Saudi football teams denied neutral venues for Qatar clashes

Female supporters of Saudi’s Al-Hilal. The team is due to face Qatar’s Al Rayyan in Group D of the AFC Champions League beginning February 12. (Ali AL-ARIFI / AFP)
Updated 28 January 2018
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Saudi football teams denied neutral venues for Qatar clashes

KUALA LUMPUR: Saudi Arabian football teams will be required to play away matches in Qatar during the Asian Champions League despite the kingdom’s travel ban on its Gulf neighbor, Asia’s football governing body said Sunday.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) ruled all matches would be played on a home-and-away basis as planned, after Saudi Arabia had called for fixtures against Qatari teams to be shifted to a neutral country.
The ruling also means Saudi clubs must host Qatari teams for the return, home fixtures.
Since June last year Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, has adopted a diplomatic boycott of Qatar, accusing it of backing terrorism — a charge denied by Doha.
The Saudi-led coalition also imposed a ban on travel in and out of Qatar.
AFC said the decision to maintain the home-and-away format was made after an independent safety and security assessment was completed.
Saudi authorities previously insisted that their clubs would only play against Qatari sides on neutral territory amid reports they may boycott the tournament.
With the AFC ruling that “clubs from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates should be played on a home and away basis in 2018 as per the AFC Regulations,” Saudi club football teams are due to travel to Qatar for away matches beginning next month.
AFC Secretary General Windsor John told AFP that Saudi Arabia has not lifted the travel ban imposed on its nationals against going to Qatar.
Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal have been placed with Qatar’s Al Rayyan in Group D of the AFC Champions League beginning February 12.
Qatar’s Al Sadd are in Group C along with the UAE’s Al Wasl, while in Group B Qatar’s Al Duhail are pitted against the UAE’s Al Wahda.
The AFC Asian Champions League is the top continental competition for football clubs in Asia.
Qatar is due to host the World Cup in 2022.


‘It’s epic’: Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal stars tour incredible Ad Diriyah E Prix venue

Al-Nassr’s Nigerian superstar Ahmed Musa (back right) joins (front left to right) Al-Hilal’s Ali Al-Habsi and Mohammad Jahfali and (back left) Saleh Alweheemed ahead of this weekend’s 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 10 December 2018
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‘It’s epic’: Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal stars tour incredible Ad Diriyah E Prix venue

  • 22 Formula E drivers will battle it out for glory this weekend
  • "I’m very happy to see how Saudi Arabia is becoming a rising name for big sports"

JEDDAH: They may be fierce rivals in the Saudi Pro League, but some of the biggest stars of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr football got together to tour the venue of one of the most anticipated motor racing events in Saudi history.
The players soaked up the atmosphere as they visited the home of the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E Prix.
This weekend the 2.495km track created within the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Ad Diriyah will see 22 Formula E drivers battle it out for glory.
Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi said: “I’m totally amazed by what they have built here, the track, the grandstands, the hospitality, it’s incredible what they’ve created for the Formula E.  It’s epic.
“As a professional athlete I’m very happy to see how Saudi Arabia is becoming a rising name for big sports, this will be a fiercely fought contest which is sure to thrill the fans.”

 (Left to right) Al Hilal star players Alberto Botia, Abdullah Almaiouf, Mohammad Jahfali, Ali Al-Habsi and Carlos Eduardo visit the new Formula E track at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site of Ad Diriyah. (Photo/Supplied)

The racing extravaganza will also be accompanied by fan zones, entertainment and cultural attractions.
Three nights of music concerts will feature some of the biggest names in world. 
US smash hit OneRepublic and superstar DJ/producer David Guetta will wrap up the event after the race ends on Saturday with Enrique Iglesias, Jason Derulo and Amr Diab performing from Thursday.
Al Nassr’s Nigerian superstar Ahmed Mussa said: “We’re all about entertaining fans and bringing people together, that’s what football and sport is all about. These three nights will be a spectacle like nothing we’ve seen before and I urge our fans to come and be part of history.”