Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

Diaa Saba: Al Nasr become first Arab club to sign Israeli footballer

Attacking midfielder joins Dubai club on a two-year deal from Guangzhou R&F

Israeli midfielder Diaa Saba poses with a club official after signing with UAE club Al Nasr. AFP
Israeli midfielder Diaa Saba poses with a club official after signing with UAE club Al Nasr. AFP

Arabian Gulf League club Al Nasr have signed Israeli international Diaa Saba, becoming the first Arab club to sign a player from the country.

The move came less than two weeks after the UAE normalised ties with Israel.

Saba, a 28-year-old Israeli Arab attacking midfielder, joins on a two-year contract from Chinese Super League club Guangzhou R&F for a reported fee of €2.5 million (Dh10.6m).

"Al Nasr has completed the procedures with Diaa Saba ... in a contract that extends for two seasons after he successfully passed medical examinations this morning," the Dubai club said.

Al Nasr tweeted footage of Saba wearing the No 9 jersey as well as showing off his skills at the club's Al Maktoum Stadium.

Saba's move comes after the UAE signed an accord to normalise ties with Israel on September 15, the first such deal with a Gulf nation.

The move was followed by the signing of the Abraham Accord, the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab nation since Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.

Saba, who is of Palestinian origin, was born in northern Israel and rose through the ranks of a youth club before moving to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2012.

He played for several Israeli clubs until signing in 2014 with Maccabi Netanya, where he stayed for four years, before moves to Hapoel Be'er Sheva and then China.

Saba has 10 caps for the Israeli national team.

Al Nasr play a friendly against Ajman at home on Wednesday but Saba will not be available for selection as he will fly back to be with his family before re-join the squad next week.

Saba joins Ryan Mendes, the Frenchman who crossed over from Sharjah, Portuguese midfielder Toze and Dutchman Brandley Kuwas as Al Nasr's four overseas players.

The UAE domestic season is slated to begin next month after the Football Association postponed the start of the campaign earlier this month.

The 2019/20 football season was cancelled in June having been suspended since March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Updated: September 28, 2020 09:06 PM

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