Latest in long history of Hamdallah controversies could be biggest one yet

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Tue, 2022-04-19 12:10

There are two guarantees for clubs that sign Abderrazak Hamdallah: The first is goals and the second is controversy. The striker makes headlines for his exploits on the pitch and is often in the news for other reasons off it. It is safe to say that the Moroccan comes with baggage but as he scores so often, it is usually tolerated.

The latest controversy is potentially a big one and involves his former club Al-Nassr and his current team Al-Ittihad. In November, Al-Nassr terminated Hamdallah’s contract, releasing a player who had been with them since August 2018 and scored 112 goals in 108 games for the nine-time Saudi Arabian champions. Given that strike rate, that the club let such a player go shows how badly the relationship had deteriorated. In January, the Moroccan signed for Al-Ittihad on a free transfer. He has since scored 11 goals in 10 games for the leaders as they close in on a first title since 2009.

The issue has cast something of a dark cloud over the relationship between the two clubs, one that may about to get considerably stormy. On Saturday, Al-Nassr issued a statement which said that they had lodged a complaint with the Saudi Arabia Football Federation on March 28.

The claim is that there are recordings of conversations between Hamed Al-Balawi, a senior executive at Al-Ittihad, and Hamdallah while the player was still under contract with Al-Nassr and have urged SAFF to look into what they say are “major violations of regulations and laws which have breached the rules of fairness and competition.”

If the alleged conversations are proven to have taken place, then the story would obviously move to the next level. There have been reports there were a number of conversations between Al-Ittihad and the player over several months. There has even been talk, also still to be substantiated, that there was one conversation in the build-up to last September’s league clash between the two teams which Al-Ittihad won 3-1 with Hamdallah missing a penalty. Fans were angry at his poorly executed Panenka and felt that it was casual to the point of arrogance. Mano Menezes was fired as head coach just days later. Questions have been asked about the authenticity of the recordings which is why Al-Nassr have asked the federation to investigate as a matter of urgency.

Ayman Al-Refai, former head of the disciplinary and ethics committee at SAFF, discussed potential consequences with Al-Arabiya if any wrongdoing is found to have taken place between the Jeddah club and the 31-year-old.

“If the recordings are proven to be true and Al-Ittihad incited Hamdallah to leave Al-Nassr, the player will be punished according to the regulations of the Professionalism Committee and Players’ Conditions, which is suspension for four to six months and a fine of no more than SR300,000,” said Al-Refai, adding that the Tigers could suffer a points deduction and more besides.

It remains to be seen what happens of course but what can be said with certainty is that Hamdallah is no stranger to controversy. Even before these allegations surfaced, it was common knowledge that he left Al-Nassr under a cloud. In October for example, there were suggestions that he had declared himself injured when he discovered that he was out of the starting line-up. There was probably some relief that negotiations for a new contract broke down and that he ended up leaving Riyadh in November, at least among his former teammates.

One of those was Talisca who was making waves in his first season with Al-Nassr. The Brazilian said that the atmosphere in the team quickly improved after the North African goal-getter departed. Hamdallah reported the comments to the league’s disciplinary committee. This was all before February’s league meeting between the two teams in which the striker starred in a 3-0 win.

There have also been arguments with the national team’s management. Moroccan coach Vahid Halilhodzic said that he had not called the striker because he had demanded a guaranteed starting spot, a claim that was strongly denied by the player in February.

“I confirm that there was no contact or talk between me and the coach or any member of his staff since he has been in charge of the team,” Hamdallah said on social media. “The last call between me and Mr. Mustapha Hadji (a member of Halilhodzic’s staff) was in the year 2019 … He explained why I wasn’t invited to play for Morocco’s team, but he did not invite me. The coach’s claim that I received an invite from Mr. Hadji, him, or the national team, and that I declined the invite and asked for a starting position is devoid of truth.”

It remains to be seen what Hamdallah says this time, or if he says anything at all. Another chapter in the saga that is the career of Abderrazak Hamdallah is about to be written.

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