Saeed Al-Owairan; the unforgettable football player of… Kees Jongkind

The Unforgettable Soccer Player of… Kees Jongkind
Reporter Studio Sport and Andere Tijden Sport

One player who will always stay with me is the striker of the Saudi Arabia national team: Saeed Al-Owairan. During the 1994 World Cup in the United States, I followed the opponents of Orange on behalf of Studio Sport. The first group match of the Dutch national team was against the Saudis. During a press conference by national coach Jorge Solari before the game, the Dutch journalists present tried to find out more about the upcoming opponent and especially about the striker Al-Owairan. In qualifying he had scored 18 of the 28 goals. I remember well when the renowned Dick van de Polder asked the question: "Why is he called the prince of the desert?" Suddenly there was hilarity all over because he mispronounced the last word. This made it seem like he was asking why Al-Owairan was called the prince of dessert instead of the desert.

Saeed Al-Owairan

I don't remember if Al-Owairan played a good match against the Netherlands. The Orange won with a lot of luck with 2-1 (header Taument). Only at the third group match did we get to see what the prince of the desert was capable of. I was behind De Goey's goal in the Morocco – Netherlands match. At half-time, the highlights of the other game in group F were shown: Saudi Arabia – Belgium. There, the halftime score was 1-0. The goal appeared on a big screen. We saw how Al-Owairan picked up the ball halfway through his own half and started a huge slalom. Not a single red devil got a foot against the ball. In full run, he left five defenders and goalkeeper Preud'homme no chance. When the ball hit the net, there was an ahhh of admiration through the stadium where the Netherlands played. The action was reminiscent of Maradona's rush against England in '86. Thanks to that goal from Al-Oweiran, which is sixth in the ranking of the most beautiful World Cup goals ever, Saudi Arabia reached the eighth finals.

The Arab goalgetter has never moved to a foreign club simply because the law in his country forbids it. Between 1988 and 2001 he played for El-Shabab in Riyadh. Remarkable fact: he was suspended for a year due to alcohol consumption. His nickname was changed after his goal in 1994 to: The Maradona of the Arabs!

Kees Jongkind
Reporter Studio Sport and Andere Tijden Sport