The Saudia Arabian struggled with the draw back of fame however now has nothing however fond recollections of his solo strike in opposition to Belgium at USA 94.
Saeed Al-Owairan as soon as lamented the very fact social media did not exist when Saudi Arabia reached the final 16 of the 1994 World Cup.
“Maybe it might have showcased our skills to a wider viewers,” he informed FIFA+. “And but, regardless of this, I feel I am nonetheless essentially the most well-known Saudi and Arab participant within the historical past of the World Cup.”
He has some critical competitors now, after all. Salem Al-Dawsari’s winner in opposition to Argentina on Tuesday was as beautiful because it was stunning.
Nevertheless, on the subject of the event’s best ever solo strikes, Al-Owairan’s effort in opposition to Belgium at USA 94 is commonly introduced up after any point out of Diego Maradona’s memorable dribble via the England defence in 1986.
“And mine arrived from additional out!” Al-Owairan joked in an interview with GOAL.
His run maybe wasn’t fairly as sleek or deliberate as that of Maradona however it’s rightly thought to be one of many best objectives in World Cup historical past.
It was additionally an enormous second for Saudi Arabia, and a life-changing expertise for Al-Owairan himself.
He had arrived in the USA beneath huge stress to supply.
Regardless of not being an out-and-out ahead, he had been on fireplace in entrance of objective within the run-up to the event, his nation’s high scorer in qualifying, with seven objectives. Expectations have been excessive, then.
Nevertheless, by the third recreation of the finals, he was feeling determined, having failed to search out the again of the web in opposition to both Netherlands or Morocco.
The Saudis additionally wanted to win their remaining group fixture, in opposition to Belgium, to make sure of progressing to the knockout stage.
It appeared a tall order. Their opponents had gained their first two video games, so Al-Owairan sought somewhat assist.
“Earlier than the sport, I referred to as everybody from my household, together with my mom, and requested them to wish for me and the nationwide crew,” he informed MBC1.
“We wished to have a fantastic recreation and we wanted everybody’s assist and prayers.”
He additionally received a morale-boosting name from the late King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who informed him that he was “optimistic” that the participant would break his duck in opposition to the Belgians.
No person, although, may have predicted that Al-Owairan would accomplish that in such memorable style.
Certainly, he was in the midst of his personal half when he acquired a move from Mohamed Al-Jawad, who to at the present time nonetheless jokingly complains about by no means receiving any credit score for his ‘help’.
Al-Owairan had two team-mates forward of him however did not want both of them, embarking upon a 70-metre run which noticed him evade 4 Belgian defenders earlier than slotting the ball dwelling.
Solely 5 minutes had been performed however, extremely, Saudi Arabia held on, producing a heroic rear-guard motion to earn a 1-0 win that secured a historic place within the knockout stage.
“We may have gone additional,” Al-Owairan informed GOAL. “However after the success in opposition to Belgium, we have been a bit on a cloud.
“And with this qualification for the second spherical, the expectations of our supporters turned larger.
“It’s sure that in opposition to Sweden within the final 16, the place we misplaced 3-1, that we must always have finished higher.”
Al-Owairan had already finished sufficient to write down his title into World Cup historical past, although, whereas his performances within the US additionally caught the intention of a number of golf equipment.
As he revealed to GOAL, there have been gives from Portuguese and Brazilian groups however, on the time, Saudi gamers have been forbidden from taking part in abroad.
In fact, he was handled as a king at dwelling. There have been presents from princes, reductions at shops and infinite industrial offers.
“I used to be the primary Center Jap to do commercials for Pepsi!” he informed MC1.
Sadly, Al-Owairan struggled beneath the extreme scrutiny that got here with changing into a nationwide hero.
He would play in one other World Cup, in France 4 years later, however solely after spending time in a “detention centre” after being caught consuming alcohol with associates throughout Ramadan in 1996.
“They blew it out of proportion due to my movie star,” Al-Owairan informed the New York Instances forward of France 98.
By that time, Al-Owairan seen his most well-known objective as a “double-edged sword”.
“In some methods, it was nice,” he defined. “In different methods, it was terrible. As a result of it put me within the highlight, all people was specializing in me.”
Fortunately, Al-Owairan managed to come back to phrases with the worth of such fame in Saudi Arabia, describing it as a God-given reward and “a turning level” in his life.
“After I keep in mind this event now, I really feel solely satisfaction as a result of I used to be in a position to contribute to the superb run of the nationwide crew,” he informed GOAL.
“And I keep in mind after all the objective that I scored in opposition to Belgium, which was essentially the most stunning of the event.
“It was solely after the match, once I noticed all the response, that I realised the significance of this objective.”
Social media could not have been round on the time however Al-Owairan’s objective was an immediate sensation, and stays thought to be one of the crucial unforgettable in World Cup historical past.