England could host Champions League final due to new Turkey travel curbs

Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 08 May 2021

England could host Champions League final due to new Turkey travel curbs

Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
  • British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions

LONDON: The all-English Champions League final could be played at home after Turkey was added to England’s “red list” of countries where all but essential travel is banned due to severe coronavirus outbreaks.
Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season.
But the British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions, and said the English Football Association was in talks with Champions League organizer UEFA about staging the game in Britain, instead.
The most logical English venue to move the game to is Wembley with the London stadium staging eight games of the European Championship across June and July, so it has UEFA’s required logistics and broadcasting infrastructure already in place. Wembley was also already due to stage the 2024 Champions League final so it could be moved up three years.
While Villa Park in the central England city of Birmingham has been floated as an option, it is an older stadium that would require significant infrastructure being installed to reach UEFA requirements.
“We are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. “The UK has already got a successful track record of football matches with spectators, so we are well placed to do it.
“Given there are two English clubs in that final, we look forward to what they have to say.”
Turkey is in the second week of a three-week national lockdown and government figures show coronavirus cases are declining but 20,107 new infections were announced on Friday and 278 deaths. The vaccine rollout in Britain meant the country recorded 2,490 cases on Friday and 15 deaths.
People from England should visit only red-list countries “in the most extreme of circumstances,” Shapps said. Anyone returning from them must stay in hotels for 10 days at their own expense, with meals delivered to their door.
Players would also be required to enter quarantine, unless exemptions were granted, which would impact their preparations for the European Championship, which opens on June 11 and is being staged across 10 countries.
If the Champions League final was moved to Wembley, the English Football League would have to accept moving the date of the Championship playoff to determine the final promotion place to the Premier League, which is scheduled to be played at the stadium on May 29.
Wembley in recent weeks has staged the only football games with fans in England in 2021 as part of test events, with the crowd for the FA Cup final on May 15 rising to 21,000 people who have to produce a negative coronavirus test.
At least 22,500 fans will be allowed into the three group-stage Euro 2020 games at Wembley in June, with the 90,000-capacity Wembley set to be half-full for the final on July 11.
The pandemic already prevented Istanbul staging the 2020 Champions League final with the game moved to Lisbon to be played in an empty stadium.


FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
Updated 20 September 2021

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar

FIFA to consult football leaders on international calendar
  • World football's governing body wants to launch a "new consultation phase" for the international women's and men's calendar
  • UEFA president is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup

PARIS: FIFA has invited football’s national federations to an online summit on September 30 to discuss the international calendar, in its push to hold the World Cup every two years instead of four.
World football’s governing body wants to launch a “new consultation phase” for the international women’s and men’s calendar, set to expire at the end of 2023 and 2024 respectively.
“There is a broad consensus within the game that the international match calendar should be reformed and improved,” FIFA said in a statement Monday.
“Following invitations to stakeholders, including all confederations, at the beginning of September, discussions are being organized in the coming weeks.
“FIFA also invited its member associations to a first online summit on 30 September 2021. This is one of several opportunities to establish a constructive and open debate, at a global and regional level, over the coming months.”
The proposal for a biennial World Cup was revived in March by former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, now head of global football development at FIFA.
The idea would be to have an international tournament each year from 2025-2026, alternating World Cups and continental tournaments like the European Championship and Copa America.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is fiercely opposed to the proposal and threatened that European nations would boycott a biennial World Cup.
South American confederation CONMEBOL said the project had “no sporting justification.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has promised decisions on staging a World Cup every two years would be made by the end of the year.
Last week FIFA published an online poll that claimed a majority of football fans support the idea of a “more frequent” World Cup.
The results of the survey came in stark contrast to the opposition of numerous national supporters groups worldwide.
Global players’ union FIFPro has denounced “the absence of a real dialogue” on the subject, pointing out the “natural physiological limits” of footballers.
“Without the agreement of the players, who bring all competitions to life on the pitch, no such reforms will have the required legitimacy,” said FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.


Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner
Updated 20 September 2021

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner

Messi looks angry at being replaced; Icardi gets late winner
  • Messi stared sharply at PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino and appeared to snub a handshake as he came off
  • As he was coming off, Messi made a gesture with his hands apart as if to say he didn't understand

PARIS: Lionel Messi hit the crossbar with a curling free kick and looked angry at being taken off in the 75th minute in his home debut Sunday for Paris Saint-Germain.
Substitute Mauro Icardi scored deep into stoppage time as PSG scraped a 2-1 win over Lyon in the French league to make it six straight victories.
Messi stared sharply at PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino and appeared to snub a handshake as he came off. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner, who is still chasing his first PSG goal in his third appearance following his shock move from Barcelona, sat glum-faced on the bench.
As he was coming off, Messi made a gesture with his hands apart as if to say he didn’t understand, and Pochettino attempted an explanation afterward.
“Everyone knows we have great players in the squad, we have 35 players. But we must make decisions for the good of the team. Sometimes they lead to a positive result and sometimes not,” Pochettino said through a translator. “These are decisions we need to take. Sometimes it pleases people, or it doesn’t. I asked him how he was, and he said he was fine.”
On the field, Icardi found space to head in Kylian Mbappe’s precise cross from the left in the 93rd.
PSG fell behind in the 53rd when Brazil midfielder Lucas Paqueta finished neatly, after forward Karl Toko Ekambi picked him out with a low cross to the front post.
Neymar equalized from the penalty spot in the 66th after he was fouled by 18-year-old right back Malo Gusto.
Lyon coach Peter Bosz was unhappy with the call.
“It’s not Malo who fouls Neymar, it’s Neymar who puts his hand on him and fouls him,” Bosz said. “I can understand if the referee didn’t see it, but then there is VAR.”
Lyon’s long-serving president, Jean-Michel Aulas, went even further by calling the decision “an aberration” and saying the referee should have used video review.
Messi almost scored in the 32nd.
He found Neymar down the left and sprinted to meet Neymar’s clever reverse pass, but goalkeeper Anthony Lopes read Messi’s low shot well and denied him with his legs.
Four minutes later, Lopes was stuck to the spot as Messi hit the crossbar with a free kick from 25 meters.
Messi, whose last Champions League goal for Barca was away to PSG in last season’s round of 16 return leg, also hit the bar in Wednesday’s 1-1 draw at Club Brugge.
PSG is five points ahead of bitter rival Marseille, having played one game more.
Marseille earlier beat Rennes 2-0 to move into second place with striker Bamba Dieng getting his third goal in two games.
After Dieng turned in a cross from midfielder Pol Lirola in the 48th, substitute Amine Harit scored in the 70th after cutting in from the left flank.
Also, Amine Gouiri missed a late penalty as fifth-placed Nice was held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Monaco in a thrilling French Riviera derby.
Gouiri had the chance to make it 3-2 from the spot in the 82nd following a hand ball by defender Benoit Badiashile. But he missed the target.
Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder’s penalty five minutes earlier made it 2-2, moments after Gouiri and Andy Delort set up midfielder Hicham Boudaoui.
After Nice forward Kasper Dolberg limped off with a knee injury, midfielder Aleksandr Golovin put Monaco ahead in the 39th from a right-wing cross by Gelson Martins.
Delort, who replaced Dolberg, equalized in the 50th as he headed in Gouiri’s cross. Gouiri has four goals and two assists in six games.
Struggling Monaco is in 14th spot.


‘It feels like a sporting revolution’: Saudi Karate Federation president hails KSA progress

Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
Updated 20 September 2021

‘It feels like a sporting revolution’: Saudi Karate Federation president hails KSA progress

Dr Musharraf Al-Shehri, President of the Saudi Karate Federation with Olympic silver medalist Tarek Hamdi. (Supplied)
  • Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri says Tarek Hamdi’s Tokyo success was ‘pivotal moment’ for sport

 

JEDDAH: Tarek Hamdi’s heroic silver medal at Tokyo 2020 and the third place finish by the Saudi women’s karate team in the kata competition of the International Karate1 Premier League tournament held in Cairo recently have ushered in a new era of achievement and progress in the sport, the president of the Saudi Karate Federation has said.

Dr. Musharraf Al-Shehri told Arab News that the high-profile performances of Hamdi at the Olympics in particular “brought attention” to karate in the Kingdom and will help spur further development of the sport.

“The medal sent out a message,” Al-Shehri said. “And the message is ‘yes we can — we can compete on the biggest stage.’”

Hamdi and the successful women’s team will prove a source of inspiration for aspiring athletes to take interest in karate and other sports, he added.

“We are very happy to see Saudi Arabia gaining such a reputation in karate,” said Al-Shehri. “This confirms that we are on the right path in the the sport as per the vision engineered to develop it, enabling the Kingdom’s champions to produce honorable results.”

Al-Shehri started his career as a karateka and won the Saudi Championship seven times. He has also represented the Kingdom’s national team in many regional and international tournaments as a player, referee, and was chairman of the West Asian Karate Referees Committee, member of the Asian and Arab Referees Committee, advisor to the Athletic Federation of Saudi Universities.

“Today is one of the most important moments in Saudi karate history,” he said. It is a “game-changing moment” that will open sport up to more people than ever before, “creating new heroes and fueling future success,” he added.

“It feels like a sporting revolution and the start of something new. We want the people of Saudi Arabia to feel this change, share it, celebrate it, connect to our athletes and support them on their inspirational journeys.”

However, Al-Shehri said that the transformation is a result of the hard work of all previous federations, and not just the current one.

“We are continuing what the previous administrations started, but for us as a new management, we hope to bring the level of karate sports to the highest level,” he added.

“What Tarek achieved left a true imprint of Saudi karate and put the name of the Kingdom on the highest platforms in the world.”

He added that the rise in standards is down to the policies of the Saudi Karate Federation and its successful plans to develop the sport, as well as the full support of the authorities responsible for Saudi sports. The federation is now hoping to compete for more medals at the 2021 World Karate Championships to be held in Dubai from Nov. 16-21.

Al-Shehri thanked everyone who has worked with him during his tenure as president, including administrators, players, coaches, referees, members and colleagues of former members of the board.

He also praised the unequivocal support of Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz Al-Faisal, and hailed the government’s decision to include the martial art in school sporting curricula.

“I see that the future of karate is great in the Kingdom, especially in light of the great support of the generous leadership of all sports,” he added.

Speaking to Arab News at the Second Kingdom Open Championship for girls aged under 15 in Jeddah, Al-Shehri lauded the performance of the Saudi women’s team in Cairo.

“Though it was the first participation for the women’s team at the international level, the team managed to achieve a bronze medal in Cairo,” he said. “This is very promising for the future of the Saudi female team.”

With the rising popularity of karate as a sport, Al-Shehri expects participation to surpass 100,000 people at all levels as more local competitions are established.

“In fact, I think that the number is small compared to the size of the Kingdom, and I hope that the game will spread more and we will see more heroes like Tarek Hamdi, and that the competition will be high,” he said.


Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership

Saudi International and Asian Tour announce historic golf partnership
  • New 10-year deal will see the Asian Tour sanction the championship from 2022, with an increased prize fund

SINGAPORE: The 2022 Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers will mark the start of an historic chapter in golf, as the event becomes sanctioned by the Asian Tour as part of a new 10-year partnership.

The tournament, which will take place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club near Jeddah from Feb. 3 to 6, 2022, will also feature an increased purse of $5 million, up from $3.5 million. The Asian Tour partnership is aiming to elevate the event in significant emerging markets around the world.

In 2021, the Saudi International presented one of the strongest fields in world golf, joining an elite group behind only the Majors and a small number of professional championships in the ranking points offered to competitors.

“Today marks a significant development for our flagship golf event and our vision to strengthen the depth of world-class golf events, both in the GCC and also on the international stage,” said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation.

“The importance and potential of Asia’s role in world golf is undeniable, not least due to its position as a global economic powerhouse,” he said, adding: “This partnership will unlock many opportunities for players, sponsors and fans of the game. Most importantly, we are eager to help build a more inclusive game for all eligible professional golfers that spans borders and cultures by fostering collaboration with major tours and see this as an exciting first step on that journey.”

The deal with the Asian Tour, the official body for golf in Asia and a full member of the International Federation of PGA Tours, will introduce new commercial prospects and enable more professional golfers to qualify and compete for life-changing opportunities.

“This is an outstanding development for the Asian Tour that will create significant benefits for our membership, key stakeholders, and fans alike,” said Cho Minn Thant, commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour.

“The Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers is a world-class tournament which has become truly global. We are thrilled that it will be the showcase event of the Asian Tour’s season, spearheading our expansion into new frontiers.”

While the Saudi International presented by SoftBank Investment Advisers will mark the start of a revamped 2022 schedule, the Asian Tour is also in the process of finalizing plans to complete its combined 2020-2021 schedule, which will be announced in due course.


Saudi Arabia to hold 2021 Youth World Cup for weightlifting in October

Saudi Arabia to hold 2021 Youth World Cup for weightlifting in October
Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia to hold 2021 Youth World Cup for weightlifting in October

Saudi Arabia to hold 2021 Youth World Cup for weightlifting in October
  • More than 320 athletes to take part in the competition, to be held in the Kingdom for the first time

The Saudi Weightlifting Federation will host the 2021 IWF Youth World Cup in Jeddah from Oct. 3-12.

More than 320 male and female U-17 weightlifters from 45 countries are expected to take part in the competition, which is being held in the Kingdom for the first time.

“Hosting the tournament for the first time in Saudi Arabia, despite the circumstances the world is going through as a result of the pandemic, (shows) the unlimited support that the sports sector enjoys from our leadership toward achieving the goals of Vision 2030 and contributing to the growth of the domestic product in Saudi Arabia,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, sports minister and president of the Saudi Olympic Committee.

The Saudi team’s weightlifters have claimed four medals in previous tournaments, with Ali Al-Othman winning two gold and a silver at the 2019 IWF Youth World Cup in Las Vegas  while Ali Majeed took bronze in the IWF Online Youth World Cup in Peru last year.