Saudi Arabia’s football story

By : R C Pandey

Ashraf Ali Bastavi

Image result for fahad al-muwallad
Fahad Al-Muwallad

Fahad Al-Muwallad made historylast monthwhen he became the first player from Saudi Arabia to play in La Liga, one of the best and most popular football leagues in the world.It came as a moment to celebrate after Saudi Arabia’s entry into the FIFA world cup this year.

Saudi Arabia qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 2006 with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Japan in November, 2017. Hopes of ardent football fans in Saudi Arabia knew no limits. Saudi’s tragic defeat in the first game has not discouraged fans from supporting them whole heartedly.

As part of Group A, Saudi Arabia is yet to battle Egypt and Uruguay. As far as the numbers go, Saudi Arabia is the easiest team to play against in the tournament. However, if the Green Falcons can win against their South American and African contenders, they have a bright chance of making theiropponents bite dust. In doing groundwork for the 2018 FIFA world cup, various Saudi Arabianplayers have gained instrumental experience by being loaned out to play for various prominent clubs in Spanish league, La Liga which is likely to help them perform better.

As one of the most popular sports in Saudi Arabia, Football attracts the most number of attendances of over 50,000 for top club and international games. The Falcons have in the past contended in various competitions globally, like the AFC Asian Nations Cup, the Gulf Cup of Nations, and the Arab Nations Cup.

Football has given opportunities to emerging talent in Saudi Arabia. One of the examples of this is of Majed Abdullah also known as the ‘The Desert Pelé.’ Highly celebrated by fans, not only in Saudi Arabia, but across the Gulf, he spent the whole of his club career at Al Nassr in Riyadh which he currently manages.

 

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The team’s best performance in the FIFA World Cup was on its debut in 1994 when it qualified for the first knockout stage. Since then, the team has been ranked among the top thirty teams of the world.

The Falcons have a strong record in the Asian Cup, winning at its first attempt in 1984, and retaining the trophy in 1988. They won the tournament again in 1996, and finished as runners-up in 1992, 2000, and 2007.

Saudi Arabia has promoted the culture of sports among the Saudi youth to encourage them to play more and more not just represent the country globally but also maintain a balanced and a healthy life style.

The much talked about Vision 2030 document— an ambitious plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy— also intends to encourage widespread and regular participation in sports and athletic activities.

They have partnered with the private sector to establish additional dedicated facilities and programs. The efforts of the leadership in the Kingdom has culminated in the team qualifying for the world cup this year.

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Saudi Arabia’s return to the World Cup is not a result of sheer luck. It was done through unyieldinghard-work and also the support of the Kingdom’s leadership. In comparison to other teams, the Falcons may t lack the popular and recognized names, however, it has thriven by playing as a one team where the sumis greater than the parts. Their way of playing as a team exemplifies old fashion but effective collaboration where training and tenacity still counts.

It was an exhilarating moment for the 65,000 spectators at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah who watchedtheSaudi Footballteam qualify to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Their joy would be priceless if the team manages to make it to the finals and steal victory from its opponents!

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