Borussia Dortmund's Achraf Hakimi pays tribute to George Floyd
While at Borussia Dortmund, Achraf Hakimi paid tribute to George Floyd and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Image Credit: Reuters

Among football’s greats are many players from the Middle East and North Africa. How many can you identify?

Click start to play today’s Crossword and name all the Arab and North African footballers.

Whether it’s in Germany’s Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A or the English Premier league, Arab and North African footballers have held or still hold prominent positions among teams in Europe. Here are a few who have already made their mark in one of the world’s most popular sports:

1. Mohamed Salah

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah
Liverpool's Mohamed Salah controls the ball during a friendly soccer match against French Olympique Lyonnais at the Stade de Geneve stadium, in Geneva, Switzerland, on July 31, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Arguably the most famous Middle Eastern or Arab footballer of all time, Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah excelled in the Swiss Super League, then struggled to get playing time at Chelsea, before a stint in Italy with Roma set him on the path to world domination. Since signing with Liverpool in the summer of 2017, he finished at the top of the Premier League scoring charts with a record 34 goals in his first season, and played a leading role in Liverpool’s rise to the Champions League final. It’s no understatement to say that with each passing year, he has become one of the world’s best players.

2. Ali Al Habsi

Wigan Athletic's Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi celebrates after they take the lead during the FA Cup semi-final football match between Millwall and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium in north London on April 13, 2013. Image Credit: AFP

Now retired, Al Habsi is still remembered fondly for his achievements as an international footballer. The Omani professional footballer started at his local club, Al Mudhaiba, and thanks to his talent as a goalkeeper, became the first Omani to play in Europe, when he joined Norway’s Lyn Oslo, before he moved to England. While playing for Wigan Athletic, he won the Football Association Challenge Cup (commonly known as the FA Cup), despite not playing in the 2013 final against Manchester City due to an injury.

3. Riyad Mahrez

181205 Mahrez
Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates after a goal. Image Credit: Reuters

Algerian footballer Riyad Mahrez joined Leicester FC in 2015 and contributed to them winning a league title just a few months later, making him the first Algerian to win a Premier League medal. Known for his excellent technique, his dribbling and passes, Mahrez was then transferred to Manchester City, where he has truly come into his own.

4. Achraf Hakimi

A superstar on the rise, Hakimi (pictured above) was born to Moroccan parents in Madrid, Spain. He joined the Real Madrid Academy at just seven years old, and progressed so well that he was given his first chance at age 18 by former French veteran footballer Zinedine Zidane. Hakimi became one of Borussia Dortmund’s best right-backs in his two-year stint with them, and has only become better as the years pass. Just this summer, he was recruited by Paris Saint-Germain, and at age 22, has already been named the best Moroccan footballer of his generation.

5. Mohamed Elneny

Egypt’s Mohammad Elneny and teammates celebrates their World Cup qualification after defeating Congo 2-1 at the Borg Al Arab Stadium in Alexandria. Image Credit: Reuters

The Egyptian midfielder started off playing for a junior team in Egypt, after which, he played at a club level internationally, and was transferred to the Swiss football club FC Basel in 2013. His success with the Swiss team caught the attention of English football club Arsenal FC, with whom he signed on in 2016. Elneny competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics for the Egyptian under-23 team, and played for the senior team at the 2017 and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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