UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

It may just be a friendly but Thursday's match could set the tone for both sides heading into their respective new eras. (AFP)
Updated 21 March 2019
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UAE vs. Saudi Arabia friendly gives both chance to press reset button ahead of World Cup qualifiers

  • New era for both the Whites and the Green Falcons after Asian Cup.
  • World Cup qualifiers start in September.

LONDON: That the UAE-Saudi Arabia clash today is a friendly is apt. With Bert van Marwijk now confirmed as the new UAE boss, and in the stands for the clash, the match will be a meeting of old mates.
The Dutchman memorably guided the Green Falcons to last year’s World Cup — their first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — before contract talks stalled and he left. Now, 18 months on from his exit, Saudi Arabia are again looking for another manager following Juan Antonio Pizzi’s departure after the Asian Cup. And for both sides there is a distinct feeling of limbo.
The Asian Cup promised much for Pizzi’s players. Two comfortable opening wins over North Korea and Lebanon were followed up with defeats to eventual winners Qatar and a second round exit at the hands of Japan. It was the opposite of how their World Cup went. While the team got better with every match in Russia, at the Asian Cup the Green Falcons’ form petered out and utimately they exited with a whimper.
This match is the perfect chance for Salem Al-Dawsari and Co. to recover the form they showed in the latter half of Pizzi’s reign with the World Cup qualifiers set to start in September.
For the UAE there is the same sense of ennui, even with Van Marwijk set to become the new boss. Under Alberto Zaccheroni the Whites played a brand of football that would have challenged a sleeping tablet as a cure for insomnia. Too defensive, too risk averse, it was ultimately no surprise when the hosts failed to win the Asian Cup on home soil at the start of the year.
They may have reached the semifinals, but the UAE failed to inspire confidence, and this clash offers the chance of a fresh start on and off the pitch.
The UAE’s “Golden Generation” ultimately failed to achieve World Cup qualification or Asian Cup success when at least one of them seemed, at one point, like a sure thing. The next year or two will likely see that stable of players slowly ushered out. However, the chance of an early sighting of the young guns that will replace them has been kicked into touch due to the 2020 AFC U-23 Championship qualification commitments of the UAE’s young players. Friday’s Arabian Gulf Cup final also means that interim coach Saleem Abdelrahman will not be able to call on the Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club and Al-Wahda.
Both teams will not be at full strength tonight and it will be hard to read anything into the result. But this match offers up a great chance to press the reset button ahead of World Cup qualifying later this year.


Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

Updated 25 June 2019
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Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

RIYADH: This year’s Formula E season will kick off with a doubleheader in Ad Diriyah in November, backed by a huge festival of off-track action, music, culture and heritage.

The 2019 “Saudia” Ad Diriyah E-Prix promises to eclipse the inaugural 2018 edition, with two races, instead of one, being staged at the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of Ad Diriyah, and with crowds of up to 100,000 expected to attend.

Last year’s sell-out E-Prix featured music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas, performing as part of the racing championship’s debut in the Middle East.

2019 will see Porsche and Mercedes competing for the first time, boosting the number of cars on the track. Plus, Ad Diriyah will be ready to welcome even more international tourists, after the surrounding At-Turaif district finalizes its ambitious development program.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Formula E’s arrival in the Kingdom was a watershed moment for us, one that thousands witnessed together.

“The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix excited our nation through its exhilarating action, heroes and entertainment. Thanks to the ambitions of Vision 2030, it was the biggest festival of sport, music and culture the Kingdom has ever seen.

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, to welcome even more international visitors, and to create another unforgettable moment for our people.”

In a recent interview with the UAE’s The National newspaper, DJ David Guetta hailed the 2018 event, which included the country’s first unsegregated concerts.

“I’m really proud that I’ve done this. There is obviously a very big effort in Saudi to open to music and to artists. And as an artist, I play for the people and the people were obviously so happy,” he said.

“It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything. It was a great honor for me to be part of this.”

Last year saw travelers from 80 different countries flock to the event, taking advantage of the first-ever 30-day tourism visas issued under the new online Sharek immigration system. For 2019 the process has been enhanced to make visiting the Kingdom even easier.

Second staging

The 2019 E-Prix will be the second of a 10-year partnership between Formula E, the GSA and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). The event will be staged again by promoter CBX, which successfully created the racetrack and venue in the heart of the heritage site.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, president of SAMF, said: “In 2018 the track proved itself a world-class venue for motorsport, hailed by racers as one of the most exiting they have faced.

“This year sees even more teams enter the championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new ‘Gen 2’ race cars and the exciting ‘Attack Zone’ innovation. This year will be the first time drivers will have an additional 10 kilowatts (kW) of power available when using the ‘Attack Mode,’ rising from 225kW to 235kW.

“Add to that, a double header — two races instead of one — with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports, and we are ready to welcome Formula E back.”