The city of Jeddah has always been a hotbed of football activity, and there’s no club that better exemplifies this tradition than Al-Ittihad. During its long and colorful history, Al-Ittihad among many other titles have became the only Asian club to win the AFC Champions League for two years in a row. They have a well-established rivalry with Al-Hilal, and their matches are often seen as showdowns between the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh.
Country: Saudi Arabia
Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium (1970-2013)
King Abdullah Sports City (2014–)
AFC Champions League: 2
Asian Cup Winners' Cup: 1
Saudi Professional League: 8
Kings Cup: 9
Crown Prince Cup: 8
Roberto Donadoni, Bebeto, Jared Borgetti, Saud Kariri, Mohammed Noor, Manuel da Costa
Most games played: Mohammed Noor Gañán (355)
Top goalscorer: Mohammed Noor (124)
With a foundation date of December 26, 1927, the forming of Al-Ittihad preceded the creation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by five years. This makes Al-Ittihad the oldest sports club in the country. The original reason behind the club’s inception was to provide entertainment for all citizens of Jeddah. Therefore, the founders decided that the new club should be named Al-Ittihad (meaning “The Union” in Arabic).
Prior to the arrival of professional football in Saudi Arabia, Al-Ittihad mostly competed in regional tournaments. The only exception was the King’s Cup, which included teams from the entire country. This provided an opportunity to compete against teams such as Al-Hilal, setting up a derby that would soon become known as the “El Clasico.” Al-Ittihad was reasonably successful in the King’s Cup, claiming 5 titles in the period from 1958 to 1967.
A leap to prominence
Following the formation of the Saudi Professional League in 1976, Al-Ittihad was one of 16 teams to take part in the inaugural season. They won their first title in 1982, triumphing over Al-Shabab 1-0 in the playoff finals. This turned out to be their only taste of silverware during the first two decades in the league, though they did finish as runners-up on two occasions.
Around the turn of the century, however, Al-Ittihad quickly established itself as the best team in the country. From 1997 to 2003, they claimed five league titles, including three consecutive trophies from 1999 to 2001. During this period, the team included star players such as Bebeto, Ahmad Jamil, and Hamzah Idris. By the end of the decade, they won two additional league titles in 2007 and 2009, confirming a great run of form.
Despite their domestic successes, the club’s greatest accomplishment during this era was winning two straight AFC Champions League titles in 2004 and 2005. The first title was particularly memorable, as Al-Ittihad managed to overturn a 1-3 deficit and defeat Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma 5-0 in the second leg of the final match to claim the title. The following year, they strolled to the second trophy by defeating their opponents 8-3, 7-0, and 5-3 on aggregate.
Following these achievements, Al-Ittihad came very close to signing Luis Figo, but their bid ended in failure. This was just the first of many disappointments for the club’s fans, as Al-Ittihad failed to win any major trophies in the following years. The ‘10s were a particularly unproductive decade, since the club slowly regressed towards the mid-table in the Saudi Professional League. However, they did win the King’s Cup in 2013 and 2018.
By Martin Wahl
The logo is in the form of a number one figure and inside that is the crest visible together with the text "1ttihad club" and the year of establishment. The yellow and black colors are also used as home colors for the kit.
Football clubs also founded in 1927