Osaka: Former AFC Young Player of the Year Yoshito Okubo will retire at the end of the season, his J-League club Cerezo Osaka announced on Friday.
The 39-year-old returned to Cerezo, his first professional club, at the beginning of the current season and featured in this year’s AFC Champions League as Osaka reached the Round of 16.
His decision will bring to an end a career that has seen Okubo finish as the J-League’s leading scorer on three consecutive seasons and also play in Spain and Germany as well as earn 60 caps for Japan.
Al Jaber expects a stern Pohang test for Al Hilal, reflects on glory days
Riyadh: As Al Hilal SFC prepare for an AFC Champions League final against Pohang Steelers that would bestow upon the winner the undisputed title of Asia’s most successful club, a man who was central to the Saudi club’s finest era of success around the turn of the millennium remembers some of those moments of continental glory.
Very few names in Asian football are as synonymous with their clubs as Sami Al Jaber is with Al Hilal. A one-club man in his country and widely considered one of the greatest Saudi players of all time, Al Jaber has remained a fan favourite as he transitioned from rising starlet in the mid-1990s, to the nation’s bonafide talisman in the early 2000s to head coach and club president in the 2010s.
Fresh from helping Saudi Arabia to their third AFC Asian Cup title in the UAE in 1996, Al Jaber announced himself on the Asian club scene with a series of impressive performances including scoring the opener in the final as Al Hilal defeated Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight 3-1 to win the 1996-97 Asian Cup Winners Cup, setting up an Asian Super Cup clash with that year’s Asian Club Championship winners Pohang Steelers.
Ristić: It was an amazing feeling to be the best on the continent with Pohang Steelers in 2009
Kuala Lumpur: When Pohang Steelers take to the pitch against Al Hilal SFC in the 2021 AFC Champions League final in Riyadh on Tuesday, it will bring memories flooding back of the last time they reached the showpiece event, in 2009, when they defeated another Saudi Arabian side, Al Ittihad, to be crowned kings of Asia.
The ‘Class of 2009’, among them Macedonian Stevica Ristić, wrote their names into Asian footballing history as the Korean side became the first team to win the continent’s biggest club prize on three occasions.
Ristić, now 39, played a huge role in that success, scoring an extra-time winner in the quarter-final against Uzbekistan’s Bunyodkor and another goal in the semi-final victory over Qatar’s Umm Salal. In just 18 months with Pohang, he won the FA Cup, League Cup and AFC Champions League title.
Twelve years on, the-AFC.com caught up with Ristić to discuss that memorable 2009 campaign, the current Pohang side's chances, his views on former teammate Kim Gi-dong (now the head coach) and much more.
2021 AFC Champions League - Al Hilal SFC: Road to the Final
Riyadh: Al Hilal SFC’s road to the 2021 AFC Champions League final was not an easy ride by any means, but they persevered to reach their fourth final in the last eight editions.
Facing Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers, this will be their 11th final in AFC competitions, and their fourth in the AFC Champions League era as they look to wrestle the bragging rights to a record fourth Asian title.
2021 AFC Champions League - Pohang Steelers: Road to the Final
Kuala Lumpur: Three-time Asian champions Pohang Steelers will return to the AFC Champions League final 12 years after last appearing in the showpiece event when they take on Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal SFC at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium on Tuesday.
The eagerly awaited contest will see Pohang taking part in the continent’s biggest club game for the first time since they were crowned champions after beating another Saudi Arabian powerhouse, Al Ittihad, back in 2009.
In what has been a disappointing campaign domestically, the K League 1 side have saved their best for the 2021 AFC Champions League as they surprised many by reaching the grand finale. The-AFC.com relives their journey to Riyadh.
2021 AFC Champions League Final - The Venue: King Fahd International Stadium
Riyadh: One of Asia’s most iconic stadiums, the King Fahd International Stadium, is set to host the spectacle of the 2021 AFC Champions League final on Tuesday.
Facing Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers, home side Al Hilal SFC will be contesting their eighth continental final at the stadium across all AFC competitions, while the Koreans have also played at King Fahd International Stadium, losing to the same opponents in the 1997 Asian Super Cup first leg with Sami Al Jaber scoring the only goal of the game back then.
Pohang Steelers: A glorious Asian history revisited
Kuala Lumpur: When Pohang Steelers meet Al Hilal SFC in the 2021 AFC Champions League Final in Riyadh on Tuesday, the game will see the sides battle it out to win Asia’s biggest club competition for an unprecedented fourth time.
For Pohang Steelers, it marks a return to the continent’s most prestigious club game for the first time since winning the 2009 AFC Champions League as the current edition has brought back memories of glorious years gone by.
While Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Ulsan Hyundai have achieved notable success on the continent over the past decade, no Korean team can match the triumphs of Pohang, who also claimed back-to-back Asian Club Championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Ahead of the 2021 showpiece event, the-AFC.com looks back at their proud history.
Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal SFC will be dreaming of becoming the only club in Asia to win a fourth premier Asian title when they take on Korea Republic’s Pohang Steelers - who hold the same ambition - in the 2021 AFC Champions League final on Tuesday.
Over the course of their history, Al Hilal have established themselves as the joint most successful club in the competition, with their record of two Asian Club Championship and one AFC Champions League victories only matched by their Tuesday opponents. The-AFC.com takes a trip down memory lane to revisit all three of Al Hilal’s triumphs.
Five Classic Saudi Arabia-Korea Republic AFC Champions League clashes
Riyadh: Tuesday’s 2021 AFC Champions League final between Al Hilal SFC and Pohang Steelers revives a long history of thrilling continental footballing battles between clubs from Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic.
While Al Hilal and Pohang Steelers are the two most successful club sides with two Asian Club Championship titles to add to their AFC Champions League triumphs in 2019 and 2009 respectively, their countries also hold the record for most appearances in the final of the competition, with Korean sides making 18 appearances and their Saudi counterparts following closely with 14.
The-AFC.com looks at five of the most exciting AFC Champions League encounters between clubs from the two countries.