Commencing in a few hours for a period of one week, is a modern classic where Saudi football fans will be treated to some high quality performances by some of the best footballers ever to brace the game. The Kingdom will host Brazil, Argentina and Iraq in the SuperClasico de las Americas, which will be held in the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah from October 11th to the 16th, along with the host nation.
“I think that the mini-tournament starting on Thursday will be a great attraction for all football lovers. The world will be awaiting the Seleçao and the Tango as well as the other great teams,” says Ayed Al-Rashidi, a sports journalist based in Riyadh.
Another win for the nations’ sports governing body (GSA), the four-team tournament named as the SuperClasico is expected to raise the level of entertainment for its citizens aligning with the Kingdom’s larger strategic vision of 2030.
“I really would like to thank HRH Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on his excellent contributions and care he has given sporting clubs and events, as well as extending my gratitude towards HE Turki Al-Sheikh, whose brilliance has helped in raising the level of not only Saudi sports, but Arab as well,” says Al-Rashidi while being appreciative of the efforts taken so far for the welfare of Saudi citizens.
Adel Ezzat, former head of Saudi football federation who resigned from his post in August in order to prepare for his candidacy to run for AFC Presidency next year, had mentioned:
“The country is going through an important change. Football can be a catalyst for change. My country can play an important role in football,” adding..
“Football is about growth and if you don’t grow economically, socially, technically, you will not be moving. It’s not enough for us to be in the World Cup.”
Members from the respective squads arrived earlier in the week with one major exception that fans were looking forward to. Argentina’s starlet Lionel Messi had not been included in the roster for this tournament as he takes an indefinite break from national duty after their disastrous World Cup campaign.
For both the South American teams, the SuperClasico provides a platform for the respective squads to test themselves, in lieu of the 2019 Copa America, against unacquainted oppositions. It also provides an opportunity for Argentina to prepare for life without Lionel Messi who may or may not return.
“I am expecting Scaloni to continue to build a solid line up and that has balance in all areas. I want the team to learn to adapt without Messi. As we have seen in the past, without Lionel Argentina looked very depressing. Against a team like Brazil, you don't get any better chance than this to prove your worth,” says Sivan John, a specialist focusing on Argentine football.
Brazil's head coach Tite arrived in Riyadh with a strong side, including the likes of Neymar and Coutinho. Tottenham Hotspur’s 26-year-old in-form forward Lucas Moura also earned a recall into the national set-up. Argentina, on the other hand are set to feature a predominantly younger side as top names like Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuain and Ángel Di Maria were rested.
Meanwhile, hosts Saudi Arabia will take this opportunity to prepare for the upcoming Asian Cup hosted by neighbors – United Arab Emirates. Juan Antonio Pizzi will be aiming to prove his credentials against Brazil and Iraq. Historically, a manager has never continued with the national team past a given World Cup, however the Saudi FF had managed to break that streak as they renewed their confidence in the Argentine to earn the Saudis their fourth Asian Cup title.
“As for the Green Falcons, the players are excited and are really pumped to show what they can do, and I personally believe that the first match would end in a draw,” says Al-Rashidi.
The biggest surprise within the Saudi camp is the recall of 41-yr-old left back – Hussein Abdul Ghani into the setup. The legend in his own right, who comes back after a four-year absence, had previously faced the Brazilian team in two separate occasions (1997 and 1999). Pizzi will be hoping to capitalize on Hussein’s experience in the back as the defender is among the most consistent defenders in SPL this season.
This will also likely be a test of measure for the newly appointed head of Saudi Football Federation Qusay Al-Fawaz as he begins to implement his strategy in reforming and improving Saudi football.
Iraq, the fourth team in the tournament, are on a similar boat as they aim to solidify their squad prior to the Asian Cup under the guidance of their new Slovenian boss - Srečko Katanec. His primary goal would be for his young players to collectively perform under pressure in front of teams of Argentina’s stature.
However, it will be a sombre start for midfielder Bashar Resan whose mother passed away earlier today.
“The SuperClasico is an amazing opportunity for Iraq. We get to face such opponents once in a while. It will be a good chance for the coach to test the qualities of his players against a top class side. For the players, it’s a good chance to see where they are standing," explains Yousif Al-Khafajy, founder of the largest Iraqi football site - IQ-Pro.
Let’s not forget the financial benefits from this tournament as well. It was announced that Iraq FA is receiving 1 million dollars in return of joining. Finally, frankly speaking, I don’t think Iraq will loose with a big score like we did in 2013 against Brazil where we had the biggest loss in Iraqi football history."
Regardless of the results, it is clear that Saudi fans are in for a feast as they get to see their superstars up front, for many this being the opportunity of a lifetime.