Zone launches esports platform that will allow Middle East gamers to play to earn

Zone launches esports platform that will allow Middle East gamers to play to earn
Saudi Arabia’s Mosaad Al-Dossary won the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2018 in London. (FIFA eWorld Cup)
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Updated 07 November 2021

Zone launches esports platform that will allow Middle East gamers to play to earn

Zone launches esports platform that will allow Middle East gamers to play to earn
  • Players will take on opponents from around the world with chance to accumulate winnings through Algorand Blockchain

When Saudi Arabia’s Mosaad Al-Dossary won the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2018 in London, it highlighted that esports, already hugely popular in the region, was well on the way to becoming a profitable career path for its finest players.

Now, as gaming in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East continues to grow year on year, UAE-based firm Zone has developed a system that it hopes will transform the industry by providing users a unique play-to-earn environment.

Zone is a community-driven gamefi ecosystem formed on Algorand — a blockchain-based cryptocurrency platform — and founder and CEO Adi K Mishra says the new platform will allow a growing number of gamers, and not just the elite, to accumulate winnings by going up against participants from around the world. 

“These are exciting times as we launch on-gaming challenges for the masses,” he said. “We can now bring together our million-plus gamers from South Asia via our existing esports platform and integrate them into our Zone play-to-earn economy.

“Esports are witnessing substantial business demand in the current market scenario, thus driving the overall gaming industry across the Middle East. Having achieved a more than successful funding round, we at Zone move forward with a clear vision of revolutionizing this space and in tandem creating a host of new challenges for like-minded gamers.”

With gaming on the rise in the Middle East, especially in Saudi and the UAE, the industry is now recognized as a platform for governments and brands to reach a global audience, and its popularity is now eclipsing the film and music industries.

In October, a Japan-Saudi Arabia esports competition was held over two days during the Tokyo Game Show 2021, Asia’s largest gaming fair, with hosts eventually running out winners in all the five different games that were contested.

The match-up had been announced in August 2018 by the Japan eSports Union at the invitation of Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabia Federation of International eSports and the Arab eSports Federation.

The Saudi Arabian leg of the contest was originally scheduled to be held in July of this year but has been rescheduled for 2022.


England’s Hull holds off Ko, Lin to win LPGA Volunteers Classic

England’s Hull holds off Ko, Lin to win LPGA Volunteers Classic
Updated 03 October 2022

England’s Hull holds off Ko, Lin to win LPGA Volunteers Classic

England’s Hull holds off Ko, Lin to win LPGA Volunteers Classic
  • The 26-year-old Englishwoman edged Lin by one stroke and Ko by two to snap a six-year LPGA win drought that Hull said had been a long wait

WASHINGTON: England’s Charley Hull captured her second career LPGA title on Sunday, holding off New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and China’s Lin Xiyu to win the Volunteers of America Classic.

Hull, whose only other LPGA triumph came at the 2016 Tour Championship, fired a 7-under par 64 to finish 72 holes on 18-under 266 at Old American Golf Club at The Colony, Texas.

That was good enough to edge Lin by one stroke and Ko by two to snap a six-year LPGA win drought that Hull said had been a long wait.

“I feel very proud of myself,” Hull said. “I had come close a few times since but I’ve put in some good work this year.”

Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul was fourth on 272. Her compatriot Moriya Jutanugarn shared fifth with American Cheyenne Knight on 273.

Hull said she feels like better things are coming after her breakthrough.

“My game is there. It was just my confidence and now I’m confident,” Hull said. “I felt really good. I felt like I was really in control of my round, especially coming in.

“I could have made some more birdies and I hit good putts and they just rolled over the edge.”

Lin sank a 25-foot eagle putt at the par-5 17th to momentarily match Hull for the lead, but the 26-year-old Englishwoman answered moments later with a six-foot downhill birdie putt to reclaim the lead on 18-under.

At the 18th, Ko lipped out from 12 feet for birdie while Lin and Hull, in the next and final group, gave themselves birdie chances as well.

Hull missed from 18 feet and tapped in for par, leaving Lin a 14-footer to force a playoff, but the putt faded left and Hull had the triumph.

“It was quite brilliant, actually. I found it quite exciting,” Hull said. “When ‘Janet’ (Lin) made eagle on 17, I enjoyed that. It made me want to birdie the last. I hit a good putt. I missed. But it was great fun.”

Lin, a 26-year-old from Guangzhou, matched her best LPGA finish, a runner-up effort in March in Thailand.

Ko, a 25-year-old Seoul-born star, is a two-time major champion who captured her 17th career LPGA title in January at the LPGA at Boca Rio.

She hasn’t won twice in a season since claiming four titles in the 2016 campaign.

Ko opened and closed the front nine with back-to-back birdies to reach 14-under, grabbing a share of the lead with 54-hole co-leaders Hull and Lin.

Hull surged early with four birdies in the first seven holes only to make a bogey at eight while Lin opened with a birdie and added others at the par-5 sixth and par-4 10th.

Hull leaped ahead with three birdies in a row at the 12th, par-5 13th and 14th to reach 17-under, seizing a three-stroke edge with four holes remaining.

Lin stumbled with a bogey at the par-3 11th but answered with a birdie at 13.

Ko birdied the 15th and 17th and Lin birdied the par-3 16th to set up the closing drama.


Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick
Updated 03 October 2022

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick

Real Madrid’s perfect season ends as Benzema misses penalty kick
  • It was the third straight penalty miss by Benzema against the Osasuna goalkeeper

MADRID: It was not the return to action that Karim Benzema had hoped for.

Back in Real Madrid’s squad after a long injury layoff, the France striker missed a second-half penalty kick that helped to end the team’s perfect start to the season.

Madrid’s streak of nine straight victories in all competitions was halted after a 1-1 home draw against 10-man Osasuna in the Spanish league on Sunday.

The result also cost Madrid the league lead, as it was surpassed by Barcelona following its 1-0 win at Mallorca on Saturday. Both teams are tied on 19 points but the Catalan club is ahead on goal difference.

Benzema, who had missed three straight matches because of a right leg injury sustained before the international break, had a chance to give Madrid the lead in the 79th minute, but his shot from the spot was saved by Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.

It was the third straight penalty miss by Benzema against the Osasuna goalkeeper. He had two penalties saved by Herrera in April when Madrid won.

And things were clearly not going Benzema’s way as shortly after the striker had a goal disallowed for offside.

“We needed Benzema to convert the penalty,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “He usually does. It was an accident that sometimes happens.”

Vinícius Júnior had opened the scoring in the 42nd after finding the far corner with what appeared to be a cross attempt into the area, but the visitors equalized with a header by Kike García in the 50th.

Osasuna went a man down when David García was sent off for the foul on Benzema that prompted the penalty.

It was Osasuna’s first draw after four wins and two losses this season, keeping the Pamplona club in sixth place. It got the point at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium despite playing without the suspended Chimy Ávila, one of its best players.

Ancelotti was without veteran midfielder Luka Modric and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois because of injuries.

A minute of silence was held before every Spanish league match in honor of victims of the tragedy at a soccer stadium in Indonesia on Saturday night.

VALENCIA RALLY

A goalkeeper’s mistake six minutes into second-half stoppage-time allowed Valencia to pull off a 2-2 draw at Espanyol.

Espanyol goalkeeper Álvaro Fernández thought a high shot by Eray Comert toward the goal was going wide and let the ball go, but it ended in the net for the visitors’ equalizer.

Fernández dropped to the ground in despair and later put his hands together over his head with a plea for forgiveness from home fans.

Espanyol was looking for its first home win of the season. It is winless at its stadium in seven straight matches, going back to last season.

The hosts had taken the lead with Sergi Darder’s goal in the 83rd after Gabriel Paulista opened the scoring in the 53rd and Joselu equalized for Valencia in the 56th.

Valencia, which stayed midtable, played with 10 men after Marcos André was sent off in the 85th. Espanyol, sitting near the relegation zone, had Martin Braithwaite red carded early in stoppage time.

SOCIEDAD’S GOALFEST

Real Sociedad picked up its second straight league win by beating Girona 5-3.

Alexander Sorloth scored twice and Takefusa Kubo added one of the other goals for Sociedad, which moved to seventh place.

Taty Castellanos was among the scorers for midtable Girona, which has lost two in a row.

BETIS FALLS

Real Betis couldn’t overcome a first-half red card and lost 1-0 at Celta Vigo for its second league defeat of the season.

Gabri Veiga scored a ninth-minute winner for midtable Celta, which was without coach Eduardo Coudet because of a trip back home to Argentina for personal reasons.

Betis lost Luiz Felipe in the 20th with a straight red card.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team remained near the top of the standings, as it was coming off five wins and a single defeat.


Hughes wins Sanderson Farms with birdie on 2nd playoff hole

Hughes wins Sanderson Farms with birdie on 2nd playoff hole
Updated 03 October 2022

Hughes wins Sanderson Farms with birdie on 2nd playoff hole

Hughes wins Sanderson Farms with birdie on 2nd playoff hole
  • For Hughes, it had been six years since his lone victory — also in a playoff — at Sea Island

JACKSON, Mississippi: Whether it was sheer confidence or remarkable resilience, Mackenzie Hughes never doubted he would win the Sanderson Farms Championship. He just never imagined how it would unfold Sunday evening.

Hughes had to make six key putts on the final seven holes — four of them for par — to outlast Sepp Straka on the second playoff hole for his second PGA Tour victory.

“The second one felt a lot harder than the first one, that’s for sure,” Hughes said.

The 31-year-old Canadian renowned for his putter finally made birdie his third time playing the 18th hole at the Country Club of Jackson, pouring in an 8-footer for the win.

But this was as much about pars — the 15-footer on the par-5 14th, the 7-foot putt on the 16th after he couldn’t reach the green from a fairway bunker, and two tough par saves on the 18th hole from 100 feet behind the green in regulation and from a bunker on the first playoff hole.

“I kept telling myself the whole week that I was going to do it. That was the only thing I saw in my mind,” Hughes said. “Those par saves down the stretch, I was just trying to will the ball into the hole.”

The first par save on the 18th gave him a 3-under 69 to force a playoff against Straka, who played two groups ahead of Hughes and shot 67 to post at 17-under 271.

On the second playoff hole, Straka missed from 18 feet on the fringe before Hughes made the winning putt. It was the second time in his last four tournaments that Straka lost in a playoff. The other was against Will Zalatoris at the start of the PGA Tour postseason.

“I played good golf on a tough Sunday,” said Straka, who picked up his first PGA Tour title earlier this year at the Honda Classic. “Giving yourself chances to win out here it key. The more you can do that, the more comfortable you’ll be.”

For Hughes, it had been six years since his lone victory — also in a playoff — at Sea Island.

“I was fighting like hell to stay in it,” Hughes said. “Finishing second, while it’s still great, it kind of stings when you’re that close. I just wasn’t going to accept that today.”

The victory comes one week after the Presidents Cup, and Hughes was disappointed not to be included on the International team at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives. He wanted to use that as motivation, and it sure worked out that way.

Garrick Higgo of South Africa had a 68 and finished third.

Straka took the lead by getting up-and-down for birdie on the par-5 14th and the reachable par-4 15th. He had to settle for pars the rest of the day.

Hughes had those scoring holes still to play, and he nearly squandered the chance. On the 14th, he was out of position off the tee, his wedge over a tree back toward the fairway came up short in a bunker, he had to lay up again and escaped with a 15-foot par putt.

On the closing hole, he was well left off the tee and punched under a tree and over the green against the grandstand. After free relief, he used putter from 100 feet away off the green with perfect pace to 3 feet for.

On the first playoff hole at the 18th, Hughes came up short in a bunker with only about 15 feet from the edge of the bunker to the pin. He blasted out to 5 feet and made par.

That sent them back to the 18th for a third time, and Hughes closed him out.

Mark Hubbard, who went into the final round with a one-shot lead, managed only two birdies in his round of 74 and tied for fifth.

The final round featured five players who had at least a share of the lead at some point. That included Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, whose round came undone on the par-5 14th when he took a triple bogey without a penalty shot.

Higgo never was part of the lead, though he lingered the entire day and missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th that ultimately kept him out of the playoff.


Stadium tragedy exposes Indonesia’s troubled soccer history

Stadium tragedy exposes Indonesia’s troubled soccer history
Updated 03 October 2022

Stadium tragedy exposes Indonesia’s troubled soccer history

Stadium tragedy exposes Indonesia’s troubled soccer history
  • Saturday's football tragedy in Malang is a tragic reminder that Indonesia is one of the most dangerous countries in which to attend a game
  • Data from Indonesia’s soccer watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in game-related incidents over the past 28 years

SEOUL, South Korea: Gaining the right to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup was a major milestone in Indonesia’s soccer development, raising hopes that a successful tournament would turn around long-standing problems that have blighted the sport in this country of 277 million people.
The death of at least 125 people at a league game between host Arema FC of East Java’s Malang city and Persebaya Surabaya on Saturday is a tragic reminder, however, that Indonesia is one of the most dangerous countries in which to attend a game.
“Do remember that the FIFA U-20 World Cup will be the worldwide spotlight since the event will be joined by 24 countries from five continents,” Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said last month as he pushed for thorough preparations for the tournament.
Since Saturday, the domestic league has been suspended. Widodo has ordered the sports minister, the national police chief and the soccer federation to conduct a thorough investigation into the deadly stadium crush.
Indonesia was the first Asian team ever to play at a World Cup — participating in 1938 as Dutch East Indies — but despite an undoubted national passion for the sport, it has never returned to the global stage because of years of corruption, violence and mismanagement.
Data from Indonesia’s soccer watchdog, Save Our Soccer, showed 78 people have died in game-related incidents over the past 28 years.

An Indonesian flag is seen at the funeral of a police officer who died after a riot and stampede at a football stadium in Malang, Indonesia, on Oct. 2, 2022. (Antara Foto via REUTERS) 

Those accused are often associated with supporter groups that attach themselves to clubs, with the biggest boasting hundreds of thousands of members.
Arema intense rivalry with Surabaya meant that no visiting fans were allowed in the stadium on the weekend. Yet violence broke out when the home team lost 3-2 and some of the 42,000 Arema fans, known as “Aremania,” threw bottles and other objects at players and soccer officials.
Restrictions on visiting fans also have failed in the past. In 2016, despite Persib Bandung supporters being banned from a game with bitter rival Persija Jakarta, they were blamed for the death of a Jakarta supporter.
A month earlier, a Persib fan had been beaten to death by Jakarta followers.
In 2018, local media reported a seventh death in six years related to Indonesia’s biggest soccer rivalry.
Soccer fans have accused security officials of being heavy-handed in the past and on the weekend, with witnesses describing officers beating them with sticks and shields before shooting tear gas canisters directly into the crowds. In 2016, police were accused of killing 16-year-old supporter Muhammad Fahreza at a game between Persija and Persela Lamongan, resulting in mass demonstrations demanding an end to police brutality.
“The police who were in charge of security violated FIFA stadium safety and security regulations,” soccer analyst Akmal Marhali told Indonesian media on Sunday, referring to the use of tear gas on Malang fans who entered the pitch after their team’s defeat. That sparked a rush for exits in an overcrowded stadium.
“The Indonesia Football Association may have been negligent for not informing the police that security procedures at a football match are not the same as those at a demonstration.”
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, prohibits the use of tear gas by on-field security or police at stadiums.

A riot police officer fires tear gas during a riot at a football stadium in Malang, Indonesia, on Oct. 2, 2022. (Antara Foto via REUTERS) 

Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said police who violated regulations should be tried in open court.
“This loss of life cannot go unanswered. The police themselves have stated that the deaths occurred after police use of tear gas on the crowd resulted in a stampede at the stadium exits,” Hamid said in a statement. “Tear gas should also never be fired in confined spaces.”
The soccer association, known locally as PSSI, has long struggled to manage the game domestically.
In 2007, Nurdin Halid was imprisoned on corruption charges but was able to continue as the organization’s president until 2011. After Halid was banned from running for another term, a rival league, federation and national team emerged.
But chaotic administration continued until FIFA suspended Indonesia in 2015, a sanction that was lifted the following year.
In 2019, when FIFA awarded Indonesia hosting rights for the Under-20 World Cup, it was seen as a vote of confidence.
In June, a FIFA panel inspected the country’s soccer facilities and planning for the May 20-June 11 tournament and proclaimed its satisfaction.
“We are very pleased to see the preparations in Indonesia,” Roberto Grassi, Head of Youth Tournaments for FIFA said. “A lot of refurbishment work has been done already. We have had an encouraging visit and are confident of support from all stakeholders involved.”
Kanjuruhan Stadium, the site of the disaster on Saturday, is not among the six venues listed for the Under-20 World Cup, although nearby Surabaya Stadium is scheduled to host games.
FIFA has not yet commented on any potential impact on the Under-20 World Cup but the weekend tragedy is likely to damage Indonesia’s bid to host the 2023 Asian Cup. It is vying with South Korea and Qatar to become host of the continental championship after China relinquished its staging rights in May.
Indonesia has already co-hosted the tournament, sharing the event in 2007 with Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam and hosting the final in Jakarta, where Iraq beat Saudi Arabia for the title.
That was the last time Indonesia staged a major international soccer tournament. The Asian Football Confederation is expected to announce its decision on the 2023 tournament on Oct. 17.
There is unlikely to be any soccer played before then as people in Indonesia, and football followers around the globe, come to terms with one of the deadliest disasters ever at a sporting event.


Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’
Updated 02 October 2022

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’

Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad play out stalemate in ill-disciplined ‘Saudi Classico’
  • Champions Al-Hilal suffer shock 2-1 home defat to Al-Taawoun in the day’s other big match

RIYADH: The first ‘Classico’ of the Roshn Saudi League season ended in stalemate as Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad played out an ill-tempered 0-0 draw at Mrsool Park on Sunday, which saw two players sent off and six others booked.

It looked like Al-Nassr might have gained a major advantage when Al-Ittihad midfielder Tarek Ahmed was sent off two minutes before the break. But Rudi Garcia’s team failed to take advantage and on 59 minutes the numerical advantage was lost when Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem received a straight red.

The stop-start nature of the match saw almost 15 minutes of stoppage time added at the end of the match, but neither team could find a breakthrough.

The result leaves Al-Ittihad in third place with 11 points from five matches, while Al-Nassr are in fifth with one point less.

The day’s big shock came with Al-Hilal’s 2-1 home defeat to Al-Taawoun.

The reigning Saudi and Asian champions took the lead through Brazilian forward Michael on the half hour, but the visitors equalized with a goal from Summayhan Al-Nabit in first half stoppage time.

Despite having Leandre Tawamba sent off on 65 minutes, Al-Taawoun took a shock lead through Fahad Alrashidi after 74 minutes, and then held onto the final whistle for a famous win.

After their first loss of the season, Al-Hilal are in second place with 12 points, while Al-Taawoun are in joint-fourth position with 11.