The AFC Asian Cup has been graced by several household names.
This includes South Korea’s Premier League talisman Son Heung-min and dominant Serie A champion Kim Min-jae, as well as Saudi Arabia’s man for the big moments Salem Al-Dawsari. Iran’s Mehdi Taremi has long made his mark as a regular UEFA Champions League scorer, and a succession of elite performers can be found amid Japan’s stellar ranks.
A thrill of tournament football, however, is witnessing less-heralded stars turn supernova. Jordan’s ascendant Mousa Al-Taamari enjoyed such a breakthrough international moment on Monday night.
The 26-year-old was virtually unplayable in his nation’s commanding 4-0 slaying of fancied Malaysia, commencing in Group E with a brace which included a deft lob. This followed on from a magnificent debut campaign at Ligue 1’s Montpellier.
His name had been only a whisper when compared to the aforementioned standout players during the buildup to the ongoing competition in Qatar.
Al-Taamari is, understandably, a victim of Jordan’s standing as an also-ran. The country has failed to make a World Cup and never progressed beyond the Asian Cup’s quarterfinals.
But the patient and unique career arch he has chosen in European football has also unfairly moved him out of the limelight shone on more celebrated peers.
It is the blossoming wide man’s performances in the club games which highlights the growing depth in the continent’s talent pool. And act as a golden example to his contemporaries in the region about the compounding value of expanded horizons.
Al-Taamari was a constant threat from the right wing at Al-Janoub Stadium, utilizing searing pace and a devilish left foot to defeat a Malaysian team strengthened by their core taken from Asia heavyweights Johor Darul Ta’zim.
His poise in the 18th minute doubled Jordan’s lead, via the penalty spot. The best was then saved for last as he raced onto substitute Anas Al-Awadat’s long ball and cutely chipped over the head of stranded goalkeeper Syihan Hazmi.
“We performed exceptionally well, and our aim is to maintain this level of play in the upcoming two games,” said the Montpellier forward, according to www.the-afc.com. “Our approach is to take each game as it comes and the victory against Malaysia was a fantastic start, earning us three crucial points.
“It’s essential to acknowledge the hard work and deliverance of an excellent performance in every match. The win tonight has instilled a sense of pride in us and provided a significant morale boost as we gear up to face Korea Republic. We are focused on thorough preparation and motivated for the challenges in our next match.
“The positive momentum from this victory will undoubtedly drive us to perform at our best.”
Al-Taamari debuted for Jordan as a teenager after a handful of appearances for boyhood outfit Shabab Al-Ordon. Exposure to continental competition came on loan at local giants Al-Jazeera.
His next step was expected to feature the familiar — and lucrative — environs of either Saudi Arabia’s Roshn Saudi League, the UAE’s ADNOC Pro League or Qatar’s Expo Stars League. Such switches were previously made by compatriots Baha’ Abdel-Rahman, Yaseen Al-Bakhit and Mohammad Al-Dmeiri.
Cyprus beckoned instead before his 21st birthday for a groundbreaking berth at perennial champions APOEL.
His mesmerizing 2018/2019 opening witnessed a Cypriot First Division title won, as most-valued player. It also forged a now-ubiquitous moniker of “Jordanian Salah” amid tentative links to Liverpool, the home of the extravagantly talented left-footed right winger from Egypt.
A historic switch to a “Big Five” league seemed imminent. But the years 2020 to 2023 were spent at Belgium’s OH Leuven where his devastating skillset received further embellishment.
Patience and dedication were rewarded last summer with Al-Taamari’s free transfer to Montpellier. He has been nothing short of a revelation since.
In August a double against Lyon earned a spot in Ligue 1’s venerated Team of the Week. In total, three goals and one assist have flowed from his 16 games in France’s topflight.
Al-Taamari is an exceptional talent but such rarefied performers are not unknown in the Middle East.
Preceding Asian Cups have been lit up by the likes of ex-AFC Players of the Year Ahmed Khalil and Omar Abdulrahman, both from the UAE. Others are Saudi Arabia’s Al-Dawsari (at Villarreal), Qatar’s deadly duo of Akram Afif (Villarreal, Sporting Gijon and Eupen) and Almoez Ali (LASK, Cultural Leonesa). They have all enjoyed brief spells in Europe.
What sets Al-Taamari apart is the decision to take his talents to football’s traditional heartland for the long term.
Such transfers have been made by several South Korean and Japanese internationals throughout the 21st century. Subsequent strength in numbers for their national sides has made them outstanding favorites for the ongoing AFC Asian Cup.
It feels like a next step for Roberto Mancini’s forward-thinking Saudi Arabia, and for Qatar, if both countries are to compete on a level standing with the Far East’s superpowers.
Jordan’s winless start to World Cup 2026 qualifying hints that their stint in Qatar for the Asian Cup will not extend deep into the knockouts. Their Group E commitments round off against South Korea and Bahrain, ahead of a likely round-of-16 elimination.
It is externally where Al-Taamari has patiently embraced the opportunity for betterment. Maintain the excellence of his early Montpellier displays and another, more prestigious step on the ladder may follow next summer.
There is much to learn from, and much to enjoy, about this singular approach. Al-Taamari deserves to be proclaimed as Middle East football’s new poster boy.