Saudi Arabia touch down in Russia ahead of World Cup

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Juan Antonio Pizzi leads the Saudi Arabia party off the plane in Saint Petersburg. (AFP)
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Updated 10 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia touch down in Russia ahead of World Cup

LONDON: The Saudi Arabia team have arrived in Russia to begin their World Cup mission.

The 23-man playing squad, plus coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, his backroom staff and a Saudi Arabian Football Federation delegation led by president Adel Ezzat, landed at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport on Saturday night after a near three-hour flight from Germany. The aircraft had a giant falcon emblazoned on the side while the nose of the plane had “God Bless You” written in both Arabic and English.

Pizzi led the party off the plane to a coach where the team made the short trip to their hotel base. On Sunday, the squad had a meeting with a delegation from the World Cup organizing committee. The players will remain at their basecamp in St. Petersburg until Tuesday before flying down to Moscow on a FIFA-provided jet.

Pizzi will now spend the next few days getting his players in the right mental and physical state to play hosts Russia in the World Cup opener on Thursday. He must also decide on his starting XI ahead of their final training session at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday. All eyes will then be on Thursday’s tournament opener against Russia in front of 81,000 spectactors — with more than 250 million expected to be watching on TV.

Pizzi was part of Argentina’s 1998 World Cup squad but this will be his first tournament as a coach.

“Fortunately, the players here are very malleable and have adapted to what we want from them,” the coach said in an exclusive interview with Arab News. “They know what to expect in Russia and know what we expect of them, so we are ready to perform to our best abilities. We are looking forward to the World Cup without fear.”

Saudi Arabia head into the tournament on the back of three straight defeats at the hands of Italy, Peru and Germany, but they showed enough in those games, particularly against Italy and Germany, to show they have a realistic chance of pipping Russia and Egypt to the second spot behind Group A favorites Uruguay.

Saudi Arabia’s World Cup squad:
Goalkeepers: Yasser Al-Mosaileem, Abdullah Al-Mayouf, Mohammed Al-Owais
Defenders: Osama Hawsawi, Motaz Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mansour Al-Harbi, Mohammed Al-Burayk, Ali Al-Bulayhi
Midfielders: Abdullah Otayf, Taisir Al-Jassim, Hussein Al-Moqahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Yahya Al-Shehri, Abdulmalik Al-Khaibari, Mohammed Kanno, Abdulla Al-Khaibari, Hattan Bahebri
Strikers: Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, Mohannad Assiri


Qatar in talks to buy stake in Leeds United

Updated 26 May 2019
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Qatar in talks to buy stake in Leeds United

  • QSI’s chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha
  • Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football

DUBAI: Qatar is in talks to buy a stake in UK football club Leeds United, the Financial Times reported.

Leeds United plays in the second tier of English professional football, the Championship, and will be Qatar Sports Investment’s (QSI) first venture into British football. It currently controls France’s Paris Saint-Germain.

“Qatar Sports Investments will be entering English Football, and Leeds is the club of their choice,” a person familiar with the talks told FT. “Qatar has been looking into the prospects of entering English Football for the past two years.”

QSI’s chief Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged with corruption in connection with the bidding process for this year’s world athletics championships in Doha, judicial sources said.

Al-Khelaifi, who is also the boss of Qatari television channel BeIN Sports, has been under investigation since March in a probe of the bidding process for the 2017 and the 2019 world championships.

French prosecutors are looking specifically at two payments of $3.5 million in 2011 by Oryx Qatar Sports Investment, a company jointly owned by Al-Khelaifi and his brother Khalid, to a sports marketing firm run by Papa Massata Diack.

Diack’s father Lamine Diack was president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) from 1999 to 2015 and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

As well as probing the world athletics championships the French investigation is also examining circumstances in which the Olympic Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro for 2016 and Tokyo for 2020.

Prior to the decision to charge him, Al-Khelaifi had been questioned in March as “person of interest” in the case revolving around the 2011 payments by Oryx which were made at a time when Doha was seeking to host the 2017 world athletics championship and the 2020 Olympics.

Investigators were seeking to determine whether, in return for the payments, Lamine Diack used his influence to gain votes for Doha among IAAF members and also to obtain a date change for the competitions to avoid the heat of the Qatar summer.

(With AFP)