In a victory few had any hope for but one that left an entire nation ecstatic, Saudis celebrated in the streets the triumph of their team over favorites and Lionel Messi-led Argentina in the FIFA World Cup 2022 in neighboring Qatar.
Thousands of Saudis, glued to their television screens across Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, were apprehensive about how would the Green Falcons manage to keep record eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi quiet during the match.
For the La Albiceleste, the match would have been considered as little more than a stern warm-up match before taking on stronger opposition in the form of CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) opposition in the form of Mexico before taking on established European team Poland.
Those fears came true when Leandro Paredes was wrestled to the ground, allowing Messi to coolly slot past Saudi goal keeper Mohammed Al-Owais.
Saudi Arabia rode their luck in the first half, thanks to some heroics of Al-Owais and help from the television referee – VAR.
But a quickfire turnaround at the beginning of the second half had Saudis in dreamland. Many waited with breaths held across the kingdom and much of the Gulf as they won one for the region.
As soon as the final whistle rang out, jubilant Saudis jumped up in joy.
“Nothing is impossible for Saudi Arabia… The future is here and we are the future,” 35-year-old Tareq al-Shammari said at the Mrsool Park stadium, as fans stormed the pitch and belted out chants and songs around him.
“We have people who love football and we adore it,” said Sultan, wearing a white thobe (gown) and a green-and-white scarf.
“We are investing in infrastructure and we have all the capabilities to compete with European countries.”
“I’m so, so, so happy,” said a fan who gave her name as Bayan.
“No one from Saudi expected that, but they did it.”
Thousands of Saudis also streamed into the streets to celebrate the win.
In the stadium, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad set aside all regional hostilities of the past decade and draped the Saudi flag around his neck to celebrate the occasion.
Muhammad Bin Salman celebrates
In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince and Prime Minister Muhammad Bin Salman also celebrated the win with members of the royal family.
He also prostrated in subjugation to God.
He declared a public holiday for Wednesday in the kingdom in a royal decree.
Riyadh prepared for an all-night party as congratulations poured in from high-ranking Saudi officials.
Turki al-Sheikh, an adviser at the Royal Court and head of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, announced on Twitter that admission fees would be waived at major theme parks and entertainment centres in the city on Tuesday.