JEDDAH: As usual, Cristiano Ronaldo led the way, with the likes of Neymar, Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler not far behind.
Amid the celebrations of Saudi National Day on Sept. 23, a number of foreign players and coaches from the Saudi Professional League celebrated the occasion by donning the Kingdom’s traditional thobe in videos and photos that quickly went viral on social media.
Ronaldo and teammate Sadio Mane appeared in a video posted on Al-Nassr’s official account on X and similarly, former England captain and Ettifaq coach Gerrard showcased the Saudi look in a clip posted by his club.
But it’s not the first time that foreign players have shown their support in this way.
Ronaldo first wore the traditional attire during the celebration of the Saudi Founding Day on Feb. 22, posing in a navy blue and gold daqlah, which is designed to be worn over a thobe.
Al-Ittihad’s French striker Karim Benzema also appeared in the national dress at the official draw of FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023 held recently in Jeddah, when he called the Saudi thobe “an elegant attire.”
In recent weeks, international players who joined the SPL during an unprecedented summer transfer window seem to have increasingly embraced their new lifestyle and local culture, providing their fans all over the world with photos while wearing the Saudi traditional dress: a long-sleeve shirt and ankle-length robe worn along with a headscarf, known as the shemagh, that has a ring around it, called aqal.
Online platforms have been flooded with images of Riyad Mahrez, Edouard Mendy, Roberto Firmino, Allan Saint-Maximin, Igor Coronado, Romarinho, Marcelo Grohe, Roger Ibanez, former Al-Hilal striker Bafetimbi Gomis, former Saudi national team coach Herve Renard and Al-Ittihad’s Portuguese coach Nuno Santo sporting the look.
Al-Nassr fan Suliman Al-Otaibi said: “Seeing Ronaldo walking on our streets in our attire sends a positive message to his vast follower base, which runs in the hundreds of millions. Who knows, the Saudi dress might even become a trend in Europe.”
Amer Helabi echoed those sentiments, saying: “Respect to all those players for respecting the culture of the country.”
Another fan said: “The thobe suits them. I hope they wear it occasionally.”
Another poster on X said the scores of international players wearing the Saudi national dress did not bother him in the least, and that in fact, he found the trend “endearing.”
Homoud Al-Bugami posted: “National Day is a good opportunity for those big names in football to learn about the history of Saudi Arabia and the motifs they see around them.”
Saudi football player Hussain Al-Qahtani praised Ronaldo, Benzema and other players for indulging in Saudi cultural activities, promoting their tradition and rich historical origin.
“It is so great to see such famous players wearing our traditional thobe,” he said.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr. Jamal Al-Tarqi told Arab News that foreign players in the SPL wearing the Saudi uniform is a sign of dedication to the work they do as professional players, stressing that they are showing their adaptation to the culture of the Kingdom.
“When such big names in football wear the Saudi traditional thobe, they are indeed getting accustomed to the Saudi culture and they are showing love and loyalty to this country,” he said.