Saudi Arabia badminton duo out to learn from defeats at Asian Games

Rana Abu Harbesh during her defeat to Hong Kong’s Ngan Yi Cheung. (Asian Games)
Updated 23 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia badminton duo out to learn from defeats at Asian Games

  • Shatha Al-Mutairi enjoyed the experience in Indonesia and has sights set on playing in more top-level tournaments.
  • Coach Mohammed Awad Ammar looking toward the Tokyo Olympics.

JAKARTA: Saudi Arabia’s two female badminton players left the court yesterday defeated but not dispirited, insisting they will learn from their Asian Games defeats and return better players in time for Tokyo 2020 qualification.
Rana Abu Harbesh, 22, and Shatha Al-Mutairi, 23, both lost in straight sets against considerably more experienced opponents at Gelora Bung Karno. However, given this was a debut appearance at the continental competition for both, the results were not unexpected. The hope now is the two defeats act as the first step of a steep learning curve.
“It’s been good,” said Al-Mutairi, smiling despite falling 21-4, 21-4 to Sri Lanka’s Kavidi Sirimannage inside just 14 minutes.
“It’s my first time playing at the Asian Games, so I was nervous, but it’s OK. I am very happy and hopefully in the future I can play much better than I played here. I will gain lots of experience from this.”
Al-Mutairi was in tears earlier in the day after watching Hong Kong’s Ngan Yi Cheung defeat her friend and compatriot Abu Harbesh 21-1, 21-5. At times, the two Saudi Arabia representatives looked out of their depth, making a series of unforced errors, but their coach said that was to be expected. 
“It’s important we come here and try,” coach Mohammed Awad Ammar told Arab News. “(Abu Harbesh) is upset now of course, but for the future, this will give her good experience. We will go back, prepare more and in the future, inshallah, the Saudis can fight to be among the best.”
While men’s badminton has been in development for the past four years, a program for the women’s game only launched in the past 12 months. Already there are eight women on the national team, yet as there are no national rankings for females — the country does not yet hold women’s singles events — Abu Harbesh and Al-Mutairi were hand-selected.
“Women’s badminton is a fairly new sport in Saudi Arabia, so we focus only on the level of performance and dismiss the scores,” said Ammar. “It’s good for them to come and play in this big event. We know the levels of the top countries and we will be able to better prepare for the next tournaments by using the experience of this one. The goal is to try to reach Tokyo 2020.”
Al-Mutairi said that while preparations for this month’s games started four months ago, she has recently noticed an increase in interest in the sport. This afternoon, she will compete alongside Abu Harbesh in the doubles tournament against South Korean pair Sohee Lee and Seungchan Shin. 
“There are games for women in Saudi Arabia now and it’s good that we can enjoy these,” she said.
“Now I have many friends who play badminton, so it’s definitely growing and I hope in the future that that can continue. As for the doubles, I am excited because it’s always more fun, especially playing with a friend and representing your country together.” 
Meanwhile Cheung, Abu Harbesh’s tormentor, will face world 
No. 1 Tzuying Tai of Taipei in the Round of 16. She said her Saudi opponent should continue on her chosen path.
“I think it’s about experience. If you train hard and prepare, then when your chance comes you will feel more confident. As you gain more experience, you will improve,” she said. “So my advice to her would simply be: Never give up.”


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)