Saudi Arabia World Cup referee placed under investigation

Fahad Al-Mirdasi could miss out on refereeing at the World Cup after being placed under investigation. (AFP)
Updated 12 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia World Cup referee placed under investigation

  • Saudi Football Federation stop Fahad Al-Mirdasi from officiating cup final
  • Referee referred to the General Investigations Bureau

Fahad Al-Mirdasi's involvement at the World Cup has been thrown into major doubt after he was dramatically stood down from Saturday's King's Cup final and placed under investigation.
Saudi's top referee was due to officiate the match at King Abdullah Sports City between Al-Ittihad and Al-Faisaly, but the Saudi Football Federation (SAFF) announced on Friday night that the 32-year-old would no longer be taking charge of the game.
"The Saudi Arabian Football Federation, with the blessing of the Saudi Olympic Committee, has decided to remove referee Fahad Al-Mirdasi from refereeing the King's Cup final and to refer him to the General Investigations Bureau," read the tweet SAFF's official Twitter account. "Mark Clattenburg has been appointed to referee the final instead."
Al-Mirdasi is one of three Saudi match officials selected for next summer’s tournament by FIFA, but his participation must now be in some jeopardy. FIFA, who have named 36 referees for the tournament in Russia, are likely to want clarification surrounding the exact reasons for the SAFF's decision to suspend and then place one of Asia's top referees under investigation.
Al-Mirdasi was set to become the fourth Saudi referee to officiate at the World Cup, following in the footsteps of Falaj Al-Shannar, Abdulrahman Al-Zeid and Khalil Jalal.
Having previously taken charge of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup quarterfinal as well as matches in the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 FIFA Confederation Cup, Al-Mirdasi is one of Asia’s most experienced referees.
SAFF President Adel Ezzat said in March that the selection of Al-Mirdasi — along with assistant referees Abdullah Al-Shalawi and Mohammed Al-Abkari — was a proud moment for the Kingdom.
“The three officials won FIFA’s trust after officiating at the highest levels of continental and international football,” said Ezzat in a statement published on the SAFF Twitter account. “It is a reward for them to be at the greatest of all football competitions. They deserve congratulations as they have earned their places among the elite of the refereeing world. To have three match officials at the World Cup is a great motivation for us at the SAFF to enhance our work in developing Saudi referees. I wish them success in Russia and we will be looking forward for them to do us proud.”


Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

Updated 14 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia hopeful ahead of opening Asian Games opening clash against Iran

  • Young Falcons hopeful of a semifinal spot.
  • Under-23 players keen on making a name for themselves in Indonesia.

JAKARTA: There is a widely held belief that to succeed in sport, you must start early.
Officials from the Saudi Arabia National Olympic Committee will be hoping it rings true this month as the Kingdom’s Under-23 football team prepares to prematurely kick-off its Asian Games campaign this afternoon in Jakarta, three days before the continent’s largest multi-sport competition officially begins.
Similar to the Olympics, the football tournament starts before the opening ceremony and finishes on the competition’s final day, Sept. 2. The fledgling Young Falcons face Iran today at the 28,000-capacity Wibawa Mukti Stadium in the Indonesian capital.
The Saudi NOC have brought a delegation of 169 athletes, including eight females, and will compete across 22 disciplines, including athletics, shooting, taekwondo and volleyball. The three-week Asian Games operate both as a continental precursor and, at times, a qualifying tournament for 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The Young Falcons made their football debut at the Asian Games in South Korea four years ago, reaching the quarterfinals in Incheon, before losing to Iraq. Their regional neighbors were inspired by legendary striker Younes Mahmoud, who had been included as one of Iraq’s three over-age players and scored twice in a 3-0 win.
Yet the impact of Mahmoud in Korea has not influenced the team’s selection. With the Saudi Pro League starting next week, coach Saad Al-Shehri has opted to forego athletes older than 23, instead selecting a squad consisting primarily of Al-Ahli development players and a smattering of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Ettifaq-based youths.
“We haven’t brought any overage players because we are playing here as preparation for the U23 Asian Cup, which will offer qualification for Tokyo 2020,” said Faisal Almarashdi, a spokesman for the team.
“We have brought to Indonesia only players who are 21 or under as they will all be eligible for Tokyo. Many have already played at the Under-20 World Cup under coach Saad, so there was never any discussion to use the three allocated over-age slots.”
Abdullah Otayf is the model example of how Asian Games experience can help a young career. Four years ago, the deep-lying midfielder was part of the squad that traveled to Korea. This summer he was an integral part of the Green Falcons side that played at the World Cup in Russia. 
With national team coach Juan Antonio Pizzi following the competition from afar, there will be chances to catch the eye for the likes of striker Haroune Camara and midfielders Abdullah Yahya Magrshi and Ali Hassan Al-Asmari ahead of January’s Asian Cup. Both midfielders have already made their full debuts for Ahli and featured in the Jeddah club’s Champions League campaign last season, while Al-Qadisiyah’s Camara was included in Pizzi’s provisional World Cup squad before being cut from the final 23.
“These Asian Games are very important for the young players involved,” Almarashdi added.
“They are the future of the senior team so if they play well here and at the U23 Asian Cup then, we hope, they will go to Tokyo 2020. From then on the pathway to the senior team is already very clear.”  
Much like the seniors, the U23 side is both short and slight, with only two of the 10 midfielders and forwards standing above 5 foot 8 (172m). Today’s opponents Iran are not only taller and more physical, they also have, in Croatian coach Zlatko Kranjčar, a manager who knows West Asian football after short spells in Qatar and the UAE. In their most recent preparation match, Iran lost 3-2 to China. 
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, beat the UAE last week in Malaysia following a pair of friendlies against local sides. Today’s match will kick-off at 4 p.m. local time, midday in Saudi Arabia.