Belgian Vital Borkelmans looking for Jordan to prove themselves against Saudi Arabia

Vital Borkelmans is the new Jordan boss and has been tasked with getting the team to make an impression at next year's Asian Cup. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2018

Belgian Vital Borkelmans looking for Jordan to prove themselves against Saudi Arabia

  • New Jordan boss looking to use friendly against Green Falcons to gauge where his side are ahead of the Asian Cup.
  • Borkelmans wants to create a new level of confidence in the Jordan camp.

LONDON: New Jordan national team coach Vital Borkelmans is looking forward to
November’s Asian Cup warm-up against Saudi Arabia and a chance to prove that his side can shock at the continental competition taking place in the UAE in January.
The 55-year-old was No. 2 to Belgium boss Marc Wilmots from 2012 to 2016, four years when the Red Devils established themselves as one of the best teams in the world and now has a different challenge.
The former international full-back is now charged with making Jordan a continental power, starting with the Asian Cup where they have been dumped in a tricky group with defending champions Australia, Syria and Palestine.
Saudi Arabia, who made six out of seven continental finals between 1984 and 2007 — winning three — have excellent Asian Cup credentials and Borkelmans expects and hopes for a tough test in Amman.
“Saudi Arabia (are) a good team,” Borkelmans told Arab News. “They are strong, as I saw at the World Cup, and after that first game with Russia, Saudi Arabia performed well against Uruguay and then beat Egypt — to win a game at the World Cup is a special thing.
“They are always in tournaments and they are a team that can show us what we have to do to succeed at the Asian Cup.”
If all goes well then Borkelmans’ contract may be extended until beyond January.
“They called me about it in May when we played against Cyprus when I was assistant coach to Jamal (Abu Abed) and I had been in the country 15 days. We had a good game against them.”
In early September, he got the top job. Most of his experience so far has been as an assistant but it has been valuable experience indeed. There is not much time before the Asian Cup but his first target is to try and replicate the atmosphere that he helped create with Belgium.
“I was working with Marc Wilmots with Belgium, we started in 2012 and we made a big family and that was very important,” he said. “It was a lot of the same squad and same players. Now with my job here, I also have a good group with a good mentality, the best players in Jordan. We will try our best. I believe in what I am doing and my staff believe in me.”
Belief is crucial to what Borkelmans is trying to do with a team that reached the last eight of the Asian Cup in 2004 and 2011.
“You must give players confidence. If I can increase the players’ confidence then I can get a 20-30 percent increase in quality and that can make the difference between success and failure.
“Sometimes I must put my efforts on the line and I am more than a father. When you are playing with young guys this is very important — look at some of the young players who have come up to play for Belgium, confidence is key.”
Jordan does not yet have the quality of Belgium, but if the new coach can make a difference in helping domestic stars become international ones, that will be another step in the right direction.
“There is a lot of difference between Belgian and Jordan players,” Borkelmans said. “Belgian players obviously go and play outside Belgium in bigger numbers but there is more than that. They play in the big clubs in England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France and they are also starting.
“But this is not Belgium and I have to choose Jordan players. The league here is not at a  high level compared to other leagues in Europe, but I have to give people a chance to get good results. I am giving the players a lot of responsibility. If we work together, we can make a surprise at the Asian Cup. I believe this.”


Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

Updated 19 February 2020

Runners step back in time on AlUla’s historic trails

  • Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands

ALULA: More than 260 athletes from around the world took part in the recent EcoTrail AlUla, a multi-track running race through the dramatic landscapes of AlUla in Saudi Arabia’s northwest.
Top-ranked athletes came from Saudi Arabia, the US and the Netherlands. The race was staged as part of the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla to promote the historic site as an exceptional tourist destination for heritage, arts, culture and sports.

Events took place on three different courses — an 83 km track, followed by a 45 km and a 10 km track — with international athletes taking part in each of the races.

In the 10 km course, 139 contestants took part in the competition, with 125 managing to complete the run. Saudi runner Mohammed Madkhali won first place, while Yemeni runner Fares Aman Aldin came in second and another Saudi runner, Meshari Almuhanna, finished third.

In the women’s category, US runner Meredith Byrne won first place, Saudi runner Sarah Abdullatif came in second, and British runner Maureen McConnell finished third.

Ninety athletes took part in the 45 km race, with 85 finishing. Saudi runner Abdulaziz Al-Ghamdi came in first, with Australian Matthew Sudich second and French runner Nicholas Mordelet in third.

In the women’s category, Dutch runner Floortje Rawee came in first, followed by Italian Alessandra Grassi in second and American Natasha Turak third.

The 83 km race featured 37 athletes with only 17 finishing. In the men’s category, US runner Michael Wardian finished first, followed by Pierre Breuer from Belgium in second and Malaysia’s Soonseng Ong third.

In the women’s category, Amy Sproston from the US ranked first, with Ruth Theresia from Indonesia second and American Rachel Bessette third.

EcoTrail AlUla attracted athletes from around the world, most notably the US, UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Sweden, the UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Jordan, Oman, Peru, Poland and Indonesia.

The one-day trail gave visitors the opportunity to become acquainted with AlUla and its distinctive natural, cultural, architectural and historical monuments. The trail is an eye-catching destination for running enthusiasts and jogging clubs, and will encourage people to visit AlUla and Saudi Arabia to take part in a global sporting event that promotes environmentally friendly principles and initiatives.

The race contained several medical care stops and catering stations, and each participant received a number in addition to a welcome gift and a shirt. An inaugural dinner was held to welcome contestants on the night before the race.

EcoTrail AlUla is the first race to occur in the Middle East and one of the most notable sports events of this year’s Winter at Tantora festival. The race was sponsored by STC, Almarai Company, Sabeeka Energy Bar, Whites, and Hussak Adventures. The festival’s latest season also provides a wide range of diverse experiences that meet the needs of all visitors and entertain all tastes, for individuals, groups or families from all walks of life.

The festival began on Dec. 19 and will run until March 7, 2020. Guests of the second season of this year will be able to visit the astonishing historical and heritage sites exclusively, and attend the international musical and artistic performances.