Sport in Saudi Arabia
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Sport in Saudi Arabia is an important part of Saudi Arabian culture and the country participates in many international sporting competitions. Football is a particularly popular sport and Saudi Arabia has won the Asian Cup on three occasions, while other sports such as cricket and basketball are also widely followed. Restrictions on women's sport in Saudi Arabia have been eased slightly in the 2010s but female participation in sport remains controversial.
Football is the most popular sport in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the sport has grown in popularity, and some Saudi players currently play in Europe. The Saudi Arabian national football team is governed by the Saudi Football Federation (SFF). The SFF organises the Saudi leagues, and the Saudi Arabian Cup. The Saudi national team has competed in five FIFA World Cup competitions, in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, and most recently, in 2018. The Saudi team has also competed in seven AFC Asian Cup competitions, first in 1984. Achievements from the AFC Cup include being the Champions in 1984, 1988, and recently, in 1996. The current player of the year is Hussein Sulaimani,[when?] who is the captain of Saudi Arabian football team. Saudi Arabia also regularly participate in the Arabian Gulf Cup, AFC Champions League, and Arab Nations Cup.
Cricket is the second most popular sport in Saudi Arabia, largely due to the increasing number of South Asian expatriates who play the game during their spare time. However, during recent years cricket has generated interest among many Arab locals, such as Faique Habib and Nadim Al Nadwi, who have both represented Saudi Arabia at national level. Currently there are over 8000 Saudi cricketers, with nearly 20 percent being local Arabs, and the majority of the rest coming from countries such as Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.
There are many cricket associations Saudi Arabia, with Yanbu Al Sinaiyah Cricket Association being the largest. Each major city has its own organisation which holds its own domestic cup for each format.
Since 2010 Saudi Arabia has gained quite a lot of fame for its style of cricket, as it has won several regional tournaments on turf, even though back home players only play on concrete. Saudi Arabia's biggest win to date was in September 2016, where they beat a Namibian national side by 141 runs. 2 months later they also won their first major series which came in the form of a quadrangular series also involving Kenya, Uganda and Qatar.
Saudi Arabia's greatest cricketer is Shoaib Ali, who has contributed to major victories both home and away, and who has captained the nation since 2008. He is a bowling all rounder who made his debut against Thailand in the 2008 ACC Under-19 Challenge Cup.
Basketball is also a popular sport in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Premier League has been home to several players who competed at the FIBA Asia Championship and has also attracted NBA-players such as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
Rugby union in Saudi Arabia is a minor but growing sport, which has been played for several decades in the Kingdom. Many of the local rugby clubs date back to the late 1970s.
Professional wrestling has been a recognizable minor sport in Saudi Arabia. The country has hosted one event by the U.S.-based promotion, WWE in Jeddah dubbed the Greatest Royal Rumble on April 27, 2018. The company will host a second event in Riyadh in fall of 2018 as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.
This is a list of Saudi Arabian national sports teams:
- Saudi Arabia national football team
- Saudi Arabia national basketball team
- Saudi Arabia national handball team
- Saudi Arabia national cricket team
- Saudi Arabia at the Olympics
- Saudi Arabia at the Paralympics
- Saudi Arabia Football Federation
- Women's sport in Saudi Arabia
- List of sports venues in Saudi Arabia