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Australian-Saudi social ties are growing
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 10 - 2016

World Cup qualifying matches are always fiercely fought. And the match this Thursday night at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah between the Saudi National team and the Australian national team (the Socceroos) will surely be no exception. In equal first place on the Group B table, both teams have shown courage and sportsmanship on the field to date: I expect to see that same determination on display this Thursday.
Sporting competitions – and the dedication they require - bring out the best in us. And the shared excitement and appreciation of the skills on display show us how much we have in common. Sport, in particular football, has now become an important vehicle in helping connect the global community of nations and increase understanding among peoples.
Australia values the warmth of its ties with Saudi Arabia and we share a commitment to the promotion of international peace and prosperity, including through the G20.
We are also committed to working with Saudi Arabia as it pursues implementation of its Vision 2030 for economic transformation.
Australia and Saudi Arabia share many environmental and climatic similarities. And the social ties between our countries are growing, not only because of the thousands of Saudi students and their families in Australia, but also because we are home to half a million Muslims – some 3,000 of whom visited the Kingdom for this year's Haj. Just as we Australians resident in Saudi Arabia appreciate the warmth and hospitality of the Saudi people, I know our players will appreciate the welcome they receive.
I would like to extend my thanks to the dedicated professionals in the Saudi Arabian Football Federation for the work they have put in.
Thursday's match will showcase the facilities at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, including to millions of Australians who are expected to tune in. It is hard to imagine a more impressive location for our teams to play.
This facility is symbolic of Saudi Arabia's aspirations as a sporting nation.
In Australia, sport plays a central part in society, in fostering good health in our youth, as well as the importance of doing one's best.
Football, or soccer as it is known in Australia, is a relatively new sport for many Australians. But its popularity has seen a massive upswing in recent years. Australia was pleased to host the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup earlier this year, an event that captured huge interest in Australia.
In 2014, Australian and Saudi soccer fans came together as two of our football teams played in the AFC Champions League final in Riyadh. This experience left our visitors with a fresh awareness of Saudi Arabia's fondness for football, and dedication as fans. We look forward to coming together once again on Thursday and to creating further memories to build the Saudi-Australian friendship.
This qualifier in Jeddah, whatever the outcome, is an opportunity to celebrate what binds us together.
— Dr. Ralph King is Australia's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

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