Saudi ministry launches SR2.6bn initiative to support sport federations

Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, unveiled the plan that aims to develop the sports sector. (SPA/Twitter: @saudiolympic)
Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, unveiled the plan that aims to develop the sports sector. (SPA/Twitter: @saudiolympic)
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Updated 17 November 2021

Saudi ministry launches SR2.6bn initiative to support sport federations

Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, unveiled the plan that aims to develop the sports sector. (SPA/Twitter: @saudiolympic)
  • New strategy unveiled by sports minister part of Quality of Life program

DUBAI: An ambitious SR2.6 billion ($693 million) strategy to support Saudi sports federations was on Wednesday launched as part of the Kingdom’s Quality of Life program.

Saudi minister of sport and president of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, unveiled the plan that aims to develop the sports sector in general and organize the work of the country’s sports federations.

The initiative will also create an infrastructure to support the federations and help increase the sector’s contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product by 0.8 percent, in the process boosting community involvement in sport to 40 percent by 2030.

Thanking the Saudi government for its backing for sport in the Kingdom, Prince Abdulaziz said: “The Saudi sports have achieved advanced steps globally, the latest of which is winning the bid to host the Asian Games in 2034 for the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in addition to the increasing number of Saudi sports federations, from 32 in 2015, to 91 sports federations and unions this year.

“Today, we enter a new phase through setting a comprehensive strategy concerned with developing sports federations in various games and making an athlete generation capable to compete in various tournaments, games, and sports to raise the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia high in major regional and international events,” he added.

Federations will receive support based on meeting certain criteria. These will include having to develop the game, increase player numbers, compete in regional and international tournaments, promote sports tourism, help raise the popularity of the game in the Kingdom, contribute to the promotion of the country’s culture, heritage, and national economy, and create a range of diversified investment opportunities.

Funding for unions will be divided into two parts, the first being core financing to cover areas such as operating costs, and salaries. Catalyst financing will involve bundles of funding to reward trade unions for their development and results. Bodies will be required to prove operational capacity — strategy, objectives, organization, and governance — technical capacity in terms of strength and number of tournaments, and the extent of the development of human skills technically and administratively.

The new strategy will also include incentives for federations when players earn medals.

In the Olympic and Paralympic Games, a gold medal will be worth SR1 million, silver SR500,000, bronze SR250,000, plus SR100,000 for qualification.

The rewards for world championship medals will be SR500,000 for gold, SR250,000 for silver, and SR125,000 for bronze, while the Youth Olympic Games will see SR200,000, SR100,000, and SR50,000 awarded for gold, silver, and bronze medals, respectively, with qualifiers receiving SR25,000.

The Asian Games, the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and the Asian Beach Games will command SR240,000 for a gold, SR120,000 for silver, and SR60,000 for bronze, and the Asian Youth Athletics Championships SR50,000, SR40,000, and SR30,000 for gold, silver, and bronze, respectively.

Incentives in the Islamic Solidarity Games will see SR180,000 given for gold winners, SR90,000 for silver medalists, and SR45,000 for bronze. Federations will all also get SR50,000 in exchange for national records, and SR300,000 for hitting targets on community sports participation.

The prince also announced the launch of the Elite Athlete Development Program in a new form.

The scheme is aimed at improving the efficiency and preparation of athletes in the long term, implementing healthy lifestyles, achieving excellence in international sports, and creating high-performance environments based on international standards and sports theories.

The program will consist of three main phases involving the creation of the Saudi Olympic Training Center as an independent body managed under the supervision of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, improvement of results and performance, achievement of advanced stages in the Olympic and Asian Games, preparation of a sustainable network of elite athletes, and benefiting from investment and competition opportunities in the final stages of the Asian and Olympic Games.

Elite players will be selected after reviewing their performance levels from 2018 onwards, with 180 targeted in the first year, rising to 480 male and female players by 2023.


Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
Updated 7 sec ago

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition

Gamers8 event to partner with Aramco for simulated racing competition
  • World’s leading integrated energy, chemicals firm extends support of esports in Saudi Arabia
  • Aramco will be title partner of Aramco Sim Arena during Gamers8, starting July 14

RIYADH: Gamers8, the world’s largest esports and gaming event, has announced that Saudi Aramco will be a strategic partner of this summer’s showpiece in Riyadh.

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, the eight-week event beginning July 14 will stage elite tournaments featuring a series of festivals, concerts, and shows. Aramco will be a title sponsor of the Aramco Sim Arena, a simulator zone for racing enthusiasts to compete in daily community tournaments.

Beyond gaming activities, Gamers8 and Aramco are using the competition to identify top local simulated racing talent for the development program launched during Gamers Without Borders.

The top sim drivers selected will receive specialized training with international professional sim drivers and coaches in the UK. A documentary film team will follow the trainees’ journey for future broadcast.

Ahmed Al-Bishri, chief operations officer of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “We are delighted to welcome Aramco on board as a strategic partner, and thank them once again for pledging their support to the esports and gaming sector in Saudi Arabia.

“Gamers8 is set to be an incredible, showpiece spectacle in Riyadh this summer, blurring the lines between the physical and virtual worlds. The addition of Aramco as a strategic partner adds another layer of excellence to an event that will be an unforgettable occasion.”

Gamers8 will focus on four main pillars, which include professional esports, festivals, music, and The Next World Summit, an esports and gaming conference that will bring together sector leaders and experts from around the world.


Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
Updated 30 June 2022

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception

Copenhagen gives Tour de France rapturous reception
  • Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark

COPENHAGEN: Raucous crowds at the Copenhagen Tivoli theme park gave the Tour de France the kind of reception organizers could only have dreamed of on Wednesday.

The loudest cheers were for Danish riders such as Jonas Vingegaard and for the biggest names led by champion Tadej Pogacar.

Staff at the park said only rock stars had attracted such crowds before.

Pogacar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates’, said he was excited too.

“As a team we are ready, and me and as an individual I’m ready too, so I can’t wait to start of Friday with the time trial,” the Slovenian said.

Denmark’ Crown Prince Frederick attended the official unveiling of the teams, two days before the 21-day Tour opens with a 13km time-trial, the first of three stages in Denmark.

Tivoli Park has around 25 fairground rides. On Wednesday the 176 cyclists added one, riding round a special 1km track to be greeted by thousands of smiling, cheering and filming fans.

“I feel great, especially today with all these people in Copenhagen, you can only be happy.” said Pogacar.

Title challengers Primoz Roglic and Vingegaard, both of Jumbo Visma, said they believed their team’s two-leader strategy could finally deliver cycling’s most treasured prize.

Roglic, a Slovenian, came second in 2020 and Vingegaard in 2021, both times behind Pogacar.

“As long as we work together, doing as good as possible together, we believe that we can beat him,” Roglic said,

Roglic pulled out in week one last year afer a fall and on Wednesday denied feeling threatened by his junior partner Vingegaard, who shone in his absence.

“We make each other stronger. When you have strong individuals around, the whole team gets stronger,” said the 32-year-old triple Vuelta a Espana winner.

Vingegaard said he and Roglic enjoyed going for a beer together.

“Primoz and I are good friends also out of bike racing,” said the 25-year-old, , a former fish-factory worker from the small community of Hillerslev on Denmark’s North Sea coast.

Both Roglic and Vingegaard talked of surviving the first week.Team boss Merijn Zeeman rejected the notion.

“I don’t like the term ‘surviving’ because we are not afraid. We stay on the bike and stay up front,” Zeeman said of Jumbo’s tendency to race from the front.

“Surviving sounds like we are not sleeping at night because we are afraid of the first week.”

“In the best scenario, both of them are better than Pogacar.”

“It’s not a secret that Pogacar is the big favorite.

“We need everybody to be at his top level and we definitely need a two-leader strategy.

The once-mighty Ineos team last won the race with Egan Bernal three years ago.

On Wednesday, 2018 champion Geraint Thomas said he was more of a chaperone to Dani Martinez of Colombia and British rider Adam Yates as they chase Pogacar and Jumbo.

“Its going to be hard to beat them, but the vibe in the team is as good as ever, we have some good guys, there’s a good atmosphere and we are looking forward to getting stuck in,” said Thomas, who promised an aggressive race.

“Adam and Dani are the leaders of the team and I want to help them, so I’ll be swearing at them at 60kmph in the wind, and I’m going to enjoy that.”

Yates has just recovered from Covid-19, but was looking relaxed and happy.

“It’ll be every man for himself,” Yates said.

“Me and Poggo had some good battles. I just hope to be at my best.”

Later on Wednesday, the Tour teams were due to parade in central Copenhagen with excitement building toward Friday’s Grand Depart, with Ineos rider Filippo Ganna favorite in a downtown time-trial.

“It would be nice to wear the yellow jersey, nothing is easy but I want to try and put that in my museum,” the Italian said.

“We’ll see Friday if we can all celebrate together.”


How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
Updated 30 June 2022

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore

How COVID-19 brought cricketers’ mental health issues to the fore
  • The sport has long had a reticence to confront these concerns, and despite being better remunerated, players face greater pressure than ever before

On Friday, England will host India at Edgbaston, Birmingham, in a Test match which was initially scheduled to start last year, Sept. 10, at Old Trafford, Manchester, but had been delayed over COVID-19 concerns.

That game did not take place because of an overnight decision by the Indian party, fearful about COVID-19 spreading through its camp, to declare this had a significant impact on their ability to field a team. This was despite none of the players testing positive the day before the game. It was members of support staff who had done so, resulting in players isolating in their hotel rooms. Minutes before the gates were due to open at 9 a.m., news of the cancellation seeped out, to the dismay, disbelief and disappointment of all those involved, except the Indians, it seemed.

They left England over the following two days to fly to the UAE, where the Indian Premier League was due to resume on Sept. 19, having been curtailed halfway through in early-May because of COVID-19 concerns in India. The Indian team’s decision in Manchester split the cricketing world. One view was that, coming on top of months of isolation during the pandemic, the new isolation had been the straw which broke the camel’s back in terms of players having the mental ability to cope with the fatigue from yet another bio-bubble.

An alternative view, vigorously denied, was that the fear of catching the virus, so close to the resumption of the IPL, would mean that the players would not have been able to take their places in their team bubbles until after quarantine requirements had been satisfied in the UAE. The Board of Control for Cricket in India specified six days of quarantine. Thus, leaving England between Sept. 11 and 12 gave them just enough time to play in the IPL on Sept. 19, whereas leaving on Sept. 14 and 15 would not have allowed this. There were also issues over whether the cancellation, over COVID-19 concerns, would be covered by insurance; or if the game had to be declared forfeited.

Feelings ran high in both camps. It was not until Oct. 22, 2021, that a resolution was announced under which the match would be played between July 1 and 5, 2022 but at a different venue, Birmingham, rather than the original one in Manchester. The official reason was that, because of other events, there would be insufficient time to prepare a pitch at Manchester. The move also took out of the equation the possibility of any residual ill-will existing there. Nevertheless, it is scant consolation for ticketholders of the original match, who are not able to watch the rearranged one, nor local traders who lost business. Manchester will host South Africa in August.

There has been almost no public commentary on the substance of the negotiations between the Indian and English cricket boards, the implications of the agreement for insurance claims, and also the conditions under which India agreed to play. The match will complete the four-match series, with India holding a 2-1 advantage. Since September 2021, the two teams have undergone shifting fortunes. Both have different captains and coaches. After desperately poor performances in Australia and the West Indies, England have been re-energized by new management, having beaten New Zealand 3-0 in a Test series, which ended last Monday.

India was beaten 2-1 by South Africa in a three match Test series in December 2021/January 2022, after which its highly successful captain, Virat Kohli, resigned, following tensions with the BCCI. Under his successor, Rohit Sharma, India beat Sri Lanka in a two match Test series in February 2022. It is ironic that he has tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the upcoming Test and, with the appointed vice-captain ruled out by injury, the Indians have appointed a pace bowler, Jasprit Bumrah, as captain, in an unusual move.

What is clear is that COVID-19 continues to impact not only this series but cricket, in general. The mental health and well-being issues cited by the Indian camp last September have also applied to other cricketers during the pandemic. The new England captain, Ben Stokes, took a break from the game in July 2021 to deal with his own issues, thus missing the series against India. It is another quirk of fate that he joins the series for the final match.

By its very nature, cricket has long had an uneasy relationship with mental health and a reticence to confront it. Cricketers spend much time alone, both on and off the pitch, with ample opportunities for reflection and rumination. Worries about form, technique and injury can generate self-doubt, which can be preyed upon by opponents. This scope for introspection has received impetus from experiences generated by the pandemic. These have created abnormal relations with families, friends, teammates, spectators, opponents and media. They have been superimposed upon the normal issues which confront cricketers performing as individuals within a team environment.

Cricket has also attracted attention as a sport which, since the early 20th Century, has allegedly suffered a higher-than-average proportion of suicides by professional players. Studies of these cases have sought to uncover the role that cricket may have played. The evidence is inconclusive, because of small sample sizes, a lack of rigorous data collection and a lack of clarity about causes of death. The only linkages seem to be that the individuals had either depressive histories and/or health/financial problems in their post-playing days that brought them to their ultimate decision.

Cricketers are now better remunerated but the pressures to perform seem greater. Some former professional cricketers have talked openly about this subject, yet reluctance to reach out for help still appears to exist, despite increasing avenues of support becoming available. Although the extent that mental health issues contributed to the decision at Manchester last September remains opaque, a new awareness of their impact has been created. Acknowledgement should not be regarded as weakness. Cricket has a fresh opportunity to systemically address them across its realm.


Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship

Saudi Arabia bowling team win bronze at IBF U-21 World Championship
  • First medal for the Kingdom in this age group

The Saudi Arabian youth bowling squad have claimed bronze in the team category of the IBF U-21 World Championship 2022 in Sweden.

The tournament took place from June 20 to 29 at Helsingborg’s Olympia Bowl. This is the country’s first ever team medal at this age group, following the individual bronze that Abdulrahman Al-Khelaiwi won in the 2017 edition of the competition.

Representing the team were Bandar Al-Yaba, Ahmed Abu Al-Rish, Muhammad Abu Al-Rish, and Ziad Al-Tuwairib.

Despite losing to their Czech counterparts in their last-four match of the team competition, the young Saudis still made the podium as joint third place finishers along with Australia.

The rules of the tournament state that both losing semifinalists be awarded bronze medals.


Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
  • Champions Al-Hilal extends Jang Hyun-soo’s contract, with defender Ali Al-Bulaihi and keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf likely to stay
  • New management at runners-up Al-Ittihad possible after disastrous title bid

On Monday evening, Al-Hilal became champions of Saudi Arabia for the 18th time, defeating Al-Faisaly to finish first above Al-Ittihad, but the next day, rivals were already on the move, making plans for next season.

There is not much time for rest and preparation. The just-finished campaign lasted for 10-and-a-half months due to international breaks, continental club commitments, the AFC U-23 Asian Cup (which Saudi Arabia won earlier this month) and the postponement in May due to the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Those that start early will get the advantage and Al-Nassr, for one, are wasting no time. Head coach Miguel Angel Rosso was always going to be on his way at the end of the season, though the Argentine boss did manage to get the Yellows to third, just four points behind Al-Ittihad and six behind the champions. Bosses at the club had their eyes on another coach for some time, and on Tuesday announced that they had finally got their man.

Rudi Garcia is preparing to leave France and head to Saudi Arabia on a two-year contract.

“The first step to prepare for the next season is to contract with the coach,” Musalli Al-Muammar, CEO of Al-Nassr, said. “The negotiations were long and arduous but we got through the obstacles and difficulties. Garcia will be in Riyadh next week, to complete preparations and study the situation of the team.”

The Frenchman has a fine resume. He was linked in November to the interim Manchester United head coach position that eventually was filled by Ralf Rangnick. The 58-year-old was in charge of Lyon in 2020 when they knocked Juventus and Manchester City out of the UEFA Champions League and went all the way to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Bayern Munich. He took Roma to successive second-place finishes behind the dominant Juventus and now has a two-year contract to take Al-Nassr back to the top of Saudi football for the first time since 2019, when they won their ninth title.

First order of business for Garcia will be to keep Talisca, the Brazilian who scored 20 goals last season. There have been reports that he may be heading back to Europe, though recent comments from the man himself suggest that he may stay. Meanwhile, Vincent Aboubakar, looks to be heading to Qatar. The Cameroonian striker scored eight goals though was not quite as impressive after returning from the African Cup of Nations earlier this year as top scorer. Uruguayan forward Jonathan Rodriguez has already left. Argentine defender Ramon Mori is also likely to be surplus to requirements along with Brazilian midfielder Anselmo.

One benefit of getting a coach with recent experience at the top of the European game is the players he can bring in. Already French media is reporting that Al-Nassr are about to beat Lyon to sign Ghislain Konan, the Ivory Coast international left-back. He has been one of the most highly rated defenders in the French league and would be a fine addition to the SPL.

David Ospina has also been strongly linked with Riyadh. The former Arsenal goalkeeper has been released by Napoli and it was thought that he could be heading to Lazio but that was before Garcia took the job in Riyadh. It remains to be seen if one or both of those stars follow Garcia from Europe to Saudi Arabia but it is certain that there will be more talent to arrive at Al-Nassr in the coming weeks.

Like true champions Al-Hilal have not been standing still either and have already announced the extension of Jang Hyun-soo’s contract and it is likely that central defensive partner Ali Al-Bulaihi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf will get the same treatment.

And what of Al-Ittihad? The Tigers, who led the SPL table so long but then let a 16-point advantage over Al-Hilal become a two-point deficit when it mattered, are licking their wounds. The pain will be there for some time to come but preparations for next season can’t wait. They are going to go ahead without Cosmin Contra. For much of the season it was questionable whether the Romanian boss needed to win the title to keep his job but the way it ended, with Al-Ittihad throwing it away and dropping 13 points from the last eight games, means that there will be a new coaching team in place. Club officials are hoping it is sooner rather than later.

There is plenty of talent in Jeddah with the prolific Romarinho in attack, the talented Igor Coronado and the commanding Ahmed Hegazi in defense. Winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is set to appeal the 18-month ban he received in May for testing positive for a banned substance, and his return would be a big boost. It may be harder to keep Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah who has been linked with a move to Europe. Most importantly however is getting the right coach in quickly.

Football never stops and last season is already history. There is a lot of work for title hopefuls if they are going to give themselves the best chance of stopping Al-Hilal making it four in a row. Al-Nassr are making the early running but all need to get their preparations in gear.