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.”


‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

The podium for the Athletics Mens 200m: Haruto Deguchi JPN (centre, Gold Medalist), Daniel Huller HUN (left, Silver Medalist) and Mohammed Duhaim M Almuawi KSA (right, Bronze Medalist) at the Athletics Field, Youth Olympic Park. The Youth Olympic Games, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Tuesday 16th October 2018. Photo: Ivo Gonzalez for OIS/IOC. (Handout image supplied by OIS/IOC)
Updated 17 October 2018
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‘Man, I was so surprised’: Saudi Olympian Al-Muawi clinches bronze in Argentina games

  • Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12

BUENOS AIRES: With his bag packed and preparing to leave the Youth Olympic Park one last time on Tuesday night, Mohammed Al-Muawi was called back to the scene of the 400-metres Hurdles event, in which he had just finished fourth overall. With doping officials thronged at the entrance, he assumed he must have been randomly selected for testing. Instead, he got the news he will now never forget.

The 17-year-old Saudi is an Olympic bronze medallist.

“Man, I was so surprised to find out,” he told Arab News after being promoted onto the podium after South Africa’s Lindukhule Gora was disqualified. “It was my first competition and my first medal, so it’s amazing. This here means everything to me. When I finished the race, I was like ‘OK, fourth is OK’. I put my clothes back on and got ready to leave, but then they told me: ‘Come back, come back! You have a bronze medal!’ I was like, ‘What? How is that even possible?’”

Under a blistering sun and having led for much of the first 300m, Al-Muawi tired as the home straight loomed, crossing the finish-line fifth with a time of 53.05s. With Gora being disqualified for stepping out of his lane, however, Al-Muawi was immediately pushed up a place. Then, having bettered France’s Martin Fraysse’s time in the first-stage heat, it came down to the calculator.

Al-Muawi was 0.37s faster than Fraysse in the first heat, while Fraysse finished the second just 0.33s ahead. The result: the Asian Youth Championships silver-medallist posted a combined time of 1.45.81, making him the third quickest across a field of continental winners, beating Fraysse by just 0.04s.

“It's confusing for sure, but across the two heats, I was second and fourth, so I feel third is deserved," he said, looking down and caressing the bronze medal hanging from his neck. "It was a very strong field in the final. I started well, but the last 100m or so was very tiring and I was unable to really open my legs. It’s been an amazing experience though. Wow. I love the competition, the village, eating the different foods…it’s been unforgettable. And this just tops it all off.”

Al-Muawi splits his time between schooling in Bisha in the south of the Kingdom and training in Los Angeles, California, with World Championships silver-medallist Ryan Wilson. Saudi athletics delegation head, Saad Al-Asmari — himself a former 3000m Asian champion — expects this to be the start of more success not only for Al-Muawi but for Saudi athletics.

“Mohammed did very well,” said Al-Asmari. “He ran very well and it was only in the final 100 metres he had some problems. This result is very good for him and I’m very happy because he is only 17. Also, we have many other talents like this in Saudi Arabia. We have many athletes, but we need good coaching.

“Mohammed has been training since May in LA, which is where we send all our best athletes. When they come back, we always notice little differences: their body shape changes, their technique, endurance, everything.”

Al-Muawi has been racing hurdles for five years after picking it out as a sport he could excel in at the age of 12. He will head home to Bisha now to spend time with his family and continue his studies for two months before returning to LA to prepare for next year’s Asian Championships. The most important lesson he has learnt from Wilson in the United States is not physical, but rather psychological, he said.

“It’s has been a great experience for me over there so far,” he added, his English having improved considerably since his switch. “My coach there has shown support throughout, always telling me that I can do it. Always urging me to never give up. He tells me that before every competition I must tell myself: ‘I am hungry’. He tells me always that I’m a different breed too, so I guess I then begin to believe it — yes, I am a different breed."