Trinidad and Tobago international Khaleem Hyland is off to join teammates Carlyle Mitchell and Willis plaza on the Asian continent. And yes, it’s another football deal for a local player. Hyland agreed to a two-year deal with Saudia Arabian top flight club Al-Faisaly Harmah with a one year option this week, leaving Belgium club KVC Westerlo.
Hyland joined the European professional ranks in 2008 when he signed with Zulte Waregem from San Juan Jabloteh, later moving to Racing Genk in 2011 where he spent four years, appearing in the UEFA Champions League for the Belgium giants. He joined Westerlo in 2015.
His move to Al Faisaly comes after strong interest from the club and after it was announced recently Saudi Arabia will increase the quota of foreign footballers in its pro league by 50 percent, as part of broader efforts to develop sports in the kingdom.
Six foreigners instead of four will be allowed per team in the Abdul Latif Jameel League, the Saudi Football Federation decided. The ruling applies to the 14-team league from next August when the new season begins.
“I feel good about this move,” Hyland told TTFA Media on Monday.
“It’s a new challenge for me at this stage of my career. I am 28 at the moment and with a lot of football left in me but I felt the time was good and the opportunity came at the right time for me to move on from Belgium where I’ve had a wonderful nine, close to ten years, in my career.”
“My aim is to remain humble and maintain my standards in life and to play to the best of my ability at a high level which I believe will happen in the Kingdom. The League there is getting bigger every season and there is a growth in the number of international players entering the league which I am happy to be part of.
“I played there in 2013 with the National Team and the experience was great. We got a win against the host country in the third placed playoff so there are memorable experiences for me in Saudi Arabia and I am hoping to add to that,” added the former San Juan Jabloteh player.
Al Faisaly currently has two players with Saudi Arabia national team experience, Mohamed Al-Bishi and midfielder Ahmad Abbas, as well as Brazilian Igor Rossi Brancho, a former player with Scottish club Hearts.
Oman national team captain and Reading FC goalkeeper Ali al Habsi is set to join another Saudi club, Al Hilal this month.
Additionally, The English Premier League’s high-profile referee Mark Clattenburg is leaving the league to take up a position in Saudi Arabia, where he will replace Howard Webb, another former Premier League referee, as head of refereeing at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.
Revenue from TV broadcast of the domestic league has helped – in 2014 the regional media conglomerate MBC Group paid about US$1.1 billion for TV rights for 10 years. But reports have indicated that the annual distribution of these funds along with those from league sponsors and game-day ticket sales are not enough to keep clubs financially stable.
With all that is happening in the league, Hyland will be looking to get active as quickly as possible as the club prepares for the the start of the season in August. And T&T’s two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Honduras on September 1st and Panama on September 5th will be high up on Hyland’s agenda.
“Yes it’s important to start well and get down to business here with the club because obviously I want to be in the best possible shape for the two qualifying matches in September. Those games are extremely important for us as I think we have a very good chance to keep our chances alive with two positive result against Honduras and Panama,” Hyland added.
Note: Willis Plaza and Carlyle Mitchell recently signed with Indian I-League club East Bengal.