Who is Bader Al Mutawa, the Kuwaiti footballer whose record Cristiano Ronaldo beat?

Veteran striker had previously made the most international appearances in men’s football

Kuwaiti striker Bader Al Mutawa slides past two Bahrain players in the Arabian Gulf Cup on December 2, 2019. Karim Jafaar / AFP
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Cristiano Ronaldo broke another record on Thursday when he became the most-capped player in men’s international football.

Ronaldo, who scored twice in his 197th appearance for Portugal, is a household name and one of the world’s biggest sporting stars.

But the record he beat was from a far less well-known player — Kuwait’s Bader Ahmed Al Mutawa, who has 196 international appearances.

Here is everything you need to know about the Kuwaiti veteran.

Qadsia club legend

Al Mutawa was born in Kuwait in 1985.

He joined the most successful football club in Kuwait’s history, Al Qadsia Sporting Club, as a youth player in 1994.

He graduated to the senior team in 2002, and made his debut aged 17, playing as a striker.

Al Mutawa went on to play more than 250 games for Qadsia, and reportedly scored more than 150 goals.

During his career with the club, he helped them win eight Kuwait Premier League titles, six Kuwait Emir Cups, and various other domestic trophies.

Qadsia also won the regional GCC Champions League for just the second time in its history in 2005, finishing one point ahead of the UAE’s Al Wasl.

Al Mutawa spent two brief periods on loan during his career with Qadsia. In the 2006-2007 season he reportedly played one league game for Qatar SC in Doha, before returning to Qadsia.

In 2010-11, Al Mutawa was loaned out to Al Nassr — the Riyadh club currently captained by Ronaldo. He scored three goals in nine league appearances for the club, which had a difficult season and finished fifth.

In 2012, Al Mutawa had a brief trial at English club Nottingham Forest. Manager Sean O’Driscoll was reportedly impressed by Al Mutawa during his month of training with the club, and he played in a friendly against West Brom, in which Nottingham Forest News said he “looked lively".

However, issues with work permits prevented the club from signing Al Mutawa, and he returned to Qadsia.

He has played in every season since, including 14 appearances in the current season.

Al Mutawa was nominated for the 2006 and 2010 Asian Footballer of the Year award but lost out on both occasions.

International career

Al Mutawa made his debut for Kuwait in 2003. He scored in his first game and quickly impressed Brazilian coach Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, becoming a regular starter.

He played in the Arabian Gulf Cup that year, which was hosted by Kuwait, and scored in his team’s only victory in the tournament.

The striker led Kuwait to victory in the 2010 Arabian Gulf Cup, finishing as joint top scorer with three goals, including one in the semi-final against Iraq. It was Kuwait’s first Arabian Gulf Cup title since 1998.

The national team has not qualified for the Fifa World Cup during Al Mutawa’s playing career, but he has scored 12 goals in World Cup qualifiers. He also represented Kuwait in qualifiers for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

In total, Al Mutawa has scored 56 goals and is the country’s third top scorer, behind Bashar Abdullah with 76 and Jassem Al Houwaidi with 63.

In 2021, aged 36, he became the most capped international player in the world, overtaking Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan with his 185th appearance.

His achievements were recognised by Fifa and he was granted an award by the head of the Kuwaiti Football Federation.

His most recent appearance for Kuwait was in June in a 3-0 loss against Jordan. This was his 196th appearance — now one less than Ronaldo’s 197.

Other Arab players with record appearances

Arab players are a notable presence in the list of male footballers with the most international appearances.

Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan is currently the fourth most-capped player, with 184 appearances for his country between 1995 and 2012.

One appearance behind him is Oman’s Ahmed Mubarak, who played 183 games between 2003 and 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed Al Deayea has 178 caps for his country, while Jordan’s Amer Shafi has 173 — the same number as Lionel Messi for Argentina.

Qatar’s Hassan Al Haydos (171 appearances) and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al Khilaiwai (163 appearances) are also both in the top 20.

The UAE’s most-capped player is Adnan Al Talyani, with 161 appearances, placing him equal 23rd in the list globally.

Al Talyani played as striker and scored 52 goals for the UAE between 1982 and 1997.

Updated: March 24, 2023, 1:37 PM