Salah, Hannibal and 10 Arab sportsmen to watch in 2022

Africa Cup of Nations, Winter Olympics and the Qatar World Cup just some of the events taking place over the next 12 months

Mohamed Salah (Egypt) – Football

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With the African Cup of Nations just around the corner, potential Qatar World Cup qualification on the horizon and everything to play for with Liverpool, the Egyptian King is set for another huge year.

Salah starts 2022 as arguably the best football player on the planet and has been a goal machine so far this season, topping the Premier League top-scorers leaderboard with 15 goals, and netting another seven in the Champions League.

The 29-year-old seems unstoppable at the moment and is undoubtedly the Arab athlete to look out for in 2022.

Hannibal Mejbri (Tunisia) – Football

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The Manchester United youngster has the Arab world buzzing after impressing for Tunisia at the recent Arab Cup.

The 18-year-old played a key role in helping the Eagles of Carthage reach the final in Qatar, contesting every game, registering an assist, and earning two man-of-the-match awards.

United boss Ralf Rangnick has said he hopes to see the versatile midfielder challenging for a first-team spot and the Tunisian teen will have many eyes on him at next month’s African Cup of Nations.

“To be honest with you, I’ll give my absolute best wherever I’m played out on the pitch, whether that be at No 8 or No 6 or No 10 or even on the wing,” Hannibal told manutd.com. “I think I’ve got the qualities to play all of those positions.”

Yousuf Al Matrooshi (UAE) – Swimming

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The 18-year-old Emirati broke a host of national records in the pool in 2021 and competed in his first Olympic Games in Tokyo as well as his first World Championship in Abu Dhabi in December.

The UAE record-holder in all butterfly events, along with the 100m freestyle, the Al Wasl Club starlet is eyeing further success in 2022, where he hopes to go even faster at the Worlds in Fukuoka.

Almoez Ali (Qatar) – Football

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The only player in history to score goals in three different continental championships – the Asian Cup, the Copa America and the Gold Cup, Ali will have many eyes on him when he suits up for hosts Qatar at this year’s FIFA World Cup.

The Al Duhail forward was named MVP during Qatar’s march to the Asian Cup title in 2019, finishing as top-scorer with a tournament-record nine goals, when he was just 22 years old.

In 2021, he helped Al Annabi reach the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he was also the top-scorer with four goals to his name in the competition.

At the recent Arab Cup, the Sudanese-born Qatari netted three goals for the hosts to help them secure third place and he’s targeting further success with the Maroons at the World Cup later this year.

Ali Zein (Egypt) – Handball

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Since joining Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of this season (the first Egyptian to do so), Zein has scored 38 goals in 15 domestic league games, as well as nine in the Champions League.

The 31-year-old left-back will be looking to help the Blaugranas defend their titles in both the Spanish and Champions leagues before shifting his focus to national duty with Egypt at the 2023 World Championships.

Barcelona are currently at the top of the Liga Asobal table and are in a fierce battle in Group B of the Champions League, where they are tied on 12 points alongside PSG and Telekom Veszprém, two adrift of leaders Lomza Vive Kielce.

Elie Tawk (Lebanon) – Cross-country skiing

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The 19-year-old Lebanese booked himself a spot at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics by placing 54th in the 10km cross-country race at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany last February.

Tawk, who participated in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne in 2020, is just the second ever cross-country skier from Lebanon to make it to the Winter Games.

“It’s a huge honour for me to qualify for the Olympic Games and fly the flag for Lebanon; especially considering the tough times our country is going through at the moment, be it economically or health-wise,” Tawk told Deutsche Welle after punching his ticket to Beijing.

Youssef Ramadan (Egypt) – Swimming

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The 19-year-old has a big year ahead of him as he hopes to become the first Egyptian man to make the podium at a world swimming championship when he heads to Fukuoka, Japan in May.

The Cairene is also looking to shatter the NCAA record in his signature event, the 100 butterfly, having already become the fastest freshman in history when he clocked 44.32 seconds at the ACC Championships during his first year at Virginia Tech.

Ramadan placed fourth in the 100m butterfly at the Fina World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi last month and is as determined as ever to etch his name in the history books.

“I feel like I’ll be the fastest in history in that school; in history, not just in the history of the school. I hope by the end of this season that I’m the fastest in history and I break the NCAA time in the 100 fly,” he told The National in Abu Dhabi.

Soufiane El Bakkali (Morocco) – Athletics

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The Moroccan made history at the Olympics last summer when he became the first non-Kenyan to win the 3,000m steeplechase since 1980.

After taking silver at the 2017 World Championships in London, and bronze in Doha two years later, El Bakkali, who turns 26 this month, seems primed for a gold medal challenge at this summer’s Worlds in Eugene.

"I am so used to seeing Kenyans win, it's a big accomplishment for me. I have been aiming for this for years and this was my opportunity to show that Morocco is capable of winning this prize in front of the Kenyans," El Bakkali said in Tokyo.

Hady Habib (Lebanon) – Tennis

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Recently crowned champion in both singles and doubles at the Arab Elite tennis tournament in Kuwait, Habib has started to make strides on the professional tour after graduating from Texas A&M University.

During his college tennis career in the US, the Houston-born Lebanese topped the ITA rankings and clinched the singles title at the ITA National Summer Championships in 2020.

In 2021, his first proper season on the pro circuit, Habib won three ITF singles titles and went from being unranked to a current career-high of 517 in the world.

With a confidence-boosting victory at the Arab Elite last month, where he defeated former world No 42 Malek Jaziri in the final, the 23-year-old Habib is one to watch on the tennis tour this upcoming season.

Mazen Moutan Al Yassin (Saudi Arabia) – Athletics

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With a personal best time of 45.16 seconds, the Saudi Arabian won his 400m heat at the Tokyo Olympics last summer to qualify for the semi-finals.

A silver medallist in the 400m at the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and a semi-finalist in the same event at the World Athletics Championships in Qatar in 2019, Al Yassin is on an upward trajectory and will be looking to make it to the final at this summer’s postponed World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

Updated: January 2nd 2022, 3:27 AM