The 'Inter Miami Phenomenon' in Saudi Arabia

Global Stars, Marketing Strategies, and the Rise of Soccer in Saudi Lands

New York City FC v Inter Miami CF
New York City FC v Inter Miami CF / Rich Storry/GettyImages
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See the topics covered in this article

  1. Rise of Stars: Messi and Ronaldo Take Center Stage
  2. Expansion of Soccer in the Middle East: A Significant Impact by Inter Miami
  3. Global Competition: MLS vs. Saudi Professional League
  4. Building a Cultural Bridge: The Creation of 'Miami in Arabic'
  5. Challenges and Opportunities for Inter Miami in Saudi Arabia
  6. Cultural Adaptation and Expectations for the Future
  7. Perception of Rivalry between MLS and Saudi Professional League in Saudi Arabia
  8. Social Media Engagement: Passion for Messi
  9. Expectations for the Friendly Tournament in Saudi Arabia
  10. Recent Performances of Messi and Ronaldo: A Continued Legacy
  11. The Bright Future of Inter Miami in Saudi Arabia
  12. See the full interview
  13. How do you see Inter Miami's role in promoting MLS in Saudi Arabia, especially after the signings of renowned players like Messi, Alba, Suárez, and Busquets?
  14. What is the direct impact of Inter Miami on popularizing soccer in the Middle Eastern countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia? Is there a noticeable increase in the number of fans and the visibility of the sport?
  15. With the recent signings of global soccer stars, how do you perceive the growing global interest in both MLS and the Saudi Professional League? Is there intense competition between the two leagues to capture fan attention?
  16. What specifically motivated the creation of the Inter Miami Arabia profile on Twitter? How do you expect this initiative to contribute to strengthening the connection between the club and Saudi fans?
  17. Based on your experience, what are the main challenges and opportunities that Inter Miami faces in expanding its presence and influence in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East?
  18. Considering the cultural differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia, how does Inter Miami adapt its marketing and communication strategies to meet local expectations and values?
  19. How do Saudis perceive the rivalry between the emerging leagues, MLS and the Saudi Professional League? Is there a clear preference for players and clubs from one league over the other?
  20. What are the key themes and content that garner the most attention and engagement from Saudi followers of Inter Miami Arabia on Twitter? How do you identify and cater to the preferences of the local audience?
  21. What are Inter Miami's expectations for the friendly tournament in Saudi Arabia, considering Messi's participation and Neymar's likely absence due to a knee injury?
  22. How do you assess the recent performances of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer?

In an exclusive interview, Maher Khubrani, the brilliant mind behind 'Miami in Arabic,' shared profound insights into the role of Inter Miami in promoting Major League Soccer (MLS) in Saudi Arabia and the behind-the-scenes marketing strategies adopted by the club. Throughout the conversation, Khubrani highlights the incredible influence of global soccer stars on the popularity of Inter Miami, especially in Saudi lands.

Follow MLS Multiplex on X (Twitter).

Rise of Stars: Messi and Ronaldo Take Center Stage

Maher Khubrani, a soccer enthusiast and creator of 'Miami in Arabic,' begins the interview discussing the impact of the surprising transfers of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to Al-Nassr and Inter Miami, respectively.

"Cristiano Ronaldo, a true football legend, has become an icon at Al-Nassr, bringing an unexpected twist to Saudi soccer. And Messi, the winner of the 2022 World Cup, has brought unprecedented popularity to Inter Miami"

Maher Khubrani

He highlights how the speculation around Messi's possible move to Inter Miami generated excitement, sharing the thrill of seeing two icons, Cristiano and Messi, reunited, especially after Cristiano Ronaldo made his remarkable move to Saudi lands.

"The popularity of Messi in Saudi Arabia is undeniably immense. His shocking move to the United States, specifically to Inter Miami, has brought the club's jersey to all sports stores, something rare for American clubs"

Maher Khubrani

Expansion of Soccer in the Middle East: A Significant Impact by Inter Miami

The creator of 'Miami in Arabic' shares his observations on the increasing visibility of soccer in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, thanks to Inter Miami.

"The special matches led by Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr have a significant influence. Even at inconvenient times, fans tune in to watch MLS matches, particularly Inter Miami's clashes, which is the effect we're talking about when Messi goes to the USA"

Maher Khubrani

He emphasizes the active participation of fans, who, despite facing midnight broadcasts, show a growing interest in the American league. The interview reveals the global power of soccer and how international stars can shape the sports scene in different parts of the world.

Global Competition: MLS vs. Saudi Professional League

Khubrani shares his perception of the growing competition between MLS and the Saudi Professional League, particularly after the recent signings of global stars.

"The Saudi League has become the 'Roshan Professional League' after the arrival of names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Neymar. Big matches are broadcast globally, similar to Major League Soccer after Messi's arrival at Inter Miami"

Maher Khubrani

He highlights how the competition between the two leagues has intensified, becoming a global spectacle.

"American professional soccer is attracting increasing international attention, especially after Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d'Or while playing for Inter Miami. An unbelievable madness that drew the eyes of the world to America"

Maher Khubrani
Lionel Messi
New York City FC v Inter Miami CF / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Building a Cultural Bridge: The Creation of 'Miami in Arabic'

When discussing the creation of the 'Miami in Arabic' account on X (formerly Twitter), Khubrani explains his motivation and the importance of Lionel Messi's presence in the narrative.

"I created the account during Inter Miami's first season, and when rumors surfaced about Messi's move, followers increased. Since then, I've been broadcasting news about the club and the MLS, contributing to a positive image of the American league"

Maher Khubrani

He highlights how the account has become vital for conveying not only Inter Miami news but also for promoting the MLS in a region where American soccer is still gaining ground.

Challenges and Opportunities for Inter Miami in Saudi Arabia

Maher Khubrani shares his insights into the challenges and opportunities that Inter Miami faces in expanding its presence in Saudi Arabia.

"Inter Miami must leverage the presence of players like Messi, Suarez, and Busquets to intensify their participation in preparatory tournaments and build a solid fan base"

Maher Khubrani

Additionally, he expresses confidence in the club's ability to overcome challenges, led by figures like David Beckham.

Cultural Adaptation and Expectations for the Future

Addressing the cultural differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Khubrani highlights the importance of agreements in the Saudi country.

"Inter Miami must make its mark here, leveraging Messi's influence as a Saudi tourism ambassador. There is possible cooperation, and I wish success for Saudi Arabia and for the team I love, Inter Miami"

Maher Khubrani

He emphasizes the need to align marketing strategies with local expectations, recognizing the significant transformations led by King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Perception of Rivalry between MLS and Saudi Professional League in Saudi Arabia

The interview addresses the Saudi perception of the emerging rivalry between the MLS and the Saudi Professional League.

"The Saudi people recognize the development of local soccer, especially after Al-Nassr entry onto the world stage. American soccer, which has attracted legends for years, is also flourishing and will continue to grow in the coming years"

Maher Khubrani

He highlights how Saudi soccer has gained global recognition, attracting international stars and broadcasting matches to more than 40 channels worldwide.

"Professional American soccer has gained international notoriety, especially after Lionel Messi won his eighth Ballon d'Or at Inter Miami. An incredible madness that consolidated the spotlight on American soccer"

Maher Khubrani
Nicolás Stefanell
New York City FC v Inter Miami CF / Rich Storry/GettyImages

Social Media Engagement: Passion for Messi

Discussing the role of social media in promoting soccer and Inter Miami, Maher Khubrani highlights the intense passion of followers, especially for the legend Lionel Messi.

"The Saudi audience is always eagerly awaiting the latest news about Messi. They are true fans who love soccer and legends. I always try to make them experience the event firsthand with the new club and its news, whether about Messi or other exciting developments in the MLS and its clubs"

Maher Khubrani

He emphasizes how his X account, 'Miami in Arabic,' has become an essential platform for Arab Inter Miami fans, consolidating a significant follower base.

"Most of my followers are fans of the legend Lionel Messi, but there are also some Arab fans from various countries and a considerable number of non-Arab followers interested in Inter Miami and Lionel Messi news"

Maher Khubrani

Expectations for the Friendly Tournament in Saudi Arabia

When asked about expectations for the upcoming friendly tournament in Saudi Arabia, Maher Khubrani reveals enthusiasm.

"The tournament between the two biggest Saudi clubs, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, and Inter Miami is a very tough and exciting tournament. I can't wait. I and all Saudi fans are looking forward to watching the tournament, especially the historic clash between the Saudi clubs and Inter Miami, called 'The Last Dance". I believe it will be the final encounter in the history of the two icons, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Everyone is waiting for this historic event"

Maher Khubrani

He shares his vision for the tournament, emphasizing the importance of enjoying the moment.

"For me, it will be an opportunity to enjoy the event, regardless of the result. It's not the right time to take sides. We should give full appreciation to this last encounter between them. Although I read some tweets on my Lionel Messi fan account expressing concern about Inter Miami's defensive line fragility, facing two teams with intimidating names in each sector, I remain optimistic that Inter Miami will leave its mark in the transfer market, especially after attracting a great player like Luis Suarez"

Maher Khubrani

Recent Performances of Messi and Ronaldo: A Continued Legacy

Assessing the recent performances of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer, Khubrani highlights the historical achievements of both.

"Messi wasted no time making history in the United States and for Inter Miami, delivering a stellar individual performance in the Leagues Cup, contributing to the tally of 11 goals and securing the top scorer title, along with clinching the first official championship for the club against Nashville. This thrilling victory propelled the team to the CONCACAF Champions Cup's round of 16, and an exciting new season awaits. Cristiano Ronaldo has also achieved impressive feats with Al-Nassr, winning the King Salman Club Championship with an exceptional performance, becoming the tournament's top scorer with 6 goals. His ongoing contribution has led him to become the world's leading goal scorer in 2023, with 54 goals. Both players still have much to achieve with their clubs and national teams"

Maher Khubrani

He emphasizes the global competitiveness among stars and how these two icons continue to inspire new generations of soccer fans worldwide.

The Bright Future of Inter Miami in Saudi Arabia

At the end of the interview, Maher Khubrani expresses optimism about the future of Inter Miami in Saudi Arabia and neighboring regions.

"Inter Miami has the opportunity to establish itself as a prominent club, leveraging the presence of renowned players and expanding its reach even after the departure of Messi, Suarez, and others in the coming years. The team is only at the beginning of its journey in soccer, led by visionary figures like David Beckham and the brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, who have created a historic event in a short period in American soccer. I expect a lot from them, and I believe they are taking the club to the top in the right way"

Maher Khubrani

He concludes the interview with a message of collaboration and wishes for success both for his beloved Saudi Arabia and for Inter Miami.

"Inter Miami must make its mark in Saudi Arabia, seizing opportunities and actively participating in preparatory events. Additionally, with Messi as a Saudi tourism ambassador, there are common areas where we can cooperate. I wish success to my dear country, Saudi Arabia, and also to the team I love, Inter Miami"

Maher Khubrani

The interview with Maher Khubrani provides a unique insight into the intersection of global soccer, Arab culture, and Inter Miami's expansion strategy. The phenomenon of American soccer takes on new dimensions with international stars shaping the sports landscape and inspiring growing passion among Saudi fans. The promising future of Inter Miami in the region reflects not only the club's ability to attract big names but also to build lasting cultural connections and solidify its role as an influential protagonist in the world of soccer.

Jordi Alba
New York City FC v Inter Miami CF / Rich Storry/GettyImages

See the full interview

How do you see Inter Miami's role in promoting MLS in Saudi Arabia, especially after the signings of renowned players like Messi, Alba, Suárez, and Busquets?

You know, after joining a player with the value and name of a player like Cristiano Ronaldo, he is considered a football icon and has been competing for many years in European football with ancient clubs like Manchester United and then Real Madrid. Then, the shocking move to Juventus, and then the return that was supposed to be a return from the big door to Manchester United. Everyone knows what happened in Manchester United and with the Portuguese national team in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to harsh circumstances. When the name of the Saudi Al-Nassr Club appeared, that the club is negotiating with him and wants to attract him in a historic event for football in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia specifically and in the Middle East in general. It was like madness at that time. No one believed that this would happen until the impossible became real when one of the football legends over many years officially became a player for the Saudi Al-Nasr club, Cristiano Ronaldo. The same crazy thing happened to the legend Lionel Messi when he won the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with a great individual performance and a scenario that does not happen even in the best Hollywood films. It was unbelievable. I almost went crazy because I had supported the Argentine national team for years because of some Argentine players, specifically (Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain), whom I have always loved for many years, and they made me very happy in the clubs they played for. I always wanted the teams they played for to win. I always supported Argentina because of them, and this may be crazy, as Argentina has the greatest football player, the legend Lionel Messi. But the heart always went with Aguero and Higuain. Messi has very, very great popularity in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His shocking move to everyone, "exceptionally," to the United States of America, specifically to Inter Miami, after his name was very closely linked and he was on the verge of moving to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia to Al Hilal Saudi Club, which would have made things even crazier and more exciting when the duo of two icons like Cristiano and Messi, which everyone got used to in the Spanish League with Real Madrid and Barcelona, would return with Al-Nasr and Al-Hilal, until the legend Lionel Messi finally decided to determine his destination and choose Inter Miami. The thing that made me very happy in particular is that Lionel Messi’s influence after his move to Inter Miami in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was very great, and he influenced the majority of the fans who loved him, old and young, until the Inter Miami shirt was displayed in all sports stores, which were rare to find shirts for American clubs. Everyone became He now has the shirt with ease, and of course the influence of the legend Lionel Messi is undoubtedly greater on the Arab public in general than the transfer of Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez, who of course have a good fan base in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but cannot be compared to Messi’s popularity.

What is the direct impact of Inter Miami on popularizing soccer in the Middle Eastern countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia? Is there a noticeable increase in the number of fans and the visibility of the sport?

A very large impact, especially in the special matches played by Al-Nassr, led by Cristiano Ronaldo. Fans of the clubs that face Al-Nassr always chant the name “Messi, Messi, Messi” to influence Cristiano’s level, and some even raise the Inter Miami shirt bearing Messi’s name on the field as well. The number of fans increased in order to watch the American League, specifically watching Inter Miami matches, which conflict with the time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is always broadcast late “dawn” after 12 midnight. In most cases, Inter Miami matches are between 3 and 4 am, and despite this, a number Big watches the matches and this is the effect we are talking about when the legend Lionel Messi goes to the USA and makes the whole world watch the matches late.

With the recent signings of global soccer stars, how do you perceive the growing global interest in both MLS and the Saudi Professional League? Is there intense competition between the two leagues to capture fan attention?

Yes, of course, the Saudi League became the “Roshan Professional League” after the great attractions that occurred with international names such as the legend Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Neymar, Kante, Sadio Mane, Alex Telles, Brozovic, Laporte, Savic, Fabinho, Carrasco, Mahrez, Franck Kessieh, and Edouard Mendy, Sekou Fofana, and other big international names are under the attention of the whole world. In most cases, especially in big matches, the match is broadcast through several channels, reaching in some matches more than 40 carriers around the world, and this is very logical, as the matter has become similar in the American Football League. Professional football after the transfer of the legendary World Cup champion Lionel Messi, who also created a historic thing for America and the American League when he was able to achieve the eighth Ballon d'Or while playing for the American club Inter Miami. Wow, another crazy, unbelievable thing. If you told someone 10 years ago that this would happen, they would think you were crazy. But the matter has become so real and realistic that it has made all the eyes of the world turn to America, which of course has long been accustomed to attracting big international names. When we mention this topic, we must mention the name of the late Brazilian legend “Pele” when he represented the American club New York Cosmos, and there are several big names. Another played soccer in the United States of America.

What specifically motivated the creation of the Inter Miami Arabia profile on Twitter? How do you expect this initiative to contribute to strengthening the connection between the club and Saudi fans?

 I created the “Miami in Arabic” account in 2020, during the first season of Inter Miami in the American League, when the legend Gonzalo Higuaín moved at the time. The name of the account was Inter Miami and the club’s logo as well, but I did not continue much in the account at that time. I only made a few tweets, but there were none. Great interaction reminds me of the account. I returned to the account at the moment when rumors of Lionel Messi’s move to Inter Miami spread, when followers of the account suddenly began to increase. Since then, I have continued to transmit club news and some American League news. The account has become very important to me in order to convey a good image of the American League, which I have loved very much since. Frenchman Thierry Henry moved to New York Red Bulls in 2010, who was also one of the people who made me love Arsenal when he played for them and when he went to Barcelona and then to the American League. Also, as some people know, I am one of Higuain’s biggest fans. I supported every club he played for, and when he was playing for the Italian club AC Milan in 2018, Milan played against Juventus in the Italian Super Cup final, and then I decided to fulfill my dream of traveling from the north of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the center of the Kingdom to the city of Jeddah, where the final would be held. I wanted to attend the match of a lifetime for me because I am a fan of the Italian club Juventus, which is the club that I support in European footbalI decided to go the day before the final to the hotel where the Milan club was located, in order to try and meet Gonzalo Higuain "Al-Pipita" and take a souvenir photo with him. I actually managed to reach him and take a souvenir photo. I cannot forget that day full of great emotional feelings. I attended the final the next day, and my heart was divided at the time between my football tendencies for Juventus to achieve the title and Milan winning the title for Higuain. Juventus eventually won with a header from Cristiano Ronaldo, 1-0, and it was a little disappointing for me because Higuain was sad that night.

When Higuain returned to Juventus, I was able to watch the Italian Super Cup again in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but this time in the city of Riyadh in 2019 against Lazio, where Lazio defeated Juventus in the final with a score of 3-1. It was a painful and sad night for me, but most importantly, I was able to attend and watch Higuain in front of me again.

My personal account on the X platform now has a large fan base, the majority of whom are fans of the legend Lionel Messi. But there are also some Arab fans from all over the Arab countries who follow the account, and there is also a certain number of non-Arab fans who follow the account for news of Inter Miami and Lionel Messi.

Based on your experience, what are the main challenges and opportunities that Inter Miami faces in expanding its presence and influence in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East?

Inter Miami must seize the opportunity of the presence of big names such as the legendary Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba, who have a fan base in the Middle East. They should intensify their participation in preparatory tournaments to build a large fan base based on the name Inter Miami. Even after the departure of Messi and the other players in the coming years, the team is still at the beginning of its football stages and has plenty of room for this difficult and great challenge led by the club’s owners, the legend David Beckham and the brothers Jorge and Jose Mas, who created a historic event in a short period of time in American football. I expect a lot from them. They are taking the club to the top in the right way.

Considering the cultural differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia, how does Inter Miami adapt its marketing and communication strategies to meet local expectations and values?

Inter Miami officials must make agreements in the Middle East, specifically in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the country is witnessing very great and unparalleled development under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Inter Miami must make its mark here in one of these events so that everyone can see the great development in the club, especially since Lionel Messi is a player for Inter Miami and also the Saudi tourism ambassador. There are some common things that we can all do to be cooperative in it, and I wish success for my dear country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and also success for the team that I love, Inter Miami.

How do Saudis perceive the rivalry between the emerging leagues, MLS and the Saudi Professional League? Is there a clear preference for players and clubs from one league over the other?

In fact, the Saudi people know the extent of the development that Saudi football has reached and which is still under development. There are some things that made fans see that Saudi football has a league that has become coveted by all players in the world after it attracted the most ancient Saudi club, Al-Nasr Saudi Club, which has always been prioritized in creating an exciting sporting event. Al-Nasr was the first Asian team to represent the continent in the first Club World Cup in 2000 in Brazil, with the presence of tournament champions such as Brazilian Corinthians, Spanish Real Madrid, Brazilian Vasco da Gama, Manchester United, South Melbourne from the Oceania Confederation, and Necaxa Club from Mexico.

Al-Nasr Club achieved many major championships, with 46 championships, the last of which was the King Salman Club Championship, which the club achieved under the leadership of the legend Cristiano Ronaldo in the final against the traditional rival, Al-Hilal Saudi Club. Al-Nasr played with a numerical disadvantage, being one player down after the match referee sent off Al-Nasr defender Abdul-Ilah Al-Omari in the 70th minute. It was a historic match watched by the whole world.

The Saudi public also knows that American football is a giant ball on the continent. American football for years because legends always go to America and that American football has also witnessed great development for years and will flourish in the coming years.

What are the key themes and content that garner the most attention and engagement from Saudi followers of Inter Miami Arabia on Twitter? How do you identify and cater to the preferences of the local audience?

The Saudi and Arab public, as a whole, is always waiting, most of the time, for the latest news of the legend Lionel Messi. They are very obsessed with the player, and he has a very large fan base. They are true fans who love football as well as legends, and I always try to make them live the event first hand with the new club and its news, Lionel Messi, and also some exciting news for the American League and its clubs in general.

What are Inter Miami's expectations for the friendly tournament in Saudi Arabia, considering Messi's participation and Neymar's likely absence due to a knee injury?

The tournament that will be held in Saudi Arabia between the two largest clubs in Saudi Arabia, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, and Inter Miami, is a very difficult and exciting tournament. I cannot wait until then. I and all the Saudi fans are eager to watch the tournament, specifically to watch the historic match between the Saudi Al-Nassr clubs and Inter Miami, which is called “The Last Dance.” I think it will be the last confrontation in the history of the two legends, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Everyone is waiting for this historic event. Every player wants to carry the championship cup to make his fans happy. For me, I will enjoy this event regardless of the result. It is not an appropriate time to take sides with any of them. We must give all appreciation to this last meeting between them, although I can read some tweets on my account and responses from fans and fans of Lionel Messi that they are afraid because of the weakness of the defense line in Inter Miami, which will face two teams with terrifying names in every box. But I am still optimistic that Inter Miami will make its mark in the transfer market after it was able to attract a great player like Luis Suarez.

How do you assess the recent performances of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in soccer?

A historic performance by the two players in their respective clubs. Lionel Messi did not wait long to make history in the United States of America and for Inter Miami. He presented a great individual performance in the League Cup tournament, contributing to scoring 11 goals and securing the top scorer title. This achievement marked the first official championship for the club against Nashville, propelling the team to the round of 16 of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. A very exciting new season awaits us.

Cristiano Ronaldo, on the other hand, achieved his first official championship with the Saudi Al-Nasr team, winning the King Salman Club Championship. He delivered a great individual performance, securing the top scorer title in the tournament with 6 goals. His scoring contributions continued, making him the world's top scorer with 54 goals in 2023, surpassing big names such as Kylian Mbappé, Harry Kane, and Erling Haaland. Both players still have the potential to achieve more with their clubs and national teams.