Saudi Arabia’s first full marathon officially launched

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
The Riyadh Marathon takes place on March 5, 2022, and registration opens on Dec. 2. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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The Riyadh Marathon takes place on March 5, 2022, and registration opens on Dec. 2. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
On offer will be a half marathon for regular runners, a 10-kilometer race for those aged 17 and above, and a 4-kilometer race for beginners and children. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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On offer will be a half marathon for regular runners, a 10-kilometer race for those aged 17 and above, and a 4-kilometer race for beginners and children. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
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Updated 17 November 2021

Saudi Arabia’s first full marathon officially launched

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA), announces the launch of the Riyadh Marathon 2022. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)
  • 10,000 participants are expected to take part in the capital's big race

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first full marathon was officially launched on Wednesday, as part of ongoing efforts to promote wellbeing and physical activity levels across the population.

The Riyadh Marathon takes place on March 5, 2022, and registration opens on Dec. 2. Everyone will be encouraged to join in, race organizers of the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) said. 

“We just inaugurated the marathon for March 5, 2022, and we’re expecting 10,000 international and local participants,” Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, SFA president, told Arab News. “The Riyadh Marathon is a path for people of all ages and abilities across the country, and the globe, to take part in a world-class sporting event. We can't wait to welcome everyone at the marathon start line in March next year.”

The marathon will see runners take on the challenge of a 42-kilometer course that starts in King Saud University and continues through the city, with top finishers receiving monetary prizes of more than SR1 million ($266,666).

There will be other races to allow people of all ages and athletic abilities to participate.


One of the ongoing campaigns for the big race that can be found on the official Twitter page for the Riyadh Marathon account. (SFA)

One of the campaigns for the big race that can be found on the official Twitter account for the Riyadh Marathon. (SFA)

On offer will be a half marathon for regular runners, a 10-kilometer race for those aged 17 and above, and a 4-kilometer race for beginners and children.

People are encouraged to register on www.riyadhmarathon.org. 

The SFA is offering training programs and digital resources to help participants toward their fitness goals and to get them ready for the big race.

“We’re launching the website in the next few days, there will be a number of templates for training and preparation and meal plans for the marathon runners, half-marathon runners as well as the 10 and 4-kilometer races,” Alwaleed said. “Previously we created a program called CSG, the community sports groups, and another called RFS, request for support, if any private citizen wanted to create their own football league for example, we can help facilitate acquiring permission.”  

The Riyadh Marathon weekend will also offer food, entertainment and recreational activities at a dedicated village, while Twitter campaigns for the race have been taking place since October.

Under the Quality of Life program — part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 — the SFA has held events, programs and initiatives to help fulfill its mandate of increasing physical activity levels to 40 percent by 2030. That goal was achieved ahead of its target date.

“Alhamdulillah we achieved that figure last year in 2020 and we’re looking to sustain that momentum. What does active mean? Active means to be physically active 150 minutes a week.”

There will be a half marathon on Nov. 27 in Khobar with plans to hold a full marathon in Jeddah down the line, Alwaleed added.

The SFA, which was established in 2018, works to drive community sports in the Kingdom.

“There needed to be a body that would encompass all people, instead of just elites and the only way you can get elites is by engaging people to be active. That’s why the SFA was established with the Ministry of Sport.”

A five-year national strategy created by the SFA in 2020 targets children, young adults, adults and senior citizens.

One of its most high-profile initiatives was the “Step Together” program, a series of virtual walk-run challenges that attracted thousands of people.

The SFA hosted the Riyadh Half Marathon in 2018, which drew more than 11,000 participants from different nationalities, ages and abilities. 

There was an 8-kilometer race for amateurs and para athletes, and a 4-kilometer fun run for families.


Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs
Updated 23 January 2022

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs

Ziyech gem fires Chelsea to victory over Spurs
  • Third-placed Chelsea are now 10 points behind leaders Manchester City

LONDON: Chelsea kept alive their faint Premier League title hopes as Hakim Ziyech’s superb strike inspired a crucial 2-0 win over Tottenham on Sunday. Ziyech broke the deadlock with his dazzling long-range curler early in the second half at Stamford Bridge.

Thiago Silva’s header killed off Tottenham, who were furious that Harry Kane had a first half goal ruled out for a foul.

Third-placed Chelsea are now 10 points behind leaders Manchester City after ending a damaging run of four league games without a victory.

Chelsea had beaten Tottenham three times already this season without conceding a goal, including knocking their London rivals out of the League Cup semifinals.

Failing to do so for a fourth time would have been a hammer blow to the Blues’ bid to reel in City.

Chelsea won’t play again in the league until mid-February due to the winter break and their involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup.

But, for the first time since Dec. 26 at Aston Villa, Thomas Tuchel’s side tasted league success, giving them a much-needed boost at a time when their season was in danger of going off the rails.

Tottenham’s first defeat in 10 league games since Antonio Conte took charge was a blow to their challenge for a top four finish.

They remain in seventh, two points behind fourth placed Manchester United with two games in hand.

Tottenham fans let themselves down by throwing missiles at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger in the closing stages.

Conte’s team had arrived at the Bridge on a high after Steven Bergwijn’s stoppage-time double earned a remarkable 3-2 win at Leicester in midweek.

But former Chelsea boss Conte had seen Tottenham swept away by a poor start in their League Cup first leg loss against his old club.

In a bid to neutralize Chelsea’s threat, the Italian switched Tottenham to a back four for the first time in his reign.

Yet Conte must have been fearing the worst after Chelsea made another lively start.

Romelu Lukaku hooked a decent chance over the bar from Mason Mount’s delivery before Callum Hudson-Odoi nodded Ziyech’s cross just wide. Ziyech’s swerving drive forced from 25 yards forced a parried save from Hugo Lloris.

Significantly, Silva, already booked for a foul on Bergwijn, breathed a sigh of relief when another foul on the winger went unpunished. Lukaku’s lack of confidence and touch were painfully clear as the Belgian striker kicked at thin air in an embarrassing failed attempt to convert Mount’s pass from eight yards.

Tottenham thought they had taken the lead against the run of play when Kane fired home from Ryan Sessegnon’s pass.

But referee Paul Tierney controversially disallowed it for a slight push from Kane that sent Silva sprawling theatrically as he tried to track the striker’s run.

Ziyech rubbed salt into Tottenham’s wounds as the Moroccan winger produced a moment of magic in the 47th minute.

Hudson-Odoi led the charge with a driving run and pass to Ziyech, who curled a sublime strike into the far corner from the edge of the area.

Ziyech almost followed his second goal in successive games with a third moments later when his rocket was palmed away by Lloris.

After his role in Kane’s disallowed goal, it was inevitable Silva would haunt Tottenham again and the Brazilian doubled their lead in the 55th minute.

Eric Dier’s foul on Hudson-Odoi conceded a free-kick that was questioned furiously by the Tottenham defender.

From the set-piece, Mount’s delivery was perfect for Silva to glance his header into the far corner.

Lukaku was denied a goal by Lloris’s fine save, but Chelsea had done enough to ease their winter blues.


Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard
Updated 23 January 2022

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard

Newcastle United find new hope from the old guard
  • Jonjo Shelvey’s free-kick injects could be turning point in Newcastle’s fight against relegation as defense holds firm against off-color Leeds

LEEDS: It’s the sort of goal that exemplifies a season turning point: A scruffy set piece late in the game that, through a combination of indecisive goalkeeping and the hint of a deflection, squirms its way into the far corner. Whether it’s a slice of good fortune or a helping hand, they all count – and this one might count more than most.

Jonjo Shelvey’s late free-kick proved enough to seal all three points for Newcastle United against a strangely off-color Leeds at Elland Road and, although still deep in the relegation mire, it might well represent the first rung on the Tyneside club’s climb to safety. 

The gap to 17th is now down to a single point and next up is an Everton side without so much as one of those in five weeks. As the season heads into its latest international break, the ladder is beginning to look a little shorter.

Shelvey certainly understood the importance of the goal. As the net billowed almost apologetically in front of the home fans, he sprinted 60 meters down the pitch to greet the explosion of noise from the two-tiered away end. The delirium was repeated at the final whistle with players, many now shirtless, celebrating the three points as though they’d be presented by the queen.

“It’s massive,” Shelvey said after the game. “We will keep going and we believe we have enough to stay up. Everyone is in this together.”

Not that the omens before kick-off were particularly auspicious. The Newcastle fans being herded into the stadium through a concrete walkway from the coach park might have sung “Eddie Howe’s black and white army,” but it was hard to disguise the growing unease about his reign. The manager had presided over a solitary Premier League win since his November appointment – against fellow strugglers Burnley seven weeks ago - and had never previously emerged victorious from Elland Road.

Norwich’s win the previous evening, their second in succession, added its own pressure, as did news of Watford’s decision to part company with Claudio Ranieri after just 14 games in charge. It was difficult to understate the stakes for both club and manager.

The early phase of the game reflected the tensions. Leeds, shorn of several key players and far from safe themselves, immediately pressed Newcastle back and, finding joy out wide, fizzed a number of balls across the box. Their lack of an orthodox center-forward blunted their threat, however, and gradually Newcastle emerged from their low block to gain a toehold in the game.

The second half offered increasing promise. Newcastle were now dominating midfield, cutting the supply lines to the dangerous Raphinha and, although rarely fluid, countering in greater numbers. On 74 minutes, one such breakaway down the right resulted in Diego Llorente’s ungainly tug on Javier Manquillo 20 yards from goal and Shelvey did the rest.

Unlike the Watford game a week earlier, there were no late surprises and Newcastle were able to close out the game with minimal alarm and register a first clean sheet of the season.   

A very good day’s work, then, and perhaps significantly one that owed as much to the players Howe inherited from predecessor Steve Bruce as January’s expensive recruits.

As compact and composed as Kieran Trippier was, Shelvey, now in his seventh season at St. James’ Park, was the outstanding player on the pitch, gradually wresting control of the central areas and dictating play with smart, unfussy distribution. Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar, with close to 300 appearances between them, provided a central wall that Leeds rarely looked like penetrating, and Martin Dubravka, first choice since his arrival from Sparta Prague in 2018, made a crucial block to stem the early Leeds tide.

There remains considerable work to do at Newcastle on and off the park to turn one result into a season-saving sequence. 

With 17 games remaining, it’s clear old faces will  be required to make just as important a contribution as new blood. On that front, encouragement was in ready supply at Elland Road.


Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages
Updated 23 January 2022

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages

Mohamed Salah and fellow Arab stars must step up in Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages
  • Riyad Mahrez and Algeria in surprise exit amid mixed results for Arab teams and individuals

The group stages of the delayed 2021 Africa Cup of Nations ended with two big surprises — the exit of defending champions Algeria and another of the favorites, five-time title-holders Ghana.

A record seven Arab nations started the tournament, but only four have booked a place in the round of 16: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and, most surprisingly, Comoros.

Morocco’s was perhaps the cleanest of qualifications, winning group C with seven points from two wins and a draw. The team looked to be on song and were led with distinction by Achraf Hakimi, who scored what may well be the best goal of the tournament so far against Gabon.

The Paris Saint-Germain player has been ably backed by Yassine Bounou, the excellent Sevilla goalkeeper,  especially in the opening match of the campaign against Ghana.

It was a match settled by a winning goal from substitute Sofiane Boufal, who plays for French Ligue 1 side Angers. Despite being benched in all three group matches, Boufal has shown his worth for coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s team.

Seven-time winners Egypt got off to a poor start with an awful performance in the 1-0 loss to Nigeria and after that scraped two narrow wins to progress to the knockouts stages.

Star forward Mohamed Salah, fresh from being nominated for the best FIFA men’s player award alongside Lionel Messi and eventual winner Robert Lewandowski, has often looked isolated and scored just one of Egypt’s paltry two goals at the tournament.

There seems to be a lack of understanding between the Liverpool star and fellow forward Mustafa Mohamed and Omar Marmoush, an issue that needs to be resolved before Wednesday’s clash with a formidable Cote d’Ivoire team.

Egypt recently took part in the FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar without any of their European-based stars, but the return of the players does not look to have improved the team visibly.

Another that has disappointed is Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny, and he and Salah have rarely been subjected to this much criticism from their own fans and media. Coach Carlos Queiroz has yet to find the right formula despite the two wins over Guinea-Bissau and Sudan.

Tunisia also were far from impressive, missing three penalties against Mali, Mauritania and Gambia on their way to scraping through the group stages by finishing as one of the best third-placed teams.

The missed kicks came from Zamalek’s Seif El-Din Al-Jaziri, Saint-Etienne’s Wahbi Al-Kharazi — who both partially redeemed themselves with one and two goals, respectively --  and captain Youssef Al-Masakni, who plays for Al-Arabi Club in Qatar and had recently recovered from testing positive for COVID-19.

The young Manchester United star Hannibal Mejbri, one of the standout players at the Arab Cup, was again expected to take center-stage, but has so far failed to replicate his performances in Doha.

The biggest shock of the tournament has been the exit of champions Algeria. Manchester City star and talisman Riyad Mahrez entered the tournament with expectations of becoming the historical top scorer for his country at the AFCON, equaling Lakhdar Belloumi’s tally of six goals.

However, Mahrez and his colleagues were humiliated in the group stage, gathering only one point from a draw and two losses. Algeria’s star man even missed a penalty in the comprehensive  3-1 loss to Cote d’Ivoire.

Lack of preparation for most teams has been a feature of the early part of the tournament, and Mahrez and rest of coach Djamel Belmadi’s squad have failed to adapt to the pace of the competition, perhaps due to their late arrival in Cameroon.

Incredibly Algeria’s defeat in their final group match, coupled with other results, helped unheralded Comoros become the fourth Arab nation to qualify for the knockout stages.

The scenes of celebrations that followed their sensational 3-2 win over Ghana — one of the results of the competition so far — will live long in the memory, and showed just what this tournament means to fans and players.

While the Pharaohs’ clash with Cote d’Ivoire is the pick of the round-of-16 matches, Morocco will have a somewhat easier confrontation against Malawi, while Tunisia, with a host of players missing after testing positive for COVID-19, will face a thankless task against Nigeria, arguably the tournament’s best team.

For Comoros, the party continues against hosts Cameroon on Monday. Whatever happens from now on, it has been an unforgettable experience for them.

Individually, stars such as Salah and Mahrez rarely caught then eye in the group stage. Instead, it is the Cameroonian Vincent Aboubakar, who plays for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Professional League, who has been one of the stars, grabbing five goals in the three matches to top the goal-scoring table.

But teams and individuals have a habit of strongly emerging throughout a tournament. A slow start often ends up being a prelude to a star turn in the knockout stages.

We await Salah and co catching fire in the coming days.


Algeria and Ghana handed tough World Cup playoff ties

Algeria and Ghana handed tough World Cup playoff ties
Updated 23 January 2022

Algeria and Ghana handed tough World Cup playoff ties

Algeria and Ghana handed tough World Cup playoff ties

DOUALA: Algeria and Ghana, smarting after humiliating defeats at the Africa Cup of Nations this week, were on Saturday handed tough draws for the African World Cup playoffs in March.

Algeria were drawn against Cameroon while Ghana must take on near-neighbours Nigeria in a mouth-watering west African derby.

Algeria and Ghana went home after finishing last in their opening round Nations Cup groups after shock setbacks against tiny Equatorial Guinea and the Comoros Islands respectively and must now bounce back against difficult opponents to redeem themselves and qualify for the World Cup in Qatar in November.

Egypt and Senegal, who are still competing at the Cup of Nations in Cameroon, were drawn together in the World Cup playoffs, pitting two of the five countries who represented the continent at the last finals in Russia against each other.

Morocco were drawn against the Democratic Republic of Congo, who did not qualify for the Nations Cup in Cameroon thereby missing out on valuable practice ahead of March’s two-legged ties.

Mali have a chance to qualify for the World Cup for the first time after being paired with Tunisia. Both teams are also through to the last 16 in Cameroon, although Tunisia lost two of their three opening round matches, including an embarrassing 1-0 loss to debutants Gambia on Thursday.

However, Mali face staging their home game on neutral territory after not having any fit stadia to use when they won their World Cup group last year. They played their home games in Morocco.

The 10 countries in Saturday’s draw were all winners of their groups in the second round of African World Cup qualifiers played between September and November.

They now meet over two legs in March to determine a spot at the finals. The exact dates of the matches will be announced in the next days, said the Confederation of African Football.


New qualifying format among standout changes for Formula E season-opening at Diriyah E-Prix

New qualifying format among standout changes for Formula E season-opening at Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 23 January 2022

New qualifying format among standout changes for Formula E season-opening at Diriyah E-Prix

New qualifying format among standout changes for Formula E season-opening at Diriyah E-Prix
  • Ex-F1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi will join rookies Dan Ticktum and Oliver Askew on the grid at the double header of night races in Riyadh

RIYADH: With just under a week to go until the highly anticipated return of the 2021-22 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship there will some significant changes from previous years in the opening races at Diriyah.

The Diriyah E-Prix has been held three times in the historic desert surroundings of the UNESCO World Heritage site at At-Turaif, and a double-header of evening races will take place for the second year running on Jan. 28-29.

Changes that fans can expect this season include the qualifying process, which will feature a first round of two groups with each driver able to make multiple attempts at fastest laps within their allocated time. The new format maintains the possibility of any driver starting on pole. The top four fastest-lap drivers in each group will progress into head-to-head duels on a knockout basis in quarter-finals and semi-finals. Pole-position will be decided in a final head-to-head duel, with all grid positions based on either success in the head-to-head duels, or lap times depending on which stage of qualifying drivers reach.

As part of the new sporting regulations, Formula E races can now have additional race time of up to a maximum of 10 minutes added when incidents result in a Safety Car or Full Course Yellow neutralisations during the standard 45-minute + 1 Lap race.

Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, Chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation (SAMF), said: “Once again Diriyah is making sporting history with another ‘first’ and I’m so pleased Saudi Arabia has proudly opened this wonderful series. It’s a championship that aligns perfectly with our future vision and commitment to sustainability as a nation. We look forward to another thrilling season of racing, and we’re ready to welcome fans from all over the world.”

Ex-Formula 1 driver Antonio Giovinazzi (Dragon / Penske Autosport) will join Dan Ticktum (NIO 333 Racing), and Oliver Askew (Avalanche Andretti Formula E) on the grid for the first time, as the three rookies take part in the 22-driver line-up racing for the trophy.

Race and music fans can also look forward to entertainment both on and off track with concerts returning across the weekend. On Friday, Jan. 28 James Blunt, Craig David and Wyclef Jean take to the stage while following day’s line-up includes Two Door Cinema Club and The Script.

Jerry Inzerillo, Group CEO of the Diriyah Gate Development Authority said: “I am delighted to welcome Formula E back to Diriyah for its fourth year. The E-Prix is one of the most important highlights in our sporting events calendar and is the perfect opportunity to showcase Diriyah’s position as an urban pedestrian city of the future, anchored on its past as the birthplace of the Kingdom. We are also proud to share Formula E’s sustainability vision to accelerate change towards an electric future, raise awareness of sustainable practices and contribute to reducing global carbon emissions. We can’t wait to once again light up the night sky with this event and see the fans here in person next weekend.”

Tickets start from SAR 150 ($40) and are available at www.diriyah-eprix.com