Mansoor on the rise as he looks forward to homecoming at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh

Mansoor on the rise as he looks forward to homecoming at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh
Mansoor will be joining WWE Smackdown after Crown Jewel in Riyadh. (WWE)
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Updated 10 November 2021

Mansoor on the rise as he looks forward to homecoming at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh

Mansoor on the rise as he looks forward to homecoming at WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh
  • After appearance at Mohammed Abdo Arena on Thursday, the Saudi WWE superstar will join the the organization’s Smackdown brand

WWE Superstar Mansoor is finally home.

After being away from Saudi Arabia for almost 20 months, the 25-year-old will be performing on Thursday night at WWE Crown Jewel at Mohammed Bro Arena in his hometown Riyadh.

A lot has happened since he was last at the same venue for Super ShowDown in February 2020, not least signing for WWE Raw brand.

“It’s amazing, it’s the biggest platform I’d ever had,” Mansoor said. “It’s been a dream and goal my entire life. As a professional wrestler you hope to achieve that one day, to be on that stage. A small percentage of people in my field get to perform on a stage like that, where you’re being watched by millions of people all over the world, so it’s a true honor.”

And things are about to get even better for Mansoor, now living in the US, as he joins a new WWE brand.

“Now I’m switching it all up because I just got drafted into Smackdown,” he said. “So after Crown Jewel, I’ll actually be changing shows, so I get to experience both. Both shows that I experienced as a kid, so it’s a dream come true.”

After almost two years of disruptions due to the pandemic, WWE is again being watched by live audiences, something for which Mansoor and his colleagues are grateful.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” he said. “I always say, the reason that WWE is so special is because of the interaction we get to have with the fans. When we did it in front of screens, it was close but it always felt like something was wrong, and it made me realize how important fans are to what we do. We’re intrinsically connected to the fans in the sense that when we’re out there competing and performing, we look to the fans, and their response and their reaction to inform how well we do.”

He added: “For someone like me who is carried by fan participation, it’s been a total game-changer. Hearing the roar of the crowd and their support made me perform better, so I’m really excited to go back to my home. It’s been along time so I’m really excited to come back.”

While Mansoor’s popularity in the Middle East continues to rise, he is also building a solid fan base in the US.

“I think that American fans are curious about me,” he said. “They don’t really know what I’m capable of, and that’s really exciting for me because it gives me the opportunity to show them little by little just exactly what I can do. I’ve been in this tag team with Mustafa Ali, and he’s been amazing because it’s given me the showcase to do that.

“And not just in the ring, but also backstage and on the microphone and in my interactions with him I’ve gone on to show more personality, more of a character,” said Mansoor.

“That’s what’s really endearing with American fans, they don’t just attach to the physicality and the performance, they also want to care about you as a person. So having that kind of relationship with Mustafa, where I can do that, has been really helpful.”

But Thursday night is all about family, friends and Saudi fans.

“I imagine it’s probably going to be a pretty emotional moment,” Mansoor said. “One of the last shows, probably the last show I did in front of people, was that Saudi show, so it’s great for me to finally make that homecoming and for me to finally see my family for the first time in over a year. That’s a crazy amount of time for me to not see my father, brothers, my sister. I’m really excited for them to come out en masse to see this, and to experience this together. We’re back, we’re still going to be safe, but we’re back.”

Mansoor is also looking to the day that other Saudi wrestlers follow in his footsteps and join WWE.

“I think the most important thing is to always look ahead, to look toward the future,” he said. “So I think that it’s really important for us to always be on the up and up when it comes to looking at who’s going to be the next guy to represent the country. Because it can’t just be me. I’m very lucky, I’m very blessed in the sense that I was able to have wrestling experience before I tried out for WWE.”

Mansoor said: “I was the only one there who did have experience because, of course, there were no schools in Saudi Arabia to teach people how to wrestle, but that’s because that culture wasn’t really there. My hope is that by doing these shows we inspire more people to think, OK, if I work on my health and my athletic ability and my strength, maybe when there’s another tryout, I’ll be ready for that moment, to take that next step.”

He added: “As much Saudi talent possible is what I want to see. Actually, my goal is, I want to have a Saudi versus Saudi match in Saudi Arabia. That’s what I really want more than anything else.”

Mansoor said that he keeps in touch with what is happening in Saudi Arabia as much as possible because he does not feel like “a stranger in my own home” when he returns.

“My friend told me something funny,” he said. “We grew up playing WWE games, and he was telling me, Mansoor everybody here is saying they’re going buy the next WWE video game just to play as you. And I thought that’s really heartwarming, even just the idea of being in a WWE video game. When I was a kid, that was my introduction to WWE. Sitting in a room after school with all my friends making our own wrestlers and playing with on PlayStation 2, so if I get to create that experience for people, that would be amazing.


Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem
Updated 13 sec ago

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem

Hamilton, Verstappen can inspire young drivers in Middle East, Africa: Ben Sulayem
  • MENA Karting Nations Cup ‘paying dividends’ by raising standards for future F1, rally stars

DUBAI: As Abu Dhabi prepares to serve up one of the most dramatic ever finishes to a Formula 1 season, former UAE rally ace Mohammed Ben Sulayem has predicted that the Middle East’s top young drivers are on course to reach the top level in motorsports.

Sunday’s showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated in years, and capable of inspiring a new generation of young talent, said the president of the Emirates Motorsports Organization.

That was the objective behind the launch last year of the MENA Karting Nations Cup, instigated by Ben Sulayem, and the regional FIA vice president for sport sees clear indications that the championship is already paying dividends.

“It has given many of the region’s top drivers a chance to compete on the same stage for the first time, and the early signs are very encouraging.

“What we’re noticing is that the best drivers are getting better, and those chasing them are also making advancements. This is the basic aim of the MENA Karting Nations Cup – to raise standards all round,” he added.

“In all branches of motorsport, when you come up against the best drivers at your level, you quickly get to understand what you need to improve and get ahead.

“This is exactly what Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen did during their karting careers. Seeing these two fantastic drivers going head-to-head in Abu Dhabi on Sunday can only fire up those who dream of following them,” Ben Sulayem said.

The MENA Karting Nations Cup has been designed as a multi-year development project for young drivers on track to become future F1 and rally stars.

Last month’s second edition, staged by the Oman Automobile Association at the Muscat Speedway, attracted 138 drivers from 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

It was a particularly successful event for the UAE, whose national team replaced the host country as overall champions, with Oman finishing runners-up, and Lebanon taking third place.

In addition, UAE drivers finished on the podium in each of the Rotax Max Challenge (six), RD1 Elite Endurance, and RD1 Elite Sprint race categories.

The UAE team was Faris Haroun, Maxim Bobreshov, Kaiden Higgins, Max Murray, Conor Clancy, Harry Hannam, Theo Kekati, Lewis England, Sebastian Murray, Mohammed Matar Al-Shamsi, Kyle Kumaran, Aly Beig, Mohammed Haroun, Hussain Umid Ali, and Greg Watt.


Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich
Updated 09 December 2021

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

Barcelona out of Champions League in loss to Bayern Munich

MUNICH: Barcelona will not play in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years after a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Wednesday ensured the Catalan club was eliminated from European soccer’s premier competition.
Barcelona drops into the Europa League playoffs after finishing third in Group E, thanks to Benfica’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the other game of the evening.
That ended a Barcelona campaign which would have been unthinkable in the club’s heyday with Lionel Messi up front and Pep Guardiola as coach from 2008 through 2012. The group stage began with a 3-0 loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou and got worse with a 3-0 defeat and 0-0 draw against Benfica. Barcelona scored only two goals in six games, both against last-place Dynamo, and conceded nine.
“We start a new era, from zero, from here, to work hard and to recover Barca and to put Barca in the place that we deserve, that is in the top of the Champions League,” coach Xavi Hernández told broadcaster DAZN. “This is our reality. We are out of Champions League, we are in Europa League, but this is not the place of Barcelona.”
The five-time European champion last failed to make the Champions League last 16 in 2003-04. That season, Barcelona missed the Champions League entirely and played in what was then the UEFA Cup, thanks to a poor Spanish league finish the season before.
Defeat in the snow in Munich will deepen Barcelona’s already overwhelming financial problems as it misses out on lucrative prize money and exposure for sponsors. Sitting seventh in La Liga means Barcelona may not even qualify for next year’s competition.
“We need to work hard, many things that put Barcelona in this situation. But this is our reality. I cannot say anything else,” Xavi said. “We need to win Europa League, work hard for recovering points in La Liga, win the cup, win the Super Cup, this is what Barcelona deserve ... We will try to work hard. We have many injuries. Maybe we can sign some players now in January. Let’s see.”
Unlike the hammer blow of Barcelona’s 8-2 loss to Bayern in August 2020, this time the German champions calmly took their time dismantling a Barcelona team which only registered two shots on target.
The first goal Barcelona conceded Wednesday was one of fine margins, with goal-line technology required to show Thomas Müller’s looping header had crossed the line before Ronald Araujo belatedly attempted to clear.
The second was a simple goalkeeping error as Marc-André ter Stegen let Leroy Sané’s speculative long-range shot bounce off his arm and in. That left Xavi’s team 2-0 down at halftime and needing either its own stunning comeback or a similar feat from last-place Dynamo against Benfica.
The deficit worsened in the 62nd minute when Alphonso Davies, the Canadian left-back whose pace had caused problems all game, cut the ball back from the touchline for Jamal Musiala, who applied a simple finish from within a crowd of Barcelona players.
Playing at home in an empty stadium because of new pandemic-related restrictions, Bayern was already assured of qualifying as the group winner and finished with six wins from six games, matching Liverpool and Ajax on a perfect record this season. Coach Julian Nagelsmann told DAZN his team could have scored “more than three” goals against Barcelona.
Bayern is the only German team in the round of 16 after Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig and Wolfsburg all fell short in the group stage. The last time that happened was 2017-18.
Besides the shock of not qualifying, Barcelona may have to deal with an injury for Jordi Alba after the full-back limped off with an apparent thigh problem.


Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win
Updated 09 December 2021

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win

Qatari rally driver Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah boosts FIA World Cup hopes with Hail stage win
  • The Toyota Gazoo Racing duo steered their Toyota Hilux to a time of 3hr 20min 01sec

HAIL: Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and French navigator Matthieu Baumel comfortably won the opening 258.14 km selective section of the Hail Cross-Country Rally early on Wednesday.

The Toyota Gazoo Racing duo steered their Toyota Hilux to a time of 3hr 20min 01sec and finished 6min 05sec in front of stage runner-up Denis Krotov.

Al-Attiyah’s stage performance boosted his already overwhelming odds of clinching the FIA World Cup title and, heading into the night halt in Hail, the Qatari found himself 22min 16sec ahead of Toyota team-mate and title rival Lucio Alvarez.

“We started first of the T1 cars, but the T1 2022 specification cars started before us,” Al-Attiyah’s co-driver Baumel said.

“We passed all three of them during the day and we opened the road half the way. It was not an easy stage. The first part was more navigation and off-track and the second part was faster. It was a nice day and we had a good result. We need to win two stages to get the World Cup. That is the goal for this rally.”

The X-raid Mini Buggies of Jakub Przygonski and Sebastien Halpern were third and fifth, sandwiching Vladimir Vasilyev’s BMW X3 in fourth.

“It was quite a nice stage with a lot of camel grass and it was quite soft,” said Przygonski. “We made a navigation mistake and got lost, but we enjoyed it. It was nice.”


Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway
Updated 09 December 2021

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway

Sixth Saudi Open golf championship gets underway
  • Saudi participants include professional player Othman Almulla, along with national team members Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif
  • Chief Operating Officer of Golf Saudi Ed Edwards: Our vision and the goal of the mass participation programme is the training of Saudi youth to transform the golfing landscape

RIYADH: The sixth Saudi Open golf tournament tees off today at Riyadh Golf Club.

Prince Khalid bin Saud Al-Faisal, advisor to the Saudi Golf Federation, and Mohammed Al-Issa, Executive Manager of the Saudi Golf Federation, oversaw the launch of the championship at a press conference yesterday. The tournament will finish on Dec. 11.

During the briefing reporters were told that participation in the tournament is open to all professional and amateur golf players in the Middle East and North Africa who are registered with any golf club.

Al-Issa said: “We are proud to announce the launch of the sixth Saudi Open, which will give Saudi and Arab golf players the opportunity to participate in sports competitions of this kind. The events are a great opportunity for players to develop their skill levels and interact with players from different countries in the Middle East and North Africa in a competitive environment.”

The tournament is expected to attract wide interest from golf fans inside and outside the Kingdom. The Saudi Open will see the participation of leading players from the Gulf states and other Arab countries.

Saudi participants, who have all gone from strength to strength in recent years, as golf gains popularity in the Kingdom, include the only Saudi professional player Othman Almulla, along with national team members Abdulrahman Al-Mansour, Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif.

All four players will be in strong contention following their performances on the Asian Tour in Thailand last week, where they were in action at the Blue Canyon Phuket Championship and the Laguna Phuket Championship.

A lot will be at stake as the Saudi Open also represents a qualification opportunity for the 2022 Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, which will be held next February. 

In a reply to Arab News, Ed Edwards, Chief Operating Officer of Golf Saudi, said: “Our vision and the goal of the mass participation programme is the training of Saudi youth to transform the golfing landscape. Saudi Arabia will be a regional sports hub.”

The Saudi Open is one of the events that Golf Saudi holds annually to raise awareness of the game in the Kingdom and to develop home-grown future talent. By working with other sports federations and the Ministry of Sport, Golf Saudi, which is the commercial development arm of the Saudi Golf Federation, is looking to underline the wider benefit of sports participation more generally as part of Saudi Arabia’s progress towards its Vision 2030 goals to improve its citizens quality of life.

Combined with grass roots training and education programmes that introduce people to the game at the earliest opportunity and with the greatest ease, Golf Saudi is committed to delivering a dynamic national development programme that transforms the golfing landscape.


Conte says 8 Spurs players, 5 staff members have coronavirus

Conte says 8 Spurs players, 5 staff members have coronavirus
Updated 08 December 2021

Conte says 8 Spurs players, 5 staff members have coronavirus

Conte says 8 Spurs players, 5 staff members have coronavirus
  • “Every day we are having people with COVID,” Conte said at a news conference
  • UEFA rules state a game must go ahead as long as a club has at least 13 senior players available

LONDON: Eight Tottenham players and five members of staff at the club have tested positive for the coronavirus, manager Antonio Conte said Wednesday.
“Every day we are having people with COVID,” Conte said at a news conference a day before a match against French team Rennes in the Europa Conference League.
Conte said he has 11 players available for the game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
UEFA rules state a game must go ahead as long as a club has at least 13 senior players available, including at least one goalkeeper.
Conte said “everyone is a bit scared” at the club because people are coming into contact with others who have tested negative but who later test positive.
“At the end of the training session today, again one player is positive, another member of staff is positive,” he said. “Tomorrow, who? Me? Another player? Another member of staff? We continue in this way but the situation is serious.”
Conte said he is concerned players and staff members at Tottenham might be passing on the virus to their loved ones.
“We have families, we have contact with our families when we come back home,” a visibly emotional Conte said. “It is a situation that makes me upset.
“Now for sure we are bit scared, because tomorrow we don’t know what happens.”
It has been reported in the British media that Tottenham has asked for its Premier League game against Brighton on Sunday to be postponed. Conte did not confirm that at the news conference.
Six Premier League matches were postponed last season because of virus outbreaks at clubs.
Tottenham is in second place in its group in the Conference League — the third-tier European competition — and is tied on points with third-place Vitesse. Rennes has already won the group with one game left to play.
The runner-up qualifies for a playoff for the last 16 against a team that will drop down from the Europa League.