Coronavirus delays Asian badminton tournaments

Coronavirus delays Asian badminton tournaments
World number one Tai Tzu Ying hits a shot the women’s singles final match at the World Tour Finals badminton tournament in Bangkok earlier this month. (Badminton Association of Thailand via AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2021

Coronavirus delays Asian badminton tournaments

Coronavirus delays Asian badminton tournaments
  • Malaysia Masters, the Indonesia Masters and Indonesia Open have been postponed with no new dates yet set

KUALA LUMPUR: Three Asian badminton tournaments have been delayed indefinitely while two others have been shifted to new dates due to coronavirus-related disruptions, officials said Friday.
The Malaysia Masters, the Indonesia Masters and Indonesia Open have been postponed with no new dates yet set, said the Badminton World Federation.
The Malaysia Open, previously due to take place from late March to early April, has been shifted to May 25 to 30.
The Singapore Open, previously scheduled for April, will now happen from June 1-6.
The Olympic qualifying period for the Tokyo Games will now close on June 15, with the last tournament counting for qualification being the Singapore Open.
The 2020 badminton calendar was thrown into chaos due to the virus.
Three tournaments took place in consecutive weeks in Bangkok in January, in a bid to kick-start the world tour.


Al-Ittihad march on, Al-Hilal’s struggles continue: 5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League action

Al-Ittihad march on, Al-Hilal’s struggles continue: 5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League action
Updated 22 January 2022

Al-Ittihad march on, Al-Hilal’s struggles continue: 5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League action

Al-Ittihad march on, Al-Hilal’s struggles continue: 5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League action
  • Leonardo Jardim under pressure as Asian and Saudi champions draw with Al-Batin, while Al-Shabab can’t afford any more dropped points

Every round of games is crucial now in the Saudi Professional League and here are five things Arab News learned from the latest action.

Attackers get the headlines but defence is driving Al-Nassr’s challenge

Al-Nassr’s 1-0 win over Al-Taawoun was their sixth victory in a row and moves the team into second above Al-Shabab. The arrival of Miguel Angel Rosso as new coach has taken the team to a new level, or at least got them playing at the level they should have been at already. What the Argentine has done also is made the eight-time champions hard to beat.

After the 4-0 win over Faisaly, this was a tougher test against another relegation battler. Al-Taawoun caused problems and it was difficult for Talisca and Pity Martinez to get their creative juices flowing. When you have a defence as increasingly solid as Al-Nassr’s, however, the forwards can afford to have the occasional off day. Ramiro Mori and Abdulelah Al-Amri are developing a fine partnership in the middle of the backline.

Al-Nassr have not conceded a goal in 393 minutes of league football and that is laying the foundations for this winning streak. Now Rosso’s team is the one that leaders Al-Ittihad will be most worried about.

Forget Hamdallah, Romarinho is making the difference

The game itself was not one that will live long in the memory but the last few minutes will as Al-Ittihad defeated Al-Faisaly 1-0. It was an eighth successive win that increased their lead at the top to six points with a game in hand.

This was heading for a 0-0 draw when a corner fell to Romarinho at the far post with two minutes of regulation time remaining. The Brazilian was unmarked and had time to control the ball but surely he was also thinking what scoring would mean in the title race. He kept his nerve to fire into the roof of the net for what he said is one of his most vital goals in the yellow and black.

“This goal has a special feeling and it came thanks to the support of the fans,” said Romarinho. “We expected a tough game and that is what happened. Al-Faisaly are a well-organised team.”

It was not just a crucial goal that could have a major say in where the title ends up this season but it was the eighth in eight games for Romarinho.

There has been much said and written about the big signing of Abderrazak Hamdallah at the start of this month -and rightly so as the Moroccan marksman is a goal machine – but it is the Brazilian who has been banging them in.

Time is ticking for Jardim at Al-Hilal

It was just two months ago that Leonardo Jardim was lifting the AFC Champions League trophy in Riyadh after leading Al-Hilal to a record fourth continental title, but that felt a long time ago on Friday following a 1-1 draw at relegation strugglers Al-Batin.

Al-Hilal’s league form suffered following that Asian win, with just two points coming from the following four games and that has put Jardim under pressure. Nine points from the next three games suggested that a corner had been turned, even if the points came against struggling teams.

But with Al-Ittihad winning six in a row, Al-Hilal’s trio of wins did not dent the deficit and now they find themselves 10 points behind the leaders. It is going to take something special for the defending champions to catch up. At the moment, the champs don’t seem to have it and are less than the sum of their talented parts,

Next comes the FIFA Club World Cup. There are not going to be any coaching changes before then but Jardim can’t afford too many more missteps.

Relegation teams are tough nuts to crack

You have to feel a little sorry for Al-Faisaly. The King’s Cup winners have picked up just two points from the last seven games and it is no surprise that they are in danger of the drop, one place off the bottom.

Yet Al-Faisaly are a decent team and deserved a point from their trip to Jeddah to take on the leaders. In the last four games they have met Al-Ittihad, Al-Nassr, Al-Ahli and Al-Hilal. That is a punishing schedule. It is not a surprise that they collected just a point though deserved a little more.

Those at the top know that there are no easy games and no easy points. Al-Taawoun gave Al-Nassr a real test and were left feeling that they should have come away from that clash with a point and Al-Batin did get a point against Saudi Arabian and Asian champions Al-Hilal.

Al-Shabab can’t afford to keep dropping points

On the first day of 2022 Al-Shabab were just a point off the top but Thursday’s 1-1 draw at home to Al-Fateh was the third in succession for last season’s runners-up. Those six dropped points are a problem when Al-Ittihad, the team in first place, keep winning.

There were complaints about the refereeing again but, while it is easy for the title-chasers to blame the officials, there was a simpler explanation for the result.

Al-Shabab had the chances to put the game to bed before Al-Fateh’s late, lovely, curling equaliser. They missed the suspended Ever Banega, however. The Argentine’s craft and guile makes a difference, creates space and upsets defences. At least Odion Ighalo returned to the scoresheet. If the Nigerian, who broke the deadlock with a shot from outside the area, can provide a cutting edge then Al-Shabab have a chance, but after dropping six points it is now a slim one.


Saudi Arabia’s second Spartan Race tests competitors in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s second Spartan Race tests competitors in Riyadh
Updated 22 January 2022

Saudi Arabia’s second Spartan Race tests competitors in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s second Spartan Race tests competitors in Riyadh
  • Challenge lasted eight hours and was run across 10 kilometers with 25 obstacles

The second Spartan Race, a fitness challenge organized by the Saudi Sports for All Federation, took place on Friday at Dirab Park in Riyadh.

The race lasted eight hours, starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. across 10 km and 25 different obstacles, ranging from mud, water, fire and barbed wire.

 

 

Competitors from all backgrounds took part, heeding SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal’s call “to test their limits.”

“I did very much enjoy it, this is my sixth time participating in a Spartan Race, and my first race in Saudi,” said Rayan Al-Ghanim, head of South Area Petrophysics at Saudi Aramco. “I have to say that the organization was excellent and my overall experience keeps getting better each time.”

“Most memorable obstacle was the rope climb, I didn’t manage to do it the last time around but I was successful in this one; the key trick was to use my feet as well in the climb, trying to wrap the rope in tight around it,” he said. “Can’t wait for the next Spartan.”

There was also a Spartan Sprint race on a 5 km track, with 20 obstacles, the first for women and men, the second only for women, in addition to three races for children.

Inspired by the warrior culture of ancient Sparta and featuring dozens of obstacles designed to test strength, stamina, endurance and perseverance, Spartan Races have become popular across the world since launching in 2010, with more than 2,500 annual events hosted across 42 countries to date.

Saudi Arabia’s first Spartan Race took place in the mountains of Al-Soudah during the Asir Season in 2019, drawing more than 1,500 competitors and spectators.


Eddie Howe lauds Marcelo Bielsa as Newcastle seek second win of season at Leeds

Eddie Howe lauds Marcelo Bielsa as Newcastle seek second win of season at Leeds
Updated 22 January 2022

Eddie Howe lauds Marcelo Bielsa as Newcastle seek second win of season at Leeds

Eddie Howe lauds Marcelo Bielsa as Newcastle seek second win of season at Leeds
  • Magpies will head to Saudi Arabia after the match for a warm-weather training camp and are set to take on Al-Ittihad in Jeddah on Friday

NEWCASTLE: Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe has described opposite number Marcelo Bielsa as one of the “best managers in world football.”

The Magpies head to Leeds United’s Elland Road looking to secure only their second win of the Premier League season — and Howe says that his side will not experience another challenge like that of facing Bielsa & Co. in their quest to secure safety.

“He is one of the best managers in world football,” Howe said of the Argentine. “He has an idea, and it is not the norm. And I think anyone who has those strong beliefs and does things differently has my full respect. He has been successful and taken his ideas to a lot of clubs.”

“As a student of the game I have seen a lot of his work. I like his ideas. A lot of respect for him.”

The Whites are often criticized for their cavalier approach, with goals at both ends the norm for Bielsa’s men.

Howe doesn’t quite see it that way, though.

“I don’t think they are completely gung-ho. I think there is a lot to admire about Leeds’ out of possession work. It is really intriguing,” he said.

“They play with a really high intensity and we have to match that. With the ball they have their set patterns, which are very effective.

“This is a very unique game, there is no other game in the Premier League like Leeds’ — and we have to be ready for it.”

All the talk in the build-up to the game has been in relation to transfers, with frustration building that early-window progress has not been followed up with yet more positive business.

United signed Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood in the opening fortnight of the window but have done nothing for the past nine days.

And while Howe is frustrated himself, he still thinks it is more about getting the right players in, not just any players, even with the Magpies’ plight so desperate.

“Positivity, leadership, a winning mentality. You have to try to bring those characters into the group. Because I think if you don’t, the dynamics of the group can change for the negative,” said Howe on transfers.

“New players don’t guarantee improvement. They have to be the right players. And the two we’ve brought so far have done that. “They’ve brought a positive energy.”

And what about those currently in the squad?

“I encourage them not to look at it,” he said of the constant transfer talk. “But if they do see it, they should not take it as a slight. We are wanting to bring players in to improve for the benefit of everyone.”

“The most important people at this football club are the players we do have.”

Meanwhile, the Magpies are set to take on Al-Ittihad on Friday as part of their warm-weather training camp in Saudi Arabia.

The game is reportedly set to take place at the Prince Abdullah Faisal stadium, Jeddah.


Samia Khaled, named best goalkeeper in Saudi Women’s League, shares dream of turning pro

Saudi footballer Samia Khaled was named best goalkeeper in the inaugural Saudi Women’s League Championship. (Supplied)
Saudi footballer Samia Khaled was named best goalkeeper in the inaugural Saudi Women’s League Championship. (Supplied)
Updated 22 January 2022

Samia Khaled, named best goalkeeper in Saudi Women’s League, shares dream of turning pro

Saudi footballer Samia Khaled was named best goalkeeper in the inaugural Saudi Women’s League Championship. (Supplied)
  • She said she is proud to be part of the Al-Mamlaka side that won the inaugural SWL title this month, and would love to represent her country and play in Europe
  • Khaled named Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, who plays for Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, as one of her role models

RIYADH: Saudi footballer Samia Khaled, who was named best goalkeeper in the inaugural Saudi Women’s League Championship, said she is proud to be part of the Al-Mamlaka side that won the title this month.

Her personal award reflects the key role she played in her team during the tournament. In the final match against Al-Tahadi, for example, she kept a clean sheet as her side cruised to a 7-0 victory.

She said her ambition is to win more championships and develop her skills further in a bid to become a professional and play abroad one day, particularly in Europe.

Khaled lists Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, who plays for Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, as a role model and hopes that like him, she will have the chance to represent her country.

She thanked all those who have supported her football dreams, including family, friends and the fans who cheer her on when she plays. There was special thanks for Mohammed Khalfan, who has been her trainer for several years, from futsal level up to her current position.

She also had advice for other women in the country interested in building a career in the sport: “Female Saudi players need more experience and skills, and need to build their body strength and increase speed and power.”


Gerrard ‘shocked’ Benitez took Everton job

Gerrard ‘shocked’ Benitez took Everton job
Updated 21 January 2022

Gerrard ‘shocked’ Benitez took Everton job

Gerrard ‘shocked’ Benitez took Everton job
  • Benitez, who coached Gerrard for six years at Anfield, was sacked last weekend after just seven months in charge at Goodison Park
  • Gerrard makes his return to enemy territory on Saturday as Aston Villa manager

LIVERPOOL: Steven Gerrard has revealed his surprise that former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez took on the challenge of managing rivals Everton.
Benitez, who coached Gerrard for six years at Anfield, was sacked last weekend after just seven months in charge at Goodison Park.
The Spaniard’s appointment was unpopular among Everton fans from the beginning and he left with the club sitting 16th in the table after a run of one win in 13 games.
Gerrard makes his return to enemy territory on Saturday as Aston Villa manager, hoping to deepen Everton’s fears of being dragged into a relegation battle.
“I’m disappointed for Rafa because obviously I’ve got a relationship and I’ve got an awful lot of respect for him,” said Gerrard.
“I have to be honest, I thought it was a unique appointment at the time. I was surprised and shocked that Rafa wanted to go and have a go at that job.
“With his legacy and his relationship with Liverpool, that was a surprise.”
Duncan Ferguson will take temporary charge of the Toffees at the weekend and Gerrard is expecting a frosty reception as a Liverpool legend.
“Loads of abuse, loads of banter, which is fine, because it takes the heat off my players and they can focus on playing,” he added.
“My shoulders are broad enough and my skin’s thick enough to accept it. I enjoy that warm welcome and I’ve got no problem with it.”