The National Sport of Saudi Arabia is Soccer.
Soccer in Saudi Arabia is a passionate affair, bringing people together through traditions and iconic moments.
To learn more about sports culture in Saudi Arabia, read our article about the most popular sports in Saudi Arabia.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Soccer
- 1940s-1950s: Soccer was first introduced to Saudi Arabia by expatriate workers in the oil industry.
- 1956: Formation of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF), the governing body for soccer in the country.
- 1970s: Rapid growth of soccer in the country, with increased infrastructure investment and the establishment of soccer clubs across Saudi Arabia.
- 1984: Saudi Arabia’s national team makes its first appearance at the Asian Cup, finishing as runners-up.
- 1994: The national team qualifies for its first FIFA World Cup, reaching the Round of 16.
- 2000: Al-Hilal, a top Saudi soccer club, wins the Asian Club Championship, marking a milestone in the country’s club soccer history.
- 2018: Saudi Arabia hosts the Italian Super Cup, showcasing the country’s commitment to promoting soccer at an international level.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Soccer holds a special place in Saudi Arabia’s cultural identity, acting as a unifying force that brings people together from diverse backgrounds and generations. It serves as a means for social interaction, shared experiences, and fostering a sense of collective pride across the nation.
Festivals and events associated with soccer capture the passion and enthusiasm of Saudi fans. The Saudi Professional League’s annual competition is a highly anticipated event, with fans rallying around their favorite teams and eagerly awaiting each match. The King’s Cup, a prestigious national soccer tournament, also attracts considerable attention and fanfare.
Public watch parties for international soccer events, such as the FIFA World Cup, draw large-scale gatherings where people unite to celebrate the sport, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared passion among Saudi soccer enthusiasts.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Match Duration: A standard match consists of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes, with a 15-minute break in between.
- Objective: Each team tries to score by getting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.
- Players: Each team has 11 players, including one goalkeeper.
- Offside: A player is offside if they are nearer to the opponent’s goal than both the ball and the second last opponent when the ball is played to them.
- Fouls: Direct and indirect free-kicks and penalty kicks are awarded for infringements of the rules.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Ball: Round and made of leather or another suitable material.
- Goalposts: Located at each end of the field, they are 7.32 meters wide and 2.44 meters tall.
- Kits: Teams wear distinguishing kits, with goalkeepers wearing different colors to stand out.
- Shin Guards: Protection for players from potential tackles or hits.
- Boots: Specialized shoes designed for the sport’s requirements.
#4 Modern Development of Soccer
The evolution of soccer in Saudi Arabia in recent decades has seen significant growth and development. This has been largely driven by improvements in infrastructure, increased investment in the sport, and a focus on nurturing local talent at both club and national levels.
Technological advancements have also impacted the sport. The use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology in the Saudi Professional League, for example, has contributed to ensuring fair play and accurate decision-making during matches.
An important trend in modern soccer in Saudi Arabia is the broader promotion and globalization of the sport. This is evident in the country’s hosting of international soccer events and tournaments, as well as the growing presence of Saudi athletes and teams on the international soccer stage.
#5 Soccer and the Olympics
Soccer has been a part of the Olympic Games since the early 20th century. Saudi Arabia first participated in the Olympic soccer competition in 1984. Since then, the country has represented itself in various editions of the Olympic tournament, gaining valuable international exposure and experience for its athletes and teams.
The Olympics play a crucial role in garnering global recognition for soccer and providing a platform for countries like Saudi Arabia to showcase their talent to the world. Participation in the Olympics has aided the sport’s growth and popularity in Saudi Arabia, inspiring younger generations to engage with soccer and aspire to represent their nation in international competitions.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- Majed Abdullah: Often referred to as “the Arabian Pele,” Abdullah is considered one of the greatest Saudi players of all time. He is a three-time Asian Footballer of the Year and played a key role in Saudi Arabia’s qualification for their first FIFA World Cup in 1994.
- Samir Al-Muwallad: An iconic member of the Saudi National Team, Al-Muwallad is known for his leadership and contributions to the team’s success in the 1990s, including their participation in the 1994 World Cup.
- Saeed Al-Owairan: A talented midfielder, Al-Owairan gained international fame when he scored a spectacular solo goal against Belgium in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which is widely considered one of the greatest goals in World Cup history.
- Mohammed Al-Deayea: One of the most accomplished goalkeepers in Asian soccer, Al-Deayea holds the record for the most international appearances by a goalkeeper. He played an instrumental role in Saudi Arabia’s success in the 1996 Asian Cup and three World Cup appearances.
#7 Where to watch Soccer
- Local Broadcasters: In Saudi Arabia, networks such as the Saudi Sports channel and MBC carry coverage of both domestic and international soccer events, including the Saudi Professional League and major international tournaments like the FIFA World Cup.
- Streaming Services: Online platforms like KSA Sports and Dawri Plus offer live streaming options for fans to watch soccer matches on their devices.
- Notable Venues: For thrilling live soccer experiences, visit iconic stadiums in Saudi Arabia such as the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, and the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Damman.