Saudi Arabian squash supremo expects sport to grow in the Kingdom

Nour El-Sherwin and Nouran Gohar (R) of Egypt are two of the biggest names in female squash, players who Al-Turki hopes will inspire Saudi youth. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Saudi Arabian squash supremo expects sport to grow in the Kingdom

  • Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi Squash Federation President and PSA Chairman, wants more squash in the Kingdom
  • He wants to stimulate the growth of the game in Saudi Arabia and give local players the chance to climb up the world rankings

The Professional Squash Association (PSA) chief plans to build on the success of staging the first ever professional women’s squash tournament in Saudi Arabia by making a men’s and women’s tournament in the Kingdom a permanent fixture in the squash calendar.
Ziad Al-Turki, the Saudi Squash Federation President and PSA Chairman, collaborated with the General Sports Authority and Princess Reema bint Bandar to stage the landmark event at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in January, which featured 32 international players.
Eight-time world champion Nicol David hailed the tournament as a historic moment — and Al-Turki revealed plans are underway to make the Kingdom a regular stop on the hectic World Tour.
“It will happen again,” he said. “We are looking at either the end of this year or again in January. Hopefully it will be an annual event and hopefully we can bring back a men’s event. The PSA World Tour is full this year but we are going to find a slot probably for 2019 and then hopefully do a men’s and woman’s tournament back-to-back.”
The Kingdom last hosted a men’s event in 2010 when Nick Matthew won the Men’s World Championship, but Al-Turki now has the appetite to bring back the game’s top male players to Saudi Arabia after seeing the transformative effect the women’s game in January has had.
“Princess Noura University and King Saud University are contacting us telling us they want us to bring in trainers so they can host an amateur tournament between each other,” said Al-Turki. “We are getting contacted by girls who want to start participating in squash — that’s the ultimate goal. In that sense, it was a great success.”
Al-Turki said he will learn the lessons of the January tournament when staging future events.
“It took a lot of administrative work to get it approved – it didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “I started this when Prince Abdullah was at the helm and then it got another push when Princess Reema was first appointed. It was a few years in the making. 

“We were under certain constraints and we couldn’t go out and advertise it as much to try and get more spectators. I would have loved for it to be at one of the women’s universities as it would have drawn a bigger attendance.”
Al-Turki does not just want to make the Kingdom a money-spinning opportunity for the world’s top players. He wants to stimulate the growth of the game in Saudi Arabia and give local players the chance to climb up the world rankings — and not just have to rely on wildcard entries.
“We are not just looking at big events — we are looking at doing smaller events to give the guys a chance to participate and get some points,” he said.
“Nada Abu Alnaja, for example, has become a professional player because she had to get a wildcard (for entry to the Saudi Women’s Masters). We are looking to build on the grassroots and bringing in top players for tournaments gives the grassroots a push.”
That will be music to the ears for the likes of rookies Mohammad Almwled, Abdulmajeed Boureggah and Abdulelah Boureggah. Their inexperience of playing competitive squash was exposed when they represented Saudi Arabia at the World Team Squash Championship in India in July. It was the first time a team from the Arab state had competed in the event and they finished last. Al-Turki is seeing signs of a revival of the game in the Kingdom and is excited about two young prospects.
“We did have quite a few young, aspiring players back in 2008-2009 but it fizzled out a bit,” he said. “Now it’s picking up again. We have two juniors who I am sponsoring and sending to international tournaments, they are 11 and 12. We had a third place finish at a junior tournament in Europe, so we’ve got high hopes for them. They are competing in the Kingdom and in GCC tournaments. The grandfather of squash in Saudi Arabia (Samer Al-Khateeb) has kind of adopted them and I pay their expenses. They are very eager, so the future could be bright with those two.”


‘No surprises’ about former Premier League duo Nordin Amrabat, Jurado flying high in Saudi Arabia

Updated 13 November 2018
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‘No surprises’ about former Premier League duo Nordin Amrabat, Jurado flying high in Saudi Arabia

  • Amrabat signed for big-spending Al-Nassr in the summer and has scored three goals in eight games
  • Jurado, meanwhile, joined Al-Ahli from Espanyol in the summer and his playmaking ability has resulted in the Jeddah giants succeeding

LONDON: A former Premier League coach is not surprised high-profile imports Nordin Amrabat and Jose Manuel Jurado are flourishing in the Saudi Pro League, believing they have the ability and the pedigree to inspire their clubs to mount a title challenge.
Amrabat signed for big-spending Al-Nassr in the summer and has scored three goals in eight games to propel Jose Daniel Carreno’s side up to third in the table. Jurado, meanwhile, joined Al-Ahli from Espanyol in the summer and his playmaking ability has resulted in the Jeddah giants becoming the second most prolific team in the league. Both clubs are hot on the heels of leaders Al-Hilal and are prepared to pounce should the champions slip up.
Dean Austin, the former Tottenham defender, coached both Amrabat and Jurado at Premier League club Watford and has kept a keen eye on their fortunes.
“I’ve followed their careers closely since I worked with them and I saw they had moved to Saudi Arabia,” Austin told Arab News. “I fully expected them to make a big impact as they are very good players and top professionals. It sounds like they are really enjoying themselves and good luck to them as they both work so hard.”
Amrabat, 31, became Al-Nassr’s fourth costliest player ever when he joined from Watford for £7.65m ($10.05m). According to Austin, he is capable of playing on either flank and has experience of playing in Holland, in La Liga and the Premier League.
Amrabat has said in previous interviews he feels he plays his best football on the left flank, where he can cut in on his favored right foot and have a crack at goal. He is playing on the left in a 4-1-4-1 formation at Al-Nassr.
“I felt he was good enough to play off either flank, but I guess the left might have been his preference,” said Austin. “If he is going to play there, I think you need a really quick, offensive left-back who is prepared to go past him and go on the outside. You need to have the correct balance in the team.”
Moroccan Amrabat was in many pundits’ team of the World Cup at the end of the group stages. His displays helped his team to a 2-2 draw with Spain and saw them narrowly lose out to Portugal.
“He had a good World Cup and I reckon there would have been a few clubs looking at him. He has pace, strength, a great desire and is a really willing worker. He wants to work,” Austin said.
Amrabat played in the same Watford side as Jurado in 2016 and they were reunited when Al-Ahli beat Al-Nassr 2-0 in Riyadh earlier this month. Jurado was taken to Watford and then to Espanyol by Quique Sanchez Flores, the coach who was offered the chance to take the top job at Al-Hilal earlier this year.
Sanchez Flores never made it to the Kingdom, but Jurado, 32, did and he is showing why he played at Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Schalke.
“He is a really good technician,” said Austin. “He is silky smooth and can pass off either foot. From the first day at Watford, you could tell he was seriously talented. He’s clever and a very talented footballer.”
Jurado did not pull up as many trees in the Premier League as Watford hoped and he lasted just one season before returning to Spain.
“He had an indifferent time with us,” said Austin. “He had some good games, but he found it tough in some others. He came to us from Russia and it was not easy to adapt. He found it very quick, but the Premier League is a very difficult league and he probably didn’t show us as much as he would have liked. Sometimes with Jose, it’s about trying to find the right balance of the team to have him in it.”
Al-Ahli coach Pablo Guede is fielding Jurado in a left-sided role just behind Djaniny, the big-money summer signing from Mexico, or as a No. 10 behind Djaniny and the prolific Omar Al-Somah.
Jurado scored his first goal in the 2-0 win over Al-Faisaly and pulled the strings in the 5-1 rout of Al-Fateh, claiming two assists. Jurado has played alongside Raul, won the Europa League and finished runner-up in La Liga twice, but Austin says the playmaker is “as humble as they come.”