Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages

Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages
Al-Nassr became the first Saudi team to qualify for the AFC Champions League Round of 16. (Twitter: @AlNassrFC_EN)
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Updated 30 April 2021

Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages

Al-Nassr beat Al-Sadd to reach 2021 AFC Champions League knockout stages
  • Qatari champions must wait anxiously to see if their second-place finish will be enough to advance

Al-Nassr became the first Saudi team to qualify for the AFC Champions League Round of 16, leapfrogging Qatar’s Al-Sadd SC to win Group D with a Matchday Six 2-1 win at King Saud University Stadium on Thursday night.

Goals from Abderrazak Hamdallah and Abdulelah Al-Amri either side of half-time put the Al-Nassr within sight of the knockout stage, before Santi Cazorla’s goal from the penalty spot with seven minutes left gave Xavi Hernandez’s team a glimmer of hope and set up a nervy end to the match for the Riyadh club.

Mano Menezes’s team can now look forward to September’s Round of 16. Al-Sadd, who looked to be in the driving seat going into the match, must wait to see if their final tally of 10 points will be good enough for them to qualify as one of the best three runners-up.

Al-Nassr started the brighter of the two teams and could have taken the lead on six minutes, Hamdallah missing the target with a header after reaching Sultan Al Ghannam’s cross.

The Moroccan forward’s impact on the match was just starting.

On 33 minutes he put the hosts ahead, helped by an error by Al-Sadd goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham, whose botched clearance went directly into the path of the 2020 ACL Golden Boot winner.

Hamdallah made no mistake, driving home his fourth goal of the tournament from 15 yards.

With five minutes of the first half remaining, Hamdallah squandered a chance to double the lead after Noureddine Amrabat had create the opportunity after a fine run.

After the break, Al-Sadd started to get into the match, but somewhat against the run of play, Al-Nassr managed to grab their second goal, with Al-Amri rising high to head Amrabat’s free-kick past Barsham.

Al-Sadd set up an exciting finale after Ali Al-Lajami brought down Yusuf Abdurisag just inside in the penalty area, with Cazorla converting the spot-kick. The final few minutes were frantic – and Xavi was sent off – but Al-Nassr held on to claim the win they needed to advance.


Jordan advances to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup after qualifier against COVID-19-hit South Sudan abandoned

Jordan advances to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup after qualifier against COVID-19-hit South Sudan abandoned
Updated 17 min 34 sec ago

Jordan advances to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup after qualifier against COVID-19-hit South Sudan abandoned

Jordan advances to 2021 FIFA Arab Cup after qualifier against COVID-19-hit South Sudan abandoned
  • African nation forfeits match 3-0 after 7 players test positive for virus before match in Doha

DUBAI: Monday night’s FIFA Arab Cup qualifier between Jordan and South Sudan was abandoned after the confirmation of COVID-19 cases among the latter’s delegation.

As reported by the Asian Football Confederation’s official website, the FIFA Bureau for Men’s Senior Tournaments declared the match a forfeit with a 3-0 win to Jordan, which now advances to the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup taking place in Qatar between Nov. 27 and Dec. 18.

Upon their arrival in Qatar for the match, and as per the protocols established by its Ministry of Health, the delegations of both teams were tested for COVID-19.

After two rounds of polymerase chain reaction tests, it was confirmed that seven players and one team member of South Sudan were positive, with another five players receiving a reactive test result, meaning they were likely incubating the virus.

Given that another seven players had close contact with those who tested positive, a total of 19 players are currently in isolation.

There are no cases presenting severe symptoms, and everyone who tested positive is being monitored and receiving medical care for free through Qatar’s national healthcare system. 


MoU signed to promote healthy lifestyles in King Abdullah Financial District

MoU signed to promote healthy lifestyles in King Abdullah Financial District
Updated 22 June 2021

MoU signed to promote healthy lifestyles in King Abdullah Financial District

MoU signed to promote healthy lifestyles in King Abdullah Financial District
  • Signatories are KAFD CEO and president of Saudi Sports for All Federation

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) and King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), represented by CEO Gautam Sashittal, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to create a framework of cooperation that promotes active and healthy lifestyles in the district.

The MoU was signed in a ceremony at the Conference Center in KAFD, and was attended by resident SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud.

The SFA and KAFD will work together to create a healthy community for residents and visitors by designing a program of initiatives focused on health and wellness.

Simultaneously, an action plan will be carried through to benefit from KAFD’s facilities to host workshops and community sports activities. 

“Our agreement with KAFD is an important new milestone in our journey to create a health-first mindset in Saudi Arabia and ensure that physical activity is attractive and accessible for all our communities,” said Prince Khaled.

“We are looking forward to working collaboratively with KAFD to find ways of turning the district into a hub for sports and physical activity, while creating a grassroots culture of corporate and residential wellbeing,” he added.

“The district is forward-looking in its purpose and design, and we are excited about exploring new ways of engaging and enriching our communities together.”

The partnership will look to add to existing work with local and national entities — such as the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, and the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) — to achieve its goal of a healthier, more active Kingdom.

As part of its support for the Quality of Life Program, the SFA in early 2021 launched its Start Now campaign, calling residents of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to engage in physical activity.

It also recently launched a T20 cricket tournament and the Ehsan Steps Challenge in partnership with SDAIA, encouraging people to step forward for charity.

The SFA is also actively working with local authorities across the Kingdom to activate public spaces and parks to host community-oriented sporting activities.

“As an extension to the strategic goals of Vision 2030, lifestyle and liveability are two main elements that elevate quality of life,” said Sashittal.

“These two elements are extremely crucial in creating a vibrant society with a healthy and active lifestyle. KAFD embodies these elements, and that is clearly manifested by the advanced infrastructure and urban planning when it comes to liveability. Moreover, when it comes to lifestyle, KAFD is designed with people in mind, and it encourages walkability and being physically active,” he added.

“Therefore, we are pleased to partner with the SFA to explore ways in which we can foster a new culture focused on health and green living. We are looking forward to working collaboratively to turn the KAFD into a hub of new ideas and initiatives to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“The size, scope and ambition of KAFD adds strategic significance to the agreement and boosts the role of KAFD as a center for sustainability in the region, hence its advanced infrastructure, smart urban planning and human-centered approach.”


Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine
Updated 21 June 2021

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine

Baumgartner sends Austria into last 16 with win over Ukraine
  • Austria plays Italy at Wembley on June 26 after advancing at a major tournament for 1st time since 1982 World Cup
  • “We wanted to write history, we did it, those are the great moments of football," said coach Franco Foda

BUCHAREST: Christoph Baumgartner’s first-half goal sent Austria through to the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Monday after a 1-0 win over Ukraine that left their opponents facing an anxious wait to see if they qualify.
Hoffenheim midfielder Baumgartner turned in David Alaba’s corner on 21 minutes in Bucharest as Austria pipped Ukraine to second place in Group C behind the Netherlands, who eased past North Macedonia 3-0 in Amsterdam.
Austria will play Italy at Wembley on June 26 after advancing from the opening round at a major tournament for the first time since the 1982 World Cup.
“I can’t quite comprehend it all, my head is really hurting! This is really special for all of us,” Baumgartner told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
“The emotions right after the match were great. We wanted to write history, we did it, those are the great moments of football,” said coach Franco Foda.
Ukraine, eliminated in the group stage at the past two European Championships, must wait to find out if they advance as one of the four best third-placed teams.
“I have no idea yet what to expect or what will happen,” said Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko.
“We’ve have to wait until the last games. If we’ve the slightest chance we have to be ready.”
Shevchenko had ruled out his Ukraine team playing for the draw they needed to finish as runners-up, having snapped a run of six straight losses at the competition with their 2-1 win over North Macedonia.
Marko Arnautovic was recalled to the Austria line-up after the forward missed the 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands while serving a one-match ban for insulting a North Macedonia player in their opening game.
Needing victory to be assured of a place in the next round, Austria went ahead as Baumgartner beat 18-year-old defender Illia Zabarnyi to Alaba’s corner and poked beyond Georgiy Bushchan.
Ukraine came close to an equalizer when Mykola Shaparenko drew a good low save from Daniel Bachmann, the rebound just eluding a lunging Andriy Yarmolenko, who had scored in the first two group games.
Baumgartner’s evening ended prematurely due to injury and his replacement Alessandro Schopf soon set up Arnautovic, the former Stoke man dribbling wide moments after Konrad Laimer’s curling effort was punched away by Bushchan.
Austria nearly handed Ukraine a way back into the match when Stefan Lainer headed Viktor Tsygankov’s free-kick toward his own goal, but Bachmann reacted well to preserve the victory and a spot in the knockout phase.


Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
Updated 21 June 2021

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown

Maguire ready to return for England’s Czech showdown
  • Manchester United defender Harry Maguire didn’t play in England's first two matches
  • "Obviously with the ankle injury, it's getting stronger, I'm getting more confident," said Maguire

LONDON: Harry Maguire says he is fit to feature for England in their decisive Euro 2020 Group D clash against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Manchester United defender Maguire did not play in England’s first two matches against Croatia and Scotland as he recovers from ankle ligament damage sustained against Aston Villa in May.
England manager Gareth Southgate included the center-back in his Euro squad in the belief he would be back in time to play some part in the tournament.
Maguire was on the bench for Friday’s 0-0 draw against Scotland and now he is ready to return to action for the Czech showdown at Wembley.
“I’m feeling good. Obviously with the ankle injury, it’s getting stronger, I’m getting more confident,” Maguire told The Lions’ Den.
“The more sessions I do, the more games I play, I’m sure I’ll get more confidence and that’s the thing with these type of injuries.
“I think it’s just about building the confidence. It’s all stable now and I’m available and I’m ready to go.”
England will finish top of Group D if they beat the Czechs and Maguire urged his side to get back on track after the drab Scotland stalemate.
“The boys have put ourselves in a great position in the group — four points from two games — although obviously we want to win every football match so we’d like to be on six,” he said.
“But it’s still in a strong position and now it’s another big game against the Czechs and one we’re looking forward to and we go there and try and get three points.”


Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
Updated 22 June 2021

Saudi Arabia entices investors to rapidly growing sports economy

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets. (Supplied)
  • ‘NAFES’ launched to encourage investment and ownership in sports clubs, academies and centers

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is inviting global investors to take full ownership of clubs, academies and centers across 27 of its most popular sports. 

The Ministry of Sport has today launched NAFES, a new online licensing platform designed to encourage foreign investment and collaboration in the Kingdom, one of the world’s rapidly growing sports markets.

“We are inviting the world to partner with us on our journey of sporting transformation. Our country’s incredible passion for sport is well known and, as more get active and take up sport, the economic opportunity is exciting,” said Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal.

He added: “Sport is an integral component of our Kingdom’s transformative Vision 2030, and we would not have achieved these massive strides if it were not for the unconditional support by our Kingdom’s leadership led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and the Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

NAFES will attract private investment to help increase the number of clubs, academies and centers across sport and to boost competition among athletes. 

The Saudi sports economy has grown 174 percent in the last three years and its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has increased by 22 percent.

“NAFES is our invitation to overseas partners to drive our sporting investment to the next level and to collaborate across our sports clubs, academies and centers,” Prince Abdulaziz said, adding: “It is a turning point for the Kingdom’s sports sector. Our message to investors and the private sector both in Saudi Arabia and across the globe is direct and clear, establish your clubs, compete and draw the future path of Saudi sports investment.”

The launch of NAFES falls under Saudi Arabia’s “Quality of Life” sports program, which is part of the country’s Vision 2030 reform plans. 

It has already launched partnerships with some of the world’s biggest sports events and governing bodies.

The investments have resulted in a 37 percent growth in Saudis participating in weekly sport activities between 2015 and 2019, alongside a 149 percent increase in women and girls exercising during the same time period. During the coronavirus pandemic, over four million enjoyed home fitness classes as part of the “Baytak Nadeek” initiative by the Saudi Sports For All Federation.

Saudi Arabia has hosted around 50 international events in the last three years. These have included events in international football, the PGA European Tour golf, WWE, tennis and boxing. The country’s motorsport calendar features the Dakar Rally, Formula E, Extreme E and from December, the first ever Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Historically, the Saudi sports industry was wholly reliant on government funding. But following this policy change, the government is aiming to accelerate the growth of the sports industry by increasing the role of the private sector.

NAFES will also aim to raise the percentage share of the sports industry’s contribution towards the Kingdom’s GDP, in addition to increasing and diversifying local and foreign investment opportunities, and ultimately raising the number of competitive clubs across a wide range of sports.

“This was an organic development that falls in line with our efforts to position Saudi at the forefront of the sporting world globally and that is a crucial part in Saudi Vision 2030,” Prince Abdulaziz said. “As our sporting ambitions continue, we seek to collaborate with partners and strike a healthy balance between public and private sector investment.” 

The sports being offered for ownership via NAFES include football, basketball, swimming, equestrian, tennis, electronic sports, gymnastics, cycling and combat sports. 

Investors are urged to visit this website for more information on all the required steps to apply for their license.