Saudis celebrate as fan says World Cup win over Argentina was 'best game of my life'

Cheering in the street as companies close early to celebrate the kingdom's 2-1 victory

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The Saudi anthem rang out from shops, cafes and offices in Jeddah as the kingdom exploded in celebration on Tuesday after the national team’s surprise 2-1 win over Argentina in their opening game of the World Cup in Qatar.

Some cheered and sang in the streets as others handed out Saudi flags and sweets to passers-by to mark the moment.

“I am in tears — I can’t believe it. This is the best game of my life” Ameera Mohammed, a Saudi football fan in Jeddah, told The National.

Saudi pupils watching the game together at school celebrated by singing national songs and cheering. “This is the best feeling in the world. I’m so proud of my country, my team — they played like champions against Argentina," said pupil Faisal Alamri.

“They didn’t let Messi or the world’s pressure get in the way.”

Fan Salah Ahmed marked the feat few were predicting at the start of the 90-minute game, which ended shortly after defender Yasser Al Shahrani was knocked out in a collision with goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais in extra time.

“This was no easy feat I am over the moon,” he said. “This is one for the books. I am crying. This is the moment you see all grown men and young generations cry together but it feels so good, it's tears of joy.”

Saudi government offices closed early to let staff watch the game. Afzal Khan, an Indian national living in the kingdom, said his boss shut up shop early to celebrate the win.

“My boss said just go home and celebrate our victory,” Mr Khan said. “This is such an amazing moment for me as I was born in Saudi. I feel so much pride and think the team was outstanding. Especially the goalkeeper — he was a beast.”

In the streets, people chanted the names of the players and waved flags.

Even officials celebrated the moment – Haramain Sharifain, the official media of the Two Holy Mosques, tweeted the Saudi flag and a green heart following the win.

“It is really a new Saudi, with such a leadership we can only expect more wins,” said Saudi fitness influence Shaima Abbasi.

Saudi men and women have a winning mindset – I am so proud of our country and our green falcons.”

Others thought about what the win meant for Saudi Arabia's youth.

“My children and I watched our country make history today. My son will grow up knowing our team is a winner and we can stand our own against anyone, including the giants like Messi and Argentina,” said Sherif Ahmed, a Saudi football fan in Jeddah.

“I picked my kids up from school and we are going out to celebrate. They are wearing the Saudi team t-shirts, which I assume will be hard to get off now.”

Tuesday was Saudi Arabia’s first World Cup game. They will now face Mexico and Poland later this month.

Updated: November 23, 2022, 8:02 AM