Saudi Arabian students in the UAE have been offered free tickets to watch their home team compete in the AFC Asian Cup.
Some 2,000 tickets have been made available to university students to watch their local team face off against North Korea, Lebanon and Qatar over the next few days.
“These tickets are being offered by the Saudi General Sports Authority in collaboration with the Saudi cultural attaché in the UAE,” said Mohammed Al Masoudi, culture affairs manager at the attache.
The aim is to foster a sense of nationalism and pride among Saudi students, he said.
Students can claim their tickets through Saudi student associations or from cultural clubs in universities across the country.
The attache has also arranged for transportation for women students between their university dorms and the stadiums.
Likely inspired by the Japanese fans at last year’s World Cup, the student clubs have organised clean-up campaigns at the end of each match.
“The students will take the lead of cleaning the stands after each game,” said Mr Al Masoudi. “It was the students’ idea and we totally support it.”
There are about 3,000 Saudi Arabians studying at universities in the UAE. Since the initiative was announced this week, about 600 football tickets have been distributed among them.
Hamza Al Juhani, president of the Saudi student club’s association in UAE, thanked Prince Abdulaziz Alfaisel, president of Saudi General Sports for the move.
“It’s a kind gesture to the students to make them feel important, and it helps boost social responsibility toward our country and encourages students to show up and sport their team.”
Khalid Al Awaad, who is studying senior mass communication at the University of Sharjah, plans to attend all three matches.
“This is a great move to show support for the national team and for the students as well,” he said.
“Saudi sports have seen a lot of changes recently, and it is important to show support so they can succeed even more.
The University of Sharjah, American University of Sharjah and Ajman University have the highest number of Saudi students and the student clubs are quite active in the UAE.
Each year, since 2015, they have organized a march down Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard and City Walk in Dubai on UAE National Day to highlight the brotherly relations between the Emirates and Saudi Arabia and to show gratitude to the country that opened its doors for them.