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Football icons: Majed Abdullah (Saudi Arabia)

Majed Abdullah Saudi Arabia Al Nassr Club legend

Kuala Lumpur: It is difficult to put in words what Majed Abdullah represents to the supporters of Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia, but ask any yellow-clad fan who their biggest star is and the replies will probably be similar.

They will be flooded with memories of a one-club striker who was a menace to defences all over Asia.

In the latest edition to our 'Asian Icons' series, looks back at the career of one of the continent's most prolific strikers as the man known to his legion of fans simply as Majed celebrates his 58th birthday.

Age: 58

Club: Al Nassr

International appearances (Goals): 116 (71)

From Jeddah to Riyadh

Majed was born in the coastal city of Jeddah and if it wasn't for his father moving the family to Riyadh three years later, his life and career could have taken a completely different turn.

For it was in the Saudi capital that Majed first picked up a football, perhaps helped by the fact that his father had joined Al Nassr as a coach.

Unsurprisingly, Al Nassr coaches were quick to notice Majed's talents and, after impressive displays for his amateur team, 16-year-old Majed signed for his father's club in 1975.

Coming through the youth ranks, Majed was called up to the Al Nassr senior squad for the inaugural season of the nationwide Saudi league in the 1976-77 campaign.

The youngster took his first steps to stardom with his competitive debut against Al Shabab in January 1977.

His first goal would follow two months later; Majed's strike against Al Wehda was to be the first of 260 goals for his beloved Al Nassr over the next 20 years.

The making of a star

Majed Abdullah Saudi Arabia Al Nassr Club legend

Even as a teenager, Majed had shown that he was capable of competing with the best. In his second season at Al Nassr, the forward netted 14 goals and was the second-highest scorer for the club.

The goals continued to flow and Majed topped the league's scoring chart in 1978-79. He would go on to repeat that feat on five more occasions in his career.

One of Majed's most significant achievements in his early years with Al Nassr was helping the club to their first league title in 1980.

The period that followed saw the team become a dominant force in Saudi football and Majed was at the centre of it.

Starting in 1984, he would be joined by Fahad Al Bishi and Muhaisin Al Jamaan. Together, the trio went on to help Al Nassr to silverware well into the 1990s, when the club made their mark in Asia as well.

In 1995, Al Nassr went all the way to the final of the Asian Club Championship, only to lose in extra time to Korea Republic’s Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (now Seongnam FC) in front of a partisan crowd at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

It was a particularly disappointing end to the campaign for Majed, who failed to score throughout the tournament.

A title to remember

Majed’s illustrious career would have a happy ending three years after the disappointment of 1995. In what was his swansong tournament, the striker played for Al Nassr in the 1998 Asian Cup Winners' Cup.

He went on to score his final goal of the tournament in the semi-final clash with Köpetdag Aşgabat before coming on as a second-half substitute in the final against Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

As the 39-year-old Majed lined up on the sidelines to replace Senegalese midfielder Mamadou Sow, the Al Nassr fans cheered in unison. They knew they would never see him in action again.

After the final whistle in the 1-0 victory, it was Majed who went up to the VIP enclosure to receive Al Nassr's first ever continental title, ensuring that 'Captain Majed' bowed out on a high.

National treasure

Majed Abdullah Saudi Arabia Al Nassr Club legend

Majed Abdullah at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

The story of Majed Abdullah's heroics wouldn't be complete without delving into his international career with the Saudi Arabian national team.

After making his debut in 1978, Majed went on to represent the Green Falcons for 16 years and was a prominent member of the team's golden era.

Majed's first major appearance came at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Not only did he finish as top scorer in the qualifiers but the forward was also the only Saudi player to score at the Finals when he netted against Brazil.

In December of the same year, the Saudis went to their first ever AFC Asian Cup in Singapore, after the prolific marksman had scored eight goals in the qualifiers.

Majed went on to make history by becoming the first Saudi goalscorer at the AFC Asian Cup with his 90th-minute strike in the opening game of the Finals against Korea Republic.

The remaining games saw Majed experience an uncharacteristic dip in form before he returned to his best right when it mattered - in the final against China.

His surging run and subsequent finish gave the Saudis a 2-0 lead, which they held on to until the final whistle to win the title.

Saudi Arabia had conquered Asia.

At the World Cup

Another AFC Asian Cup win followed in 1988 and, although Majed scored only once, it was yet another feather to his cap.

The biggest achievement of all, however, would come at the very end of his international career.

Before retiring from the international game, Majed made one final contribution that will always be remembered in the annals of history: helping his country reach the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

It was evident that he was nearing the end of his footballing days but Majed was sharp enough to score twice in the qualifiers as Saudi Arabia booked a place at the global event for the first time.

He would lead the squad to the Finals in the United States, where he made two appearances as the Green Falcons progressed to the Round of 16, before losing to Sweden.

It was to be Majed's first and last World Cup and it was fitting that a national legend made it to the world stage right before he hung up his boots.

Record holder

Majed Abdullah Saudi Arabia Al Nassr Club legend

In a career that spanned almost 19 years, Majed set and broke numerous records.

His goalscoring record is best shown by his all-time leading mark of 71 for the national team, while the second-placed Sami Al Jaber has 46.

The Al Nassr legend also finished as the Saudi league's top scorer on a record six occasions, and the fact that many of Majed’s records still stand today is testament to the impact he had on Saudi football.

In 2008, 10 years after his retirement, Al Nassr hosted a friendly with Real Madrid to celebrate their legendary star.

Majed himself took to the pitch on that night and was feted by an adoring crowd. It was further proof of his status as a Saudi and Asian icon.

Photos: Lagardère Sports



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