Roberto Mancini, the coach of the Saudi national team, ended the controversy surrounding his choices for the Green team in the Asian Cup, when he stressed that those who excluded them were due to their desire and not his technical opinion.
In the initial list, the Italian coach excluded former captain Salman Al-Faraj and Sultan Al-Ghannam, then he surprised everyone and excluded goalkeeper Nawaf Al-Aqidi a few hours before the start of the Asian Cup.
In the press conference for the Oman match, Mancini was asked about the reasons for his various exclusions, and he replied, “It was not me who decided not to include them. They were the ones who did not want to play for the Saudi national team.”
He also added, “Al-Faraj said in the first camp that he did not want to play friendly matches, and Al-Ghannam told me that he was not happy to play with the national team.”
He continued, “As for Al-Aqidi, he told the goalkeeping coach that if he does not play the starting role, he does not want to be with the national team.”
Mancini continued his biggest surprise, “I spoke to Al-Ghanam and Al-Aqidi two or three times and asked them about representing the national team, and they said clearly, No. I do not want to talk about that again.”
He added, “You represent your country here. This is your country’s national team, not a social club. The doctrinal situation is strange and I face it for the first time in my career.”
It remains to be noted that Mancini also said that the trio Khaled Al-Ghanem, Mohamed Maran and Ali Hazazi informed him of their unhappiness in the Green camp and therefore they were excluded.
Regarding this, he commented, “This is not a big problem for us, and in fact I cannot find an explanation for why some young players refuse to represent the national team.”
He concluded, “The Saudi national team is bigger than any player, and whoever does not want to be there will leave immediately and will not be called up again, because I want players who fight for the national team and not for their personal interests.