Ronaldo and teammates don Saudi traditional attire in Nassr Saudi National Day video

Club captain Ronaldo is seen in the Nassr Saudi National Day video. (Al-Nassr)
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Updated 23 September 2023

Ronaldo and teammates don Saudi traditional attire in Nassr Saudi National Day video

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo once again takes center stage as Al-Nassr release a Saudi National Day video filled with traditional dances, swords and garments.

Nassr fans were delighted to see their stars partake in the festive mood in the Kingdom as the club dropped a fun early Friday morning video celebrating the occasion.

The country’s national day is celebrated each year on the Sept. 23 and falls on a weekend this year.

The video mixes glimpses of the club’s past successes and history with its forward-looking revival, with some of the best players on the planet donning the famous yellow jersey in the past year.

The video begins with a group of youngsters gatecrashing the club’s headquarters in Tuwaiq and catching first-team players getting ready for national day festivities.

In the 2 and half minute clip, Winger Abdulrahman Ghareeb and keeper Nawaf Alaqidi are shown preparing drums for the celebration. Goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah shares Arabic coffee with Otávio as the Portuguese midfielder gets a haircut for the occasion.

Talisca, the blond-haired Brazilian attacking midfielder, is seen in the video taking measurements for head coach Luis Castro’s new white thobe. Senegalese marksman Sadio Mané rests a sword on his shoulder as drumbeats resounding around him.

But it’s Ronaldo who takes center spot in the clip as he performs the Ardah with teammates Abdullah Alkhaibari, Mercelo Brozovic, and Sultan Al-Ghanam.

Ronaldo, one of the best known names in the sport, arrived in the Kingdom last year in a move that has led to a number of top players from European championships joining the Saudi Pro League over the summer.

Sports authorities in the Kingdom are aiming to make the SPL one of the biggest leagues in the world and have invested heavily to support that goal.

15th round of games in Saudi Pro League named “Riyadh Expo 2030” round

Updated 30 November 2023

15th round of games in Saudi Pro League named “Riyadh Expo 2030” round

  • Saudi Sports Minister approves naming of this weekend’s round of matches in honor of the Kingdom being chosen to host the prestigious global event in 2030

RIYADH: The 15th round of football matches in the Saudi Pro League, due to be played this weekend, have been named the “Riyadh Expo 2030” round in honor of the Kingdom being chosen this week to host the prestigious global event.

The decision was approved on Wednesday by Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi sports minister and chair of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The first three games of the round will take place on Friday, Nov 30, when home side Abha take on Al-Ahli, Al-Riyadh face visitors Al-Hazm, and Al-Ittihad are at home to Al-Khaleej.

There will be two games on Friday, including a top-of-the-table clash between league leaders Al-Hilal and second-place Al-Nassr, and the remaining four games will be played on Saturday.

All you need to know about the Riyadh derby

Updated 29 November 2023

All you need to know about the Riyadh derby

  • Roshn Saudi League leaders Al-Hilal host second-placed Al-Nassr
  • Al-Hilal have won a record seven RSL titles, while Al-Nassr have three

RIYADH: The 2023-24 season’s first principal Riyadh derby kicks off this weekend, with Roshn Saudi League leaders Al-Hilal hosting second-placed Al-Nassr. As such, the stakes couldn’t be much higher.

Here’s all you need to know about one of the fiercest rivalries not only in Saudi football, but in the region, ahead of Friday’s much anticipated encounter.

The rivalry

The capital’s two premier clubs, part of the RSL’s traditional “Big Four” (including Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli), less than 10 kilometres apart in the city. On the pitch, Al-Hilal have won a record seven RSL titles, while Al-Nassr have the next best, with three.

In Al-Nassr’s most recent title success, in the 2018-19 campaign, they pipped Al-Hilal to the trophy by a solitary point; the following season, it was Al-Hilal who were celebrating the championship, with Al-Nassr finishing second.

The derby is therefore considered one of the marquee fixtures of the RSL calendar, with the matches often sold-out well in advance. On Friday, there is expected to be another full house at the King Fahd Sports City – anticipate fireworks, flags, banners and plenty of back-and-forward between the opposing fans. It should be rivalled only by what takes place on the pitch, as Riyadh bragging rights and, potentially, a huge step towards the RSL title are up for grabs.

Head-to-head record

Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have met 30 times in the RSL era, with the former winning 15 matches and the latter nine. Both teams have not lost more games to anyone else, or conceded as many goals (54 Al-Nassr, 34 Al-Hilal).

Fixture’s top scorer

Mohammed Al Sahlawi (Al-Nassr) - 11 goals

Salem Al Dawsari (Al-Hilal) - 8 goals

Biggest wins

Al-Hilal 5-1 Al-Nassr 4 May 2017

Al-Nassr 0-4 Al-Hilal 3 March 2022

Al-Nassr 1-4 Al-Hilal 5 August 2020

Last six meetings

Al-Hilal 2-0 Al-Nassr

Al-Nassr 1-0 Al-Hilal

Al-Hilal 0-2 Al-Nassr

Al-Nassr 0-4 Al-Hilal

Al-Nassr 2-2 Al-Hilal

Al-Hilal 2-0 Al-Nassr

Last season’s matches

Al-Nassr 2-2 Al-Hilal, 26 December 2022

Just days before the biggest transfer in Saudi football history, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal played out a mightily entertaining draw at Al-Awwal Park at King Saudi University. Al-Hilal took the lead early through former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo, before Anderson Talisca levelled for the hosts, with Salem Al-Dawsari restoring the visitors’ advantage from the spot just after the hour. But there was late, late drama: Abdulrahman Ghareeb struck an 88th-minute equaliser. Four days later, Al-Nassr signed five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.

Al-Hilal 2-0 Al-Nassr, 18 April 2023

With Al-Nassr chasing a first RSL title in four years, they fell to a damaging defeat to Al-Hilal thanks to a penalty in either half from Ighalo. To make matters worse for the visitors, Ronaldo had a goal disallowed for a marginal offside, while he also saw the award of a penalty overturned. Nassr were now three points behind leaders Al Ittihad with only five rounds remaining. They eventually finished runners-up to Al-Ittihad, and their wait for a 10th league championship continued.

This season

To add a little more spice to the clash – as if that is needed – Al-Nassr defeated Al-Hilal in August in the final of the King Salman Club Cup. They won 2-1 in extra-time, with Ronaldo getting both their goals.

The form guide

Unbeaten in the RSL this season, Al-Hilal have won 12 and drawn two matches. They are riding a seven-match win streak, most recently making history by defeating Al-Hazem 9-0 away – a record result for the RSL.

Al-Nassr have built an impressive run since losing their opening two RSL matches, going unbeaten in the next 12. They have won five on the bounce since drawing with Abha in Matchweek 9; last time out, Al-Nassr sealed a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Al-Akhdood.

Standout stat

With the exception of the first two rounds this season, the two are tied at the top of the table with 34 points each. They are also tied at the summit of the RSL’s ranking in 2023, with 75 points each in 33 games and are, rather unbelievably, equal in scoring 77 goals and conceding 27 goals.

Players to watch


Kalidou Koulibaly: The Senegal international defender, signed this summer from Chelsea, will have to be on guard against an all-firing Al-Nassr who possess the league’s second-best attack this season.

Salem Al-Dawsari: The current Asian Player of the Year really needs no introduction. Arguably Saudi’s most talented player, he carries a sizeable goal and assist threat. Will be difficult to shackle.

Aleksandar Mitrovic: What an impact from the Serbian international following his summer move from Fulham. Has 11 goals in 12 RSL matches, showing in the “Saudi Clasico” with Al-Ittihad what he can do in high-stake games by notching a hat-trick.


Nawaf Al-Aqidi: The league’s leading local goalkeeper, the Saudi stopper has emerged as one of the league’s most reliable pair of hands since deputising for the injured David Ospina. Up against the season’s most prolific attack, he will need to be at his best.

Aymeric Laporte: One of the most notable RSL additions this summer, the recent treble winner with Manchester City knows what he is up against in Neves, Mitrovic and Co. The battle with the imposing Mitrovic should be pivotal.

Cristiano Ronaldo: What more can be said about the superstar? The Al-Nassr captain leads the way this season in RSL goals (15 in 13 games) and sits joint-top of the assist charts also, with seven. Quite clearly, the club’s go-to man.

Coaching compatriots, but competitors too

In the blue corner, Al-Hilal boast the vastly experienced, and hugely decorated, Jorge Jesus. The Portuguese manager is enjoying his second spell at the club after a brief, seven-month reign from June 2018. Formerly managed Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Flamengo, with his notable trophies including three Portuguese top-flight titles and the 2019 Copa Libertadores.

In the opposing dugout, fellow Portuguese tactician Luis Castro has managed a raft of clubs in his homeland before spells in Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk, Qatar with Al-Duhail and Brazil’s Botafogo. Helped Shakhtar win the 2019-20 Ukrainian top-flight title. Joined proved a real hit at Al-Nassr since joining in July.

Jesus and Castro have faced each other in 10 games, with the former winning five and the latter three.

‘Calm’ Mancini different from expected, admits Saleh Al-Shehri

Updated 29 November 2023

‘Calm’ Mancini different from expected, admits Saleh Al-Shehri

  • The Italian’s faith in the Al-Hilal forward was rewarded with 4 goals in the recent international break
  • Al-Shehri looking to continue recent form in Friday’s Roshn Saudi League Riyadh derby against Al-Nassr

RIYADH: Ask Saleh Al-Shehri how he found working with Roberto Mancini on international duty and the answer is not what you might expect.

Al-Shehri has much for which to thank the coach of the Saudi Arabian national team. With playing time limited at Al-Hilal, current leaders of the Roshn Saudi League, the Italian raised eyebrows by selecting the striker ahead of Al-Ahli’s Firas Al-Buraikan for the recent FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying victories over Jordan and Pakistan.

Mancini’s decision, however, not only proved astute but has reinvigorated Al-Shehri. His national “double double” — a brace in the 4-0 triumph over Pakistan followed by both goals in the 2-0 win in Jordan — preceded his first Al-Hilal league goal of the season in his team’s 9-0 thumping of Al-Hazem.

Following his own playing career, Mancini achieved title victory in Serie A with Inter Milan and took the Premier League crown with Manchester City. He then managed the Italian national team to Euro 2020 glory. But what was Al-Shehri’s impression of the highly successful manager following Mancini’s first two competitive matches in charge of Saudi Arabia?

“Honestly, a bit surprising,” replied the striker, who famously scored Saudi Arabia’s equalizer in the historic 2-1 victory over Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“I had it in my mind that he was a tough manager, maybe someone who shouted a lot. But he’s a very calm manager. He sees things that usually no-one sees and he’s very intelligent in the way he speaks. He provides short details, but they’re the things he needs to deliver to you.”

The return to club duty has seen Al-Shehri, who turned 30 at the beginning of November, play more minutes in two games than during the rest of the season so far. His tap-in goal at Al-Hazem came in 21 minutes after coming off the bench, while he started the 2-0 AFC Champions League win in Uzbekistan against Navbahor on Tuesday and played just short of 70 minutes.

Previously, injuries and the incredible form of his Al-Hilal teammate Aleksandar Mitrovic had restricted Al-Shehri to two short substitute appearances in the Roshn Saudi League and three in the Champions League.

Talking to him, it is obvious how much confidence he has taken from finding his scoring form with the national team.

“They were a very good few days for me,” he said of the Pakistan and Jordan matches. “I scored four goals in two games and of course when you start scoring for your country it gives you a lot of confidence. I hope this continues, scoring more for my club and my country, and it helps in reaching my goals for the season.”

The Jeddah-born former Al-Ahli striker, who speaks fluent English and joined Al-Hilal in 2020 after five years at Al-Raed, added: “Unfortunately, I had a big injury at the beginning of the season, and you have to start from scratch to get back into the team. I guess only time will give me this opportunity. I’ll still continue training in the best way and try to get my minutes and do the best until I get my position in the first (11).”

Even if they do come from the bench, minutes in Al-Hilal’s next game will be precious. The much-anticipated Riyadh derby at the King Fahd International Stadium on Friday will see Al-Hilal take on Al-Nassr with a four-point advantage over their capital city rivals. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. Saudi time and Al-Shehri cannot wait for the next big game in his distinguished career. He has no doubts how important a fixture it is.

“It’s the biggest derby in Saudi Arabia, maybe the Middle East,” said Al-Shehri. “This is the first derby with all these international stars coming, so it’s going to be a big game — but in the end it’s a three-point game.

“I know it’s very important for the fans, but we will still be top of the table (regardless of the result) and the important thing is winning the league in the end. We promise to do our best for the fans, as we have done over the past few seasons, and keep our heads up and give them trophies to enjoy.”

Al-Fayha keep AFC Champions League hopes alive with win over Ahal

Updated 29 November 2023

Al-Fayha keep AFC Champions League hopes alive with win over Ahal

  • 3-1 victory leaves Saudi club 3rd in Group A with hopes of progress to round of 16 riding on Dec. 5 matches

RIYADH: Al-Fayha breathed life into their AFC Champions League campaign on Tuesday night with a 3-1 win over Ahal FC of Turkmenistan at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Sports City Stadium in Riyadh.

The victory was the Saudi team’s second in Group A and means they go into the sixth and final round of matches with hopes of progress to the round of 16 still alive.

Al-Fayha’s goals came from Anthony Nwakaeme’s penalty in the 19th minute, Fashion Sakala in the sixth added minute of the first half, and Sultan Mandash on 74 minutes. Elman Tagayev had equalized for Ahal from a spot kick in the 25th minute.

Al-Fayha now sit in third place with six points while Ahal remain on four points in last place.

Al-Ain of the UAE top the group with 12 points while Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan are second with seven.

Al-Fayah visit Pakhtakor for their final Group A fixture on Dec. 5.

Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot

Updated 28 November 2023

Al-Dawsari scores wonder goal as Al-Hilal seal Asian Champions League knockout spot

  • Al-Dawsari atoned with some distinction for the four-time champions late on
  • The 2-0 win was enough to take Al-Hilal, runners-up last season, through to the last 16 as group winners, with one game to spare

ABU DHABI: Asian Player of the Year Salem Al-Dawsari missed two penalties but scored a wonder goal as Al-Hilal sealed a spot in the Asian Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday night.
The Saudi Arabian winger, who was last month named the continent’s best men’s player, spurned a spot-kick in either half in the Group D tie against Navbahor in Uzbekistan.
However, he was not made to pay as substitute Malcolm struck the game’s opening goal, and Al-Dawsari atoned with some distinction for the four-time champions late on.
Malcolm’s effort, a rebound from Al-Dawsari’s second saved penalty on 68 minutes, marked the Brazilian’s first touch of the match. The goal was also his first in the competition since a summer move from Zenit Saint Petersburg.
With four minutes remaining, Al-Dawsari then made safe the result lobbing Navbahor goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov from around 35 yards. Navbahor’s Ibrokhim Yuldoshev was sent off late on for a second bookable offense.
The 2-0 win was enough to take Al-Hilal, runners-up last season, through to the last 16 as group winners, with one game to spare.
Navbahor, though, are still well placed to advance also, with Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran and Indian’s Mumbai City already eliminated. Nassaji defeated the Champions League debutants 2-0 on Tuesday to confine Mumbai to a fifth successive loss.
In Group A, UAE’s Al Ain suffered their first defeat of this continental campaign when they lost 3-1 at home to Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan. The result mattered little to the 2003 champions, though, since Al Ain had already secured their place in the last 16.
In the group’s other fixture, Saudi Arabian side Al Fayha got only a second win of this campaign with a 3-1 home victory against Turkmenistan’s Ahal. Pakhtakor are second going into the final matchday, level on seven points with third-placed Fayha.
In the East Asian side of the draw, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale made it five wins from five Group I matches to ease into the knockout stage, defeating Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim 5-0 at home.
South Korean side Ulsan Hyundai stay second following a 3-1 victory against BG Pathum United in Thailand. Both BG Pathum United and Johor Darul Ta’zim will exit the competition at the group stage.
In Group G, Chinese Super League club Shandong Taishan went top by dispatching the already-eliminated Kaya FC-Iloilo of the Philippines 6-1 in Jinan, while Yokohama F Marinos suffered a potentially damaging 2-1 loss against South Korea’s Incheon United.
Incheon and Yokohama each have nine points, with the Korean club second given their superior head-to-head record.
The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, runs until mid-December, with the 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams advancing to the knockout rounds starting in February. The final takes place, across two legs, in May.