Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Saudi Arabia - Waiting for the Kickoff

Saudi Arabia has an inferiority complex. The football team, that is.

After yesterday's embarrassing defeat of 0-4 by Ukraine, it became blindingly clear that the Saudi team just isn't ready for the World Cup. The Saudis manage to play beautifully amongst their Arab and Asian "brethren". But the moment they step out of Asian borders, things just tend to go wrong. Yes, i know, it has to do with experience and talent and all that stuff, but i'm not a sports fanatic, and this is no sport blog. This blog tends to deal more with culture. Something the Saudis seem to have a problem with.

Unlike (for example) their Korean and Japanese counterparts, the Saudis have a rather low level of confidence in themselves when they're outside of their comfort zone. The Koreans and Japanese are proud of their culture and comfortable with their identity. They know who they are, and therefore what they can become. The Saudis, on the other hand, are a bit confused when it comes to cultural identity. Their country is now gradually opening up to the world, and so their values and defining cultural traits are undergoing significant changes. This shifting cultural identity doesn't make the greatest of foundations, but despite its negative aspects, it's part of what all developing nations have to go through.

On top of all that, East Asian culture is more accepted and respected in the West, partly due to the fact that it's more assimilated into Western culture. Saudi Arabian culture (and Arab culture in general) doesn't exactly have that big of a fan base in the international arena. And it's quite obvious what a lack of acceptance and respect (no matter how subtle) can do to a person, much less a nation.

No wonder the Saudi team sucks when they leave Asia. Out there, they're playing with the big boys, which would be wonderful if they didn't feel like they were no more than the big boys' squirmy little brother. Lack of confidence can work wonders.

No, Saudi Arabia won't do well in the World Cup until they figure out just who they are and where they stand in the world. And no international team or fan base will give them the acceptance and respect they're looking for until they're confident enough to win it. (The respect, not the Cup... but hey, i guess if you dream, dream big.) Perhaps some of the changes that'll happen over the next four years'll be big enough to change the "rankings" in not just the world, but also in football.

Lol, small wonder people love this game. It's connected to everything. Freakishly so.

No comments: