International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

of Switzerland is among the players who will take part in the event. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 09 October 2019

International tennis tournament ‘watershed moment’ for Saudi Arabia

  • First event of its kind in Saudi Arabia has $3m prize money
  • Stan Wawrinka and Daniil Medvedev will take part in the hardcourt, outdoor tournament

RIYADH: The first international tennis tournament to be held in the Kingdom is a “watershed moment” for the country, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has said.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is a hardcourt, outdoor tournament with a $3 million prize.

It will be held from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14 on the outskirts of Riyadh and is attracting leading players, including three-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka and rising Russian star Daniil Medvedev. They have been confirmed alongside Fabio Fognini and David Goffin.

The prince, who is chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Hosting world class international tennis in Saudi Arabia for the very first time is another watershed moment for the Kingdom. There’s a deep passion for sport in Saudi Arabia and the Diriyah Tennis Cup will see us reaching new tennis fans, welcome even more international visitors as well as creating amazing memories for all.”

Wawrinka’s career highlights include three Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal and Davis Cup victory.

Medvedev is enjoying a breakthrough 2019 with three titles to his name and was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in last month’s US Open Final.

World number 12 Fognini was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo while Goffin, from Belgium, is a former world number seven.

The remaining four players will be announced later, completing the lineup. 

The 15,000-capacity Diriyah Arena will provide an intimate setting for the event, allowing tennis fans and newcomers to the sport to get up and close to the world’s very best players.

The tournament forms part of Ad Diriyah Season. It includes the Diriyah E-Prix, the “Clash On The Dunes” heavyweight boxing rematch between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

There are many other entertainment and cultural activities over a month-long period from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21.

Peter-Michael Reichel, co-chairman of Basel Sports Group, said: “The eyes of the tennis world will be on Saudi Arabia in December with some of the very biggest names in global tennis battling for the first-ever Diriyah Tennis Cup. The stunning UNESCO world heritage site in Diriyah will arguably be the most unique venue in tennis.”

The Diriyah Tennis Cup will work alongside the Saudi Tennis Federation to use the tournament as an opportunity to inspire Saudi players, new fans and followers of the game.

Cup tickets will be available at www.diriyahseason.sa while the latest news can be found on social media platforms: @diriyahseason. 

International travelers can apply for their tourist visa at www.visitsaudi.com.

Ad Diriyah Season is one of 11 festivals aimed at transforming the Kingdom into an important global tourist destination. 


FIFA bribe allegations raise more questions over Qatar World Cup

Updated 07 April 2020

FIFA bribe allegations raise more questions over Qatar World Cup

  • Suspicion and rumors have long surrounded Qatar's bid

LONDON: The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has become the focus of fresh FIFA corruption allegations after the release of a new US Department of Justice indictment which says bribes were paid to football officials to secure their votes for hosting rights.

Suspicion and rumors have long surrounded both the 2010 vote by FIFA’s executive to hand the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar. But on Monday, for the first time, prosecutors set direct, formal allegations down in print.

According to the prosecutors, representatives working for Russia and Qatar bribed FIFA executive committee officials to swing votes in the crucial decision of world football’s governing body.

FIFA and the Qatar World Cup organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Qatar and Russia’s World Cup bids have always denied paying bribes.

Although FIFA has reacted to previous media allegations about the Qatar bid process by insisting the tournament will be unaffected, the USallegations will lead to further questions over the hosting of the tournament, which is scheduled for November and December of 2022.

The indictment states that the three South American members of FIFA’s 2010 executive — Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira, the late Nicolas Leoz of Paraguay and an unnamed co-conspirator — took bribes to vote for Qatar to host the 2022 tournament.

“Ricardo Teixeira, Nicolas Leoz and co-conspirator #1 were offered and received bribe payments in exchange for their votes in favor of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup,” reads the indictment.

Teixeira, the former son-in-law of long-time FIFA boss Joao Havelange and ex-head of the Brazilian soccer federation (CBF), was not immediately reachable for comment.

The DOJ also alleges that then FIFA vice president Jack Warner was paid $5 million through various shell companies to vote for Russia to host the 2018 World Cup.

Warner has been accused of a number of crimes in the long-running USprobe and is fighting extradition from his homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. Warner, who was not immediately reachable for comment, has always denied any wrongdoing.

Alexei Sorokin, CEO of the local organizing committee for Russia’s 2018 World Cup, told the Interfax news agency: “This is only the opinion of lawyers. We have repeatedly said that our bid was transparent.

“At the time we answered all questions, including from the investigation branch of FIFA and from the media, we handed over all needed documents. We have nothing to add to this and we will not respond to attempts to cast a shadow on our bid.”

Asked if the Kremlin was aware of the US indictment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We read the media reports. We don’t understand what they refer to.

“Russia received the right to host the World Cup completely legally. It is in no way linked to any bribes. We reject this. And Russia hosted the best soccer World Cup in history, which we are proud of.”

The Qatar World Cup organizers have been fending off allegations of corruption ever since the tiny Gulf state was awarded the 2022 tournament.

In 2014, FIFA, then under the control of former President Sepp Blatter, cleared Russia and Qatar of wrongdoing in their bids to host the World Cup after an investigation.

Blatter was banned from football by FIFA along with scores of other officials following internal ethics investigations, promoted by the arrests of seven FIFA officials on UScorruption charges in Zurich in May 2015.