Saudi Arabia to host first pro golf tournament

The Royal Greens Golf Club at the King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia. (Courtesy: KAEC website)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia to host first pro golf tournament

PARIS: Saudi Arabia will stage its first European Tour golf event in 2019 as the kingdom opens its doors a little more to professional sport, it was announced on Thursday.
The tournament, the first in a three-year partnership, will take place from January 31 to February 3, 2019, and will be staged at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea coastline.
Plans were finalized this week during the visit to London of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the man seen as the oil-rich country’s key driver of reform.
“We are very excited to be talking the first steps toward bringing professional golf to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time and I must thank His Royal Majesty, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for his vision in making this happen,” said European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.
The new Saudi tournament will form part of the early season Gulf desert swing which already includes tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and Oman.
“I hope that this event will inspire more Saudis to take up the game and show that, as a nation, we can host sporting events of this calibre,” said Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, the president of the Saudi Arabian Golf Federation.
Saudi Arabia has witnessed a number of steps forward in sports organization this year with a first-ever professional women’s squash tournament staged in Riyadh and women allowed into stadiums to watch local league football matches.


Last gasp Shaqiri goal seals Swiss win over Serbia

Updated 22 June 2018
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Last gasp Shaqiri goal seals Swiss win over Serbia

  • The win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough Group E that contains five-times winners Brazil but they were pushed all the way by the Serbs.
  • It was a sweet victory for Shaqiri and fellow Swiss goalscorer Granit Xhaka, who along with team-mate Valon Belrami were booed relentlessly by Serbia’s fans throughout. Shaqiri, Xhaka and Belrami trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia.

KALININGRAD: A last-minute Xherdan Shaqiri breakaway goal handed Switzerland victory Friday as they came from behind to defeat Serbia 2-1 in Kaliningrad.
The win puts Switzerland in pole position to make it out of a tough Group E that contains five-times winners Brazil but they were pushed all the way by the Serbs.
It was a sweet victory for Shaqiri and fellow Swiss goalscorer Granit Xhaka, who along with team-mate Valon Belrami were booed relentlessly by Serbia’s fans throughout.
Shaqiri, Xhaka and Belrami trace their roots to Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, a fact which had stoked tensions before the match.
Both Shaqiri and Xhaka pointedly celebrated their goals by making an eagle gesture with their hands, viewed as a symbol of defiance.
Serbia raced out of the blocks, funnelling possession to Southampton winger Dusan Tadic on the right flank, who troubled Switzerland with his crossing all match.
An Aleksandar Mitrovic header forced a smart save from Swiss keeper Yann Sommer after four minutes.
Seconds later, Tadic took the ball past left-back Ricardo Rodriguez, cut back on his favored left foot and delivered a majestic cross that Mitrovic duly buried with his head.
In a frenetic first half, Switzerland had more of the ball but were sloppy with it, giving away possession in advanced positions and sending Serbia on the break.
Lazio’s highly rated Sergej Milinkovic-Savic fizzed a right-footed shot narrowly wide of Sommer’s right post on 15 minutes, and Mitrovic almost scored with a spectacular bicycle kick that went the same way minutes later.
Switzerland, who came to Russia ranked ahead of the likes of France and Spain, felt their way into the game as the first-half progressed.
On the half-hour mark, Steven Zuber cleverly teed up Blerim Dzemaili but the Hoffenheim man got his feet in a muddle and Vladimir Stojkovic was able to parry away.
But it was Serbia, who beat Costa Rica 1-0 in their Group E opener, who nearly went in two up.
Nemanja Matic missed a glorious chance to double the lead just before the break when Tadic’s in-swinging corner found him unmarked at the back post but the Manchester United midfielder couldn’t sort his feet out.
Matic said during the build-up the team were expecting a “hellish” encounter with the Swiss, who in their game with Brazil fouled star forward Neymar 10 times alone.
Switzerland grew in stature after the break and were rewarded with a spectacular equalizer courtesy of Xhaka’s 52nd-minute piledriver.
They had the better chances in the second period, with Shaqiri’s curling effort from the edge of the area grazing Stojkovic’s bar on the hour mark.
Coach Vladimir Petkovic brought on attackers Breel Embolo and Mario Gavranovic in a bid to force a winner, and Gavranovic forced a smart save from Stojkovic from a close range effort with 10 minutes remaining.
But it was Stoke City winger Shaqiri who struck the decisive blow, breaking through Serbia’s offside trap to slot home calmly as the 90 minutes wound down.
Serbia will now need something from their final Group E match against Brazil, while a draw against Costa Rica would see Switzerland through.