Al Hilal facing history as well as Urawa in Asian final

Urawa’s midfielder Kazuki Nagasawa, left, and Al Hilal’s goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf with the AFC Champions League trophy in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Al Hilal facing history as well as Urawa in Asian final

  • Teams from South Korea, China, Japan and Australia have dominated the continental tournament since 2005, winning every title but one
  • Al Hilal has fallen in two finals in the past five years: losing 1-0 over two legs to Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014 and then, in 2017, to Saturday’s opponent Urawa 2-1 on aggregate

RIYADH: Al Hilal is not just facing Japan’s Urawa Reds in the first leg of Asian Champions League final on Saturday in Riyadh. The Saudi Arabian club also has to overcome the dominance of teams from east Asia.
Teams from South Korea, China, Japan and Australia have dominated the continental tournament since 2005, winning every title but one. West Asia — the tournament is split into east and west geographic zones until the final — only has the 2011 triumph of Qatar’s Al Sadd to celebrate.
Other top West Asian nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and United Arab Emirates have all sent their best to contest the final yet all have failed to win the tournament that was established in 2003.
In addition to the regional failure, the Riyadh powerhouse has fallen in two finals in the past five years: losing 1-0 over two legs to Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014 and then, in 2017, to Saturday’s opponent Urawa 2-1 on aggregate.
It could be a case of third-time lucky for Al Hilal especially as it has the tournament’s top scorer in its ranks. Bafetimbi Gomis has already scored 10 goals.
“I know that we have been unlucky in the Asian Champions League final on two previous occasions but we are confident that we can win this time,” said Gomis, a former French international who signed for the club for a reported transfer fee of around $16 million in August 2018.
Al Hilal’s failure to win the home leg cost the team in 2014 and 2017 and the ex-Lyon and Swansea City striker knows that taking an advantage to Japan for the return match on Nov. 24 is vital.
 “We have to play to our best from the start of the first game and look to get on top,” Gomis said. “The game will not be decided here in our home stadium and will go all the way to the final whistle but we want to get a good start.”
Al Hilal starts as favorite despite Urawa’s 2017 success. The Japanese team has been struggling at home for most of the season.
While the two-time continental champion has been progressing toward another Asian final, there have been relegation worries in the J League.
Urawa sits just five points clear of the relegation zone after playing two games more than its rivals.
The Reds will put domestic worries aside and have a star striker of their own to shoot Urawa to a record third Champions League title.
“Of course I want to become a history-maker,” said forward Shinzo Koroki, who has scored eight goals on the road to the final. “This is the top club competition and the champions will go to the FIFA Club World Cup. It is a big honor for any team.”


Saudi esports world cup winner a ‘class’ role model for young players: Gaming chief

Updated 15 November 2019

Saudi esports world cup winner a ‘class’ role model for young players: Gaming chief

  • Prince Faisal said the fast pace of technological advances was changing not only how people lived but their view of sport.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup winner Mosaad Al-Dossary was the kind of role model young players should be looking to emulate, according to the Kingdom’s esports gaming chief.

President of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronics and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS), Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, told Arab News he was “proud” of Al-Dossary for his esports achievements and for showing “his class as a human being.”

Speaking on the sidelines of the Misk Global Forum, in Riyadh, the prince said the fast pace of technological advances was changing not only how people lived but their view of sport.

Equating esports to traditional sports, he stressed it was important that young people moderated their time playing video competitions. 

“Moderation in everything,” he quoted his father as telling him.

“Everything has its positives, within reason. I don’t expect our professional (esports) players to be playing for 18 hours a day. What we advocate is having good mental health, social health as well as good physical health.”

Prince Faisal said it was important that youth chose their heroes carefully, and Al-Dossary was an example of the perfect role model. 

“I’m proud of him for all of his many accomplishments in gaming, but I’m prouder of who he is as a person.”

He noted that during Al-Dossary’s winning participation in the Manchester FUT Champions Cup, in the UK, one of the tournament’s young competitors had fallen ill and was taken to hospital. Al-Dossary had ducked out of victory celebrations to go and visit his sick opponent, taking with him the green scarf awarded to world cup qualifiers which he left on the young man’s bedside table as a gift.

“I’m prouder of him for doing that, brightening up his opponent’s day, than I am of him winning the world cup,” the prince said. 

“He showed his class as a human being, not as an esports player. And that’s what we expect of all of our athletes and all of our young kids across all industries and sports.

“That’s the caliber of person that we have in Saudi, in our communities and that’s what I want to showcase to the world.”

Prince Faisal admitted that online harassment could be a problem, but said it was a global issue that could only be solved through education.

“There are errors, and esports and gaming is a new era, and it’s a new era of accessibility. Along with that comes a learning curve and an education curve,”he added.