Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
Moussa Marega was last seen scoring in the Portuguese league on April 22 to keep FC Porto’s title hopes alive. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 10 May 2021

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis

Al-Hilal’s new signing Marega has big shoes to fill to replace club legend Gomis
  • The Malian striker will join up with the Riyadh club at the start of next season

LONDON: Al-Hilal may go through coaches at a rapid rate but when it comes to recruiting strikers, the Saudi Arabian giants have a far-sighted policy in place. No sooner had Bafetimbi Gomis become the fastest foreign player to score 100 goals for the club, it was announced that a new striker and a potential replacement was on his way to Riyadh. 

Moussa Marega was last seen scoring in the Portuguese league on April 22 to keep FC Porto’s title hopes alive and, from next season, the 30 year old will be an Al-Hilal player. As the French-born Mali international is out of contract at the end of the Primera Liga season and available on a free transfer, it marks a good bit of business from Al-Hilal, who will pay a reported 5 million euros ($6 million) a year over a three-year contract.

“In 1991, I was born in the French city of Les Ulis and in the same year, Al-Hilal won their first continental title,” Marega said as he was unveiled by the three-time Asian champions.

“These two stories continue to excite and they crossed again in 2020 when Al-Hilal won a hat-trick (of trophies) in Saudi Arabia and I did the same in Portugal,” he added, referring to his part in Porto’s triumph in the Portuguese League, Cup and Super Cup. “And now in 2021, my next destination is Saudi Arabia.”

Marega scored 52 league goals in his four seasons with Porto, and a further 10 in domestic cups. He also managed six goals in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League as he became the joint-third highest scorer that year alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Aguero.

He was welcomed to Riyadh by Gomis, who wrote on Twitter: “Welcome to (the) Al-Hilal family my brother.”

Marega’s arrival is likely to herald the end of Gomis’ time in Riyadh. The French forward has been one of the most successful foreign imports in the history of Saudi Arabian football. His 100th goal on Friday, one of two he scored in the 5-1 win against second placed Al-Shabab, that sent the defending champions three points clear with four games to play, came in only his 126th appearance for the club. Sixty-eight of those goals came in the league, eight in the King’s Cup, 17 in Asia — he was top scorer as Al-Hilal won the tournament in 2019 — five in the Arab Championship and two in the Club World Cup.

Gomis turns 36 in August and the arrival of Marega means speculation the former Lyon and Swansea star will return to Europe will intensify. When he does leave, the striker has said that he wishes to do so as a hero of Al-Hilal, though he refuses to comment specifically on a date.

“One day I will definitely leave but I want to leave when we have won the title,” Gomis said. “I have won many titles and had many historical achievements.”

Gomis helped Al-Hilal to the Saudi title last year and the AFC Champions League the year before and wants more prizes before he departs.

“This will be the best end for me. I would like history to remember that I was one of the leading goalscorers at Al-Hilal.

“It is my duty to give everything to the team and the fans, I know they love me personally so I feel a great responsibility towards them. That is why against Al-Shabab, I tried to do everything I could, both in attack and defence, for the team and especially for those fans,” he added.

The two goals Gomis netted against Al-Shabab were not just typical strikes from the star — and not only meant Al-Hilal are in touching distance of a successive title — but also meant Gomis now has 20 for the season, four more than Abha’s Carlos Strandberg, and is top of the goalscoring charts.

“The game against Al-Shabab is not the most important this season, it is all about the title and success for Al-Hilal but it is true that winning here brings us closer to the title,” he said. “It is something very special and I am delighted to achieve it, but the most important thing is that the team wins.” 

Regardless of how long he has left with Al-Hilal, it is certain that Gomis will get his wish and leave a hero, and if it is in the coming weeks, it is increasingly likely that he will leave as a champion.


Boost for injury-hit Al-Hilal as Salman Al-Faraj returns to training ahead of Al-Hazem clash

Boost for injury-hit Al-Hilal as Salman Al-Faraj returns to training ahead of Al-Hazem clash
Updated 28 September 2021

Boost for injury-hit Al-Hilal as Salman Al-Faraj returns to training ahead of Al-Hazem clash

Boost for injury-hit Al-Hilal as Salman Al-Faraj returns to training ahead of Al-Hazem clash
  • Club captain had been sidelined since suffering knock against Esteghlal in AFC Champions League

RIYADH: Midfield maestro Salman Al-Faraj has given Al-Hilal a major boost ahead of Thursday’s Saudi Pro League match against Al-Hazem with a return to training.

The reigning champions’ captain had been sidelined due to a recent injury picked up in the club’s last AFC Champions League match against Iran’s Esteghlal, but after a period of rehabilitation he was on Monday given the all-clear to resume full training with the rest of the squad.

He will now undergo another fitness test ahead of the seventh-round fixture at Al-Hazem Stadium.

Al-Faraj’s injury on Sept. 13 forced him to miss SPL matches against Al-Ettifaq and Al-Shabab in the fifth and sixth rounds of the domestic league.

Meanwhile, Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulaihi was continuing his recovery program after taking a knock against Al-Shabab last week.

Injury-hit Al-Hilal are still without the services of the sidelined Mohammed Al-Breik, Abdullah Otayf, Andre Carrillo, and Salem Al-Dossari.


Tickets for FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar go on sale

Tickets for FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar go on sale
Updated 28 September 2021

Tickets for FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar go on sale

Tickets for FIFA Arab Cup 2021 in Qatar go on sale
  • Fan card system will require ticket holders to register for smart ID that will also allow free transport on match days

Tickets for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 taking place in Qatar from Nov. 30 will go on sale on Tuesday (12 p.m. KSA) and will be issued on a first-come-first-served basis.

The tournament will see the unveiling of two new stadiums to be used at the 2022 World Cup. Al Bayt Stadium, which has a capacity of 60,000, will host the opening and final matches, while the 40,000-seat Ras Abu Aboud Stadium will be dismantled at the end of Qatar 2022.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy in Qatar also announced the implementation of a fan card system during the Arab Cup, which ticket holders will need to gain access to stadiums.

The smart ID card will allow fans to use public transport for free on match days.

“The activation of the fan card is an important step in our efforts to provide an unique and memorable experience for all fans and visitors expected to come to Qatar,” said Mariam Al-Muftah, director of information technology at the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

“The FIFA Arab Cup will represent a golden opportunity to improve preparations to host the 2022 World Cup, including the fan card services, which we will evaluate at the end of the Arab Cup.”

Fans wishing to attend the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 must apply for a fan card once they have paid for their tickets and received the purchase order number via email.

Match tickets are available exclusively on FIFA’s official website, while fans will be able to submit their requests for a fan card via FAC21.qa  from Tuesday.

The Arab Cup 2021 will be the 10th edition of the tournament traditionally organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations, and will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18.

The 16 teams taking part are hosts Qatar, Iraq, Oman, Bahrain, Tunisia, UAE, Syria, Mauritania, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan.


Al-Nassr to name new coach by end of the week

Al-Nassr to name new coach by end of the week
Updated 28 September 2021

Al-Nassr to name new coach by end of the week

Al-Nassr to name new coach by end of the week
  • Director of media dismisses rumors the club has already agreed on replacement for Mano Menezes

Al-Nassr have issued a statement saying that the Riyadh club will name a new coach by the end of the week and that no agreement has been reached with a single candidate yet, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah has reported.

Al-Waleed Al-Muhaidib, director of the media center at Al-Nassr, on Tuesday posted a message on his Twitter account denying that that club has finalized its search.

“Regarding the large number of false reports about the first team coach from media professionals and official channels, Al-Nassr is keen to sign a contract with the most appropriate choice,” Al-Muhaidib wrote.

He added that the club is still in negations with some coaches, while other candidates have show a strong desire to take over the role.

Last week, Al-Nassr dismissed Menezes after a 3-1 loss to Al-Ittihad in the fifth round of the Saudi Professional League left the club in sixth place in the table with nine points.


Manchester City unveil Expo 2020 Dubai as new training kit partner

Manchester City unveil Expo 2020 Dubai as new training kit partner
Updated 27 September 2021

Manchester City unveil Expo 2020 Dubai as new training kit partner

Manchester City unveil Expo 2020 Dubai as new training kit partner
  • The branding of the global event, which launches Oct. 1, will feature on kits for both men’s and women’s teams for the 2021-22 season

Manchester City have unveiled Expo 2020 Dubai as the club’s new training kit partner ahead of the opening of the global event this Friday.

Expo 2020 branding will appear on the men’s and women’s training kits for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.

From Oct. 1, over 190 countries will come together in Dubai to showcase the latest advances in technology, culture and sport, and celebrate the values of innovation, sustainability and diversity to a global audience.

Manchester City will host daily football sessions at the Expo site, led by dedicated coaching staff who will apply the same training methodology used by the teams on the training pitches in Manchester.

“We are delighted to unveil Expo 2020 Dubai as Manchester City’s new training kit partner,” Ferran Soriano, CEO for City Football Group, said. “This partnership will integrate Expo 2020 as a core part of every training session and matchday as our teams challenge for success this season.”

“Expo 2020 showcases values of innovation and sustainability that we wholeheartedly embrace at Manchester City,” he added. “We are very excited to collaborate and partner with an event that will be truly spectacular, global and transformational.”

Representatives from the club and wider City Football Group network will also take part in bespoke events over the coming months.

In addition to the training kit, Expo 2020 branding will also appear across the Etihad Stadium and City Football Academy training facilities, as well as featuring on City’s content and digital platforms.

Expo 2020 is also an official partner of the Manchester City esports team and features on the front of the esports kit.

“Today’s announcement of the deepening in our relationship with Manchester City builds on the exciting exchange of ideas and new opportunities we have shared with the club since we launched the partnership in June,” said Sholto Douglas-Home, chief sales and marcoms officer at Expo 2020 Dubai. “With Manchester City’s expanded involvement in our event programming across the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, we are thrilled to be able to offer daily coaching sessions with club representatives as part of our exciting public events schedule, cementing the importance of sport as a vehicle to help us connect the world together.

“Becoming the club’s new training kit partner will massively accentuate the ability of Expo 2020 Dubai to engage and inspire fans around the globe by inviting them to share in the excitement of what this unique world expo will offer, which we sum up as ‘Join the Making of a New World’,” he said.

The partnership will also be showcased globally through the City Football Group network, with local activations planned at a number of City’s sister clubs, including Mumbai City FC, New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F. Marinos.


Saudi racing star Reema Juffali ‘physically, mentally stronger’ for British F3 Championship season finale

Saudi racing star Reema Juffali ‘physically, mentally stronger’ for British F3 Championship season finale
Updated 27 September 2021

Saudi racing star Reema Juffali ‘physically, mentally stronger’ for British F3 Championship season finale

Saudi racing star Reema Juffali ‘physically, mentally stronger’ for British F3 Championship season finale
  • Driver, 29, took part in intensive Austrian hike, climb training camp ahead of October final round at Donington ParK

 

DUBAI: Saudi racer Reema Juffali reckons she is in the best physical and mental shape of her career ahead of next month’s final round of the British F3 Championship.

The Jeddah-born driver, who represents Douglas Motorsport, recently travelled to Austria for some time away from the track to attend her last intensive training camp of the season and work on improving her endurance, strength, and stamina.

The 29-year-old undertook a number of different activities including hiking and climbing and said that she was already seeing clear improvements after participating in a camp she described as key to her development.

“Results on the track is just one part of my progress. This season I have also pushed myself to the limit away from the track with a training program that has incorporated everything from tough gym work to hiking and climbing.

“I have really noticed the difference from the start of the season, I am physically and mentally stronger and I know it will make me a better driver,” she added.

Juffali will be aiming to end the season on a high when she lines up for the final round of the British F3 Championship at Donington Park on the weekend of Oct. 16 to 17. Her best-ever result at the event came at Silverstone, when she finished fourth at the iconic track in June.

She said she was thoroughly enjoying testing herself against talented drivers in the competition, and that she would analyze the entire campaign following the last race and would not rush in making key decisions to enhance her career.

“I’ve put a lot of work into this season and now with just one race left my priority is to do as well as I can when we return to Donington Park for the season finale. Then I’ll sit back and carefully evaluate the whole year before making some major decisions on how best to progress my career.

“I’m competitive as ever and I’m ready for new challenges but what exactly those challenges will be is yet to be decided,” she added.

Juffali is extremely proud that her home city of Jeddah will host the Kingdom’s first ever Formula 1 race on Dec. 5, and said she was eager to see elite racing drivers in action and confident her country would rise to the occasion of staging a race that would be watched by millions of fans around the world.

“We have an amazing and ground-breaking F1 Grand Prix coming up in December and I’m looking forward to seeing how my country embraces the pinnacle of motorsport and also to see the best of my city showcased by the incredible platform that Formula 1 brings,” she added.