Tuesday afternoon, 22nd November has been written down in historic pages of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, when the air of Lusail stadium Qatar was enraptured with the whoop of delight by all Saudi spectators as the team of Saudi players defeated the very champions of football, Argentina with a 2-1 win.
The day has gone down in football lore as the greatest unmatched upset in the game’s annals, rated as the “greatest shock” by data company Nielson Gracenote, which stated that this historic victory has even surpassed the previous biggest upset, the legendary victory of the United States over England in 1950.
With Saudi Arabia’s amazing victory, the Qatar World Cup finally came to life and the cheers did not just resound in Qatar only; they echoed across the entirety of the Arab world.
It was a euphoric moment, which made football fans fly to the seventh heaven, so exultant that their joyful cheers made the world believe in the glory of football.
To the best of my knowledge, I considered two primary factors that have contributed to the unbelievable nature of this event. First, Argentina has won the World Cup in football twice and is known for its star player, Lionel Messi, a man who is considered to be unbeatable and an extremely difficult opponent in the world of football. Second, Argentina held the third spot in the FIFA rankings, 48 spots higher than Saudi Arabia, which was positioned as the lowest-ranked in the competition after Ghana.
Since 1996, the Saudi Arabia team had only one victory in 92 years of competition in the World Cup, which they are currently participating in for the sixth time. However this year, history had other things in store for them in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and it was the second half of the game when the green Falcons made their mark in the record books.
There were thousands of Saudi spectators in the stadium to cheer up their team for their efforts but their expectations were not so high. It was clear that they were expecting a 0-0 draw and were even more than happy about that. During the first half, the injury of Yesser Al- Sheahrani epitomized the efforts of the Saudi team on the ground but, in the 48th minute, a historic shot by Saleh Al-Shehri made 1-1, and in the 53rd minute, a scorching strike by Salem Al- Dawsari from the edge of the penalty area, provided a 2-1 lead to Saudi Arabia.
It was a moment of disbelief not only for Saudi fans but also for Argentina as no one had predicted such a massive blow. Everyone on the ground was floating in the air with the emotions of surprise and blithesome tears witnessing this momentous event unfold. To celebrate this felicitous day, National Holiday was also given on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia and even the day before, half day was announced to the government employees because all the football fans of the Arab world and even non-Arabs were standing in front of big screens with their breaths shortened to have this opportunity to see Saudi Falcons victory.
While digging down in history, it was Saeed Al- Owarian’s goal in 1994, which was always mentioned in the football history of Saudi Arabia. However, it is no longer the case, since the winning shot by Al- Dawsari has been written down as a matchless goal in the world of football.
Saudi Arabia, though a country of 36 million people, never prioritized sports nationally until 2016, but in recent years it is giving huge importance to sports. And now the Arabs are appeased to be a part of the sports world and the obsession of football fans has made this wonder happen in the football world today.
Saudi media has been more than gratified in advertising this achievement all across the country by all means. All the public figures, Saudi leaders, and especially people on social media expressed their victory and appreciated the team and their efforts, while some made Messi troll for amusement purposes. In fact, the people of Saudi Arabia are acknowledging and appreciating the leadership of their crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and dedicating this victory to his leadership.
Many fan videos of Salem Al- Dawsari striking the winning hit have reached the corners of the world in no time and it has made recognition of the Saudi football team at the international level. The world has come to know about the true enthusiasm and explosive energy of the Saudi football team, as they have proved that they can make the impossible happen. It has been the fastest approach to Saudi victory all over the world as they started getting appreciation from celebrities and well-known people all across the globe.
From Egypt to Lebanon, Persia, and Washington, Saudis have received appreciation letters and acknowledgments through various social media platforms. People also made this victory trending on Twitter, as the world was so emotionally moved by this matchless occasion.
Public Saudi figures including Ibrahim Al- Kassim, the Secretary-General Of the Saudi Soccer Federation, have aimed to show great passion and support for sports in upcoming times. Keeping this in view, Saudi authorities have announced remarkable investments for the development of local athletes and teams to entertain international sports.
While I talk about Saudi victory, it is not merely restricted to this game. Now Saudi Arabia has the recognition and power internationally that will bring more nations and people to the country in economic and socio-political contexts. The country will not only build regional unity, but it would also definitely bring about a political dynamic force in the Middle East.
Hence, this glorious day would be remembered in Saudi history which is going to turn the tables for Saudi Arabia in almost all fields including sports, politics, International Trade, and Business, thus building strong International Relations.
Hence, the Saudi team has not just played football as a game of mere competition, but they played for the pride of their country, and the proof of this was clear in the shape of the political conquest as the Emir of Qatar briefly raised the Saudi Flag.
It would be further interesting to observe, in upcoming eras, what success has this achievement brought in the history of Saudi Arabia.
Engr.Qaiser Nawab is a Global Peace and Climate Activist, Pakistani Youth Leader, United Nations SDGs Advocate, Freelance Journalist and an expert on BRI, Middle East & Central Asia.