Sport cancelations indicative of uncertain times due to coronavirus

Sport cancelations indicative of uncertain times due to coronavirus
While football in itself, it hardly needs saying, remains immaterial during the coronavirus pandemic, it is remarkable how for many it remained central to how they processed the rapidly deteriorating situation. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 18 March 2020

Sport cancelations indicative of uncertain times due to coronavirus

Sport cancelations indicative of uncertain times due to coronavirus
  • On Tuesday, UEFA announced that Euro 2020 would now be played in the summer of 2021

DUBAI: During a global health crisis, 22 men kicking, or not kicking, a football for 90 minutes really shouldn’t matter. And yet somehow it seems that it does, even if not exactly in the way that the beautiful game’s most passionate fans believe.

As the spread of the coronavirus continues to prompt panic around the world, the scheduling of football matches and other sporting events have inadvertently become a barometer of just how uncertain the times we are living in are.

On Tuesday, UEFA announced that Euro 2020 would now be played in the summer of 2021, by far the most significant delay in the sporting calendar to be announced since Covid-19 broke across the globe.

“We are at the helm of a sport that vast numbers of people live and breathe, that has been laid low by this invisible and fast-moving opponent,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin, as Euro 2020 was officially moved to June 11 of next year.

“It is at times like these that the football community needs to show responsibility, unity, solidarity and altruism.”

Having dragged their feet over the announcement of any suspensions to club or international competitions, UEFA has now taken a wholly logical decision that should in theory allow the domestic football leagues across its member states to be completed this summer, without the specter of Euro 2020. Whether that will happen now remains to be seen, but at least a window of opportunity will be kept open for several months longer.

Tellingly, for thousands and even millions of people, the spread of the virus has been viewed through the prism of football.

Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga, La Liga in Spain and the French Ligue 1 had all at various times insisted that matches would continue behind doors before the rising number of coronavirus cases made it impossible. The English Premier League was the last of the big European leagues to take that step, while UEFA itself decided last week that the Champions League and Europa League competitions would also be suspended indefinitely.

While football in itself, it hardly needs saying, remains immaterial during a pandemic, it is remarkable how for many it remained central to how they processed the rapidly deteriorating situation.

Before the outbreak had significantly spread around the globe, and as it peaked in China and countries like Iran and South Korea in mid-February, football fans in Europe were more concerned about how any potential outbreak would affect their respective teams than harboring any personal fears about a debilitating and often fatal disease.

As recently as last week, thousands of Paris Saint-Germain supporters congregated outside the Parc de Princes stadium as their team beat Borussia Dortmund inside it, defeating the purpose of banning large crowds from convening at football matches.

Elsewhere, not surprisingly, many Premier League fans took great joy taunting Liverpool fans that their efforts to win a first title in 30 years may be in vain should the season be declared null and void. Meanwhile, supporters of Jurgen Klopp’s team, as well as fans of promotion-seeking Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion, hoped that the season would carry on until their targets had been achieved.

Yet again, it was only after a number of high profile players and coaches started testing positive for Covid-19 that the enormity of what was taking place seemed to hit home. 

A trickle quickly became a deluge.

The first player to test positive in Italy was Juventus defender Daniele Rugani. Shortly afterwards, three Leicester City players were isolated for showing symptoms of the virus. The turning point arrived when Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta became another victim.

At that point football tribalism and club-centric takes on the disease began to recede, though by no means disappear.

Crucially, the fact that on the same day it was due to make a decision, the NBA called time on the US basketball season, seemed to force the hand of the Premier League. 

The situation in the Middle East may have lagged behind China, certain Asian countries and Europe, but it was only a matter of time that football and other sports would feel the impact of the pandemic. While certain one-off events and tournaments, from horse racing to golf, were called off, domestic football leagues like the Saudi Professional League and the UAE’s Arabian Gulf League soldiered on, eventually behind closed doors. Last weekend, however, common sense prevailed and the leagues were suspended.

Tuesday’s decision by UEFA, belated as it was, has brought some much-needed perspective to the situation, although it still leaves many questions unanswered.

The European football leagues, the world’s most popular, will now have a chance to conclude their season by June 30, if at all possible. However, there is no guarantee the spread of the coronavirus will have receded sufficiently in the coming months. Ultimately, a decision that the football season be cancelled, and all the logistical nightmares that brings with it, might still have to be taken.

Above all, the elephant in the room remains the Tokyo Olympics set to start in July. As of yesterday, assurances were made that it would go ahead, though that could change within weeks, days or even hours. Unlike with Euro 2020, set to take place across several nations, suspension of the Olympics would prove a logistical and financial disaster for Tokyo.

But there could be little choice in the matter. Sport may be, as many have said, the most important of life’s unimportant things. But it’s not that important. Even football’s most rabid fans are quickly realizing that.


Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning

Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning
Updated 17 min 1 sec ago

Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning

Olympic golf first round suspended over lightning
  • Play was halted just before 2:00 p.m. local time
KAWAGOE: The first round of the Olympic golf tournament was suspended Thursday because of a lightning storm at the Kasumisageki Country Club.
Play was halted just before 2:00 p.m. local time with 27 of the 60-player field yet to finish their opening 18 holes as thunder cracked around the course.
Unheralded Austrian Sepp Straka set the early pace with a bogey-free eight-under par 63 to be leader in the clubhouse after playing in the first group out.
British Open champion Collin Morikawa, representing USA, was yet to complete his round at one-under par with five holes left alongside partner Rory McIlroy of Ireland on the same score.
Home favorite Hideki Matsuyama, the US Masters champion, had just finished with a two-under par 69 as when play was halted, with “dangerous weather” given as the official reason.
Lying second in the clubhouse three shots behind Straka were Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz.

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020
Updated 28 July 2021

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020

Saudi rower Husein Alireza takes to the Sea Forest Waterway for final flourish at Tokyo 2020
  • The 27-year-old has been racing at the Olympics with a damaged lung sustained in the weeks leading up to the competition

TOKYO: Saudi rower Husein Alireza continues his Olympic journey on Thursday morning when he takes part in the Men’s Single Scull Semifinal C/D on the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo.

The race offers him the chance to raise his ranking at Tokyo 2020 despite not being in medal contention.

On Sunday, Alireza who has been competing with a damaged lung, revealed to Arab News the strategy devised by his team at Tokyo 2020 that has allowed him to manage an injury-hit games. With the 27-year-old unable to perform at full capacity in all his races, a deliberately cautious Men’s Single Sculls Semifinal A/B meant he could focus of the Semifinal C/D and a chance to improve his overall ranking.

“It’s an exciting but tough line-up so we’ll evaluate how the body is feeling closer to the race,” Alireza said yesterday.

A serious rib injury in May had left Alireza with a punctured lung that stopped him training for weeks, and three races in three days in the high heat and humidity of Tokyo — which left three other competitors suffering with heat stroke — were always going to take a physical toll on Alireza, who has had trouble with his breathing in the conditions.

After only training for a few weeks before the start of the tournament, and with his lung capacity still down 10 percent his technical team decided on a path that would give him his highest possible finish.


Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
Updated 28 July 2021

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Painful end for Saudi weightlifter at 2020 Tokyo Olympics
  • Mahmoud Al-Ahmeed was injured during his third attempt at clean and jerk in the men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition
  • The 28-year-old Saudi finished 12th overall among 14 competitors in the event

TOKYO: Mahmoud Al-Ahmeed’s Olympic campaign came to a painful end when he was injured during Group B action of the men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition on Wednesday morning at the Tokyo International Forum.

The 28-year-old Saudi had a strong start with a score of 141 kg from his three attempts at snatch, which put him in second place in the early standing of the five-competitor group.

Al-Ahmeed followed that up with a lift of 165 kg in his first attempt of clean and jerk, giving him a total of 306 for the competition.

He was injured during his second attempt at 175 kg and held the back of his thigh in pain. It proved to be his last action of the 2020 Tokyo Games. The Saudi finished 12th overall among 14 competitors in the ​​men’s 73-kilogram weightlifting competition.

When the competition resumed on Wednesday afternoon, Shi Zhiyong of China won the gold medal by setting an Olympic and world record score of 364. Julio Reben Mayora Pernia of Venezuela (346) took silver, followed by Indonesia’s Rahmat Erwin Abdullah (342) with the bronze.

It was a disappointing end for Al-Ahmeed, whose Olympic journey started during a chance meeting in 2008 while with a weightlifter friend at a gym session. Al-Ahmeed caught the attention of a coach, who asked him to lift some weights.

After Al-Ahmeed was impressive with his handling of 40 kg weights, the then 15-year-old began training every day as his Olympic dreams became a reality 13 years later when he earned his qualification for Tokyo.

Along the way, Al-Ahmeed became the Gulf champion in 2013, Arab champion in 2015, and secured gold at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

He qualified for Tokyo 2020 by topping the International Weightlifting Federation rankings for Asian athletes in his category.


Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil
Updated 28 July 2021

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil

Saudi U-23 football team ends disappointing Tokyo 2020 with a loss to reigning champions Brazil
  • Despite playing well in all three of their matches, the Young Falcons failed to win a single point at the Olympics

Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team bowed out of the Olympic football completion after losing 3-1 to Rio 2016 champions Brazil at Saitama Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.

The Saudis put in another commendable performance but defensive mistakes cost them the chance of claiming a single point from the three Group D clashes.

The match was watched by the President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC), Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal.

Having lost its first two group matches against Ivory Coast (2-1) and Germany (3-2), Saudi Arabia came into this fixture with nothing to play for except pride, while Brazil needed to avoid defeat to confirm progress to the quarterfinals.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri sent out a team that seemed focused on defending, but it took Brazil only 14 minutes to take the lead when Matheus Cunha headed past Amin Al-Bukhairi, the Saudi goalkeeper, who only managed to get a hand to the ball in his first start at Tokyo 2020.

On 20 minutes Brazil almost doubled its lead when Antony Santos headed against the bar from a precise Diego Carlos cross, and the pressure was maintained for several minutes as the Saudis struggled to hold the champions off.

The Young Falcons were getting plenty of possession of their own but were not able to threaten Brazil.

They finally scored the equalizer on 27 minutes when Salman Al-Faraj’s curling freekick was headed firmly by Abdulelah Al-Amri past Santos in the Brazil goal.

As against Germany in the second match, the Saudis were not awed by their more celebrated opponents and the goal gave them even more confidence to attack.

With three minutes left of the first half Cunha’s cross was almost turned in from close range by Antony but Al-Bukhairi saved superbly, injuring himself as the Brazilian attacker seemed to unintentionally step on his hand.

The early stages of the second half saw few chances at either end. Brazil should have taken the lead on 65 minutes after Richarlison’s shot was saved by Al-Bukhairi and Cunha struck the rebound against the post when it would have been easier to score.

Ten minutes later Brazil retook the lead after a Dani Alves freekick was cleared by the Saudi defence, but only to Bruno Guimaraes. He headed the ball back across the penalty area for Richarlison to finish with clinical header for this fourth goal of the tournament.

In the last seconds of normal time Richarlison scored again but the goal was ruled out for offside.

With seven minutes added on, there was still time for Richarlison to tap in Reinier’s cross for Brazil’s third in the 93rd minute.

Their win put Brazil at the top of Group D with seven points and they now progress to the quarterfinals, along with Ivory Coast. They managed a 1-1 draw with Germany, who depart Tokyo with Saudi Arabia.


UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values
Updated 28 July 2021

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values

UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation teams up with I-Friends to produce Arabic TV series promoting the sport and its values
  • TV series will fuse drama and sport and serve as a vehicle to highlight the popularity and benefit of the sport in the Arab world

ABU DHABI: The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) and I-Friends Sport, a subsidiary of the television production firm I-Friends Culture and Media, are partnering to produce an Arabic drama series that will highlight the sport of jiu-jitsu and the benefits its values have on society.

The signing of the partnership by the sport’s governing body in the emirates and the media firm took place at the federation’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi in the presence of UAEJJF General Secretary Fahad Al Shamsi and I-Friends Culture and Media General Manager Amr Mostafa Kamel.

“The media have always been a key vehicle to promote the sport of jiu-jitsu in the community through both sporting events and wider initiatives,” Al-Shamsi, said. “Today’s MoU signing elevates our efforts in embracing technology to raise awareness of the values of our beloved sport. This drama series will offer viewers a new experience and a different view of jiu-jitsu and the role it plays beyond the mat. Our partnership with I-Friends Culture and Media is a result of a common vision and goals in promoting positive values and healthy living.

“We look forward to working with the I-Friends team on this project and engaging jiu-jitsu coaches and players to reflect the true nature of the sport,” he added.

Commenting on the feature format of the show, Kamel said: “Drama plays an important role in promoting values and ideas, and the popularity of Arabic drama series has grown, reaching viewers from all the Arab world. The partnership with the UAEJJF will allow us to use our expertise in the field of drama production and present the sport of jiu-jitsu and its values.”

“Sports drama has always been a great success around the world, whether dealing with the lives of athletes or the history of sports,” he added. “We are confident that our cooperation with the UAEJJF will help project the jiu-jitsu sport forward and engage new audiences.”

Further details on the name of the series, where it will be streamed and how viewers can access the content will be revealed in the coming weeks, and the show will be broadcast primarily in UAE and Egypt, to reflect the growth of the sport among athletes from different countries.