RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has officially welcomed its first-ever women’s national team head coach, Monika Staab, to her new role in Riyadh.
The highly experienced German was appointed in August and held her first training session with the national team this month. Considered a pioneer in the global development of the women’s game, she arrives in the Kingdom with a wealth of international experience as a player, as a manager at national and club levels, and in top-level executive boardroom positions.
Expressing her delight at being part of Saudi football history, Staab said: “It might not be obvious to those who have not visited the country but this has to be one of the most exciting opportunities anywhere in sport and I feel privileged to lead Saudi Arabia’s first women’s national team.”
Staab’s first experience of women’s football in Saudi Arabia was in December 2020 after she was invited to the Kingdom to lead a C-license coaching course for women. During her visit she met officials from the Ministry of Sport, the SAFF, and the Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh. She said she discovered a passion for football in the country and great ambitions for the development of the women’s game.
Since her appointment, Staab — former coach of FFC Frankfurt (now known as Eintracht Frankfurt), and the Bahrain and Qatar national women’s teams — has been taking a close look at all aspects of Saudi football. As part of this she visited the futsal national team and community-based women’s clubs, met licensed Saudi female coaches, supervised the technical aspects of the Riyadh regional training center for youth and met the head coach of the Saudi men’s national team, Herve Renard.
“The country adores football: young and old, boys and girls,” Staab said. “It unites the country. And since l first visited the Kingdom I could sense a genuine passion for the game. There is an energy of hope, optimism and excitement and that is very refreshing, personally.
“Plus, there is also talent. In a country of 35 million, with two thirds under (the age of) 35, the opportunity is massive to find, nurture and develop young players. And there is a long-term strategy in place.
“So, we have all the ingredients. We’re not suddenly trying to sell football. We don’t need to; it lives within the hearts of the people, it is their national game. But now there’s a clear plan in place and a chance to unlock this huge potential and do something truly transformational.
“I am honestly very excited and proud to be playing a small part in the journey of one of the world’s fastest-growing sports countries.”
Lamia Bahaian, a SAFF board member and head of its women’s football department, said: “We are on a very exciting journey of development and are committed to investing in all areas of women’s football to give it the platform it truly deserves.
“We all believe that football is for everyone in the Kingdom. Thanks to the support of our esteemed leadership, and extensive investment in women’s sports as part of the transformative Vision 2030, we now have all the foundations laid for an exciting future ahead.
“Our passionate female team at the women’s football department have limitless ambitions to create history together.”
Gunning for records, Middle East racing circuits and the power of Netflix: Lewis Hamilton on the state of Formula 1
The reigning champion heads into the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix just eight points behind Max Verstappen and tells Arab News how he is balancing the intense pressure of racing with interests off the track
Updated 45 sec ago
“I think it’s changed the game,” said the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time.
High praise indeed. Not for a new car or some revolutionary technical innovation, though.
Lewis Hamilton is discussing the Netflix show “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” and how it has brought the sport to a whole new global audience.
“I don’t think anybody knew what it was going to do for the sport exactly. I definitely thought it would be positive, but it’s changed the sport for good, I think,” the reigning world champion said.
“Our sport is often quite difficult for people to understand,” Hamilton said. “If you turn the TV on, you have no clue what’s going on. It’s very intricate, very complex and there are so many moving parts.”
The Netflix show may have played its part but so has one of the most exciting Formula 1 seasons in years. The world’s most exclusive sport seems that little bit more welcoming to outsiders these days.
“Most people play sports like football or tennis at school,” he said. “But most don’t get the chance to race cars, so it’s been great that the show was able to showcase in-depth the actual personalities within the sport and the excitement rather than just what you see on TV. And now there’s this whirlwind of new fans following, and yes, the close championship makes it even more exciting.”
Indeed, in a sport where the participants are quite literally masked, fans can now put faces and ascribe characters to some of the lesser-known drivers.
Even the most casual of viewers now know the trials of Alex Albon, the redemption of Pierre Gasly, the sense of humor of Daniel Ricciardo and the previously unseen fierce rivalries, even animosity, between the team principals.
Hamilton, of course, needs no such help.
Seven-time world champion, possessor of most pole positions (102) and race wins (102) and now gunning for a record eighth driver championship with Mercedes, Hamilton is coming off a sensational win at the first-ever Qatar Grand Prix, which has cut Max Verstappen’s lead at the top of the standings to eight points.
“The track was awesome,” said Hamilton. “When we started driving it, just with the wind direction, grip level, and speed of all the corners — they were all medium and high-speed corners — I was sure the racing was not going to be great there. But it actually was, surprisingly.
“Qualifying lap, single lap, felt incredible and we had good preparation.”
Having won the previous weekend in Brazil, Hamilton and Mercedes initially struggled in Doha.
“Friday was a difficult day for me. I was nowhere, and I just kept my head down and studied hard and was fortunate to turn it around and have a great Saturday and Sunday,” he said. “I definitely didn’t know that at this point I’d be so close to Verstappen in the standings and have the performance that we finally were able to unlock with the car. I’m super grateful for it.”
Next up for the rivals is this weekend’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and yet another new track in the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
“I think all the drivers have driven the simulator. It is incredibly quick,” Hamilton said. “It is a bit reminiscent of Montreal in terms of the long straight track that they have there, but they’re all curved at this track. Also, there’s not a lot of run-off area so it really is quite a street circuit, and right in the city. It looks pretty epic, to be honest, but we won’t fully know until we feel the rollercoaster ride of the real G-Force and speed once we get there.”
Hamilton will be hoping to take the championship to the last race in Abu Dhabi, where the Yas Marina Circuit has been reconfigured for the first time since its completion in 2009.
“It’s obviously an incredible circuit. I think they spent more on that circuit than on any other circuit, so it’s a great spectacle, a beautiful last race of the season,” said Hamilton. “But the layout has always been very, very difficult to follow and overtaking is quite difficult.
“It’s interesting that they’ve made these changes, and I really think it’s going to unlock the potential of that circuit to be more of a racing circuit,” he added. “It’s so hard for us to follow each other when they make these types of small changes. So, from the simulator driving that I’ve done, it looks like it’s going to make it very, very difficult to even keep position. It could be a situation in which you’re constantly switching and changing. They might move to one of the best racing circuits. We’ll see when we get there.”
Of Hamilton’s seven titles, six have been won with Mercedes in the last seven years. Such was his dominance at times, often it seemed that he was racing against himself and history.
The closeness of this season’s battle with Verstappen and Red Bull is something the 36-year-old is cherishing.
“Each year you’re faced with different scenarios,” Hamilton said. “I wouldn’t say that it’s ever been a choice for me. I’ve never had it easy, even in my younger days starting with old go-karts and having to race from the back always.
“And particularly in karting, there was always super close wheel-to-wheel racing,” he added. “It was always down to that last lap, and you had to be very, very tactical to make sure you came out first. I miss that in racing. As you get through your cars, you get less and less of that, and it’s more about positioning and holding the position.”
Red Bull have certainly raised the stakes this season, but Hamilton and Mercedes have risen to the challenge in recent weeks. The gap to Verstappen is down to only eight points in the drivers’ championship, while the team now leads Red Bull by five points.
“Then of course we have all these disparities between cars each year. One team does well, and the other team doesn’t,” said Hamilton. “We’ve done well for quite a few years. It’s amazing to now have this close battle again because it’s reminiscent of my karting days in terms of how close it is.
“But it also means that we all have to elevate and perfect our craft even more,” he said. “That’s what sport is about, right? That’s why it’s been super exciting. It’s been challenging for my engineers and for the mechanics to see how they dig deep and squeeze more out of their potential. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions but something I’ve really enjoyed.”
Should Hamilton win the title in Abu Dhabi, it will be a very popular victory among the natives. The organizers of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit still speak with pride at how Hamilton — who races in No. 44 — took part in the UAE’s 44th national day celebrations in 2015.
Having spent a significant part of his life racing around the world, Hamilton has seen first-hand how Formula 1 has grown in the Middle East.
“Each time we go out to Bahrain, the crowds seem to get bigger and bigger,” he said. “Abu Dhabi gets bigger and bigger each time we go and of course we have more and more presence now, particularly with Qatar and Saudi.”
Crucially, more young people are taking up motorsports in this part of the world, especially karting.
“I just spoke to someone from Saudi who told me about how there are a lot of girls, and boys, whose first choice is not football, it’s racing,” Hamilton said. “It’s quite cool to see there is a new generation in the Middle East that is car-crazy and wants to be racing. So, who knows, maybe in the future we’re going to see a Formula 1 driver from somewhere in the Middle East. I think that could be quite cool. Would be even better if that was female.”
Hamilton, famously, has developed many interests and supported many causes outside racing.
“Being an athlete, being a sportsman, most often that’s all you do. But for me, it’s been important to find other outlets because if you focus on one thing, it doesn’t always lead to happiness,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to explore your other potential. It’s always great to be able to turn your mind off from racing and focus on something else, something that you can be creative with.”
Unlike most other drivers or athletes, Hamilton has had ventures into music and fashion. He has also built a close relationship with IWC — for whom he is an ambassador — over the last few years, helping design his very own timepiece, “Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition ‘Lewis Hamilton.’”
“I really enjoyed the whole process, from sitting in the car at Hockenheim with Christopher,” he said, referring to IWC CEO Christopher Grainger-Herr, “driving to the airport and talking about a potential collaboration, about the intricacies of a watch, and saying I want my own watch one day, to now having my own timepiece,” said Lewis. “It was really challenging for me sitting there working with them because I have a lot of appreciation for the brand’s work and expertise, but I also wanted to add my own touch. I had questions like: What can we change on the dial? I want to get the tourbillon in one of my pieces because it’s one of my favorite movements, if not my favorite movement.”
In recent years, activism has played a big part in Hamilton’s life away from Formula 1, and he has become an outspoken advocate for social equality, diversity in sport, and environmental sustainability, his very own X44 team taking part in the first-ever electric SUV rally series, Extreme E, this year.
It is vital for him that he is working with people who share his values.
“I’ve been on calls with my partners at IWC talking about things like: What are you doing about diversity at this time? How diverse is your company? What are your goals? How are you going to be more inclusive moving forward?” Hamilton said. “And they’re fully on board with that. That, for me, is amazing to see, that people are conscious of sustainability, that brands are conscious of the impact we’re having on the planet. I only really like to engage with people who are like-minded in that sense, rather than just business-minded.”
Far from being distractions, his interests away from racing have helped him keep an almost Zen-like perspective in his career, as his continued brilliance on the track has shown.
“Tapping into different things helps take the pressure off this crazy, intense world that I have over here,” he said. “Because if I stop and think only about the racing, I have 2,000 people working flat-out and depending on me in the end to pull through. Partners, and my own expectations, can be super overwhelming, so these other things help me dilute that pressure and feed that energy into something positive.”
Still, when he lands in Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend, expect one thing, and one thing only, to be on Lewis Hamilton’s mind.
Haas F1 driver Mick Schumacher discusses ‘challenging’ Jeddah Grand Prix
Schumacher was in Riyadh on Friday and Saturday for the Ferrari Motorsport Festival
The Jeddah Grand Prix on Dec. 5 is the penultimate race of the 2021 season
Updated 4 min 41 sec ago
RIYADH: Haas Formula One Team driver Mick Schumacher said he is looking forward to racing this weekend by the open sea in what is Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Grand Prix for the championship.
A member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Schumacher was in Riyadh on Friday and Saturday for the Ferrari Motorsport Festival before making his way to Jeddah for the fifth night race of the season.
The Swiss-born German driver — son of seven-time F1 world champion Michael Schumacher — told Arab News: “I’ve only driven (the Jeddah Corniche Circuit) in the simulator, so it will be different in real life. It seems to be a very quick track.”
Schumacher, who currently drives for the American team Haas, drove two historic Ferrari cars at the festival in Riyadh: the SF70H, and the FXX which his father Michael previously drove. “These cars are very special to drive, it was great being able to connect with them even though it’s not a big track here, I still got to feel it,” he said.
The younger Schumacher began his career in karting in 2008 and progressed to the German ADAC Formula Four in 2015. After winning the 2018 FIA Formula Three European Championship, he moved up to Formula Two in 2019 and won the championship the following year. Along with Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, Schumacher replaced Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean on Haas’ roster this season.
The Jeddah Grand Prix on Dec. 5 is the penultimate race of the 2021 season, with fans eagerly anticipating the culmination of an epic competition to discover who will take the crown: seven-time world champion Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton or up-and-coming Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen.
“I think the average speed (of the Jeddah track) is more than 250 kilometers per hour, so it will be challenging for sure,” Schumacher said. “Hopefully with some ocean breeze, we’ll be able to have a nice race.”
Located on the corniche along the Red Sea, the Formula One stc Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is 6,175 km long, making it the second-longest circuit on the F1 calendar after Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, and the longest and fastest street track in Formula One, with average speeds of 252 kilometers per hour and top speeds of up to 322 kilometers per hour between Turns 25 and 27.
Several Formula One teams have already arrived to a colorful welcome at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, with more due to arrive in the coming days as the countdown to the big race continues.
International stars Justin Bieber and Jason Derulo will headline a pair of after-race concerts over the race weekend, joined by Tiesto, ASAP Rocky and David Guetta.
The Formula One village will offer visitors outdoor recreational activities on its new walkways and cycling paths and children’s playgrounds.
“Jeddah is my hometown and I cannot wait to see the Formula One cars drive on the corniche by the Red Sea, where I used to drive before construction began,” one fan told Arab News. “That is something I’ve been waiting my whole life to see.”
Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation
The President of the Saudi Esports Federation has overseen the dramatic rise in the popularity of gaming and esports participation across the region in recent years
Updated 52 min 57 sec ago
Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud, President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF), has been appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation from Dec. 1, 2021.
Prince Faisal has overseen a dramatic rise in the popularity of gaming and participation in the esports industry both in the Kingdom and regionally in recent years.
“I would like to thank the Executive Committee for the trust they have put in me as Vice President of the Global Esports Federation and I am committed to exceeding all expectations set by the global esports community,” said Prince Faisal.
“I believe that this will enable us all to broaden our horizons and to go above and beyond to serve the global world of esports,” he said. “To me, nurturing the industry has been and will always be a mission, and serving the community is a passion. This only makes me more compelled to do so with great partners and colleagues.”
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Prince Faisal spoke about his new role at the Global Esports Federation, his continuing work with SEF and the future of esports in the Kingdom and the region.
Arab News: Many congratulations on your new role. Please tell us what you will be looking to achieve as the Vice President of the Global Esports Federation?
Prince Faisal: From the start, with both the Saudi federation and the Arab federation our goal was to grow the esports industry both regionally and globally. My new role at GEF is a continuation of that ambition.
We have always said that gaming and esports are the ultimate social activities. They are not bound by space or borders. At GEF, we truly embody this belief through our mantra of #worldconnected. Our goal is to cultivate competition along with developing communities and the connection between sport, esports and technology.
Arab News: As President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF) you have been promoting esports and gaming in the Kingdom for several years. What future plans are there that we can look forward to?
Prince Faisal: There are many exciting developments coming in the next year and the years following that. Over the past years we’ve learned that the potential for esports is much higher that we even could have imagined. As a result, we have shifted to a more holistic approach on a national level. I would ask you and the readers to stay tuned. We are working on locally and globally impactful initiatives in coordination with many governments and private sector entities over the years to come.
Arab News: Earlier this year, the Saudi Esports Federation organized Gamers Without Borders, the world’s biggest esports charity gaming, which looked to combat coronavirus worldwide by raising $10 million. Will this kind of event continue to be hosted by Saudi Arabia?
Prince Faisal: Yes, absolutely. At the federation our focus is to dedicate esports and gaming for the betterment of humanity. From humanitarian aid to education and more, we believe gaming and esports can be a force for good. Our ambition is to bring back GWB but with a new cause every year. We hope that the world will overcome the pandemic and we will be able to focus on betterment and development rather than fighting a global crisis.
Arab News: In October, Saudi Arabia took part in an esports match against Japan at the Tokyo Game Show, and there are plans for return match in the Kingdom next year. Are such high profile matches against other nations something that we will see more of in the coming years?
Prince Faisal: We have a long-term partnership with the Japan Esports Federation for the development of the esports community in both countries. This partnership comes as part of our countries’ shared Vision 2030. Our goal is to build these bilateral and multilateral relationships globally to truly bring communities together and to learn from each other and develop together.
Arab News: Mosaad Al-Dossary won the FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final 2018 in London and FIFA in particular is a huge game in esports competitions. What do you think of the rising popularity of gaming among Saudis and the fact that they are beating the world’s best in games like FIFA and others?
Prince Faisal: We have some of the most talented indviduals and organizations. A few examples that make me proud include Falcon Esports, a Saudi-based team that just won the European Fortnite Grand Royale championship. Their prize was more than $600,000. That is a success not just on the individual level but also shows how we are now exporting globally leading esports organizations.
In the 2021 EA FIFA West Asia playoffs, 6 of the top 8 players were from Saudi. A few days ago on the FGS 22 Middle East qualifier 13 of the top 16 players were Saudi. Additionally, as early as 2017 Sary Al-Jefri took home the Tekken World Championship.
This goes to show that Saudi is home to some of the best talents globally. It is these talents that will inspire others and become role models for successful and responsible professionalism. And when we combine these talented players and organizations with the support we offer as a country, it’s easy to see why we are quickly growing to become one of the leaders of the industry globally.
Arab News: Will there be more international competitions — FIFA eWorld Cup — being held in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in the coming years?
Prince Faisal: Our goal is to become a global hub. Part of that is further developing our relationships with publishers and showing how we excel in organizing tournaments and growing talents within esports. GWB is a great example of this. After the massive success in the first year, PUBG Mobile approached us to co-organize their first global charitable invitational tournament.
That shows how much trust they now have in SEF. As a result of that many more conversations have now sparked.
UK, Saudi firefighters join forces for Jeddah F1 Grand Prix
Updated 12 min 5 sec ago
JEDDAH: British and Saudi firefighters have joined forces for the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah.
Professional crews from the UK have been training with their Saudi counterparts as fire marshals for the upcoming race in the Red Sea coast city.
Nine members of Britam Arabia, a Saudi and British joint venture that provides private fire and rescue services at 11 sites throughout the Kingdom, have been undergoing specialist training in support of the Saudi Civil Defense at the prestigious sporting event.
The Britam Arabia volunteers, who protect some of Saudi Arabia’s most vital infrastructure, are relishing the chance to hone their skills and experience at the big race both for the qualifying stages and the main event.
British fire chief, Iqbal Ali, originally from the UK but now working for Britam Arabia in Makkah and living in Jeddah, praised the quality of training they had received.
He said: “Fire safety at Formula 1 events requires a special skill set and the training our firefighters are receiving from the race organizers is first class.
“We are delighted to support this exciting event and are relishing the chance to be part of the fire safety support team track side. We are stood by to provide any assistance in any way we can whenever we are called upon,” he added.
Britam Arabia provides a full range of professional firefighting services in the Kingdom, from fire safety consultancy to station operations, in support of the Vision 2030 reform plan.
Chelsea beats Watford 2-1 to stay top of Premier League
Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won
Updated 02 December 2021
WATFORD: Chelsea stayed top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Watford on Wednesday in a match that was halted for 32 minutes in the first half after a spectator suffered cardiac arrest.
Substitute Hakim Ziyech grabbed the winner for the leaders in the 72nd minute, converting a cross from Mason Mount — the England midfielder who had put Chelsea in front in the 29th.
By then, the teams had been taken off by the referee because of the medical emergency in the stands that happened after about 13 minutes. The incident happened on the side of the field where Chelsea left back Marcos Alonso was stationed and he appeared to alert the referee and the medical staff on the touchline.
The spectator was stabilized and taken away on a stretcher to applause from the crowd.
Emmanuel Dennis equalized for Watford in the 43rd after Ruben Loftus-Cheek — one of a number of fringe players handed a start by Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel because of injuries — was dispossessed in the center circle by Moussa Sissoko, who drove forward and set up his teammate to score.
Chelsea remained a point ahead of Manchester City and two clear of Liverpool on a night when all three teams won.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said his weakened team was “lucky” to come away with all three points
“That’s not us. We were absolutely not ready today for this match," said Tuchel, who was without Reece James, N'Golo Kante, Ben Chilwell, Mateo Kovacic because of injury while Timo Werner and Jorginho started on the bench because they needed a rest.
“I missed maybe to find the right approach to make my team ready. We had the break due to very sad circumstances – hopefully the person is better — but even this break after the first (13) minutes did not change our approach. We did not cope with the pressure, with the first ball, second ball.”
Tuchel said all his team did was “hang in there.”
“I see this totally as an exception from the rule," he said. “I will not insist too long on this match because it’s so unusual for us to play like this.”
Tuchel said he was concerned about an injury sustained by defender Trevoh Chalobah in the second half.
“The doctor was on the pitch 20 times today it felt like,” he said. “It’s a big loss, Trev. I’m a bit worried.”