Big-name stars have stands packed as records fall in new Saudi Pro League season

Bafetimbi Gomis is just one of several big-name players to have joined Saudi Pro League Clubs. (Al-Hilal)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Big-name stars have stands packed as records fall in new Saudi Pro League season

  • A total of 102,509 fans went to Saudi Pro League clashes over the past weekend.
  • The total attendance this season has already reached 249,018, with the GSA setting a target of three million fans over the course of the season.

LONDON: Saudi Arabian officials are delighted with the record-breaking attendances that have been the hallmark of the first few rounds of this season’s Saudi Pro League.
Round three of the current campaign saw the highest number of fans attend games since official records were kept. A total of 102,509 fans went to stadiums up and down the country as defending champions Al-Hilal maintained their perfect start to remain top of the table.
This was in contrast to a total of 19,341 who watched games at the same stage last season and 20,361 from the 2016-17 campaign. 
The latest figures confirm an encouraging overall upward trend. So far in the three rounds already played, the total attendance has already reached 249,018. In the 2017-18 season overall, just over one million passed through the turnstiles. During the summer, the General Sports Authority, the body which oversees all sports in the country, set an ambitious target of three million fans for the new season.
“The season has started as well as we could have hoped for in terms of fans coming to games and we have seen increases of over 500 percent from last season and the season before that,” an official from the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) told Arab News.
“Clubs have been working hard to try and engage with fans and while there have been some free tickets handed out, the standard of football that fans are watching is better than before. We know that we have to keep working hard but it is a great start.”
So far the action has been entertaining and the 100,000 plus fans saw 29 goals in just eight games, with all but eight scored by overseas stars. Many of the big-name signings made by the big clubs have hit the ground running.
Ahmed Musa went to Al-Nassr for a league record fee of around €16 million ($19 million) from Leicester City in the English Premier League. The Nigerian scored a hat-trick at Al-Quadisiya to maintain his team’s unbeaten record. Al-Hilal’s Bafetimbi Gomis and Omar Abdulrahman are other expensive stars who are already producing the goods while Argentina’s Cristian Guanca, who plays for Al-Ettifaq, tops the scoring charts with four goals.
 “The standard of many of the foreign players who came before the season has been better than ever before,” added the official.
“Some of them are already showing the kind of talent they have and have settled in quickly. Others will take more time so as the season goes on then we should see this level continue.”
SAFF administrators believe that this Saudi Arabia’s World Cup campaign — which ended with a victory over Egypt , the Green Falcons’ first win at the competition since 2006 — has helped with the feel-good factor. Allowing women to enter stadiums to watch games is another reason why there have been increased attendances.
The biggest crowd of the weekend was recorded in Jeddah when 41,000 fans turned up to watch Al-Ahli defeat Al-Hazm 2-0. The club provided 10,000 tickets free of charge but it was still an impressive turnout, with the raucous crowd making plenty of noise
Al-Ahli star Nooh Al-Mousa was delighted with the attendance and has called on fans to keep supporting the team in such numbers.
“It was great to see so many people come here to support us,” the midfielder said.
“The atmosphere was great and it really inspires the players. It not only increases our energy and enthusiasm, it also helps us get better results. We hope that the fans keep coming back as we will have a bright future together.”


Turkish star Turan could face more than 12 years jail for brawl

Updated 1 min 1 sec ago
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Turkish star Turan could face more than 12 years jail for brawl

  • The incident, which took place outside an Istanbul nightclub and reportedly left singer Berkay Sahin with a broken nose, has transfixed Turkey
  • Turan said after the fight he went to the hospital where Berkay was being treated, clutching a gun and asking to be shot if the singer believed it was true he harassed his wife

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Monday charged Barcelona player Arda Turan over a brawl with a prominent singer, asking for the footballer to be sentenced to twelve-and-a-half years in jail.
The prosecutors charged Turan, who is currently on loan to Istanbul club Basaksehir, with sexual harassment, unlicensed possession of weapons and causing intentional injury over the fight with singer Berkay Sahin, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Sahin, who performs under his first name Berkay, was also charged, with prosecutors demanding up to two years in jail.
Turan, 31, had last week been summoned to an Istanbul police station to give a statement about the incident but was allowed to walk free.
The incident, which took place outside an Istanbul nightclub and reportedly left Sahin with a broken nose, has transfixed Turkey over the last days.
Turkish media reports said that the dispute concerned Berkay’s wife, Ozlem Ada Sahin. Turan’s wife Aslihan Dogan was not present.
According to his statement to police, Turan said after the fight he went to the hospital where Berkay was being held, clutching a gun and asking to be shot if the singer believed it was true he harassed his wife.
He claimed to Berkay that he did not know that Ozlem was his wife.
Turan said the gun then went off when he took it back, according to the statement cited in Turkish media.
Video then emerged in Turkish media of the incident which shows a gun being flung onto the sofa at the hospital.
Former Turkish international Burak Yilmaz, who currently plays for Trabzonspor, was with Turan at the nightclub and is listed as a witness.
In a statement on his widely-followed Instagram account, Turan described some media reports about the incident as a “lie” and also an affront to his wife, who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant.
Turan admitted he had reacted “disproportionately” and said “the only thing I care about is my wife Aslihan,” admitting regretting leaving her at home to go to a nightclub just before she was due to give birth.
The attacking midfielder, who won 100 caps for the national side, has for years been Turkey’s best known footballer and is a strong supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He backed Erdogan strongly after the failed July 2016 coup, appearing at rallies outside his home, and the Turkish president even came as a witness to Turan’s marriage.
Turan is notorious for poor behavior both on and off the field.
He was banned for a record 16 games by the Turkish football authorities in May after he shoved and verbally abused a referee in a game for Basaksehir.
In June 2017, Turan was thrown out of a training camp by former coach Fatih Terim following a fracas with a reporter on a plane.
Ironically, weeks later Terim himself resigned after himself becoming involved in a fight at a kebab restaurant.
Turan joined Basaksehir last season on loan from Barcelona, where he had largely endured an unhappy spell on the bench after joining from Atletico Madrid.
Pundits say he has been on the decline ever since leaving Atletico.