Saudi Arabia’s proposal for FIFA World Cup every two years gaining support in Asia

Saudi Arabia’s proposal for FIFA World Cup every two years gaining support in Asia
Yasser Al-Misehal, President of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF). (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s proposal for FIFA World Cup every two years gaining support in Asia

Saudi Arabia’s proposal for FIFA World Cup every two years gaining support in Asia
  • In a joint statement, the federations of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh have publicly backed the idea as one that will bring the game into the modern age

Saudi Arabia’s proposal to look at holding FIFA World Cup competitions every two years instead of four has already been approved by FIFA’s Congress but the reality is gaining increasing support around Asia.

During a meeting in May, Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation, called for a feasibility study on making the change. “We believe the future of football is at a critical juncture. The many issues that football has faced have now been further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic,” Al-Misehal said.

“It is time to review how the global game is structured and to consider what is best for the future of our sport,” he added. “This should include whether the current four-year cycle remains the optimum basis for how football is managed both from a competition and commercial perspective.”

It was, according to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, an “eloquent and detailed proposal.”

The Saudi motion was passed by the congress with 166 national federations voting in favor of reviewing the current situation with only 22 against.

In recent days, however, the national federations of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Bangladesh publicly came out to support the idea of a biennial World Cup, arguing that it was time for a change to bring the global calendar into the modern age.

“The four year cycle of the FIFA World Cup has been set in stone ever since 1930, the inaugural tournament, where no Asian nation was represented,” the four South Asian associations said in a statement.

More than 90 years since the first global tournament was held, Asia, home to more than half of the world’s population, still has only 4.5 spots out of a total of 32. This underrepresentation has led, say the federations, to the majority of Asian nations being left on the sidelines when it comes to the World Cup and all the benefits that it brings.

“Four year gaps between FIFA World Cups is too great — and the window of opportunity too small — to preclude whole generations of talent,” it went on. “Less than a quarter of current AFC member associations have been represented in almost a century of FIFA World Cup finals in a situation where these tournaments are the real drivers of development.”

There are other positive noises around Asia. An official from the ASEAN Football Federation, which represents nations from Southeast Asia, has also signalled that there is growing support in the region of about 650 million people.

“There is a lot of interest in having a World Cup every two years and there has been communication with Saudi Arabia,” the ASEAN official told Arab News. “The calendar is crowded and we are always wary of adding games but the World Cup is different and it is not just about the World Cup itself. More qualifiers means more interest, opportunities to play good opposition and also more commercial activity, which are all important in development.”

“While there have not been as many meetings and conversations around Asia because of the pandemic, the feeling around most of Asia is that a two-year World Cup would be welcome.”


Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation
Updated 20 sec ago

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation
  • The President of the Saudi Esports Federation has overseen the dramatic rise in the popularity of gaming and esports participation across the region in recent years

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud, President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF), has been appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation from Dec. 1, 2021.

Prince Faisal has overseen a dramatic rise in the popularity of gaming and participation in the esports industry both in the Kingdom and regionally in recent years.

“I would like to thank the Executive Committee for the trust they have put in me as Vice President of the Global Esports Federation and I am committed to exceeding all expectations set by the global esports community,” said Prince Faisal.

“I believe that this will enable us all to broaden our horizons and to go above and beyond to serve the global world of esports,” he said. “To me, nurturing the industry has been and will always be a mission, and serving the community is a passion. This only makes me more compelled to do so with great partners and colleagues.”

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Prince Faisal spoke about his new role at the Global Esports Federation, his continuing work with SEF and the future of esports in the Kingdom and the region.

Arab News: Many congratulations on your new role. Please tell us what you will be looking to achieve as the Vice President of the Global Esports Federation?

Prince Faisal: From the start, with both the Saudi federation and the Arab federation our goal was to grow the esports industry both regionally and globally. My new role at GEF is a continuation of that ambition.

We have always said that gaming and esports are the ultimate social activities. They are not bound by space or borders. At GEF, we truly embody this belief through our mantra of #worldconnected. Our goal is to cultivate competition along with developing communities and the connection between sport, esports and technology.

Arab News: As President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) you have been promoting esports and gaming in the Kingdom for several years. What future plans are there that we can look forward to?

Prince Faisal: There are many exciting developments coming in the next year and the years following that. Over the past years we’ve learned that the potential for esports is much higher that we even could have imagined. As a result, we have shifted to a more holistic approach on a national level. I would ask you and the readers to stay tuned. We are working on locally and globally impactful initiatives in coordination with many governments and private sector entities over the years to come.

Arab News: Earlier this year, the Saudi Esports Federation organized Gamers Without Borders, the world’s biggest esports charity gaming, which looked to combat coronavirus worldwide by raising $10 million. Will this kind of event continue to be hosted by Saudi Arabia?

Prince Faisal: Yes, absolutely. At the federation our focus is to dedicate esports and gaming for the betterment of humanity. From humanitarian aid to education and more, we believe gaming and esports can be a force for good. Our ambition is to bring back GWB but with a new cause every year. We hope that the world will overcome the pandemic and we will be able to focus on betterment and development rather than fighting a global crisis.

Arab News: In October, Saudi Arabia took part in an esports match against Japan at the Tokyo Game Show, and there are plans for return match in the Kingdom next year. Are such high profile matches against other nations something that we will see more of in the coming years?

Prince Faisal: We have a long-term partnership with the Japan Esports Federation for the development of the esports community in both countries. This partnership comes as part of our countries’ shared Vision 2030. Our goal is to build these bilateral and multilateral relationships globally to truly bring communities together and to learn from each other and develop together.

Arab News: Mosaad Al-Dossary won the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2018 in London and FIFA in particular is a huge game in esports competitions. What do you think of the rising popularity of gaming among Saudis and the fact that they are beating the world’s best in games like FIFA and others?

Prince Faisal: We have some of the most talented indviduals and organizations. A few examples that make me proud include Falcon Esports, a Saudi-based team that just won the European Fortnite Grand Royale championship. Their prize was more than $600,000. That is a success not just on the individual level but also shows how we are now exporting globally leading esports organizations.

In the 2021 EA FIFA West Asia playoffs, 6 of the top 8 players were from Saudi. A few days ago on the FGS 22 Middle East qualifier 13 of the top 16 players were Saudi. Additionally, as early as 2017 Sary Al-Jefri took home the Tekken World Championship.

This goes to show that Saudi is home to some of the best talents globally. It is these talents that will inspire others and become role models for successful and responsible professionalism. And when we combine these talented players and organizations with the support we offer as a country, it’s easy to see why we are quickly growing to become one of the leaders of the industry globally.

Arab News: Will there be more international competitions — FIFA eWorld Cup — being held in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in the coming years?

Prince Faisal: Our goal is to become a global hub. Part of that is further developing our relationships with publishers and showing how we excel in organizing tournaments and growing talents within esports. GWB is a great example of this. After the massive success in the first year, PUBG Mobile approached us to co-organize their first global charitable invitational tournament.

That shows how much trust they now have in SEF. As a result of that many more conversations have now sparked.


UK, Saudi firefighters join forces for Jeddah F1 Grand Prix

UK, Saudi firefighters join forces for Jeddah F1 Grand Prix
Updated 02 December 2021

UK, Saudi firefighters join forces for Jeddah F1 Grand Prix

UK, Saudi firefighters join forces for Jeddah F1 Grand Prix

JEDDAH: British and Saudi firefighters have joined forces for the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah.

Professional crews from the UK have been training with their Saudi counterparts as fire marshals for the upcoming race in the Red Sea coast city.

Nine members of Britam Arabia, a Saudi and British joint venture that provides private fire and rescue services at 11 sites throughout the Kingdom, have been undergoing specialist training in support of the Saudi Civil Defense at the prestigious sporting event.

The Britam Arabia volunteers, who protect some of Saudi Arabia’s most vital infrastructure, are relishing the chance to hone their skills and experience at the big race both for the qualifying stages and the main event.

British fire chief, Iqbal Ali, originally from the UK but now working for Britam Arabia in Makkah and living in Jeddah, praised the quality of training they had received.

He said: “Fire safety at Formula 1 events requires a special skill set and the training our firefighters are receiving from the race organizers is first class.

“We are delighted to support this exciting event and are relishing the chance to be part of the fire safety support team track side. We are stood by to provide any assistance in any way we can whenever we are called upon,” he added.

Britam Arabia provides a full range of professional firefighting services in the Kingdom, from fire safety consultancy to station operations, in support of the Vision 2030 reform plan.


Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League
Updated 02 December 2021

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League

Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League
  • Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won

WATFORD: Chelsea stayed top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Watford on Wednesday in a match that was halted for 32 minutes in the first half after a spectator suffered cardiac arrest.
Substitute Hakim Ziyech grabbed the winner for the leaders in the 72nd minute, converting a cross from Mason Mount — the England midfielder who had put Chelsea in front in the 29th.
By then, the teams had been taken off by the referee because of the medical emergency in the stands that happened after about 13 minutes. The incident happened on the side of the field where Chelsea left back Marcos Alonso was stationed and he appeared to alert the referee and the medical staff on the touchline.
The spectator was stabilized and taken away on a stretcher to applause from the crowd.
Emmanuel Dennis equalized for Watford in the 43rd after Ruben Loftus-Cheek — one of a number of fringe players handed a start by Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel because of injuries — was dispossessed in the center circle by Moussa Sissoko, who drove forward and set up his teammate to score.
Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said his weakened team was “lucky” to come away with all three points
“That’s not us. We were absolutely not ready today for this match," said Tuchel, who was without Reece James, N'Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, Mateo Kovacic because of injury while Timo Werner and Jorginho started on the bench because they needed a rest.
“I missed maybe to find the right approach to make my team ready. We had the break due to very sad circumstances – hopefully the person is better — but even this break after the first (13) minutes did not change our approach. We did not cope with the pressure, with the first ball, second ball.”
Tuchel said all his team did was “hang in there.”
“I see this totally as an exception from the rule," he said. “I will not insist too long on this match because it’s so unusual for us to play like this.”
Tuchel said he was concerned about an injury sustained by defender Trevoh Chalobah in the second half.
“The doctor was on the pitch 20 times today it felt like,” he said. “It’s a big loss, Trev. I’m a bit worried.”


Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan
Updated 02 December 2021

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan

Saudi Arabia kick off 2021 FIFA Arab Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat by Jordan
  • Herve Renard’s young Falcons created few chances during a match in which both teams had a man sent off

Saudi Arabia’s Arab Cup campaign began with a 1-0 defeat by Jordan on Wednesday at the Education City Stadium in Qatar. Both teams ended the game with 10 men.

While the result was not a huge shock, given the youth and inexperience of a young Green Falcons side shorn of most of their big-name players and featuring no outfielder born before 1999, the performance was disappointing, with few chances created until the dying moments. The Saudis were second best for much of the match, even though Jordan were reduced to 10 men after 53 minutes when midfielder Ehsan Haddad was sent off.

Despite the numerical disadvantage, the Nashama took the lead 10 minutes later thanks to Mahmoud Al-Mardi. And just as Saudi Arabia were beginning to press for an equalizer, defender Khalifa Al-Dawsari received marching orders of his own with 17 minutes remaining. The three-time Asian champions did manage to produce a late flurry that included an injury-time equalizer that was disallowed for a foul on the goalkeeper.

Earlier in the day, Morocco moved into first place in Group C with a 4-0 victory over Palestine, so the defeat leaves the Saudis, who rarely troubled Jordan’s goalkeeper Yazeed Abulaila, with much to do if they are to progress to the last eight of the 16-team tournament.

Jordan had much the better of the first half, with nine attempts on goal. After 15 minutes, Yazan Al-Arab headed a corner straight into the arms of Mohamed Al-Rubaie. Moments later, a fierce long-range effort by Haddad went just over the bar.

The Reds were happy to shoot from distance, and after 25 minutes a looping shot by Mahmoud Al-Mardi from outside the area went wide. Soon after, Yazan Al-Naimat danced past a couple of Saudi challenges, only to shoot weakly at the goalkeeper.

The young Falcons struggled to get any sort of rhythm going at all, with Laurent Bonadei, manager Herve Renard’s assistant who is in charge of the team during games, growing increasingly animated on the touchline.

Eight minutes before the break, Jordan had their best chance so far. Al-Mardi’s left-sided cross seemed perfect but while Baha Faisal rose high above the Saudi defense to meet it, his header went well wide.

A goal looked to be coming and it seemed to have arrived a minute later. Just moments after Al-Naimat shot wide from a good position at the corner of the area, the Saudis gave the ball away cheaply. The forward gratefully received the ball near the penalty spot and made no mistake in firing home. However the VAR ruled that he was a centimeter or two offside during the build-up.

Saudi Arabia were happy to end the half on level terms after giving the Jordanian goalkeeper little to do — and their own coach much to think about.

The second half began in a similar vein as Jordan again came within a whisker of breaking the deadlock. Faisal got on the end of a free kick but his header hit the underside of the crossbar, and although Adnan Hamad’s men argued that the ball had bounced behind the line, play continued.

In the 53rd minute, Saudi Arabia seemed to get the break they badly needed when Haddad, who could have no complaints, was shown a straight red for a rash tackle on Turki Al-Ammar.

Yet Jordan recovered quickly from the setback to take the lead just after the hour mark. Faisal crossed from the left and, though the initial cross was blocked by Al-Dawsari, the ball fell to Al-Mardi whose shot hit the prone defender and bounced into the back of the net.

It took time after that for Saudi Arabia to get into the game but just as it was starting to happen, Al-Dawsari was sent off, with 17 minutes remaining, leaving both teams a man short.

Yet the boys from Riyadh should have equalized in stoppage time. Abdullah Al-Qahtani’s initial shot was saved by Abulaila at the near post but the ball bounced out to Aidan Hamed, only for him to blast it over the bar from a perfect position.

There was still time for controversy, as the Saudis had a goal ruled out after captain Saud Abdulhamid was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper when they both jumped for the ball.

“I’m really proud of my players, who gave their all in the match, but when we were 11 versus 10, we wanted to attack and score first and we made a mistake,” said Bonadei. “We did well but unfortunately it didn’t happen. I think we can improve. We have to win the next game against Palestine.”

That match will take place on Saturday, with Jordan taking on Morocco the same day.


Former Finnish F1 driver enjoys Saudi hospitality 

Former Finnish F1 driver enjoys Saudi hospitality 
Updated 02 December 2021

Former Finnish F1 driver enjoys Saudi hospitality 

Former Finnish F1 driver enjoys Saudi hospitality 
  • Danube, the supermarket and hypermarket chain in Saudi Arabia, hosted a “Racing Kitchen” event at Red Sea Mall in Jeddah with Häkkinen
  • Two Finnish drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas, will also be participating at the Saudi Grand Prix

JEDDAH: The inaugural edition of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is set to be held in Jeddah from Dec. 3. 

Mika Häkkinen, a two-time Formula One champion and founder of the INZDR app, is in Jeddah to create awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.

The Finnish racing legend has been telling locals that “consuming a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is key to performing at your peak when you are an athlete and in general for living a radiant life.” 

Danube, the supermarket and hypermarket chain in Saudi Arabia, hosted a “Racing Kitchen” event at Red Sea Mall in Jeddah with Häkkinen.

The “Racing Kitchen,” hosted on the Danube app during the F1 season, features an array of nourishing recipes that could be part of a nutrient-rich diet to inspire an optimized lifestyle. 

Häkkinen, who is thrilled to be in Saudi Arabia, said: “Whenever I used to race, I always wanted to speak to the people of that country, understand their culture. Even though I am a two-time F1 world champion and the treatment will be special, I still wanted to understand how they will treat me. I have found Saudis to be very kind, nice, and polite. It reflects their parents’ and grandparents’ upbringing. With this kind of behavior, I have made lots of friends.” 

Through the INZDR app, the former Finnish driver said that F1 enthusiasts “can also learn more about the sport and get access to exclusive content from their favourite drivers.”

Two Finnish drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas, will also be participating at the Saudi Grand Prix. Commenting on who has a high chance of winning, Häkkinen said: “Kimi will retire at the end of this year. He had a great career in his life and he did fantastic work. I admire his energy which he gave to F1. Talking about the general speed, I do not think they have a really good chance but with F1 you never know what will happen. Speaking of Valterri Battos, he can be really good in the Saudi Grand Prix and may have a chance to win it too.”