SPL 2019/20 Awards: Al Hilal dominate, Bafetimbi Gomis roars and Leandre Tawamba chips in a worldie

A Saudi Professional League season unlike any other is, finally, in the books.

Coronavirus’ devastating spread in March meant 2019/20 extended to an, unprecedented, 384 days. Memories will, however, endure of Al Hilal’s majestic sweep to a record-extending 16th title, of Al Fayha falling through the trap door into Prince Mohammad bin Salman League on the tightest of final days and giants Al Ahli Jeddah, just about, clinging onto their AFC Champions League-berth.

Here are the key performers – with the help of Wyscout and SofaScore – from this unforgettable campaign:

BEST FOREIGN PLAYER

Bafetimbi Gomis (EPA).

Bafetimbi Gomis didn’t get the most goals. That was Abderrazak Hamdallah with 29.

He didn’t get the most assists (Al Faisaly’s Youssef El Jebli on 12), or, of course, keep the most clean sheets (Al Nassr’s Brad Jones with 12). Yet, his influence on this season is incalculable.

The ex-France centre forward was the beating heart of last month’s defining 4-1 obliteration of – then – holders Al Nassr. His hat-trick in December’s 7-0 annihilation of Al Adalah also evidenced fearsome fire power within the Hilal ranks.

More hallowed days, surely, await after a two-year contract extension was inked in May – and celebrated, naturally, with some piping hot gahwa (Arabic coffee).

Honourable mentions: Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al Nassr), Anselmo (Al Wehda), Sebastian Giovinco (Al Hilal), Youssef El Jebli (Al Faisaly)

BEST SAUDI ARABIAN PLAYER

Salem Al Dawsari (EPA).

Salem Al Dawsari (EPA).

Any match is improved by Salem Al Dawsari’s presence.

Vibrancy and whim details his every possession, with the inventive winger always looking to craft an opening. What will have pleased the Al Hilal management even more this term is the increasing effectiveness of the 28-year-old’s contributions.

A combined tally for goals and assists of 11 was three more than 2018/19, plus two greater than

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Public consensus needed before exempting BTS from mandatory military service—S. Korean Army chief

BTS (Big Hit Entertainment-Yonhap)

SEOUL — Defense Minister nominee Suh Wook said Monday that the ministry should consult with the public before deciding whether to grant the members of K-pop group BTS exemptions from mandatory military service.

“The service should be carried out by all able-bodied men in an equitable manner,” the sitting Army chief said in a written opinion submitted to the parliamentary defense committee set to open a hearing Wednesday on his credentials as defense chief.

All able-bodied men must serve on active duty for about two years, but exemptions are occasionally granted to individuals with outstanding accomplishments behind them — such as classical musicians who have received awards at international competitions or athletes who have won Olympic medals or gold medals at the Asian Games. Pop artists are not eligible for exemption.

But recently more voices are calling for K-pop artists to be considered for exemptions — particularly for BTS, as the band is basking in unprecedented popularity in global markets as the first South Korean act to have made it to No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

The Defense Ministry said last year that the seven-member band would not be granted exemption, and reaffirmed its policy of no exceptions for pop stars. Some ruling party lawmakers proposed amending the conscription law to expand the list of exceptions, but the discussion has yet to yield a meaningful outcome.

About 300,000 men get drafted every year.


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SPL favourite Elton is snapped up by ambitious UAE second-tier side Al Hamriyah

Elton (EPA).

First Division League’s Al Hamriyah have pulled off an audacious transfer coup with the capture of veteran Saudi Professional League-favourite Elton.

Elton, 34, spent a decade plying his trade in the Kingdom, on and off, for four different clubs since 2007’s capture by Al Nassr. The diminutive playmaker’s extravagant skills and warm personality made him a popular figure, while his influential role in 2012/13’s shock top-flight triumph for minnows Al Fateh will not readily be forgotten.

The Brazilian – whose 12 appearances since January’s arrival from CRB helped fourth-placed Al Wehda into a, likely, first AFC Champions League-berth – has now been snapped up on a free transfer by ambitious employers determined to reach the Arabian Gulf League. Ghazi Ghrairi’s men were fourth when coronavirus brought a premature end to the season in March.

“Let’s all say welcome to Elton, our new player,” Hamriyah tweeted about their stellar signing, who returns to the UAE after featuring for Dubai CSC and Al Wasl from 2009-10. “Welcome aboard.”

Play in the UAE’s 11-team second tier is not expected to resume until next month. The top-two positions, in normal circumstance, provide promotion.

Elton’s capture is the competition’s most high-profile since Fujairah hired Argentina icon Diego Maradona as coach for a tumultuous 2017/18 campaign.

Al Hamriyah is a coastal settlement in the northern reaches of Sharjah.

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