Legendary Saudi Footballer Hussain Abdulghani Retires at the Age of 43 After 25 Year Career
By David DeMaria/Contributing Writer Arab America
Saudi footballer Hussain Abdulghani, a legend in both the Saudi Professional League and the Saudi national team announced his retirement after a stellar 25 year career.
Born Hussein Omar Abdulghani Sulaimani in Jeddah in 1977, Abdulghani began his career with Al-Ahli Jeddah, joining the youth team in 1992. Originally, Abdulghani played forward but was moved to full-back, the position he would eventually become a star at, by Amin Dabo, who was the youth team manager at that time. Abdulghani made his Al-Ahli debut on 26 September 1995 in a Federation Cup match against Al-Qadsiah, a match that would end in a 2-1 loss.
On 25 November 1995, Abdulghani made his Saudi Professional League debut in a derby match against rivals Al-Ittihad, the other famous team in Jeddah, a match that ended with a 2-1 win. He made 24 appearances in all competitions in his first season with Al-Ahli, as the club finished runners-up in the league. In his second season in the league, Abdulghani missed matches with Al-Ahli due to the national team’s participation in the 1996 AFC Asian Cup. On 25th December 1997, Abdulghani scored his first league goal for Al-Ahli against Al-Wehda On 11 March 1998, Abdulghani started the Crown Prince Cup final match against Al-Riyadh, and provided the assist for Khalid Al-Muwallid’s golden goal in the 97th minute, sending Al-Ahli to their third Crown Prince Cup title. It was Al-Ahli’s first club honor since 1985. On 15 November 1999, Abdulghani made his continental debut for Al-Ahli against Syrian club Al-Jaish in the 1999-2000 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup.
Abdulghani would miss most of the 2001-02 season with Al-Ahli due to injuring his anterior cruciate ligament while on international duty in the 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Thailand. On 21 October 2001. Abdulghani made his return on 15 March 2002 in the Gulf Club Champions Cup match against Emirati club Al-Shabab. On 22 March 2002, Abdulghani started for Al-Ahli in the 2-0 victory against Omani side Dhofar, as Al-Ahli won their second Gulf Club Champions Cup. On 27 December 2002, Abdulghani was suspended for six games following comments he made towards the referee Mamdouh Al-Mirdas, following the loss against Al-Hilal. On 3 Februrary 2003, started the Arab Unified Club Championship final match against Tunisian side Club Africain, as Al-Ahli won their first Arab club title.
Following the retirement of Mohammed Al-Jahani, Abdulghani was named the club captain for the 2004-05 season. His first final as club captain ended in a loss to Al-Hilal in the 2005 Federation Cup. Six months later, Abdulghani also captained the side in the 2006 Crown Prince Cup final loss against Al-Hilal. On 9 February 2007, Abdulghani captained Al-Ahli as they won their third Federation Cup, defeating derby rival Al-Ittihad by a score of 3-0 at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium. On 27 April 2007, Abdulghani captained Al-Ahli as they won their fifth Crown Prince Cup title, defeating derby rivals Al-Ittihad in the final once again.
In May 2007, Abdulghani was loaned to Qatari side Al-Rayyan on a short-term deal. He made one appearance in the Emir of Qatar Cup, missing a penalty shot in penalty shoot-outs as Al-Rayyan was eliminated by Al-Arabi. On 4 April 2008, Abdulghani was sent off in the league match against Najran, and was suspended for two matches. On 26 April 2008, his suspension was lifted. On 27 April 2008, Abdulghani made his final appearance for Al-Ahli, in the 3-1 loss against Al-Shabab in the second leg of the King Cup quarter-finals.
Later in his career, Abdulghani would move to Swiss club Neuchatel Xamax, staying for one year and appearing in 13 games without scoring. The transfer to Europe made him just the third Saudi footballer to play on the continent after Sami Al-Jaber and Fahad Al-Ghesheyan. In 2009, Abdulghani returned to the Saudi league to play for Al Nassr, making him one of the longest tenured Saudi footballers.
On 13 September 2017, Abdulghani signed a one-year deal with Bulgarian first league club Vereya. In June 2018 he returned to Saudi Arabia to sign with Ohod, who had just been promoted.
In January 2019, Abdulghani returned to his original club, Al-Ahli before announcing his retirement on 15 October 2020.
Abdulghani was also a legend with the Saudi national team. He was part of the Saudi team that won the 1996 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE at just 19 years of age. He was selected to the 1998, 2002, and 2006 FIFA World Cup squads. He was selected by FIFA in 1997 and 2001 to play with the world star team against the European stars. Abdulghani first retired from the national team in 2010, after failing to lead Saudi Arabia to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, but was called up for a friendly match against Brazil in 2018, though he did not play for the national team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Hussein Abdulghani played professional football for 25 years, and though he has reached the end of the road of his storied career, he leaves a lasting legacy on the Saudi Professional League and the Saudi national team.