The joys of Al-Ittihad continue after winning the Saudi Professional Football League title after a long absence, as its fans prepare to welcome new striker Karim Benzema with great enthusiasm, and wait to see the Ballon d'Or winner in the yellow and black jersey for the first time in their stadium.
The 35-year-old French star, the Real Madrid captain who won 25 titles with the Spanish team, joined the federation last Tuesday on a huge contract until 2026 after leaving Real Madrid by mutual consent.
🔊 1, 2, 3... Welcome Madrid #GraciasKarim pic.twitter.com/1jRKSR0cXr
— Real Madrid (@realmadridarab) June 6, 2023
Fans will be on a date with seeing him on Thursday at the Radiant Jewel Stadium for the first time wearing the Al Ittihad shirt, and it is expected that he will carry the number 9 shirt to snatch it from Moroccan striker Abdul Razzaq Hamdallah, the top scorer in the Saudi league this season.
The federation offered tickets for the reception on Wednesday at a starting price of nine riyals ($2.40), and fans flocked to them.
🚨Benzema in Jeddah🤩#بنزيما_اتحادي #SSC pic.twitter.com/cUyFTzEdRA
— Saudi Sports Company SSC (@ssc_sports) June 7, 2023
More than 56,62 tickets were sold in just a few hours at the <>,<>-capacity stadium.
Mahmoud Abderrahmane, who has been a fan of the federation since his childhood, said of Benzema's transfer: "It's very emotional. Benzema moved from my team that I support in Europe (Real Madrid) to my local team, which is a very nice feeling".
Benz Federally ✍️🤩
🎼 Lucky Tonight Kareem#Benzema2Ittihad#here2inspireKSA pic.twitter.com/YvsWFzebXF
— Al Ittihad (@ittihad) June 6, 2023
Abdul Rahman, 23, believes that Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Al Nasr last December played a role in attracting the brightest stars to the Kingdom.
He said of his response when he learned of the federation's negotiations with Benzema: "I did not rule out a deal because everything is possible after the arrival of Ronaldo."
It seems that the Union's surprises for its fans will not stop at the signing of Benzema, as it comes close to signing compatriot N'Golo Kante, Chelsea midfielder and 2018 World Cup winner.
The federation's reinforcements come ahead of its participation in the Club World Cup, which Saudi Arabia will host in December.
"Before Benzema and Kante, our chance of winning the AFC Champions League was 20 per cent, now it's 90 per cent. We are also in advanced stages in the Club World Cup, and why not achieve it?"
During its only participation, the Federation qualified for the Golden Square of the tournament held in Japan in 2005.
🎼 It's all for you, Karim 🤩👏. #Benzema2Ittihad#here2inspireKSA pic.twitter.com/iALsk6XsnR
— Al Ittihad (@ittihad) June 7, 2023
Questions will revolve around the future of Moroccan striker Hamdallah with the team after Benzema joins, leaving Al Ittihad fans at a loss.
Hamdallah, who is three years younger than Benzema, played a pivotal role in winning the Saudi league title for the first time since 2009, when he scored 21 goals last season.
Dina Salama, who has been a fan of the federation since 2016, believes that the situation is complicated: "I feel that the best is Hamdallah's departure, but at the same time the team needs him to compete for the many tournaments in which he participates. His presence on the bench is important. God willing, we hope to win all the championships with Hamdallah and Karim."
"I feel proud, happy and sad for Benzema's transfer, and the reason is that I love him very much because I support Real Madrid and because he is coming to my country and excited to play in it, but I am sad because I was hoping that he would have won another trophy with Real Madrid before he left the team."
"But my sadness over his exit from the team is less because he will play in Saudi Arabia and for the Union and not for Al-Hilal, Al-Nasr or Al-Ahli, because I would have collapsed in this case."
Dina reflected the enthusiasm felt by Al Ittihad fans when she said, "In the past, I used to attend most of the matches at Al Jawhara Stadium, but after Benzema comes, I will not miss any meeting."