Saudi Arabia has ‘ambitious’ plans to land ‘big sporting events’

Updated 08 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia has ‘ambitious’ plans to land ‘big sporting events’

LONDON: The announcement on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia will stage the King Abdulaziz Horse Championship continues the Kingdom’s bold move to boost its entertainment industry by hosting landmark sporting events. Turki Al-Sheikh, president of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, has said “many major sports events” are on the cards and boxing promoter Kalle Sauerland told Arab News that “some of the plans that the Saudis have to bring big sporting events there — they’ve acquired other interesting events — are very ambitious.”

Arab News takes a closer look at the three being staged in 2018.

SAUDI PSA WOMEN'S SQUASH MASTERS
  The world’s leading female players descended on Riyadh last month for the first World Series event of 2018 and the first ever professional women’s sports event to be held in Saudi Arabia. The tournament, held at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University, featured 32 international players, including world champion Raneem El-Welily, world No. 1 Nour El-Sherbini and eight-time world champion Nicol David. El-Sherbini won the $165,000 event, triumphing over compatriot El-Welily.
“Bringing professional squash back to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 has been an ambition of mine and I am grateful for the support of the Women’s Department of the Saudi General Authority for Sport to see this come to fruition,” said PSA Chairman and Saudi businessman Ziad Al-Turki.
“Not only is squash one of the healthiest sports it is the perfect sport for the Saudi climate. I’m hoping that this tournament will increase local participation in Saudi Arabia, and I look forward to working with all parties involved throughout the next six months insuring continued success for years to come.”


RACE OF CHAMPIONS The two-day event last week featured drivers from Formula One, Rallycross, IndyCar and other racing competitions and was the first ever motorsport to take place in the Kingdom. It was held at the 75,000-capacity King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh and was a family event “open to both genders”, according to the organizer’s website. David Coulthard, the 13-time Grand Prix winner, won the event, beating double World Rallycross Champion Petter Solberg in the final around the complex, rallycross-style circuit.
“As motorsport’s most forward-thinking property, ROC is an event perfectly suited to Saudi Arabia, which is emerging as a modern sports market on the global stage,” said Fredrik Johnsson, Race Of Champions president. “With women able to drive in Saudi Arabia from 2018, we feel this is an auspicious moment to be bringing a motorsport event to Riyadh.

WORLD BOXING SUPER SERIES CRUISERWEIGHT FINAL Jeddah is set to host what is being billed as the fight of the year on May 11 when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev slug it out. The winner of the final will unify the division, winning the IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO and the RING Magazine cruiserweight championship belt, and emerge as the undefeated and undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world. Also at stake is the Muhammad Ali Trophy and $10 million for the winner.
“This agreement is part of our broader commitment and work to develop the sport of boxing in Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Sheikh. “Having the first final of such a high profile and groundbreaking tournament take place in Saudi Arabia is a key milestone for us, and will be one of many major sports events to take place in the Kingdom next year.”


Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

Updated 36 min 55 sec ago
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Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus reveals Omar Abdulrahman will make debut in Super Cup clash in London

  • New boss Jorge Jesus to give start to new star signing after $17 million move from Al-Ain last week.
  • Al-Hilal coach keen to put on a good show in London and start season with silverware against Al-Ittihad.

LONDON: Jorge Jesus confirmed Omar Abdulrahman will make his Al-Hilal debut in the Saudi Super Cup final against Al-Ittihad on Saturday.
The UAE playmaker joined the Saudi Pro League champions last week in a loan deal from Al-Ain that was worth $17 million, a fee that has only been surpassed once in football history. 
The 26-year-old has been training with his new teammates at English football’s HQ at St. George’s Park this week and traveled down to London on Friday with the rest of the team ahead of the showpiece game at Loftus Road.
Abdulrahman has not played since May, when Al-Ain were dumped out of the AFC Champions League by Lekhwiya, and he was not considered for the Arab Club Champions Club on Sunday, but Jesus said the 2016 Asian Player of the Year is line to make his first appearance for his boyhood club this weekend.
“Omar is training with the team for five or six days,” said Jesus. “Intelligent players like Omar learn fast, so that’s why he will be part of the game.”
There are various subplots to the game in west London, not least the fact that Al-Ittihad coach Ramon Diaz comes up against the club that fired him in February. He won the double in the first season in Riyadh and then choreographed Al-Hilal’s run to the final of the AFC Champions League in his second. Now he goes up against Jesus, the Portuguese tactician who replaced him this summer.
“It’s true Diaz could know the players more and this could influence the match, but they are working with my ideas today and I expect the match to be an excellent game,” said Jesus.
Al-Hilal lost the Super Cup the last time it was held in London, losing to Al-Ahli on penalties in a thriller at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground. Jesus knows this year’s match could provide a launchpad for the season ahead and broaden the appeal of football in the Kingdom. 
“Everybody knows the importance of this match, because we play outside Saudi Arabia,” he said. “It represents the image of our football. We are happy to be present in London and play the Saudi Super Cup here. The eyes of Europe sees London as the center of football, so we need to create a good image of Saudi football.”

Jorge Jesus is looking to get his reign as Al-Hilal coach off to a winning start at QPR's Loftus Road ground on Saturday. 


Jesus will be without the injured Salman Al-Faraj, Abdullah Otayf and Nawaf Al-Abed while national team full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani will undergo a late fitness test. 
“We are missing some players but that should not reduce the importance of some players we have in the squad,” said Jesus. “We have to find our best combination of players to go to the match with.”
Mohammad Al-Shalhoub will captain the side from midfield following the departure of Osama Hawsawi and knows bragging rights are up for grabs on Saturday between Saudi Arabia’s two most successful clubs who have won the top prize in the Kingdom 23 times between them.
“It’s one match, there is no other chance,” he said. “We will do our best to win the cup. We can start the season well if we win this cup. We will fight hard to win, but Ittihad is doing their hardest to win it, too. We are super motivated to show a good level and start with a Saudi Super Cup victory.”
Al-Hilal labored to a 1-0 win over Al-Shabab on Sunday night and know they will need to be much nearer their best against last season’s King’s Cup winners.
“In the beginning of the season, you can have some difficulties,“ Al-Shalhoub said. “Our first home game in the Arab Cup we showed a good level, but we have to me more ready against Ittihad.”