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Any discussion of Saudi Arabia, especially during the holy month of Ramadan (which started at sunset on May 14), must first begin with debate over the proper pronunciation of the country’s name.
The 2018 World Cup will mark Saudi Arabia’s fifth time competing in this event. Their previous four appearances all happened consecutively from 1994, when the World Cup was held in the USA. The furthest they have advanced is the Round of 16, also in 1994, and based on goal differential they were judged to have finished 12th. In their other three appearances – 1998, 2002 & 2006 – they never advanced beyond the Group Stage.
They probably don’t have a chance to do that here.
This group is at once the least- and most- racist group in the whole tournament. Russia opens the tournament against the Saudis, and it should be a spectacle to behold as roughly 70,000 fans and Ultras rain down anti-Muslim & anti-Chechen comments.
The Saudi’s are ranked as the team with the longest odds to win the Cup. They have such a poorly-run national league at home that the government has taken the unique step of privatising the teams, because they are currently state-owned. The belief is that that has hampered development of the national team because money has been spent on foreign players and not player development. Two Saudi league teams were actually disqualified from the Asian Champions League for having massive unpaid debts & bills, and 20% of FIFA’s complaints about unpaid salaries & transfer fees come from Saudi Arabia. That the Saudi’s even qualified for the World Cup is a testament to how bad Asian football is right now, even with Japan, Korea, Iran, and Australia qualifying ahead of them. Their goal is to have a functional, challenging team in place for Qatar 2022.
Saudi Arabia’s official colours are green & white, and they are known both as Al-Suqour (The Falcons), and Al-Akhdhar (The Green). In terms of logo originality, it looks like the Hawkman logo from one of Sheldon Cooper’s t-shirts.
Here’s where the fun begins on the field. I’ll let ESPN FC break it down for you:
Nine players were sent on loan to Spain in January in order to gain some much needed international experience and exposure. The problem is that they have not played at all and the question is how sharp they are.
Perhaps it’s because they weren’t being incentivized enough, like those whores at Man U:
“It was agreed with Manchester United for Mohammed Al-Sahlawi to join for a training programme for three weeks, may God benefit him,” Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) of Saudi Arabia, wrote on Twitter.
The arrangement is part of a commercial agreement with the Old Trafford club and sporting authorities in Saudi Arabia, where Al-Sahlawi plays for Al-Nassr.
United in October signed a memorandum of understanding with GSA which will see the club help develop the Saudi football industry, as part of its 2030 Vision — the plan to diversify the Saudi economy and to develop its public sectors announced in 2016 by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Looking down their roster, the only chance they have is if keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf gets hot, because he’s got the most international experience on the side. Mohammad Al-Sahlawi was instrumental in helping the Saudis reach the tournament with 16 goals in qualifying but may not get much room to roam against the Russians or Uruguayans.
It’s always worth having Saudi Arabia at the World Cup, because their flag always causes marketing controversy.
Here is the Saudi flag:
And here’s what it means:
Fun fact: just displaying the flag this way is considered “Haram”, meaning any act that is forbidden by Allah. Because the text of the Koran has been translated into English & replaced on the flag, I – and now this site – have violated Islamic law.
I promised you a fatwa, didn’t I? Hopefully, it makes me as popular as Salman Rushdie & Padma Lakshmi will want to sleep with me as well.
Why “Saudi” rhymes with “fun” dates back to their first World Cup appearance in 1994. Keep in mind that – even in 1994 – all that was commonly known in the West about Saudi Arabia was that Arabs came from there, non-Muslims were forbidden from Mecca, “Lawrence of Arabia” is a masterpiece, and JR Ewing helped America by keeping Texas wells pumping during the oil embargoes & shortages of the 1970s.
Because the World Cup was held in the USA, everything was deemed marketable, and rights became big deals for the first time. And this is where the problems arose:
- In Britain, McDonald’s ran a promotional campaign with all 24 participating countries flags on the take-out bags and commemorative pins.
Offended Muslims complained that such sacred words should not be crumpled up and thrown in the trash.
McDonald’s printed 2 million of the bags, intended for take-out orders of children’s Happy Meals at its 520 restaurants in Britain.
The Saudi ambassador to Britain, Ghazi Algosaibi, promptly expressed his concerns to the McDonald’s vice president for marketing, John Hawkes. A Saudi diplomatic spokesman described the communication as “a very polite letter requesting the withdrawal of the bags.”
B. During the 1994 World Cup, Heineken printed the flag of each qualifying country under the bottle cap.
Saudi Arabia was included, which has a holy verse on its flag. This angered Muslims all over the world as the verse was then associated with alcohol.
Heineken reacted by recalling all the bottles and stopping their marketing campaign all together. Tellingly, because it’s considered one of the official beers of football, they didn’t bother changing the taste from “boiled feet”.
C. Coca-Cola printed the Saudi flag on 270 million cans to be sold worldwide during the World Cup.
Like the McDonald’s fiasco, Coke had to swiftly withdraw the product; unlike McDonald’s, it was worldwide as opposed to one region. Luckily, they avoided a fatwa against their product.
Fun fact: your racist uncle has spoken a small kernel of truth, wrapped up in a bunch of stereotypes, about “Ay-rabs” and Coke. To borrow from the site it was originally taken from, before people ramped up the racial invective:
On September 11th, 1951, an Egyptian newspaper, al-Ahram published a fatwa on whether or not the consumption of Coca-Cola and Pepsi were allowed under Islamic Law. The mufti, or Islamic judge, Hasanayn al-Makhluf was the individual who ruled on this matter. The reason that this was investigated under Islamic law was because of rumors and conspiracies spreading among the public about these soda pop brands. The fatwa was rescinded.
The last instance of religious attacks on Coke was in 2000, and involved the Islamic version of playing “Stairway to Heaven” backwards.
Some local preacher in Egypt convinced himself, and his cadre of followers, that Coke was anti-Muslim, if you turn the logo around & warp a few letters. Coca-Cola sought positive feedback from a top Islamic leader, Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Nasr Farid Wassel, who issued a fatwa — or religious opinion — that nothing blasphemous could be read from the logo.
Finally, in 2011, an Israeli-Muslim sued Coca Cola for $300 million because the minuscule amounts of alcohol found in Coke (due to the breaking down of the sugar molecules) violated Muslim dietary law and caused emotional anguish upon discovering that he had been unwittingly consuming alcohol for years. However, Coke again reached out to its global connections and had another fatwa issued declaring Coke to be non-haram, as the percentage of alcohol based on sugar content would never rise above 0.001%.
Of course, the opposite can happen as well. The delightfully-bannered site “Bare Naked Islam”
rails against Coke and its CEO from 2009-2017, Muhtar Kent, who is Muslim but also Turkish-American.
Because if they’re not out to get you directly, they’re out to get you through co-opting and destroying beloved symbols of the culture.
In 2018, McDonald’s has caused a different kind of Saudi conspiracy by seeming to pledge allegiance to the Saudi monarchy.
“We renew our allegiance and obedience for his royal highness, the servant of the two holy mosques, King Salman the son of Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and we support Amir Mohammed bin Salman, his son, to become Minister of Defence and Prime Minister and to be nominated as successor. God give him wisdom and equip him to rule his kingdom. With peace and prosperity, McDonald’s.”
It turns out a different member of the royal family is owner of the largest McDonald’s franchise group in Saudi Arabia, and was using his corporate connections for exposure & hopefully curry favour. So far, no one seems to be going crazy over this.
Anyway, now that we’ve discuss the ugly, let’s get to the good – bring on the female fans!
Yes, I know it’s a stereotype that Saudi women have to wear burkas & can’t attend sporting events, and like “Aaron Rodgers is gay” jokes it’s overplayed, low-hanging fruit, so I’ve chosen to accentuate the positive & focus on the sexy eyes aspect of Saudi women.
Saudi Arabia – they’re going 0-3 & probably not scoring a single goal, but the sideshows are the real entertainment with them.