Asian Football Confederation to investigate laser claim

A laser appears to have been shone in the face of the Urawa Reds keeper. (Sponichi)
Updated 22 November 2017

Asian Football Confederation to investigate laser claim

LONDON: The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is investigating claims that someone in the crowd at the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in Riyadh on Saturday shone a laser beam into the eyes of the Urawa Reds goalkeeper.
Images in the Tokyo media seemed to confirm the presence of a green light on Shusaku Nishikawa’s face during the game with Al-Hilal at the King Fahd International Stadium that ended 1-1.
“I knew it was a laser,” Nishikawa told Japanese sports newspaper Sports Nippon. “I got it in the first half and also during a free-kick in the second half.”
Nishikawa had an impressive game in goal, saving a number of times to ensure Urawa head into the second leg with a slight advantage of a draw and an away goal. He admitted that the laser made his job more difficult.
“When it was shone directly in my eyes then my view was a little blurred but I kind of expected it as this game was played in the Middle East,” Nishikawa said, adding that he had experienced a similar incident when on national team duty against Syria in Oman during qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
Players from Australia, Japan and South Korea have complained of receiving similar treatment when playing in West Asia in recent years, especially on international duty during important World Cup qualification games.
Clubs and national teams can be held responsible for improper conduct of spectators as detailed in the AFC’s 2017 Disciplinary and Ethics Code. In March 2017, Iran’s Esteghlal were fined $51,000 by the AFC after fans pointed lasers in the direction of players from Qatari club Al-Sadd in the AFC Champions League.
Esteghlal were also told that further offenses would result in a future home game being played behind closed doors.
“The AFC is aware of the reports and are looking into the matter,” a spokesperson for the confederation told Arab News when asked about the incident on Saturday.
Urawa have also informed the AFC of alleged racial abuse of their players on social media.
“Some Urawa Reds players including Rafael Silva and Mauricio de Carvalho Antonio have recently received discriminatory comments on their Instagram accounts,” read a statement on the club website. “Rafael released a message stating that he is saddened by the fact that racists still exist in this world and that he is proud of his skin color. Following this, Urawa Reds reported the incident to the AFC. We protect our players who are members of the Urawa Reds family from any discrimination.”
The second leg of the final takes place in Saitama on Saturday.
“We will have a very important match ahead of us ... in which Urawa Reds will battle for the crown of victory for the ACL after 10 years,” added the club statement. “We would like to ask our fans and supporters to fight together with us so that we can win the title without being distracted by the incidents happening outside the pitch.”


World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

Updated 19 November 2019

World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Some of the greatest men’s players on the planet can use the upcoming $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia as ideal preparation for the Australia Open, says one of its big-name competitors.

World number five Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, is one of six confirmed names heading to the Diriyah Arena in the UNESCO world heritage site for the first international tennis tournament to be staged in the Kingdom, presented by Saudi Aramco on December 12 to and 14.

It has been a breakthrough year for the fan favorite, reaching six consecutive tournament finals, including one at the 2019 US Open and two at Masters 1000 events with a career high ranking of number 4.

Now Medvedev believes the competitive nature of the Diriyah Tennis Cup can provide an ideal platform to build on that success, especially with the first Grand Slam event of 2020, the Australian Open taking place a little more than a month after the Saudi tournament.

Medvedev said: “Saudi will be a big part of my preparation for the new season. Coming to Saudi the heat and conditions will be similar to Australia. It will be a great test for us.

“It’s in our pre-season so we’ll want to get that match time in to prepare for the new season – but the fans should expect us to fight hard like in any tournament. It will be competitive and hopefully they’ll be lots of fans coming to support us there.

“Hopefully I can play some great tennis, help the country raise awareness of the sport and inspire people to play. Looking at the players confirmed it’s a really great field.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Saudi Arabia. I’m excited to promote tennis there especially as it’s the first tournament.

The tournament is part of the Diriyah Season, an epic month of showcase sports events being hosted by the GSA. 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup showdown has confirmed six leading players to date for the inaugural tournament. As well as Medvedev this includes three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

World number 12, Fabio Fogini, who was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo and highly-rated David Goffin (Belgium), the former world number 7 will also present in Diriyah.

The big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, and five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year complete the current line-up. Officials will name the final two players in the coming weeks.

Medvedev will go into tournament with confidence after a great year, in the past week missed out on closing rounds of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals which also included another epic showdown with World Number One, Rafael Nadal in London.

He said: “It’s been a great year for me, especially the second half. The highlights were in Washington and then finishing in Shanghai and winning that title. With six titles and two of them Masters titles, it wasn’t something I expected if I’m honest with you.

The 23-year-old Russian also gave some insight into what it has taken to reach the top echelon of the men’s game, as he closes in on ‘The Big Three’; namely Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. 

“To be successful in tennis you need to fight hard and play with passion. You need to fight hard on every single point. Look back on the times it doesn’t go well and always try to improve and always get better. Self-reflection is important. That might sound a bit tough for the kids, but that’s what it takes to break through."

Tickets are now available at www.diriyahseason.sa with nine different ticket categories available to suit all budgets – the perfect event for groups of friends and families.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is taking place at the 15,000-seater Diriyah Arena being purpose built at the ancient site of the Kingdom’s first capital, known as the home of kings and heroes. The tournament will happen just a week after the same venue plays host to the Clash On The Dunes, the world heavyweight title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua OBE.