Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons can fly even higher after glory at the Asian Championships, claims coach

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Turki Al-Ammar had a great tournament, scoring in the final and being named player of the tournament. (AFC)
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Updated 06 November 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Young Falcons can fly even higher after glory at the Asian Championships, claims coach

  • Khalid Al-Atawi predicts a bright future for his U19 side ahead of next year's U20s World Cup in Poland.
  • Coach full of praise for star man Al-Ammar, who was named tournament's MVP.

LONDON: Victorious Saudi Arabia coach Khalid Al-Atawi said his Young Falcons have only just got started and predicted a bright future for the side.
Al-Atawi was speaking after guiding the U-19s to glory, beating South Korea 2-1 in the final of the Asian U19 Championships.
The trophy, which has returned to Riyadh for the first time since 1992, is not the only prize that has come back to Saudi Arabia. The team has also earned a ticket to Poland next year to participate in the U20 World Cup and will do so as champions of the world’s biggest continent.
And Al-Atawi claimed the future is bright for his side.
“There are bigger challenges to come but we will be ready for it,” the coach told Arab News.
“This is a great achievement. We have shown that we have talent and spirit and I knew that we could win it from the beginning.”
The young Falcons won all six of their matches at the tournament in Indonesia and flew home to a heroes welcome in Riyadh yesterday morning as deserved winners.
“The players have grown as the tournament progressed and worked so hard to win this trophy, and that started back in qualification last year,” Al-Atawi, who has won praise at home and abroad for his coaching exploits, added.
“We were the first to arrive here in Indonesia and the last to leave.”

Al-Ammar with his MVP award after Saudi Arabia's 2-1 win over South Korea in Indonesia. 


Nobody could argue that Saudi Arabia had an easy run to the title. The team taking on most of Asia’s heavyweights with Al-Atawi and his men maintaining a perfect record.
“We are so happy to win without losing a game or even drawing. We played some very good teams in the group stage, and then we played Australia in the quarterfinal and then Japan (in the last four).”
The final was a tense affair against a talented South Korean team that boasted one of the stars of the tournament in Jeon Se-jin. The Young Falcons had the perfect start, however, as talisman Turki Al-Ammar opened the scoring after just two minutes, shooting home the rebound after Abdulmohsen Al-Qahtani’s shot had been saved.
Midway through the half, Khalid Al-Ghannam curled home from outside the area to put the West Asians within touching distance of the trophy. Korea came back after the break, however, and a converted penalty kick just after the hour from Cho Young-wook reduced the arrears. With 10 minutes remaining, Jeon missed an open goal from close range and Saudi Arabia saw out the game.
There was plenty of praise for Al-Ammar from many in Indonesia and the coach was also delighted with how the Al-Shabab midfielder, who was named as the tournament MVP, had performed.
 “We knew that he would have a great tournament before it started,” Al-Atawi said. “He played excellently all the way from the start.”
Saudi Arabia Football Federation president Qusay bin Abdulaziz Al-Fawaz met the squad on their arrival in Riyadh and draped garlands around their necks.
They were also congratulated by  Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al-Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Confederation.
“Saudi Arabian Football Federation deserves our praise for producing continental champions who will inspire our youths and instill the desire and willingness to succeed on the world’s biggest stage,” Al-Khalifa said.
South Korea boss Chung Jung-yong was disappointed to lose the final and a chance to win continental title No. 13, but believes that his team can go on to greater heights.
“Congratulations to Saudi Arabia for being champions and for winning all their games which is not an easy thing to do,” Chung said.
“Overall this was a good tournament for us and I am pleased with the progress we have made.
“In the final we made too many mistakes in the first half and we found ourselves two goals down. We were much better in the second half and it was a good performance all around.”


Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman who is shaping squash’s Olympic dream

Updated 4 min 38 sec ago
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Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman who is shaping squash’s Olympic dream

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.”