A dream for Saudi Arabian football

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I am a 90s kid, an Indian expatriate girl born and raised in Saudi Arabia. And like most kids who grew up in Saudi Arabia during the 90s, my life revolved around simple and genuine pleasures including football, which was a crucial part of childhood back then. It was a time before the media engulfed us with countless options to choose from and devalued entertainment. As a young child, I enjoyed the cartoon show Captain Majid, collected stickers and cut out newspaper articles and pictures to make a FIFA scrapbook. Such was the minimalism we took pleasure in.

But then life happens. Time changes. You grow up, go to university, get a job, get married and have kids. All the while childhood passions, dreams and hopes start to fade only to be replaced by a new bucket list.

Or so I thought.

Recently, as I went about my routine and checked the news headlines on my phone, I was stunned. Something inside me had stopped. I read and re-read. A wave of sheer, unadulterated joy and excitement overwhelmed me. The headline read: “Saudi Arabia beats Japan, qualifies for 2018 World Cup”. By the time I read the entire article, my mind was reeling with memories of my childhood passion, the whole-hearted celebrations at home every time Saudi Arabia won a match and the countless nights I cried myself to sleep when my beloved Saudi team had lost a match. This was nearly 12 years ago, but it all came flooding back to me as if it were only yesterday. It was at that moment that I realized how much the Saudi team still meant to me.

My first encounter with the game occurred during the FIFA World Cup USA 1994. What a year that had been! As a little girl, I was smitten with the game. That summer vacation my siblings and I played football endlessly. My brother would bribe my sister and me with ice cream to get us to join him for a game of football in our backyard.

I vividly remember watching my very first match. It was during the early hours of June 20, 1994 when Saudi Arabia played its maiden World Cup game against the Netherlands. Even though the Saudis lost the match, it was a spectacular launch for them since they were the first to score and nearly drew the match with the Dutch had it not been for a late goal by Taument. Any beginner’s luck theory that followed was quickly put to rest during the subsequent matches. Saudi Arabia had arrived at the football scene and how!

The second match was against Morocco. As my family and friends gathered in the living room for the match, the Saudi team displayed an incredible show of talent. Sami Al-Jaber’s penalty and Fouad Anwar’s second goal of the tournament made the Green Falcons victorious.

Saudi Arabia won against Belgium next. Saeed Al-Oweiran’s legendary goal where he swept past a barricade of defenders to score the lone goal of the game was met by a deafening celebration at home.

Such was the golden era of Saudi football that I have lived to see. A time I recall dearly. It was a time when I learnt lessons of success, failure, the importance of never giving up and pursuing your goals relentlessly.

Thereafter, Saudi Arabia enjoyed varying degrees of success at the world stage and each time, we the Saudi football fans, have stood by our beloved team with pride and honor, through thick and thin.

The other day, as I watched my toddler sleep, I realized that childhood dreams and hopes never quite die for these dreams are real and unselfish. This is my childhood dream for Saudi Arabia: To be FIFA World Champions. A dream I pray becomes a reality in the upcoming World Cup.

Fatima Rafat Qadri


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