More than just golf to the Saudi International

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The Entertainment Zone at the Saudi International promises to serve-up the ultimate day out. (Supplied)
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The Entertainment Zone at the Saudi International promises to serve-up the ultimate day out. (Supplied)
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World number one Brooks Koepka returns to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
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World number one Brooks Koepka returns to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 January 2020

More than just golf to the Saudi International

  • World number one Brooks Koepka, last year’s tournament winner Dustin Johnson, and British Open champion Shane Lowry are just three of the big names teeing it up
  • Away from the fairways, the tournament becomes a must-visit for families and groups looking to have an unforgettable day out thanks to the Entertainment Zone

JEDDAH: Organizers of the second annual Saudi International golf tournament have unveiled plans for a thrilling, action-packed Entertainment Zone that promises to serve-up the ultimate day out for anyone looking to experience something new later this month.

The 2020 Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers will welcome the most famous golfers on the planet to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City this January 30th – February 2nd.

Household names including world number one Brooks Koepka, last year’s tournament winner Dustin Johnson, and British Open champion Shane Lowry are just three of the big name, Major-winning players taking to the course, guaranteeing four days of world-class golf for fans to enjoy.

But away from the fairway, and the tournament becomes a must-visit for families and groups looking to have an unforgettable day out thanks to its just announced experience-packed Entertainment Zone.

Spread over a huge outdoor area, the zone will allow visitors to try everything from gourmet burgers, shrimp and ice cream, to hyper-speed, mega-real VR races through the streets of Diriyah in a Formula E car, to relaxing with a coffee watching the golf play-out on the Saudi Aramco Big Screen – or jumping through an enormous inflatable assault course!

Saudi International Tournament Director Ben Freeman said: “The 2020 Saudi International is all about the ultimate day out; golf, entertainment and music. Whether friend groups, families or golf fans, people will be heading to King Abdullah Economic City to enjoy a not to miss experience. That’s what the Entertainment Zone will provide – and then some!

“Away from the on-course action – which, of course, all visitors can enjoy the thrill of live and up close – our Entertainment Zone will have food trucks serving delicious international cuisine, drinks and snacks; a gamers’ paradise in our PIF-powered E-Sports Arena; endless fun for children; and a Performance Zone dreamt up by Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation to show just how easy and fun it is to get out playing golf – a sport that’s in its infancy here in the Kingdom but growing considerably.

“With the Friday, Saturday and Sunday climaxing with live concerts from some of the biggest superstar artists on the planet, the entire weekend will be electric with a true festival vibe, and we can’t wait for people to experience it.”

The specially made Entertainment Zone will be split across five unique areas.

Its ‘Taste’ hub will be home to a mouth-watering food oasis, which will be packed with flavours from the home countries of many of the tournament’s players, all served from uber-cool food-trucks.

HD super pods in the Entertainment Zone’s darkened E-Sports Arena, powered by PIF, will give gamers the chance to pursue their passion – but this time set in some of Saudi’s most sensational locations. Featuring VR headsets, gamers will be able to race through the ancient streets of Ad Diriyah at the controls of a Formula E car, or experience the thrills and spills of hurtling through the desert as part of the hair-raising Dakar Rally. A special E-Golf challenge will allow have-a-go golfer-gamers to pit themselves against the likes of four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka online too.

The central feature of the Entertainment Zone will be its ultra-modern Performance Zone, presented by Golf Saudi and Saudi Golf Federation, where absolute beginners through regular golfers alike will be able to get hold of a golf club and try their hand on a selection of fun games and challenges, with prizes to be won. Presented by Golf Saudi, the zone’s ultra-real golf simulators will digitally transport those wanting a taster session onto the tee of many of the most famous golf courses in the world. It will also have course-condition putting and chipping areas, and mini golf.

If that whets the appetite for fun, then the ‘Bounce’ area will be a must visit – as it is entirely inflatable! The air-filled assault course will have obstacles, tunnels and slides guaranteeing hours of hilarious fun, for children and adults. If it all proves too much for the kids, then the Play & Party zone for three to nine-year-olds is a safe stop after.

Freeman added: “With the ultimate combination of have-a-go fun, hands-on learning and delicious foodie experiences – plus superstar live DJs and artists – time spent away from the golfing action at the Saudi International promises to be just as momentous as the action unfolding on the course.”

With two weeks to go until the competition begins, visitors are being advised to start planning their trip to what promises to be ‘The Ultimate Day Out’ at the Saudi International.

A total 132 players will descend on the stunning King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the end of the month, competing for a share of the $3.5m prize fund on offer.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson, world number one Brooks Koepka, five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and US Masters winner Patrick Reed are just four of the box office US names competing. British Open Champion Shane Lowry and Ryder Cup heroes Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia – who boast a further two Major titles between them – will lead the European contingent of household names battling it out.

Partner support as the tournament heads into its second year remains as strong as ever, with SoftBank Investment Advisers, Saudi Aramco, Public Investment Fund, Saudia, SAMBA, Rolex, Saddik & Mohamed Attar, GIB, STC, Saudi Cargo, UMA Premium, Invest Saudi, Xerox, Mix FM, Al Arabiya, Nespresso and Evian all powering the event.

Tickets are now on sale, priced at 50 SAR per day or 160 SAR for a full tournament pass (four days). Exclusive concert tickets will be available soon.

For more tournament information, visit www.saudiinternational.com


Why Riyad Mahrez should shed reluctant hero tag and join Arab greats

Updated 05 August 2020

Why Riyad Mahrez should shed reluctant hero tag and join Arab greats

  • The Algerian winger could be a few weeks away from his crowning glory
  • Beyond his goals, assists and medals, he is one of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watch in the Premier League

DUBAI: We should talk about Riyad Mahrez. Because, it seems, Riyad Mahrez doesn’t really like to talk about Riyad Mahrez.

Manchester City’s Algerian international is famously reticent when it comes to dealing with the media. For one of modern football’s most unique and successful talents, Mahrez remains an enigma; brilliant, instantly recognizable, and yet so often underrated.

Most fans would struggle to recall what his voice even sounds like. Though he has 5.5million followers on Instagram, and a further 2.2 million on Twitter, he mostly shuns the behind the scenes glamorous posts that so many footballers seem to enjoy in favor of match action shots. And there is no team of PR warriors shouting his achievements from the rooftops.

Which is a shame. One of the greatest Arab footballers of all time certainly deserves more. Except that, when the discussion of the greatest Arab or African footballers to play in Europe comes up, Mahrez rarely comes near the top.

A strong showing in the mini-champions League tournament over the next few weeks, starting with Friday’s round of 16 second leg against Real Madrid, could throw some gold dust on an already outstanding career.

Since his quiet introduction to the Premier League in 2014, Mahrez has been nothing short of a revelation; an enchanting, balletic footballer, whether gliding across the right wing to set up yet another chance for Jamie Vardy or Sergio Aguero, or cutting inside onto his magical left foot to score another stunning curling effort. Or, as he has done twice, winning the Premier League.

Beyond his goals, assists and medals, he is one of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watch in the Premier League, even the world.

So why does he struggle to gain the acclaim of other Arab and African footballers of past and present?

Like Karim Benzema in Spain, Mahrez is the right player, at the right place, at the right time. But not always, metaphorically speaking, the loudest of players.

By most metrics, Mohamed Salah takes some beating as the outstanding Arab footballer of modern times, perhaps ever. Since joining Liverpool in the summer of 2017, he has played a pivotal part in transforming the club from a fourth-placed team to proven winners, both in the Premier League and Champions League; twice won the Premier League Golden Boot, and also claimed the PFA Player of the Year in 2017-18.

Like Salah, Mahrez has won the Premier League in England, arguably the most high profile league in the world. In fact, he is one of only 11 players to have won it twice, first as the driving force behind Leicester City’s still scarcely believable 2015-16 title win (which also earned him the PFA Player of the Year award), and then as part of Pep Guardiola’s staggering collective at Manchester City in 2018-19. 

Unlike Salah, though, he has yet to win the Champions League. That could be about to change in a few weeks. Manchester City remain the favorites to win the delayed competition, now scheduled to conclude in Lisbon between 7th and 23rd of August.

Salah’s army of fans, from Liverpool to Cairo, rightly hail his every move.

But for Mahrez, there are no murals on neighborhood walls in New York or the Northwest of England. No string of television commercials. And no fashion magazine covers.

It is not for lack of achievement or talent either. You get the impression Mahrez just prefers it that way.

The 29-year-old, at first instance, might also suffer in comparison to one of Algeria’s greatest footballers.

Rabah Madjer achieved instant international fame when he scored in his nation’s finest hour-and-a-half, the 2-1 win against mighty West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Five years, and many domestic titles later, he would return to haunt the Germans, scoring a remarkable back-heeled goal in Porto’s 1987 European Cup final win over Bayern Munich. Later that year he put on a man-of-the-match performance, and scored the winner, as Porto beat Penarol to claim the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo.

Such iconic moments are hard to compete with. Yet Mahrez has many of his own.

In February 2016, Mahrez produced one of the Premier League’s most memorable individual performances of the last decade as Leicester defeated his future club Manchester City 3-1 at the Etihad stadium on the way to that stunning league title win. Even that early in the season, the Player of the Year award was in the bag.

And Premier League-centric viewers, at least those who don’t follow Manchester City, may have missed a truly outrageous stoppage time free-kick in a 2-1 win over Nigeria which secured Algeria’s place in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Cup. Where the home crowds had eagerly anticipated a Salah and Egypt triumph, it was Mahrez and Algeria that were crowned African champions after beating Senegal 1-0 in the final at Cairo International Stadium.

Again, and inexplicably, the achievement did not garner the global acclaim it deserved.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Mahrez’s understated reputation is the company he keeps. When you play in forward line alongside Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Jesus Gabriel, David Silva and, above all, the peerless Kevin De Bruyne, the credit will inevitably be spread around.

Mahrez, a maverick at Leicester, has been transformed by Pep Guardiola into the perfect team player at Manchester City. An excellent return of 11 goals and 12 assists in the Premier League this season may not quite see him at the top of either chart. But, in addition to one goal and four assists in the Champions League, his numbers accurately illustrate a consistent, at times spectacular, overall contribution in a season where he has been one of the club’s most impressive forwards.

If all that still doesn’t make him one of the greatest Arab footballers of all time, perhaps a Champions League medal on August 23 finally will.