Inspired by the palm tree from the Kingdom's coats of arms, adidas signal the commencement of a new partnership with Saudi Arabia by launching the nation’s new home shirt for 2023.

With its time with Nike coming to an end after the 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia have become the latest nation to join adidas, as announced back in November, following in the footsteps of Italy and Jamaica. And the new partnership gets off to an absolute flier, with the reveal of the Federation’s new home jersey, which takes inspiration from the Saudi coat of arms, and specifically the palm tree that resides at its centre, with a graphic dominating the green base.

It's an interesting start, with the Three Stripes instantly mixing things up by switching the usual green away shirt to home, with an as yet unreleased away shirt set to be white.

To find out more about the new partnership and the design of the new home shirt, we spoke with Bilal Fares, General Manager at adidas MENA.

Forming a partnership with SAFF, what opportunity does this present for both adidas and the Saudi Federation?

Through our partnership with SAFF we aim to support the federation's strategy of improving access to football and promoting emerging talents in the country. We believe that by collaborating with a like-minded partner such as SAFF, we can help pioneer women’s inclusion in football and create a more equal playing field.

The collaboration targets the very top of the Saudi football pyramid and further enhances the brand’s footballing credibility across the region. Moreover, the deal reflects adidas’ commitment to growing football in Saudi, following the signing of several high-profile football players, including national team captain Salman Al Faraj, women’s national team player and top scorer in the inaugural women’s league, Farah Jefry, Abdulelah Almalki, and Abdullah Otayf.

We look forward to working closely with the federation and play an active role in contributing to the development of the Kingdom’s football journey.

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Can you tell us about the aspirations of the partnership? It goes beyond what is worn on the pitch, doesn’t it?

Our partnership reflects a shared commitment to promoting sports as a means of fostering growth and inclusion across the Kingdom.

Together, we believe that making football more accessible is an important step in inspiring the next generation of up-and-coming footballers across the Kingdom – this includes girls as well as boys. Over the last two years, women’s football in Saudi Arabia has been unleashed with a new premier league, first division, schools league and regional training centers all established. Moreover, just this week the national women’s team have received their first ever FIFA world ranking, a small step in a big ambition to make Saudi women’s football more prominent on the world stage. The new partnership seeks to accelerate that growth even further.

Beyond the football pitch, this partnership represents a vital aspect of our broader aim to encourage sports participation throughout the Saudi. We are dedicated to supporting the federation’s mission by contributing to inclusivity and diversity, bringing a vibrant sports culture in the Kingdom.  

Using football as a vehicle for progression, is that in the thinking with the partnership also?

We firmly believe in the power of sports to transform lives and should thereby be accessible to all.

We have approached our partnership with the federation with a forward-thinking lens with progression at the forefront. Through a popular sport like football, we are thrilled to support the federation's strategy to promote access to women's football across the country and foster emerging talents to further enhance access to sports in the Kingdom.

Moreover, the launch features women from the Saudi national team – including global brand ambassador Farah Jefry – which we hope shows young girls across Saudi that a career in football is within their means.

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What’s it been like to work with the federation? Is it a creative opportunity as much as it is a performance-based partnership?

It’s been a fantastic experience so far. SAFF has been extremely open to new ideas, and I think this really shows in this kit launch and the campaign we’ve created together to celebrate it. This was an exciting project as it allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the country and its unique culture, as well as creatively challenge ourselves to design a unique kit. 

The home kit design is inspired by the Kingdom's coats of arms, the palm tree. While the away jersey is inspired by the country’s flag. The goal was to create a design that embodied the country's aspirations and growth and I believe we’ve achieved this.

Furthermore, we ensured that the women's national team had a unique design that set them apart from the men by creating a slight variation of the palm tree-inspired design for the women's home kit.

Drawing on that inspiration, what can you tell us about the collaborative way of working and the exchange of ideas?

Working closely with SAFF, we had established clear communication and goals regarding the elements involved in creating the jersey. By leveraging each other’s strengths and expertise, we wanted to ensure that the design of the jerseys embody the country’s goals and growth.

The inspiration behind the jerseys and exchange of ideas really came from celebrating the intrinsic relationship between Saudi culture and football, hoping that players and fans, including youth, can wear the new national kits with pride, on and off the field.

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From Camel Racing to Rally Driving - there’s a lot under the hood of the country isn’t there - what have you and the brand learnt about the country that you didn’t know before?

The main thing would be the vast amount of different cultures across the country. By exploring the Saudi Arabian culture and the different communities, we were able to reveal the new kit in an unconventional way. Rather than simply showcasing the players wearing the new kit, we honoured the true essence of it, which is a representation of the people of the Kingdom.

Learning about the different communities is what inspired our launch campaign - “Weaved as One” - which pays homage to the fabric of Saudi culture while simultaneously highlighting themes of unity within football communities and beyond. The campaign film follows men’s national team players Mohammad Al Owais, Hassan Tambakti, Hattan Bahbri and Abdulelah Al Amri and women’s national team players Farah Jefry, Al Bandari Mubarak and Dalia Adel as they journey through Riyadh to present the official jersey to members of diverse communities that make up the DNA of Saudi heritage and sports culture.

From the camel herding community of Northern Riyadh who have dedicated their lives to one of the oldest sports in the nation, to the women making waves at the forefront of the motorsports and rally racing industry, and finally the city’s passionate gaming and e-sports enthusiasts – each community is presented with the opportunity to be among the first to wear the jersey as a symbol of togetherness.

Do you feel like there’s a lot of stories to tell through this relationship and through the product that is released?

Certainly. We’re really excited about this partnership and feel that there’s so much more to look forward to over the next four years. This is just the beginning.

The Saudi performance at the 2022 World Cup caught the imagination, what does the future look like for the federation do you think?

As football continues to evolve, it's important for the Federation to keep up with the changes, and I'm happy to say that they're on the right track. The sport is gaining a strong foothold in the country, thanks to the Federation's efforts. The men’s team performed on the world’s biggest stage with their 2-1 win over Argentina at the FIFA World Cup, while the U-23 team won the 2022 Asian Cup while conceding zero goals. 2022 also saw the establishment of three new age groups (U-16, U-18, U-19) as part of the Kingdom’s investment in establishing a clear player pathway to the first team. Saudi Arabia's women's team is set to become an official FIFA ranked nation for the first time in their history, while the federation is also launching the first ever women’s U-17 team this year. Both of which are significant milestones. Moreover, in January, Anoud Al Asmari became the first Saudi female referee to be included on FIFA’s licensed list. These developments will enable the country to compete in football tournaments on a continental and international level more frequently. This ongoing investment is laying the groundwork for success in the years to come. 

What would you like these kits to stand for? What’s the most important message that you would like to go out with them?

The kits serve as a symbol of progression, inclusivity and diversity and remind us of the power of sports to bring people together and create a sense of belonging and shared purpose. We also hope that by launching a different jersey for the women’s team, it shows young female footballers from across the country our ambitions to support the federation in growing the women’s game for years to come.

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The adidas Saudi Arabia 2023 home shirt will be available soon.