A win at a football match during the world cup is always a moment that every country savours. But when your team is not one of the favorites, and yet is able to defeat one of the world's top football teams the sense of national elation is eccstatic.
Such was the mood in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday (22 November) after their team in its debut match in the tournament in Doha which opened on Sunday, managed to defeat one of the favorites, Argentina.
As Saudi media was quick to point out, this was the first time an Arab or Asian team have beaten the two-time world champions at this level, and will go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the competition.
It all started well for the Argentinians. They took the lead after only 10 minutes through Lionel Messi’s penalty, and looked to have doubled their lead when Lautaro Martinez netted later in the first half, but the goal was cancelled.
But after the half-time break the Saudi team completed a remarkable turnaround with two wonderful strikes by Saleh Al-Shehri in the 48th minute and star man Salem Al-Dawsari five minutes later.
Argentina came back strongly but some heroic defending and a man-of-the-match performance by goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais saw them secure a historic win in their opening Group C fixture.
Back home, the Saudi government decided it was time to party. At a regular meeting of the cabinet of Ministers, King Salman approved a suggestion made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to celebrate the national team’s victory with a holiday. All public and private sector employees and students at all educational stages will be given a holiday, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Saudi Stock Exchange Tadawul also announced that it would suspend trade on Wednesday and resume on Thursday in light of the public holiday.
For Saudi Arabia this is a moment to savour. The country has been in recent years slowly but surely emerging from a period of lethargy, and a new dynamism is appearing in all sectors of society. Many problems linger, and some new ones are emerging too. But today, Saudis will focus on celebrating a football victory which very well embodies the country's new sense of confidence.