World Cup 2022: Saudi fans warm up for competition

Saudi Arabian Airlines announces 780 flights that will connect Saudi cities to Doha

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Saudi football fans and local businesses are preparing for a month-long binge of live football once the World Cup kicks off on November 20.

With malls and restaurants streaming matches on big screens, football fans in the kingdom will be gathering to watch the competition.

Restaurants and hotels expect to do good business amid World Cup fever, with fans looking for large venues to cheer on Saudi Arabia's team.

World cup merchandise being sold at Dammam Airport. Photo: The National

Fatima Salam, who plays with her friends at a football academy in Jeddah, said she was “thrilled” at the prospect of watching the World Cup.

“We are super-excited and will be watching the game at my friend's place — she has a huge screen,” she said.

A Lebanese restaurant manager in Jeddah, who gave his name as Mr Hussein, said: “We will be opening up the outdoor section of our restaurant as the weather will be cooler, and [we will] have tents that will show the matches on different TVs for better viewing during the World Cup games.

“People like to come in groups for a long time, before the match and up until it finishes, so it is good for business.”

Marwan Youssef, another restaurant manager in Jeddah, said: “We will be setting up projectors on all sides and will have special offers for football fans during the World Cup season. We are expecting to have a full house and will have a minimum spend of 100 riyals [$27] per person.”

Ahmed Bannan, a Saudi citizen living in Riyadh, bought tickets to attend the first week of the World Cup, from November 21 to November 26.

“I love to go at this time as all the fans of the participant countries will be there and the vibes would be great,” he said.

“This time is even more special as it is happening [in] an Arab and Gulf country with Saudi [Arabia] participating, so the atmosphere would be even better. Attending the World Cup is beyond football. It is like attending a global carnival.”

Saeed Alsharif, a salesman in Jeddah, said: “I bought an Argentina jersey for myself and my son. We will be wearing it together to watch all the games.”

Shaima Alammari, from Jeddah, said: “My dream is to see Saudi Arabia win the World Cup one day. We can easily be the champions of the future and I am excited to watch this year's World Cup games with my brothers.”

Saudi fans to cheer in Doha

Saudi Arabia will open its borders to holders of the Hayya Card issued by Qatar for football fans attending the World Cup.

Yasser Al Jamaan, a Saudi citizen living in Khobar, is all set to watch the World Cup with his friend in Qatar next month.

“We are football maniacs and are excited as this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch the World Cup in the Gulf,” he said.

Al Jamaan bought the tickets in August on the Fifa website and will be watching two games, the first between Morocco and Belgium and the second between Qatar and the Netherlands.

“We are going for three or four days on the 26th of November and are still figuring out whether we want to take a flight or drive down, as it is only a four-hour drive” he told The National.

He said he believes in fair play and “whoever plays the best, wins”.

Hayya Card holders can spend up to 60 days in Saudi Arabia during the World Cup season from November 1 to January 23 next year.

“Fans from all over the world, including GCC nationals, will not be allowed to enter Qatar without a Hayya Card during the tournament,” said Saeed Al Kuwari, executive director of Hayya.

Duty-free shops at airports around Saudi Arabia are selling World Cup merchandise to support the kingdom's national team.

World cup merchandise being sold at Dammam Airport. Photo: The National

“There are really interesting pieces — from merchandise to even playing cards and memorabilia — to support the coming games,” Ahmed Abadi, a passenger at Dammam airport, told The National.

The competition is expected to draw 1.2 million tourists to Qatar. World Cup ticket holders will be staying in surrounding countries for the tournament and flying in and out of Qatar for matches, to help to alleviate pressure on accommodation in Doha.

Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) has announced 780 scheduled, additional and shuttle flights to cater to World Cup fans.

The flights, with a combined 254,000 seats, will connect Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to Hamad International Airport and Doha International Airport.

“In order to simplify travel arrangements and save time and effort, guests on shuttle flights are allowed to have both departure and return boarding passes issued at the same time, regardless of the time between their two flights,” Saudia said.

The kingdom's General Directorate of Passports said that it was ready to welcome World Cup fans from November 1 to December 23, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Entry ports have been equipped with the latest technology to serve travellers from when they arrive to when they depart, the government body said.

With hotels in Qatar fully booked in the run-up to the game, hotels in the UAE are expected to record a rise in demand for accommodation of up to 40 per cent, according to a report by online travel agency Musafir.com.

Updated: November 07, 2022, 7:32 AM
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