French jiu-jitsu champion Haidar Abbas going for gold in Abu Dhabi

French jiu-jitsu champion Haidar Abbas going for gold in Abu Dhabi
Haidar Abbas will be in action at the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro this weekend. (Haidar Abbas)
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Updated 12 March 2021

French jiu-jitsu champion Haidar Abbas going for gold in Abu Dhabi

French jiu-jitsu champion Haidar Abbas going for gold in Abu Dhabi
  • 24-year-old will be in action at Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro event on Saturday

ABU DHABI: At the age of 24, Haidar Abbas has quite the jiu-jitsu CV.

A call-up to the French national team, a national championship, and a third-place finish at his first ever IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) World Championship in 2015. The following year, he finished second.

But his most prestigious win was yet to come.

Abbas, who was born and raised in Paris, said: “At the 2017 World Games, I took first place. It’s like the Olympics, takes place every four years, and is organized by the Olympic committee. Basically, it’s all the sports that are not in the Olympics but are pushing to be.”

He was the only Frenchman to bring in a jiu-jitsu gold, an achievement he is immensely proud of.

That win as a 21-year-old was followed up with another third-place finish at the 2018 World Championship, and in 2019 he also took third at the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship event in Abu Dhabi (ADWPJJC).

Now he is back in the UAE capital for the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro (AJP), and on Saturday will take part in the black belt under-77kg category. Not bad for someone whose first love was football.

“I had a friend in my class who had been practicing jiu-jitsu since he was a kid, he was maybe doing judo at four and jiu-jitsu at eight or nine. So, he was the one who introduced me to jiu-jitsu,” added Abbas.

Over the last year, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic caused major disruptions to most athletes’ schedules but Abbas’ jiu-jitsu status in his home country meant he was given special dispensation to train.

“For me it was okay. In France we have status for high-level athletes which you can get depending on the criteria of your federation. My federation required that athletes make a podium at the world championship. The judo or wrestling federations might be different,” he said.

Recent months have been spent training under the eye of Aurelien Broussal Derval, the French national technical director at the Federation Francaise d’Haltérophilie-Musculation (FFHM), the country’s bodybuilding federation.

Being in a limited category meant Abbas was allowed to train with fewer restrictions than others.

“You won’t get in trouble with the police. He (Derval) is a good friend of mine, and also there is a gym only for high-level athletes, Fit Health Station in Charenton-le-Pont. So basically, for me I was training normally. The only problem was that when I say training normally, that applied only to conditioning not jiu-jitsu,” he added.

Finding someone to fight, within France’s lockdown laws, was a different matter, and required some creative solutions.

“In France there are only two guys who have high-level athlete status in jiu-jitsu, me and another guy who weighs a lot more,” Abbas said.

“So, I ended up training, legally, with other guys who were training illegally, everybody was doing this in France. For conditioning it was very good because I was training with the best guy you can train with in France for physical preparation. But for jiu-jitsu it was a bit complicated.”

Having landed and trained in Dubai after a year out of competitive action, Abbas is now itching to get fighting at the AJP Tour event, a tournament, which alongside the bigger ADWPJJC, has made Abu Dhabi a global jiu-jitsu hub.

“Services in the Middle East are amazing. For me, competing in Abu Dhabi is the best thing I can do as a jiu-jitsu athlete. For us, it is the center of jiu-jitsu. They are pushing so hard for the sport to enter in the Olympics, they hold so many competitions, they have big prize money. For the last 10 years, everything has been in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

Though in terms of size and longevity the Abu Dhabi World Pro by the UAE JJF remains marginally behind the IBJJF World Championship at the Walter Pyramid in Los Angeles, Abbas believes the Emiratis have surpassed other hosts in several areas.

“The competition level, the organization (elsewhere) is not even close to Abu Dhabi,” he said.

A year out of competition, as well as outside business ventures, meant that Abbas had to multiply his training efforts in recent months.

“The last competition I did was in March 2020. I’ve been training really hard for this. After the World Games, I opened a nutrition shop at the end of 2018. But because of COVID-19 I had to close it. So, from September I was back to training twice a day.

“I’ve been training really, really hard and for this competition and I actually prepared as if I was preparing for the World Championship IBJJF or Abu Dhabi World Pro,” he added.

When he steps onto the mat on Saturday, only one thing will be on his mind.

“I’m aiming for the gold medal for sure,” he said. “There are 10 guys, I start in the quarter-finals, and then I have a semi-final and final if I make it. I’m prepared really well and aiming for gold.


Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash
Updated 15 May 2021

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash

Djokovic and Nadal set up sixth Italian Open final duel and 57th career clash
  • Djokovic and Nadal last played in the 2020 French Open final, which the Spaniard won
  • Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them

ROME: World number one Novak Djokovic on Saturday battled past Italian Lorenzo Sonego to set up a clash with nine-time winner Rafael Nadal for the sixth time in the Italian Open final.
Defending champion Djokovic won through 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2 in 2hr 44min against the 33rd-ranked Italian after second seed Nadal earlier swept past American Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic had earlier survived a three-set battle with Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas in their rain-delayed quarter-finals.
The five-time Rome winner had been trailing 6-4, 2-1 when the tie was halted overnight.
But he came back to win through 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 after 3hr 16min.
Djokovic and Nadal, who will be facing each other for the 57th time, last played in the 2020 French Open final which the Spaniard won.
The pair have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them while Nadal leads their head-to-head in finals in the Italian capital 3-2.
Djokovic had two match points in the 12th game of the second set of his semifinal before Sonego forced a third set to the delight of the home crowd in the Foro Italico.
The Serb saved three break points in the first game of the third set, coming back from 0-40 before powering toward his 11th Rome final
“I think I bounced back very well after the second set and 0-40, maybe if he started with a break up in the third it would be different,” said Djokovic.
“I’ve only myself to blame for not closing the match in the second set, I could have and should have.
“First of all I need to recover. I don’t have much time but hopefully I’ll have fresh legs necessary to have against Rafa.”
Djokovic and Nadal have won 14 of the last 16 Rome titles between them with Djokovic leading their overall head-to-head 29-27.
Nadal is looking to equal Djokovic’s record of 36 ATP Masters 1000 titles in his 12th Rome final.


Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0
Updated 15 May 2021

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0

Leicester wins FA Cup for first time beating Chelsea 1-0
  • After losing four finals, Leicester’s name is finally etched onto the cup of world football’s oldest competition
  • The team from central England is a champion again, five years after Morgan collected the Premier League trophy

LONDON: Youri Tielemans was preparing for the FA Cup final on Saturday when he received a text message with a clear instruction: Aim for the top corner.
When the ball landed at the Leicester midfielder’s feet, 63 minutes into the 140th final, a powerful shot from 30 meters was aimed just where he had been advised.
It was a sensational way to win the FA Cup for the first time in Leicester’s 137-year history, 1-0 against Champions League finalist Chelsea.
Even sweeter than the strike was Leicester being able to celebrate in front of its own fans as Wembley Stadium hosted England’s biggest crowd — more than 20,000 who tested negative for the coronavirus — in 14 months.
“Wow, what a finish,” Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said. “I didn’t dare to celebrate because there’s always VAR.”
Not that time. Instead, the video assistant review came to Leicester’s rescue in the 89th minute to prevent Wes Morgan from a moment of heartache.
The 37-year-old club captain had been on the pitch for only seven minutes when he accidentally deflected in former teammate Ben Chilwell’s cross. But one of those marginal offsides that so irritate players and fans was detected and the roars of Leicester fans were even louder than the moment Tielemans scored.
After losing four finals — the first in 1949 at the old Wembley — Leicester’s name is finally etched onto the cup of world football’s oldest competition. The team from central England is a champion again, five years after Morgan collected the Premier League trophy.
Players — such as Chelsea duo Chilwell and N’Golo Kante — have left since that improbable 5,000-1 title triumph but Morgan and matchday captain Schmeichel are still there to celebrate again, this time in a moment tinged with sadness.
Inside the jerseys at Wembley were photos of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the club’s Thai owner until he died in 2018 when his helicopter crashed in flames next to King Power Stadium.
“He is always with us, Kun Vichai,” said Schmeichel before handing the FA Cup on the field to Vichai’s son, Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, who now runs the club.
Also in tribute to Vichai was a banner covering seats in the closed third tier at Wembley, with his quote, “Our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
In a game of few chances, Thiago Silva’s slack pass allowed Leicester to score. Ayoze Pérez intercepted the clearance and Luke Thomas passed across to the unmarked Tielemans to drive forward before striking from 30 yards into the top corner.
Saves from Schmeichel as much as VAR helped to preserve the lead; he used one hand to push Chilwell’s shot onto the post in the 78th and blocked Mason Mount’s volley in the 87th.
“I’ve dreamed of this since I was a child,” Schmeichel said. “The performance today — the grit and determination — I’m so proud of everyone.”
It’s far from season over for Leicester. There’s another match against Chelsea to come on Tuesday which could clinch Champions League qualification for the second time ever. Sitting third, Leicester holds a two-point lead over Chelsea.
“Today we enjoy, and tomorrow we dust ourselves down and can’t really think about this anymore,” Schmeichel said. “Chelsea are a top-class side and are going to want revenge.”
The west London club has lost consecutive FA Cup finals, with Thomas Tuchel failing just as Frank Lampard did. But Tuchel can still win the biggest prize in club football against Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29 in Porto.
“We are disappointed and not angry with our performance,” Tuchel said.
Chelsea was a key early stop in Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers’ coaching career, with the youth team around 15 years ago. While Rodgers has won trophies in Scotland with Celtic, he fell short in English football with Watford, Swansea and Liverpool until Saturday. Now, for the first time since Harry Redknapp with Portsmouth in 2008, a British manager has picked up the FA Cup.
“The success of this team and club is getting to positions like this and competing,” Rodgers said. “The so-called bigger clubs are expected to win but our success is competing and if we can perform like today we can go and win. What a day for everyone involved with Leicester.”

ACTIVISM
Chelsea and Leicester took a knee before kickoff, which has been a feature of games in England since June as part of calls to eradicate racial injustice in society following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But there was some booing by fans against the anti-racism gesture that was largely drowned out by applause and cheers.
In the post-match celebrations, Hamza Choudhury and Wesley Fofana were wrapped in a Palestinian flag amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas in and around Gaza.

PREMIER LEAGUE
Leeds is on for a top-half finish in its first season back in the Premier League after 16 years. A 4-0 victory over Burnley was started by Mateusz Klich curling in the opener before halftime, followed in the second half by Jack Harrison and Rodrigo’s double. Fulham, one the three sides already relegated, lost at Southampton 3-1.


Al-Ittihad settles financial dispute with the Aleksandar Pesic

The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and  former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
Updated 15 May 2021

Al-Ittihad settles financial dispute with the Aleksandar Pesic

The financial dispute between Al-Ittihad and  former striker Aleksandar Pešić has been settled. (Arriyadiyah)
  • Schedule of payments for $2m owed to Serbian striker ensures Jeddah club will not face FIFA sanctions

RIYADH: Saudi Pro League club Al-Ittihad has reached a settlement with former striker Aleksandar Pesic, with the club set to schedule a payment plan of $2 million owed to the player, Arabic language sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

The 28-year-old Serbian, who left the club in 2020, filed a formal complaint with FIFA calling for overdue fees to be paid.

According to Arriyadiyah’s sources, the agreement between the two parties is final, ensuring that the Jeddah club will not be hit with sanctions by FIFA.

The first of the player payments is due in the coming months.

Al-Ittihad signed Pesic in July 2018 on a three-year contract, before sending him to South Korean club FC Seoul on loan for 18 months at the beginning of 2019. The player then moved to Maccabi Tel Aviv on free transfer last year.


Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve
Updated 15 May 2021

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve

Gomis stoppage-time penalty miss gives Al-Hilal’s title rivals unexpected reprieve
  • hampions wasted opportunity to go six points clear of Al-Shabab at top of SPL table

Leaders Al-Hilal missed a golden opportunity to take decisive step toward a 17th Saudi Professional League (SPL) title after drawing 1-1 with Al-Batin only hours after second-placed Al-Shabab had lost 4-3 in a dramatic match against Ettifaq.

A win would have put the reigning champions six points ahead of Al-Shabab with three matches left, but a stoppage-time penalty miss by French forward Bafetimbi Gomis means that nagging doubts will persist at least until round 28 of the SPL.

While Al-Hilal lead the table by four points, third-place Al-Ittihad could re-enter the title race by going second in the table, one point above Al-Shabab, with a win over Damac on Saturday.

Al-Hilal started strongly at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium and took the lead through top scorer Gomis at 17 minutes.

The expected comfortable evening for Al-Hilal did not materialize, however, and Al-Batin equalized through Mohamed Rayhi in the 29th minute.

Youssef El-Jebli almost gave Al-Batin a first-half lead when his shot just missed Abdullah Al-Mayouf’s goal.

Al-Hilal coach Jose Morais introduced Salem and Nasser Al-Dawsari for Andre Carrillo and Luciano Vietto, but despite sustained pressure could not break down Al-Batin’s defense.

The Riyadh giants were then given a priceless opportunity to win the match with the late penalty, but Gomis struck the bar with the last shot of the match.

Al-Hilal will next host Al-Ahli on Wednesday, while Al-Shabab welcome Al-Ain on the same night and Al-Ittihad travel to Abha the following day.


Al-Arabi end 19-year drought to claim Kuwaiti Premier League title

Al-Arabi end 19-year drought to claim Kuwaiti Premier League title
Updated 15 May 2021

Al-Arabi end 19-year drought to claim Kuwaiti Premier League title

Al-Arabi end 19-year drought to claim Kuwaiti Premier League title
  • Comfortable 3-0 win over Al-Sahel means Al-Arabi cannot be caught by Qadsia, who drew 1-1 with Kazma

Al-Arabi have won the Kuwaiti Premier League for the first time in 19 years after defeating Al-Sahel 3-0 in the 17th and penultimate stage of the season.

Lead by Croatian coach Ante Mise, Al-Arabi now have an unassailable 43 points, with second-placed Qadsia stuck at 36 points after a 1-1 draw with Kazma.

The title is the 17th in Al-Arabi’s history, a record the club now shares with Qadsia. Kuwait SC have 16 titles, in front of Al-Salmiya, Kazma (four each) and Al-Jahra (one).

In what turned out to be a tension-free night for the new champions, Al-Arabi scored three times in the first half through Bander Al-Salamah, Syrian Alaa Al-Dali and Palestinian Oday Dabbagh from a penalty.

The second half ended scoreless, and the final whistle brought ecstatic celebrations from Al-Arabi’s players, management and fans at Sabah Al-Salem Stadium.