Fans welcome ‘safety first’ measures as virus threatens Saudi sports events

Saudi women cheer during a soccer match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia January 12, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Updated 15 March 2020

Fans welcome ‘safety first’ measures as virus threatens Saudi sports events

  • Athletes express concern and give suggestions on social media in wake of ministry decision

JEDDAH: All sports events in Saudi Arabia have been halted because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Ministry of Sports said the suspension includes the Mohammed bin Salman Football League and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup playoffs.
The ministry said the suspension — which is part of the national safety measures — would go into effect on Sunday until further notice.
Events around the country have been affected by the spreading coronavirus. The Arab Club Champions Club semifinal round on Sunday in Riyadh has been called off.
Notable sports figures spoke to Arab News about their thoughts on the shutdown.
Ahmed Al-Sabban, president of the Saudi Arabian Fencing Federation, told Arab News that despite rejections he faced, his federation was the first in the Kingdom to take the action of suspending all activities when the virus first started to spread.
“I was concerned about the safety of my young players. Many of our board members asked me to wait but I insisted to go ahead. In order to keep my players in good shape, I sent coaches to the players’ home for private training.”
Reacting to the latest ministry decision to suspend sports temporarily, he said: “I was very happy to hear the action of the ministry because of the well-being of fans, players and staff. Everyone must come first during this situation.”
Ahmed Al-Rashid, chairman of the Competitions Committee at the Saudi Football League, said: “In this unprecedented situation, we are working closely with our clubs, the government and the officials of both the league and the cup. We can reassure everyone the health and welfare of players, staff and supporters are our priority.”
Fans of all teams were quick to respond to the news. Abdulkhaliq Al-Zahrani, an Al-Hilal Football Club supporter said: “Though this suspension will affect our team’s performance as they are at the top of the table, we understand that the main concern of the government is the safety of players.”

SPEEDREAD

The coronavirus pandemic has torn up the global sporting calendar, with infections and travel restrictions forcing the cancelation or postponement of a slew of major competitions and tournaments.

Hamid Attas, a fan of Al-Ahli Football club, said: “This is the right decision. Nobody wants football canceled, we lose part of our lives and routines. But this could make a difference to thousands of people in the sports industry. Safety will always be the priority of our government.” Former and current football players gave their views on social media.
Nawaf Al-Timiat, former midfielder for the Saudi National team and Al-Hilal, posted a message to his supporters on Twitter: “We know what football means for all but understanding the suspension of their season to assess the impact of coronavirus was the right course of action by the government.”
Fahd Al-Merdasi, former international football referee, said: “It is a wise decision by our government. Ultimately, the health and the well-being of everyone is what led the ministry to issue this decision. It will impact football performance, but health is more important.”


Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan retires

Updated 04 July 2020

Chinese badminton superstar Lin Dan retires

  • Lin Dan will not be competing in the next Olympics in Tokyo

BEIJING: China’s two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan, arguably the greatest badminton player of all time, announced his retirement on Saturday aged 36.

It means that Lin, who won gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, will not compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back to next summer because of coronavirus.

The end of Lin’s glorious career comes just over a year after the retirement of his great rival and friend, the Malaysian star Lee Chong Wei.

The duo reigned over the sport for more than a decade and have only relinquished that hold in recent years as their powers waned.

Lin, who had something of a “bad boy” reputation during his younger days and has several tattoos, ends with 666 singles wins and a glut of medals.

“My family, coaches, team-mates and fans have accompanied me through many peaks and difficult troughs,” he said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo that quickly went viral.

“Every forceful jump was a desire for victory.

“I have dedicated everything to this sport I love.”

As well as the double Olympic golds, Lin was also a five-time world champion and a long-time former world number one.

Lin earned the nickname “Super Dan” at the peak of his career.

However, the left-hander’s career has tailed off in recent years as age and injuries took their toll.

He always said that he was determined to reach the Tokyo Olympics, but his ranking of 19 in the world and the postponement of the Games made that dream unlikely.

Lin had always maintained that he would try to make it a last Olympics hurrah in Tokyo in an unlikely bid for a third Olympic gold.

But he said on Saturday his body would not allow him to plow on.

“’Persevere’, I said to myself in every moment of suffering, so that my sporting career could be prolonged,” he wrote on Weibo.

“Rather than simply pursuing rankings as I did when I was younger, in these years, I have been wanting to challenge the physical limits of an ‘old’ athlete and practice the sporting spirit that I will never give up.

“(But) my physical abilities and pain no longer allow me to fight alongside my team-mates.”