Pizzi lands Saudi Arabia top job

Juan Antonio Pizzi shakes hands with Saudi Arabia Football Federation President Adel Ezzat. (SAFF)
Updated 29 November 2017

Pizzi lands Saudi Arabia top job

DUBAI: Juan Antonio Pizzi is the man chosen to lead the Saudi Arabia national team to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
A statement released by the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) on Twitter yesterday announced that an agreement has been reached for Pizzi to replace fellow Argentine Edgardo Bauza in the Green Falcons hotseat.
The agreement, which comes six days after previous coach Edgardo Bauza was fired, was signed in Tokyo, where an SAFF delegation was attending the AFC Champions League final second leg, which Al-Hilal lost to Urawa Red Diamonds on Saturday.
Pizzi’s name was selected out of a shortlist of coaches that reportedly included the likes of Vicente del Bosque, the former Spain coach. Reports in the Netherlands indicated that former boss Bert van Marwijk was also one of those approached by the SAFF.
Adel Ezzat, President of the SAFF, described the new coach as “experienced and highly ambitious.” Ezzat vowed to provide all necessary support to Pizzi as he prepares the team for the World Cup finals.
The announcement did not mention the length of Pizzi’s contract, leaving question marks about whether his role will extend to leading the national team at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE, where Saudi Arabia is targeting at least an appearance in the final on the same ground where they won the trophy in 1996.
The 49-year-old becomes the fourth Argentinian to manage Saudi Arabia after Jorge Solari, Gabriel Calderon and Bauza. Solari was the man who lead the team to the second round of the 1994 World Cup, and Calderon won them qualification to Germany 2006 before making way for Marcos Paqueta to lead the team in the finals.
Pizzi becomes the 13th managerial appointment for the post in the past decade, making the post one of the hottest seats in world football. Van Marwijk was the only coach to last more than two years in the job since Khalil Al Zayani in the mid-1980s. Van Marwijk led Saudi to World Cup qualification but left the job in September after his contract expired and he failed to reach an agreement with the SAFF on renewal terms.
Argentina-born Pizzi arrives with a rich playing and coaching pedigree. He spent most of his playing career in Spain where he turned out for La Liga sides Valencia and Barcelona. He also represented Spain in the 1998 World Cup and managed a host of clubs in Argentina, including San Lorenzo and Rosario Central in addition to Spain’s Valencia. Most recently, Pizzi was in charge of the Chile national team, leading them to 2016 Copa America glory. His stint in charge of La Roja ended last month after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finishing sixth in the South American qualifiers.
He now gets the chance to go to the finals with the Green Falcons. His primary objective will be to lead the country to the round of 16, a feat Saudi Arabia failed to repeat since their impressive debut on the global stage in USA 1994 when they finished second in their group before being knocked out by Sweden in the round of 16. Since then, the Falcons exited at the group stage in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Pizzi and the SAFF delegation will fly to Moscow later this week where they will learn their three World Cup group-stage opponents on Friday when the 2018 World Cup draw takes place. Among the 32 nations competing in Russia next summer, only the host country is ranked lower than Saudi Arabia, which means the Falcons are seeded in Pot Four alongside Japan, South Korea and Australia.


Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

Updated 22 January 2020

Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

  • This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders

JEDDAH: Sports chiefs are gearing up to announce the Saudi city venue for a new international cycling race set to take place in the Kingdom.

Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal is expected to reveal on Thursday that Riyadh will host the five-stage Saudi Tour 2020 from Feb. 4 to 8.

The inaugural edition of the 2.1 category race is being staged by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizer of the world-famous Tour de France.

Details of the route in and around the Saudi capital were due to be released during a press conference at Riyadh’s Digital City.

The cycling event precedes the Tour of Oman (Feb. 11 to 16) which is facing cancelation following the death of Sultan Qaboos.

ASO chief executive, Yann Le Moenner, said: “We are involved in the emergence of a new racing scene in the Middle East, which corresponds to the riders’ demand at the beginning of the year.

“The creation of the Saudi Tour and its sustainable installation in the calendar is part of this movement. This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders, and a nice opportunity for the television viewers who follow the race to discover new landscapes.

“This is also, for us, an occasion to contribute to the development of cycling across the Kingdom,” he added.

Saudi Cycling Federation chief Sabah Al-Kraidees said it was an “honor” to have the inaugural Saudi Tour, noting that the event would help to promote the Kingdom as a tourist destination.

“The Saudi Tour is a great opportunity to publicize the country’s varied territories and historic sites and to let visitors discover our sense of hospitality. This initiative fits perfectly with the ambition of Saudi Arabia to promote the Kingdom beyond its borders through sports and especially cycling,” he added.

The five-day event will feature stages in the hills around Riyadh and on urban circuits.

The Kingdom recently began issuing tourist visas after travel to the country was largely limited to pilgrims, business travelers and resident workers.