Dramatic end to SPL season as Damac pull off miraculous escape

Champions Al-Hilal ended their season — in which they claimed a record 16th SPL title — in style with a 2-1 win over Al-Shabab at King Saud University Stadium. (SPA)
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Updated 10 September 2020

Dramatic end to SPL season as Damac pull off miraculous escape

  • Al-Ahli claim third place and qualify for next year’s AFC Champions League, while struggling Al-Ittihad survive brush with relegation

RIYADH: The standings after the penultimate round of games in the 2019-20 Saudi Professional League season had set the scene for high drama on the final day of this marathon, disrupted campaign — and the action on Wednesday delivered this in spades.

Struggling giants Al-Ittihad avoided the nightmare prospect of relegation, while their Jeddah neighbors Al-Ahli took third place in the league to secure qualification for next season’s AFC Champions League. They join the Riyadh duo of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, who had already claimed first and second spots in the SPL respectively.

Al-Ahli clinched a narrow 2-1 victory over Al-Raed, who themselves were clinging to hopes of making it into Asia’s premier club competition. However, second-half goals from Salman Al-Moasher and Syrian superstar Omar Al-Somah ended that dream and ensured Al-Ahli will approach the delayed conclusion of this year’s Champions League, which resumes on Sep. 14, in a relaxed frame of mind, secure in the knowledge that they have claimed their place in next year’s event.

The real drama, however, played out at the bottom of the table, where five clubs kicked off their final matches in danger of joining already-doomed Al-Adalah and Al-Hazem in relegation.

In the final game of what has been a nervy end to a dismal season, Al-Ittihad managed to preserve their top-flight status in relative comfort, thanks to a 2-0 away victory over bottom-placed Al-Adalah. Goals from Fahad Al-Muwallad on 11 minutes and Wilfried Bony, with a penalty just before the half-hour mark, dispelled any lingering tension.

In an astonishing match that included four penalties, Damac, who began the day in the bottom three, defeated Al-Fateh 4-3 to leapfrog them into 11th place and ensure SPL survival, although their fans must have been biting their nails in the dying seconds of the match.

Everything appeared to be going to plan for Damac, as they took a ninth-minute through an Emilio Zelaya penalty and then Ibrahim Chenihi doubled their lead on 44 minutes. However, Mohammed Naji halved the deficit deep into first-half injury time, setting up one of the most dramatic 45 minutes of the season.

Al-Fateh’s Dutch marksman Mitchell te Vrede leveled the scores with a penalty after 58 minutes. With the match between Al-Taawoun and Al-Fayah match still scoreless at this point, Damac were heading for the drop as things stood.

They hit back, however, and regained the lead when Zelaya converted a second penalty that looked to put them on course for a priceless win and SPL safety. This match had a few more twists to offer, however, and with only six minutes left te Vrede scored his second penalty of the night. With the score at 3-3, Damac found themselves back in deep relegation trouble.

Redemption, and the guarantee of another season in the SPL, came for Damac in the final two minutes of the season, as Abdullah Al-Jouei scored what will surely go down as one of the club’s most famous goals.

Meanwhile, the match between Al-Taawoun and Al-Fayha headed into stoppage time scoreless, with the latter needing a very late goal to escape the drop and, in the process, condemn their opponents to relegation. It was not to be, however, as it was Al-Taawoun who grabbed a winner in the 92nd minute, courtesy of Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, sealing their opponents’ fate.

Champions Al-Hilal ended their season — in which they claimed a record 16th SPL title — in style with a 2-1 win over Al-Shabab at King Saud University Stadium. French forward Bafétimbi Gomis signed off on a prolific campaign with a goal in each half. Cristian Guanca’s reply was sandwiched in between. Al-Shabab finished the season in seventh spot.

The celebrations continued late into the night after the Prince Mohammed bin Salman trophy was presented to a delighted Al-Hilal squad and their coach, Razvan Lucescu, amid fireworks and selfies. The reigning champions of Asia will now turn their attention toward retaining their continental crown in the coming months.

In the other matches, Al-Wehda claimed fourth place in the league with a 2-0 victory over Al-Hazem, with goals from Youssef Niakate and Luis Gustavo.

Al-Faisaly took fifth spot with a 2-1 win over Abha at Al-Majmaah Sports City. Goals in each half by William Alves de Oliveira and Raphael da Silva Arruda were enough to see them through against their visitors, who responded with a consolation goal in the form of Karim Aouadhi’s 70th-minute penalty. Abha ended the season in ninth spot.

SPL runners-up — and last season’s champions — Al-Nassr overcame Al-Ettifaq 3-2 in an encounter that had little riding on it other than pride.

Abderrazak Hamdallah gave Al-Nassr the lead with a seventh-minute penalty — and claimed the SPL’s top-scorer crown for the second season running — before Saleh Al-Amri squared the match 12 minutes later. Giuliano de Paula’s effort just before half-time followed by Abdulfattah Mohammed Adam’s goal in the 72nd minute all but ended the contest, with Hazzaa Al-Hazzaa’s stoppage-time strike little more than a consolation for Al-Ettifaq, who finished the campaign in eighth place.

Golf Saudi strikes partnership with the Club Managers Association of Europe

Updated 30 November 2020

Golf Saudi strikes partnership with the Club Managers Association of Europe

  • Educational program will be tailored to support Saudis’ career pathway in and through golf

RIYADH: Golf Saudi and the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) have signed an ambitious new partnership to work together to roll out a certified Arabic language educational program. This is the first of its kind, aimed at encouraging Saudi nationals to pursue a career in golf.

CMAE will set up an education platform in Saudi Arabia, drawing on its industry-renowned approach, to assist Golf Saudi in developing the domestic golf talent pool and ultimately creating new Saudi national certified club managers.

The association is a nonprofit making professional body with members involved in the management of sports clubs, health and fitness clubs and leisure, city and dining clubs in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Commenting on the partnership, CMAE’s director of education, Torbjörn Johansson, said: “Golf Saudi’s pursuit of creating a progressive domestic golf market is asking some big questions of the industry and leading organizations. The domestic plans to not only train up but also equip aspiring talent are a major step and CMAE is proud to be a partner and on-hand to provide the tools and analytic expertise.” 

The CEO of Golf Saudi, Majed Al-Sorour, said: “Our partnership with CMAE is incredibly important for Golf Saudi, but also for the golf industry at large. This is only possible if we are able to upskill our domestic workforce. Golf is good for business and can provide a direct boost to the Kingdom’s GDP, as well as providing lucrative jobs and creating new enterprise. These are exciting times for the golf industry in Saudi Arabia and this agreement with the CMAE helps us to develop a world-class training program that will support young Saudi adults in unlocking the full potential of their future career paths within the golf industry.”

Golf Saudi, a subsidiary of the Saudi Golf Federation, is committed to delivering a national development program that transforms the golfing landscape and aims to create 3,700 jobs by 2030.

Since its formation in 2018, Golf Saudi has embarked on an ambitious national golf strategy, which has worked to support the Kingdom’s impressive Vision 2030. This agreement recognizes the importance of training the next generation of Saudis to meet expected future demand, particularly from international tourists, enhancing Saudi Arabia as a golfing destination.