Saudi students in the US host football ‘friendly’ to celebrate crown prince’s visit

Saudi and American players at a football friendly on Monday. (AN photo)
Updated 30 March 2018

Saudi students in the US host football ‘friendly’ to celebrate crown prince’s visit

LONDON/ NEW YORK: A team of international students from Saudi Arabia played their American counterparts in a specially arranged football match to mark the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the US.
Eyas Zakri, a 22-year-old from Jeddah who is studying mass communications at Bowie State University, founded the “Kingdom” team last year with students studying at several universities in Virginia. But Monday’s friendly game, which ended in a 3-3 draw, was their most significant match yet.
The initiative is supported by Jeddah United as part of sports diplomacy in light of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to the US, reinforcing the Saudi-American relations through the universal language of sports.
“We wanted to appreciate the visit of our crown prince,” Zakri told Arab News. “We are all students here and we wanted to show him our happiness about his visit through the language of sport.
“When you see someone really wanting to raise our flag high, you do whatever you can to help him. It was important we played this game.”
Zakri said the crown prince’s visit had been the talk of the team for weeks.
“We are really happy,” he said. “For sure, it’s big news. When he came here, a lot of things came with him. They are helping the students and taking care of their needs. He is going to personally see the students in California. It’s historic. The visit will make a lot of opportunities for us back home.”
Zakri said he will return to Saudi Arabia after he completes his master’s to pursue a Ph.D. On his return, he will find his homeland undergoing vast changes driven by the crown prince.
“There is a lot of opportunities,” Zakri said. “The crown prince knows exactly what to do for young people. He has shown us we need to be working hard, and that we can’t just take a small job and wait for a rest.
“He has made a lot of changes already. The first thing we are happy about is that he stopped the corruption inside the government. He has made changes to the economy, to sports and in a lot of fields. We hope Vision 2030 happens and we become one of the leading countries in the world.”
Sport forms a big part of the reforms taking place in the Kingdom. Major events, such as the World Boxing Super Series final and a European tour golf event, are being hosted, as the country opens its doors and broadens its appeal, while restrictions on women watching and playing sport have been lifted.
“We are expecting a lot of changes, and are already hearing about the agreements the crown prince has made,” said Zakri. “There will be a lot of stadiums opening by the end of 2018 in the north of Saudi Arabia. Also, I really want to get back so I can see the excitement of the Saudi people for the World Cup.”
Princess Reema bint Bandar, head of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, is using sport to help drive the Kingdom’s economic growth via a “sports ecosystem” throughout the country.
“We really want to meet her,” said Zakri. “This is a big position for a woman and she really did a beautiful job. She knows what she is doing and she understands. She knows what happens in sport and has been involved in sport for a long time. It’s a passion for her. One of my dreams is to meet this woman to let her know about our team.”
The Kingdom team was set up with just four players — now more than 50 Saudi students attend practice.
“We have a rule that they have to be a good player and well behaved,” said Zakri.
“Sometimes we play four times a week. We made a lot of tournaments for international students and we play in two leagues here. We have a game on Sunday and the finals will be on Saturday, April 7. It’s going to be a big final.”


All-female Saudi tourist group explores wonders of Tabuk

Updated 21 October 2019

All-female Saudi tourist group explores wonders of Tabuk

  • About 20 women from different parts of the Kingdom took part in the sightseeing trip to the province bordering the Red Sea

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first all-female tourist group has explored the environmental and archaeological wonders of Tabuk in the northwest of the Kingdom.

About 20 women from different parts of the Kingdom took part in the sightseeing trip to the province bordering the Red Sea.

“They were astonished to see such sights in their country, especially the area of Ras Al-Sheikh Humaid,” said Heba Al-Aidai, a tour guide in Tabuk who organized the trip.

“They did not expect to see such a place in Saudi Arabia. They looked speechless while standing close to the turquoise water of the sea. It is a truly breathtaking view.”

Al-Aidai and her colleague Nafla Al-Anazi promoted the trip on social media and attracted a group of homemakers, teachers and staff workers from all over the Kingdom, aged from 22 to over 50.

The tour was educational, too, and the women were told about the history of the places they visited. “They were taken to the Caves of Shuaib (Magha’er Shuaib), the place where Prophet Moses fled after leaving Egypt, and where he got married to one of the daughters of Prophet Shuaib, according to some historians. It was really a positive experience,” Al-Aidai said.

The visitors also explored Tayeb Ism, a small town in northwestern Tabuk, where there is a well-known gap in the towering mountains through which water runs throughout the year.

Al-Aidai said such trips aim to encourage tourism in Tabuk, and introduce Saudi tourists and other visitors to the landmarks of the region.