Warm welcome for Saudi football team in Ramallah

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The Saudi Arabian national team arrived in Ramallah on Sunday ahead of their 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Palestine to a heroes’ welcome. (Twitter/Screenshot)
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Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas receives members of the Saudi national football team. (Photo/Palestinian News Agency Wafa)
Updated 14 October 2019

Warm welcome for Saudi football team in Ramallah

  • The visiting team was visibly surprised by the huge turnout and welcome
  • The two national teams will play each other at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium

AMMAN: The Saudi national football team received a warm welcome in Ramallah two days before an important World Cup qualifying match against Palestine.

Arriving in a bus from Jordan to a huge sign saying “you have lit up Palestine,” the visitors headed to the headquarters of the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah.

President Mahmoud Abbas received the Saudis, telling them: “You have honored Palestine with your presence.”

After the meeting, the Saudi team was welcomed at the Millennium Hotel in downtown Ramallah.

“A dabkeh band welcomed them, and they were greeted by the mayors of the cities of Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Beitunia,” Susan Shalabi, deputy president of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), told Arab News.

The Saudi team members were each given a Palestinian keffiyeh (headdress) and a rose. Shalabi said the PFA had been working nonstop to ensure that they felt welcomed.

“From the moment the Palestinian side received our visitors from the Jordanian side until they leave, we’re committed to ensuring that they’re at ease and can properly prepare for the football match,” she added.

“We’re very excited about the first- ever visit of a leading Arab national football team. This visit makes us feel that we’re not alone.” Shalabi expressed hope that this will pave the way for other teams from the Arab world.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Saudi team will have two training sessions, a closed technical meeting, and a joint press conference with the Palestinian team.

After the game, the Saudi team will have a press conference followed by a state dinner at the presidential headquarters.

The visiting team was visibly surprised by the huge turnout and welcome. There were street signs, the local Maan TV had a welcome sign on-air, and people waved to the team as its bus drove through Ramallah.

On his Facebook page, PFA President Jibril Rajoub posted a picture of Abbas and King Salman with the Palestinian and Saudi flags. Beneath the image were the words: “We welcome our Saudi brothers to Palestine.”

Ahmad Deek, political affairs adviser of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, told Arab News that the Saudi team’s visit reflects a courageous move by the friendly Saudi family. 

“It is a courageous decision that reflects a noble brotherly stand with our people and a true stand of solidarity against the injustice that has befallen the Palestinian people.”

The two national teams will play each other at the Faisal Al-Husseini International Stadium as part of the double qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup and the 2023 Asia Cup.


Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

Updated 59 min 30 sec ago

Roger Federer outclasses Novak Djokovic to reach ATP Finals semis

  • Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal as No. 1
  • Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal

LONDOM: Roger Federer produced a serving masterclass as he avenged his Wimbledon defeat by Novak Djokovic and qualified for the last four of the ATP Finals on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Swiss, playing near-flawless tennis, broke once in the first set and twice in the second to beat his rival for the first time since 2015.
Roared on by a raucous packed house at London’s O2 Arena, the six-time champion dropped just seven points on his serve in the first set.
Defeat spells the end of Djokovic’s bid to overtake Rafael Nadal and finish as year-end number one.
The third-seeded Federer, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, reached his 16th semifinal.
Djokovic needed to win the title to have a chance at knocking Nadal off the top spot, but now the Spaniard is guaranteed to finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fifth time, tying him with Federer, Djokovic and American Jimmy Connors.
“Great atmosphere, great opponent,” said Federer. “It was definitely incredibly special. I enjoyed it from the beginning.
“I played incredible and I knew I had to because that’s what Novak does. It was definitely magical. You guys made it super special, I can’t thank you enough.”
Speaking about what was different from Wimbledon, he said: “I won match point I guess. It was so close at Wimbledon. It was a privilege to play that match, so many ups and downs. I couldn’t be more happy right now.”
Federer finishes second in Group Bjorn Borg, behind Dominic Thiem, who beat both Federer and Djokovic earlier this week. The Swiss will face the Group Andre Agassi winner on Saturday.
Djokovic looked nervy at the start of the winner-takes-all contest, double-faulting twice in the third game, in which he was broken to love.
As cries of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go” rang around the cavernous stadium, Federer was dead-eyed on his serve, hitting eight aces, including a second-serve ace, in the first set.
Federer’s service level dipped in the second set and Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the fourth game, which the Swiss saved.
He broke Djokovic again in the fifth game to take an iron grip on the match and repeated the trick to take the second set 6-3.
It was the 49th time Federer and Djokovic had met.
Djokovic, who now holds a 26-23 advantage, had won their past five meetings, including their epic five-set battle in the final at Wimbledon in July, during which he saved two championship points.
In Thursday’s early match in Group Bjorn Borg, which was a dead rubber, eighth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
In doing so, the 23-year-old became the first Italian to win a match at the season-ending championships.
Berrettini arrived in London at a career-high number eight in the ATP rankings after starting the season outside of the top 50.
Fifth seed Thiem did not hit the heights he reached during his three-set win against Djokovic, notching just 12 winners compared with 50 against the Serbian.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has already qualified for the semifinals from Group Andre Agassi, leaving Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev to scrap it out for the other spot on Friday.