Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador
Sami Al-Jaber is one of Saudi Arabia’s greatest footballers having represented the country in four World Cup finals. (adidas)
Short Url
Updated 26 September 2021

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador

Saudi football legend Sami Al-Jaber joins Adidas as brand ambassador
  • The former national captain joins Salman Al-Faraj for the “Impossible is Nothing” campaign

Saudi Arabian football legend Sami Al-Jaber has been announced as an ambassador for Adidas, becoming the latest addition to the growing list of local players from the Kingdom to have signed with the brand, including current Saudi national football team captain Salman Al-Faraj.

The announcement came as the nation celebrated its 91st National Day.

This partnership is part of the brand’s “Impossible Is Nothing” campaign and looks to empower and celebrate athletes and iconic sportspeople in the region, as well as ensure that regional and local sports communities are well represented and supported.

“It’s a feeling of immense pride and excitement to be joining the Adidas family,” Al-Jaber said. “Adidas’ brand attitude ‘Impossible Is Nothing’ is a message that really resonates with me both at a personal and professional level. Special thanks to Adidas for the continuous support to develop and engage local and regional communities through sport. Seeing possibilities in sport is key to achieving our purpose of changing lives.”

Al-Jaber is one of Saudi Arabia’s and the Middle East football’s greatest players, having scored 173 goals in 376 appearances for Al-Hilal, and 43 times in 163 matches for the national team. He also competed in four FIFA World Cups and scored three goals, more than any other Arab footballer.


Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches
Updated 9 sec ago

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches

Damac top, Ighalo on fire: Five things we learned from the latest round of Saudi Pro League matches
  • With Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr preoccupied with the AFC Champions League, this season is shaping up to be one of the most open in years

The Saudi Professional League resumed at the weekend and the latest round of games could turn out to be one of the most significant of the 2021-22 season. Here are five things we learned from the action as we approach the campaign’s one-third mark.

1. The title race is shaping up to be a classic

The focus of late has been on the national team and the AFC Champions League, but there is plenty going on for followers of the SPL. The title race is shaping up to be something special. It has all the elements of a classic. There is a surprise leader in the shape of Damac, who have just overtaken Al-Ittihad at the top.

There are other elements too. The two Riyadh giants, Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, are a few places back but have games in hand due to their AFC Champions League commitments and that adds an extra dimension. If they win those, then both could potentially go first, but a fixture pile-up may change everything. Al-Shabab have come from nowhere to challenge and on Friday defeated Al-Ittihad, who will now be keen to get back to winning ways.

There are currently five or six teams in the running. Long may that last.

2. Al-Ahli are doing Saudi Arabian football a service

The record books will show Al-Ahli won 2-1 at Al-Tai this matchday, but that does not tell the full story. In the middle of October, the talk was not about if coach Besnik Hasi was going to be fired, but when he would go and who should replace him. That was because the Jeddah giants had failed to win any of their first seven games and were in the bottom three.

The public votes of confidence kept coming and the expected dismissal did not. Now Al-Ahli have won their last two games and are suddenly looking up, not down. This does not mean that the pressure is off, but it does mean that another good result against Al-Hilal this week would really give the boss some breathing space.

Whatever happens, fans across the country (perhaps except for city rivals Al-Ittihad) should be cheering Al-Ahli on. For so long, the common reaction in the boardroom to a run of poor results has been a dismissal. We have seen this already this season. It would be really refreshing, however, if there could be an example of patience bringing success in Saudi Arabia. It would be great if a club was rewarded for not pulling the trigger.

3. Odion Ighalo is on fire

Al-Shabab’s celebrations after their fine 2-0 win over Al-Ittihad must have felt particularly sweet as it doesn’t seem long since they were near the bottom of the table and there was talk of coach Pericles Chamusca’s time in Riyadh being very short indeed. Yet here are last season’s runners-up right back in the title race, just three points behind first place.

When you have a striker in such a rich vein of form as Odion Ighalo, then you are always going to have a chance to win games, especially when there is a little more solidity and organization at the back. Compared to earlier this season, Al-Shabab have become harder to beat, while they have a sharp shooter in attack whose brace took him to the top of the goalscoring charts with eight.

Defeating league leaders Al-Ittihad was quite the statement. Ighalo got both and they were simple but classic. The first was just a well-timed run to side-foot home from close range. The second was a fine give-and-go and another side-foot finish from close range to seal the game. 

4. Damac need to wrap Zelaya in cotton wool

For the first time ever, Damac are at the top of the table thanks to a 1-0 win over Al-Hazem. This is no fluke. Since Croatian coach Kresimir Rezic took over at the start of 2021, they have lost just once in 18 games and have won 10. 

That is an impressive run and the latest victory put the team in uncharted territory. Defensively they are solid and only one team has conceded fewer goals.

And then there is Emilio Zelaya in attack. The 34-year-old has scored seven goals so far this season and, crucially, that magnificent haul has come in seven separate games.

The problem may come if the Argentine gets injured or fatigued, as Damac don’t have the strength in depth that many of the others at the top of the table can boast. But with a little luck and more solid performances from Algerian goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba, then there is no reason why Damac can’t finish much higher than last season’s 11th.

5. Al-Hilal need to tighten up

Champions Al-Hilal defeated Al-Raed 3-2 on Saturday, but it was a very tight game indeed. For the third time in seven matches this season, they needed an injury-time winner and, while the team’s commitment to keep going until the end is to be commended, the fact that the Riyadh giants have conceded seven goals in their last four games will concern coach Leonardo Jardim.

Al-Hilal were cruising at 2-0 with six minutes remaining, but then conceded two goals in quick succession. The first was a beauty from outside the area and the second a well-worked close-range effort, but on both occasions too much space and time were given. 

If they are to defend their title in what is shaping up to be a competitive season, Al-Hilal’s defense needs to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes, as the attack will not always be able to turn things around.


Wild card Zizou Bergs triumphs at inaugural Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Wild card Zizou Bergs triumphs at inaugural Tie Break Tens in Dubai
Updated 5 min 20 sec ago

Wild card Zizou Bergs triumphs at inaugural Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Wild card Zizou Bergs triumphs at inaugural Tie Break Tens in Dubai
  • Belgian overcomes Taylor Fritz in final after top tennis players compete at Coca-Cola Arena for $136,000 winner-takes-all prize
  • Rosaleen Ali Yousef takes girls’ title and Raed Rizvi becomes boys’ champion in the TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament

Zizou Bergs claimed the inaugural Tie Break Tens Dubai tennis tournament at the weekend with a victory over Taylor Fritz at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai.

The 22-year-old Belgian was neck and neck with Fritz on almost every point before sealing the final 11-9 with a smash. The win gave Bergs the championship trophy and $136,000 (AED 500,000) in prize money.

The culmination of the tournament saw wild card Bergs power his way past Dustin “Dreddie” Brown in his first match and then Gael Monfils in the semifinal. Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan was knocked out by Dan Evans in the first round. Evans then lost to Fritz.

“It’s actually unbelievable,” said Bergs. “I didn’t know much about Tie Break Tens — we’re used to playing long matches, which can be a little tense sometimes at the end, but this is tense all the time. It’s fantastic for the crowds and a great part of the process of becoming a great tennis player as well.”

The first Tie Break Tens tournament to visit the Middle East was organized with the support of Dubai Sports Council and title sponsor Zone, an online electronic sports and cryptocurrency platform.

“These things don’t come about without a lot of hard work and I’d like to thank our partners, Dubai Sports Council, our title sponsor Zone, Coca-Cola Arena and all the players who took time out of their schedule along with everyone who played a part in making this happen,” Tournament Director Jimmy Poon said.

“Once again Dubai has hosted tennis of the very highest quality, and Zizou Bergs proved to be a worthy winner. The excitement generated by the fast-paced Tie Break Tens format has created a real buzz here tonight, and is something everyone is looking forward to building on in the future.”

Taking place alongside the main event, the Tie Break Tens Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament featured some of UAE’s rising talent, who made it to the competition via a series of qualifier events. In the U18 boys’ final, Raed Rizvi, 14, beat 15-year-old Henri Mikael 12-10 to become champion. In the girls’ U18 tournament, Rosaleen Ali Yousef, 16, emerged victorious 10-8 over Coumba Niangadou, 17.

The Tie Break Tens format is the only officially recognized short form of tennis, with matches comprised solely of tie breaks.

Full results:

Match 1 Dan Evans v Ramkumar Ramanathan 10-7; match 2 Taylor Fritz v Simon Roberts 10-3; match 3 Zizou Bergs v Dustin Brown 10-6; match 4 Gael Monfils v Benjamin Hassan 10-8.

Semifinals: Match 1 Taylor Fritz v Dan Evans 10-7; match 2 Zizou Bergs v Gael Monfils 10-8.

Final: Zizou Bergs v Taylor Fritz 11-9.


Slick Man City blow away Brighton

Slick Man City blow away Brighton
Updated 23 October 2021

Slick Man City blow away Brighton

Slick Man City blow away Brighton
BRIGHTON, United Kingdom: Pep Guardiola lauded Brighton for playing like a “top-four” side despite being on the end of a 4-1 thrashing from his Manchester City side on Saturday.
The English champions had the points sealed by half-time as Ilkay Gundogan tapped into an empty net on 13 minutes before Phil Foden finished off two fine team moves.
Alexis Mac Allister’s penalty pulled a goal back for Brighton, before Riyad Mahrez put the seal on a slick City display.
Brighton remain in fourth after an impressive start to the season and Guardiola believes the Seagulls deserve to be in that exalted position in the table.
“It’s really good because I knew which team we face today,” said Guardiola after City moved up to second in the table, two points behind leaders Chelsea.
“They are aggressive and when they have the ball they know what they have to do. They have all the mechanisms of a big team.
“They have courage. I admire them for that. They play like a top-four or five team.”
Guardiola made just two changes to the side that smashed Club Brugge 5-1 in the Champions League in midweek as Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus replaced Kevin De Bruyne and Mahrez.
And Brighton were on the same end of a similar hiding.
Joao Cancelo forced a smart save from Robert Sanchez and Lewis Dunk cleared an effort from Jesus off the line early on.
But Brighton did not help themselves with some disastrous defending for the opening goal as Sanchez dropped the ball under minimal pressure from Jesus.
The Brazilian hooked the ball back across goal and Gundogan turned into an unguarded net.
Bernardo Silva’s scintillating form has made the Portugal midfielder almost undroppable despite the wealth of midfield talent on offer to Guardiola.
Silva was the instigator for the second goal as his defense splitting pass played Jack Grealish in behind and he unselfishly squared for his England teammate Foden to force the ball in.
There was plenty of fortune about Foden’s second as he got in the way of Jesus’ shot and got enough of a deflection to bamboozle Sanchez, who let the ball through his grasp.
Brighton made a far better contest of the second-half as City conserved their energy amid a run of seven games in 22 days.
“It was a good lesson,” added Guardiola. “For 30 minutes they were better than us.”
Graham Potter’s men got their reward with a consolation nine minutes from time when Ederson wiped out Enock Mwepu as he rushed from his goal and Mac Allister slotted home from the penalty spot.
“We suffered a bit in the first half but the second half response was fantastic,” said Potter.
“Of course it’s disappointing to lose. We have to say Manchester City were better but our performance was something to be proud of.”
City still had the final say as Foden rounded off a superb performance by picking out Mahrez to smash the visitors’ fourth high past Sanchez.

Newcastle manager Jones confident form will turn around after Palace point

Newcastle United caretaker Graeme Jones shakes hands with Miguel Almiron after the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Reuters/Action Images)
Newcastle United caretaker Graeme Jones shakes hands with Miguel Almiron after the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Reuters/Action Images)
Updated 23 October 2021

Newcastle manager Jones confident form will turn around after Palace point

Newcastle United caretaker Graeme Jones shakes hands with Miguel Almiron after the Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (Reuters/Action Images)
  • Jones in charge of his first game since stepping in to replace Steve Bruce
  • Saw Magpies claim a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park

LONDON: Newcastle United interim manager Graeme Jones believes his players have provided themselves a base on which to build a Premier League revival.

Jones, taking his first game since stepping in to replace Steve Bruce this week, saw United claim a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace, despite conceding 75 percent possession in the Premier League encounter.

Jones, though, knows that Rome was not built in a day and thinks United showed enough in the 90 minutes against a lower top flight rival to prove they are up for the fight to remain in the Premier League.

“We came here to win. That was the intention. So, the next best thing is a point,” said Jones, whose side remains 19th in the table with just four points from nine games. “Off the ball I was pleased with the organization and the standard. We limited Palace to one chance in the first half. In the second half they had two. It is a base, a start.

"I would like us to be better on the ball. But we know it doesn't come overnight - it takes time. We need to tighten up a little bit, not concede as many goals. We have to improve. We have to be better. But I have got to give the lads credit. As I have said, loads of work to do. But at least it is somewhere to start.”

Newcastle-born Jones is a fan as well as a coach of his boyhood club.

He was on the terraces when club legends like Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer were scoring goals for the Magpies.

And, despite seeing goals from legends of days gone by at United, Jones believes the one he witnessed from Callum Wilson on Saturday - an acrobatic overhead kick - was one of the best ever.

Jones said: “It is right up there. With Cal, he is a unique striker. In training he is a good finisher, he works and is a fantastic professional. On a matchday, there is a stimulation, something comes out of him where he has the mentality to perform for Newcastle United. He is the best matchday professional I have worked with. To pull that out of the hat certainly helped us.”

As well as top scorer Wilson's strike, the team's mentality has also pleased Jones.

“You have to respect a point in the Premier League. We needed to start with that base. We needed defensive solidity to give Callum and Allan (Saint-Maximin) a chance. Every game will be treated on its merits - I can't tell you the shape against Chelsea next week. One thing I can't change is the mentality. Everyone fought for each other - that was pleasing.”


Wait for Premier League win goes on for Newcastle after Crystal Palace draw

Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2021

Wait for Premier League win goes on for Newcastle after Crystal Palace draw

Crystal Palace's Conor Gallagher, left, and Newcastle's Isaac Hayden battles for the ball during the English Premier League match at Selhurst Park. (AP)
  • A new Steve Bruce-less era was heralded on Tyneside, after the head coach was this week shown the St. James’ Park exit door

LONDON: Nine and counting. Newcastle United remain winless from their opening nine Premier League games of the season — however, their Crystal Palace draw definitely feels like a point gained, rather than two dropped.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring for the Eagles, before some Callum Wilson acrobatics ensured the Magpies traveled back north from the capital with a point to show for their efforts.

A new Steve Bruce-less era was heralded on Tyneside, after the head coach was this week shown the St. James’ Park exit door — but again, like last week against Spurs, there was little difference from what had gone before.

Graeme Jones stepped into the dugout for this one, and will do so for the next seven days until United decide on their new manager. United were clearly more organized, yet a whole lot more tentative.

Where gaps at the back were cavernous under Bruce, things appeared a whole lot more solid without him.

United, however, did have to ride their luck.

In a half of football devoid of real opportunities, only two of merit were created. One was wasted by the usually clinical Wilson and another saw Benteke strike Karl Darlow’s post.

United were bright early doors, with a little more defensive shape, which so easily escaped them in the opening game of the Magpies’ Saudi-financed era.

And Wilson went within an inch of setting Newcastle on their way, but could only find the side netting when presented with a chance on a tight angle from just three yards.

Benteke, a threat in the air all day for United’s beefed-up backline, fired a shot across the bows as he beat both Javier Manquillo and Emil Krafth to a floated cross to hit the foot of the post.

Bizarrely, the highlight of the opening half came from an off the field action as United released a statement making a U-turn on their previous decision to encourage fans not to wear Saudi-inspired dress.

It seems the new owners are now in favor of it. The statement read: “Those who wish to support the club by wearing appropriate culturally inspired clothing should feel free to do so as they see fit. We are inclusive to all.

“To reiterate what we said previously, neither the club nor its new owners were offended by attire worn, and appreciate the overt statements of support and acceptance by our great fans.”

Saudi flags and traditional dress were clearly visible across the 2,800-strong away support in south London.

After the break it was one-way traffic — and for United, a backs to the wall job.

Benteke made sure the Eagles’ dominance was rewarded when he nodded home a Tyrick Mitchell cross for 1-0. It was no less than the hosts deserved.

The Belgium international almost put Palace out of sight moments later as United’s resolve began to falter. Another header, this time off the top of the bar.

Against the run of play, however, the Magpies unexpectedly leveled as Wilson redeemed his earlier miss by producing a second-half moment of magic. His overhead kick from a United corner lit up the traveling support as the present Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, PCP directors, punched the air in the directors’ box.

Jones’ United continued to ride their luck. Goalscorer Benteke continued his profligacy in front of goal.

A Palace through ball broke the United defensive line and Benteke, with the whole goal to aim at, skewed wide.

Benteke did have the ball in the net again with three minutes left to play and looked to have won it for the Eagles. However, the VAR gods shone down on United as referee Darren England ruled the goal out for an obvious pull of the shirt by Marc Guehi on Clark.

Cue chants of “how much are they paying you?” — Clearly aimed at the man in the middle, England, and United’s new cash-rich owners.

Jealousy and hypocrisy reign supreme in English football when it comes to Newcastle United, of that there is no doubt, now.

But while the green-eyed monster dominates fan perception when it comes to the club’s owners, it does not ring true when it comes to their “on-pitch” product. That will likely have to wait until January and the transfer window.