American diplomat talks about ‘historic’ Al-Hilal qualification on the ‘Mayman Show’

American diplomat talks about ‘historic’ Al-Hilal qualification on the ‘Mayman Show’
Short Url
Updated 09 March 2023

American diplomat talks about ‘historic’ Al-Hilal qualification on the ‘Mayman Show’

American diplomat talks about ‘historic’ Al-Hilal qualification on the ‘Mayman Show’
  • Samantha BonenClark discusses ‘vibrant’ Saudi football scene, moving to Riyadh

Riyadh: The historic significance of Al-Hilal’s qualification to the final in the FIFA Club World Cup has left a lasting impression on Samantha BonenClark, a US diplomat and sports enthusiast residing in the Kingdom. BonenClark, the latest guest on the “Mayman Show,” said she learned that Al-Hilal had only ever reached this achievement once before, in 2000.  

“They had only qualified for the cup one other time, and this time they qualified for the final,” she said. “That was pretty historic. It was a big deal. And then also a couple of members of my team at work, they love Al-Hilal. So, at the moment I arrived in Saudi Arabia, I think my first day of work, I had heard about Al-Hilal and the soccer scene here in Saudi Arabia and just how vibrant it is and how passionate the fans are.” 


As a sports enthusiast, BonenClark saw the achievement for what it was, saying she “wanted to get involved and cheer for them and recognize the accomplishment while also participating.” 

She said that she began following the sport from a young age.  

“I played when I was really young. It’s actually very common for young girls in the United States to play soccer. It’s often one of the first sports that they do,” she said. 

A highlight for BonenClark was watching the US women’s team play against France in Brazil during the Olympics in 2016.  

“(That) was probably my first really big game. But then, of course, I got to Saudi Arabia and then I was able to go to the World Cup last year, which I think was maybe the crown jewel of my soccer experience to date,” she said. 

Having been active ever since she was little, BonenClark has watched and played a variety of sports — and continues to do so on a regular basis.  


“I swam for 17 years in college, but then when I stopped, I was kind of looking around for something else, and I got into martial arts as well. So, I do Brazilian jiujitsu. It’s a grappling sport. No striking. So, no hitting, but it’s pretty intense, very self-defense based,” she said. 

As a diplomat, BonenClark has traveled extensively and says she has been blessed to make connections around the world, including in Riyadh, where she and her husband moved last August.  

“I’ve found a place to train and I’ve met some wonderful women who are passionate. Sports, I think, are wonderful,” she said. 


BonenClark said that, as a woman, she has not encountered any difficulties finding places to exercise and practice her sports.  

“The gym I go to now is walking distance from my house. So, when I got here, I didn’t have a car and that’s the one I went to. And people were friendly, and the ladies wanted to train and there was an energy there that I liked,” she said.