Top-class sport moving to Saudi Arabia is a ‘great thing’, says UAE official

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Abu Dhabi hosts a range of world-class sporting events - the Club World Cup, won last year by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Reald Madrid, being one of them. This year sees the UAE capital host the tournament for the fourth time. (AFP)
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World Series Boxing is coming to Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
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Dustin Johnson is set to entertain Saudi Arabian crowds next year. (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2018

Top-class sport moving to Saudi Arabia is a ‘great thing’, says UAE official

  • Ahmed Al-Qubaisi, the director of marketing at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, says Saudi Arabia is not a threat to UAE on the sporting front
  • Later this year Abu Dhabi will host the FIFA Club World Cup for the second year running, and fourth time in total

RIYADH: On Friday it was announced that the much-anticipated fight between world super-middleweight champion George Groves and highly rated youngster Callum Smith would be taking place in Jeddah. It is a bout that will be watched across the globe as the pair battle it out for the WBA super-middleweight and World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) titles.
Just a few months ago, had anyone said such a fight would happen at King Abdullah Sports City rather than Wembley Stadium, or in other traditional boxing heartlands, they would have been accused of being punch drunk. But such is the pace at which the Kingdom is making moves to bring top-class sporting events to the country, that in a short space of time it has dealt a right hook to accepted wisdom when it comes to sporting spectacles it can, will and wants to host.
It is clear that the country is revving its engines in terms of becoming a hub for well-known sports stars. On top of that fight, Saudi Arabia is also set to host the season-opening Formula E race in Riyadh in December, as well as world-class golfers Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed in a European Tour event early next year.
The policy of using sport as a vehicle to promote a country is a well-known one, and Saudi Arabia does not need to look far to find a nation that has hosted big sporting events in a bid to publicize itself to the world. Next-door neighbor UAE has long been a Middle East sporting hub with Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, to name only four stars, regular visitors to the Emirates.
But anyone thinking that the UAE would be worried that Saudi Arabia is trying to muscle in and take some limelight away had better think again, as, according to Ahmed Al-Qubaisi, the director of marketing at the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the Kingdom’s push to host world-class sports event can only benefit the whole region.
“We are very happy to get more top-class sports events (in) the region,” Al-Qubaisi told Arab News.
“All the people know about our countries and our culture, about everything. Saudi Arabia hosting world-class events will help us to increase the number of great events in the region and number of well-known sports stars.
“Saudi Arabia is definitely not a rival to the UAE.”
Later this year Abu Dhabi will host the FIFA Club World Cup for the second year running, and fourth time in total. It is just one of a number of events that gets eyes across the world focused on the UAE capital, the Formula One race being an obvious example of another.
Aside from the promotional value of hosting such sporting spectacles, Al-Qubaisi said that the other benefit could be far more profound and long-lasting — and a pointer for Saudi Arabia who hope that hosting big sporting names and events inspires people to get up from their seats in the stand or sofa at home, put on their trainers and get active.
The Club World Cup will see Champions League winners Real Madrid stroll into town once again and will allow children to get up close to their heroes. Last year that meant Cristiano Ronaldo strutting his stuff at the Zayed Sports City Stadium, this year they will get to see World Cup player of the tournament Luka Modric (above left) once again.

For Al-Qubaisi, that can only be positive for the future success of teams in the UAE and across the region.
“It is a great thing for our region, big clubs come here and it’s great for Abu Dhabi and the Middle East,” Al-Qubaisi said.
“Football is the most important sport in the whole world and is the most important sport today in the Middle East. We have big names and players at our clubs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and that will only continue to be the case.
“Of course, the hosting of tournaments such as the FIFA Club World Cup is a galvanizing factor in getting young Emiratis and Saudis to play football.
“(Players) such as Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos are great and can influence fans and children. It’s great to have these players playing in front of you. For small, young children seeing them on the pitch can only be good.”
Last year’s tournament saw UAE side Al-Jazira reach the semifinal where they ran Ronaldo and Co. close before ultimately losing 2-1.
“The hope is to have our players winning a championship such as this. Al-Jazira reaching the semifinal playing against Real Madrid was great, it was a big game and they lost the second-half 2-0, having gone ahead.”
One event that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE will take part in is next year’s Asian Cup, set to take place in the Emirates. Both will have high hopes that they can do well and inspire a generation of kids to lace up their boots and try to emulate players such as the Green Falcons’ Omar Al-Dawsari and the UAE’s Omar Abdulrahman.
Al-Qubaisi said that it is important that a Middle East team does well.
“The last time the tournament was held in the UAE, in 1996, Saudi Arabia won,” he said. “Today we are hosting this tournament, technically wise the UAE should do well. I think there will be (packed stadiums). There are 208 different nationalities in the country and they will all come to cheer for their countries. There will be full houses and we will see a festival of football. But of course I hope the UAE will win.”

Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

Updated 17 June 2019

Unrivaled: India now 7-0 in World Cup games against Pakistan

  • Conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd 

MANCHESTER, UK: For such an intense rivalry, it is still a lopsided contest when India and Pakistan meet at the Cricket World Cup.

India extended their record to 7-0 against Pakistan at the World Cup with an 89-run victory in a rain-interrupted encounter Sunday that likely will remain the most-watched game of the six-week tournament.

India started ominously with Rohit Sharma scoring 140 from 113 deliveries and skipper Virat Kohli contributing 77 in a total of 336-5, a record for a One-Day International at Old Trafford.

Pakistan were always behind the run-rate required.

Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) put on 104 for the second wicket but when both were dismissed by left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav within nine balls, Pakistan’s hopes faded with them.

When Hardik Pandya took wickets with consecutive deliveries in the 27th over, Pakistan were 129-5. And with a result in play because both teams had batted more than 20 overs, there was no chance of sharing points if rain prevented any more play. A delay after the 35th with Pakistan at 166-6 just prolonged the inevitable.

Pakistan were  set a revised target of 302 from 40 overs and the last five overs were a non-event with Pakistan finishing 212-6. India remained unbeaten in four games to start the tournament.

The conditions did not dampen the enthusiasm of a predominantly pro-India crowd that filled the 162-year-old venue to its 23,500 capacity. Seats were in excessively high demand, after all, with the International Cricket Council reporting more than 800,000 ticket applications for the game.

There is always extra significance when the nuclear-armed neighboring countries meet at ICC tournaments because India and Pakistan play cricket so infrequently in bilateral series.

This was no different, with a 1 billion-plus TV audience and an almost football-like atmosphere at the ground.

Kohli’s single to get off the mark was met by “Kohli-Kohli-Kohli” chants from the predominantly pro-India crowd.

Sharma set the tone with his second century of the tournament, sharing partnerships of 136 with KL Rahul (57) for the first wicket and 98 with Kohli for the second.

He seemed ready to really unleash when he needlessly paddled a ball from Hasan Ali to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg in the 38th over.

Kohli continued, becoming the third Indian batter to pass 11,000 ODI runs. In doing so in his 222nd innings, he became the fastest to reach the milestone.

Kohli was on 71 and India was 305-4 when rain stopped play for the first time in the 47th over. The India captain was caught behind off Mohammad Amir’s bowling not long after he returned from the 55-minute rain break and, surprisingly, walked off before umpire Marais Erasmus had a chance to signal him out.

There was some speculation Kohli did not edge the ball but it was inconsequential in the end, as India passed Sri Lanka’s 318-7 against England in 2006 to set the highest ODI total in Manchester.

After a batting onslaught at the top, Pakistan pegged back the run-rate slightly as Amir (3-47) dismissed Pandya (26) and then had MS Dhoni (1) and Kohli caught behind — both the ex-captain and captain walking.

Things started going haywire for Pakistan after skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and fielded, going against the advice sent via social media by Prime Minister and 1992 World Cup-winning captain Imran Khan.

Overcast and cool overhead conditions that usually would favor swing and seam bowling didn’t greatly assist the Pakistan attack, with India racing to 52-0 in its most productive opening power play of the tournament.

The Pakistan pacemen had trouble with the umpires, with Amir and Wahab each cautioned twice for running on the protected area in the middle of the pitch. One further warning would have resulted in a suspension.

It also didn’t help that opener Imam-ul-Haq got out in rare circumstances to Vijay Shankar’s very first delivery at a World Cup — it coming on the fifth ball of Pakistan’s fifth over after Shankar was asked to finish it off for injured teammate Bhuveshwar Kumar.

Pakistan’s next game is at Lord’s against South Africa, which also has three points and only remote prospects of reaching the semifinals.