Widow of celebrity footballer lives in abject poverty


Okaz/Saudi Gazette

RIYADH — Mabrook Salem Al-Turki, who passed away in the early1980s, was a national hero. The celebrated goalkeeper of Riyadh's Al-Nasr Club had guarded the nets for the national team in many an international match.

Okaz/Saudi Gazette visited his family home in Al-Manfooha district of south Riyadh at the request of the footballer's only son, Sultan, to learn about the family's pathetic conditions.

Al-Turki's wife and children have been living in miserable conditions ever since the star's death in tragic road accident on his way to visit his sick mother in Abha in 1984. He was just 38 years old at the time.

Al-Turki's wife lived in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment with her son Sultan, her widowed daughter and her four orphaned children.

Sultan, who is 33 now, earns a salary of SR3,600 a month while his mother works as a maid at wedding halls and gets a meager sum of SR300 a month.

"My father died when I was two years old. My mother said he was friendly with all the players and many people loved him. Many famous Saudi footballers and officials had attended his funeral, according to my mother," said Sultan.

"My father was with the Saudi players at the training camp when he received a call from his brother telling him that their mother was very sick and was admitted to hospital. He left the camp to visit his mother in Abha but was killed in a road accident," he said.

Prince Faisal Bin Fahad and Prince Abdulrahman Bin Saud helped the family after its sole breadwinner died. They paid the rent for them and even sent them some money regularly. After their death, nobody helped the family, said Sultan.

"We lived a very difficult life. I remember we could not pay the electricity bill and remained in darkness for two months in the summer. We could only pay it after I talked to Hashem Suroor, the former head of the Nasr Players Association who helped us. The association gave us Ramadan purchase coupons worth SR900. Prince Faisal Bin Abdulrahman paid the hospital expenses of an appendectomy on my sister," he said.

Sultan's mother said, "We lived in a small apartment following my husband's death in the accident and Prince Abdulrahman Bin Saud paid the rent for us. After his death, we had to move out because we could not afford to pay the rent. My husband's colleagues visited us occasionally and brought us food. We live today in this place. We are three adults and four children living in two rooms. My son Sultan's salary barely helps us get by," she said.

"I am sure that Turki Al-Asheikh, chairman of the Board of Sports Authority, will stand by us and help us. All we need is a house of our own. We are tired of moving from one place to another because we cannot pay the rent," she said.

Sultan said he tried to meet Prince Faisal Bin Turki, president of Al-Nasr Club, more than once but he could not.

Raja Allah Al-Sulami, the Sports Authority's vice president for information and public relations, said after reports of the family's plight surfaced in the media that the authority's chairman Turki Al-Sheikh issued a directive to provide SR100,000 in assistance to the widow of Mabrook Al-Turki.