London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Chief Executive of the Manchester United Football Club, David Gill, has expressed the team management’s interest in playing an exhibition match against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal Football team to mark the occasion of Captain Sami al Jabr’s retirement.
Former Captain al Jabr retires today, Monday 21 January.
Led by Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United team expressed its hope that the match will provide high entertainment for audiences, in addition to marking the dawn of a new era for the English team in the Gulf region, and Saudi in particular.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with David Gill a few hours before the team set off to the Saudi capital Riyadh. He confirmed that Ferguson was keen to ensure the participation of all the English team’s stars since this forthcoming match is part of the preparation for the second round of the Premiere League.
David Gill also affirmed that the Manchester United management had been invited by Prince Abdullah Bin Mosa’ad, who is an honorary member of Al Hilal team, to play the first ever match in the Middle East.
Gill refused to comment when asked about the financial compensation that the team will receive for the match.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q)Why did Manchester United choose the kingdom of Saudi Arabia for your first friendly game in the region?
A)The Club was invited by HRH Prince Abdullah bin Mosa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to play in the testimonial match of one of Saudi Arabia’s finest players, Sami al Jaber and we are delighted to accept.
Q)The friendly game will be Saudi football star’s Sami al-jaber’s final game, a player who has played for the premier league in England. What are your thoughts on him?
A)He is relatively unknown to English football fans, despite his fame as the first Saudi Arabian to play in the Premier League. But his remarkable record for Saudi Arabia with 144 caps, is an amazing achievement. To have scored in three different World Cups is a proud record and an indication of how long he stayed at the top of his game.
Q)Will all the stars from the Manchester United team be participating in the trip to Saudi?
A)The Manager is bringing a full squad. This training camp is an important part of the team’s preparations for the second half of the season.
Q)Manchester United is a hugely popular team in the Middle East. Will you be participating in any promotional activities during your trip?
A)None are planned. This is a training camp, not a formal tour; so the emphasis will be on training and rest.
Q)Will you be scouting for any potential talent in Saudi Arabia and the gulf?
A)Football is a hugely popular sport in the Middle East, as it is everywhere. We monitor developments in the region regularly in any case, so the team’s visit does not alter that.
Q)Are their any plans for other friendly football games in the Middle East?
A)None at the moment.
Q)Arsenal have a number of training institutions in the Middle East region. Do you plan on starting any of your own?
A)We have a Soccer School in Dubai, and as I said, we monitor developments in the region. We believe that is the right way for Manchester United. Other clubs have different priorities and different ways of approaching these matters.
Q)How will Manchester United be compensated for this visit?
A)The agreement between His Royal Highness and the Club is private.