‘Dare to dream,’ football hero Thierry Henry tells Saudi fans

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Footballing great Thierry Henry thrills fans as he signs 10 footballs on stage and tosses them to the audience. (Photo/Supplied)
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Former France and Arsenal footballing great Thierry Henry speaks to more than 1,000 fans during a 'meet-and-greet' at Tanween. (Photo supplied)
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Former France and Arsenal footballing great Thierry Henry discusses his career highlights during a 'meet-and-greet' with fans at Tanween. (Photo supplied).
Updated 21 October 2019

‘Dare to dream,’ football hero Thierry Henry tells Saudi fans

  • Fans got up close and personal with the former champion during a segment called the lightning round, where Henry had to answer questions in 10 seconds

DHAHRAN: Stepping onto the Tanween stage in front of a sold-out venue full of cheering fans, footballing great Thierry Henry was quick to say how “hyped” he was to meet his Saudi supporters.
As a guest and speaker at Tanween Season, the former Arsenal striker and French international faced a busy schedule on Saturday after arriving at King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran.
First, he had a “meet and greet” with fans, many wearing Arsenal shirts, which was quickly followed by a discussion of the theme for this year’s event, “Play.”
After two young footballers from Riyadh performed a series of tricks that included balancing a football on one leg, then kicking it in the air to land on their backs, Henry said: “I would have broken my back trying to do that. It’s not easy.”
On his second visit to Saudi Arabia — the first was to Riyadh last year — Henry said that he was impressed by this year’s Tanween theme since he had seen firsthand the results of a children’s quality-of-life program at Tanween.
“What I liked most was to see the smiles on the faces of those children when I was walking around the impressive building. Being able to dream is key for me, but seeing how the youngsters were interacting, and how happy they were with their families walking around, was just priceless,” he said.
Growing up, Henry’s father played an important role in his development. The footballer did not miss a beat when answering that his father was his idol. “My dad was the hardest man to please; to put a smile on his face was the hardest thing to do,” he said.
Although the footballer grew up in a “not so great” Paris neighborhood, he considered it an enriching cultural experience. “It was great for me at the time because it allowed me to travel, although I wasn’t really traveling,” he said.
France’s colonial history meant he was exposed to different cultures early in his life.
“If I going upstairs to have couscous, to the second floor to have Senegalese food, or to eat with the Portuguese downstairs, it allowed me to travel, staying where I was,” he explained.
During his talk Henry showed that his Arabic extends to common niceties such as “shukran,” “afwan” and “alsalamau alaikum.”
Having an impact on the English Premier League and his role in Arsenal’s record-breaking era almost two decades ago are more important to him that being considered the world’s best striker, he said. As for his favorite stadium, Henry was quick to choose Highbury.
Offering advice to younger Saudis in the audience, Henry urged them to face their problems calmly and cleverly.
“Don’t run away. Face it and don’t be scared to fail. Come back again, but smarter,” he said.
Fans got up close and personal with the former champion during a segment called the lightning round, where Henry had to answer questions in 10 seconds. That revealed that he has always admired Muhammad Ali as the greatest, Messi is his current favorite football player and winning the World Cup was the most memorable moment in his career.
After the talk, Henry thrilled the crowd — a reminder of his playing days — by tossing 10 footballs to lucky fans who cheered as he left the stage.


Saudi rail chief visits Haramain stations

Updated 14 November 2019

Saudi rail chief visits Haramain stations

  • Visit is part of project management’s plans for the Haramain station in Al-Sulaimaniyah and Jeddah airport
  • Railway inaugurated by King Salman on Sep. 24, 2018

JEDDAH: Saudi Transport Minister and Director-General of the Saudi Railway Organization (SAR), Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, visited the Haramain High-Speed Railway’s Al-Sulaimaniyah station and the King Abdul Aziz International Airport station in Jeddah on Thursday to check on preparations to resume operations at the two sites.

Al-Jasser was accompanied by Public Transport Authority Chairman Rumaih bin Mohammed Al-Rumaih, SAR CEO Bashar Al-Malik and other officials.

The visit is part of project management’s plans for the Haramain station in Al-Sulaimaniyah and Jeddah airport to serve airline passengers and Jeddah residents.

The service was halted on Sept. 29, 2019 after a fire broke out at the station in Jeddah, which left 11 people injured. The blaze, which was centered in the roof of the station, lasted for 15 hours.

As the first high-speed electric train in the region, the Haramain High-Speed Railway spans over 450km, connecting five stations across Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport, King Abdullah Economic City and Madinah.

The railway was inaugurated by King Salman on Sep. 24, 2018. 

The project is in line with the objectives of the Vision 2030 reform plans, the main goal of which is to increase the number of pilgrims and visitors to the holy places. Officials described it as the biggest transportation project of its kind in the region.