Football enthusiasm in Saudi Arabia

When I took up my new role in a Saudi-American joint venture in Al-Jubail in 2019, it quickly made the rounds that a German joined as an executive.

What was so unusual about that? “Well”, said one of my new employees, “we’re still embarrassed. Back then, the heavy defeat at the 2002 World Cup in Korea.”

I had to smile. That was the first answer? A bit of fun, small talk and introductory words about football. Germany and its Bundesliga were known and appreciated here. Even more exciting, I found the fact that a real football culture had actually grown in Saudi Arabia.

Some facts.

  • Saudi Arabia has qualified for a World Cup for the sixth time since 1994. Once they have also reached the round of sixteen.
  • The record winner of the Asian Champions League and current defending champion in the 2022/23 season is the Saudi Arabian club al-Hilal with four title wins.
  • Since 2021, there is also a women’s national football team of Saudi Arabia, with Monika Staab from Germany as coach.

There is now a lot of discussion in the media about the awarding of the World Cup to Qatar and about FIFA’s questionable and undignified awarding process.

But shouldn’t we also ask the question of whether the Arab region really deserves a World Cup?

My opinion – not an answer –, important for a global world: Always look at the matter from two sides, and be tolerant for ambiguities. The ability to change perspectives.

A few days ago, I received a message from a former employee from Al-Jubail. He was lucky in the raffle of a ticket and can watch a game live in Qatar: Germany against Costa Rica. I’m already a bit jealous.

And what do you think about it? Is this a World Cup like any other or rather not?

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