Posts Tagged ‘bus drivers’

Al-Shabab U17 v Al-Faisaly U17, Friday 20th January 2023, 3.35pm

February 1, 2023

Whilst I’d already been to a few games at the Prince Faisel bin Fahd Stadium, I’d not seen one at the adjacent practice pitch. Futbology isn’t much use in Saudi Arabia outside of the Saudi Pro League, but I’ve found a website, Goalzz, that lists fixtures as far down as the fifth tier as well as age group games. There was an U17 game scheduled for a Friday afternoon and on the basis that if the info was duff I’d only have wasted twenty minutes of my time, I had a walk along.

The route is one that I generally follow when out for a walk, taking me past the King Abdullah Park and then around the perimeter of the stadium complex. The park was busy, as was the outside, with vendors flogging anything from prayer mats to light sabers and families camped out for a picnic on any grassy area that they could find. Small kids were having a kick around, no doubt imagining themselves as Ronaldo.

As I passed the practice pitch, I could see the players warming up. That’s always a good sign. What was less promising was that the gate near to the pitch was closed and there was nobody about. I walked another couple of hundred yards around the stadium to the main entrance which fortunately was open.

I had no idea whether spectators were allowed for U17 games and so I just closely followed a family who were going through the gate. That worked to get me in without any questions but they then turned right to drop their kids off at judo club. A bloke was walking in the other direction, which after half a circuit of the main stadium, would hopefully end up with me being where I wanted to be. I followed him. A police car soon pulled up and asked him where he was going. Whatever he said and gestured was clearly the correct answer and, as they assumed that we were together, we were waived on. We went through the same process when a security guard in a car quizzed him fifty yards further on.

We weren’t too far from the practice pitch when the other fella wandered off the path, unlocked the team bus and got into the driver’s seat. I wasn’t expecting that but he’d served his purpose and I continued around to the small stands by the pitch and quietly took a seat, avoiding catching the eye of anyone who looked to be on official business.

There were a couple of other people by the side of the pitch, presumably something to do with the teams or else transport workers killing time. The rest of the three hundred or so seats were empty until kick-off time when a few people started trickling in through the nearby gate that had recently been opened. All of us had to watch the game through netting, which I’m never too happy about, but I managed to get a couple of photos through the gaps.

Visitors Al-Faisaly arrived by bus, presumably from the changing rooms on the other side of the stadium, and driven by my earlier walking companion. I’m not sure where the Al-Shabab teenagers came from, perhaps there was space for changing in the other stand behind the pitch.

I could describe all of the goals if I wanted to as I noted them all down but, let’s face it, none of us cares. Suffice to say Al-Shabab went a goal up, Al-Faisaly equalized and Al-Shabab restored their lead before the half-time bus trip. In the second half the visitors equalized again and then went three-two up.

They held their lead until the final ten minutes when Al-Shabab pegged it back and then nicked a winner. The fella next to me was convinced that the home side were going to throw it away and some lax defending almost resulted in another equalizer, but they hung on for a four-three win. By the end, the crowd had risen to around fifty, the usual mix of parents, friends, die-hards and bus drivers.