Saudi basketball team takes diplomatic approach to sport

Ready, set, go: Lina Al-Maeena with Ambassador Dominique Mineur of Belguim. (AN photo by Basheer Saleh)
Updated 07 February 2019

Saudi basketball team takes diplomatic approach to sport

  • The new sports project was launched in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter by co-founder of Riyadh United Basketball team Lina Al-Maeena together with the Belgium Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur.

RIYADH: A Saudi basketball team has netted a sporting entente cordiale with the capital’s diplomatic community.

Riyadh United players are to take part in a unique initiative aimed at encouraging more men and women in the Kingdom to participate in sport, while also strengthening international relations.

The new sports project was launched in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter by co-founder of Riyadh United Basketball team Lina Al-Maeena together with the Belgium Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur.

Al-Maeena said the idea behind the scheme was to promote the message of peace and understanding between nations through sport, with regular basketball games between the Saudi diplomatic community and Riyadh teams.

“We believe in the language of sport,” she said. “This initiative allows us to link with the international community in Saudi Arabia while also doing something healthy and beneficial for our minds, bodies, and our country.”

Mineur said: “Sport is essential for the well-being of everyone and I hope that this will generate similar initiatives.”

Al-Maeena hopes that more Saudi women will take up sport and help promote the message of peace.

She pointed to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan as playing a key role in encouraging people to engage in sport. The country aims to increase the population’s sports participation from 13 percent to 40 percent by 2030.

“I believe that this initiative will blossom and flourish in a way we never anticipated,” Al-Maeena added. 

The launch was held on the basketball courts at King Faisal School, which has joined in the venture. 

Principal of the girls’ school Sadeem Al-Qadi said they were looking forward to playing an active role in the program. 

Vision 2030 has already brought about many changes in Saudi culture, including sport for women. Only recently, physical education was reintroduced for girls in Saudi schools after a long absence. 


LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Amadeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Amadeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Amadeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne amadeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Amadeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Amadeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Amadeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne Amadeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.