Emirati and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters head the list of big winners at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro

Emirati and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters head the list of big winners at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro
The two-day 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro attracted 500 fighters from 30 countries. (AJP Tour)
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Updated 14 March 2021

Emirati and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters head the list of big winners at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro

Emirati and Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighters head the list of big winners at the 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro
  • 500 fighters from 30 countries took part in the two-day event which acts as a preparation platform for upcoming Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship

DUBAI: The 2021 Abu Dhabi International Pro wrapped up on Saturday at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena with fighters from the UAE, Brazil and Colombia heading the list of winners among the local and international 500 participants at the two-day event.

Organized by the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF), the governing body for the sport in the UAE, the Abu Dhabi International Pro, a key stop on the Abu Dhabi Jiu-Jitsu Pro (AJP) Tour, welcomed male and female white and blue belts on day one, while purple, brown, and black belts took center stage on day two.

Held under the theme ‘Road to Recovery’, the Abu Dhabi International Pro gave athletes a platform to prepare for the biggest and most prestigious championship on the global jiu-jitsu calendar, the 12th edition of Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which will take place from 6-9 April 2021.

Taking to the mat at the weekend were Jiu-jitsu fighters representing Brazil, Colombia, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Palestine, El Salvador, Israel, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, India, France, Canada, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Ireland, Bahrain, Italy, Sweden, Tajikistan, Iran, the Philippines and Iraq.

Local UAE athletes showed how much of a force they have become on the global stage, topping the rankings with 43,410 points and 86 combined gold, silver and bronze medals across juvenile, adult and masters male and female categories. Brazilian athletes finished second overall with 32,300 points and 65 medals, with fellow South Americans Colombia in third with 20 medals and 10,500 points.

“The UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation gave us the opportunity to compete on the mat again following a challenging year with the pandemic,” said Pedro Alexander (69 kg) from Brazil who captured the gold in the men's masters’ black belt category.

“I have trained extensively for this championship and the hard work paid off. Abu Dhabi once again proved why it is the capital of jiu-jitsu with its ability to successfully host such an international championship while ensuring the health and safety of all participants.”

In the Best Academy competition, Commando Group Club topped the podium with 21,450 points, ahead of Sharjah Self-Defence Sports Club (19,950 points) and Al Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club (17,200 points).

After bagging the gold in the adult 49kg women’s purple division on day two, Wadima Alyafei, from Al Ain Jiu-Jitsu Club, said: “We proved today as UAE jiu-jitsu players that we are able to match up against anyone in the world. Today's victory is an important step that brings us closer and strengthens our readiness for the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship next month. The Abu Dhabi International Pro provided us a great opportunity to fully understand what it takes to compete in an international championship amid strict precautionary health and safety measures.”

The UAE’s Mayed Al Shehhi (62 kg), who bagged the gold medal in the blue belt division said the experience of participating in a high-quality field was extremely beneficial and had allowed him to test his full range of skills.

“The tournament was a great experience as we had some really strong participation,” he said.

“I am happy to finish with a gold medal in the 62kg category, especially after closing out a few tough bouts. The experience of competing in this tournament will help me as I fine-tune my preparations for the upcoming Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” he said.

Marwa Al Hosani claimed the gold medal in the 70kg class in the adults’ blue belt division and said: “I am just glad that I got the chance to get some competitive experience and sharpen a few techniques that I have been working on. The mentality during training and in competitions is very different and I am happiest about the fact that I was able to compete according to my plans even when I was under pressure.”


Tyson Fury says heavyweight showdown against Anthony Joshua to take place in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 14

Tyson Fury says heavyweight showdown against Anthony Joshua to take place in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 14
Updated 29 min 41 sec ago

Tyson Fury says heavyweight showdown against Anthony Joshua to take place in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 14

Tyson Fury says heavyweight showdown against Anthony Joshua to take place in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 14
  • 'All eyes of the world will be on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,' Fury says in Twitter video
  • Between them, the two British boxers hold all four major versions of the heavyweight title

LONDON: Tyson Fury said Sunday his long-awaited world heavyweight title unification bout against Anthony Joshua would take place in Saudi Arabia on August 14.
"Massive announcement FURY VS JOSHUA IS ON AUGUST 14 in The kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The worlds (sic) biggest sporting event all eyes on us," Fury tweeted.


Between them, the two British boxers hold all four major versions of the heavyweight title.
Saudi Arabia staged the 31-year-old Joshua's rematch against Andy Ruiz, when the Briton regained his WBA, IBF and WBO titles in December 2019, putting him on a collision course with Fury, who became the WBC champion shortly afterwards.
In a video posted to Twitter, Fury said: "I have got some massive news. I have just got off the phone with Prince Khalid of Saudi Arabia and he told me this fight is 100 percent on, August 14."
Fury, a year older than Joshua, added: "All eyes of the world will be on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
"I cannot wait, I repeat, cannot wait to smash Anthony Joshua on the biggest stage of all-time.
"This is going to be the biggest sporting event ever to grace the planet Earth. Do not miss it."
What is widely expected to be the richest fight in British boxing history started to loom into view when Fury stopped Deontay Wilder to win the WBC title in February last year after Joshua had avenged the only loss of his professional career by defeating Ruiz.
Joshua retained his three belts in December with a ninth-round knockout of mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev.
Meanwhile a third fight between Fury and Wilder has failed to take place, meaning the 'lineal champion' has been inactive in more than 12 months since stopping Wilder in Las Vegas.

 


Kane strikes as Spurs continue Champions League quest

Kane strikes as Spurs continue Champions League quest
Updated 17 May 2021

Kane strikes as Spurs continue Champions League quest

Kane strikes as Spurs continue Champions League quest
  • The top four in the Premier League are assured of a place in the 2021/22 Champions League

LONDON: Harry Kane scored his 22nd Premier League goal of the season as Tottenham Hotspur beat Wolves 2-0 on Sunday to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish.

England captain Kane fired Spurs ahead on the stroke of half-time before Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg doubled their lead in the 62nd minute.

Victory left Spurs in sixth place, five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, with a maximum of six points available to them from their final two league games.

The top four in the Premier League are assured of a place in the 2021/22 Champions League.

Already crowned Premier League title-winners Manchester City and Chelsea will contest this season’s Champions League final in Porto on May 29.

But if the Blues — beaten in Saturday’s FA Cup final by Leicester — remain in the top four there won’t be an additional Champions League place given to the fifth-placed side in the Premier League.

Deposed English champions Liverpool, currently fifth, will move to within a point of Chelsea if they win away to already-relegated West Bromwich Albion later Sunday.

Eighth-placed Everton, Liverpool’s local rivals, are at home to bottom of the table Sheffield United in the day’s concluding Premier League match.

Kane gave Spurs the lead running onto Hojberg’s through ball behind center backs Conor Coady and Romain Saiss.

The Spurs star side-stepped Coady’s challenge and rounded goalkeeper Rui Patricio, before curling the ball into the corner of the net.

Hojberg made it 2-0 just after the hour when he followed up Gareth Bale’s shot and tapped the ball in after Patricio could only parry.

Earlier, Crystal Palace twice came from behind to beat Aston Villa 3-2, with Tyrick Mitchell’s first goal for the club sealing victory six minutes from time.

John McGinn’s third goal of the season put Villa ahead in the 17th minute at Selhurst Park before Christian Benteke equalized against his former club with a 32nd-minute header.

But Palace fell behind again two minutes later when Anwar El Ghazi scored from close range.

The Eagles equalized for a second time in the 76th minute when Wilfried Zaha grabbed his 11th goal of the season with low shot deflected in off Ahmed Elmohamady.

The comeback was complete in the 84th minute when the 21-year-old Mitchell followed up from close range after teammate Eberechi Eze had miscued.

Victory lifted south London club Palace to 13th.


Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad

Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad
Updated 16 May 2021

Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad

Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad
  • The 21-year-old has already won the inaugural Women’s Football League with her club in November 2020

JEDDAH: Tala Al-Ghamdi is making up for lost time. Not only for herself, but for all Saudi female footballers.

The launch of the Women’s Football League (WFL) in November 2020 brought together 600 players from 24 teams in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, finally giving Saudi female players the opportunities and recognition they deserve on a national level.

In a short period of time, Al-Ghamdi, who plays for Jeddah Eagles, the winners of the inaugural WFL, has become one of the game’s most promising talents.

Her passion for football and her determination to see women’s football advance in Saudi Arabia began when she first kicked a ball at the age of six.

“I was always into sports, it was a part of my family as well,” said Al-Ghamdi. “We watched various local and international sports tournaments in the country. But, specifically, it was football that I enjoyed the most when I was playing with my relatives, even though girls were not encouraged to be involved with sports. When I was younger, I played with my cousins and the boys in the neighborhood.”

Determined to pursue a career in the sport she joined Jeddah Eagles at the age of 19, where she was given the opportunity to play in the Jeddah Women’s League. Today, three years after joining the team, Al-Ghamdi is competing in the first WFL.

“In my childhood, when we played with the boys they used to put the girls in the position of goalkeeper, but I trusted my abilities and skills, which I believed were good enough for me to be part of the team,” she said.

Al-Ghamd admits that without the support of her parents, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

“When I was young, I just imagined playing football. I continued playing until academies and women’s football competitions started being organised in Jeddah.”

Today, while Al-Ghamdi is thankful that the wider society has changed to the extent that it accepts women’s football, she feels that there is room for more support.

“There’s a lot to be done, honestly,” she said. “The grassroots and younger teams are going in the right direction. Mainly, we need to first accept women’s football culturally. We have all the facilities, the government allows us to play the game and the leadership is supportive, providing all the facilities. But it would make a world of difference if the whole country got behind the game.”

Her ambition is to eventually represent her country at regional and international tournaments. While the Saudi Arabia Football Federation has yet to set up a women’s senior national team, she says she would continue to contribute to the growth of the game and make sure she reaches her personal best.

“For me, the dream would be to play for the Saudi national team,” she said. “But realistically, I really wish to see Saudi women’s football get to the level it deserves. We are on the right path and, if we continue working hard, we will get there.”

Al-Ghamdi has called for the support of women’s football to match the ambitions of Saudi female players who are currently playing in the WFL.

The future is certainly looking brighter on that front with recent developments at continental level that should have a positive impact on the game inside the kingdom.

The latest AFC Women’s Club Licensing criteria are part of the AFC Club Licensing Regulations (Edition 2021), which were ratified by the confederation’s executive committee in January and are expected to have a similar game-changing impact to that on the men’s game, with a focus on sporting, infrastructure, personnel, administrative, legal and financial requirements.

This opens up the possibility of Al-Ghamdi and other Saudi female footballers participating in the newly announced AFC Women’s Champions League, set to kick off in 2023, and which promises to become Asia’s premier women’s club tournament.

“This is very encouraging news and I hope to represent my favorite club, which is Al-Ittihad,” she said.

The 21-year-old right-back also revealed the local and international players she looks up to.

“My role model in world football is Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Liverpool player, for being the modern right-back, and my favorite local player is the rising star Saud Abdel Hamid from Al-Ittihad football club, as he also plays in the position in which I play.”

For now, Al-Ghamdi’s vision for the future of the game remains simple and inclusive.

“My dream is that any girl in Saudi Arabia should have the opportunity to enjoy sport to the maximum and to see the Saudi national team in international tournaments.”


5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League round as top teams stumble

5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League round as top teams stumble
Updated 16 May 2021

5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League round as top teams stumble

5 things we learned from latest Saudi Pro League round as top teams stumble
  • Al-Hilal remain in pole position despite draw; Al-Shabab and Al-Ittihad fading; relegation battle hotting up

It was another action-packed weekend in the Saudi Pro League as the season draws close to the end. There were thrilling clashes, dropped points and shocking defeats. Most teams have just three games remaining, but there is still plenty to play for at both ends of the table. Here are five things we learned from the latest action.

1. Al-Shabab are spent

There seems to be no other way to say it. The team, vibrant and full of attacking ideas just a few weeks ago, seemed set for the title. But you cannot lose four out of five games at this stage of the season and still expect to get your hands on the trophy. They are now four points behind leaders Al-Hilal with a far inferior goal difference and there does not seem to be any way back. 

The 5-1 loss to Al-Hilal last week could have been written off as an aberration, especially as a red card had a major effect. But to lose 4-3 to Al-Ettifaq on Friday suggests that there is no way back even with what seems to be a gentle run-in. It was not a bad performance, but it was not the performance of champions.

It started well though. Former Manchester United striker Odion Ighalo had the Riyadh club 2-0 up by the midway point of the first half and all was looking good, but then it all went wrong.

There was no secret about the defeat, no turning point: Al-Shabab missed chances and then made mistakes at the back. Coach Carlos Inarejos lamented his team’s luck, and while the young Spaniard did have a point, losing four out of five when the trophy is in sight is not just about luck. 

2. Wonder goal trips up Al-Hilal but champs still on course

Jose Morais’s first game on the sidelines as boss of Al-Hilal was something of a disappointment. Had the champions defeated Al-Batin — a team fighting relegation that had picked up just two points from the previous six games — instead of drawing 1-1, the players would have been close enough to the trophy to see their reflection. 

Al-Hilal took the lead thanks to another fine example of finishing from the league’s leading goal-scorer Bafetimbi Gomis, a wonderful rising volley. But that was nothing compared to Mohammed Rayhi’s strike on the half-hour. 

The Dutch attacker picked up the ball inside his own half as Al-Batin counterattacked, ran to the edge of the Al-Hilal area and unleashed an unstoppable shot. You will not see a better goal all season. It looks like being a significant strike at both ends of the table has not only slowed down Al-Hilal’s march to the title, but could end up saving Al-Batin.

Al-Hilal had a number of chances to win the game, but it was fitting that these were wasted. Rayhi did not deserve to be on the losing side after what he did. Still, the champs are four points clear and looking good.

3. Relegation battle hotting up

Al-Ain became the first team to be relegated this season, though this had been coming for a while. As a newly promoted team, they had started the season with four straight defeats, and while there were occasional rallies, it always looked doomed.

However, others at the bottom are putting up more of a fight. Al-Batin did their survival chances no harm by picking up a point against Al-Hilal, and after eight successive defeats in all competitions, Al-Wehda finally returned to winning ways with an impressive 3-2 win at Al-Fateh.

There is often one team that comes back almost from the dead, and this season it is Damac. Coming off the back of three wins and two draws from the previous five games, the clash against Al-Ittihad was a big one, and it shows how much improved the team are that they were disappointed to draw 1-1.

4. Al-Ittihad in danger of missing out on Asia

The Tigers should be thankful that they have rallied after a slow start to even think about being in the title race, but that dream is surely over. The 1-1 draw with an in-form Damac means they are now five points behind Al-Hilal. More importantly, it means Al-Ittihad have slipped into fourth place behind Al-Taawoun on goal difference.

The focus is now on getting back into the top three and clinching a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League. The Jeddah club have a game in hand over Al-Taawoun and a decent run-in, but with just one win in the last five games, they need to get their house in order and not squander the hard work of recent weeks. 

5. Al-Ahli breathe sigh of relief

It was perhaps fitting that this 1-0 win over Al-Qadisiyah was settled by a second-half penalty from (who else?) Omar Al-Somah. It was a forgettable game but a big result. Officials at Al-Ahli had been talking of the need just to get a win, however possible, to end a seven-game losing streak.

There have been rumors that the stay in Saudi Arabia of recently appointed coach Laurentiu Regencampf was going to be a short one, and while the win does not mean that the Romanian is safe or that all is now well in the green corner of Jeddah, it does mean that perhaps a corner has been turned. At least the narrative has changed, for now.


Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Updated 16 May 2021

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Saudi table tennis star set for final preparation ahead of Tokyo Olympics
  • Ali Al-Khadrawi’s training will be overseen by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation

Saudi Arabia’s top table tennis player Ali Al-Khadrawi is set for a third and final training camp ahead of his participation in the Tokyo Olympics in July, the Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

With Tokyo 2020 approaching fast, the last stage of his preparation will be approved in the coming days then overseen by the Saudi Table Tennis Federation in the weeks that follow.

Al-Khadrawi’s first training took place in Al-Ahsa region, where he was joined by other members of the Saudi national table tennis team. The second phase was completed last Tuesday in Dammam.

The third stage of his preparation is expected to be abroad, with the place and time to be announced on Tuesday.