Game on: Saudi Olympics chiefs arrive in Tokyo to support KSA athletes

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, right, landed in Tokyo on Tuesday to support the Kingdom’s athletes at the Olympic Games. (SAOC)
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Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, right, landed in Tokyo on Tuesday to support the Kingdom’s athletes at the Olympic Games. (SAOC)
Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, left, landed in Tokyo on Tuesday to support the Kingdom’s athletes at the Olympic Games. (SAOC)
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Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, left, landed in Tokyo on Tuesday to support the Kingdom’s athletes at the Olympic Games. (SAOC)
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Updated 21 July 2021

Game on: Saudi Olympics chiefs arrive in Tokyo to support KSA athletes

Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, right, landed in Tokyo on Tuesday to support the Kingdom’s athletes at the Olympic Games. (SAOC)
  • Saudi Arabia has sent its largest ever Olympic delegation to Tokyo 202, with 11 individual qualifiers joined by the country’s U-23 football team
  • Kingdom’s footballers are first in action with match against Ivory Coast on Thursday

JEDDAH: Olympics chiefs from the Kingdom arrived in Japan on Tuesday to support the Saudi team ahead of the start of the Tokyo 2020 games.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, was joined in Tokyo by committee members Yasser Al-Mashal and Adwaa Al-Arifi, and Ibrahim Al-Qassim, secretary-general of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.

Saudi Arabia has sent its largest ever Olympic team to Tokyo, with 11 individual qualifiers and the U-23 football team.

Saudi athletes will take part in nine events, surpassing the record of six at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

The Olympics opening ceremony is on Friday at 8 p.m. in Tokyo, 2 p.m. in Saudi Arabia, but the baseball, softball and football competitions begin on Wednesday.

The athletics events begin on Friday, July 30, with 10 days of action culminating with the men’s marathon, which ends on the final day in Tokyo, Sunday, Aug. 8.

The Saudi U-23 footballers will be the first of the Kingdom’s representatives in action when they take on Ivory Coast at Yokohama International Stadium on
Thursday.

The Olympics are a showcase for young stars to attract the attention of scouts from the world’s top clubs.

The breakout star at London 2012, for example, was Omar Abdulrahman of the UAE.

In Tokyo, all Saudi eyes will be on the 21-year-old Al-Hilal striker Abdullah Al-Hamdan.

“The Olympics are not a high priority when compared to the U-17 or U-20 World Cups,” one leading scout told Arab News. “But it is still one attended by plenty of scouts, and any player who shows his potential will get noticed.”

 


Benzema’s lawyers criticize ‘sex tape’ trial on last day of hearings

Benzema’s lawyers criticize ‘sex tape’ trial on last day of hearings
Updated 7 sec ago

Benzema’s lawyers criticize ‘sex tape’ trial on last day of hearings

Benzema’s lawyers criticize ‘sex tape’ trial on last day of hearings
VERSAILLES: Lawyers for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema on Friday dismissed charges against him over an attempt to blackmail fellow player Mathieu Valbuena with a sex tape.
They said the prosecution had been driven by media interest in the case.
A verdict in the trial will be announced on November 24.
On the last day of hearings, being held in Versailles outside Paris, Benzema’s lawyers claimed the prosecution had failed to provide evidence to convict the star of complicity in an attempt to blackmail.
“One can ask what really interests French people in this case? Sex? Money? Football? Not the judicial element in any case,” lawyer Antoine Vey told the court, adding that the prosecution’s case had been built around Valbuena’s “feelings.”
Addressing the judge, he added: “It’s never too late to do some law. You are the final safeguard.”
Benzema’s other lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, criticized a “media-judicial circus.”
The prosecution demanded a 10-month suspended sentence on Thursday and a fine of 75,000 euros ($87,000) for the 33-year-old France international, who has not appeared during the three days of hearings which began on Wednesday.
Benzema, who is expected to play this weekend against Barcelona in the Classico, is one of five people on trial over the 2015 extortion attempt over a sexually explicit video that was stolen from Valbuena’s phone.
Testifying on the opening day of the trial Wednesday, Valbuena said the affair — which saw him and Benzema excluded from the national team — had left him feeling “frightened” and fearful for his career.
Benzema claims he was only trying to help his fellow player when he approached him about the sex tape at the French team’s training center in October 2015 and told him he could help him find someone to “manage” the issue of the video.
Prosecutors claim Benzema was working with the other accused, including a childhood friend from his hometown Lyon.
In a wiretapped conversation, he told the friend who is accused of acting as a middlemen for the suspected blackmailers that “he’s not taking us seriously.”
The prosecution claims this shows Benzema was complicit, but his lawyer said Friday the exchange showed the footballer was “not an example of total contrition” during the conversation.
“We never said he was being kind... but it is not a criminal offense,” Vey told the court.
In an interview with investigators in 2015, Benzema denied involvement, asking why he would get involved.
“I have enough money. I don’t need it,” he said.

Horse racing season set to get underway at UAE’s 5 tracks

Horse racing season set to get underway at UAE’s 5 tracks
Updated 21 min 50 sec ago

Horse racing season set to get underway at UAE’s 5 tracks

Horse racing season set to get underway at UAE’s 5 tracks
  • Highlight of season will be 8-week Dubai World Cup Carnival starting in January, culminating in the running of the Dubai World Cup on Mar. 26, 2022
  • The jockeys’ title has been dominated by Tadhg O’Shea in recent seasons and the Irishman will be aiming for a 10th championship

DUBAI: The new horse racing season in the UAE will get underway at Jebel Ali Racecourse on Oct. 29.

The UAE has five tracks and Jebel Ali, which is owned by Sheikh Ahmed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and takes up a large chunk of land in Barsha, is one of the most popular.

Famed for its garden party atmosphere, a normal year sees around 5,000 people congregate on its lawns for picnics and a great view of the uphill finish, one of the steepest in the world.

Six days after Jebel Ali kicks off the season, and five after Sharjah holds its first meeting on Oct. 30, Meydan Racecourse will swing into action.

The home of the $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting, scheduled for March 26, Meydan is iconic, a vast facility with the capacity for 60,000 racegoers and the best racing in the country.

It will open with seven races on its dirt track, with the outer turf course staging racing from January. The month will see some of the best trainers, horses, and jockeys converge on Dubai for the eight-week World Cup Carnival, which in the past has welcomed winners from as far afield as Sweden, the US, Uruguay, and Australia.

All five UAE tracks – Abu Dhabi, and Al-Ain concentrate primarily on purebred Arabian racing – count toward the Emirati championships for trainers, owners, and jockeys.

The jockeys’ title has been dominated by Tadhg O’Shea in recent seasons and the Irishman will be aiming for a 10th championship this time around. He has the backing of champion owner Khalid Khalifa Al-Nabooda, as well as three-time champion trainer Satish Seemar, so will be favorite to lift the prize again.

But O’Shea will be pushed all the way by his good friend Richie Mullen, who this season has the support of the powerful Al-Asayl Stables, while Italian rider Antonio Fresu, based with former champion trainer Musabbeh Al-Mheiri, should also ride plenty of winners, particularly at Meydan.

Others to watch out for are Brazilian Sandro Paiva, who will ride for newly licensed Ali Rashid Al-Rayhi, and the experienced Pat Dobbs, who will once again return to Doug Watson.

Seven-time champion trainer Watson is again the one to beat in the handlers’ competition, although with more than 150 horses at his Zabeel Stables base, Seemar will make things hard for him. It would appear to be a three-way battle, with Ernst Oertel, who trains for Al-Nabooda, likely to be competitive despite concentrating solely on Arabians.

The new season will be the first full campaign under the guidance of Sheikh Rashid bin Dalmouk Al-Maktoum, the chairman of Dubai Racing Club, while Mohammed Al-Shahi has taken over as general manager of Emirates Racing Authority, which governs racing at all five tracks.

Under their stewardship prize money has been given a boost, new races have been introduced and – most importantly – crowds are likely to return for the first time since March 2020. General admission to all the courses is free and offers a unique day out at one of the UAE’s oldest and most popular sports.


Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics
Updated 22 October 2021

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics

Beijing offering COVID-19 booster shots ahead of Olympics
  • The booster has been rolling out in cities across the vast nation since late September
  • The pandemic is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019

BEIJING: China’s capital Beijing has begun offering booster shots against COVID-19, four months before the city and surrounding regions are to host the Winter Olympics.
Anyone 18 or older who have received two-dose Chinese vaccines and belong to at-risk groups, including those participating, organizing or working on games facilities, would be eligible for the additional shot, state media reported Friday.
The booster has been rolling out in cities across the vast nation since late September, but Beijing authorities have been extra cautious in who receives the extra jab.
The games are set to begin on Feb. 4 with only residents of China allowed in the stands. Indoor events with sliding, skiing and jumping will be held in the suburb of Yanqing and the neighboring city of Zhangjiakou.
China has been largely successful in preventing local transmission through strict requirements on mask wearing, quarantining and contact tracing. Cases continue to pop up however, with 28 new ones reported Friday, including one in the Beijing suburb of Fengtai.
The pandemic is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, leading to a total lockdown that affected more than 50 million people.
China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and stymying investigations into the coronavirus’ origins, although it said earlier this week that it would cooperate with a renewed investigation by the World Health Organization while “firmly opposing any forms of political manipulation.”
WHO on Wednesday released a proposed list of 25 experts to advise it on next steps in the search for the virus’ origins after its earlier efforts were attacked for going easy on China.


Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia
Updated 22 October 2021

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia
  • The sports entertainment group brought a stacked card to the Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard in Riyadh

RIYADH: WWE returned to Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening for the 2021 edition of Crown Jewel.

The sports entertainment group brought a stacked card to the Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard in Riyadh as part of the ongoing Riyadh Season. 

The event had major matches taking place, including the return of some of the organization's biggest superstars, none bigger than Brock Lesnar, who was back in a championship match against Roman Reigns.

Three more championship matches, including a “No Holds Barred” match as well as the finals for King of the Ring and Queen's Crown also took place. 

After taking a beating under Hell in a Cell match conditions, the WWE veteran Edge managed to defeat Seth Rollins capping off their long fued.

Mansoor and Mustafa Ali faced off again with a swift win for the WWE wrestler hailing from Riyadh, Mansoor pinned Mustafa Ali in under minutes. Ali did not take the his defeat on the chin and attacked Mansoor from behind, this move was followed by a surprise appearance and WWE debut for Tarek Hamdi, karate silver medalist for Saudi Arabia in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

Next was the Raw Tag Team Championship where champions RK-Bro took on the  dynamic duo of AJ Styles & Omos. The champions retained their titles and are still on their RK-Bro path as tag champions. 

Next was the finals for the first ever Queen's Crown finals between Doudrop and Zelina Vega which saw Vega become the first ever Queen of WWE’s ring.

Up next was Bobby Lashley and Goldberg in the “No Holds Barred” contest where pin falls could happen anywhere in the arena. Everywhere in the arena is exactly where these two battled it out as the two bulls pulled out all the stops for the bout and Goldberg scored the win.

Goldberg unleashed his full power on Lashley, giving him no moment to grasp what was happening, as the much anticipated fight began. 

The victory for Goldberg will taste all the sweeter as he wanted revenge against Lashley for hurting his son in Summer Slam earlier this year.

The finals of the “King of the Ring” proved to be a stellar match between Finn Balor and Xavier Woods, the crowd awed at the spectacle Balor and Woods put on. Chants, screams and applause filled the auditorium after Woods pinned Balor in what was a lengthy and worthy match-up between the two warriors, in which Woods was crowned the winner.

Elsewhere, Big E retained the championship against Drew McIntrye in one of the nine major matches. After losing to Lashley, McIntyre faced Big E as his first non-Lashley challenger.

A rowdy triple header saw Becky Lynch victorious over Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair retaining her belt in the Smackdown Women's Championship.

Free agent Brock Lesnar, the Beast Incarnate, faced the tribal chief Roman Reigns in the main event of the evening and the most anticipated fight yet.

Fighting his heart out wasn’t enough as the Usos helped the universal champion by knocking Lesnar out leaving him immobile for their cousin Roman Reigns to easily pin and win the championship. 

With heavy hearts, Lesnar fans gave a standing ovation, thanking him for his first match back in in the WWE.


Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management
Updated 21 October 2021

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management
  • Divisive coach departed St. James’ Park with club sat 19th in table, winless in 8 Premier League games, having division’s worst defensive record

NEWCASTLE: Thirteen days. Having waited 27 months for new beginnings at Newcastle United, manager Steve Bruce hung onto his job for less than two weeks of the Saudi-financed era at St. James’ Park.

The club’s new owners — the Saudi Public Investment Fund, RB Sports and Media, and PCP Capital Partners — have confirmed Bruce as the first major casualty of a fresh era of hope on Tyneside.

It was a decision roundly welcomed, even celebrated by the Newcastle faithful. Not quite as vociferously as the takeover itself, of course.

Bruce, who took charge of his 1,000th professional game as a manager last Sunday, is one of the most experienced coaches in the history of English football but has proven a divisive figure at United.

Why? Arab News spoke to prominent Newcastle United fan Alex Hurst, a True Faith fanzine podcast host, organizer of the pre-takeover 1892 Pledge supporter fighting fund scheme to buy a percentage of the club, and board member of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, to find out.

He said: “Bruce is very much seen as a Mike Ashley (Newcastle United’s former owner) apologist. He’s built this picture, a narrative that he’s never been wanted or accepted at Newcastle United — but that’s just not true. People did not think it was a positive move replacing (former Newcastle manager) Rafa Benitez with Bruce, but no one wanted him to fail.

“He should have seen this as an opportunity to manage this great football club but instead he painted a picture of it being the impossible job. And it proved to be that way for him, but that has nothing to do with fan criticism or expectation. Bruce built this view of himself — that he was unpopular — and he let it fester,” he added.

For Bruce, the facts do not lie.

United sit 19th in the table, with no wins from eight Premier League games, and have the worst defensive record in the division with 19 goals conceded.

The former Manchester United skipper, who managed Sheffield Wednesday prior to working at hometown club Newcastle, left the Magpies with a win percentage of just 27.4 percent in the top flight.

The low point of his spell came last season when he oversaw a run of just two wins in 21 matches between December and February, but somehow held onto his job.

“Newcastle were a team with one of the best defensive records when he took over — now they are the worst,” Hurst said.

“The style of football is worse. Players have regressed, no one has improved. He talked fans down, players down. He then talked opposition players up at every opportunity.

“On a number of occasions Bruce had the chance to use his time at Newcastle as an opportunity. Each time he failed. In the summer of 2020, the FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester City, a chance of a first semi-final since 2005, it was a surrender at home, and yet he smiled ear to ear after the game,” he added.

Hurst highlighted the Carabao Cup quarter-final loss against Brentford last year as a huge, missed opportunity when Bruce played a weakened team against an also weakened Championship side.

He said: “But the thing that sticks with me from Bruce’s time is when he called criticism from fans ‘mass hysteria.’ He seemed to conflate criticism with abuse. Genuine criticism from fans was labelled abuse as he didn’t seem big enough to take it.

“Bruce could not rise above any of this, and it defined his time as head coach.”

Meanwhile, the club have confirmed assistant boss Graeme Jones, who acted as one of Gareth Southgate’s coaches for England’s run to the Euro 2020 final in the summer, will face the media on Friday ahead of Newcastle’s trip to Crystal Palace the following day.

Jones was a surprise appointment to the Newcastle coaching setup in February, as the club’s hierarchy attempted to kick-start an ultimately successful fight against relegation.

However, it is not expected that Jones will remain in the role for too long, as United’s football recruitment working group continues to press on with plans to appoint Bruce’s successor.

Paulo Fonseca is the bookmakers’ favorite for the job, and Arab News understands the Portuguese coach has been in negotiations with Newcastle chiefs since before the confirmation of Bruce’s departure.

Swiss former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre is another understood to have been spoken to, as is Eddie Howe, formerly of AFC Bournemouth. Howe has been a regular visitor to northeastern England in recent months and is understood to have been on Tyneside this week.

Howe turned down the chance to manage Scottish Premiership giants Glasgow Celtic last summer, despite weeks of negotiations with the Hoops’ chiefs.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez is also thought to be a candidate, while Glasgow Rangers’ Steven Gerrard, and former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, are reportedly liked by key figures within the new United hierarchy.

Newcastle are also keen to appoint a sporting director, with Luis Campos and Ralf Rangnick believed to be under consideration. Netherlands and Arsenal hero Marc Overmars is another name in the frame.