'They came, they saw, they conquered': fans in Saudi Arabia celebrate national holiday

Delight as Green Falcons turn the World Cup order on its head with famous victory over Argentina

A Saudi football fan waves their country's flag from the window of a car in Riyadh while celebrating after the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group C football match between Argentina and Saudi Arabia on November 22, 2022.  (Photo by AFP)
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People across Saudi Arabia are celebrating a holiday after the national football team won their first World Cup match against Argentina on Tuesday and they say the victory will live long in their memories.

“Yesterday’s historic victory was thrilling to watch and will be etched in my memory for forever,” said Sami Fakih, a sports enthusiast in Jeddah.

“I believe that it is a turning point for Saudi Arabia's sporting future and will inspire an entire generation of young footballers.”

Saudi Arabia’s win is the first by an Arab or Asian nation against Argentina.

“The pulse of change is palpable — Saudis are making and breaking world records. Our win is the first by any Arab nation to beat the two-time world champions. It's an incredibly proud moment for football and fans,” said Tareq Zaman, a businessman in Jeddah.

“Mohammed Al Owais [Saudi goalkeeper] is the champion. His saves literally saved the game. So many rumours that so many clubs want him, and I’m so proud of him and the team — that we can show the world what Saudi is made of,” Mr Zaman said.

Private and public sector employees chose to celebrate the win with family and friends, cruising the streets, playing national songs and taking advantage of special discounts offered by brands in celebration of the victory.

“So many brands have sales in honour of the victory,” Mr Zaman said. “Restaurants, retailers and even cinemas. The streets are going to be packed all day. I booked a movie, and you can see the cinemas are full, but the great thing is they have great offers and it's just making everyone happy knowing we are celebrating this win together as a community and country.”

Saudi football fans on social media said they felt “the odds were against” the national team and expressed solidarity for Yasser Al Shahrani, who suffered a fractured jaw and injuries when he collided with Al Owais.

“I am proud, the team displayed bravery they gave it their best. I was extremely happy with the victory, may Saudi Arabia always be victorious,” said Anouf Ahmed, a graphic designer in Riyadh.

“I am heartbroken for Yasser Al Shahrani, and I feel the referee was biased but you know what, our coach is amazing and his strategies worked in favour of us,” Ms Ahmed said.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman celebrates win of Saudi national football team. Photo: @
hrhpsauds / Instagram

“It’s all about the mindset and Saudis have a winning mindset right now. The youth is charged, mirroring our leadership Crown Prince Mohammed and it’s showing in everything we do.

“Everyone was scared of [Argentina captain Lionel] Messi beating us, but now we know it’s all in the mind, the Saudi Falcons came, they saw, they conquered and were victorious,” said Abdullah Dowsari, a football fan in Jeddah.

“We are the dreamers, like Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said, and we believed it, so we achieved it,” said Afnan Batoul, a university student in Jeddah.

Schools across the kingdom streamed the match live for students and staff members on Tuesday. Government officials and several private company employees were given the half-day off to watch the game.

“The match victory was that moment that had the power to bring us Saudis together in a historic way that was beyond special. We believed in green and the green proved us right,” said Fouad Fadhil, a Saudi student in Jeddah.

“Beating Messi — the world couldn’t have imagined. We didn’t get lucky, the Saudi team deserve it. We have a national holiday in honour of the great players who fought not an ordinary but one of the best teams in the world,” said Khaled Albadr, a Saudi football fan in Riyadh.

“Thirty-five million people watched the game, all in support of their country, the team knows we are watching and supporting them,” he said.

Updated: November 24, 2022, 10:05 PM