Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup

Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup
Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the GSA, tour the stadium in Jeddah where the Spanish Super Cup will be played. (GSA)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup

Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup
  • Chairman of GSA: Hosting sports events positions Kingdom on world stage

JEDDAH: Spanish football makes its debut in Saudi Arabia this week, as fans gear up for another mega sporting event when four elite Spanish football teams — FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia FC and Atlético de Madrid — strut their stuff in Jeddah in the Supercopa de España (Spanish Super Cup).

This will be the first edition of the cup under its new four team format, to be held Jan. 8 to 12 at the 62,000- capacity King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.

Speaking to Arab News during the Dakar Rally press conference, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) said: “We are fully prepared to host the top four teams from Spain, and I am sure football fans here in Saudi Arabia are very excited to see their favorite Spanish clubs in action.

“Hosting global sports events is part of our long term (plan) and we are pushing our credentials as an international actor through sport. Saudi Arabia has recently hosted a number of events, such as the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and Lazio, Brazil versus Argentina, Formula E racing, the Joshua-Ruiz boxing match, golf’s European Tour tournament, the tennis exhibition tournament, Dakar Rally, with more still to come. One of the key visions in the ‘2030 Vision’ is to promote and grow sports within the Kingdom,” he added.

Tickets for the Spanish Super Cup started to go on sale from Dec. 11 last year, and according to organizers, all games are already sold out. Tickets for the semifinals started at SR75 ($19.99), with the final at SR150.

The Spanish Super Cup, in its new format, will be played in Saudi Arabia for the next three years.

The cup has previously been contested over two legs between the holders of the La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

The 2019-20 Spanish Super Cup will be the 36th edition of the annual competition that started in 1982. Real Sociedad won the inaugural title against Real Madrid, losing the first leg 1-0, and winning the second leg 4-0 for a 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Spanish Super Cup was held only once outside the country — last year when the Ibn Battuta Stadium in Morocco hosted Barcelona and Sevilla, which saw the Catalans triumph 2-1.

Barcelona are the dominant team in the competition, with 13 wins overall.

Saudi fans will miss the opportunity to watch five major stars: Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, midfielder Arthur Melo, forward Ousmane Dembele, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno are all out injured.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have avoided each other in the semifinals draw. Real clash with Valencia on Jan. 8 and Barcelona face Atletico on Jan. 9. The final will take place on Jan. 12.


Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO
Updated 26 February 2021

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO

Formula E partnership with Saudi Arabia very strong, built on common goals — CEO
  • We are honored to be able to race in Diriyah, says Formula E CEO
  • Reigle said the drivers are very much in tune with the Diriyah race circuit

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s partnership with Formula E is very strong, and based on trust, mutual respect and common goals, said CEO Jamie Reigle on Thursday.
“The relationship that we have is what made us return to the Kingdom this year to hold the Formula E championship in Diriyah, and elsewhere in the coming years,” he said in an interview with Saudi Press Agency.
Reigle said the drivers are very much in tune with the Diriyah race circuit and want to race there again, which “shows the success of Formula E’s strategic relationship with the Kingdom.”
Diriyah is set to host the 2021 E-Prix on Feb. 26 and 27, which will also double up as the championship’s first night race.
Reigle said he was optimistic about the tournament’s success, in light of the great support it receives from the Saudi government and the previous success it has achieved in similar editions.
He also said this year’s championship is distinguished in that it is being held at night, and in spite of the coronavirus pandemic which was taken into account, and strict precautionary measures have been put in place, in accordance with the Kingdom’s health protocol.
“We work under harsh conditions around the world regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and from a sports perspective, we believe that sport can inspire and bring hope to people and may show a way to return to normal life.
“But on the other hand, we are working in a very difficult context and we have to adhere to the protocols and procedures approved by the Kingdom’s government to make the tournament a success, as first and foremost, is protecting the health and safety of all participants,” Reigle said.
This weekend’s races will be the third time that the E-Prix is being held in Diriyah, an ancient UNESCO World Heritage site.
“It is clear that Diriyah is an important cultural environment for the Kingdom, so we are honored to be able to race there,” Reigle said.
He said this year’s Formula E races in the Kingdom would utilize modern equipment and would be “pushing the boundaries” by using low-energy LED lights, that have high-brightness and 50 percent less energy consumption, in addition to sustainable fuel made from recycled material as an energy source.
He also said that night races changes the sporting dynamic a little, and poses a new challenge for drivers as it will be the first time they experience this type of racing. Moreover, the nights are cooler which will have implications on battery temperatures.
“When you talk to drivers about the racetrack, they say it is their favorite track,” he said, adding that the circuit is “very special and I think it is a testament to the Kingdom and its commitment to showcasing world-class international events, and we are very proud of that.”
He added that being in Saudi Arabia “is very important for us as we are able to display our product in the country.”
Reigle also spoke about the TV coverage of the event for racing fans at home.
“We have a great partnership this year with Saudi Arabia and the sports carrier here in the Kingdom where we will show the races live,” he said. “We really hope that people will participate and get excited to see our teams and drivers perform under the spotlight on Friday and Saturday.”


New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge

Jaguar Racing’s two drivers for the 2020-21 season are Briton Sam Bird, who replaced Alex Lynn, Mitch Evans, the who joined the team in 2016. (AFP/File Photo)
Jaguar Racing’s two drivers for the 2020-21 season are Briton Sam Bird, who replaced Alex Lynn, Mitch Evans, the who joined the team in 2016. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 26 February 2021

New partnership aiming to drive Jaguar Racing towards Formula E championship challenge

Jaguar Racing’s two drivers for the 2020-21 season are Briton Sam Bird, who replaced Alex Lynn, Mitch Evans, the who joined the team in 2016. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The British team goes into the new season with Mitch Evans and Sam Bird at the helm

DUBAI: New season. New partnerships. New goals.

For Jaguar Racing Team Principal James Barclay, the Diriyah E-Prix double-header is a chance to make a assault on the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, having finished seventh last time out.

“We're really pleased to be back in Diriyah and this track is actually becoming very quickly a real favorite to the drivers. It's really fast, really flowing, really technical, it's a real challenge for the drivers,” he said. “You're getting up to some very high speeds, and in sector two and three it's very, very challenging so it's got a combination of slow speed, to really high speed, to really demanding corners that kind of require a lot of bravery from the drivers. So they love it for that reason and we love it.”

This year, the drivers will be experiencing another first at Diriyah; racing at night under revolutionary, for racing at least, LED lighting.

“The simple fact is, it’s this kind of unique style of circuit but importantly as well what we're doing here in the first ever night race, which is kind of groundbreaking,” he’s said. “Formula E takes the rulebook rips it up and writes a new way of racing. Racing under floodlights for the first time powered by fully sustainable source is a really important message as well so not only is it going to be great for fans to enjoy but behind it all is a really important message behind sustainability as well.”

Jaguar Racing’s two drivers for the 2020-21 season are Briton Sam Bird, who replaced Alex Lynn, Mitch Evans, the who joined the team in 2016.

“It’s been an incredible experience, I’m very fortunate to be with Jaguar from the start actually, I joined Formula E at the same time (as the team) as a rookie and it’s been a great journey,” the Kiwi driver said. “We’ve had some great memories, some ups and downs, but you know it’s been great to be together for this time and it’s important to build that relationship and trust within the team and I really feel part of the brand and the whole technical team.”

Evans, who has racked up two wins and six podiums, is hoping that the team can be among the challengers for the championship.

“We were leading at one point during the championship and unfortunately slipped down to seventh towards the end so yeah definitely the goal is to aim for the championship overall,” Evans added. “If we can’t do that, we want to finish as high up as possible, hopefully with more race wins and good memories. But ultimately we want to be fighting for the championship.”

Helping him reach the goal is Bird, who already has nine Formula E wins and 19 podiums to his name. The Jaguar Racing management are delighted he’s joined.

“We're really fortunate to have Sam join the team, we've kind of always been talking about his potential to come to Jaguar,” said Barclay. “For us, it’s his experience, the only driver to win a race in every single season in Formula E is Sam Bird. We love his kind of approach to racing. He's a real fighter you know, he's probably one of the best overtakers in Formula E we’ve seen. The pairing of the two of them is for us really compelling and it's a good position for us to be in to have two drivers of that caliber.”

In the last week Jaguar Racing has also welcomed Micro Focus as its official Digital Transformation, Business Resiliency and Analytics partner.

“Fundamentally they're going to allow us to analyze our huge amount of data quicker and make even smarter decisions as a team,” Barclay added. “So, we’re really proud to have them on board, they're not only supporting our program but they're actually making us faster at the same time and that's the ideal combination.”

Above all, Jaguar Racing’s vision aligns completely with that of Formula E, in more ways than one. Barclay says sustainability is the only way forward.

“We were the first premium manufacturer to commit to Formula E with our full team,” Barclay said. “We manufactured our powertrain and ran the team, and for us it’s because we saw the future is about going electric. Quite simple, the cars that we drive now will be all-electric in the future and that’s been driven by regulation change around the world in many countries now. They’ve set the date for when internal combustion engines will stop, so for us, absolutely it’s the future.

Barclay confirmed that the Jaguar Reimagined strategy, announced last week, will ensure that the Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025.

“We’ve made a very clear statement as a brand, and Formula E is our perfect testbed and proving ground for electric vehicle technologies,” he said. “That makes the products we offer to our customers even better, but importantly, we are showcasing at a global level the benefits of electric vehicle from a sustainable mobility perspective as well.”


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid
Updated 26 February 2021

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid
  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.


Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship
  • Reema Juffali confirms move to Douglas Motorsport at Diriyah circuit ahead of Formula E season opener

RIYADH: Reema Juffali, Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, has confirmed that she will join Douglas Motorsport as the team returns for a sixth consecutive season in the BRDC British F3 Championship this year.

“I’m looking forward to taking this next step of my career with Douglas Motorsport,” Juffali said in statement. “I felt right at home with the team during the test and really enjoyed driving the British F3 car. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again.”

The move comes after a successful season for Juffali in the Formula 4 British championship, with the 29-year-old  previously having taken part in the TRD 86 Cup and MRF Challenge.

The announcement was made while Juffali was at the Diriyah circuit in Riyadh ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Formula E season on Friday.

 

 

“It’s going to be a big step for me driving a faster car, a better car, so that’s really exciting,” she told Arab News. “In terms of the future, I’m open to any opportunity that comes my way. I definitely want to race at the top level of motorsport, whether its in a Le Mans race, Formula E — it’s all on the cards.

“In terms of opportunity and were I see myself, I try not to plan too far ahead. I take it one step at a time with everything that I do,” she added. “But if the chance presents itself and I can do a good job at it, I’ll definitely do it and I would love to represent my country and, hopefully, inspire others.”

The BRDC British F3 Championship is the highest category of single-seater racing in the UK, and Douglas Motorsports has been taking part in the series since 2016, with 14 wins and over 60 podiums to its name.

“We’re looking forward to having Reema Juffali race with us this season,” said Team Principal Wayne Douglas. “She showed fantastic progress across her two seasons in British F4 and impressed us with her speed during our first British F3 test together. We’re excited to see what she can achieve this season.”


WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football
Updated 25 February 2021

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football
  • Wrestling’s showpiece event will take place in Tampa on April 10-11

It is exactly a year since WWE Super ShowDown drew thousands of Saudi wrestling fans to Mohammed Abdu Arena on Riyadh Boulevard, and many more on pay-per-view television across the world.

Delighting the crowd was local favorite Mansoor, who defeated American grappler Dolph Ziggler, and WWE legend The Undertaker won the five-man Tuwaiq Trophy Gauntlet match.

Within days, however, the COVID-19 pandemic would bring almost all global sporting activities to a grinding halt.

And yet WrestleMania 36 would somehow go ahead, filmed on March 25-26, 2020 and then broadcast on pay-per-view on April 4-5.

Now WrestleMania 37 is set to return on April 10-11, 2021 with a limited live audience.

This year’s event will take place at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, which recently hosted Super Bowl LV, where hometown team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, inspired by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski – who hosted last year’s WrestleMania – overcame the challenge of Kansas City Chiefs to be crowned champions.

The connection between WWE and American football goes further than that however, with many of the current wrestling superstars having swapped the field for the ring early on in their careers.

As the countdown to WrestleMania 37 begins, we take a look at some of those WWE superstars whose journey to the wrestling ring began on the American football field.

ROMAN REIGNS

Current WWE Universal Champion, and one of the brand’s biggest names, Roman Reigns (real name, Leati Joseph “Joe” Anoa’i), initially set out to reach the NFL, and his performances in college football, for Georgia Institute of Technology’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team, provided him with a fantastic opportunity.

Anoa’i was signed, and subsequently released, by both the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, although he was hampered by a serious illness. He then made the switch to the Canadian Football League in 2008, going on to spend a full season with Edmonton Eskimos, before being let go – and subsequently retiring – in 2009.

Reigns has enjoyed a monumental WWE career since signing a contract in 2010, battling it out with many of the brand’s biggest superstars, including the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and The Undertaker, who he inflicted a shock defeat on at WrestleMania 33.

BIG E

Big E (real name, Ettore Ewen) boasted a rich sporting pedigree in not only one, but two, fields prior to joining WWE.

Having enjoyed an impressive college football career, in which he played for the University of Iowa, Ewen’s dreams of becoming professional were cut short due to injury. He then turned his attention to powerlifting, showing such prowess that he went on to become a national champion, breaking a number of records along the way.

He joined WWE after being introduced to commentator Jim Ross, and subsequently given a trial, in 2009. After making his name as part of three-man tag team, The New Day, Big E recently embarked on a solo career in which he has enjoyed huge success, defeating Sami Zayn in December to secure the Intercontinental Championship.

THE USOS

There is no getting away from the fact that twin brothers Jimmy and Jey Uso have a strong WWE family legacy, with their father Rikishi inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, while some of the brand’s biggest names – Roman Reigns, The Rock and Yokazuna – are cousins of the duo.

Their initial plan, however, was to forge a career in American football, and for a while it seemed a possibility. The pair earned partial scholarships to the University of West Alabama in 2003, where they played together at linebacker, but when their progression stalled, they called time on the sport.

They made their WWE main roster debut on RAW in 2010 and have since gone on to become WWE Tag Team Champions, as well as SmackDown Tag Team Champions on multiple occasions.

BRAY WYATT

As a defensive tackle and guard, Bray Wyatt (real name, Windham Lawrence Rotunda) showed great promise during two seasons playing for the College of the Sequoias, impressing to such an extent he earned a football scholarship to Troy University, where he spent two years.

However, harboring dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, Rotunda turned his back on football to focus on achieving his goals in the ring, the pinnacle of his career so far coming in 2017 when he won the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber.

In more recent times, Wyatt has been best known for the work of his alter ego, “The Fiend,” who captured the Universal Championship on two separate occasions, overcoming formidable opponents such as Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman along the way.

TITUS O’NEIL

After starring in college football, where he represented Florida Gators for three years between 1997 and 2000, Titus O’Neil made the step up to the AFL, playing for the likes of Utah Blaze, Tampa Bay Storm and Carolina Cobras, as well as trying out for the Jacksonville Jaguars, only for injury to prevent him from showing his undoubted qualities and cutting his career short.

In 2009, he signed a developmental contract with WWE, learning his trade with Florida Championship Wrestling before competing in the second season of WWE NXT. O’Neil went on to become WWE’s inaugural 24/7 Champion and secured the Tag Team Title as part of The Prime Time Players alongside Darren Young.

As a competitor on Monday Night RAW, one of WWE’s key brands, O’Neill has certainly come a long way since swapping the football field for the wrestling ring.

BROCK LESNAR

As a former WWE and UFC Champion, it is fair to say that Brock Lesnar does not have much to prove in the world of sport.

But in 2004, Lesnar put his WWE career on the backburner to pursue his dream of joining the NFL. Unfortunately, early on in his journey, Lesnar was involved in a road collision which left him with a broken jaw, bruised pelvis and pulled groin.

He still managed to impress to the point where he signed with Minnesota Vikings and played a series of pre-season matches but, hampered by the groin injury sustained in the crash, he was released just over a month later.

GOLDBERG

Having caught the eye during his appearances for the University of Georgia’s football team, Goldberg (real name, William Goldberg) reached the dizzy heights of the NFL when he was selected by Los Angeles Rams in the 1990 NFL Draft.

It was with the Atlanta Falcons that he enjoyed his most fruitful period in the NFL, featuring semi-regularly for the side over the course of a three-year period, before his career was curtailed due to an abdomen injury.

After learning his trade in the ring, Goldberg became one of WCW’s most iconic stars, before joining WWE for a short spell in 2003. He returned for a second stint in 2016, embarking on a lengthy feud with Lesnar, who he faced at WrestleMania 33.

Most recently, Goldberg locked horns with Drew McIntire at Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship in November, ultimately losing out to the Scotsman.

WrestleMania 37 can be watched exclusively via WWE Network in the MENA region.