Arab fans in UAE turn out to cheer Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener

(L) Muhammad Qubbaj, a British/Jordanian expatriate, and (R) Sami Issa, a Palestinian/American, watch as the 2018 Fifa World Cup got under way on Thursday at Emirates Palace. (AN PHOTO)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Arab fans in UAE turn out to cheer Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener

  • Record participation of four teams from this part of the world ‘makes you very proud to be Arab,’ one says
  • Emirates Palace turns its Ramadan tent into football venue

Arabs in the UAE turned out on Thursday night to cheer on Saudi Arabia in their  World Cup game against Russia following an opening ceremony at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

“I have come here tonight because Saudi Arabia is playing and it is the World Cup opening match,” said 46-year-old Muhammad Qubbaj, as the first minutes of the match unfolded on the giant 7-by-4-meter LED screens at Abu Dhabi’s iconic Emirates Palace. The hotel transformed its Ramadan tent into a World Cup venue to host football fans across the emirate. “I am rooting for Saudi, but right now I am unsure who will win.”

The British/Jordanian expatriate, who works in private equity in the UAE, said he was “very excited” that the 2018 FIFA World Cup will witness record Arab participation, as four Arab football teams - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Morocco - all qualified.

“I’m very excited because four Arab teams are playing this World Cup and Mohammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is also watching live,” he said. "It makes you very proud to be Arab. I am rooting for all four Arab teams, really.”

Also watching the game at Emirates Palace was Sami Issa, a Palestinian-American who had brought his family to the hotel’s Fan Zone to mark both the start of Eid Al-Fitr - announced midway through the game - and the first match of the 2018 Fifa World Cup tournament.

“What better place to celebrate the end of Ramadan and start of Eid?” said Issa, who works in artificial intelligence for IBM computer manufacturing. “My entire family is here, my wife, my kids. I am rooting for Saudi. I am rooting for all four Arab teams. I truly think Saudi Arabia has a great chance. We came here to watch it because Emirates Palace is meant to be the best spot in Abu Dhabi to watch the match.” 

Emirati Hazza Al Muhairy, 26, plays for Emirates Palace’s football team as a striker. He was among the crowds there cheering on the Green Falcons. “I will be supporting all four Arab teams,” he said. “After that, if they unfortunately don’t get through, then I will be cheering on Argentina!”

His friend Lucy Mila, 22, from Russia, was cheering on the opposing side. “ I am confident Russia will do well in this World Cup,” she said.

Salahedeen Issa, 17, also a Palestinian/American, was also cheering on Saudi Arabia. 

“I love football,” he said. “ I am a huge football fan. I want to catch every moment of this World Cup while I am have the summer off before university. I think Saudi does have a chance. I think it will be closer than a lot of the members of the public will think. The Saudi team is more dangerous than people realize.” 

Also soaking up the electricity of the summer tournament was Yousef Mohammed, an Emirati, who watched the game at Back Yard Bistro, in Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Centre Mall.

 “I like watching countries put aside their differences and competing in a fair sport; it brings out the best in people,” said the 32-year-old. "I was especially excited to watch the World Cup tonight because it is the first time Saudi Arabia is opening a World Cup match.” 


Sudan appoints new peace envoy to S.Sudan

Updated 17 October 2018
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Sudan appoints new peace envoy to S.Sudan

  • Jamal Al-Sheikh was put in charge of “following the implementation” of the peace deal signed last month by warring South Sudanese parties
  • Civil war in the world’s youngest country erupted in December 2013, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s President Omar Al-Bashir on Wednesday appointed a peace envoy to South Sudan, mired in conflict since it won independence from its northern neighbor in 2011.
Former ambassador to Juba, Jamal Al-Sheikh, was put in charge of “following the implementation” of the peace deal signed last month by warring South Sudanese parties, Bashir told a gathering of Sudanese diplomats.
“Peace in Sudan cannot be separated from peace in the region, and achieving peace in South Sudan is a big step toward a comprehensive peace,” he said.
Civil war in the world’s youngest country erupted in December 2013, killing tens of thousands, displacing millions and triggering a regional refugee crisis.
South Sudanese arch-foes President Salva Kiir and rebel chief Riek Machar signed their latest peace deal on September 12 in Ethiopia after talks hosted by Khartoum.
South Sudan gained independence under a peace deal ending a 22-year civil war pitting rebel groups against Khartoum.
But the Darfur region and the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, close to oil-rich South Sudan, have continued to see deadly conflict pitting rebel groups against the Sudanese government.
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting insurgents against it.
A US-funded survey released recently estimated that nearly 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in South Sudan.