Mansoor feeling ‘amazing’ after making step-up in WWE career

Mansoor feeling ‘amazing’ after making step-up in WWE career
Saudi WWE Superstar Mansoor during his recent fight against Sheamus. (WWE)
Short Url
Updated 10 May 2021

Mansoor feeling ‘amazing’ after making step-up in WWE career

Mansoor feeling ‘amazing’ after making step-up in WWE career
  • Last week the Saudi wrestler signed with WWE’s Raw brand

Saudi Superstar Mansoor said he feels “amazing” after being elevated to one of the WWE’s most high-profile and popular brands.

Last week, Mansoor signed to WWE RAW, a weekly show, in what was a huge step in his career to date.

Mansoor’s first match as an official member of the RAW roster saw him face the experienced Irishman Sheamus, and he is now looking forward to taking on some of WWE’s biggest names on a regular basis.

“It feels amazing,” said Mansoor, when asked for his thoughts on being promoted to RAW. “I’ve been on Super ShowDown, I’ve been on Crown Jewel, and those were big shows. But what I wanted most was to be consistent, and to be on a weekly program where I could show the world that I can perform every single week, not just once every few months.”

“Against Sheamus, with it being my first match (on RAW), it was a really good welcoming committee. There is nobody tougher than Sheamus. He’s probably one of the toughest men in the entire business, not just WWE.

“He loves to fight,” he added. “Even when I was hitting him with my elbows, I could feel the pain in my arm. He’s tough, he’s iron, and it’s important that I face people like that to challenge myself, and prove to the world, and the WWE universe, that I belong.”

Having earned a WWE contract after impressing at a tryout event in 2018, Mansoor’s rise to RAW has been rapid, and one which owes so much to the expert training he has received behind the scenes — along with good old-fashioned hard work.

“I’ve been training at the Performance Center in Orlando for about three years, and it’s been invaluable, the most essential experience I’ve ever had, to prepare me for this,” Mansoor said.

“The coaches are amazing, the facilities are amazing. I was lucky enough to be involved in matches on Main Event, wrestling guys like Drew Gulak and Angel Garza, getting experience with them.

“I didn’t know for sure if I was going to move up to RAW, I just knew that they wanted me to wrestle on Main Event to see how I did,” Mansoor said. “And then, on the day itself, I found out I was being signed to RAW. The preparation time was short, but in WWE anything can change at any time, so you always have to be ready.”


Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push
Updated 18 sec ago

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push
BRUGES, Belgium: Manchester City delivered a dominant Champions League performance to sweep past Club Brugge 5-1 on Tuesday and re-emphasize their status as major contenders for a first European title.
Joao Cancelo gave City a deserved lead on the half-hour and Riyad Mahrez converted a penalty just before the break as Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back in style from last month’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain.
Kyle Walker added a third early in the second half and 19-year-old Cole Palmer bagged his first Champions League goal minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Hans Vanaken pulled a goal back to great delight from the home supporters but Mahrez capped a thumping City victory with his second of the night.
The win leaves City side with six points after three games in Group A, with the champions of England and Belgium to meet again in two weeks in Manchester.
Ederson returned in goal for City after flying direct to Belgium last week following Brazil’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers, while Jack Grealish replaced Raheem Sterling in the front three.
Viewed as the weakest team in a group also featuring 2020 semifinalists RB Leipzig, Brugge had surprisingly held PSG to a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the section at the Jan Breydelstadion.
City, facing Brugge for the first time, twice had the ball in the net inside the opening 15 minutes. Grealish’s lob was ruled out for a push on Clinton Mata, with Rodri’s tap-in disallowed for offside.
Phil Foden fired into the side-netting after running onto a long ball, the England international’s free roaming as a false nine constantly troubling Brugge.
It came as little surprise Foden created the opening goal for Cancelo, chipping a delightful ball over the defense that the Portugal defender poked through the legs of former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Stanley Nsoki chopped Mahrez down in the area late in the first half, the Algerian doubling City’s lead as he sent Mignolet the wrong way from the spot.
Mahrez nearly struck again before half-time but Mignolet beat away his first-time strike from Foden’s lay-off.
Walker all but put the match out of reach on 53 minutes when Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne combined, the latter rolling through for Walker to drill low past Mignolet.
Mignolet denied Foden with his legs as City continued to stream forward. Not even a spate of changes could check their momentum as Palmer scored three minutes after replacing De Bruyne.
No sooner had Belgium star De Bruyne walked off to warm applause from the home supporters than Palmer curled in from Raheem Sterling’s assist.
Mignolet saved well from Sterling after he escaped in behind the defense, with Ederson producing a sharp stop to turn away Charles De Ketelaere’s diving header.
Brugge refused to fold and Hans Vanaken steered in a consolation nine minutes from time, but the game finished as it started, with City flexing their muscle as Mahrez burst clear to complete the rout.

SACF sign MoU with JSW Sports to develop Cricket in Saudi Arabia

SACF sign MoU with JSW Sports to develop Cricket in Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 October 2021

SACF sign MoU with JSW Sports to develop Cricket in Saudi Arabia

SACF sign MoU with JSW Sports to develop Cricket in Saudi Arabia
  • The partnership, will see the JSW Group’s sports vertical come on board as a consultant, with the aim to grow and develop cricket in the Kingdom in line with the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’
  • Additionally, the SACF will also aim to establish a high-performance programme to professionalize the structure and setup for cricket in the country, in association with JSW Sports

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) signed an agreement with the sports management company JSW Sports to develop Cricket in Saudi Arabia focusing on high performance academies.

The SACF announced that they have entered into a MOU with JSW Sports. The partnership, will see the JSW Group’s sports vertical come on board as a consultant, with the aim to grow and develop cricket in the Kingdom in line with the ‘Saudi Vision 2030’.

Through the relationship, JSW Sports will work closely with the SACF and its current key stakeholders, programmes, organization and infrastructure, with a view to prepare a high performance plan with a long-term vision of enhancing cricket in the Kingdom.

JSW will also review key areas such as grass roots development, talent identification, cricket facilities, and events calendar.

Prince Saud bin Mishal Al Saud, Chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation said: “ The SACF is delighted to work closely with the vastly experienced and successful sports organization, JSW Sports, at this exciting phase in the transformation of the federation. We are proud to be associated with a leading international high performance entity to benefit the growth of cricket in Saudi Arabia.” 

Headquartered in Riyadh, the SACF became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2003.

Regionally affiliated with the Asian Cricket Council, SACF was named the 39th associate member of the ICC in 2016.

“We are very excited at this opportunity to partner with the SACF to help them grow the sport of cricket in the country. At JSW Sports, we are either looking to learn from the best or share our knowledge and expertise with those around us, in areas where we are the best, and this partnership underlines that. We look forward to working with the SAFC and making a success out of their programme,” said Parth Jindal, Director, JSW Sports.

Planned in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, the partnership will serve to augment the efforts of the SACF to put Saudi Arabia on the global sporting map. 

Additionally, the SACF will also aim to establish a high-performance programme to professionalize the structure and setup for cricket in the country, in association with JSW Sports.


Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons
Updated 19 October 2021

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons
  • John Lickrish, CEO of MWTC organizers Flash Entertainment, tells Arab News about the capital’s unique tournament and the challenges and satisfaction of juggling sports and music events

If your job is to put on some of Abu Dhabi’s biggest sports and music events, it helps if you happen to love what you do.

Luckily, sports and music have been part of John Lickrish’s life from a young age.

For the Canadian CEO of Flash Entertainment, organizers of some of the biggest events and concerts in the UAE capital, the return of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) on Dec. 16-18 is a sign that things are getting back to normal after a year and half like no other.

“We’ve been busy during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve done a lot of stuff with the UFC and the Tourism Authority — logistics and operations around those events last year,” he said. “We had permission to do the MWTC event last year because it was outdoors and it was international, but unfortunately we couldn’t coordinate with the Australian Open, as they kept changing the dates. The players were available, then not available, but unfortunately we lose out to the Australian one because it’s a Masters event. It’s a high priority for the players.”

But the MWTC is back this year, and will be socially distanced (40 percent capacity) with PCR and vaccine requirements at a sterilized Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex.

“It’s a very safe environment — it’s outdoors and you really can’t get bad seats at the Zayed Sports City facility,” Lickrish said. “It’s one of the great venues left. If you ever attend any of the international events, you’re so far away from the players, whereas with this one you get up close and personal. You can watch some of the training sessions in the smaller areas as well. We’re really excited about getting it back and we think it’s a great event for families and people who might be a little hesitant of large crowds.”

Since the tournament’s inception in 2009, Rafael Nadal has won a record five titles, while Novak Djokovic has four wins and Andy Murray two.

After a year of disruptions and cancellations due to the pandemic, players and their teams are once again open to traveling and taking part in the MWTC, often the ideal lanchpad for the Australian Open, which in 2022 will take place from Jan. 17-20 in Melbourne.

“Last year they were bit hesitant,” said Lickrish. “Managers thought that if they are coming down here, there was much higher risk. So they were like, it’s going to cost more money, which you think would be the opposite.

“This year they’ve gone back to the normal way of thinking,” he said. “And we know they’ll be flying out of the UAE on private jets just for the players to get to Australia, so it makes it a lot more convenient for them.”

Lickrish said that with other high profile events — many organized by Flash Entertainment — taking pace in the UAE capital, “it’s not the worst time to be in Abu Dhabi.”

He added: “As you know, we’ve got the Formula 1 (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) just before and there’s been lots of requests for the players to have additional accommodation so that they can attend that,” he said. “They love the Mubadala event because it’s a really good opportunity for them to evaluate themselves with the rest of the players — they get to play more than one round with the best in the world.

“It was Roger Federer who requested that if you get knocked out you get to play a consolation round, which of course we agreed to, but unfortunately he hasn’t been back since then. One of my favorite players, Nadal, has had a lot of luck here, as well as Djokovic. They’ve gone on to have typically good seasons depending on how they’ve performed here.

“So we’re taking credit for the positivity and we’re not taking blame for anything bad that happens,” Lickrish joked.

While the men’s lineup has yet to be announced, the women’s match on the opening day of the tournament will see US Open champion Emma Raducanu take on Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

MWTC comes at time when Abu Dhabi’s sporting calendar is at its busiest. Lickrish is proud that over the years, Flash has consistently been asked to organize the capital’s biggest events.

“We’ve been very lucky. We’ve worked with the Tourism Authority on the UFC — over multiple projects. Flash used to be a 10 percent owner of the UFC until a few years ago, but they’ve continued to work with us,” he said. “We had the experience of the FIFA Club World Cup in three editions. The first one we did entirely by ourselves where we ran the whole program, and the last two came under the watchful eye of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. They owned the event and we were there as the operators.”

MWTC remains one of the dearest events to Lickrish, one that he and his team worked hard to “create from scratch.” But they remain on the lookout for more events.

“We’re always looking to expand our expertise,” he said. “I’d like to get into cricket, I’d like to get into basketball — we have done work with the NBA on a 3-on-3 tournament, which is really fantastic. We can pretty much do anything. We’ve worked with Red Bull on motocross. We have the capabilities, and if we don’t have the expertise, we find the person or persons who have that intimate knowledge in a sport and can help us with the competition side of these events.”

As a teenager, Lickrish was a promising athlete in his homeland and his love of sport has never left him, despite having his own dreams cruelly dashed.

“I was an alpine skier — Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super GS,” he said. “I was ranked at one point fourth in Canada for 18 years and under, but unfortunately just before the 1988 Olympics I got hit by a car,” Lickrish, now in his early 50s, said. “I fractured my neck and had 40 stitches in my face so that moved my retirement a little bit forward. But I’m here now, have a really exciting job and a great family, so I can’t really complain about anything.”

Before his move to Abu Dhabi, Lickrish was also a certified skiing coach and today remains an avid golfer, having taken up the game at the age of 12. But what is one of his favorite spectator sports?

“American football, even though I’m Canadian,” Lickrish said. “I’m a big Green Bay Packers fan, as well as the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders are my second team. It’s funny because my youngest brother basically kicked me off the Raiders fan club. He started buying me Green Bay gear for Christmas and birthdays so I had hats and sweatshirts and all kinds of paraphernalia, because he wanted to support the Raiders and we couldn’t both support the same team. So they were kind of my second team but over the years I’ve really grown to love them.”

With the NFL already staging overseas games in London, would American football be something Lickrish would like to bring to Abu Dhabi?

“I would never say never in Abu Dhabi because if someone wants to go for it, it’s going to get done,” he said. “Of course I would love to do one, that would be amazing, but I haven’t approached them at all. I would leave that to the Sports Council or the Tourism Authority because they’re the ones bringing in the huge international events.”

As part of Flash, Lickrish has also played a major role in introducing some of the world’s leading musical artists to the UAE capital. His love of music and involvement in the industry ran in parallel with his own sporting journey.

“Even in university I was doing events,” he said. “I was very into music — all types of different music. I know everyone says that, but I’d been to every kind of concert, including classical, opera, DJ, rock and hip-hop. I started putting on university cover bands and theme nights and then I really got into electronic music because two Canadians — Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva — were coming to London, Ontario. One of them lived there and the other in Windsor, just by Detroit. I kind of fell in love with their music and their label.”

Since 2007, Lickrish and Flash have brought the likes of Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Aerosmith, Prince, Paul McCartney, Gun N’ Roses, The Rolling Stones and many more to Abu Dhabi — first to the lawns of Emirates Palace and then, from 2009, to Yas Island, many of those concerts being part of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

So sports or music? For Lickrish, there is no simple answer and no obvious preference.

“It’s hard to say. I love doing the sporting events for completely different reasons to music events,” he said. “I think the really big thing for me is to watch the crowds and see how much they enjoy where they are. You can tell. I always go for a walk and look at people’s faces because I can see how much joy this is bringing them and how emotionally connected they are.

“I just love seeing that on people’s faces — to just disconnect from their responsibilities for one or two hours and dial into whoever is performing, whether that’s an athlete, a team or a musician,” Lickrish said. “It adds to people’s lives and I take a lot of joy in that.”


Greece hands over Olympic flame to Beijing 2022 hosts

Greece hands over Olympic flame to Beijing 2022 hosts
Updated 19 October 2021

Greece hands over Olympic flame to Beijing 2022 hosts

Greece hands over Olympic flame to Beijing 2022 hosts
  • Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in the Winter Games between 4 and 20 February 2022
  • The International Olympic Committee has said the flame will go on display to the public in Beijing before setting off on an exhibition tour

ATHENS: Greece on Tuesday handed over the Olympic flame to organizers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, a day after the lighting ceremony was disrupted by activists calling for the event to be postponed.
Hellenic Olympic Committee chief Spyros Kapralos gave the Olympic torch to the vice president of Beijing 2022 and vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee Yu Zaiqing at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, where the ancient Games were revived in 1896.
“The Olympic flame will travel to the Great Wall and across other parts of China, bringing with it the light of peace and friendship,” Yu said.
He said China vowed to deliver “a streamlined, safe and splendid Games.”
Around 2,900 athletes, representing approximately 85 National Olympic Committees, will compete in the Winter Games between 4 and 20 February 2022.
Actresses dressed as ancient Greek priestesses had earlier lit a cauldron with the Olympic flame, after China’s Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 freestyle ski silver medallist Li Nina ran a lap with the torch in the second-century AD stadium.
The ceremony was held without spectators, with mainly officials and media in attendance.
“The pandemic may have prevented us from holding the Olympic flame ceremony in the presence of people, but I am sure that the successful and safe organization of the Games will be another victory of humanity against the coronavirus,” Kapralos said.
“Beijing is making history by becoming the first city to host both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. And we are very happy, because by giving you the flame, we also become part of this history,” he added.
The International Olympic Committee has said the flame will go on display to the public in Beijing before setting off on an exhibition tour.
Earlier Tuesday, activists against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics urged the IOC to postpone the event, arguing that China was perpetrating “genocide” against Uyghurs and Tibetans.
“This is sports-washing. There are no legitimate reasons to host the Games during a genocide,” Zumretay Arkin, advocacy manager of the World Uyghur Congress, told a news conference in the Greek capital.
During the lighting ceremony in Olympia on Monday, the activists unfurled a Tibetan flag and a banner that said “no genocide” at the Games. A similar protest was held at the Acropolis in Athens on Sunday.
Human rights campaigners and exiles say the Chinese central government practices religious repression, torture, forced sterilization and cultural erosion through forced re-education.
Campaigners believe that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.
After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.
The IOC is legitimising “one of the worst violations of human rights in the entire 21st century” and defiling the spirit of the Games, Pema Doma, campaigns director for Students for a Free Tibet, told the news conference in Athens.
“These Games cannot go ahead as planned, they must be postponed,” she said.
There have also been calls for athletes and governments to boycott the Games.
IOC chairman Thomas Bach has batted off talk of a potential boycott, claiming the International Olympic Committee’s political neutrality and saying it was up to governments to live up to their responsibilities.
A victim of the 1980 Moscow Games boycott, the former fencer has said such moves only punish athletes, and insists the IOC was addressing the rights issue “within our remit.”


Extreme E set for first European round with Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia this weekend

Extreme E set for first European round with Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia this weekend
Updated 19 October 2021

Extreme E set for first European round with Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia this weekend

Extreme E set for first European round with Enel X Island X Prix in Sardinia this weekend
  • Rosberg X Racing top Season 1’s table, while Andretti United Extreme E will look to close gap after winning Arctic X Prix in Greenland last time out

LONDON: Extreme E’s fourth race of its inaugural season, the Enel X Island X Prix, is set to take place at Capo Teulada in Sulcis-Iglesiente, Sardinia this weekend, from Oct. 23-24.

The first-ever electric SUV series launched in April with the Desert x Prix at AlUla, Saudi Arabia, with the Ocean X Prix following in Dakar, Senegal at the end of May, and the Arctic X Prix in Greenland in August.

Currently, Rosberg X Racing lead the Extreme E Season 1 standings.

The last race saw RXR’s winning streak broken by Andretti United Extreme E, who were joined on the podium by JBXE and ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team. RXR, leading the table on 93 points, could mathematically take the title in Sardinia, but X44 (84 points) and Andretti United Extreme E (76 points) will be looking to keep the championship alive into the last event of the season in the UK.

“Our Sardinian race is shaping up to be a true spectacle and I can’t wait to see the teams battling it out on the course for victory at our penultimate event of Season 1,” Alejandro Agag, founder and CEO of Extreme E, said. “Sardinia has a rich motorsport heritage and won’t be unfamiliar territory for some of our drivers, but the course will be one full of challenges.

“The island has been suffering at the hands of the climate crisis, and I’m really pleased our Legacy Programmes here will be two-fold, focusing on both the land and the ocean through reforestation in areas affected by wildfires, which are still so front of mind, and blue carbon through seagrass restoration and conservation,” he added.

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Western Mediterranean and is well known for hosting motorsport events, most famously the Rally Italia Sardegna, which has been on the World Rally Championship calendar since 2004 and has been won by X44’s Sebastien Loeb four times.

The Enel X Island X Prix will follow the same format as the Arctic X Prix with qualifying taking place on Saturday, Oct. 23. There will be one session in the morning and one in the afternoon with each team completing two laps of the course, one per driver with a driver switch. The times recorded across the morning session will equate to classification points, meaning first place receives nine points, second place eight, third place seven and so on. The same then happens in the afternoon with classification points awarded on the same scale.

The combined total of these classification points provides the intermediate standings, and the remaining races will take place as follows:

— The teams will be listed first to ninth place based on the total combined points of each team’s two Qualifying runs.

— Teams placed in first, fifth and sixth progress to Semi-Final 1, where the top two finishers claim spots in the Enel X Island X Prix Final.

— Second, third and fourth from Qualifying go through to Semi-Final 2, where again the top two progress to the Enel X Island X Prix Final.

— The bottom three teams (seventh, eighth and ninth) head to the Crazy Race, with the winner reaching the Enel X Island X Prix Final.

— The Enel X Island X Prix Final features five cars.

The nine teams and 18 drivers are as follows:

ABT CUPRA XE — #125 — Mattias Ekström / Jutta Kleinschmidt

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team — #55 — Carlos Sainz Sr. / Laia Sanz

Andretti United Extreme E — #23 — Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings

SEGI TV Chip Ganassi Racing — #99 — Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price

XITE ENERGY RACING powered by myenergi — #42 — Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ

JBXE — #22 — Kevin Hansen / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky

Rosberg X Racing — #6 — Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor

Veloce Racing — #5 — Stéphane Sarrazin / Emma Gilmour

X44 — #44 — Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez