UEFA ban Qarabag official for Armenia comments

UEFA ban Qarabag official for Armenia comments
Fighting over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh entered sixth week on Sunday, with Armenian and Azerbaijani forces blaming each other for new attacks. (AP/File)
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Updated 04 November 2020

UEFA ban Qarabag official for Armenia comments

UEFA ban Qarabag official for Armenia comments
  • The side’s PR and media manager Nurlan Ibrahimov had called for the killing of “all the Armenians, old and young, without distinction”
  • The social media post in question came amid the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh

PARIS: UEFA announced Wednesday it has temporarily suspended a staff member of Azerbaijani club Qarabag for “racist and other discriminatory conduct” targeting Armenians.
The side’s PR and media manager Nurlan Ibrahimov had called for the killing of “all the Armenians, old and young, without distinction,” according to the Armenian Football Federation (FFA).
The social media post in question came amid the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The Qarabag FK official, Mr. Nurlan Ibrahimov, is provisionally banned from exercising any football-related activity with immediate effect until the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body decides on the merits of the case,” European football’s governing body said.
UEFA also said Ibrahimov had violated the basic rules of decent conduct.
Qarabag were founded in 1951 in the city of Aghdam, located in Nagorno-Karabakh and today abandoned.
Following the takeover of the region by Armenia in 1993, Qarabag moved to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
They have gone on to become the country’s leading club and appeared in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2017-18.
After losing in the third qualifying round of this season’s competition, Qarabag dropped into the Europa League, in which they are due to play the Turkey’s Sivasspor away on Thursday.


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid
Updated 5 min 27 sec ago

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid
  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.


Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship
Updated 25 February 2021

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship

Saudi woman racer sets sights on British F3 Championship
  • Reema Juffali confirms move to Douglas Motorsport at Diriyah circuit ahead of Formula E season opener

RIYADH: Reema Juffali, Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver, has confirmed that she will join Douglas Motorsport as the team returns for a sixth consecutive season in the BRDC British F3 Championship this year.

“I’m looking forward to taking this next step of my career with Douglas Motorsport,” Juffali said in statement. “I felt right at home with the team during the test and really enjoyed driving the British F3 car. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again.”

The move comes after a successful season for Juffali in the Formula 4 British championship, with the 29-year-old  previously having taken part in the TRD 86 Cup and MRF Challenge.

The announcement was made while Juffali was at the Diriyah circuit in Riyadh ahead of the start of the 2020-21 Formula E season on Friday.

 

 

“It’s going to be a big step for me driving a faster car, a better car, so that’s really exciting,” she told Arab News. “In terms of the future, I’m open to any opportunity that comes my way. I definitely want to race at the top level of motorsport, whether its in a Le Mans race, Formula E — it’s all on the cards.

“In terms of opportunity and were I see myself, I try not to plan too far ahead. I take it one step at a time with everything that I do,” she added. “But if the chance presents itself and I can do a good job at it, I’ll definitely do it and I would love to represent my country and, hopefully, inspire others.”

The BRDC British F3 Championship is the highest category of single-seater racing in the UK, and Douglas Motorsports has been taking part in the series since 2016, with 14 wins and over 60 podiums to its name.

“We’re looking forward to having Reema Juffali race with us this season,” said Team Principal Wayne Douglas. “She showed fantastic progress across her two seasons in British F4 and impressed us with her speed during our first British F3 test together. We’re excited to see what she can achieve this season.”


WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football
Updated 25 February 2021

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football

WrestleMania returns with a nod toward WWE’s connection to American football
  • Wrestling’s showpiece event will take place in Tampa on April 10-11

It is exactly a year since WWE Super ShowDown drew thousands of Saudi wrestling fans to Mohammed Abdu Arena on Riyadh Boulevard, and many more on pay-per-view television across the world.

Delighting the crowd was local favorite Mansoor, who defeated American grappler Dolph Ziggler, and WWE legend The Undertaker won the five-man Tuwaiq Trophy Gauntlet match.

Within days, however, the COVID-19 pandemic would bring almost all global sporting activities to a grinding halt.

And yet WrestleMania 36 would somehow go ahead, filmed on March 25-26, 2020 and then broadcast on pay-per-view on April 4-5.

Now WrestleMania 37 is set to return on April 10-11, 2021 with a limited live audience.

This year’s event will take place at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, which recently hosted Super Bowl LV, where hometown team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, inspired by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski – who hosted last year’s WrestleMania – overcame the challenge of Kansas City Chiefs to be crowned champions.

The connection between WWE and American football goes further than that however, with many of the current wrestling superstars having swapped the field for the ring early on in their careers.

As the countdown to WrestleMania 37 begins, we take a look at some of those WWE superstars whose journey to the wrestling ring began on the American football field.

ROMAN REIGNS

Current WWE Universal Champion, and one of the brand’s biggest names, Roman Reigns (real name, Leati Joseph “Joe” Anoa’i), initially set out to reach the NFL, and his performances in college football, for Georgia Institute of Technology’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team, provided him with a fantastic opportunity.

Anoa’i was signed, and subsequently released, by both the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, although he was hampered by a serious illness. He then made the switch to the Canadian Football League in 2008, going on to spend a full season with Edmonton Eskimos, before being let go – and subsequently retiring – in 2009.

Reigns has enjoyed a monumental WWE career since signing a contract in 2010, battling it out with many of the brand’s biggest superstars, including the likes of Brock Lesnar, John Cena and The Undertaker, who he inflicted a shock defeat on at WrestleMania 33.

BIG E

Big E (real name, Ettore Ewen) boasted a rich sporting pedigree in not only one, but two, fields prior to joining WWE.

Having enjoyed an impressive college football career, in which he played for the University of Iowa, Ewen’s dreams of becoming professional were cut short due to injury. He then turned his attention to powerlifting, showing such prowess that he went on to become a national champion, breaking a number of records along the way.

He joined WWE after being introduced to commentator Jim Ross, and subsequently given a trial, in 2009. After making his name as part of three-man tag team, The New Day, Big E recently embarked on a solo career in which he has enjoyed huge success, defeating Sami Zayn in December to secure the Intercontinental Championship.

THE USOS

There is no getting away from the fact that twin brothers Jimmy and Jey Uso have a strong WWE family legacy, with their father Rikishi inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, while some of the brand’s biggest names – Roman Reigns, The Rock and Yokazuna – are cousins of the duo.

Their initial plan, however, was to forge a career in American football, and for a while it seemed a possibility. The pair earned partial scholarships to the University of West Alabama in 2003, where they played together at linebacker, but when their progression stalled, they called time on the sport.

They made their WWE main roster debut on RAW in 2010 and have since gone on to become WWE Tag Team Champions, as well as SmackDown Tag Team Champions on multiple occasions.

BRAY WYATT

As a defensive tackle and guard, Bray Wyatt (real name, Windham Lawrence Rotunda) showed great promise during two seasons playing for the College of the Sequoias, impressing to such an extent he earned a football scholarship to Troy University, where he spent two years.

However, harboring dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, Rotunda turned his back on football to focus on achieving his goals in the ring, the pinnacle of his career so far coming in 2017 when he won the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber.

In more recent times, Wyatt has been best known for the work of his alter ego, “The Fiend,” who captured the Universal Championship on two separate occasions, overcoming formidable opponents such as Seth Rollins and Braun Strowman along the way.

TITUS O’NEIL

After starring in college football, where he represented Florida Gators for three years between 1997 and 2000, Titus O’Neil made the step up to the AFL, playing for the likes of Utah Blaze, Tampa Bay Storm and Carolina Cobras, as well as trying out for the Jacksonville Jaguars, only for injury to prevent him from showing his undoubted qualities and cutting his career short.

In 2009, he signed a developmental contract with WWE, learning his trade with Florida Championship Wrestling before competing in the second season of WWE NXT. O’Neil went on to become WWE’s inaugural 24/7 Champion and secured the Tag Team Title as part of The Prime Time Players alongside Darren Young.

As a competitor on Monday Night RAW, one of WWE’s key brands, O’Neill has certainly come a long way since swapping the football field for the wrestling ring.

BROCK LESNAR

As a former WWE and UFC Champion, it is fair to say that Brock Lesnar does not have much to prove in the world of sport.

But in 2004, Lesnar put his WWE career on the backburner to pursue his dream of joining the NFL. Unfortunately, early on in his journey, Lesnar was involved in a road collision which left him with a broken jaw, bruised pelvis and pulled groin.

He still managed to impress to the point where he signed with Minnesota Vikings and played a series of pre-season matches but, hampered by the groin injury sustained in the crash, he was released just over a month later.

GOLDBERG

Having caught the eye during his appearances for the University of Georgia’s football team, Goldberg (real name, William Goldberg) reached the dizzy heights of the NFL when he was selected by Los Angeles Rams in the 1990 NFL Draft.

It was with the Atlanta Falcons that he enjoyed his most fruitful period in the NFL, featuring semi-regularly for the side over the course of a three-year period, before his career was curtailed due to an abdomen injury.

After learning his trade in the ring, Goldberg became one of WCW’s most iconic stars, before joining WWE for a short spell in 2003. He returned for a second stint in 2016, embarking on a lengthy feud with Lesnar, who he faced at WrestleMania 33.

Most recently, Goldberg locked horns with Drew McIntire at Royal Rumble for the WWE Championship in November, ultimately losing out to the Scotsman.

WrestleMania 37 can be watched exclusively via WWE Network in the MENA region.


England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test
Updated 25 February 2021

England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test

England collapse to 112 all out in India pink-ball test
  • Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test

AHMEDABAD, India: Spinner Axar Patel claimed six wickets as India skittled out England for 112 on day one of a crucial day-night third test in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Patel, who recorded his second haul of five or more wickets in just his second test, combined with Ravichandran Ashwin to end England’s innings in 48.4 overs in the world’s biggest cricket stadium.

India’s innings witnessed a power cut with most of the new LED lights at the revamped stadium going off for two minutes after which play resumed.

India reached five for no loss at dinner with Rohit Sharma, on five, and Shubman Gill at the crease.

Gill survived a scare when he was caught at second slip off fast bowler Stuart Broad but replays suggested that Ben Stokes had grassed the ball while taking the catch.

Earlier Zak Crawley top-scored with 53 after England elected to bat first. Captain Joe Root (17) Ben Foakes (12) and Jofra Archer (11) also got into double figures.

The England batting fell apart after fast bowler Ishant Sharma, playing his 100th test, struck first with the wicket of Dom Sibley for nought in the third over of the day.

Crawley put on 47 runs with Root for the third wicket to put up some resistence but Ashwin claimed the England captain with his off spin.

Root reviewed the call but replays showed the ball would have hit the top of leg stump and he left the field to the loud cheers of the home crowd.

England took tea at 81 for four and wickets kept falling in the second session.

Foakes stood guard for 58 balls before Patel bowled the wicketkeeper-batsman to wrap up the innings. Ashwin took three wickets.

England, looking to bounce back from a 317-run defeat, have brought back their pace duo of James Anderson and Archer in the team.

The four-match series is level at 1-1.


Diriyah circuit on track to create history under lights

Appointed in 2018 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jerry Inzerillo is about to oversee his third Formula E event in Riyadh. (Supplied/File Photos)
Appointed in 2018 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jerry Inzerillo is about to oversee his third Formula E event in Riyadh. (Supplied/File Photos)
Updated 24 February 2021

Diriyah circuit on track to create history under lights

Appointed in 2018 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Jerry Inzerillo is about to oversee his third Formula E event in Riyadh. (Supplied/File Photos)
  • E-Prix double-header launches 2020-21 Formula E season on Feb. 26-27

RIYADH: For a brief moment, the man who has worked tirelessly for over a year to ensure this weekend’s Diriyah E-Prix double-header goes ahead without a hitch relaxed and allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.

“We are unbelievably excited as you can imagine,” said Gerard Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority. Or Jerry to his friends.

Appointed in 2018 by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Inzerillo is about to oversee his third Formula E event in Riyadh, with the single-seater electric car series now given world championship status by the FIA governing body for the 2020-21 season.

He recalls an almost superhuman effort to organize the inaugural race in the 2018-19 campaign.

“We had a lot of work to do, and because of the unbelievable leadership of Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal and our wonderful colleagues at Formula E, we were able to pull off that race in 87 days.”

The three-day event saw post-racing concerts by the likes of Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Black Eyed Peas, Amr Diab, OneRepublic and David Guetta. The Kingdom had seen nothing like it before.

“We had 100,000 people, the people of Diriyah loved it,” said Inzerillo. “But it was not easy, it was disruptive and we had a lot of work to get done. It was the largest international sport event that the Kingdom had seen at the time.”

READ MORE

An interview with DGDA CEO Jerry Inzerillo on Diriyah’s Formula E and the nighttime races in the Kingdom, which will kick off the 2021 Formula E season. More here.

 

Then, for the 2019-20 season opening, Diriyah became the first circuit to host a double-header of E-Prix races. On Friday, the circuit will see another first with the hosting of the first-ever night races with new sustainable LED technology.

Beyond the obvious turmoil brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, one major disruption has proved the most challenging between the last race in late 2019 and this weekend’s event.

“We had to rip up the whole track,” Inzerillo said. “We put in hundreds of millions of dollars of Diriyah infrastructure. Water, power, sewerage, all of which we had to do because of this gigantic masterplan. But we were very time-constrained because we only had one year to get everything done. Thanks to a great development team and a great operations team, and certainly all the great work done by our colleagues at Formula E, we were able to compete everything in 11 months.”

Thousands of workers at every level worked diligently to make sure the circuit was completed, and construction had to adhere to the tightest regulations.

“Maybe they were being nice to me, but most of the drivers told me that their favorite track was Diriyah,” said Inzerillo. “Where it’s sensitive with the UNESCO World Heritage site is that the track had to be configured in such a way to minimize vibration. And the Formula E did it. As a matter of fact, because of the track and the way it was designed, it allowed us to put in all-new pedestrian walkways, so after the race is over, the community has got kilometers of sidewalks and kerbs and street lights.”

For Inzerillo, this is vital for the moment the Formula E extravaganza wraps up for another year. Maintaining Diriyah is a 365-day-a-year job for him.

“Now you see people jogging, on bicycles, families with baby carriages, 22,000 new trees,” he said. “It’s not just been exciting to have this beautiful backdrop to the UNESCO World Heritage site in camera view, but we also serve the community, and we’ve served his Royal Highness’ vision of doing things in an environmentally sustainable technologies and plantings. So it’s a win, win, win.”

Every aspect of the Diriyah circuit construction had to satisfy Formula E and Saudi Vision 2030 sustainability targets.

“We have no choice,” Inzerillo said, smiling. “The crown prince is extremely strict on the issues of environmental protection, sustainability, new technologies and quality of life. And his commitment and strictness is the same in the preservation of the birthplace of the Kingdom as it is in the Red Sea with all of the projects that are going on there, as it is with the futuristic city of NEOM. Some people can say, NEOM is going to be the city of the future, but the crown prince applies the same vision and the same commitment to a city that is 400 years old.”

Samer Issa-El-Khoury, managing partner at CBX, the promoter of the Diriyah E-Prix, said that it is no coincidence that Formula E ended up at Diriyah, as the Kingdom’s leaders wanted to combine the future of electric cars with the history of the site.

“When we started in 2018, we had extensive meetings with all the stakeholders related to this project — from the Ministry of Sport, the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation, the FIA and UNESCO,” he said.

Under discussion were Diriyah’s UNESCO heritage status, the FIA regulations that protect drivers, time constraints and broadcasting images of Diriyah in the most spectacular way possible.

READ MORE

With the Diriyah E-Prix only days away, Stoffel Vandoorne of Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team is hoping to start the 2020-21 Formula E season just as he ended the last; by winning. More here.

 

Issa-El-Khoury, who played a major part in designing the Diriyah circuit, said that great steps were taken to ensure the lighting lux level would be consistent across the whole track, both for the safety of drivers and to meet broadcasting needs.

Meanwhile, the drivers, many of whom count the Canadian engineer of Lebanese origin as a friend, are itching to hit the track under the lights.

“The drivers were super-excited,” he said. “They’ve tried this track during the day and they are very excited to try it out at night. Andre Lotterer (TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E team) yesterday posted on Instagram that Diriyah is one of his favorite tracks because of the setting, because of the challenges of the track, because it goes downhill and then it goes back uphill on a straight line. It will be a first for all drivers to drive on street circuit, at night, with LED lights.”

LED consumes 50 percent less energy than metal-halide lighting, and Issa-El-Khoury believes those little steps in conserving energy will lead to bigger ones down the line — and not just in Saudi Arabia.

“You might say that you’re lighting the track and still using energy, but today R&D and Formula E aspire to make changes one race at a time, one city at a time and to start introducing change to those cities,” he said. “They’ll move from the track to people’s homes.”

With the track all set for the action, you would not blame either man taking a night or two off to enjoy the action, though chances are they will be as consumed by their respective concerns as ever.

“The track is beautiful and it complements the UNESCO site,” Inzerillo said. “And, most important, my community, the people and neighbors who live in Diriyah, they see the race as a very positive thing because it delivers a lot of economic benefits. Every time the race has happened, their neighborhood and their quality of life has improved.”

This year there might not be any spectators in the stands, or post-race concerts, but the noise, and certainly the bright lights, will be there for all in Diriyah to see.

For Issa-El-Khoury, the track and nighttime conditions are a “winning combination” that will bring out the best in the drivers on Friday and Saturday.

“All the cars are almost the same,” he said. “Heroes will be made in Diriyah.”