Cricket in Saudi Arabia: a love story imported from Pakistan and India

Cricket in Saudi Arabia: a love story imported from Pakistan and India
This undated file photo shows Saudi Arabian cricketers lifting the ACC T20 Western Region Championship trophy.
Updated 23 September 2019

Cricket in Saudi Arabia: a love story imported from Pakistan and India

Cricket in Saudi Arabia: a love story imported from Pakistan and India
  • The kingdom is 23rd in Global ICC T20 ranking
  • Seeks to develop school cricket to enhance the prospects of the game in the country

JEDDAH: Wherever in the world Indians and Pakistanis go, they take cricket with them, and Saudi Arabia is no exception. The kingdom witnessed its first ever cricket match in 1960, which was a friendly contest between Indian and Pakistani expatriates organized as part of Eid celebrations. It proved to be the beginning of a new era in Saudi Arabia, and since then, many teams have been formed and various tournaments held regularly in different parts of the kingdom, with cricket’s governing body in Saudi Arabia now an associate member of the International Cricket Council.
“It was in the early 1980’s when I was a student of secondary school at the Pakistan embassy school in Jeddah ... that I brought a cricket bat (to Saudi Arabia),” Sameer Nidal Khan, the former manager of the Saudi Cricket Center and Saudi cricket team, told Arab News.
“A Saudi friend asked me ... ‘what is this? Is it a boat stick?’” Khan said with a laugh.
He is also director of the HALA Cricket Academy and Jeddah Cricket Association (JCA).
By the early 70’s, he said, cricket had become the most popular sport among expatriates and expanded so much that an organization dedicated to the game became necessary. This culminated in the formation of the Jeddah Cricket League (JCL) in 1976.
The flag-bearer was Shahid Amin, who collected the teams under one umbrella and the move gained strong support from famous Saudi personalities, said Hamid Afandi, a pioneer of structured cricket in Saudi Arabia.
The first executive committee was announced during the same decade to organize the inaugural tournament, and Zainul Ali Reza extended his all-out patronage for the development of cricket, becoming the patron-in-chief of the JCL, which successfully organized its first-ever historical event, called the ‘Ali Reza Inaugural League’ in 1976.
The tournament was a runaway success by all accounts and many of the big cities followed in the footsteps of the JCL, creating their own leagues in subsequent years. Among the most renowned, are the Jeddah Cricket Association, Western Province Cricket Association, Riyadh Cricket League, Riyadh Cricket Association, Eastern Province Cricket Association, Yanbu Al-Sinaiyah Cricket Association, Madinah Cricket Association and Madinah Cricket Leagues. In recent years, total teams exceed 300 and Riyadh has the most numbers.
Cities throughout Saudi Arabia now view hallmark cricket events as a powerful tool for community interaction, stimulating cricket development and international recognition. These events are so popular, that sponsors get considerable advantages out of their investments.
The Saudi Cricket Center, formed in 2001 under the patronage of Princess Ghada bint Hamood bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, is the official governing body controlling cricket activities domestically and is now an associate member of International Cricket Council. It was created with the objective of developing and promoting the game of cricket in Saudi Arabia.
“Not many people are aware that Saudi Arabia is an associate member of International Cricket Council (ICC) and full member of non-test playing Asian Cricket Council (ACC),” Nadeem Nadwi, CEO of Saudi Cricket Center, told Arab News.
He said that the Kingdom was “23rd in Global ICC T20 raking and 7th in ACC T20 ranking,” adding that it was a significant achievement since cricket enthusiasts in the country work with relatively little resources. “Recently, Saudi Arabia also won ACC T20 Western Region Championship,” he informed.
“The Saudi Cricket Center arranges regional tournaments, national champions trophy, school cricket, and cricket educational courses as part of its annual development program,” Nadwi continued.
The center is also working on a strategic development program that aims to attract young people by organizing special events.
“Currently, there are over 100 Saudi boys participating in cricket coaching camps in Yanbu and Gizan,” he said.
“The center is also working with the Saudi Federation of Mass Participation and General Sports Authority to work out a comprehensive plan to popularize and develop cricket on a larger level,” Nadwi added.
Talking to Arab News, Osama Saad, the first Saudi national ACC Level 2 qualified umpire said: “I feel proud to represent Saudi Arabia on international level, I am thankful to the Saudi Cricket Center for providing this opportunity to me. It is a beautiful game and we must work hard to take it to young Saudis. I see a great future here.”
Discussing the future prospects of the game, Syed Mussarat Khalil, a founding member of the center and Western Province Cricket Association, stressed the importance of school cricket.
“Schools should try to produce at least three players who can participate in the selection process for the national team,” he said while praising the efforts of the Saudi Cricket Center for the development and promotion of the game in the Kingdom.


Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
Updated 02 August 2021

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
  • Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly from Tokyo on a direct flight to Warsaw

WARSAW: Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, the chairman of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said on Monday.
Tsimanouskaya who took refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo a day after refusing her team’s orders to board a flight home from the Olympic Games.
“She will fly from Tokyo, a direct flight to Warsaw on August 4, in two days’ time,” Aleksandr Opeykin told Reuters.
“She has accepted the offer issued by the Polish Foreign Ministry to request international help, she has done that and she has received a Polish visa today. We, at the Foundation, helped her to get the ticket to Warsaw,” he added.


‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
  • The high jump rivals and friends decided to share Olympic gold rather than have a deciding jump-off

TOKYO: Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend Mutaz Essa Barshim, calling it the “best thing ever.”

The Qatari and Italian athletes captured the hearts of sports fans around the world when, in an unprecedented show of sporting solidarity, they decided to share the gold medal in the men’s high jump rather than participate in a deciding “jump-off” against each other.

“Mutaz is my big friend so we enjoyed the evening yesterday and we decided to share the gold medal,” Tamberi told Arab News Japan as he prepared to leave the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

“It’s the best thing ever and that’s the Olympic spirit,” he added. “It was amazing.”

Tamberi had perviously revealed that it was Barshim who, more than anyone else, helped him get over the severe disappointment of missing out on the high jump competition at Rio 2016 due to a injury.

On Sunday, the friends and rivals both cleared 2.37 meters, but then failed with three attempts each at 2.39 meters.

As a Tokyo 2020 official explained to Tamberi and Barshim that a jump-off could be introduced to separate them, the Qatari athlete uttered the words that have now gone down in Olympic history: “Can we have two golds?”

As the official confirmed they could, the duo hugged and broke into tearful celebrations, finally banishing years of injuries and close calls.

Having won bronze in London in 2012 and silver in Rio five years ago, the 30-year-old Barshim now has his gold. Barshim missed a large part of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, but returned to win gold at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

“This is a dream I don't want to wake up from,” Barshim said on Sunday. “I have been through a lot. It's been five years that I have been waiting, with injuries and a lot of set-backs.”

“But we are here today sharing this moment and all the sacrifices. It's really worth it now in this moment,” he added.


Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Glory for Morocco’s Soufiane El-Bakkali as he wins gold in Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at Tokyo 2020

Soufiane El Bakkali, of Morocco celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP)
  • The 25-year-old left a strong field behind him as pre-race talk focused on battle between Kenyans and Ethiopians

A glorious run by Moroccan runner Soufiane El-Bakkali saw him win the gold medal in the Men’s 3000m Steeplechase at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Monday.

The 25-year-old, who finished fourth in this event at Rio 2016, won with a time of 8:08:90, ahead of Lamecha Grima of Ethiopia in second and Benjamin Kigen in third.

Before the final, all the talk had focused on the fact that no Ethiopian had ever won this event at the Olympics, while the Kenyans had won every 3000m Steeplechase gold medal since Los Angeles 1984.

But the Moroccan proved to be the ace in the pack, in the end comfortably stretching away from his opponents on the last lap and collapsing into tears at the finish line.

El-Bakkali had won the 3000m Steeplechase Heat 3 on Friday with a time of 8:19:00, ahead of Topi Raitanen of Finland and Alexis Phelut of France, who both qualified to the final.

Previously, he had won bronze in this event at the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Qatar and silver two years earlier in London.

The Moroccan will now turn his attentions to the Men’s 1500m Round 1 — Heat 3 (3:27 a.m. KSA).


Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
Updated 02 August 2021

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020

Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin’s brave semi-final run sees him depart men’s 400m at Tokyo 2020
  • 25-year-old produced some of Saudi delegation’s most competitive performances of Olympics, but will miss out on Thursday’s final

RIYADH: Saudi sprinter Mazen Al-Yassin has been eliminated from the men’s 400 meters at Tokyo 2020 after on Monday finishing fourth in the second semifinal at the Japanese capital’s Olympic Stadium.

Despite a fine run that saw him post a time of 45.37 seconds, the 25-year-old will now miss out on Thursday’s final.

Michael Cherry of the US, and Christopher Taylor of Jamaica, finished first and second and will be in the field of eight vying for the medals on Thursday. Steven Solomon of Australia came in third, 0.22 of a second ahead of Al-Yassin.

 

 

Al-Yassin had produced a thrilling run when winning heat two at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday to progress to the following day’s semifinals against some of the world’s best short-distance runners. A personal best time of 45.16 seconds saw him finish ahead of Kevin Borlee of Belgium and Ricky Petrucciani of Switzerland.

The runner received his call-up to the Olympics on July 2, one of the last of Saudi Arabia’s 33 athletes to confirm his place in Tokyo.

His exit from the Games means that Tarek Hamdi, who will take part in the karate 75-kilogram category on Friday, is the last remaining Saudi at Tokyo 2020.


Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy
Updated 02 August 2021

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy

Brazilian footballer nicknamed Elton Arabia tweets affection for KSA at launch of Saudi Arabian Academy
  • Elton Jose Xavier Gomes spent almost 10 years in Saudi Arabia playing for 4 clubs

JEDDAH: Elton Jose Xavier Gomes, the Brazilian who spent almost a decade playing football at four Saudi clubs, has expressed his warm sentiment toward the Kingdom in a video posted after returning to his home country.

The clip was taken by adventurer Thawab Al-Subaie, known as the Tube Tourist, during the launch of the Saudi Arabian Academy in the north of Brazil, founded by Gomes, who during a long, nomadic career played for Al-Nassr, Al-Fateh, Al-Qadisiyah, and Al-Wehda.

The video went viral on social media with Saudi football fans thanking the player for his comments and calling for him to be honored in the Kingdom.

Watch the Twitter video:

The video, taken inside the academy, shows the staff wearing the Saudi national team colors, with slogans and photos from Saudi Arabia adorning the walls of the new headquarters. In addition, a number of the academy’s talented children appeared chanting the Saudi national anthem.

It is not the first time Gomes has expressed his affection for Saudi Arabia on social media, having earlier appeared in his garden carrying the country’s flag. He also displayed the emblem of the Kingdom, consisting of the two swords, palm tree, and anthropomorphic camel, at the entrance to his house, which has become a landmark for residents of his hometown.

Known in Brazil as Elton Arabia, he also posted on Instagram and Twitter videos of his son and daughter singing the Saudi national anthem.

In a tweet about the video going viral, he said: “Saudi Arabia has given me a lot, and this is a small part that I give back to this great country. I taught my children the Saudi national anthem, and nowadays, I try and provide the correct information about the country that embraced me since the beginning of my professional career abroad.

“It is impossible to forget my fans and the Saudi people in general, nor the years I spent with you, and I cannot describe my feeling when I see your messages to me, thank you and I am really proud of everyone’s love for me, I will miss you and my country Saudi Arabia, and I hope to return to you soon,” he added.

Saudis expressed their appreciation for his deep feelings for their country on his Twitter account, and Prince Sattam bin Khalid Al-Saud said: “What the former professional player Elton Jose is doing reflects the player’s love and respect for Saudi Arabia, and this was certainly the result of the good treatment that the player had while he was here, and he presents an honorable image of Saudi Arabia that deserves respect and appreciation.”

Yossif Al-Hymmad said: “We loved you and we loved Brazil, when we saw what you did for us. Greetings to you, your family, and Brazil. It is very beautiful, and you are more beautiful in your manners.”

Another fan, Obaid Al-Anazi, said: “A beautiful video clip that carries a lot of loyalty, gratitude, and appreciation for a professional who left his Brazilian mark in Saudi football and seeks to make the mark of the Saudi Cup in Brazil.”

Growing up in Brazil, the diminutive attacking midfielder — who was nicknamed Elton Maradinha after the Argentine legend for his dribbling skills and long, curly dark hair — started his career with Corinthians in 2004 before moving to Romanian club Steaua Bucharest in 2007, the same year he started his Saudi journey with Al-Nassr.

There would also be stints in the UAE with Dubai club Al-Wasl, at Sport Recife in his home country, and a late-career spell at another Brazilian club, CRB. He called time on his career this summer after a season at Al-Hamriyah in Sharjah.