Al-Riyadh U17 v Sudair U17, Friday 17th March 2023, 3.50pm

This was my first trip to the Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Stadium, home to second tier Al-Riyadh. After picking up some drinks and snacks from a supermarket opposite I wandered into the main stadium only to be directed to the practice ground that was tagged on to one end. I was fine with that though as it meant that I’d be able to tick off the auxiliary pitch and then return to the stadium proper for a future first team fixture.

The game was taking place on a grass pitch with three rows of seats along one side. At the time I arrived there were only a handful of people there, possibly because of the lack of shade. As the game progressed the crowd swelled to around two hundred. Order was maintained by a few stewards and seven policemen, which struck me as a little excessive.

A couple of families sat down near me but were soon moved to the other end of the seating leaving my area as one for men only. This was my first experience of enforced segregation and it seemed over the top. If the families had been uncomfortable where they were then they could easily have instigated a move themselves.

Just as some welcome cloud cover arrived midway through the first half, Sudair opened the scoring. I didn’t see the move finished off as a big bloke was climbing over the back of a seat between me and the far goal, but the subsequent celebrations revealed that a fair proportion of the attendees were supporting the visitors.

The second half was quite fractious with lots of niggly fouls, plenty of injury faking and a few flare-ups between the players that seemed more for effect than to settle any particular grievance. The actions of the players served to fire up the crowd with some of the Sudair fans on the receiving end of a warning from a steward for standing and chanting.

Al-Riyadh pressed hard for an equalizer but with two minutes to go Sudair broke clear and their striker tucked his chance away to clinch the win. Hopefully I’ll be back for a game at the main stadium before long.

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