After the influx of global superstars, the Roshn Saudi League is the name on everyone’s lips in the football world, with fans from all around the world tuning in for their first taste of RSL action.
From watching the world’s best, to the intense passion of the fans and the history and rivalry of the league and its teams, here are ten reasons why you simply must keep watching the Roshn Saudi League.
Need we say more. A five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or and five-time winner of the UEFA Champions League, he is regarded as one of the best footballers ever to play the game, having played for some of the world’s biggest clubs in Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus. Still going strong at 38, ‘CR7’ is also the greatest international goalscorer in football history with 127 goals for his native Portugal and has been a standout since joining Al Nassr.
The world’s best talent
It’s not just Ronaldo that has helped put the RSL on the international map. The arrival of the likes of Karim Benzema, Robert Firmino, Riyad Mahrez, Neymar, and N’Golo Kante - to name just a few of the international superstars that have descended on Saudi Arabia - has transformed the league into a must-watch event every week. Benzema is a former Ballon d’Or winner, while Neymar is now Brazil’s all-time leading scorer…and that’s before you get to everyone else!
Asia’s best player
If Salem Al Dawsari was Saudi Arabia’s best kept secret before last year’s FIFA World Cup, his name and talent are certainly secret no more. His earth-shattering strike against Argentina reverberated around the world as the name Salem Al Dawsari burst onto the international conscience. As a key pillar of the Al Hilal side that made both the AFC Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup Finals, his outstanding form was recently rewarded by being named the AFC Player of the Year.
A hothouse of Saudi talent
Twelve months on and the world is still coming to grips with Saudi Arabia’s stunning victory over Argentina at the FIFA World Cup. It was a result that sent shockwaves around the world, not least because the Saudi side is made up of purely domestic talent. From the aforementioned Salem Al Dawsari, to other stars like Mohammed Kanno, Hassan Tambakti and Firas Al-Buraikan, the best Saudi Arabian talent is on display in the SPL every single week.
Proper football rivalries
Think of the best rivalries in football and you might think of El Clasico, Boca vs River Plate, the Milan Derby or any of the big rivalries in the Premier League. These matches have a status and history that is understood around the world, and now the world is getting to see the history and rivalry that exists in Saudi Arabia. Whether it’s the Jeddah Derby between Al Ittihad and Al Ahli, the Saudi Clasico between Al Hilal and Al Ittihad, or the Riyadh Derby between Al Hilal and Al Nassr, these matches are the equal of anything around the world in terms of passion and intensity.
The underdog stories
It can sometimes be easy to think just about the big four of Al Ittihad, Al Hilal, Al Nassr and Al Ahli, but the RSL is about so much more than that. Al Taawoun have lost just one of their opening 11 fixtures, while Al Fateh have also been making a challenge at the top end of the table. A decade ago, they had produced a true fairytale performance to clinch the title in the 2012/13 season.
A Liverpool legend in the dugout
It’s not just top class playing talent that is on display in Saudi Arabia, there are also superstars in the dugouts too, and none more so than former Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard. A Scottish Premiership winning coach with Rangers, before a stint with Premier League side Aston Villa, Gerrard chose Dammam-based Al Ettifaq as his destination of choice to continue his coaching journey. Can he work wonders in the Eastern Province?
While the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema and Neymar may have recently introduced the RSL to the world, the clubs at which they play are anything but new, with each having its own rich history and unique story to tell. The names of Sami Al Jaber, Majed Abdullah, Mohammed Noor and Saeed Al Owairan are names etched not only in Saudi Arabian football history, but at clubs like Al Hilal, Al Nassr, Al Ittihad and Al Shabab at which they played.
From the tifos, to the flares, to the deafening roar when a goal is score, fans in Saudi Arabia are some of the most passionate anywhere in the world. Their passion runs deep, often passed down through generations, and they produce some of the most spectacular visual displays to show their support for their side, adding to the experience of watching and attending the RSL.
The tactical battles
If you’re an X’s and O’s person, then there is plenty for you to sink your teeth into in the SPL with some astute tacticians patrolling the sidelines. Whether it’s Matthias Jaissle at Al Ahli, regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young managers, or Jorge Jesus at Al Hilal, a veteran of the coaching game, or even Nuno Espirito Santo, Slaven Bilic, Luis Castro, Igor Bišćan or any of the coaches across the league, there is a variety of tactics and styles on display to satisfy any football fan.