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Arabian flight: why are nine Saudis playing in Spain before World Cup?

Saudi Arabia have sent players to Spanish clubs keen to expand their appeal in the Middle East but will anyone gain?

Sporting Gijón’s welcome tweet to greet a new signing on 21 January got the name of the player – Abdullah al-Hamdan – mixed up with the name of the club he arrived from: al-Shabab. Perhaps the Spanish team were just so excited about their new Saudi Arabian import or perhaps they did not really have any idea who he was.

Just like the simultaneous arrival of alien spaceships above various global cities – provoking curiosity and confusion – there were similar deals being announced on social media all over Spain, as nine Saudi Arabian players joined clubs in the top three tiers on loan until the end of the season. From having virtually no players in action overseas, there is now almost an entire starting Saudi XI for fans at home to keep an eye out for.

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