Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million). (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs
  • Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million)

RIYADH: The General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) have announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs.
According to reports, the Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million) that will not only clear monies owed but also enable clubs to invest ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The issue of debt had become a major issue in the country’s football scene.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs are currently experiencing financial problems that require immediate and urgent intervention,” the General Sports Authority, which oversees Saudi Arabian sport, said in a statement released on social media.
The body noted that there are a total of 107 cases under appeal at world governing body FIFA regarding unpaid salaries in Saudi Arabia.
“Failure to intervene urgently to rescue clubs may result in damage to the reputation of the Kingdom in general and Saudi Arabian sport in particular,” added the GSA.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs may face severe disciplinary sanctions because of the failure to meet financial obligations such as the
denial of the registration of players in general or the deduction of points.”
Unpaid salaries were also a factor in Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr being unable to appear in this year’s AFC Champions League after they were denied AFC club licenses.
Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million) and welcomed the news.
“We are delighted by the generous initiative of His Royal Highness,” Al-Ittihad president Nawaf Al-Muqairn said in an official statement released by the two-time Asian champions.
“This contributes to creating solid ground for all clubs to move toward achieving their goals.”
Legendary Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber, recently appointed president of champions Al-Hilal, announced his gratitude on social media.
“Great thanks to His Highness the Crown Prince for the great support that the clubs have enjoyed which enables sport in our country to keep pace with the aspirations of our leadership,” Al-Jaber wrote.
The Crown Prince’s move followed the SAFF announcing a new raft of regulations in April that will come into effect next season and are designed to take the league forward. These included restricting club spending on transfers and salaries to 70 percent of revenue. The size of first-team squads has been reduced from 33 to 28, of which five must be homegrown players of 23 or younger.


Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

Updated 18 October 2018
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Joan Oumari makes case for Lebanon causing Asian Cup shock

  • Lebanon have made it to their first Asian Cup since 2000 and are up to 77th in world rankings.
  • Oumari feels the Cedars have what it takes to upset a few of the big guns.

LONDON: While much of the focus ahead of the Asian Cup will be on defending champions Australia, who are one of the favorites, along with Japan and South Korea, Lebanon’s Joan Oumari is hoping his side can grab people’s attention and cause a shock or two.
The Cedars’ last appearance at the tournament came back in 2000 when they were hosts — this is the first time they have qualified for the tournament on merit.
Since their FIFA world ranking fell to 147 in 2016, Lebanon have been one of Asia’s most improved and in-form teams, with their ranking jumping to its current position of 77 — the highest in their history.
Drawn alongside regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia, Qatar and North Korea in Group E, it will not be easy, but Oumari, one of their star players, is convinced they can put on a show when the tournament gets under way in January.
“I think when we play and stay like we are now we can go far,” the defender told Arab News. “In football everything is possible and we have a great team.”
Oumari knows that just being back at the Asian Cup after a 19-year absence is already a victory for the nation of six million people.
“For sure it is a great thing for us as a national team, but also for all the people (of Lebanon),” the 30-year-old said. “I hope we will write history and get very far in this tournament.”
Oumari’s journey to play for the Cedars is an interesting, and not unfamiliar one in the recent climate of war, family displacement and refugees. His parents, both born in Lebanon, fled the country during the civil war of the 1970s, making their way to Germany, where Oumari was born in 1988.
Starting his professional career in the lower divisions, he gradually worked his way through the professional tiers of club football in Germany, playing for SV Babelsberg in the fourth division, FC Rot-Weiß Erfurt in the third tier, before making the step up to FSV Frankfurt in 2.Bundesliga in 2013.
Along the way he came to the attention of the Lebanon Football Association, and when the invitation came to join the Cedars in 2013, there was no hesitation in accepting and representing the country of his heritage, if not his birth.
“When I got the invitation from the national team for sure I didn’t have to think about it,” he recalled. “I was very proud to play for the national team.”
His debut in a 2-0 win against Syria in September 2013 did not go to plan, however, getting sent off late in the game. His next appearance would not come for almost two years after Miodrag Radulovic had taken over as coach.
“To be honest it was my decision not to play for the national team for these two years,” he said.
“The main reason was our ex-coach (Giuseppe) Giannini, because after he invited me to the national team I was on the bench and I am not used to flying all over the world just to sit on the bench.
“I am not a player who sits on the bench in my club and not in the national team. After Mr. Radulovic started at the national team the federation called me and convinced me to come.”
The change in fortunes for the Cedars since Radulovic took over has been remarkable, and as it stands they are one of the most in-form teams in Asia, going 16 games without a loss dating back to March 2016.
A friendly match with defending Asian Cup champions Australia in Sydney next month will be sure to provide tougher competition, but given their form they travel to Sydney confident of causing an upset.
While the Asian Cup is within touching distance, Oumari’s immediate focus is on club matters and trying to help his side avoid relegation. Having made the move to Japan’s Sagan Tosu, becoming the first Lebanese player to play in the J.League, Oumari has been in and out of a side that has struggled for consistency and currently lie 17th in the 18-team league.
“I hope that we can avoid relegation and stay up, that’s why I came to help the team,” he said.
One of his new teammates in Japan is Spanish World Cup winner Fernando Torres, and despite the team’s struggles on the field, Oumari is loving his time in Japan.
“It’s really nice here and I like it very much,” he said. “I am enjoying the time with my teammates after training. For sure Fernando (Torres) is a great football player and any football player can learn from him no matter which position you are playing.”