Gaming giant looks to Riyadh as regional e-sports hub

Gaming giant looks to Riyadh as regional e-sports hub
The Kingdom’s ability to host such large-scale events could make the country a beacon for e-sports competitions. ESL Gaming organizes online and offline e-sports competitions around the world. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 May 2021

Gaming giant looks to Riyadh as regional e-sports hub

Gaming giant looks to Riyadh as regional e-sports hub
  • ‘We’ll offer the possibility for teams and athletes to climb the ladder and shine on the world stage’

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is expanding its use of technology in all fields — from education, medicine and computer science to entertainment and electronic sports.

Last year, the Kingdom hosted “Gamers without Borders,” a $10 million charity prize fund to help combat the pandemic.
The world’s biggest gaming event was launched by ESL Gaming, the global e-sports giant responsible for numerous online and offline competitions.
Over the course of seven weeks, elite gamers came together to take part in one-off tournaments, with the winners donating part of the $10 million prize purse to international charities fighting coronavirus.
The Kingdom’s ability to host such large-scale events could make the country a beacon for e-sports competitions, according to industry insiders.
Arab News spoke to David Neichel, SVP international growth and adviser to the CEO at ESL Gaming, who voiced his optimism that Riyadh will be the region’s e-sporting hub.
“Our mission is to make e-sports one of the biggest sporting streams in the world, and this is exactly within the framework that we have now to develop big plans in the Middle East and North African region. That’s why we established a regional hub in Riyadh to serve the region,” he said.
ESL Gaming organizes online and offline e-sports competitions, as well as lifestyle gaming festivals, around the world.
“This is what we are very happy to bring here to the whole region and the Kingdom,” Neichel said.
The company’s competitions include the ESL1 and IEM, and one of the biggest examples they want to create in the Kingdom, IEM Katowice.

HIGHLIGHTS

• ESL Gaming organizes online and offline e-sports competitions, as well as lifestyle gaming festivals, around the world. • The company’s competitions include the ESL1 and IEM, and one of the biggest examples they want to create in the Kingdom, IEM Katowice.

“Katowice, in Poland, is our regional hub for Europe, so this is where we produce content and also these mega-events. What we are actually trying to do here is establish a regional hub exactly the same way as we have one in Burbank, California, for the US, Katowice for Europe, and Malaysia for Asia Pacific.”

Neichel highlighted the similarities between the e-sports giant and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 in terms of skilled job opportunities for the youth and growth ambitions.
“I think there is a good match between Vision 2030 and our vision. It seems like things really fit together, so for ESL this is really about establishing a full portfolio of products in the whole region.
“We’ll be bringing with us highly skilled jobs for the youth, which is very important. We’ll also offer the possibility for teams and athletes — from Saudi Arabia and all the Arab world — to climb the ladder and shine on the world stage. We will bring mega-events here so that people from all over world will come to watch them,” he added.




Last year, the KSA hosted Gamers Without Borders, the world’s largest charity gaming event. (File photo)

Some competitions will be owned and labeled like traditional ESL branded events, while others will be produced for publishers.
Riyadh will produce e-sports competitions. “What we want is to also be a service center to produce competitions for publishers in the region. The other thing is that it means we will be their infrastructure. Our ambition is to have a state-of-the-art studio; we want to have the most advanced studio in the world to produce e-sports content.
“You have to think about what happens in TV production and such things but, basically, a lot of that will be produced out of Riyadh.”
Neichel added:  “Of course, establishing a strong team here in Riyadh will help organize every kind of event, from community events for older, very active gamers up to regional level — what we call challenger level — and mega-events out of the region.”

ESL currently has been contracted to operate a major gaming event that will be announced on June 1st.


Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros
Updated 25 min 3 sec ago

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros

Szczesny’s own-goal continues his run of bad luck at Euros
  • Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off in 2012, injured in 2016, now an own-goal at Euro 2020
  • He was also left helpless for Slovakia's winner by Milan Skriniar

ST. PETERSBURG: Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny doesn’t have much luck in his opening game at European Championships.
Sent off in 2012. Injured in 2016. Now an own-goal at Euro 2020.
The Juventus player became the first goalkeeper to score an own-goal at the tournament in Poland’s 2-1 loss to Slovakia on Monday.
Not that he could do much about it.
Szczesny had already committed himself to a dive in an attempt to save a shot from Slovakia winger Robert Mak in the 18th minute when the ball rebounded off his near post, onto his outstretched arm as he lay on the ground, and back into the net.
He was also left helpless for Slovakia’s winner by Milan Skriniar, barely moving as the center back hit a fierce, low shot into the corner in the 69th minute.
Szczesny has established himself as one of the most reliable goalkeepers in Europe, his reputation having soared since joining Juventus from Arsenal in 2017. Poland has long been well-stocked with keepers, with Lukasz Fabianski also a solid option, but Szczesny is the regular No. 1.
Major tournaments are not his friend, though.
In 2012, he was shown a red card in the opening game of a European Championship co-hosted by Poland, punished for a professional foul on Greece player Dimitris Salpingidis in the second half.
In 2016, and again in Poland’s opening match, Szczesny damaged a thigh muscle against Northern Ireland and wound up missing the rest of the tournament.
The pain isn’t just restricted to the European Championship.
In Poland’s opening match of the 2018 World Cup, Szczesny gifted M’Baye Niang a goal for Senegal, which went on to win 2-1.


Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return
Updated 14 June 2021

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return

Scotland stunned by Czechs’ Schick on Euro return
  • Schick headed the Czechs in front before the break and then doubled the lead on 52 minutes with an incredible strike from just inside the Scotland half
  • After a 23-year wait to qualify for a major tournament, Scotland’s hopes of making more history by getting out of the group for the first time now look slim

GLASGOW: Scotland’s long-awaited return to a major international tournament was ruined by Patrik Schick’s slick finishing as the Czech Republic won 2-0 at Hampden on Monday to move top of Euro 2020 Group D.
Schick’s header just before half-time opened the scoring, but it was his stunning strike from just inside the Scotland half after the break that will live in the memory as one of the all-time great European Championship goals.
After a 23-year wait to qualify for a major tournament, Scotland’s hopes of making more history by getting out of the group for the first time now look slim.
Steve Clarke’s men face England next on Friday at Wembley before hosting World Cup finalists Croatia at Hampden on June 22.
Playing in front of fans at Hampden for the first time since November 2019 with 12,000 in attendance, Scotland made a nervous start.
David Marshall was the hero of penalty shootout wins over Israel and Serbia to qualify and was needed early on to turn Schick’s powerful effort at the near post behind.
The hosts were desperately missing the driving runs and poise on the ball normally provided by Kieran Tierney on the left side of a back three.
Clarke has settled on a 3-5-2 to make way for two of the Premier League’s best left-backs in the same team.
Without the Arsenal defender, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson was his side’s biggest threat with a series of rampaging runs.
His cross was turned narrowly wide by Lyndon Dykes at the near post before the Scotland captain was denied a moment to remember by Tomas Vaclik.
Robertson burst onto Ryan Christie’s pass but his shot that was headed for the top corner was tipped over by the Sevilla goalkeeper.
A cagey game of few chances burst into life after Schick’s towering leap put the visitors in front three minutes before half-time.
Scotland were slow to react after initially clearing a corner and the Bayer Leverkusen forward rose highest to flick home Vladimir Coufal’s cross.
Marshall was called into action to make two quick saves from Schick and Vladimir Darida in an explosive start to the second-half.
But twice Scotland were inches away from levelling when Jack Hendry’s dipping effort came back off the crossbar before Vaclik clawed away a mishit clearance from Tomas Kalas.
However, the home side were stunned by a moment of brilliance from Schick on 52 minutes as he spotted Marshall off his line from halfway and bent in an incredible shot from just inside the Scotland half.
Chances continued to come and go for Scotland as Stuart Armstrong’s shot was deflected onto the roof of the net and Vaclik’s outstretched leg denied Dykes from close range.
But it was Schick who had the best opportunity late on to complete a memorable hat-trick when he fired too close to Marshall.
Beating old rivals England would more than make amends for the Tartan Army’s disappointment, but Scotland now have a mountain to climb if they are to prevent their long-awaited adventure ending in familiar fashion.


Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
Updated 14 June 2021

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
  • Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen: Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost
  • Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and is in a stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Interest in CPR and defibrillators has been pulling the attention of Danes away from soccer’s European Championship since the collapse of Christian Eriksen.
The tournament, with the national team playing all three of its group games at home in Copenhagen, was supposed to create a two-week party in the capital — with many hoping Denmark would be able to repeat its improbable triumph from the 1992 tournament.
But Eriksen fell face-forward onto the field with cardiac arrest during the team’s opening game against Finland on Saturday. And suddenly a large portion of Denmark’s 6 million people were watching live on TV as one of the country’s best-known athletes was given emergency CPR, his teammates standing around him with tears in their eyes.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it “a national shock.”
“Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost,” Frederiksen wrote on Facebook.
Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and was in a stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital on Monday.
But the national shock hasn’t quite dissipated.
Eriksen’s collapse remains the talk of the nation. Many wonder how it could happen to such a healthy player. And a debate is still raging over whether the game should have been called off. It was suspended for about 90 minutes before resuming, having been stopped near the end of the first half. Finland went on to score in the second half and won 1-0.
The interest among Danes in learning CPR and how to use a defibrillator has skyrocketed. A national organization that puts up defibrillators across the country said more than 640 people have volunteered to learn how to use one since Saturday — compared to 90 the previous weekend.
There also has been widespread anger in Denmark toward European soccer governing body UEFA for only giving the players the option of either finishing the game on Saturday evening or resuming on Sunday at noon instead.
The players themselves on Monday said they didn’t want to resume but thought it was better to finish Saturday than to come back the next day.
“It was not our wish to play,” Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite said. “We had two options and would have liked a third option. But we were told we had to make a decision. ... There were many players who weren’t in a condition to play the match. We were in a completely different place.”
Another much-debated topic has been the impact on young viewers, who watched one of their sporting idols lying unconscious on the ground.
For unprepared children, seeing such pictures equals “a slap in the face,” said Ane Lemche, a psychologist with the Danish chapter of Save the Children.
“And children can also get confused, because he looks quite lifeless and that is uncomfortable for a child,” she told Danish broadcaster DR.
Boerns Vilkaar, a child counselling organization, posted advice for parents on its website, saying many children who watched were “scared, insecure and sad.”
The Danish soccer federation also tweeted a link to the organization’s advice.
“Those kinds of pictures can be hard to get out of your head,” the organization wrote. “Some children may think about it a lot and be affected by it for a long time.”


Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
Updated 14 June 2021

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
  • Saudi Arabia will confirm a spot in the final AFC qualifying round as long as it avoids defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday night

Tuesday’s crunch World Cup showdown between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan could hinge on one yellow card received and one escaped last Friday.

Salem Al-Dawsari broke the deadlock against Singapore to claim a vital win but also picked up a second booking to rule him out of the big game, while Al-Nassr star Jaloliddin Masharipov scored the only goal in Uzbekistan’s 1-0 win over Yemen, and despite concerns from his coach, escaped Al-Dawsari’s fate and will be raring to go in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia needs just a draw to be sure of a place in the third round of qualification and are playing at home, but such advantages mean that it has all the pressure too. A misstep could see dreams of a sixth World Cup appearance go up in smoke.

Al-Dawsari has saved Saudi Arabia before and should the Green Falcons go all the way to Qatar, fans will once again be in the debt of the Al-Hilal star. Last Friday, the country sat back and expected a regulation win over Singapore who had just lost 4-0 to Palestine and 5-0 to Uzbekistan, but with five minutes remaining it was 0-0. 

Then up stepped the captain to score and change the mood and send his team on the way to a 3-0 win and three vital points to ensure that avoiding defeat on Tuesday will be enough.

It was a frustrating evening for coach Herve Renard who was relieved with the end result but disappointed that, just before half-time, his main man picked up a second yellow card in qualification and will sit out the big game. 

“My message to Asian referees is to protect the players from rough play,” said the Frenchman. “Al-Dawsari and Abdulelah Al-Maiki got yellow cards because they reacted to that. We will miss them against Uzbekistan.”

Right-back Mohammed Al-Breik went off injured in the second half with a back injury and remains doubtful but there is better news in that Al-Hilal midfielder Abdullah Otayf is available after serving his suspension.

“All matches are difficult,” added Renard, who took Morocco to the 2018 World Cup. “Singapore were difficult and Uzbekistan had a difficult time against Yemen. We got the right result in the end and now we look forward.”

The Frenchman refused to be drawn on how he will approach a game in which he just needs to avoid defeat to go through to the third round of qualification — due to start in September — as one of the eight group winners. Should Saudi Arabia lose, however, it will have to progress as one of the best four runners-up and it is a route that can be complicated. 

It has become more complex in May after the withdrawal of North Korea from qualification, which means that the results against the fifth-placed teams are not counted. If Yemen finish bottom of Group D, this would be good news for Saudi Arabia as it would only lose four of the 17 points collected and a total of 13 would be more than enough. Yet if Yemen defeat Palestine then Singapore would drop into fifth and that would mean a loss of six points and then things really would get messy — much better to leave no room for doubt. 

A draw may be enough for Uzbekistan to finish as one of the four best runners-up, but it may not. The need to win may actually play into their hands. The White Wolves have a reputation for choking when the pressure is on after failing in the past despite being in good positions to qualify for the 2006, 2014 and 2018 tournaments. This time however, the Central Asians are not in pole position and have little room for error.  

“We know what we have to do,” said Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov. “Our objective when qualification restarted was not to lose before we head into the final game and we have done that.” In fact the team has won all three games without conceding a single goal.

Masharipov, loaned out last season by Al-Nassr to Dubai’s Shabab Al-Ahli, has been in sparkling form of late with three goals in the last two games. A sublime attacking performance against Singapore was followed by a more dogged display in the win over Yemen, in which he scored the only goal of the game. Despite picking up a yellow card earlier in qualification, Abramov admitted that he gambled on the 27-year-old not getting another one on Friday. 

“Masharipov was playing below his full potential today,” the coach said. “The caution associated with the yellow card has had its effect on him. I had to keep him on the pitch until the end of the match as things were close, but I knew he was a smart guy and wouldn’t get a yellow card.”

Herve Renard, and all Saudi Arabian fans, will be hoping that Al-Dawsari’s failure to do the same will not come back to haunt them.


Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
Updated 14 June 2021

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
  • Reigning Saudi champions have outstanding payments totaling $6.4 million

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s management team was on Monday expected to settle all outstanding payments from April to secure a financial efficiency certificate allowing the club to take part in the summer transfer window, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah reported.

The Saudi Ministry of Sports announced through a press statement from the financial efficiency committee for sports clubs, that the club had financial obligations amounting to $6.4 million.

A successful season for Al-Hilal saw the club claim a record-extending 17th Saudi Professional League title, and an historic 62nd trophy, as well as confirm progress to the knockout stages of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

According to Arriyadiyah sources, the outstanding amount covered the salaries of club employees, players of various sporting activities, and the agent of one of the football team’s players, and the cases would be closed once the payments were made.