RIYADH – Saudi King Salman declared a national holiday after the football team’s stunning World Cup win over Argentina on Tuesday, the state media reported.
The 86-year-old monarch ordered that “Wednesday be a holiday for all employees in the public and private sectors, as well as male and female students at all educational levels”, according to the Al-Ekhbariya channel on Twitter.
The move comes in the middle of final exams in the Gulf nation, indicating that they will have to be rescheduled.
The Saudi Green Falcons bounced back from conceding an early Lionel Messi penalty to produce one of the greatest World Cup shocks thanks to a Saleh Al-Shehri equaliser and a sublime Salem Al-Dawsari winner at the Lusail Stadium in Doha.
Celebrations erupted throughout the capital Riyadh after the final whistle blew, with fans forming impromptu dance circles and waving the sword-emblazoned national flag from the windows of speeding cars.
A Saudi television station also showed a long line of cars with veiled women standing in their open sunroofs waving the Saudi flag. Celebrating children gave the victory sign.
Al-Ekhbariya posted pictures of the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, celebrating after watching the game with a group that included Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.
Turki al-Sheikh, an adviser at the Royal Court and head of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, announced on Twitter that admission fees would be waived at major theme parks and entertainment centres in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Following the stunning Saudi victory, there was also an outpouring of Arab pride amid the first staging of football’s top tournament in the Middle East.
It was a sweet moment for hosts Qatar, facing intense criticism over human rights in the conservative Muslim country. Its emir draped the Saudi flag over his shoulders at the match. A Doha skyscraper flashed “Congratulations Greens”.
“Wow! I have all the feelings right now. We beat Argentina, one of the great teams!” said Saad from Riyadh who is in Qatar for two weeks and was wearing a green Saudi Falcons scarf.
“Our guys played so well – everything went right inside the stadium today. It was amazing.”
Other Arab fans were also thrilled, including Tunisians, whose team drew 0-0 against Denmark.
“I’m so proud,” said Hoda Salmi, who resides in Qatar, as other Tunisian fans ululated.
“It was a huge joy to see Saudi’s win,” said compatriot Yusra Khalil at a fan zone with her husband and two young daughters. “The fact that the World Cup is in Qatar and we’re Arabs – it gives us a lot of energy and excitement.” AFP, REUTERS