Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation

Exclusive Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation
Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, President of the Saudi Esports Federation (SEF), has been appointed as Vice President of the Global Esports Federation. (SEF)
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Updated 02 December 2021

Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud appointed Vice President of the Global Esports Federation

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

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.


Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx St. Jude Championship lead

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx  St. Jude Championship lead
Updated 12 sec ago

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx St. Jude Championship lead

Late eagle lifts Kim to share of FedEx  St. Jude Championship lead
  • Kim and Spaun both posted 8-under par 62 to open the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, the three-tournament series that culminates with the Tour Championship where an $18 million winner’s prize will be on offer

WASHINGTON: South Korean Siwoo Kim holed out for eagle from the fairway at the 18th hole on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead alongside J.J. Spaun at the PGA Tour St. Jude Championship.

Kim and Spaun both posted 8-under par 62 to open the tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, the three-tournament series that culminates with the Tour Championship where an $18 million winner’s prize will be on offer.

Kim hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation at TPC Southwind on Thursday, but his most spectacular hole didn’t involve a putt.

He was on the right side of the fairway at the 453-yard 18th, where his eight-iron from 171 yards out found the hole.

“It was a perfect shot,” said Kim, who said he was just trying to get the ball to 10 feet, left of the pin.

Kim followed his birdies at the second and third with a three-putt bogey at the fourth.

Feeling uncomfortable on the greens, he said he changed his putting grip and then rolled in a 21-foot birdie from the fringe at the 10th before making four birdies in a row at the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

That run featured a 23-foot birdie at the 14th.

Spaun’s day also included a run of four straight birdies, from the ninth through the 12th. He started with a 14-foot birdie at the first and a four-footer at the second, rolled in a 17-footer at the ninth and added two more birdies at 16 and 18.

“I’m hot, figuratively and literally, I guess,” Spaun quipped after his round in the steamy Tennessee weather.

“I think I putted really well and I drove it really well. I guess I hit 15 out of 18 greens. So that’s a pretty good combo.

“When you’re hitting a lot of greens and putting well and hitting fairways, it’s hard to complain about how I played today.”

Spaun won his first US PGA Tour title at the Texas Open in April, a victory that put him into his first Masters the following week.

If he can make it to the 30-player Tour Championship, he’ll likely secure a berth for next year’s Masters with a lot more time to prepare.

“That’s the place to be, and hopefully (if I) keep playing well this week and the next couple weeks, I’ll be there,” he said.

This week’s field features 125 players, but only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings will advance to next week’s BMW Championship in Delaware.

Only 30 qualify for the Tour Championship at Eastlake in Atlanta, Georgia.

Kim and Spaun held a one-shot lead over American Sahith Theegala, who had seven birdies in his seven-under 63.

It was a further stroke back to Tony Finau, J.T. Poston, South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon and Austrian Sepp Straka.

Finau is the designated defending champion thanks to his victory at last year’s Northern Trust in New Jersey, which was replaced this season as the first playoff event.

Mexican Abraham Ancer won the WGC St. Jude Invitational in Memphis last year but is banned from the PGA Tour after jumping to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series in June.

A host of big names had plenty of work to do after the opening round.

Reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and British Open champion Cameron Smith were in a group on three-under 67.

Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy — denied by Smith at St. Andrews last month — carded an even-par 70, while top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler posted a one-over par 71.


Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot
Updated 12 August 2022

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot
  • The Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes

MONTREAL: Nick Kyrgios crushed fellow Australian Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP Montreal Masters.

Kyrgios carried on constant backchat with his player box, giving almost a running commentary of his state of mind on court in a display that seems second nature to him.

Nevertheless, the Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes.

The second-set pace was just as torrid, with Kyrgios breaking in the opening game.

He failed to serve out the win leading 5-2, missing on a drop shot and sending a forehand into the net.

But de Minaur lost the next game to love as Kyrgios prevailed in front of a packed-out stadium.

The winner of last week’s Washington 500 series title suffered his only recent loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Victory means he’ll be in the top 30 next week, meaning a seeding at the US Open which starts on Aug. 29.

“That was my goal, so I didn’t have to play one of the (tennis) gods in the first round,” Kyrgios said.

“Today was a tough one. there was a lot on the line. I’m happy with the performance today.

“After beating (world number one Daniil) Medvedev yesterday, my confidence is incredibly high.

“It’s never easy to play a friend, but against Alex I went out and got the job done, I played how I had to play,” said Kyrgios who next faces eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, a 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) winner over Albert Ramos.

Kyrgios has now won 15 of his last 16 singles matches, “The days are blending into each other,” he said. “It’s tiring but that’s the sport.”

He added: “I’m missing home a lot but there are only a few more tournaments until I can go home and see my family.”

Casper Ruud kept his title hopes alive as he dueled for more than three hours to overcome Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.

The Norwegian, who at fourth is the highest seed still standing, said he regrouped during a 69-minute interruption as thunderstorms passed over the area after two sets had been completed.

He said time in the locker room was the perfect antidote for a game which had gone slightly stale as he battled the Spaniard.

“Thanks to the weather gods,” he said. “It was a tough battle, the first two sets, two hours 20 minutes of good intensity.

“But I was feeling it a bit in the legs, it was tough to find my intensity. The rain gave me time to breathe and regain some energy.”

Ruud wrapped up a long afternoon on his fourth match point, ending with 54 winners and 39 unforced errors.

“I’m still surviving, there will be another match tomorrow and I’ll try to survive it,” added the seventh-ranked Ruud, who is the top target remaining after the second-round exits of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Norwegian owns three titles this season with a match record of 37-13. He reached the Miami final in April but lost to Alcaraz.

He’ll play Canadian sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who dispatched Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4.

Unseeded briton Jack Draper advanced, moving through when French veteran Gael Monfils retired with an injury while trailing 6-2, 0-2.


Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters
Updated 12 August 2022

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters
  • Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults

TORONTO: Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia toppled world No. 1 Iga Swiatek 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the WTA Toronto Masters.

The South American ranked 24th in the world beat her third top-10 opponent this season, but notched her first career win over a world No. 1 as she clawed out the victory in three hours.

Haddad Maia, who won titles at Nottingham and Birmingham in June, became the first Brazilian to reach the quarters at a WTA 1000 tournament.

She was the first from her country to face a No. 1 since Telian Pereira lost to Serena Williams at Roland Garros in 2016.

Swiatek, whose six titles this season include the French Open, missed her chance at a 50th match win this year.

Her run of 23 straight wins at the Masters 1000 level was snapped in difficult playing conditions.

“At the beginning I struggled to find my rhythm, probably because she’s lefty and I had a hard time adjusting to her serve,” Swiatek said.

“Without the wind I would manage. But it was pretty crazy out there.

“In the third set I knew (the mistakes) I’d made. So I know what I want to work on and what I want to improve before the next tournament, for sure.”

Swiatek added: “She just used the conditions better than me. When she was playing with the wind she was playing really strong balls.

“I made more mistakes than her. She was a little bit more solid.”

Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults.

She limited her own unforced errors to a dozen, backed up by 23 winners while Swiatek ended with 33 winners and 28 unforced errors.

“I’m happy and proud of myself and my team, it’s a special moment,” she said. “It’s not always easy to beat the number one on a huge stage and against all the crowd.

“I think I passed through very tough moments in my career to live this moment. I just want to enjoy a little bit.

“I don’t want to think about my next match. But, yeah, I feel happy. I believe in myself.

In other third-round action, Coco Gauff survived 15 double-faults to squeeze out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) win over Aryna Sabalenka.

The American teenager contributed just under half of the miscues in the error-strewn affair, with her opponent accounting for 18 additional doubles.

Tenth seed Gauff, who fell to Swiatek at Roland Garros in her first Grand Slam final this year, battled for three and a quarter hours against sixth-seeded Sabalenka.

Gauff finished with nine aces and saved 10 of 14 break points that she faced.

“The conditions weren’t easy today, a lot of wind,” Gauff said. “I think I hung in there mentally and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Victory for the 18-year-old came a day after she beat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the third round in a match that took two and three-quarter hours.

The American admitted that trailing 3-0 in the final set, she had to give herself a serious talking-to.

“I said if I was going to lose, I’m not going to lose like this. I had to change, and that’s what I did.”

“She is frustrating to play. She plays big tennis — sometimes you hit a good shot and she hits a winner.”

Gauff will face off on Friday against two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep after the former No. 1 from Romania defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5 in 91 minutes.

Seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula advanced, beating defending champion Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Pegula will face Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who beat Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5.


FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20
Updated 12 August 2022

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20
  • Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change

DOHA: FIFA on Thursday officially brought forward the opening match of this year’s World Cup by one day to Nov. 20 in a rare change so that hosts Qatar feature in the gala game.

Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change.

On the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador was to be the official inauguration match on Nov. 21 but Senegal against Netherlands would be the first match of the day. England against Iran would have been second.

Qatar had also been frustrated as it has invested in a huge opening ceremony show.

“Host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday 20 November as part of a stand-alone event,” said FIFA.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken by the bureau of the FIFA Council today.”

The bureau is made up of FIFA leader Gianni Infantino and the six heads of the contintental confederations.

“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” added FIFA.

Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has been shifted from 1:00pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to a 7:00pm start. There is no change to England’s opening Group B clash against Iran.

Qatari organizers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, immediately welcomed FIFA’s gesture.

“Opening the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East and Arab world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Qatar,” said the organizing committee in a statement.

“The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” they added without giving details.

Some Ecuador fans may have to change flights to arrive in Qatar earlier and football sources said the date switch could force changes to some World Cup contracts.

But many companies linked to the World Cup expressed confidence that disruption would be overcome.

“It is something we will deal with,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a deal with FIFA to organize hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.

“It is really not — compared to the other challenges that we could have faced or have faced in the past — a particularly large problem,” Byrom told AFP.

“We have to focus on those customers who are most affected and I guess in this case we will be looking at our Ecuadorian customers who are traveling from overseas, and making sure that they are on time for the match.”

Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed. The 100 day countdown to the opening match will now start on Friday, instead of Saturday.

The decision was also announced as Qatar staged the first official match at the Lusail stadium which will host the December 18 World Cup final.

Before more than 10,000 fans, and with players engulfed in air conditioning to ward off stifling summer heat, Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan 2-1 in the Qatar championship.


Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days
Updated 11 August 2022

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days
  • Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga's financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings
  • They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic "levers"

MADRID: Barcelona’s attempts to establish themselves once again as a force in La Liga and the Champions League this season have seen the heavily-indebted Catalans gamble with their future to enable a striking summer spending spree.
A year after being forced to let Lionel Messi go as eye-watering reported debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.39 billion) crippled the club, Barcelona have spent 153 million euros on transfer fees alone to strengthen their squad, with Robert Lewandowski the most notable new arrival.
“This is a really exciting season. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make all the fans happy,” coach Xavi Hernandez said before last weekend’s 6-0 friendly win over Mexican side Pumas UNAM.
“That means winning trophies. That is our main objective.”
After three years of struggles, on and off the field, the summer has seen hope return to the Camp Nou, with president Joan Laporta talking of an exciting “new era” when the club unveiled Lewandowski as a Barcelona player.
“Euphoria” was the headline on the cover of local daily Sport the same day.
Even partisan Madrid-based sports daily Marca admitted that Barca were “frightening” in the wake of their drubbing of Pumas UNAM last weekend, when Lewandowski scored his first goal since his arrival from Bayern Munich.
Yet how Barcelona have gone about raising the funds to sign Lewandowski, as well as center-backs Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen, AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, and Leeds United’s Brazilian winger Raphinha has raised eyebrows.
Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga’s financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings and, crucially, to register any new players.
They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic “levers.”
The club sold 25 percent of their domestic television rights for the next quarter of a century to US investment firm Sixth Street for some 400 million euros.
Barcelona sold 24.5 percent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual productions, to Socios.com for 100 million euros on August 1, and then another 25 percent to US investment firm GDA Luma for 100 million euros more.
In the space of a few weeks, 600 million euros had been brought in to fill the coffers.
The aim was to clean up the club’s finances, make it possible to increase the salary limit set by La Liga and allow the new signings to all be registered for the start of the season.
On top of that, Barca signed the biggest sponsorship deal in their history with Spotify, bringing in a reported 435 million euros for the music streaming giant to feature on the club’s shirts and to have naming rights to the Camp Nou.
And so Barcelona look well placed to become serious title contenders again as they prepare to host Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Only time will tell if mortgaging part of the club’s assets in exchange for an immediate influx of cash will bear fruit.


Yet, Barcelona are still waiting for La Liga to allow them to register their new signings, although they hope to be able to do so in time for the season.
They are also hoping to further ease their financial problems by reducing their wage bill.
The Catalans have been trying to persuade Frenkie de Jong to leave, with suggestions even made that a contract he signed in 2020 was not legal. The Dutch midfielder says he wants to stay.
Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Memphis Depay are also candidates to depart the Camp Nou, with the latter reportedly a target for Juventus.
On top of that, efforts have been made to persuade certain players, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, to accept wage reductions.
Barca’s “economic miracle,” as the press have called it, still has to be transformed into a footballing miracle.