Riyadh: The second most capped men’s footballer in history, Mohamed Al Deayea is among the all-time greats for both Al Hilal and Al Ta’ee as well as the Saudi Arabian national side.
With the legendary goalkeeper celebrating his 45th birthday on August 2, the-AFC.com looks back on a career that few in world football will be able to rival.
Starting at the top
Not many players start their careers at the very top and continue to perform at the highest levels, but for Mohamed Al Deayea, the matches that would define his career came at the tender age of 16.
The young goalkeeper was drafted from the youth ranks of his hometown club Al Ta’ee into the U-16 Saudi Arabia side by Brazilian coach Ivo Wortmann in 1988. The following summer he was on the plane to Scotland, where Saudi Arabia were representing Asia alongside China and Bahrain in the 1989 FIFA U-16 World Championship.
The Young Green Falcons would go all the way to become the first – and to date only – Asian side to lift the trophy as Al Deayea proved to be the standout goalkeeper in the tournament. The highlight of his competition came in the final against hosts Scotland in front of 51,000 fans at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.
“Al Deayea, the goalkeeper, was the match hero for his team in the final. Apart from blocking two penalties, he also pulled off a few other spectacular feats which were applauded not only by his teammates but by the sporting connoisseurs in the crowd as well,” read the official FIFA technical report for the tournament.
The next big step
For Saudi Arabia, 1994 marked an iconic year as they made their FIFA World Cup debut and Al Deayea was the only man from that class of 1989 to make the squad for the U.S.A.
Although just 22 at the time, he was trusted with the starting spot and rewarded Argentine coach Jorge Solari with a string of solid performances that saw the Saudis edge Belgium to progress to the knockout stage.
Two years later in the United Arab Emirates, more or less the same group of players that did so well in America were out to reclaim the AFC Asian Cup crown they had lost to Japan in the previous edition in 1992.
Al Deayea rose to the occasion once more; four clean sheets in addition to decisive penalty shootout saves in the semi-finals against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the final against hosts the UAE saw the Saudi custodian named Goalkeeper of the Tournament as he lifted his first major trophy with the senior national team.