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Muslims & World Cup: 10 Facts You Should Know

Kicking off on November 20, the 2022 FIFA World Cup will witness six Muslim nations taking part this year in the world’s greatest sports event.

These countries are Qatar, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Here are ten facts about Muslim participation in the world’s greatest sports spectacle, as gathered by My Salaam.

Muslims & World Cup: 10 Facts You Should Know - About Islam

1- Egypt is the first Muslim country to take part in a World Cup after it qualified in 1934 for the second-ever competition in Italy. In those days, the World Cup was played on a straight knockout basis. Egypt faced Hungary and was beaten 4-2.

2- Indonesia is the largest Muslim country (by population) ever to play in the World Cup, participating in 1938 World Cup in France under its then colonial name, the Dutch East Indies.

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3- 15 Muslim nations have taken part so far in 15 of the 21 World Cups to date. They are, in order of appearance: Egypt, Indonesia (Dutch East Indies), Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Iran, Algeria, Kuwait, Iraq, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

4- The first goal scored by a Muslim in a World Cup was when Egypt’s Abdulrahman Fawzi scored twice in the defeat to Hungary in 1934.

5- The first time a Muslim country won a game was in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, when Turkey beat South Korea 7-0. The result is also the biggest victory by a Muslim country in any World Cup matches.

6- The most controversial game in World Cup history is known as the “Disgrace of Gijon” – a match played at the 1982 games in Spain between West Germany and Austria which resulted in the elimination of a Muslim country, Algeria.

Muslims & World Cup: 10 Facts You Should Know - About Islam

7- The first time a Muslim team went beyond the first round was in 1986 when Morocco topped their group in Mexico. They went on to lose 0-1 to West Germany in the next round.

8- The greatest goal scored by a Muslim in the World Cup was Saeed al Owairan’s solo effort for Saudi Arabia when they beat Belgium 1-0 in the United States in 1994.

Owairan famously picked up the ball in the Saudi half and dribbled 70 yards past four Belgian defenders before getting it past the helpless Preud’homme. The goal was described by The New York Times as a “solo goal whose artistry was worthy of Pele”.

9- The best-ever performance by a Muslim nation at a World Cup was Turkey’s in 2002 when they finished third behind only Brazil and Germany in South Korea and Japan. It was also the first time Muslim players featured in the official World Cup “All-Star” team, with three Turkish players selected for the honor.

10- Among the greatest Muslim players in the World Cup history is French Muslim player Paul Pogba who was declared the World’s Best Young Player in Brazil 2014.