JEDDAH: Past and present players on Sunday described their excitement for the start of the new football season at the official launch of the Roshn Saudi Professional League.
Speaking at the ceremony, Steven Gerrard, a former Liverpool star and new head coach of SPL side Al-Ettifaq, said he was looking forward with great enthusiasm to working with his team.
“I am proud just being here and to be part of the new Roshn league,” he added.
Ex-Real Madrid and new Al-Ittihad striker Karim Benzema said: “The Roshn Saudi League has some wonderful players, and they have all the capabilities, speed, and strength, and we are here to do our best.
“I am excited to start and happy to see the stars in the Roshn Saudi League.”
In his speech at the league launch event, Senegalese player Sadio Mane, who played for Bayern Munich last season before recently joining Al-Nassr, said: “I am very happy with the Saudi victory, and very excited to be with the Al-Nassr fans.
“Good luck to everyone, but in the end, we will achieve the Roshn Saudi League.”
Saudi national midfielder and Al-Hilal captain, Salman Al-Faraj, 34, said: “This season is different, and we have some of the biggest names in the world with us which will add more strength and excitement to the Saudi league.
“The presence of such great international names will give the Saudi players motivation and incentive to do more, and it will also give us higher strength and ambition every season to raise our league.
“I respect everyone, and we promise to present a great and strong season befitting the work that Saudi Arabia is doing.”
Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy who left Chelsea after three years to join Al-Ahli, said: “We are eager to start our season and are looking forward to putting Al-Ahli back to its position among the top teams.”
Supporters have also been counting down the days to the start of the new season.
Mustafa Faqih, an Al-Ahli fan, told Arab News: “There are plenty of reasons for everybody to be excited, no matter which team you root for.
“The SPL will be very different than in previous years with such great names as Ronaldo, Benzema, (Riyad) Mahrez, Mane, and (Jordan) Henderson playing.
“We were very disappointed last year when Al-Ahli played in the first division but hopefully with the new international players, we can win this year’s title despite the tough competition.”
Al-Hilal supporter, Hamid Al-Twirqi, said: “I haven’t been this excited for a season in a long time, but my concern is about my team. We were hoping to see a five-star player among our squad such as (Lionel) Messi or (Kylian) Mbappe.”
Jeddah-based Al-Nassr fan, Abdullah Al-Boriqan, said: “We are all really looking forward to getting the season underway and for me, I believe my team Al-Nassr is well prepared and I am sure it is going to be a great season for us.”