Get to know: Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi
We know he’s the latest goalkeeper to don a Philadelphia Union uniform.
We know he’s a veteran of two FIFA World Cups.
We know he has some unique facial expressions.
But who is Rais Mbolhi exactly? We at philadelphiaunion.com dug a little deeper to explain a man that given his resume in world soccer needs little explanation.
If you want to look at some of his past work, check out his FIFA page.
1. World Cup veteran…twice.
Mbolhi, 28, led his native Algeria to a pair of World Cups in 2010 and 2014 respectively. In this latest installment, he helped the Algerians get out of the group stage where it took eventual champions Germany into extra time. Mbolhi had a spectacular tournament highlighted by this fan video of his exploits in Brazil.
We watched it twice it was so good.
It’s fitting that Mbolhi led Algeria on soccer’s biggest stage, because…
2. The name “Rais” means “leader” in Arabic.
That’s right, according to Behind the Name, a popular website that lists the meaning of names, the name Rais means “leader” and/or “chief” in Arabic. Mbolhi we aren’t sure, but we know it was a name given to him by his Congolese father and his Algerian mother, the latter of whom is Muslim.
3. He was an absolute beast in the game against Germany.
We aren’t looking at one exploit, but it would be a sin to not mention that Mbolhi stood on his head against the Germans to the tune of 11 saves. SI.com referred to him after that effort as the "formally underrated goalkeeper" as he kept Algeria scratching at the door of German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. It was unfortunate that on the scoreboard, Neuer would get the last laugh.
But FIFA took notice that in this one Algeria’s goalkeeper was no slouch.
— Budweiser UK (@BudweiserUK) July 1, 2014
4. Nearly a Red Devil
According to a June report in London’s “The Daily Mail” newspaper, world soccer giant Manchester United passed up on the chance to snag Mbolhi in 2011, less than a year removed from a performance in the South Africa’s 2010 FIFA World Cup. According to the report, Mbolhi was invited to Carrington, Man United’s legendary training facility for a week-long trial. It was around the time the club was feverishly searching for a bona fide shot stopper to replace bona fide former Red Devils’ shot-stopper Edwin Van Der Sar. However after the week, then manager-in-charge Sir Alex Ferguson and goalkeeper coach Eric Steele passed.
5. Soccer is a religion.
You’ve heard that phrase numerous times, but this is about one of those rare times when religion trumped sport. With Ramadan squarely nestled during the World Cup, fasting until sundown was in effect. Needing nutrients during an intense tournament however, it was reported that he kept snacks next to his goal area during the Germany match andwent to it at halftime, which was right at sunset.
Random we know, but it does show devotion, which is admirable.
6. Hearts on fire
We could explain in great detail, but you’d have to check this article from London's "Daily Record" to get the full scope of how ridiculous this story is. To paraphrase, this is quite possibly one of the first instances a club manager can’t remember one of his former players (in this case, Mbolhi) ever being on his club. Mbolhi had a brief stint with Scottish side Heart of Midlothian better known as Hearts in 2006, and although he never made an SPL appearance, he was in Hearts' pool of goalkeepers.
Fast forward eight years and he's a World Cup veteran, a FIFA man of the match and now, a member of the Philadelphia Union.
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org