Globally speaking, Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club may be synonymous with Saudi Arabian football. They’re the most decorated club in the country, having won numerous Professional League titles and 3 Asian Champions League trophies. They’re also famous for being the first Saudi Arabian club to feature star international players, a practice that began in the ‘70s. The club shares a long-standing rivalry with Al-Ittihad, and their matches are known as the “El Clasico.”
Country: Saudi Arabia
King Saud University Stadium (2015–)
AFC Champions League: 3
Asian Cup Winners' Cup: 2
Saudi Professional League: 15
Kings Cup: 8
Crown Prince Cup: 13
Most games played: Alexander Escobar Gañán (505)
Top goalscorer: Antony de Ávila (202)
Foundation and early history
The history of Al Hilal begins in 1957, when it was founded by Abdul Rahman Bin Saad Bin Saeed. The club’s original name was Olympic Club, but it was changed to Al Hilal the very next year. This change came to pass at the insistence of King of Saudi Arabia Bin Abdul-Aziz, who attended one of the first tournaments the club had played in. This meant that Al Hilal enjoyed the support of both the common people and royalty from its infancy.
In its early days, the club didn’t get many chances to play football at a nationwide level. The only major domestic competition in Saudi Arabia at the time was the King’s Cup, an annual tournament held in Jeddah. Al Hilal won its first King’s Cup title in 1964, defeating its soon-to-be arch-rivals Al-Ittihad via a penalty shootout in the final match.
By 1976, Saudi Arabian football had advanced far enough to warrant the formation of the Saudi Professional League. Al-Hilal won the Professional League for the first time in 1977, firmly establishing itself as one of the best clubs in the country. Their reputation saw them acquire big-name players and coaches, such as Brazilians Roberto Rivellino and Mario Zagallo. Led by this deadly duo, Al Hilal claimed its second Professional League title in 1979.
The ‘80s were a fruitful period for the club, as they won four more league titles. The following decade saw them fall off a bit, though they still managed to claim two titles just before Al-Ittihad went on a dominant streak. The ‘90s also saw Al-Hilal win its first continental title, claiming the Asian Club Championship (later known as the AFC Champions League) in 1991. They repeated this success in 2000.
From 2000 onwards, the Professional League stopped being a two-team race, giving rise to multiple notable title contenders. However, Al-Hilal remained the best club in the country. During the following two decades, they claimed an additional 7 league titles, with no other club winning more than three. This period also saw Al-Hilal develop a fierce neighboring rivalry with Al-Nassr, with both clubs being based in Riyadh.
In 2019, Al-Hilal made history by becoming only the second club (after Pohang Steelers) to claim a third AFC Champions League title. They previously came close in 2014 and 2017, losing the finals to Western Sydney Wanderers and Urawa Red Diamonds. In 2019, Al-Hilal prevailed over domestic rivals Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad before defeating Al-Saad with an aggregate score of 6-5. They went on to get revenge over Urawa, winning the two-match final 3-0.
By Martin Wahl
The crest is in blue and silver colors and are characterized by a football close to a sickle of the moon. Also visible is the text of the club’s name in the upper part of badge and the year of establishment in the bottom.