Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race

Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Officials unveil the Saudia-branded Formula E car that will race in the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix. (Arab News)
Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Officials unveil the Saudia-branded Formula E car that will race in the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix. (Arab News)
Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Officials unveil the Saudia-branded Formula E car that will race in the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix. (Arab News)
Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag was joined by F1 legend turned Formula E star with the Venturi team Felipe Massa. (Ali Al-Thahry)
Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Photo: Ali Al-Thahry
Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
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Photo: Ali Al-Thahry
Updated 14 December 2018

Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race

Saudi Arabia launches new visa for events ahead of Formula E race
  • Saudi Arabia will open up its borders to fans of live sport, music and culture for the first time
  • The Ad Diriyah E Prix will be the first-time foreign travelers can access Saudi Arabia

ADDIRIYAH, Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia will open up its borders to fans of live sport, music and culture for the first time with the launch of a new online visa process dedicated to welcoming international tourists. The new visa process platform known as ‘Sharek’ will be introduced for the inaugural Saudia Ad Diriyah E Prix being staged at a stunning UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh on December 15.

The ancient historical city of Diriyah, the first seat of power for Saudi’s Kings, will make history again by hosting the biggest festival of racing, live music and entertainment ever witnessed in the country, including thrilling action on the track and global superstars performing on stage over three days.




Photo: Ali Al-Thahry

Tuesday’s announcement at the venue, attended by Formula E stars including Felipe Massa, Susie Wolff and André Lotterer saw the new ‘Sharek’ platform launched as part of the country’s Vision2030 plan. Organizers hope that a large number of international fans will access the online visa process and travel to the country to witness the debut of Formula E in the Middle East and the debut of striking new-look Gen2 car for the start of season five.

 

 

In an event marked by many firsts, the Ad Diriyah E Prix will be the first-time foreign travelers can access Saudi Arabia in such a fast and uncomplicated process as it opens its doors to sports tourism.

The Kingdom’s commitment to tourism, a cornerstone of Vision2030, and the importance of Formula E within the sporting, social and business calendar of the region, was underscored by the announcement that Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) – the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia – is the new official airline partner of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship and the race title partner.




Photo: Ali Al-Thahry

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, Vice-Chair of the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority, said: “This is a truly game-changing moment for Saudi Arabia and one that we can share with the world. It is very fitting that the such a futuristic and sustainable sport as Formula E is pointing to the future direction of our country. Naturally to have Saudia, our national carrier, as the new title sponsor signals our intent to reach out and invite fans to our historic and original capital.

“Saudi Arabia is home to literally millions of passionate young fans of motorsport. Many of whom simply cannot believe that Felipe Massa took the Gen2 car around the streets of the capital today and that they now have a ‘home race’ on the Formula E calendar. So already the excitement is building especially since we’re adding live music concerts to the weekend line-up.




Photo: Ali Al-Thahry

“With the introduction with ‘Sharek’ our visa entry process for fans worldwide, we can share the event.  We hope the Saudia Diriyah E Prix will see fans from around the globe come to Saudi Arabia to watch this epic sporting spectacle as now your ticket is your visa. We can promise a line-up both on the track, onstage and amongst a breathtaking historical setting that will excite fans across the world. It is the perfect combination of live sport, entertainment, technology and culture all in the one place and all at the one time.

“Saudi Arabia is racing into the future with Formula E as we open the Kingdom to the world in a transformation that is being supercharged by the Vision 2030 plan, and driven forward by His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.”

At the launch ceremony His Royal Highness was joined by dignitaries from Saudia and a number of government entities working together to deliver the event, including the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation. From the racing world, Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag was joined by F1 legend turned Formula E star with the Venturi team Felipe Massa and Susie Wolff, Venturi team principal and shareholder. Massa and Wolff have also been named as Saudia brand ambassadors.




Formula E CEO Alejandro Agag was joined by F1 legend turned Formula E star with the Venturi team Felipe Massa. (Ali Al-Thahry)

In preparation for the Formula E race, Saudi Arabia has worked with UNESCO to create the track from the historic city’s existing roads network, holding true to the sustainable nature of Formula E and minimizing noise pollution. The project has inspired infrastructure investment and conservation efforts around the archeological jewel, not only enhancing the site but proudly displaying it to the world.

Over three days throughout the Formula E weekend a series of cultural and entertainment events will be staged to ensure the race is memorable for fans, families and international tourists alike. Further details of an incredible global line-up will be announced in the coming weeks.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Abdullah Al-Faisal, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said: “We are not just opening up to international fans, but importantly we are opening up our nation to new and exciting sports. Giving new experiences. We hope some of the children who watch this first race will be inspired to be part of the industry over the course of the next decade. Ideally, they’ll be supporting, competing and winning on the track too. We firmly believe new opportunities will grow from the seeds planted from the historical roots of our nation in Diriyah.




Photo: Ali Al-Thahry

“This single event has the potential to change lives and change perceptions, both of the sport and of Saudi Arabia. The seeds are already growing, the track is taking shape, all with the approval of UNESCO. It is progress and preservation in one. Today is groundbreaking in all senses.”

The event is officially sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and its global safer driving campaign will be adopted and promoted.

Formula E joins sporting powerhouses such as WWE and European Tour Golf who have forged long-term partnerships with Saudi Arabia as it establishes its reputation as a destination for world class sports events.


Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
Updated 32 min 45 sec ago

Joshua set to fight Fury in Saudi Arabia in August, says promoter Eddie Hearn

The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua (L) and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, according to promoter Eddie Hearn. (AFP/File Photos)
  • Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14

LONDON: The all-British fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury for the undisputed world heavyweight title will take place in Saudi Arabia, promoter Eddie Hearn said on Tuesday.

Hearn, who represents Joshua, said the fight is likely to take place on Aug. 7 or Aug. 14. He said Aug. 14 is his preferred date because the Olympic Games in Tokyo will have finished, making the Joshua-Fury fight a bigger “global spectacle.”

“It’s a very bad secret that the fight is happening in Saudi Arabia,” Hearn told British broadcaster Sky Sports. “To be honest with you, I don’t mind giving you that information.”

Fury’s US promoter, Bob Arum, has previously said Saudi Arabia would be the location of the fight.

Hearn has yet to respond to AP requests to confirm the details of the fight.

READ MORE

On a rainy night in Diriyah in 2019, Anthony Joshua regained his world heavyweight titles after a unanimous points decision from the judges over Andy Ruiz Jr in an epic night of boxing in Saudi Arabia. Read how it happened here.

It would be Joshua’s second fight in the kingdom. He reclaimed his WBA, IBF and WBO belts from Andy Ruiz there in December 2019.

Joshua’s only fight since saw him retain his titles by knocking out Kubrat Pulev in December.

Fury hasn’t fought since beating Deontay Wilder in February last year to capture the WBC title.

Fury and Joshua have called each other out over Twitter over the last 24 hours, both urging the other to finalize terms for the fight.

Hearn said the “deal is done” but there was frustration on both sides that the fight had not been officially announced.

“From our perspective and AJ’s perspective, we’re ready to go,” he said. “From Tyson Fury’s perspective, they’ve got a couple of lawyers across it from their point.

“We have to nail this,” Hearn added, “and I’m not going to stop until I nail it, and everyone has just got to move forward collectively. We’re ready to go from our side. We’re not far away from their side and it is inevitable.”


Finland FA partners with Nike to donate hijabs to all female footballers in the country

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
Updated 21 min 59 sec ago

Finland FA partners with Nike to donate hijabs to all female footballers in the country

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, the Finnish FA said. (Supplied/Finland FA/palloliitto.fi)
  • The move marks 50 years of organized women’s football in Finland

LONDON: The Football Association (FA) of Finland has pledged to give sports hijabs to every female footballer in the country who wishes to wear one while playing.

Heidi Pihlaja, head of football development at the association, said the initiative is intended to promote more equality in the sport and marks 50 years of organized women’s football in Finland.

The move comes in cooperation with the country’s top female league, the Subway National League, and sportswear giant Nike, which will give its Nike Pro sports hijabs to girls and women who require one as part of their kit.

Jerseys, shorts and socks are often given to players by their clubs, but not hijabs, and this can deter some players from taking part, a Finnish FA statement said.

“We are constantly working to ensure that sports belongs to everyone, regardless of the player’s starting point,” Pihlaja said. “Finland is becoming increasingly diverse, and we want to take better account of different needs when girls become part of the football family. The game is open to everyone. 

“We hope that we, in leading by example, encourage other sports and football associations to join us in promoting equality and equity in sports,” she added.

Sara Salmani, one of Finland’s most experienced diversity and inclusion specialists, also said the move was key to combatting discrimination, in particular Islamophobia, and taking a stand on a set of values the Finnish FA wished to promote.

“Over the past month, the use of the hijab and its ban have made headlines around the world, showing that Islamophobia is still prevalent in the world today,” she said. “It is great that Finland is leading the way, showing that diversity belongs not only in sports but also in everyday life. 

“The donation of sports hijabs is a testament to the fact that the National League really stands behind its values and continues its active work against racism,” Salmani added.

“We share the same values with the National League, and we could not be prouder of the way they are taking sports toward the future. Sports has the power to make the world a better place, and our vision is to make sports a part of everyday life,” Nike’s David Nordbeck said.


Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
Updated 11 May 2021

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 

Dubai teen-led tennis initiative raises awareness for autism 
  • Two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest
  • The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada

DUBAI: A tennis initiative set up by a Dubai teen has garnered support for Autism Awareness Month.

The initiative, called ACE FOR GOOD, was set up by high school student Hussein Nada in order to bring together tennis lovers to play in support of a good cause.

The initiative comprised of a tournament organized by Rackets Academy and 17-year-old Hussein.

“I decided to create ACE FOR GOOD’which will allow tennis players to give back to the community through supporting a charitable cause,” she told Arab News. “ACE FOR GOOD’s 2021 Dubai tournament perfectly (suited) Autism Awareness Month, (as did) the willingness of the tennis community to support and … make a difference.”

The two-week tournament saw a 32-draw men’s competition and a unisex under-14’s doubles contest.

It was backed by several sponsors including Brand for Less (BFL) Group, Daoud Group, Loca restaurants, Head, Marina Pharmacy Group and the Flower Co.

“BFL Group is so proud of this sponsorship, as we always strive to work for philanthropic causes, since this reflects our values. Nevertheless, sports and fitness-related activities always get our support as we believe in their key role in maintaining our mental health and wellbeing,” Yasser Beydoun, co-founder and managing partner of BFL Group, said.

“We salute Hussein for his initiative and efforts, which made us so excited to take this sponsorship opportunity and support him in achieving this great cause. He showed us that age is never a barrier for doing good; we can all do something good for the community as long as we believe in the cause and in our abilities,” Beydoun added.

As a result of the positive feedback received from players, sponsors, and the tennis community, ACE FOR GOOD is now set to become an annual event in Dubai, with plans also in the works to take it abroad, with a tournament set to take place in Egypt in August.


Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
Updated 10 May 2021

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
  • The Malian striker will join up with the Riyadh club at the start of next season

LONDON: Al-Hilal may go through coaches at a rapid rate but when it comes to recruiting strikers, the Saudi Arabian giants have a far-sighted policy in place. No sooner had Bafetimbi Gomis become the fastest foreign player to score 100 goals for the club, it was announced that a new striker and a potential replacement was on his way to Riyadh. 

Moussa Marega was last seen scoring in the Portuguese league on April 22 to keep FC Porto’s title hopes alive and, from next season, the 30 year old will be an Al-Hilal player. As the French-born Mali international is out of contract at the end of the Primera Liga season and available on a free transfer, it marks a good bit of business from Al-Hilal, who will pay a reported 5 million euros ($6 million) a year over a three-year contract.

“In 1991, I was born in the French city of Les Ulis and in the same year, Al-Hilal won their first continental title,” Marega said as he was unveiled by the three-time Asian champions.

“These two stories continue to excite and they crossed again in 2020 when Al-Hilal won a hat-trick (of trophies) in Saudi Arabia and I did the same in Portugal,” he added, referring to his part in Porto’s triumph in the Portuguese League, Cup and Super Cup. “And now in 2021, my next destination is Saudi Arabia.”

Marega scored 52 league goals in his four seasons with Porto, and a further 10 in domestic cups. He also managed six goals in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League as he became the joint-third highest scorer that year alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Aguero.

He was welcomed to Riyadh by Gomis, who wrote on Twitter: “Welcome to (the) Al-Hilal family my brother.”

Marega’s arrival is likely to herald the end of Gomis’ time in Riyadh. The French forward has been one of the most successful foreign imports in the history of Saudi Arabian football. His 100th goal on Friday, one of two he scored in the 5-1 win against second placed Al-Shabab, that sent the defending champions three points clear with four games to play, came in only his 126th appearance for the club. Sixty-eight of those goals came in the league, eight in the King’s Cup, 17 in Asia — he was top scorer as Al-Hilal won the tournament in 2019 — five in the Arab Championship and two in the Club World Cup.

Gomis turns 36 in August and the arrival of Marega means speculation the former Lyon and Swansea star will return to Europe will intensify. When he does leave, the striker has said that he wishes to do so as a hero of Al-Hilal, though he refuses to comment specifically on a date.

“One day I will definitely leave but I want to leave when we have won the title,” Gomis said. “I have won many titles and had many historical achievements.”

Gomis helped Al-Hilal to the Saudi title last year and the AFC Champions League the year before and wants more prizes before he departs.

“This will be the best end for me. I would like history to remember that I was one of the leading goalscorers at Al-Hilal.

“It is my duty to give everything to the team and the fans, I know they love me personally so I feel a great responsibility towards them. That is why against Al-Shabab, I tried to do everything I could, both in attack and defence, for the team and especially for those fans,” he added.

The two goals Gomis netted against Al-Shabab were not just typical strikes from the star — and not only meant Al-Hilal are in touching distance of a successive title — but also meant Gomis now has 20 for the season, four more than Abha’s Carlos Strandberg, and is top of the goalscoring charts.

“The game against Al-Shabab is not the most important this season, it is all about the title and success for Al-Hilal but it is true that winning here brings us closer to the title,” he said. “It is something very special and I am delighted to achieve it, but the most important thing is that the team wins.” 

Regardless of how long he has left with Al-Hilal, it is certain that Gomis will get his wish and leave a hero, and if it is in the coming weeks, it is increasingly likely that he will leave as a champion.


Inter’s Serie A title win sees Achraf Hakimi emerge as one of the finest Arab footballers in Europe

Inter’s Serie A title win sees Achraf Hakimi emerge as one of the finest Arab footballers in Europe
Updated 10 May 2021

Inter’s Serie A title win sees Achraf Hakimi emerge as one of the finest Arab footballers in Europe

Inter’s Serie A title win sees Achraf Hakimi emerge as one of the finest Arab footballers in Europe
  • Madrid-born Moroccan international played a pivotal role in Milan club’s first championship in 11 years

DUBAI: An Egyptian, an Algerian and a Moroccan walk onto a football pitch. The punchline usually involves a curling left-footed shot into the back of the net.

When the topic of best Arab footballers currently playing in Europe comes up, three players inevitably dominate the discussion.

Since joining Liverpool in the summer 2017 Mohamed Salah has attained a level of superstardom that no other Arab footballer had come close to before.

Champions League and Premier League winners’ medals, the Golden Boot - twice, and seemingly countless individual awards, the Egyptian has cleaned up.

Even in a shockingly poor season by Liverpool, he continues to lead the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.

Just over a year before Salah’s move to Anfield, the Algerian Riyad Mahrez had played a heroic role in Leicester City’s sensational title win (which earned him the 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year award), and after joining Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in 2018 would become one of a select group players to win the Premier League title with two different clubs.

In the second half of this season Mahrez has been in stunning form and the coming weeks will surely add another title medal and potentially a Champions League winners medal to his collection.

Standing in his way in the final on May 29 will be Chelsea’s Moroccan playmaker Hakim Ziyech, who, while having a mostly frustrating, inconsistent season, has still managed to score the goal that set Chelsea on their way to a win over Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final and, at the weekend, grabbed the equaliser as the London club again beat Guardiola’s team to ensure that the Premier League coronation, inevitable as it is, will have to wait a little longer.

But it’s one of Ziyech’s international teammates that has a strong claim to being one of the outstanding Arab footballers playing in Europe in 2020-21.

And he has managed it well away from the hype machine that is the English Premier League. He also happens to be a defender, in name at least.

Inter Milan’s first Serie A title win in 11 years, ending a run of nine triumphs by Juventus, has been lit up by the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Stefan De Vrij, Lautaro Martínez and Nicolò Barella.

But one of the standout performers has been the brilliant, Madrid-born Moroccan Achraf Hakimi.

Someone at Real Madrid, Hakimi’s hometown club, will at some point have to explain how arguably the best right back in European football has been allowed to escape the Bernabéu, not once, but twice, over the last three years.

Having, at 18, been part of the squad that won the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool - and earlier collected FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup winners’ medals - Hakimi looked set for long and successful career with the Spanish giants.

But with Spanish defender Dani Carvajal - one of the team’s most trusted and senior performers - Hakimi was often reduced comes from the bench.

That summer, after being part of Morocco’s squad at the World Cup in Russia, Hakimi was loaned to Borussia Dortmund on a two-year deal.

At a club that values and encourages young talent, he flourished.

His marauding runs from defence became a feature of the team’s play, and his assists and goals have since earned comparisons with the likes of Trent Alexander Arnold and Reece James, attacking fullbacks which English football seem to suddenly be specializing in.

He won the German Super Cup in 2019, and his individual performances were increasingly drawing attention as opposition defenders struggled to cope with his speed and his deliveries.

Indeed, in February 2020, Hakimi set a Bundesliga speed record of 36.48 km/h against Union Berlin, beating the old record of 36.2 km/h he himself set earlier that season against RB Leipzig.

Hakimi must have thought he had done enough to have another crack at becoming first choice right back Real Madrid, who despite winning La Liga in the Covid-19-disrupted 2019-20 season, were now a shadow of the Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired team he had left two years earlier.

Instead he was sold to Inter for $48.69 million, and Zinedine’s Zidane’s loss would prove Antonio Conte’s gain.

Hakimi has been inspirational for his new team, scoring seven league goals and helping set up many on the way to the championship.

On May 1, he scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Crotone to put Inter within touching distance of the coveted Seri A title.

The following day, Atalanta’s failure to win at Sassuolo meant the title was heading to the blue and black half of Milan. At 22, Hakimi was a title champion.

No doubt Hakimi and Inter will have their eyes on Champions League success next season, and the Moroccan will also be eyeing glorying with his country at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Cup (taking place at the start of 2022) and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Before that, Middle East, Arab and African audiences could well be hoping to see him take part in FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar next November.

He may not have achieved quite what Salah, Mahrez and Ziyech have and will in the near future, yet, but at only 22 he has plenty of time to catch up with that exalted trio with magical left feet.

And he’ll be doing it all with those devastating runs from way back in the defense.