Saudi Arabia’s youth volleyball team crowned Gulf champions after win over Bahrain

Saudi Arabia’s youth volleyball team crowned Gulf champions after win over Bahrain
Saudi's youth basketball team celebrates becoming Gulf champions after beating Bahrain in Manama. (Saudi Olympic Committee)
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Updated 31 August 2021

Saudi Arabia’s youth volleyball team crowned Gulf champions after win over Bahrain

Saudi Arabia’s youth volleyball team crowned Gulf champions after win over Bahrain
  • The triumph is the Kingdom’s first ever in the competition, having finished second in 2011

Saudi Arabia has won the sixth Gulf Youth Volleyball Championship after overcoming Bahrain 3-2 in the final played at Isa Bin Rashid Hall in Manama.

Bahrain won the first set 25-17, but Saudi Arabia came storming back to win the next two 25-23 and 25-20. Bahrain tied the match by winning the fourth set 33-31, but Saudi claimed the decider 19-17 to be crowned champions.

The young Saudi team reached the final after beating Kuwait 3-0 in the semifinals, while the host nation defeated the UAE, also in straight sets.

In the group stages, Saudi beat Kuwait and the UAE but lost to Bahrain.

The triumph is Saudi’s first in the competition, having previously finished second in 2011.


Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Updated 23 October 2021

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Full-capacity crowd announced for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

The final season’s race of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will see a return to full capacity at Yas Marina Circuit, organisers announced on Saturday. 

Capacity at Yas Marina Circuit has increased allowing for a full-capacity crowd from December 9 to 12. Children under the age of 12 will now also be permitted to attend events during the race week. 

The race action at this year’s event will showcase motorsport’s biggest stars, including Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valterri Bottas, and Lando Norris. 

Modifications have been made to set up more dramatic racing and increased opportunities for overtaking, a press statement said.   

With the potential championship decider between Mercedes’ Hamilton and Red Bull’s Verstappen at this season’s final race, racing enthusiasts are sure to see history in the making at this year’s milestone event.

Grammy nominated artists, Khalid and Lewis Capaldi are the first to be announced in a star-studded line-up of artists performing at Etihad Park on Thursday and Saturday.


Fear and chagrin in Premier League at Newcastle’s rise to power

Fear and chagrin in Premier League at Newcastle’s rise to power
Updated 23 October 2021

Fear and chagrin in Premier League at Newcastle’s rise to power

Fear and chagrin in Premier League at Newcastle’s rise to power
  • Ban on related party transactions unlikely to have a long-term effect on the club’s spending after Saudi-led takeover

The dictionary definition of the word “chagrin” is “annoyance or distress at having failed or been humiliated.” That just about sums up the football clubs that comprise the English Premier League.

“Spite” — “a desire to hurt, annoy or offend someone” — would also apply to the 18 clubs that voted this week to block “related party transactions” in the 20-strong league, meaning that none of them can do lucrative financial deals with organizations that are deemed to be connected with them.

Only two clubs did not vote for the ban, which is set to last for one month but can be extended by another meeting. Manchester City, which is having its own battle with the Premier League over alleged financial misdemeanors, decided to abstain.

And Newcastle United, the only one to vote against. Although the ban is applicable to all 20 clubs, it does not take a genius to work out which one was the intended target.

A couple of weeks ago, Newcastle became, on paper, the richest club in the world, following the £300 million takeover by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The PIF has about $500 billion of assets under its management, and the consortium which it leads — along with minority holders Amanda Staveley and the Reubens Brothers — has pledged an additional £250m will be injected into the club and the local community.

The ban is plainly intended to prevent Saudi Arabian entities putting significant cash into the club, in the form of player signings or big-name sponsorship and investment, such as in-stadium advertising and a badly needed new training facility. 

Although 18 clubs voted for the ban, it was driven by the bigger clubs, led — it appears — by Tottenham Hotspur and egged on by Manchester United and Liverpool. Two other Big Six clubs, Chelsea and Arsenal, also voted for it.

It is not as if these clubs have suddenly become beacons of financial righteousness. Given the identity of their owners — Russian and American entrepreneurs — it would be very surprising if they were suddenly taking a stance against sharp financial practice.

Any suggestion that the ban is motivated by concern over alleged human rights issues is just plain laughable.

The morality of the Big Six can best be judged by the fiasco earlier this year when they tried to organize a breakaway European “super league,” which was quickly and rightly shot down by an alliance of fans, many players, and the UK government. The Big Six are not people who act out of altruism.

What they are really worried about is the threat of a new force in English football that would challenge the cozy set-up whereby the Big Six mostly call the shots on important issues of the business side of the game, such as broadcast TV rights or big sponsorships.

A newly resourced football club in Newcastle would be exactly that — a new powerhouse in the northeast of England, challenging the traditional hubs in London and the northwest. They — and especially Tottenham, whose place in the Big Six is tenuous to say the least — are terrified of losing their grip on the game, on and off the pitch.

People close to the new Newcastle set-up were not particularly worried when news of the ban broke. For one thing, Newcastle was run in such a miserly way under the Mike Ashley regime that there is still significant scope for new investment even under the existing rules, should Saudi Arabia wish to pursue that line. Up to £150 million could probably be spent pretty rapidly under financial fair play rules.

The ban is only for a month anyway, and any attempt to extend it or make it permanent would be sure to provoke prolonged legal action on grounds of anti-competitiveness. The Premier League does not have a good track record in legal actions against Newcastle.

Having said all that, it is a good thing for all clubs to adhere to rules on financial fair play that seek to make a level playing field in the game.

But this is not the way to do it. Singling out Newcastle is vindictive, petty and spiteful, motivated by pure chagrin.


Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

Zhang  Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds
Updated 22 October 2021

Zhang Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds

Zhang  Boheng wins all-around final at gymnastics worlds
  • Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017

KITAKYUSHU, Japan: Zhang Boheng of China edged out Olympic champion Daiki Hashimoto on Friday to win the gold medal in the men’s all-around at the Gymnastics World Championships.

Zhang, who did not qualify for China’s team for this summer’s Olympics, held a slim lead over local favorite Hashimoto heading into the final apparatus, the horizontal bar — an event Hashimoto won at the Tokyo Games.

Zhang scored 14.800 points while Hashimoto received 15.133 but it wasn’t enough to erase the deficit and the 21-year-old Zhang finished with 87.981 overall points to 87.964 for Hashimoto.

“This is my first time to take part in the world championships and the first time to win the all-around title for my country,” Zhang said. “I was nervous waiting for the scores to appear because it was so close, such a high-level competition.”

Zhang became the first Chinese men’s all-around world champion since Xiao Ruoteng in 2017.

Illia Kovtun of Ukraine was third with 84.899 points, followed by Yul Moldauer of the US with 84.365.

Hashimoto was aiming to become Japan’s fifth men’s world champion and its first since Kohei Uchimura won the last of his six straight titles in 2015.

Hashimoto’s performance on the horizontal bar was solid but he stepped to his left on the landing which likely cost him the gold medal.

“(Zhang) was great tonight,” Hashimoto said. “There is no question he is world No. 1. I knew I had to put in a perfect performance on the horizontal bar and that was difficult to do.”

Zhang had the top score on the floor exercise, the vault and the parallel bars, while finishing second-best on the rings and horizontal bar, the only apparatus where Hashimoto led the field. Both Hashimoto and Zhang suffered falls on the pommel horse.

At 19, Hashimoto became the youngest man ever to win the Olympic all-around title, at the Tokyo Games.

Defending champion Nikita Nagornyy of Russia did not travel to Japan for the worlds.

The world championships wrap up with individual event finals on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team competition in the world championships immediately after an Olympic Games.

Hashimoto will compete in the floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars, and horizontal bar this weekend. Zhang will compete in the finals on still rings and parallel bars.


Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
Updated 22 October 2021

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch
  • The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm kick off
  • Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.

SAINT-ETIENNE, France: The kick off in the Ligue 1 match between Saint Etienne and visiting Angers was delayed for an hour by protests from home fans angry at their team’s dire form.
The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) kick off.
Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.
Fans unfurled banners attacking coach Claude Puel, club leadership and the players.
“We’ve had enough talk, you’re making us crack” said one visible through the smoke.
“Puel resign,” “management resign” and “we want a team worthy of its fans” chanted the fans.
The players left the field and kick off was put back as municipal workers repaired the nets at the city-owned Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Saint-Etienne are last in Ligue 1, winless after 11 matches.
On Thursday, fans hung a banner on the gates of the training center which said: “Puel, you have 24 hours to resign.”
The latest incidents come just two days after the league disciplinary committee imposed a two-match suspended closure of the stadium’s south stand after incidents during the derby against Lyon on October 3.
A season of angry fans in France opened with a match between Nice and Marseille abandoned on August 22.
That was followed by a string of incidents in September.
The northern derby between Lens and Lille was overshadowed by a pitch invasion that delayed the start of the second half.
The next weekend, supporters invaded the pitch at the game between Angers and Marseille, while stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.
Nice were deducted a point. Lens were ordered to play home matches behind closed doors.


Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue
Updated 22 October 2021

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue

Qatar opens fifth 2022 World Cup venue
  • The launch of Al Thumama stadium comes as the Gulf country seeks to operate arenas at 100 percent capacity during the World Cup
  • Qatar has so far officially inaugurated 5 of the 8 stadiums that will lay the stage for the first World Cup in the Middle East

DOHA: Qatar inaugurated on Friday its fifth stadium for the 2022 World Cup, welcoming thousands of spectators who have either recently recovered from coronavirus or have been vaccinated.
The launch of the Al Thumama stadium, 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of the capital Doha, comes as the Gulf country seeks to operate arenas at 100 percent capacity during the World Cup.
The 40,000-seat ground, which will host groups matches during Qatar 2022 up to the quarter-finals, hosted the domestic Emir Cup final between local clubs Al Rayyan and Al Sadd as its inaugural match.
Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended the opening ceremony.
It was designed by Qatari architect Ibrahim M. Jaidah to resemble the ‘gahfiya’ cap, traditionally worn by men in the region.
Energy-rich Qatar has so far officially inaugurated five of the eight stadiums that will lay the stage for the first World Cup in the Middle East.
In addition to Al Thumama, Qatar has so far inaugurated new-build Ahmad Bin Ali, Al-Janoub and Education City stadiums alongside the refurbished Khalifa ground in the heart of Doha’s Aspire Zone.
Ras Abu Aboud, Al Bayt, Lusail, which will host the final match in December 2022, remain to be opened.
Following the World Cup, Al Thumama’s capacity will be reduced to 20,000, with a sports clinic and a boutique hotel set to open on site.
Fans were able to apply for tickets to Friday’s event if they either tested positive for virus antibodies, or have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Qatar, which says it vaccinated more than three quarters of its 2.75 million population, has recorded more than 238,000 infections since the beginning of the pandemic.