It was 8:30pm, but light of day still lingered over the Red Square in Moscow on Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Despite it being a public holiday, there were swarms of inside the square, and overflowing the surrounding streets, cafes and restaurants. The presence of huge number of fans from around the world for the FIFA World Cup added an extra tinge of festivity to Russia's national day.
The imposing Izmailovo Delta Hotel is largely occupied by delegates from 211 countries participating in the F4F event, but the arrival of around 40 fans from Saudi Arabia has added a World Cup flavour to the festivity.
Saudi Arabia made quite an impression in their maiden appearance at the World Cup in 1994, progressing to the last 16 after having beaten Morocco 2-1 and Belgium 1-0 in group stages. They have since appeared three more times consecutively, but failed to make any mark on those occasions before missing out on the last two editions.
This time, they are again in the World Cup and hence there is new hope for them. Reportedly around 2000 Saudi fans will be expected to cheer on their side from the stands when the Green Falcons face hosts Russia in the opening game tonight.
“We have come here to support our team,” Saudi fan Faraz told this reporter at the lobby of Izmailovo Hotel yesterday morning.
Faraz informed that some 2000 fans had arrived in Moscow, out of whom only 40 have checked in at the Izmailovo hotel.
Asked about Saudi Arabia's chances against the hosts in the opening match, Saeed, another Saudi fan, said, “The match will be tough but I believe the result will go in our favour.”
Neither Faraz nor Saeed watched the 1994 World Cup and the performance of Saeed Al Owairan, who ran danced past a few Belgians before scoring the decisive goal in the very fifth minute of the match.