Al Otaibi scored six goals at the FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999, half of his international total
He won the adidas Bronze Shoe and adidas Bronze Ball at the tournament
After the 1999 Confederations Cup, Al Otaibi moved to Al Ittihad FC in a record deal at the time
When Marzouk Al Otaibi was called into the Saudi Arabia squad in the summer of 1999, the young attacker had no inkling that he would go on to make history. With six goals that put him on a par with Brazilian star Ronaldinho and Mexican legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Al Otaibi fired his country to the semi-final of the FIFA Confederations Cup Mexico 1999.
The 22-year old had barely taken his first steps in the professional game with Al Shabab when Czech coach Milan Macala selected him for the Saudi squad. Al Otaibi earned his first international cap just two weeks before Mexico 1999 kicked off, and then went on to star in the tournament proper.
After an opening 5-1 loss to hosts Mexico, followed by a goalless draw against Bolivia, Al Otaibi hit form in Saudi Arabia's final group game against Egypt, registering four goals in a thumping 5-1 win that qualified the 1996 AFC Asian Cup-winners for the semi-final.
"Participation in the Confederations Cup was a turning point in my life," Al Otaibi exclusively told FIFA2.cn. "It transformed me from an ordinary footballer to an international who helped push Saudi football forward through two major achievements. I take a lot of pride from that."
Al Otaibi went on: "I wanted to go as far as I could and to achieve something big. My ambition was to stand out at my club, and later to shine for the national team. That motivated me to do my best in Mexico."
To find the net against a great team like Brazil was unthinkable.
Those four goals against the Pharaohs earned Al Otaibi and his teammates a last-four encounter against mighty Brazil. A Seleção had won the Copa America just a few weeks earlier and boasted the likes of superstar Ronaldinho, who scored three goals in three group-stage games, in their ranks.
Al Otaibi vividly remembers the semi-final, which was staged at Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara and ended in a 8-2 win for the South Americans. "We ended up getting heavily beaten, but I scored after the first two Brazilian goals," he said. "When I equalised to make it 2-2, I cannot describe how I felt. To find the net against a great team like Brazil was unthinkable. I was so happy with my second goal I did not know what I was doing. I wanted to run toward the substitutes' bench and do some acrobatics but all I remember is being on the ground, with all my teammates over me crying from joy."
The Saudis did not make it onto the podium then, but Al Otaibi took comfort from winning the adidas Bronze Shoe as the third top goalscorer after Ronaldinho and Blanco and adidas Bronze Ball as the third best player in the tournament, behind the same two men.
Al Otaibi did not go on to make the cut for the Saudi Arabia squad at 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea Japan or Germany 2006 but said: "Every player's dream is to participate at the World Cup, but God made it up to me by helping me with two major achievements at the Confederations Cup: third best player and third best scorer. I became an international, and I am proud of this milestone in Saudi football."
Saudi Arabia's run to the last four at Mexico 1999 marked the nation's last appearance at the Confederations Cup, while Germany 2006 marked the side's last qualification for the global showcase, but Al Otaibi hopes the new generation of Saudi players will change all that, especially as the Green Falcons now top Group B of AFC qualifying for Russia 2018.
"The national team has a good opportunity to get there," said Al Otaibi, who has turned out for for Al Shabab, Al Ittihad, Al Nassr, Al Wehda, and Al Watani as well as Qatar's Al Markhiya in a long career. "Everything is set for the team to make it to Russia. With only three games left, we have great hopes and confidence that we will return to the global stage."