NFL Opening Weekend: Testing ties, ace Aaron Rodgers and brilliant Tom Brady

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The $134 million man — Aaron Rodgers showed exactly why he is worth the biggest deal in NFL history. (AFP)
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Updated 12 September 2018

NFL Opening Weekend: Testing ties, ace Aaron Rodgers and brilliant Tom Brady

  • Aaron Rodgers showed the Packers exactly what they had missed in the second half of last season with a brilliant showing against the Bears.
  • The Browns finally had something to cheer about, but it was not a win.

LONDON: The greatest sporting show in the US kicked off this weekend. Here Arab News examines the talking points of the first week of NFL action and looks at what we learned.


The NFL is at its best when its stars are on fire. And one of its biggest, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, produced a masterclass in a pulsating game of gridiron against bitter rivals Chicago Bears. When the Bears’ defense fell on top of Rodgers in the second quarter, Wisconsinites must have feared the worst.  The Packers’ $134 million star man was taken off on a stretcher and the ghosts of last season, when Rodgers’ mid-season injury cost his side a run at the playoffs, threatened to haunt them once again. But the measure of Rodgers’ brilliance was on show in the fourth quarter with the Packers trailing 20-3. He defied the odds to return after treatment and set up a 39-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison, before driving for a second score to drag Green Bay back into the game. When he picked out Randall Cobb for a game-winning 75-yard catch-and-score, he reminded us why he will always be remembered as one of the game’s legends. Magic stuff.


The unluckiest team in the NFL (we will never forget 1990-1993) looked like they might have turned a corner last season when they made the Playoffs for the first time in 18 seasons, eventually being hard done by in a 10-3 defeat to Jacksonville. That offered promise for 2018, but this season’s opening day 47-3 defeat to the impressive Baltimore Ravens brought Bills fans back down to Earth with a reality-checking bump. It looks like yet another season of disappointment for fans of New York’s “forgotten franchise.”


Cleveland Browns fans are a hardy bunch. You must be to support a team that lost all 16 games in 2017, and only won its first game of the season before in the penultimate game. One win from 32 games over two seasons is tough going. Hope was high that the Browns could finally break the losing streak against the Pittsburgh Steelers on home turf. They did, but only by tying the game. It was a contest that the Browns really should have won, given the number of turnovers they forced, yet somehow they nearly lost it in overtime and had to settle for a share of the spoils. More telling, though, is the consternation from fans around the league who bemoaned the lack of further overtime periods to get an eventual winner. Sometimes, two teams cannot be separated on the day — something lost on the majority of US sport fans.


Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback ever to play the game, showed this weekend why he could probably beat half of the NFL on his own. And for years to come, too. Playing without his big-name wide receivers — Brandon Cooks, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman — the evergreen 41-year-old outclassed Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, throwing for 277 yards and three touchdowns in the Patriots’ 27-20 win in Foxborough. Having Rob Gronkowski back into the offensive line probably helped, but Brady just seems to get better and better with age. Do not bet against him winning a sixth Super Bowl this season.


Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

Updated 14 November 2018

Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

LONDON: A Saudi Arabian businessman is driving the bid to get squash included in the Olympics for the first time.
The World Squash Federation has petitioned three times for squash to join the Games, but each bid has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision has prompted frustration in the squash community, particularly as sports such as climbing, surfing and skateboarding have been admitted.
Ziad Al-Turki is the Chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and has done wonders in marketing the game and broadening its appeal. He is now pushing hard for the game to be showcased on the biggest stage of all at the 2024 Olympics Games in Paris.
Squash has huge global appeal, with the men’s singles final in the last Commonwealth Games attracting a TV audience of more than one million.
“Everyone’s ultimate goal is the Olympics,” said Al-Turki. “The main push comes from the World Squash Federation (WSF) and for many years they were stuck in their ways. We changed a lot at the PSA and ticked every box with the IOC. The WSF just stayed stagnant and didn’t do anything. They didn’t want to put our hand in their hand and work together.”
Relations between the PSA and the WSF came to a head in 2015 in the wake of squash losing out to wrestling for a spot at the 2020 Olympics. A statement from the PSA described the then president of WSF, Narayana Ramachandran, as an “embarrassment to the sport.”
“Nothing could happen with the president of the WSF. Nothing would change. It was just a one-man show. We tried to help but he wouldn’t accept any help,” Al-Turki said. “We have a new president now and they are all very keen,” he added.
Jacques Fontaine is the new president and at his coronation in 2016 he encouragingly said “the Olympic agenda remains a priority.”
“The WSF love the sport and they understand the needs of the IOC,” said Al-Turki.
“They understand the PSA is at a completely different level to the WSF and we’ve now joined forces and are working together. Hopefully 2024 will be the year squash is in the Olympics. Right now, the way we are working together is the strongest collaboration ever and hopefully we can tick all the boxes for the IOC.
“We ticked all the right bodies as a professional association but the WSF didn’t. Now they are putting their hands in ours and we will tick all the right boxes for the ICO.”
Al-Turki, once described as the Bernie Ecclestone of squash, has certainly transformed the sport since he took up office in 2008.
“When I joined the PSA we didn’t have any media coverage,” he said. “Right now we are live in 154 countries. the women’s tour has just grown stronger and stronger — the income has gone up by 74 percent.
“I just love the squash players. I think they are incredible athletes are are some of the fittest athletes in the world. I felt they deserved better and I wanted them to have better.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to reach the levels of football and tennis in terms of exposure and prize money, but I want to reach a level where they will retire comfortably. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now.
“It’s all about the player and their well being. Nick Matthew retired recently and I think he’s retired comfortably. I think I’ve contributed to this as the income has improved. That’s all I want – nothing more.”