Valencia boss praises Saudi Arabia’s vision for sports

Valencia President Anil Murthy during the press conference on Tuesday. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Valencia boss praises Saudi Arabia’s vision for sports

  • Murthy hopes to beat Real Madrid and reach the final match of the Spanish Super Cup against the winner of the Barcelona-Atletico Madrid semifinal

JEDDAH: Valencia are hoping to open their own football academy in Saudi Arabia, Anil Murthy, club president, said on Tuesday.

Murthy expressed his admiration for Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), after the prince spoke about his vision for sports and the development of young Saudis during his recent visit in Spain.

“Therefore, it is our duty to reach those young Saudis and hopefully soon we will plan to open our own football academy here in Saudi Arabia and reach those talented Saudi players, in addition to increasing the popularity of Valencia among Saudi fans who are known for their passion for football,” Murthy said.

Murthy was speaking ahead of the Spanish club’s semifinal match against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday at King Abdullah Al-Jawhara International Stadium.

“We do appreciate the great hospitality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since we arrived, and we are really looking forward to playing in front of Saudi fans here,” Murthy said.

Murthy and the Valencia delegation arrived in Jeddah on Monday night.

Since he joined the club a little over two years ago, Valencia’s 46-year-old Singaporean president said that he has been focused on a strategy that prioritizes growth at home and abroad.

Murthy warned that the club needed to remain sustainable in the long-term by working within its “limitations and constraints.”

“We don’t have a lot of money like other clubs to buy the best players in the world but we put our resources in the best place. We invest mostly in young players because we know these players are the future of the club and this is what keeps the club stable. This is our value,” he said.

“We must build a club structure which works and which is sustainable. Not for one season, but for many years to come. That is the ultimate goal.”

“Clubs who only work for the short term often end up suffering because of financial difficulties.”

Of the death threats he received as the president of Valencia, Murthy said: “Yes, it happened but this can happen from criminals and they are a minority. The only way to solve this issue, we expelled the violent from the stadium and things are now OK.”

Murthy hopes to beat Real Madrid and reach the final match of the Spanish Super Cup against the winner of the Barcelona-Atletico Madrid semifinal, and win it with the support of Valencia’s fans in Saudi Arabia.

Prior to his role at Valencia, Murthy was a diplomat with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specializing in European affairs. He was deputy chief of mission in Paris and concurrently permanent delegate to UNESCO for four years. He has nearly 16 years of experience with the Singapore government, advising ministers on public policies ranging from trade to culture and diplomacy.

Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

Updated 02 July 2020

Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

  • ‘It is so important that we seize this moment,’ says Lewis Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion

SPIELBERG, Austria: Four months after the opening race was called off at the last minute, the Formula One season finally gets underway this weekend on another continent and in a different-looking world.
There will be no fans on hand at the remote Spielberg track in Austria, with the coronavirus still creating uncertainty over how many races can actually be held — and where.
That may not be the only unusual sight, as drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been an outspoken supporter of the movement and will be competing in an all-black Mercedes car — instead of the usual silver — as a statement against racism.
“It is so important that we seize this moment,” said Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion.
The truncated campaign kicks off with back-to-back races in Austria, as part of a hastily reworked schedule. It was meant to start nearly 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) away in the Australian city of Melbourne.
But the fast-spreading impact of the coronavirus pandemic led to the Australian GP being canceled on March 13, two days before the scheduled race, while people were still queuing for the first practice sessions. Several other races, including the showcase Monaco GP, were also canceled.
A rescue package with eight European races squeezed into 10 weeks, culminating with the Italian GP on Sept. 6, was scrambled together. F1 still hopes to rearrange some of the postponed races in order to finish the season with 15-18 of the scheduled 22.
There will also be two consecutive races at the British GP. If the season continues beyond Europe, it will end with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.
“We actually don’t even know the amount of races we are going to do,” McLaren and future Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. said. “It’s an unprecedented scenario.”
Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, cut off from major towns or cities, offers a reassuringly secluded feel amid coronavirus fears.
But strict health and safety measures have been put into place.
Everyone entering the track, including a greatly reduced number of media representatives, must have tested negative for Covid-19 and further tests will be carried out every five days. F1 teams are not allowed to mingle with each other — on or off the track — and media have no access to F1’s paddock area.
Drivers would normally have faced a barrage of questions in a news conference room, but health requirements dictate that drivers hold news conferences via video link and with questions sent in advance.
And, of course, Spielberg’s 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit will be largely empty. It is normally swarming with tents, camper vans, makeshift barbecues and tens of thousands of orange-shirted Max Verstappen fans.
The Red Bull driver, hugely popular back home in the Netherlands, has won the past two races here.
The track is among the shortest in F1 but also one of the most aggressive. Drivers spend about 72% of the time at full throttle, second only to Italy’s Monza track with 77%.
That’s perfectly suited to Verstappen’s bold and abrasive racing style. Last season he chased down the leading trio before making a typically brazen overtaking move on race leader Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
The 22-year-old Verstappen showed last season that he is closing the gap to Hamilton in terms of wheel-to-wheel driving. Red Bull’s car also made a considerable jump in speed, while Ferrari’s faded, and Verstappen is emerging as a major title threat to Hamilton.
The 35-year-old British driver is chasing a record-equaling seventh F1 title to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, and only needs to win eight more races to beat Schumacher’s mark of 91.
Aside from Verstappen and possibly Valtteri Bottas — Hamilton’s improving teammate at Mercedes — the other main challenger is Leclerc.
The 22-year-old Monaco driver is extremely quick and impressed observers in his first season at Ferrari with seven pole positions — two more than Hamilton — and two wins.
He is now Ferrari’s No. 1 ahead of four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, whose star has faded after he wasted mid-season leads in 2017 and 2018 and lost those titles to Hamilton.
The German veteran is leaving at the end of the year after failing to agree on a new contract, and his future in F1 is uncertain.
Like so many other things this season.