Ambitious new competition set to raise bar for amateur golfers in UAE

Ambitious new competition set to raise bar for amateur golfers in UAE
The Emirates Amateur Golf League (EAGL) is a new competition that is set to launch in November 2021, giving eight franchise-owned teams the chance to participate in one of the world’s first leagues of its kind. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 07 April 2021

Ambitious new competition set to raise bar for amateur golfers in UAE

Ambitious new competition set to raise bar for amateur golfers in UAE
  • The brainchild of businessman Sudesh Aggarwal, the EAGL will be contested among eight franchise-owned teams from November 2021

DUBAI: Golf may be at heart individual sports, but sometimes its most memorable moments are found in team competitions.

Few sporting events provide the passion and drama of the legendary Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup every two years, and many other professional and semi-professional tournaments around the world give players of various levels the opportunity to take part in team play.

For most amateur golfers, however, it’s a case of “you’re on your own.”

That could change soon for the UAE’s golf community with the launch of an ambitious team golf league.

The Emirates Amateur Golf League (EAGL) is a new competition that is set to launch in November 2021, giving eight franchise-owned teams the chance to participate in one of the world’s first leagues of its kind.

It’s not lost on founder Sudesh Aggarwal, chairman of Giant Group of Industries, that his brainchild ultimately emerged during a global pandemic.

“The idea to do something like this has been going for about three years, but because of our earlier engagements, we couldn’t act on it,” the Dubai-based Indian businessman said. “But the pandemic made us realize that we’ve got some free time to think about it, and then we put the pieces together. The idea has been there for quite some time. Being an amateur golfer myself, I’ve been playing for 25 years, and there is an inherent desire in every amateur golfer to play like a professional or in a professional golf setup.”

The inaugural season of the EAGL, which will be managed by Giant Entertainment & Events DMCC, will take place later this year, and organizers are hatching plans for the action to be screened on local channels.

“It will be broadcast live so your family and friends can see what you do on the golf course,” Aggarwal said. “Most of the amateurs watch professional golf and play club tournaments or corporate tournaments, but we felt there was a gap between those and the professional tournaments. So, we are creating something in-between. This is many steps above club tournaments and corporate tournaments but below professional tournaments.

“It is an expensive proposition, and there are several stakeholders involved in the league — the team owners, title sponsors, partners and players,” he added. “We are committed to creating value for each stakeholder, and it is a great business opportunity for networking, for branding and for customer development.”

The EAGL season will be played from November 2021 to January 2022 over nine rounds: seven rounds in which each team plays every other once in the round-robin format, followed by the semi-finals and final.

Aggarwal believes the UAE is fertile ground for this idea because of golf’s popularity among the population, the number of courses and the ease of accessibility to them.

The season will launch at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, before moving on to the Els Club and Saadiyat Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, among others, and concluding at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

“This is an ideal place to start a league of this nature,” he said. “The golfing infrastructure in the UAE is one of the best of its kind in the world. The UAE is also hosting some of the premium events of the European Tour and is being promoted as a golfing destination. The other important component is that because it is a melting pot of various nationalities, it creates a passion to play competitive team golf.”

This can be seen from the names of the eight teams signed up for the first EAGL season: Indian Singhs, Dubai Tigers, Abu Dhabi Roars, English Nicks, Asian Jumbos, Korean Chois, Emirates Players and European Seves.

There is a basic standard expected of the participants with league rules stipulating a maximum handicap of 14. Players with a 0-4 handicap will face off against each other as will those with 5-8, 9-11 and 12-14 handicaps.

“The field is open to everyone — men and women — and women will have an adjusted handicap to play against men because they will be playing from the same tees and from the same point,” Aggarwal said. “That is what we are working on, and it will be very exciting competitive golf.”

Aggarwal says the EAGL could be a stepping stone for gifted golfers hoping to have a career in the game, and he is also open to the possibility of launching similar competitions in neighboring countries in the future.

“Two or three years down the line, there could be the possibility of launching a league in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “And with more experience acquired during that time, the league could spread to other locations around the world. We are not limiting this league to the UAE.”


US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand
Updated 24 July 2021

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand

US rebounds from opening loss with 6-1 win over New Zealand
  • Sweden blanked the US 3-0 in the opener
  • New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in its opening match

SAITAMA, Japan: After a stunning loss in the opener, the US women’s soccer team vowed to be ruthless against New Zealand.
And they rebounded in a big way.
The Americans cruised to a 6-1 rout of New Zealand in front of First Lady Jill Biden at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.
With the United States leading 2-0 at the break, Biden arrived in time to watch the team put the game away in the second half at Saitama Stadium.
The United States was blanked by Sweden 3-0 in the opener. It was the team’s first loss since January 2019 and snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak. The Americans had not been held scoreless since 2017.
But the Americans vowed to regain control of the tournament. Defender Kelley O’Hara said the United States needed to be “ruthless” against New Zealand.
“Sweden was a very good team and we didn’t play our best, and when you do that up against a top opponent, they’re going to punish you. So that wasn’t our best performance,” Crystal Dunn said. “I think we came into Game 2 knowing that we don’t go from being a really great team two days ago to not being a great team anymore.”
Rose Lavelle scored off a well-placed pass from Tobin Heath in the ninth minute to give the United States an early lead — and the team’s first goal of the Olympics. Despite the lack of goals, the Americans dominated the half, unlike their out-of-sorts start against the Swedes.
Lindsey Horan scored with a header in the final moments of the half to put the United States up 2-0 at the break. It was Horan’s 23rd international goal and it came on her milestone 100th appearance for the national team.
Horan called it surreal: Her 100th cap while the First Lady looked on in an otherwise empty stadium.
“I think my approach going into this game — obviously it’s in the back of your head that you’re getting your 100th cap — but I didn’t want that to be a factor today, Horan said. “I think we wanted to get the job done and my focus was doing whatever I possibly could to help the team win. I’m happy to get a goal and yeah, it’s nice to have a fan in the stands, too.”
It could have been worse for New Zealand but the United States had four disallowed goals, all for offside, in the first half.
An own-goal by Abby Erceg extended the US lead to 3-0 in the 64th minute. New Zealand avoided the shutout with Betsy Hassett’s goal in the 72nd.
Christen Press, who came in as a second-half substitute, scored from the center of the box in the 80th off a feed from Julie Ertz, before Alex Morgan scored in the final minutes of regulation. Another New Zealand own-goal closed out the game in stoppage time.
“Look, from our perspective I thought we had a terrific 80 minutes and unfortunately the last 10 minutes kind of let us down a little bit on the scoreline,” New Zealand coach Tom Sermanni said. “From an effort perspective, you can’t fault the players, they gave blood sweat and tears on the field tonight to come up against a very good team.”
US coach Vlatko Andonovski made five changes to the starting lineup he used against Sweden, giving Carli Lloyd the start over Morgan, Megan Rapinoe for Press, Ertz for Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett for O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson for captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
The United States, the reigning World Cup champion, has been to every Olympics since women’s soccer joined the event in 1996. The world’s top-ranked team has five gold medals, more than any other nation.
The US also lost the first match of the 2008 Beijing Games, falling to Norway 2-0, but went on to win the gold.
Their nemesis at the Olympics has been Sweden, which booted the Americans from the Rio de Janeiro Games in the quarterfinals five years ago.
“I think we were a little bit more composed, a little bit more patient on the ball this game, and we know it’s going to be challenging chasing that gold medal,” Dunn said. “So we’re not taking anything for granted.”
New Zealand lost to Australia 2-1 in its opening match and the Ferns’ chances of reaching the knockout round grew slim with Saturday’s loss.
New Zealand had not played any matches since March 2020 because of coronavirus restrictions.


Saudi Arabia and Egypt look to keep hopes of Olympic football glory alive against powerhouses Germany and Argentina

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Saudi Arabia and Egypt look to keep hopes of Olympic football glory alive against powerhouses Germany and Argentina

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team. (AFP)
  • The Young Falcons cannot afford another defeat against Rio 2016 silver medalists in their clash at Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday morning

DUBAI: The U-23 teams of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on Sunday go into the second round of matches at the Tokyo 2020 Men’s Football competition with their dreams of progress to the quarterfinals very much alive.

But both will know that against two of the competition’s most formidable teams in Germany and Argentina there will be little margin for error if they are to go into their last group matches later this week with their fates still in their hands.

Despite an encouraging performance in its opening Group D match on Thursday, Saudi Arabia still lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast and now face a strong German team that will be looking to make amends for their 4-2 loss to reigning Olympic champions Brazil.

Coach Saad Al-Shehri has been carrying out training sessions at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Tokyo and will welcome the addition of Firas Al-Buraikan to the squad ahead of the match with the Rio 2016 silver medalists, which will take place in Yokohama International Stadium on Sunday morning (2.30am KSA)

For the Saudi team’s three overage players — Yasser Al-Shahrani, Salman Al-Faraj and Salem Al-Dossary — the clash with Germany will bring back memories of the time they represented the senior national team against the then World champions just six days before the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

In the friendly match at the BayArena in Leverkusen, Germany, Argentinian coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, then in charge of the Saudi national team, started Al-Shahrani at left-back, Al-Dossary as a winger and Salman Al-Faraj in midfield.

The match finished in a 2-1 loss for the Saudis, with Tayseer Al-Jassem scoring a a consolation goal six minutes from the end after the Germans had taken a two-goal lead in the first half through goals by Timo Werner after eight minutes and an own goal by Omar Hawsawi before the break.

Saudi Arabia will play their third and final group match against Brazil on Wednesday, July 28, while Ivory Coast and Germany face off on the same day.

Egypt claimed a priceless point from a scoreless draw with Group C favorites Spain, and will now look for a similar, or even better, outcome against Argentina at the Sapporo Dome on Sunday morning (10.30am KSA).

The Pharaohs have given themselves a real chance of progress to the quarterfinals and could still achieve that with a win against Australia in their final match on Wednesday, even if their match against Argentina should end in defeat. The South Americans will face Spain on the group’s final day.


Tunisia’s Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi wins first Arab Tokyo 2020 medal in Taekwondo

Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2021

Tunisia’s Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi wins first Arab Tokyo 2020 medal in Taekwondo

Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday - a silver in the Taekwondo competition. (AFP)
  • The final was another thriller that was tied 10-10 with about 15 seconds left

LONDON: Tunisia's Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi won the first Arab medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday after reaching the final of the men's Taekwondo 58kg category.

He secured the silver after being beaten by Italy's Vito Dell'Aquila, who secured the gold medal, the Italian's first Olympic medal.

The final was another thriller that was tied 10-10 with about 15 seconds left before Dell’Aquila won with a flurry of scoring strikes.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Saudi rower Husein Alireza finished second in Repechage 3 on Saturday morning to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Men’s Single Sculls competition.

It was dissapointment for Saudi Ali Al-Khadrawi in the Table Tennis Men’s Singles competition at Tokyo 2020, as he made an early exit after going down in straight games to Lubomir Jancarik of Czech Republic.


Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US
Updated 24 July 2021

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US

Mind the gap: The basketball world is catching up to the US
  • The gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened
  • Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players

SAITAMA, Japan: When the Dream Team era started in 1992, most of the NBA players in the Olympics represented the United States.
David Stern knew what would happen from there.
“In time,” the former NBA commissioner predicted in 1995, “that will change.”
Stern was right. The number of international players in the NBA has steadily risen since — and the gap between USA Basketball and the rest of the world has tightened as well. There will be more players in this tournament with NBA experience than ever before, with nearly 70 players in the Tokyo Olympics either current or former players in the league. More than four dozen of them played in the league this past season.
And only 12 of that group are in Japan to compete with “USA” across their chests.
That’s why, when this men’s Olympic tournament opens Sunday, the medal possibilities may be as wide open as they have been since that first team of NBA stars took the court in Barcelona. That group — which featured 11 future Hall of Famers on a 12-man roster — showed the rest of the world how much they had to do to catch the red, white and blue.
“The gap is smaller and smaller every year as far as talent is concerned,” US coach Gregg Popovich said.
The US is seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal and is the big favorite to do just that according to FanDuel, The Americans are the only team in Tokyo with 12 NBA players. But like Popovich said and Stern anticipated years ago, the talent gap has drastically dwindled.
Nigeria, which beat the Americans in an exhibition, has eight NBA players. Australia, which also defeated the US in a warm-up game, has seven. So does France, the first US opponent in this tournament on Sunday and the nation that knocked the Americans out of contention at the Basketball World Cup two years ago. That setback sent the team spiraling to a seventh-place finish, the worst showing in any tournament ever for an American roster composed of NBA players.
“I think every team wants to beat us,” US forward Kevin Durant said. “Everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it.”
There’s only one current All-NBA first team player in these Olympics. He doesn’t play for the US.
Slovenia’s Luka Doncic garnered more first-team votes in the All-NBA voting this season, 55, than the entire US Olympic roster got combined. This is Slovenia’s first time in the Olympics, but with Doncic leading the way, medal talk doesn’t seem misguided.
“Slovenians, we know how to fight, man,” Doncic said. “We’re not going to go down easy.”
Doncic willed Slovenia to a win in the Olympic qualifying tournament that ended on July 4 and gave the tiny nation a spot in the Tokyo field. And what he’s done in his NBA tenure with Dallas has only shown the world that the buzz he arrived with was more than appropriate.
“He’s a spectacular player, as we all know,” Popovich said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. And I emphasize, in the world. He showed himself early on in Europe, and he was a fast study in the NBA for sure. He’s fun to watch. His skills, his competitiveness, his size, his innate basketball IQ is so impressive. You put four hardworking people around him and you’ve got a hell of a team.”
There are 12 teams in the field; four will have to wait until Monday for their Olympic openers. Sunday’s schedule has Iran vs. the Czech Republic, Germany vs. Italy, Australia vs. Nigeria and then the US vs. France. The Monday men’s openers are Argentina vs. Slovenia and host Japan vs. reigning World Cup champion Spain.
The Miami Heat have four players at the Olympics, but only one plays for the US. The Heat have three players on Nigeria’s roster (KZ Okpala, Precious Achiuwa and Gabe Vincent Nnamdi), with Bam Adebayo playing for the US.
The only men’s team in the Olympic field without a current NBA player is Iran. That roster does, however, have a former NBA player — Hamed Haddadi, who appeared in 151 games over parts of five NBA seasons for Memphis and Phoenix. He last appeared in the NBA in 2013.
The women’s game is going on the same trajectory as the men’s when it comes to having more international players with WNBA experience in these Olympics than in any previous games. The US has 12 WNBA players on its roster, while Australia has nine current or former WNBA players and Canada has eight.
Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulić, on what Doncic does for a team: “Everything looks way easier and he’s making other players good. Also, me, myself.”


Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020
Updated 24 July 2021

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020

Five athletes overcome obstacles to represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020
  • Despite the turmoil in the country, the delegation will represent Yemen in its 10th Olympic Games

DUBAI: Five athletes will represent Yemen at Tokyo 2020 despite the country’s continuing war and political and economic turmoil.
The country’s 12-strong delegation at the opening ceremony in the Japanese capital included the athletes and their coaches, and was headed by the Yemeni ambassador to Germany, Yahya Al-Shuaibi, who is also a vice president of the Yemen National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The five athletes are Yasmine Al-Rimi in the Women’s Shooting, Ahmad Salem in the Men’s Judo, swimmers Mukhtar Ali Al-Yamani in the Men’s 100 and 200 meters freestyle and Noran Bamatraf in the Women’s 100 meters freestyle, and athlete Ahmed Al-Yari in the men’s 400 meters.
The is the 10th time that Yemen has participated at the Olympics since its NOC was established in 1974 and recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1981.