Rising Arab stars making their mark
Arab football has bid farewell to many a star forward this season, with these departures playing havoc with the continental campaigns of even regional heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia earlier this year. However, on a positive note, the vacuum they have left behind has given a generation of talented youngsters the chance to make an impression earlier than expected. FIFA.com takes a look at some of these up-and-comers and assesses their achievements to date.
The flamboyant attacking midfielder started his football career in France with Lens, before earning a switch to English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur in 2007. After failing to secure regular first-team football with Spurs, the young Moroccan was loaned to second-tier outfit Queens Park Rangers, where he has truly blossomed.
Indeed, Taarabt made such an impact that in August 2010 he signed a permanent three-year deal with QPR, and by February 2011 was wearing the captain’s armband and had scored 15 league goals. On April 30 this year his efforts continued to be rewarded when he fired home his side’s opener in a 2-0 victory over Watford, a result that clinched the Championship title and sealed promotion to the Premier League.
Bader Al Mutwa
Joining Saudi Arabia high-flyers Al Nasr from Al Qadissiyah has given this precocious striker the perfect opportunity to showcase his talents on the continental stage. The 26-year-old Kuwaiti has been instrumental in helping his side qualify from the group stage of the AFC Champions League, while he is currently tied for third place on the tournament’s scoring chart with four goals to his name.
What is more, the announcement a few days ago by Al Nasr that all its foreign players were available for transfer, except for Al Mutwa, is ample testament to his importance to the club.
The dribble wizard dubbed ‘The Algerian Messi’ made headlines with an exceptional showing at the 2011 edition of the CAF African Nations Championship, which is only available to African-based players, held in Sudan earlier this year. The scorer of braces in Algeria’s matches against both Tunisia and Uganda, Djabou’s brilliance was a major factor in the Desert Foxes making it through to the semi-finals.
Following the tournament, Algeria’s senior coach Abdelhak Benchikha announced that the fleet-footed 24-year-old would also feature in his qualifying squad for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations 2012. Indeed, Djabou made his bow in said qualifying phase in March’s 1-0 victory over Morocco. Given his dramatic rise in status, the diminutive young tyro is expected to soon bid farewell to his Moroccan club ES Setif and head for European shores.
Despite the disappointment of Al Sadd’s sixth-placed finish in their Qatari Stars League campaign, the 22-year-old has been instrumental in helping the club he joined back in 2005 to the knockout phase of this year’s AFC Champions League.
Arguably his finest performance, however, came for the Qatar during the AFC Asian Cup 2011, when he scored both goals in a 2-0 group win over China PR to ensure his side qualified for the second round.
Youssef El Arabi
Proof, if it were needed, of the French-Moroccan forward’s ability in front of goal is in his third-place slot on Ligue 1's scoring charts. With 17 league goals to his name this campaign for Caen, his output has not gone unnoticed by the Moroccan national set-up. Indeed, his first senior cap came in September 2010’s match against the Central African Republic, when he came on for Mounir Al Hamdaoui in the 65th minute.