JEDDAH: Tickets for the first Jeddah derby of the 2023-24 Rosh Saudi League season between arch-rivals Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli have attracted unprecedented demand since going on sale on Wednesday night.
Supporters of both clubs in Jeddah, widely acknowledged as some of the most passionate and influential in Saudi Arabia, were scrambling to secure their seats for what promises to be a titanic showdown between the two clubs on Friday night at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium.
A record crowd of 65,000 is expected to attend the match, with 70 percent of stadium capacity going to the home team Al-Ittihad.
Al-Ahli fan Hamid Al-Othman told Arab News that he waited for three hours online to buy a ticket and eventually succeeded in getting one for SR100 ($26).
” I know it is expensive but I am lucky to get one ticket,” he said.
Meanwhile, Al-Ittihad supporter Hamza Hawsawi said that, despite the demand, he managed to get his tickets along with his two brothers because of the greater share assigned to the home fans.
“Yes, we have the big share in tickets and that’s why it was easy for us as Ittihad fans to get tickets,” he said.
Al-Ittihad confirmed that regular tickets had sold out through the club’s official website. The pricing tiers cater to fans of various preferences, with VIP tickets still available on Thursday from SR1,500–3,000 ($400-800).
The derby, scheduled to kick off at 9pm Saudi time, is the first match to be held at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium, also known as “Al-Jawhara,” since its renovation ahead of the FIFA Club World Cup 2023 set to be played from Dec. 12-22.
The highly anticipated Jeddah derby is the standout match of the ninth round of the Roshn Saudi League as it brings the two rivals together for the first time in two years after Al-Ahli spent last season in the first division, the second tier of Saudi football.
The last league match between the clubs saw Al-Ittihad emerge with a 4-3 win, and the reigning Saudi champions will be expected to grab all three points again in front of their own fans.
Al-Ittihad go into the match in third place on 19 points, three points behind leaders Al-Taawoun, who beat Al-Tai on Thursday night, and one behind Al-Hilal. Meanwhile, Al-Ahli sit in seventh position with 16 points.
The match will have an international flavor rarely seen before in the Jeddah derby, with foreign superstars such as Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Fabinho sporting the yellow and black of Al-Ittihad and Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino and Allan Saint-Maximin wearing the green of Al-Ahli.
Sports reporter Ahmed Al-Raigi told Arab News: “This derby is set to be an exciting battle because it is featuring many national and international stars of both teams. The whole world will enjoy it too.”