Amr Zedan is revolutionizing the equestrian landscape in Saudi Arabia

Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
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Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
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Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
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Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
Amr Zedan, the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, with the Zedan Polo team in the Dubai Golden Cup series, 2021. (Supplied)
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Amr Zedan, the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, with the Zedan Polo team in the Dubai Golden Cup series, 2021. (Supplied)
Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
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Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
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Updated 05 February 2021

Amr Zedan is revolutionizing the equestrian landscape in Saudi Arabia

Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)
  • Riyadh-based Zedan is chairman of Saudi Polo Federation, board member of Saudi Equestrian Authority and owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky

DUBAI: Amr Zedan’s love affair with all things equestrian has many, eclectic fathers.

“When I was young, I always loved sports in general, and I always loved horses as well,” he said. “I was exposed to various sports, and polo was one of the sports I gravitated toward because it combined the ball and the horse. I watched a few movies that featured polo. ‘Pretty Woman’ was one of those movies, and I was captivated by it when I was a kid. I picked up the sport in the late 90s and early 2000s in Dubai and London, and the rest was history.”

Today, Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Equestrian Authority and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US.

He also owns and runs Zedan Polo, a team he is currently representing at the Silver Cup in Dubai and in the forthcoming Gold Cup.

“We like to say that we want to reintroduce polo in Saudi Arabia, not introduce it, because polo has been played here for the past 50 or 60 years, although not widely,” said Zedan, who is based in the Kingdom, his native country.

“Our mandate, as part of the Saudi Polo Federation, is to promote, develop and regulate the sport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So, any initiative that would satisfy any of those three missions, we will support. We have a dynamic board, and we are supported by the government unconditionally.”




Amr Zedan, the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, with the Zedan Polo team in the Dubai Golden Cup series, 2021. (Supplied)

He calls the 2020 AlUla Desert Polo, the world’s first tournament of its kind, “the first appetizer,” and credits its success to Prince Bader Al-Farhan, the minister of culture and governor of AlUla, not to mention the star power of the La Dolfina Polo Team and the stunning Saudi landscape.

At a grassroots level, Zedan is keen to go against misconceptions and prove that polo can be accessible.

“Polo has the stigma of being an elitist sport, and in many respects it is because of the cost that goes into playing professionally and safely at the same time,” he said.

“Our role is to bridge that gap and make it affordable and available for Saudi boys and girls alike because polo allows both boys and girls to compete on equal footing. Boys and girls, men and women can compete at the same level and same rankings.”

Zedan cites Winston Churchill’s famous quote that “a polo handicap is a person’s ticket to the world” and says he wants to harness such credentials to attract more funding and sponsorship to the sport.

“Polo has the ability to gain corporate social responsibility from companies that have adopted the sport as one of their main pillars,” he said.

“So, we entice companies such as car manufacturers or luxury-goods makers to sponsor some of the events, and that would bridge the gap, cover the costs and make polo affordable for newcomers. And it’s a bug: If you catch it, you’re addicted, and if you’re addicted, you play it.”

READ MORE: Face Of - Amr Zedan, chairman of Saudi Polo Federation

As with most sporting events, polo competitions suffered, and continue to suffer, massive disruptions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, but Zedan is already busy planning for the future.

“We have plans for January 2022 for AlUla, and we are in close contact with the Royal Commission of AlUla. That’s something we are constantly engaged in,” he said.

“More importantly, we have plans in Riyadh. We are working with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority through Jerry Inzerillo, who is the CEO, and we are looking for a spot for a new project called the Royal Diriyah Polo and Equestrian Club. That will have the flagship polo ground in Saudi Arabia, in the heart of Riyadh.”

As well as official games and competitions, the new headquarters will host exhibition games, and Zedan said that there is already real interest from several dignitaries and heads of states to come and play in Saudi Arabia.

Due to his polo commitments, Zedan will be unable to attend the 2021 Saudi Cup, the second edition of the world’s richest horse race, but he credits Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal for “reshaping the thoroughbred racing space in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” He added that he is proud to be involved in the development of racing in Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve always been fascinated with horses, so it was just a natural progression,” Zedan said.

“I do have my stables, Zedan Racing, based in Kentucky in the US, and my trainer is the Hall of Fame, six-time Kentucky Derby winner and two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert. Bob needs no introduction, so I’m very privileged to work with him. We have a couple of horses that have been successful and a few that we hope will be successful, one of which was is a filly, Princess Nour, who just retired due to injury.

“And we have a promising 3-year-old colt. I know it’s a long shot, but my dream is to see him in the Kentucky Derby,” he added.

“My dream is to win the Derby some day, if not this year then next year. We keep trying. That is the mission of Zedan Racing Stables, which is strictly a US-based operation.”




Amr Zedan is the chairman of the Saudi Polo Federation, a board member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation and the owner of Zedan Racing Stables in Kentucky, US. (Supplied)

Despite his state-side operation, Zedan also keeps a keen eye on the races in the Middle East, which has some of the sport’s biggest prize purses.

“These big races are amazing,” he said. “I was a partner in a horse in 2016 that won the Dubai World Cup, and I was on the podium, and that’s when I caught the bug. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the Saudi Cup because I have prior commitments here with polo.”

Zedan says the Saudi Cup will put the Kingdom on the map when it comes to racing and believes the climate and landscape will play a big part in doing that.

“It’s reinventing the way racing is done from a regional perspective, and internationally as well,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is very unique in many ways. We don’t have a single season. We have Taif, for instance, where the weather is very pleasant during the summer, so we can have racing meetings there during the off-season. Then we have the on-season, which is the winter-spring. So Saudi Arabia is very unique in that regard, and I know that the Saudi Equestrian Authority has ambitious plans to create a full-on ecosystem to develop equestrian sports in general and racing in particular.”

If it involves horses, then Zedan is sure to be part of it.


Game on! Saudi national team accepts Pakistan’s Peshawar Zalmi's challenge to cricket friendly

Game on! Saudi national team accepts Pakistan’s Peshawar Zalmi's challenge to cricket friendly
Updated 10 April 2021

Game on! Saudi national team accepts Pakistan’s Peshawar Zalmi's challenge to cricket friendly

Game on! Saudi national team accepts Pakistan’s Peshawar Zalmi's challenge to cricket friendly
  • SACF, established in 2020, has lined up a series of major programs focused on promoting the game in the Kingdom
  • SACF chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud revealed the game-changing plans for cricket in exclusive interview with Arab News

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s national cricket team has accepted the challenge by the Pakistan cricket franchise Peshawar Zalmi inviting them for a friendly game.

The owner of one of Pakistan’s most popular cricket franchises, Peshawar Zalmi, hinted last week of taking his team to Saudi Arabia for a friendly match, soon after news emerged that Arab News had been selected as the official media partner of the Saudi cricket team.

READ MORE

Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English language daily, has been selected by the Saudi cricket federation to be the national team’s official media partner. Read more here.

Javed Afridi’s successful franchise is represented by cricketing legends like former West Indian skipper Daren Sammy, South African star batsman Hashim Amla, and Pakistan all rounders Wahab Riaz and Shoaib Malik, and others from the world’s biggest test playing teams.

“Best wishes to cricket KSA. How about Peshawar Zalmi VS KSA in Saudi,” Afridi wrote on Twitter.

Responding to it the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) told Arab News: “We thank Afridi for the wonderful gesture, good wishes to the Saudi national cricket team and appreciation. We look forward to a lot of cooperation with all great cricket playing countries, such as Pakistan.

“As far as invitation to play a friendly game is concerned, we accept the challenge and look forward to playing the game at a mutually agreed date and place, here in Saudi Arabia," said Nadeem Nadwi, General Manager, SACF.

SACF, established in 2020, has lined up a series of major programs focused on promoting the game in the Kingdom and things are set to change rapidly.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News last week, SACF chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud revealed the game-changing plans for cricket, outlining a series of major initiatives that will increase participation at community, club, and international level.

 

Among those competitions is the National Cricket Championship, played across 11 cities and part of four programs that SACF signed with the Saudi Sports For All Federation. Launched in February 2021, it is to date the largest cricket tournament held in the history of Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, there will be a corporate cricket tournament launched in October and November, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social cricket program introduced in various cities. Throughout the year, SACF is planning to have 20,000 participants taking part in these programs.

The federation has signed several deals and MoUs with governmental, semi-governmental, and non-governmental entities setting out plans to raise awareness of the game, increase cricket facilities nationwide, and introduce the sport to Saudi youth through school programs.


Real Madrid beats Barcelona 2-1 to go top of Spanish league

Real Madrid beats Barcelona 2-1 to go top of Spanish league
Updated 11 April 2021

Real Madrid beats Barcelona 2-1 to go top of Spanish league

Real Madrid beats Barcelona 2-1 to go top of Spanish league
  • Barcelona, which had been unbeaten in 19 straight league games, stayed one point off the lead

MADRID: Real Madrid continued its impressive run on Saturday, going top of the Spanish league with a 2-1 win over Barcelona in what may have been Lionel Messi’s last league clásico.
The victory in pouring rain in the Spanish capital left Madrid tied on points with Atlético Madrid, which on Sunday can return to the top when it visits sixth-place Real Betis. Madrid is ahead of its city rival on the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Barcelona, which had been unbeaten in 19 straight league games, stayed one point off the lead.
Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos scored first-half goals to give Madrid its sixth straight win in all competitions. The defending league champions were coming off a win over Liverpool in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Tuesday.
“It was a very important victory for us,” Madrid defender Nacho Fernández said. “It’s always special to win a clásico, and even more when we are so close together at the top in the fight for the title. You could say today was a final, but there is still a lot left in the league.”
Barcelona got on the board in the second half with a goal by Óscar Mingueza. It nearly equalized with a shot from young substitute Ilaix Moriba that struck the crossbar in the final play of the match.
“We tried until the end but it wasn’t possible. We almost had it in that final play,” Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto said. “We depended on our own results had we won, but now we need to hope that our rivals stumble. We will keep fighting until the very end.”
This was the first time Madrid has taken the league lead since the early rounds of the competition, and it trailed Atlético by 11 points at one stage.
The result ended Barcelona’s six-match winning streak in the league. It had won nine away matches in a row in the competition.
The 33-year-old Messi, who reached seven straight clásicos without a goal, has his contract with Barcelona ending this season. The Argentina star expressed his desire to leave the Catalan club last year but had the request denied.
One of his best chances was with a corner kick that curled across the area and hit Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ far post in first-half stoppage time. Messi’s free kick in second-half stoppage time was easily stopped by Courtois.
It was an even start at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium in Madrid’s training center, but the hosts opened the scoring in the 13th minute with Benzema’s superb flicked shot from close range after a low cross by Lucas Vázquez.
The French striker, who has scored 10 goals in his last nine matches, got in front of Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo and flicked the ball toward the net with his back foot. He hadn’t scored against Barcelona in nine consecutive clásicos.
The Catalan club complained of a foul by Vázquez on Messi just moments before the opening goal.
Kroos added to the lead in the 28th from a free kick following a foul on Vinícius Júnior, who was coming off an outstanding performance in Madrid’s 3-1 win over Liverpool. Kroos shot from just outside the area and the ball deflected on American defender Sergiño Dest before going into the net.
Madrid almost added to the lead in the 34th when Federico Valverde hit the post after a breakaway led by Vinícius Júnior, who also hit the post in the second half. That was after Barcelona pulled one back in the 60th with a shot from inside the area by Mingueza after a low cross by Jordi Alba.
Madrid played the final minutes a man down after Casemiro was sent off with a second yellow card.
The visitors complained about being denied a penalty in the final minutes, with Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman saying it was “a clear penalty.”
“I don't know why there is VAR in Spain,” he said.
Madrid got the win despite a depleted defense — with the absences of central defenders Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos. Barcelona was without the injured Gerard Piqué.
Right back Vázquez, who has been key for Madrid in recent games, had to be replaced due to an injury before halftime.
Barcelona’s next match is the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while Madrid travels to England to play Liverpool again in the Champions League on Wednesday.


Alexander-Arnold ends Liverpool’s long wait for Anfield victory

Alexander-Arnold ends Liverpool’s long wait for Anfield victory
Updated 11 April 2021

Alexander-Arnold ends Liverpool’s long wait for Anfield victory

Alexander-Arnold ends Liverpool’s long wait for Anfield victory
  • 10-man Leeds stall runaway leaders Manchester City’s march with 2-1 victory

LONDON: Manchester City’s march to the Premier League title stalled on Saturday as 10-man Leeds beat the runaway leaders 2-1, while Liverpool climbed into fourth place after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s late strike sealed a 2-1 win against Aston Villa.

City are counting down to their third title in four seasons, but Stuart Dallas’s stoppage-time strike leaves them still needing 11 points from their last six games to clinch the crown.

Their first defeat in seven matches in all competitions came after Pep Guardiola made seven changes following their midweek Champions League quarterfinal first-leg win over Borussia Dortmund.

With Kevin De Bruyne on the bench at the Etihad Stadium, City were below their best against lively Leeds and now turn their attention to cup competitions next week.

They have a 2-1 lead to defend in the second leg at Dortmund on Wednesday before Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal against Chelsea at Wembley.

“We did not create enough for the forward. It is part of the game,” Guardiola said.

“When they defend in the way they were you have to stop them running and we did not do that. The best moment we had in the game we make a mistake behind and we tried but could not score.

“We are going to rest and prepare two days for the game in Dortmund and decide on how we are going to play.”

Liverpool are desperately trying to salvage their troubled campaign by qualifying for next season’s Champions League via a top-four finish. Beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday, Jurgen Klopp’s side knocked West Ham out of fourth place in the most dramatic fashion at Anfield.

Liverpool had lost their previous six home league matches, but Alexander-Arnold clinched their first success in front of the Kop since December as the Reds avenged their humiliating 7-2 defeat at Villa in October.

Villa striker Ollie Watkins scored a hat-trick in that rout and he was back on the scoresheet after 43 minutes.


5 talking points from Al-Ittihad’s win over Al-Hilal in Saudi Classico

5 talking points from Al-Ittihad’s win over Al-Hilal in Saudi Classico
Updated 10 April 2021

5 talking points from Al-Ittihad’s win over Al-Hilal in Saudi Classico

5 talking points from Al-Ittihad’s win over Al-Hilal in Saudi Classico
  • The win left the Jeddah club only three points behind the champions at the tip of the Saudi Pro League table

LONDON: On Friday evening in Jeddah, Al-Ittihad defeated Al-Hilal 2-0 in the Saudi Classico thanks to first-half goals from Abdulmohsen Fatallah and Saud Abdulhamid. The result means that Al-Hilal are still top of the Saudi Pro League with 48 points from 25 games, three ahead of Al-Shabab, who face Al-Batin on Saturday. But now, Al-Ittihad in third have also closed the gap to three points.

There was much more to it than that however and there are five things we learned about the match.

1. Al Ittihad have lit up the title race

If Al-Hilal had won in Jeddah, the title race would not have been over but it would have been a major step towards another championship.

Al-Ittihad would have been out of it and the victors would have moved six points clear and while Al-Shabab have a game in hand, fixtures are running out.

Now however, it is all up in the air. Whatever happens tomorrow with Al-Shabab at Al-Batin, there are just three points separating the top three.

Ittihad are well and truly in with a chance, especially after beating the top two teams in the league inside a month. 

Whatever happens from now until the end of the season, all neutrals should be grateful for this result as it means that there is going to be plenty of drama in the coming weeks. 

2. Fatallah a hero at both ends of the pitch

Whatever coach Fabio Carille may have said before the match, there were concerns among fans of Al-Ittihad about the absence of Ahmed Hegazi in the middle of defense.

The Egyptian international has had a stellar season since arriving in October and has played a major part in the club’s resurgence.

With his usual defensive partner Ziyad Al-Sahafi also absent, Al-Hilal’s forwards must have been rubbing their hands with glee especially when replacement Omar Hawsawi went off injured after just 11 minutes.

In came Abdulmohsen Fatallah to play only his second match of the season.

He not only helped to keep out the increasingly desperate Hilal attacks, but he opened the scoring with a powerful header.

Before the game, nobody would have suggested that the 26-year-old would be the hero of the Classico but he stepped up when he was needed, though goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe and the woodwork helped out.

3. Carille wins the ‘Battle of the Brazilians’

Brazil exports plenty of talent around the world but there was still talk in South America about the fact that the Saudi Classico featured coaches from the country.

This time, Fabio Carille won out over Rogerio Micale.

It was the perfect performance from Al-Ittihad who were aggressive in the first half and then counter-attacked intelligently after the break as Al-Hilal pushed forwards with increasing desperation.

It was striking how well Al-Ittihad were organized at the back but flexible in attack as was shown by the boss putting Fahad Al-Muwallad in a central role late in the game where his speed stretched the Hilal defense. 

The champions had the lion’s share of possession against the Tigers but were lacking in creativity when it mattered with Micale’s substitutions as predictable as much of the play.

Carille handled the absence of his star player, Hegazi, better than his opposite number managed the absence of captain Salem Al-Dawsari.

This was Micale’s first taste of this fixture and losing for the first time since 2016 will not have done his standing with the fans any good. 

4. Saud Abdulhamid meant his goal

The right-back does not score many, indeed had managed just one goal before Friday, but he produced a beauty at the end of the first half.

Picking up the ball just a yard outside the area, about halfway between the touchline and the right corner of the box, everyone waited for a cross.

Instead, he fired a shot into the near top corner, fooling Abdullah Al-Mayouf in the Hilal goal. He said after the game that this was no attempt at a cross.

“I saw there was space there and I went for it,” he told television. It was a special goal and will live long in the memory.

5. Al-Shabab need to handle the pressure

The team from Riyadh have had a highly impressive season and moved into first position at the halfway stage.

But just when the prize moved to within view, the form has faltered.

Just one point from the last three games has put doubts in the minds of fans.

Now though, Al-Shabab have a second chance and can move level on points with Al-Hilal with a win against struggling Al-Batin.

This opportunity can’t be wasted especially considering what happens next.

On May 7, the top two meet. Basically, if Al-Shabab win their next two games, they will be three points clear on the summit with four games left to go.


Brazilian fighters supreme on last day of Abu Dhabi jiu-jitsu championship

Brazilian fighters supreme on last day of Abu Dhabi jiu-jitsu championship
Updated 10 April 2021

Brazilian fighters supreme on last day of Abu Dhabi jiu-jitsu championship

Brazilian fighters supreme on last day of Abu Dhabi jiu-jitsu championship
  • South American nation’s brown- and black-belt professionals claim 35 medals

The 12th edition of the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) successfully wrapped on Friday night, with Brazilian fighters once again showing why they remain some of the finest on the planet.

Brown- and black-belt professionals from around the world took to the mats at Jiu-Jitsu Arena in the UAE capital, with men and women from the South American nation topping the country rankings with a total of 35 medals, including 16 gold, 11 silver and eight bronze.

Household names such as Beatriz Mesquita, Bianca Basilio, Israel Almeida, Isaque Braz and Gabrieli Pessanha were among those to shine for Brazil.

Mesquita put in a top performance to capture her sixth adult title, taking less than a minute to win with an armbar on opponent Lari Paes.

“Today’s victory is one of the most important achievements in my career as I’ve been training and competing for this moment. My training during the pandemic didn’t stop, and that was the main reason why I’ve captured the win again this year,” said Mesquita.

“Competing in a global championship against the best in the world in such unprecedented circumstances in a safe environment is a true privilege. I’d like to thank the ADPWJJC organizers for hosting such a successful international championship in these challenging times.”

Compatriot Diego Batista topped the ADWPJJC podium again with gold in the 62 kg black-belt division thanks to a 4-3 victory over Hiago George.

Batista, who won gold in the brown-belt 69 kg division at the 11th ADWPJJC, said: “Capturing the gold in my black-belt debut at the ADWJJC feels special. Great work by the ADWPJJC organizing committee to give jiu-jitsu athletes the opportunity to compete and practice the sport we love safely.”

The “Queen of the Mats” Passenha beat Yara Soares in a thrilling encounter to win gold again in the women’s 95 kg brown-black-belt division.

But Brazilian athletes did not have it all their own way as Adam Wardzinksi from Poland claimed his first gold, beating Brazil’s Renato Cardoso 6-4 in the 94 kg black-belt division.

“It feels great to get my first gold after two consecutive years of winning silver at the ADWPJJC. This is one of my all-time dreams coming true, and I can’t wait to come back and defend my belt in the 13th edition,” said Wardzinksi.

“I knew my opponent very well as we squared off many times in the past. I knew he’d be tough and we both had our strategic approach, and I managed to get the win at the end,” he added.

“For us athletes who live for this sport, the 12th edition of the championship offers us hope in the continuation of the championship in these challenging times.”

The 13th ADWPJJC will take place in Abu Dhabi’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena in November 2021.