Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to discuss strategy for horse racing in region

Horse racing authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are set for talks in the coming months about enhanced coordination for the sport in the region. (Facebook/The Saudi Cup)
Horse racing authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are set for talks in the coming months about enhanced coordination for the sport in the region. (Facebook/The Saudi Cup)
Short Url
Updated 26 April 2021

Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain to discuss strategy for horse racing in region

Horse racing authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are set for talks in the coming months about enhanced coordination for the sport in the region. (Facebook/The Saudi Cup)
  • Equestrian authorities aim to enhance cooperation to help develop the sport throughout the Gulf

LONDON: Horse racing authorities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are set for talks in the coming months about enhanced coordination to develop the sport in the region.

They will discuss equine quarantine procedures and ease of travel, as well as race scheduling and the sharing of knowledge and information among owners and breeders in the three countries.

Initial talks will involve the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain’s Rashid Equestrian and Horse Racing Club, and Dubai Racing Club.

Racing authorities in the three countries believe there is scope for a more coordinated approach to the sport in the region, which they say would be mutually beneficial and eventually expand to include other countries in the wider Gulf Cooperation Council area.

Each of the countries hosts a major event on the global calendar: the Bahrain International Trophy in November, the Saudi Cup at the end of February and the well-established Dubai World Cup Carnival season, which runs from January to March.

READ MORE

Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey spoke to Arab News earlier this year to recall his Dubai World Cup glory ahead of the race’s 25th anniversary. Read the full interview here.

“With an increasingly attractive racing offering already taking place across the region, we decided as a group that it was time to focus on ways to open up our racing to each other while simultaneously making it more attractive for internationals to come here, facilitating the progression of racing standards across the entire region,” said Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia.

“We are in the preliminary stages of these talks, which will initially take place between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, but we are laying the foundations for a Gulf-wide cooperation that will benefit all of us and, we hope, the racing world at large, offering summer and winter racing in the Middle East.”

Sheikh Isa bin Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, chairman of the Rashid Equestrian and Horse Racing Club’s High Committee, said he hopes to see a closer relationship between horse racing authorities in the three countries, for the good of the sport.

“Horse racing holds a special place in the hearts of sports enthusiast in the region and their shared passion is a catalyst for engagement at all levels to develop a mutually beneficial program both within the Gulf and outside the region,” he said.

“We are truly excited by the prospect of an integrated regional racing schedule that draws upon established strengths to elevate standards and competition. While discussions may be at an early stage, the scale of opportunity gives reason to be optimistic.”

Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmook Al-Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Racing Club, also expressed optimism about the prospects and benefits of enhanced cooperation.

“By working together, we can open up new horizons to horse racing in the region, utilizing widespread regional experiences in organizing major international events,” he said.

“This will contribute to delivering the aspirations and desires of all involved parties within the racing industry, including owners, jockeys and trainers, creating a new roadmap to overcoming obstacles and facilitating progression.

“This is a welcome step that will be promoted globally through the international races hosted by the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain, and will continue to fuel the rapid growth we have seen in the industry at regional level.”


Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP
Updated 47 min 28 sec ago

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP

Turkish F1 canceled, replaced by second Austrian GP
  • Turkish Grand Prix, which was drafted onto the calendar as a replacement for the cancelled Canada GP two weeks ago, was axed Friday
  • Covid-19 protocols forces Formula One chiefs to return to the sport's safe haven of Austria

PARIS: The Turkish Grand Prix, which was only drafted onto the Formula One calendar as a replacement for the canceled Canada GP two weeks ago, was itself axed on Friday.
Formula One chiefs, forced into another change due to Covid-19 protocols, announced that they will instead return to the sport’s safe haven of Austria.
The decision was made in the wake of the “announcement of new travel restrictions imposed by several countries in which F1 teams are based, affecting travel from Turkey,” they said.
“Following discussions with the promoter in Turkey and relevant stakeholders, it will not be possible to have the race in Turkey between June 11-13.
“The promoter has requested that we look at the potential opportunity for the race to be rescheduled later in the season if possible, alongside China who made the same request earlier this year.”
Formula One confirmed that there will now be two races in Austria, back to back, with the first race, the Styrian Grand Prix, taking place on June 25-27 and the Austrian Grand Prix taking place on its original date of July 2-4.
As a result of this change the French Grand Prix will move one week earlier to June 18-20.


Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd
Updated 14 May 2021

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd

Barcelona must wait as Xavi signs on at Al-Sadd
  • Spanish World Cup winner touted as Ronald Koeman’s replacement will now have fresh shot at AFC Champions League

RIYADH: It will not have escaped the attention of Barcelona President Joan Laporta that former boss Pep Guardiola won his third English Premier League title on Tuesday just as Ronald Koeman’s men drew with Levante to leave hopes of a La Liga title fading.

However, there was a bit of good news for Koeman this week when Xavi Hernandez signed a two-year extension to his contract as head coach of Qatar’s Al-Sadd. The Dutchman has never really looked secure in Spain and it did not help having a potential Guardiola Mark II waiting in the wings.

The name of Xavi, a former team-mate of Guardiola and a key member of his team that won four La Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League prizes and plenty more besides, has long been swirling around the Catalan city. Ever since the Spanish star, a visionary midfielder, hung up those boots, he has been talked about as a future Barca boss by people who know what they are talking about.

In 2019, Guardiola said: “Xavi was already a manager when he played. His eyes sparkled watching football. You have to give him time. Sooner or later, he will manage Barcelona. It would excite me to see him manage Barcelona.”

The current Manchester City boss is not the only one to manage Xavi and see his coaching potential. The midfielder became World and European champion with Spain under Vicente Del Bosque. “The time will come when he will be the ideal man for Barcelona,” Del Bosque said last year.

For some that time is now. Guardiola was 37 when he took over the first team, Xavi is 41, but while a return to Barcelona is surely going to happen, he may not quite be ready to follow in the footsteps of his former team-mate and boss just yet.

In May 2019, Xavi took his first coaching job, not in Spain or even Europe, but Qatar. He had finished his playing days with Al-Sadd and stayed in Doha in a different role. There were a couple of cups in 2020 but there has rarely been, anywhere, such a dominant campaign as the Qatar Stars League (QSL) just finished. Al-Sadd, full of Qatari internationals, not only won the title but did so unbeaten with a goal difference of, wait for it, plus 63.

Solid at the back, Al-Sadd were unstoppable going forward. Led by the fantastic Santi Cazorla and the prolific Algerian attacker Baghdad Bounedjah with the 2019 Asian Player of the Year Akram Afif darting around on the wings, the team carried threats from all over the pitch.

With such dominance at home, it was understandable Al-Sadd’s ambitions were turning toward the AFC Champions League long before the QSL season finished. If Xavi could add the continental title to his domestic success, then his status as one of the world’s most promising coaches would be assured.

He had Asian experience. The four-time UEFA Champions League winner led Al-Sadd to the last four and an exciting defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal in 2019. In 2020 there was a second-round loss to Persepolis of Iran. Expectations this year were high, especially as the group was winnable. There was Al-Nassr of Saudi Arabia, a team that entered the tournament on the back of inconsistent league form, Foolad — not one of Iran’s powerhouses — and Jordan’s Al-Wehdat.

Yet Al-Sadd fell at the first hurdle. It started with a draw against Foolad and a loss to Al-Nassr. Back-to-back wins against Al-Wehdat, making their first appearance in the tournament, and then victory over Foolad brought the second-round within sight. All that was needed was a draw in the final game to make it to the last 16 but Al-Nassr ran out 2-1 winners.

Xavi complained about the conditions of the pitches and refereeing decisions, but he did make some mistakes, especially in the two games with Al-Nassr. Under coach Mano Menezes, the Riyadh team drew Al-Sadd forward, and kept their nerve, shape, and discipline to hit on the break. It was the perfect tournament performance from the Saudis.

In the return match, there were some questionable decisions but ultimately, Al-Sadd failed to get through a group they should have got through.

It suggested that Xavi, who has already turned down an approach from Barcelona, needs more experience before heading to his former club. Two more years with Al-Sadd, and more challenges, could be a wise move.


Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team

Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team
Updated 14 May 2021

Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team

Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team
  • Saudi Arabia urged to liaise with international allies to promote the sport

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka, a World Cup cricket champion, has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s interest in the sport, with experts saying the Kingdom has the “full potential” to develop its cricketing skills and compete in the field.

To facilitate the process, Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Abdul Nasser Al-Harthy told Arab News on Monday that he would coordinate with the Kingdom’s Sports Ministry to discuss “how best Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia could cooperate in developing this sport.”

Earlier in March, Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF), announced a series of initiatives focused on promoting the game among Saudis and expatriate residents in
the Kingdom.

These included the launching of a corporate-level cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social cricket program across cities in the country to increase participation at the community, club, and international levels.

Several SACF initiatives have already been launched this year, among them the National Cricket Championship, played across 11 cities and part of four programs that the organization signed with the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

Launched in February, it is the largest cricket tournament ever held in the Kingdom.

Welcoming the initiative, cricket legend Roy Dias, who was the first Sri Lankan to score 1,000 test runs and 1,000 One-Day runs in 1984, told Arab News on Monday that the Kingdom has the “full potential to develop the sport at a competitive level.”

“I have watched Saudi cricketers playing alongside Pakistani sportsmen during friendly matches in the Middle East, and they performed very well,” Dias, 68, said, adding that he hoped that Saudi Arabia would form its indigenous cricket team soon.

Dias, who visited GCC countries between 2001 to 2010 as a national cricket coach for Nepal, said that Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain were “already active in the field of cricket.”

“Saudi Arabia is most welcome to this cluster,” Dias, a former cricket coach for the island nation and currently employed with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, said, predicting that a Saudi team would bring in “new experiences coupled with resourceful skills.”

For this purpose, he added, Saudi Arabia could start by introducing school-level cricket for under-15 students, “which would kindle children’s and parental interest, which are sine qua non to develop good cricket.”

He also advised the Kingdom to coordinate with its international allies for expertise in the field.

“Sri Lanka can assist Saudi Arabian cricket in coaching through the Asian Cricket Council so that Sri Lanka could cooperate with the Kingdom in developing the cricket skills of its nationals by participating in council’s tournaments,” he said.

Shums Fahim, a senior editor of the Thinakaran Tamil daily and an expert on the game, agrees: “Saudi team is one of the active players in the Soccer World Cup and I sincerely wish that its cricketers could show better skills to reach the World Cup level in cricket too.”

According to data from 2017-2018, more than 30 percent of the Saudi

population are expats, with the total number of non-Saudis estimated to be 10,736,293.

In the early 1970s, cricket was played mainly by expatriates in the soccer-crazy country. This remains the case even today, with most players in its cricket team hailing from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In 2001, under the royal patronage of Princess Ghada Bint Hamoud Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi attained legal status to organize cricket in the Kingdom.

In 2003, it became an affiliate of the International Cricket Council (ICC).


Djokovic sweeps into quarters in front of ‘great’ Rome crowd

Djokovic sweeps into quarters in front of ‘great’ Rome crowd
Updated 14 May 2021

Djokovic sweeps into quarters in front of ‘great’ Rome crowd

Djokovic sweeps into quarters in front of ‘great’ Rome crowd
  • Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes

ROME: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic swept into the Italian Open quarterfinals on Thursday with a straight-sets win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in front of spectators at the Foro Italico.

The five-time Rome champion won 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes against the 48th-ranked Spaniard, with the venue filled to 25 percent of capacity for the first time amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was not good, it was great. I missed the crowd,” said the 33-year-old, who next plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semifinal which the Serbian won.

Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.

“It always feels like home coming back to Rome,” said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarterfinals in his 15 appearances in the clay court event.

“Honestly, with the amount of love and appreciation that I get and respect from people here, not just on the court, but outside in the organization here, from the drivers, the restaurant, people in hotel, everyone is really super kind to me.

“Maybe it helps that I speak Italian. Probably does. I love Italy. Who doesn’t?

“Each year the love affair grows even more because the bond is stronger and stronger.

“Hopefully I can feel a little bit of that love more tomorrow so I can keep on progressing in the tournament.”

After losing his opening service game, Djokovic powered back with five breaks of serve, outclassing his rival, despite a late fightback, to seal the win on his sixth match point.

“He started well, but I managed to break back straight away and establish the control and consistency,” said the 18-time Grand Slam winner.

Djokovic has a 4-2 winning head-to-head record against Monte Carlo champion Tsitsipas who knocked out Madrid Open runner-up Berrettini.

“I hope to do better this time,” said Tsitsipas, who lost a five-set marathon to Djokovic at Roland Garros last year.

Djokovic has won his past seven quarter-finals in Rome, with an 11-3 record in the last eight. Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals in Rome in 2019.

American Reilly Opelka also advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.

The 23-year-old hit 18 aces and saved two set points at 4/6 in the first-set tie-break to set up a meeting with either Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime or Argentinian Federico Delbonis in the last eight.


UEFA Champions League final moved from Istanbul to Porto due to UK-Turkey travel restrictions

The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 13 May 2021

UEFA Champions League final moved from Istanbul to Porto due to UK-Turkey travel restrictions

The match has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao, home of FC Porto, to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The match on May 29 has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao to allow English spectators to attend

PARIS: UEFA announced on Thursday that the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea had been moved from Istanbul to Porto.

The match on May 29 has been switched to the Estadio do Dragao to allow English spectators to attend as travel between the UK and Turkey is suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, European football’s governing body announced up to 6,000 supporters from each club will be able to attend.

“We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams,” UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement.

“After the year that fans have endured, it is not right that they don’t have the chance to watch their teams in the biggest game of the season,” he added.

UK citizens returning from red list countries are required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 10 days.

Earlier this week, newspaper reports claimed the match would be played at Wembley Stadium.

Supporters groups from the Blues and City had requested the game be moved to England.

The UK’s Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he would have welcomed the fixture being played in London.

“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen,” Ceferin said.

UEFA said coronavirus rules in the UK made it difficult to hold the fixture in the English capital.

“UEFA discussed moving the match to England but, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements,” it said.

The final capacity at the ground in northern Portugal is still to be set.

Last season’s final as well as a ‘Final 8’ tournament for the quarter-finals were also held in Portugal, but in the capital Lisbon.

“Once again we have turned to our friends in Portugal to help both UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the FPF (Portuguese Football Association) and the Portuguese Government for agreeing to stage the match at such short notice,” Ceferin said.

The last round of the country’s top-flight Primeira Liga will see spectators return to stadia on May 19, with a limited number of people permitted, the league said on Wednesday.