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.”


Egypt ‘lucky loser’ gets shock French Open call to take on Grigor Dimitrov

Updated 7 min 24 sec ago
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Egypt ‘lucky loser’ gets shock French Open call to take on Grigor Dimitrov

  • Mohamed Safwat becomes first Egyptian to play at a slam event in more than two decades
  • He loses in straights sets to No. 4 seed but picks up $23,000 for his efforts

Mohamed Safwat became the first man from Egypt to play in a Grand Slam tennis tournament’s main draw in 22 years on Sunday — and he got very little notice that chance would come at the French Open.
Safwat got into the field as a “lucky loser,” someone who failed to make it out of the qualifying rounds but is given a berth when another player withdraws. In this case, Victor Troicki pulled out on Sunday because of an injured lower back.
So, the 182nd-ranked Safwat made his Grand Slam debut on Court Philippe Chatrier against No. 4-seeded Grigor Dimitrov. Not surprisingly, Dimitrov won 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (1).
Dimitrov said he only found out he’d be playing Safwat about 20 minutes beforehand.
Safwat was cheered off the court in a rousing ovation. The last Egyptian man to play at a major tournament was Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open.
“I only heard I was playing an hour before the match,” said Safwat. “I was warming up, I signed in as a lucky loser and I was told I might be on court at 11 o’clock. I dealt with it as best I could. I had never set foot on that court before.”
The 27-year-old had lost in the final round of qualifying to Guido Andreozzi of Argentina last week in what was his eighth futile attempt to make the main draw of the majors. A rule change this year has helped the cause of defeated qualifiers at the Slams. If a player withdraws injured before their scheduled first-round match, they still receive half the prize money while the lucky loser takes the other half. Safwat will pick up around $23,000 for his day’s work.
His career earnings of $350,000 pale in comparison to Dimitrov’s $15 million and he has won just one high-profile match in 2018 in the Davis Cup in February.
There was a world of difference between the two men on a sun-kissed center court on Sunday in the first two sets.
But Safwat, one of seven lucky losers in the men’s draw, then overcame blisters on his right hand to put up a solid challenge in the third set before Dimitrov raced through the tiebreaker for a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) win.
Dimitrov next faces either Jared Donaldson of the United States or Chile’s Nicolas Jarry.
Dimitrov was stunned by Tunisian wildcard Malek Jaziri in Dubai earlier this year, but he wasn’t in the mood to make the same mistake against another unheralded Arab opponent.
“I was warming up and my coach said, ‘hey look’ and we saw up on the board that I was playing a different opponent,” said 27-year-old Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semifinalist who knew something of Safwat’s game from matches during their junior days.
“I didn’t expect that. I found out about 30 minutes before, but it is what it is. You have to be ready.”