Khalil Ibrahim Al-Zayani
|Full name||Khalil Ibrahim Rashid Al-Zayani|
|Date of birth||May 21, 1947|
|Place of birth||Dammam, Saudi Arabia|
|Height||1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Playing position||Inside forward/Left winger|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of January 1, 2011.
Al-Zayani led the Saudi Arabia national football team to victory over China in the final of the Asian Cup in 1984. He also helped the squad qualify for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California of the same year.
Al-Zayani is recognised as the father of coaching in Saudi Arabia after emerging as the first great tactician in the Kingdom. He was one of the “2010 AFC Coach of the Year” award winners in the AFC ceremony held in Kuala Lumpur on November 23, 2010.
Zayani’s rise as a coach was a natural progression given the success he had as a player. He played for Al-Ittifaq club from 1962 to 1972, captaining the side in 1965 when they won the Crown Prince Cup.
He was also part of the team who won the 1968 King Cup.
His coaching career started soon after he retired as a player, as an assistant for the Al-Ittifaq first team. In 1976, he was promoted to head coach.
That particular tenure lasted two years but he had several stints with the club, winning the Saudi League in 1982 and 1987 and the Gulf Club competition in 1983 and 1988, the same year they won the Arab Champions League.
In between he was successful as Saudi Arabia coach, a mission he first started in March, 1984. That was when he was called up by his national federation and asked to travel to Muscat, Oman to replace Mario Zagalo, coach of the Brazil World Cup-winning team of 1970 that featured Pele.
Zagalo was let go after a 4-0 defeat to Iraq as the Saudis collected only one win from their first three matches.
In 1984, he also took Saudi Arabia to the Olympic Games finals in Los Angeles, which was considered a significant achievement at the time, but his sights were firmly fixed on the AFC Asian Cup scheduled for December that year.
Zayani called up several younger players, including 19-year-old Mohaisen Al-Jam'an, who would go on to score twice in the final.
Asian Cup success
Al-Zayani’s decision to go with youth paid off with the Saudis defeating China 2-0 in the final for their first-ever AFC Asian Cup title.
Al-Zayani said about the tournament:
“That was our first ever title, and everyone was happy to get such a magnificent continental success.. “The psychological side of football is very important and this should work hand-in-hand with the tactical side. “The Asian Cup in Singapore had always special meaning, not only for me but for all the people involved in Saudi football at the time. “It was the start of a great era for us and we became one of the strongest sides in Asia in the following years.”
In 2002, after a long career as a coach, Zayani decided to move from the bench to behind-the-desk role, as vice-president of Al-Ittifaq. He is also an occasional television pundit.