Saudi driver hopes for success in the Dakar Rally

Dania Akeel spoke to Arab News about her preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
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Dania Akeel spoke to Arab News about her preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
Dania Akeel spoke to Arab News about her preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
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Dania Akeel spoke to Arab News about her preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 December 2021

Saudi driver hopes for success in the Dakar Rally

Dania Akeel spoke to Arab News about her preparations for the upcoming Dakar Rally. (Supplied)
  • Dania Akeel gives an exclusive interview to Arab News about her preparations for the big race

RIYADH: In a few days, the world-famous Dakar Rally will start in Hail.

Taking part in the third edition of the race to be held in Saudi Arabia will be one of Kingdom’s leading lights in motorsports Dania Akeel, who familiarised herself with her chosen vehicle for Dakar in the Hail Rally earlier this month.

“My experience at the Hail Rally was excellent, as it came right before the Dakar Rally. I learned a lot from it and my car was performing at the highest level,” said Akeel.

Her attention is now firmly on the start of the Dakar Rally, which will take place over 12 stages from Jan. 1-14.

“I am looking to go beyond my boundaries as a driver, developing my skills, improving my speed and achieving good results,” said Akeel. “During the two weeks I will focus on reaching the finish line safely and in the smoothest way possible. This methodology, I hope, will generate positive results in regard to the rankings.”

Asked about the inaugural Rally Jameel, the women-only rally that will be held in the Kingdom in March next year, she said: “I am pleased about the Rally Jameel initiative and I am excited to participate. The idea of a navigation rally for women encourages female participation in the sport. It offers the chance for participants to get acquainted with Saudi Arabia’s beautiful and diverse terrain. It is also a great way to meet people who enjoy similar activities, which is one of my favourite things about sport in general.”


Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
Updated 9 min 57 sec ago

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana

Comoros new Africa Cup of Nations heroes after stunning win over Ghana
  • Shock exit of 2010 World Cup semi-finalists warning for Egypt ahead of vital clash against Sudan

RIYADH: The result of the 2021 African Cup of Nations so far is Comoros 3, Ghana 2. It has to be one of the greatest results in the history of Arab football.

Back in 2010, Ghana were a Luis Suarez handball and then a penalty away from reaching the semi-final of the World Cup. That ended up as a hugely painful defeat for the Black Stars, but Tuesday night brought another loss that will haunt them for years to come.

It will also serve as a useful warning to Egypt ahead of their crucial Nile Valley derby against Sudan on Wednesday evening.

Going into the final game of Group C, few gave Comoros, a country with a population of less than 1 million, any hope, and understandably so. Ranked 132 in the world with no previous appearances in Africa’s top tournament and no goals in the two games before this, the Coelacanths were facing the four-time champions ranked 80 places higher. In short, they were playing for pride heading for defeat and heading home.

That was not what happened on a warm evening in the northern Cameroon city of Garoua.

It was fitting that Comoros’ first ever goal at this level came from veteran striker El Fardou Ben Nabouhane after four minutes and it was equally fitting that it was a beauty, a shot rifled into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

A red card midway through the first half for Ghana captain Andre Ayew may have been harsh but really gave the minnows hope and then just after the hour, Comoros were in dreamland as Ahmed Mogni made it 2-0.

Then the game really took off with Ghana, throwing caution to the wind, pushing forward to be rewarded by two goals from corners in quick succession. But, with just five minutes remaining, Mogni scored his second and his team’s third. Ghana were out.

It was a breathless finish and the results and the celebrations in the dressing room after the game made headlines around the world. The Africa Cup of Nations has taken time to get going with the first round of games short of goals, drama, and talking points. Not anymore.

There were also doubts expressed about the format of the first stage which sees just eight teams from 24 banished. This often means that the big boys can afford a slip up or two but get through in the end. Not this time.

Ghana may not be the same team that reached the last eight at the 2010 World Cup, but nobody expected a fourth-place finish and instant elimination.

Nobody in the Comoros capital Moroni will care as their heroes gave all a night to remember. There may be more. Comoros are assured of third place. If Equatorial Guinea defeat Sierra Leone and then Guinea-Bissau do not defeat Nigeria in the final games of their respective groups, then Comoros will go on to the second round as one of the four best-performing third-placed teams.

Yet their victory has not only lit up the tournament but serves as a warning to others and Comoros, a team that have never appeared in Africa’s biggest event before, can help the continent’s most successful side. Egypt have lifted the trophy on no less than a record seven occasions and what happened to Ghana could happen to them against Sudan on Wednesday.

Compared to Ghana, the Pharaohs are in a better position with three points from their first two games, a loss to Nigeria and then a narrow win over Guinea-Bissau. They still need a point to be certain of a place in the knockout stage as defeat could spell the end. Such an outcome is not impossible. Sudan may have lost to Nigeria, but the Super Eagles have been perhaps the best team of the tournament so far along with the hosts and they were impressed with the Secretary Birds.

“The Sudanese side was more difficult than the Egyptians, but we expected it,” said Nigerian star Moses Simon.

To add extra tension and unpredictability to the situation is the fact that Sudan would love nothing more than to inflict a painful defeat on their northern neighbors.

Sudan defender Mazin Mohamedein said: “The Egypt match is special for us as Sudanese, as it is the Nile Valley derby. The Sudanese people are all looking forward to this match and we are looking forward to winning it and reaching the next round as this is the least we can do for our people.”

For Egypt, the game may determine whether they just started the tournament slowly and are getting into their stride in time for the knockout rounds or if there are bigger issues at play. Star forward Mohamed Salah scored the winner against Guinea-Bissau and believes it is the former.

The Liverpool player said: “We have to fight in this very difficult tournament. All the teams know how to play football and they have many players in Europe. We must believe in our abilities and our chances, fight as much as we can, and see where we go in the tournament.”

Egypt have to be careful however to ensure that they do not go the same way as Ghana.


Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
Updated 19 January 2022

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players

Golf Saudi launches behind-the-scenes documentary with Kingdom’s leading amateur players
  • Five-part series will lift sport’s profile across the nation, and build support for Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif ahead of the $5m Saudi International next month

RIYADH: A specially commissioned documentary series following two of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling golf stars is aiming to raise the game’s profile among the sport’s growing fan base in the Kingdom.

The Golf Saudi-backed #SeeItAll Series follows amateur golfers Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif as they prepare to go head to head with global stars of the game at next month’s PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

Shot over five episodes, the behind-the-scenes documentary follows the two golfers as they practice with their coaches, spend time on and off the golf course with their families, and put in the physical and mental training needed to ensure they go into February’s $5 million prize-pot tournament ready to compete at the highest level.

The first episode of the documentary is available on the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers’ social media channels.

“Both Saud and Faisal are incredible talents. We are proud to see them performing at an elite level internationally, and here within the Kingdom as representatives of Golf Saudi,” Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and deputy chairman of Golf Saudi, said.

Devised by Golf Saudi, the #SeeItAll Series aims to bring Saudi sports fans closer to both Salhab and Al-Sharif, expanding the golfers’ fan base for next month’s Asian Tour sanctioned event.

“We have watched them develop at an impressive rate over the last five years through our Elite Coaching Academy. The work has paid off, with both men claiming fantastic recent wins, including Saud’s victory in last year’s Jordan Open, and Faisal’s recent triumphs in both the Saudi Open and Pan Arab Championship in Egypt,” Al-Sorour said.

“These successes are testament to the hard work, talent and dedication of the pair, plus their strength of character,” he said.

“Their achievements are inspiring — something we want to bring to as many young Saudis as possible, with golf and sport generally continuing to grow exponentially in the Kingdom.”

Following their respective 2021 triumphs — a year that also saw Saudi Arabia’s national team convincingly clinch the title at the 40th edition of the Arab Golf Championship, beating more than 10 countries by a comfortable nine-shot margin — both Salhab and Al-Sharif head to Royal Greens for what will be their third appearance at the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The pair will play alongside the Kingdom’s sole professional golfer, Othman Almulla.

Al-Sorour added: “With the #SeeItAll Series, we hope to inspire more Saudis to embrace and follow Faisal and Saud’s journey with golf.”

The two players will take their biggest step yet at next month’s tournament.

“They will test their talents against the very best in the world — the likes of Major-winners Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry,” Al-Sorour said.

“We hope by showing how committed Saud and Faisal are to the game of golf, it will inspire Saudis of all ages.”

Speaking earlier this year, 25-year-old Salhab said that rubbing shoulders with the world’s best golfers during the $5 million tournament is not something that he takes for granted.

“It means a lot to take part in the Saudi International once again, especially considering I received the invite after winning the Saudi Open,” he said.

“I will never forget the reaction when we first saw the names announced for the tournament this year. Some of the national team players and I started jumping up and down, we were so excited. It is incredible to think how far Saudi Arabia has come in world of golf and to now see these players compete in our country.”

He added: “I encourage all Saudis, whatever their level of interest in golf, to come out and support the players and the events that everyone in Golf Saudi works tirelessly to organize. The quality of the tournament is incredible. Seeing the world’s elite golfers compete in the Kingdom is something that every Saudi should cherish.”


Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
Updated 19 January 2022

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka wants no-jab, no-play rule in women’s tennis
  • Veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council

MELBOURNE: Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka threw her support Wednesday behind a vaccine mandate on the women’s tour, as tennis wrestles with the fall-out of the saga surrounding unvaccinated Novak Djokovic.
The veteran Azarenka is a long-time member of the powerful WTA Players’ Council, which is working through the challenges posed by coronavirus.
Those were laid bare by the chaos and confusion that engulfed vaccine-skeptic Djokovic, who was deported on the eve of the Australian Open.
Speaking in Melbourne, Azarenka admitted it could be legally challenging to enforce but she believes it would be “helpful for everybody” if the WTA Tour considered a no-jab, no-play policy.
“Well, from my standpoint it’s been very clear. I believe in science. I believe in getting vaccinated, that’s what I did for myself,” the 32-year-old Belarusian said.
“If you ask me just for my opinion if that should be the case, I think it would just be helpful for everybody in the world, especially when we are traveling internationally.”
But the former world number one acknowledged that forcing people to be jabbed could prove problematic.
“Some countries will not allow mandates. I think to impose something legally on the WTA Tour can be a challenge, I think that’s something that we are facing,” she said.
To play at the Australian Open players must be vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic believed he was exempt based on recently contracting COVID-19, but it was challenged by Australian authorities and after a high-stakes legal battle he flew out of Melbourne on Sunday.
Azarenka said the drawn-out controversy became “a circus” and there “should be a really hard look on this situation moving forward.”
“I think as soon as there is a grey area in the rules, that gives a bit too much questions, and situations like this happen,” said the Belarusian, who revealed she caught COVID-19 in November.
“On certain things I think black-and-white approach is necessary. In my opinion, this should be the case.”


Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam
Updated 19 January 2022

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam

Saudi Arabia kick off 20th Asian Handball Championship with comprehensive win over India in Dammam
  • Host nation lead Group B on goal difference and will meet Australia in their second match

Saudi Arabia launched the 20th Asian Handball Championship on Tuesday at the Ministry of Sports Hall in Dammam by defeating India 54-30 to top Group B on goal difference from Iran, who beat Australia 32-10 on the same day.

The opening ceremony was attended by Prince Fahd bin Jalawi, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, as well as Badr Diab, vice president of the International Handball Federation for Asia, and Fadel Al-Nimr, president of the Saudi Handball Federation.

Kuwait kicked off the action in Group A by beating Jordan 42-31 in Dammam, while South Korea comfortably overcame Singapore 40-9 in the same group.

In Group C, Iraq posted a tight 32-31 win over the UAE  and Qatar beat Oman 31-14.

Group D saw Bahrain complete a comprehensive 46-14 win over Vietnam at Prince Nayef Sports City in Qatif, while Uzbekistan defeated Hong Kong 28-24.

Eight matches will take place on Wednesday, with Saudi Arabia taking on Australia in Group B and Iran facing India at Prince Nayef Sports City in Qatif.

In Group A, South Korea take on Jordan in Dammam, while in Group D Qatar face Iraq and the UAE clash with neighbors Oman at the same time.

In Group D, leaders Bahrain will face Uzbekistan in Dammam, while Vietnam and Hong Kong go head to head in Qatif Arena.


Australian court to publish reasons for dismissing Djokovic challenge on Jan 20

Australian court to publish reasons for dismissing Djokovic challenge on Jan 20
Updated 19 January 2022

Australian court to publish reasons for dismissing Djokovic challenge on Jan 20

Australian court to publish reasons for dismissing Djokovic challenge on Jan 20
  • Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday night, just hours after the court dismissed his effort to stay in the country to play at the Australian Open

MELBOURNE: The Federal Court of Australia will publish reasons for its dismissal of tennis star Novak Djokovic’s challenge to the cancelation of his visa on Thursday at 0515 GMT, the court said.
The reasons will be read out in court by Chief Justice James Allsop in a session streamed live online, a court spokesperson said.
Djokovic was deported from Australia on Sunday night, just hours after the court dismissed his effort to stay in the country to play at the Australian Open, where he hoped to win a record 21st major title.
The year’s first Grand Slam tournament began on Monday.
His departure ended an 11-day rollercoaster following the cancelation of his visa on arrival for not having a proper medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements.
His saga has stoked global debate over the rights of people who opt not to get vaccinated as governments look to protect the community from the coronavirus pandemic.
Djokovic was held in an immigration detention hotel for several days until a court reinstated his visa on the grounds that he had been treated unfairly at the airport.
Late last Friday the government canceled his visa again on the grounds that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment if he was allowed to stay. Djokovic challenged the cancelation on the grounds the minister had acted irrationally, but the court dismissed the case.