Saudi Arabian U-19 success shows youth can flourish on home soil

Updated 12 November 2018
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Saudi Arabian U-19 success shows youth can flourish on home soil

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s recent success in winning the AFC U-19 Championship and Turki Al-Ammar in being named the tournament’s “most valuable player” is proof that young players do not always have to leave the country to develop, according to the former CEO of Al-Shabab.
Al-Ammar shone as a creative force during the tournament as the Young Falcons won all six of their matches, defeating a number of the continent’s top teams along the way. The attacking midfielder more than held his own against the best that Asia can offer and is now regarded as one of the continent’s hottest young prospects.
In the three knockout clashes against Australia, Japan and South Korea in the final, the teenager displayed a maturity and awareness that belied his tender years and contributed much more than just the four goals he scored.
Pat Janssen, who stood down as Al-Shabab’s boss earlier in 2018, is not surprised after overseeing the teenager’s emergence last year at the home of the six-time Saudi Arabian champions.
“He is a very good player and that was obvious from the moment we saw him in training and he was moved to train with the first team,” Janssen told Arab News.
“He moves on the pitch really well and can make things happen at any second. He is the kind of players that fans love to watch.”
While Al-Ammar has yet to feature this season due to his U-19 commitments, he made 14 league appearances for the Riyadh giants last season, a bold move in a country that has often been slow to give young talent a chance.
“We always wanted to promote young players as much as we could and the head coach at the time was Daniel Carreno,” Janssen added. “He was interested in Turki and was asking about him, and when he got his chance, he took it very well. I am very proud of what he has achieved in the past few weeks but the news is brilliant all round for football in Saudi Arabia.”
Janssen dismissed the suggestion that Al-Ammar should continue his development overseas, pointing to other Saudi Arabian players such as Fahad Al-Muwallad, Salem Al-Dawsari and Yahya Al-Shehri — all three went to Spain in January to spend the rest of the La Liga season on loan with various clubs.
“It was useful experience for those older players to spend time in Spain but for the youngsters, the best thing is to get playing opportunities and that is what Turki got at Al-Shabab. He needs to play,” the Englishman said.
“The Asian Championship shows that it is possible for young players to stay here and become good enough to win titles in Asia.
“Of course it is good to have players overseas in the top leagues to gain experience and grow there but if they stay in Saudi Arabia for a while, they at least can get more playing time and at that age, that is exactly what they need.”
Al-Ammar has promised to keep his talented feet on the ground as much as possible, though was delighted to get the personal award.
“(Being named tournament MVP) gives me extra motivation going forward in my career and to keep working hard,” Al-Ammar said last week. “It is an honor to receive it and great to win the trophy as we worked very hard.”
South Korea coach Chung Jung-young also believes that the player has a bright future ahead.
“Saudi Arabia are a good team with some young players. The tournament MVP is a constant danger. He was excellent in the first half and when we were getting back in the game in the second half, he still caused problems. He has a bright future.”


Iran suspended from world judo over Israel boycott policy

Updated 18 September 2019

Iran suspended from world judo over Israel boycott policy

  • Iran’s judo federation is accused of discriminating against Israeli athletes
  • Mollaei has said he was repeatedly ordered by Iranian officials to lose matches or withdraw from competitions

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: Iran has been suspended from international judo competitions because it boycotts bouts with Israeli athletes.
Less than a month after world champion Saeid Mollaei walked off the Iranian team in protest at the boycott policy, the International Judo Federation said Wednesday that Iran is suspended ahead of a full hearing.
Iran’s judo federation is accused of discriminating against Israeli athletes and breaking rules over manipulating competition results.
“The IJF Executive Committee considered that such a conduct is intolerable,” the federation said.
Mollaei has said he was repeatedly ordered by Iranian officials to lose matches or withdraw from competitions, including last month’s world championships, so as not to face Israelis. He is currently in hiding in Germany.
Iran does not recognize Israel as a country, and Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis.
It’s not yet clear if the IJF will seek to stop Iran competing in the 2020 Olympic judo events. Meanwhile, the IJF is exploring ways to allow Mollaei to compete on the International Olympic Committee’s team of refugees.
The IOC has signaled a harder line on boycotts in recent years.
In June, IOC president Thomas Bach criticized governments who “clearly abuse sport for their political purposes,” noting a case in May of a Tunisian court blocking four Israelis from competing at the taekwondo junior world championships.