Game of Thrones star Thor Bjornsson draws Dubai boxing match

Game of Thrones star Thor Bjornsson draws Dubai boxing match
Thor Bjornsson and Steven Ward slugged it out to a drw during their exhibition match in Dubai Saturday. (MTK Global)
Short Url
Updated 17 January 2021

Game of Thrones star Thor Bjornsson draws Dubai boxing match

Game of Thrones star Thor Bjornsson draws Dubai boxing match

DUBAI: Former World’s Strongest Man and Game of Thrones Star Thor Bjornsson has taken part in his boxing debut in Dubai.
The unlikely three-round exhibition match against professional Steven Ward from Belfast ended in a draw on Saturday night.

Bjornsson from Iceland, who starred as Ser Gregor Clegane in the HBO hit, had a 59kg weight advantage over Ward. 
He said the fight was preparation for a clash for his strongman rival Eddie Hall later this year. That clash between the two man-mountains has been dubbed “The Heaviest Boxing Match of All Time.”
“Ward is the same height as Eddie Hall, so this was a good experience,” Bjornsson said. “I can’t wait to get back home and train to be even better. I’ve been doing this for six months and I have a huge respect for the sport and its athletes.”
Bjornsson won the World's Strongest Man title in 2018.


Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
Updated 19 September 2021

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure

Paulinho won’t be missed by Al-Ahli after sudden departure
  • Brazilian midfielder has had his contract terminated by the club after returning home for personal reasons

Paulinho’s last meaningful act as an Al-Ahli player was getting bundled over in the box after 15 minutes to earn his team a penalty against Al-Fateh. That was on Friday but the very next day it was announced that his three-year contract with the Saudi Arabian giants had been terminated after just two months.

It is a blow to the club, struggling with five points from the first five games constituting the second worst-ever start to the season, and the league. Paulinho’s arrival after six successful years in China (a spell punctuated by a year in Barcelona) was another suggestion that the Saudi Professional League had become Asia’s go-to competition for talented foreign stars.

The understandable question for those fans in Jeddah and around the country is: What happened? 

The club’s official statement revealed little. “Al-Ahli club management, headed by Mr. Majed bin Ayed Al-Nefaie, has completed the procedures for terminating the contract of the Brazilian professional player “Paulinho” by mutual consent,” it said. It added: “The termination of the contract with Paulinho comes due the emergency circumstances, he spoke with the club’s management recently, which was reflected in his performance on the field during the past rounds, expressing his inability to provide the desired addition to the team.”

 

 

Speaking to Saudi television, Paulinho, who scored two goals in his four appearances, said that many things had been happening in life, including a fire breaking out at his house in Brazil, also home to his parents. A Brazilian radio show said that Paulinho was leaving Saudi Arabia for personal reasons and had recently been approached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, his former coach in Guangzhou and Brazil, currently in charge of Gremio.

The expectation in Brazil had been that the 33-year-old would return home after his China spell ended — his contract at Guangzhou was terminated because travel restrictions in place in China meant he could not enter the country. The expectation will now again be that he will return to sign either for his former club Corinthians, which he left in 2013 to sign for Tottenham Hotspur, or Gremio. This is the feeling at Al-Ahli too. 

Al-Nefaie added to the club’s statement, saying that there was no reason to keep a player who did not want to be there. 

“We tried a lot but it was clear that he didn’t want to stay,” Al-Nefaie said, according to Saudi radio station UFM. “After several such attempts, we decided to terminate the contract rather than pay a high salary to a player who doesn’t want to be there. The club is more important than any player.”

The message coming from Al-Ahli is clear: Paulinho didn’t want to stay and so there was little point in keeping him.

The midfielder is not the first and won’t be the last foreign player to sign a lucrative contract in Asia only to leave soon after. Only he knows whether there was a genuine emergency at home that means he can’t stay in Saudi Arabia or whether he simply wants to go and play elsewhere. It is credit to the club that the situation has been dealt with and resolved so quickly. There is not going to be any distracting saga developing here. Paulinho has gone and Al-Ahli have to move forward.

It could be that Paulinho’s most significant contribution to the long-term success of Al-Ahli was his parting request for fans to be patient. After a disappointing season last time when the club finished eighth in the league and there were rows about reported unpaid salaries, there were high hopes this time around with a new coach in Besnik Hasi and new players like, well, Paulinho.

“It is difficult to change a club in just a few days,” Paulinho said. “I know that Al-Ahli is a big project and I say to the fans that they need to be patient for some time because the current administration will take the club back to the top.”

“I know that last season was not great and we did not start well in the league this season with all these draws not normal for a club the size of Al-Ahli. The situation will improve because those in charge are professional, they will definitely change this situation.”

That attempt will continue without him on Thursday with an important game against Al-Feiha. Fans will be curious to see where Paulinho turns up next, but he wasn’t around long enough to be missed.


Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 September 2021

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia

Kafo triumph at first Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia
  • The winners will now represent the Kingdom at November’s GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland after coming out on top in the 26-team all-female tournament

RIYADH: Kafo have won the first ever Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah and will now represent the Kingdom at the GGWCUP grand finale in Iceland this November.

Hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation at Elite Sports Center in Diriyah, the Global Goals World Cup Saudi Arabia was contested among 26 all-female teams advocating social and environmental sustainability while battling on the pitch in a 5-a-side football tournament as part of their campaigns to highlight the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The GGWCUP movement was launched in 2015 and since then it has invited women around the world to use sport and the 17 SDGs to make a positive impact in their communities.

“I congratulate all of the 26 teams for having the drive and conviction to take part in the first GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, and for all of their individual contributions to the success of this event championing the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, president of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“The determination the competitors have shown not just today but since the beginning of the GGWCUP is admirable, and they have set an example for us all on being people that can positively impact their local communities with a global ideal. Special congratulations to Kafo, who will be making us proud as they go on to represent Saudi Arabia on the international stage. We wish them the very best of luck and we will be there cheering them on.”

Over the past nine months, teams from across the Kingdom have been campaigning for and educating people about their chosen SDG, hosting community events, talks and awareness programs.

The GGWCUP Saudi Arabia event in Diriyah was the culmination of these efforts, which saw teams give presentations to a panel of judges at a private event on Thursday, followed by a two-day tournament open to members of the public.

Despite being the inaugural GGWCUP event in the Kingdom, this won’t be the first time a team from Saudi Arabia has been to the finals. In 2019, the SFA-founded Saudi Greens took second place at the finals in New York City. It was the first time a female sports team from the Kingdom had competed in the US.

Since then, the SFA has introduced several sports initiatives for women, such as the Women’s Football League, and an online Women’s Fitness Festival.

“GGWCUP Saudi Arabia is yet another fine example of how talented, skilled and passionate our nation’s women are,” said Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

“Over the past couple of years, we have worked hard to ensure sport and active opportunities are available to women across the Kingdom, and the success of these all-female teams and the event itself highlights the great strides we have made together.

“Congratulations to Kafo and good luck in Iceland.”

Majken Gilmartin, GGWCUP co-founder, added: “Congratulations to all the 26 teams for taking part in the tournament and their impressive community initiatives, their willingness to show up is what success is all about. The partnership with the Saudi Sports for All Federation to bring the first-ever GGWCup tournament in the Kingdom helps us reach our objective of inspiring women through sports while making an impact on SDGs with community initiatives. We look forward to seeing Kafo in the finals.”

GGWCUP Saudi Arabia, part of the SFA’s mission, is supported by the Ministry of Sport and mandated by Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the number of people in the Kingdom exercising at least once a week to 40 percent by 2030.


Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches
Updated 19 September 2021

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches

Al-Ittihad top, Al-Hilal in the groove: 5 things we learned from latest run of Saudi Pro League matches
  • Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes under pressure after AFC Champions League success was followed by 3-1 loss to leaders Al-Ittihad

It was another action-packed program in the Saudi Professional League with goals galore. Below are five things we learned from the fifth round of the 2021-22 season.

1. Moussa Marega and Bafetimbi Gomis look dangerous

The two strikers scored all Al-Hilal’s goals in their 3-2 win over Al-Ettifaq amid signs that the champions are starting to get into their domestic groove. There is more to it than that, however, as the pair are starting to link up well together.

In the league so far this season, the Riyadh giants have developed a habit of leaving it late, but not this time. In the 17th minute, Marega slipped Gomis through and the Frenchman’s shot came back off the post, but soon after Marega made no mistake from a similar position. Then it was the turn of Gomis, who added two more in the second half. If one doesn’t get you, the other will.

This week, instead of Al-Hilal in search of late goals, they were left hanging on as Al-Ettifaq scored twice against the tiring hosts. As coach Leonardo Jardim said, it was a wake-up call and a reminder that even with such striking talent, if you take your foot off the pedal in this league you run the risk of being punished.

2. Mano Menezes is on the brink

Fresh after reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday, Al-Nassr were brought back down to earth with a bump, losing 3-1 at home to Al-Ittihad in this week’s big game.

It means that the pressure is well and truly back on coach Mano Menezes after a second league defeat this season, and the Brazilian cut a forlorn figure as he left the Marsool Park pitch.

He will point to the missed penalty by Abderrazzak Hamdallah, which would have brought back the scoreline to 2-2, as well as the chances missed by his team, but the former Brazil boss will know why his team lost. The problems were at the back. Three times the Tigers, roared on by their traveling supporters, cut through the Al-Nassr backline with relative ease.

If Menezes is still in a job next Thursday, the home game against Al-Batin is simply a must-win.

3. Al-Ahli coach under pressure after nightmare start

Al-Ahli’s 1-1 draw with Al-Fateh is not, on the face of it, a terrible result against a team going well, but for the Jeddah giants it was in reality a poor result. In fact, the fifth draw in five matches so far this season marks the second-worst start in the club’s history.

The team started brightly and took the lead, but have struggled with concentration in discipline in recent games and the same happened again just five minutes later. There were six white-shirted defenders in the area when Sofiane Bendebka’s shot bounced back off the bar and was headed in by Firas Al-Buraikan, but nobody was alert enough to either danger.

With expectations high going into the season, it is no surprise that there is pressure on coach Besnik Hasi. The former Anderlecht, Legia Warsaw and Olympiacos boss, now without the departed Paulinho, has to find solutions, and quickly. Al-Ahli have looked decent so far but obviously there is something missing, and if Hasi doesn’t find it soon he will be looking for a new job.

4. Al-Ittihad looking like title challengers

The game at Al-Nassr was always going to be a test of Al-Ittihad’s title credentials, and the 3-1 win meant they passed with flying colors. With Igor Coronado oozing class in attack and Abdulrahman Al-Obod having an excellent game on the left, the Tigers always carried a goal threat, especially on the counter.

After the opening-day defeat, there have been four successive wins with 14 goals scored and just three conceded in that time. Al-Ittihad are very much the form team at the moment and with no Asian commitments until next year, are looking to get plenty of points on the board to put the pressure on Al-Hilal, who are going to be desperate to win the Champions League with the quarterfinals and the semifinals both taking place within a few days of each other next month. Al-Ittihad will be hoping Al-Hilal reach the final and will be looking forward to their next game against the struggling Al-Taawoun.

5. We may have seen the game of the season…

Or at least the half of the season. Al-Taawoun have had huge problems this season in throwing away substantial leads, and did so to amazing effect at home to Al-Raed to lose 5-3.

Al-Taawoun scored three goals between the 52nd and 57th minute to come back from a goal down to lead 3-1 and, surely, even this team was not going to throw this lead away. The visitors, who have had a great start to the season, had other ideas, however, and soon scored three goals in seven minutes to make it 4-3. There was still time to add a fifth.

It was a roller-coaster second-half full of entertainment and twists and turns. Talking of roller-coasters, it left Al-Taawoun languishing at the bottom and put Al-Raed, for a day at least, at the top.


Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced
Updated 19 September 2021

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced

Route and prize money for 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon announced
  • The third edition of the marathon will have prize money of $303,000 and will take place on Nov. 26

ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Sports Council has revealed the new race route for the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Marathon, sponsored by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

The race, set to take place on Friday, Nov. 26, will have total prize money of $303,000 and also include 10 km and wheelchair categories.

The announcement came in the presence of Aref Hamad Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council; Andrea Trabuio, ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon Race director; and Kinan Abou Hamdan, marketing director of Nike Middle East and Gulf Marketing Group.

“The third edition of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon is witnessing a great turnout of more than 4,000 participants, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic,” said Al-Awani. “It’s an indication of the keenness...of the Abu Dhabi community to participate in the event.”

The race categories available for runners will be the individual 42.2 km marathon; a marathon relay for teams of two with distances of 10 km, 5 km and 2.5 km; and a wheelchair race category.  

The total prize fund for the 2021 edition will be AED 1.11 million ($303,000) and will be shared across the various categories, with the elite male and female winners of the marathons taking home $50,000 each.  

A bonus cash prize of $30,000 will also be awarded should runners break the current course records of 2:04:40 and 2:21:01 for the male and female races, respectively. Cash prizes of $8,500 and $11,000 will be awarded to winners of the wheelchair and 10 km categories, respectively.

“We are delighted with the partnership with ADNOC, which already embodies its corporate identity and its strategy through its sponsorship and support for the marathon and all global and community sporting events,” Al-Awani added. “We are also thankful for the presence of the sports brand Nike among the list of sponsors of the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon, as well as for the support of the Department of Community Development, General Command of Abu Dhabi Police, Department of Municipalities and Transport, Tadweer and Al Ain Water.”

The 2021 ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon will start in front of the ADNOC Headquarters, with direct views of the Founder’s Memorial, while runners participating in the 2.5 km, 5 km and 10 km races will begin on 18th Street.

Following the start gun, runners will head out along the Corniche and loop around Qasr Al-Hosn, one of Abu Dhabi’s oldest historical stone buildings. Participants will then pass the Emirates Heritage Village before making their way behind Marina Mall, running up and down King Abdulla Street, and returning to the Corniche for a final loop of Qasr Al-Hosn.

Marathon runners will cross the finish line in the event village, located in the South Plaza of the ADNOC HQ Campus, while all other participants will finish in 18th Street, opposite the ADNOC Welcome Center. 


Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident

Saudi’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi has 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas firmly in sight after comeback from accident
  • The 39-year-old and Toyota co-driver Michael Orr lead the standings going into the season-closing race in Portugal

When Saudi rally driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and his Irish colleague Michael Orr head to the Baja Portalegre in Portugal at the end of October, they will be just one race away from being crowned world champions.

The Toyota duo currently lead the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas (T1) standings after winning the Italian Baja last week.

It would be, in fact already is, one of the most remarkable motorsports comebacks in recent times.

“I really feel happy, we had an accident that made us miss two races earlier this year, and we have worked hard to reach this point,” Al-Rajhi told Arab News. “It wasn’t easy at all, we made a big comeback to defend our title, a solid comeback I would say, to regain the World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas’s title.”

“Sharqiyah Baja was the second stop for us in the World Cup after we won Dubai Baja,” the 39-year-old said. “We were supposed to enter the first round of the World Cup, which was Baja Russia, but I had to skip regarding to my business commitments.”

Yazeed A-Rajhi and Michael Orr have recovered form a crash earlier this year to lead the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. (Yazeed Racing)

It was at the Sharqiyah Baja in Saudi Arabia that Al-Rajhi and Orr would suffer an accident that would keep both of them out of action for varying periods of time.

“We had started strongly and we were in the lead until the day of the accident,” the Saudi driver said. “It was an unfortunate day for us and for some contenders in the other categories, and we sadly lost one of our own in that Baja.”

“Michael and I had minor injuries in the neck but my recovery was faster than his,” Al-Rajhi said. “I had to skip two months of driving for recovery. After that, I made my comeback at the Andalucia Rally with Dirk von Zitzewitz who covered Michael’s place until his comeback at Silk Way Rally.”

Since Orr’s return, the duo have set a relentless pace to once again lead the standings going into the season-closing Baja Portalegre on Oct. 28-30. Al-Rajhi is grateful to be still in contention.

“Although the incident was a major setback for our strong ongoing pace and we had to fight from the back to regain our place in the lead, we are glad that we are alive and had the chance to come back and compete for it,” he said.

Al-Rajhi insists that he does not see anyone race or win as more important than any other, but all part of the same journey toward the championship.

“Well, we will enter the last Baja of the season, which will be held in Portugal, with the same spirit and mentality as we did before,” he said. “Every race has its own mystery and surprises so we will stay focused, and we’re looking forward to continue fighting and to win the World Cup title.”

The Toyota of Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr. (Yazeed Racing)

A triumph would be the latest high point for Saudi motorsports, which in recent years has had its profile raised by the hosting of several of the world’s biggest and most famous races; the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and this year for the first time, in December, the Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah.

Above all, the Saudi Arabian Automobile and Motorcycle Federation is looking to invest in producing home-grown champions in the coming years.

“Our government is encouraging a new generation of Saudis to get involved in the sport, and there are more and more achievements being experienced in the motorsport industry in the Kingdom,” he said. “The reason behind this is the ambitious Vision 2030 by his Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

“Absolutely the federation’s support is always needed in motorsports and I believe that they are playing a massive role in supporting the young and rookie talents,” Al-Rajhi said. “I started in rallies when the SAMF was established in 2007, long before many other Saudi racers at the time. So I know how it feels to be new in the field. I’m always happy to see young talent who want to follow my lead.”

“I was the youngest Saudi driver to win a rally on home soil and the first Saudi to win a stage in Dakar, the toughest race in the world,” he said. “I’m really happy to see the young generation rising.”

And as for Al-Rajhi’s biggest ambition, his answer is unequivocal.

“To win Dakar many times in the future, especially at home.”