Reds of the World will be a series of interviews with supporters from around the globe. If you’d like to participate, get in touch with me via Twitter, @kframpton.
Welcome! And join us this time as we journey to Riyadh – the capital of Saudi Arabia. We are joined by Haitham, who is one of the folks behind the official supporters club in the Kingdom. Give them a follow @Muscsaudi, they sponsor screenings in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Home to some stunning architecture and some 7 million Saudis, Riyadh also plays host to some devoted Reds. Let’s learn a little more about Haitham and a typical matchday for the supporters club. Please give the man a follow @Haithcliffe.
Who are you and where are you from?
I’m Haitham Alnowaiser. I’m 28 and the treasurer of Manchester United Supporters Club in Saudi Arabia, I’m from Riyadh.
How did you come to support Manchester United?
It was 1997 when I was at elementary school. It was casual support at the beginning – I didn’t know much about the team and the history of this club – but with time I began to follow and learn about the club. I watched MUTV, bought merchandise and began collecting shirts. I got attached to it so much, it was the best thing that I’ve ever had in my life.
Who is your favourite current player and why?
Michael Carrick. He is the engineer, the mastermind of every move the team makes on the field – and I think the most underrated player in English football and at Man Utd. We missed him due to injuries several times and saw how the team was affected because of his absence. He is as important as Rooney on the field.
Who is your favourite past player and why?
Ryan Giggs, because he’s not just a legend, he’s an icon. Ryan Giggs got recognition as the best from numerous legends in the game, he retired at the age of 40 and still played better than people half of his age. It showed you how incredible this guy really is.
I love all the class of ’92, from Beckham to Scholes, from Neville brothers to Nicky Butt. However, Ryan Giggs is the top to me, and the greatest Man Utd player of all time.
What is your favourite MUFC moment?
Champions League Final, 1999 – the last 10 minutes of the game. I couldn’t describe the emotions that I felt – from misery and defeatism, almost in tears, joy, hope, excitement, happiness, overwhelmed. It was the most memorable moment that I’ve had as a Man Utd supporter.
Have you ever been to Old Trafford or seen the club live on tour?
I did both, the summer of 2014. I took a tour at Old Trafford and it was a dream come true to see it. However, I was also dreaming of seeing a match at Old Trafford, and this dream recently came true in September when I saw Manchester United versus Liverpool in the English Premier League, and we won the match 3-1.
How do you typically watch MUFC matches? And if United kick off at 1500 in Manchester, what time is it in your country?
Usually, I watch it at home, or at someone’s house. Cafés occasionally. But now I watch it with rest of the members of the Supporters Club in a restaurant called Buffalo Wings and Rings that we consider our home. KSA time, it will be 17:00.
Is football the most popular sport in your country? What others do people watch?
Yes, it is. Football and only football. It’s a lifestyle for numerous people. In fact, it is almost a ‘life or death’ situation to some people, because it is the only thing which some consider entertainment in Saudi Arabia.
Where will MUFC finish in the Premier League this season?
Of course will be in the Top 4. I think we can challenge for the title.
Will MUFC win a trophy this season? If yes, which one[s]?
Yes, I’m really optimistic we can win the UEFA Champions League.