069. Majed Abdullah
Saudi Arabian striker Majed Abdullah, nicknamed the “Desert Pelé”, is one of the greatest players ever to come from Asia. Spending his entire club career at Al Nassr in Riyadh, he scored nearly 200 league goals in a twenty-one year domestic career. During this time, Al Nassr established themselves as one of the dominant forces in Saudi and Asian football. With Majed Abdullah leading the attack, Al Nassr won four league championships, four Saudi cups, two Gulf Cups and the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup between 1980 and 1998. Abdullah was unofficially named as Asian Footballer of the Year in three successive years during this time.
His success was not limited to the domestic stage, as in 1984 Saudi Arabia qualified for their first ever global international tournament at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, although they lost all three group games. International success did come in 1984, however, in the Asian Cup in Singapore. Saudi Arabia beat China 2-0 in the final to take the title for the first time, with Abdullah scoring the second goal. Four years later in 1988, he would score twice in the tournament in Qatar as the Saudi team retained the title by beating South Korea on penalties.
Global recognition would finally come late in Abdullah’s career as Saudi Arabia qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1994 in the USA, where he played twice as the Saudis reached the last 16 before losing to Sweden. That tournament was to be the end of his international career, but with 140 caps for Saudi Arabia he was at that time the World Record holder for international appearances, a record which has since been broken by several players. Majed Abdullah retired from football in 1998, after Al Nassr’s Asian Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory over Suwon Samsung Bluewings. He has continued to work at Al Nassr as a supervisor to all their football teams, and also as a radio and TV pundit.