Last week, Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to qualify for the 208 FIFA World Cup in Russia, after their 1-0 victory against Japan.
Now, the Imam of a mosque in central Saudi Arabia has used his Friday sermon to claim that the qualification of the football national team for the international tournament next year was a blessing from God and deserved praise.
During his sermon in Al Qasim, Mohammad Al Harbi mentioned numerous blessings showered on Saudi Arabia and included the long-awaited qualification of the Saudi national team.
However, according to Gulf News, some worshippers later objected and insisted that prayers and sermons should be solely of religious nature and should not mention sports or athletic achievements, even if they were by the national team.
The Imam has since rejected criticism against him saying:
"To me, this is an achievement for Saudi Arabia and we should be thankful to God for the blessing. My sermon was about God’s blessings and I cited the qualification as one of them. I did not devote the sermon to football or to the national team. However, I mentioned several blessings, such as the tremendous success of the Haj season and I included the football achievement," Al Harbi told Saudi news site Ain Al Youm.
Several people commented that the Imam should not have talked about football in a mosque.
“A mosque is a place of worship that should be respected in every way,” a commenter told Gulf News.
“It is used to worship God and Imams should focus on religious matters, not on worldly things such as football. We all love the national team, but a mosque is not the right place to praise the players or to laud their performance," the unnamed source added.
This is the first time Saudi Arabia has qualified for the World Cup since 2006, can you really blame him for his comments during the sermon?