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Real Madrid's Benzema And Saudi Arabia, A Connection Of Faith

The Frenchman, a Muslim, made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 2016 and has admitted that he listens to the Koran for ten minutes before games. It is an idol of the masses in Riyadh, where faith is a matter of state.

At the gates of the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, almost every child wants to be Karim Benzema. His number '9' is repeated on most shirts, whether men, boys or girls, which also exist. “Ben-ze-ma! Ben-ze-ma !", the Saudi stands acclaimed him before, during and after the classic against Barcelona, ​​where the most thunderous cry of the previous one was heard when his name appeared on the video scoreboards.

The French forward for Real Madrid landed in the capital of Saudi Arabia as the biggest star of the Spanish Super Cup and the current top scorer in the League, but his connection with the local fan goes much further.

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Sportingly, until a few years ago Benzema was not the favourite, Cristiano was. But since 2018 it's crazy, points out a local soccer fan. That little idolatry that the Arab public now feels with Benzema is directly enhanced by religion, a matter of state in this part of the world. 

Soccer comes first, obviously, but here beliefs make Karim, a Muslim, an idol of the masses. Much of the blame lies with the footballer himself, who has never hidden his faith and who in 2016 made the' Umrah', a small pilgrimage to Mecca, an act that a Muslim must perform at least once in his life. «My faith helps me focusevery day. It gives me strength», he declared a few months ago in an interview with Vogue Arabia.

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For all this, Benzema's presence in Riyadh was special for both parties, footballer and fan. An injury left him out of the Spanish Super Cup that was played two years ago in Jeddah, the second most important city in Saudi Arabia, and the MVP that he won after the classic made that little thorn that all the protagonists had nailed disappear. 

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"I feel very proud and very happy," he replied in the press room when asked about the constant affection shown by the stands of the King Fahd stadium: " Thanks to all the fans." Minutes later, he posted a photo on Instagram with the message "Alhamdulilah", which means "Praise be to God". In 2014 an interview with the newspaper L'Equipe, the Frenchman assured that he listened to the Quran, the holy book of Islam, for ten minutes before each game. "It makes me focus," he admitted.

Almost 900 kilometers from Mecca and without knowing what had been playing in his helmets in the moments before the classic, Benzema scored the 23rd goal of his season in a new victory for Madrid against Barcelona. 

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The white team does not give up against its eternal rival and has already won five consecutive games , the second best streak in its history (it won seven in a row between 1962 and 1965). In those five classics, four of them in the League, Benzema himself has been key, author of two goals and two assists in that period.

The Frenchman, his teammates, the coaching staff and the board of directors woke up yesterday surprised by some reactions to the 2-3 scoreline." We deserved the victory", assured Benzema at a press conference. 

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Earlier, Xavi Hernández had admitted that the game was "a turning point" for the Catalans and Piqué declared that Madrid" won a counterattack ." Phrases that had already resonated in the Hilton hotel in Riyadh where the whites are staying, but that came to nothing after seeing Laporta's speech in the locker room.

“We are all proud to be from Barça, more than ever. We have shown talent and we have been brave. Thank you. This is the way, mister, very good.We just need to start winning", said the president. That last sentence qualified a speech that sounded victorious. "Let's see if we are not the ones who have passed to the final...", they commented in the hall of the Hilton.

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