Petrolul Ploiesti, scoring 13 goals in the domestic league before leading them to victory in the Romanian Cup two weeks ago.