Players hail the success of first Saudi women’s Regional Football League

Houriya Al-Shamrani of White Lion has ambitions to become the league's best player. (Supplied)
Houriya Al-Shamrani of White Lion has ambitions to become the league's best player. (Supplied)
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Updated 29 December 2021

Players hail the success of first Saudi women’s Regional Football League

Houriya Al-Shamrani of White Lion has ambitions to become the league's best player. (Supplied)
  • The chance to play regularly against strong competition has helped develop skills and improve fitness levels, they said
  • “I want to be the first Saudi player in English Premier League,” said White Lion player Houriya Al-Shamrani

RIYADH: The final whistle has blown in the group stage of the Regional Football League, the first official league competition for female soccer players in Saudi Arabia, with Al-Yamamah, Jeddah Eagles and Eastern Flames crowned champions of the central, western and eastern divisions, respectively.

In addition to the pride and joy they felt while competing in a league of their own, the players said it gave them the chance to develop their technical skills and improve their physical fitness, in anticipation of a chance to represent their country in a Saudi national women’s team in the future.

Sama Al-Sabiani of western division side White Lion said she really enjoyed playing in the first women’s league in the Kingdom, and that it had helped improve the organization of the team and resulted in remarkable improvements in the performance of the players as it gave them the opportunity to play against strong opponents,

“As players, we gained endurance and played with a higher fighting spirit than ever before; we gave it our all,” she said.

“Not only did we give a great performance, we really enjoyed ourselves.”

The 16-team league provided strong motivation for the players to develop and improve their skills, Al-Sabiani said, and White Lion trained really hard for it, although ultimately they finished outside the top three in their division who now proceed, with the top three in the central division and the top two from the eastern division, to the national championship, which begins at King Abdullah Sports City on New Year’s Day.

“As players, we fought and won several games, and we aspired to more victories to qualify for other leagues in the future,” Al-Sabiani added.

Rana Abdullah Saeed, a midfielder for The Storm, who finished second in the western division, said: “I had a great experience and I am very happy that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has taken this step. I am sure the SAFF will organize more leagues in the future and will continue to support women's football in particular, and sports in general.”

She added that the new league has had a very positive effect on her game.

“I was able to improve my technical skills and this experience has given me the motivation to develop my performance both on and off the field, making sure I eat right and educate myself more by reading sports books and watching videos on YouTube,” she said.

“This league, in particular, has helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses and I aspire to represent the Saudi national team thanks to my recent experience.”

White Lion player Houriya Al-Shamrani also said that the experience of playing in the Regional Football League had helped her to improve her skills and gain experience, and also helped the players to develop a competitive team spirit. She added that she benefited from playing under pressure and on natural grass.

“I was able to maintain my fitness level and meet many talented players,” Al-Shamrani said. “I also had the opportunity to speak with the undersecretary for planning and development at the Ministry of Sports, Adwa Al-Arifi, and listen to her advice. I will never forget her support when I was injured.

“I aspire to be the best player in the league and represent the Saudi national team and I want to be the first Saudi player to participate in the English Premier League.

“I would like to thank Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the SAFF for giving us this opportunity and I am sure the best is yet to come.”


Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup
Updated 17 August 2022

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup

Qatar-UK Typhoon jet squadron to safeguard FIFA World Cup
  • Qatari envoy: ‘We prepare for the worst and hope for the best’
  • British defense secretary hails deal as ‘exciting milestone’

LONDON: Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from the UK will protect Qatar’s airspace from threats during the country’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup later this year, The Times reported on Wednesday.

It comes as part of a major purchase of the jets — sold by Britain’s BAE Systems — by Qatar, which will take delivery of 24 of them by next year.

Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah, Qatar’s ambassador to the UK, said during a ceremony in Lancashire to mark the first jet transfer that pilots from both countries will be ready to scramble on short notice during the tournament.

Typhoons have a top speed of almost 1,400 miles per hour. They were used during London’s hosting of the Olympic Games in 2012 to provide air cover. The jets sold to Qatar will arrive “fully operational” and ready to fly.

Al-Attiyah said major public events are “soft spot” targets for terror attacks, and adequate protection is needed.

“The situation globally remains stable but nonetheless could be volatile. Anything could basically happen. So we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” he added.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace hailed the Typhoon deal as an “exciting milestone.”

As part of Qatar’s preparations for the tournament, the country will also deploy navy and army forces to react to threats.

Al-Attiyah described the deployments as “one of many proactive measures we are taking to ensure we deliver a safe and secure tournament. One has to be vigilant.”


Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona
Updated 17 August 2022

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona
  • After a summer of pulled financial levers and big signings, a drab 0-0 draw against Vallecano showed there will be no overnight fix for the team’s on-pitch troubles

Slowly, the picture at Barcelona is getting clearer — and for coach Xavi Hernandez, better. At least we know which players are eligible to pull on the shirt officially.

It has been a long and confusing road, which finally reached an end, of sorts, with the disappointing 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night.

On Oct. 6, 2021, FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta gave a press conference with then-CEO ​​Ferran Reverter, in which he said the club was in “accounting bankruptcy” and owed $1.5 billion because of the previous board’s mismanagement.

Laporta had only returned to the presidency a few months earlier, in March 2021, and since then it has been one setback after another for the Catalan club.

First was the earth-shattering news last summer that Lionel Messi was leaving Camp Nou. Worse followed as the club, with no money, could not replace the glaring hole left by the Argentine with any big-name signings.

The president who had brought joy back to the club in 2003, who oversaw the iconic Pep Guardiola era, was now a man who only reported bad news.

That is until this summer, when Laporta worked his magic again and pulled a rabbit out of his hat — or at least pulled those financial “levers” we have heard so much about recently.

Only months after Laporta made the club’s technical bankruptcy official, Barcelona somehow became, to global astonishment, the highest-spending club this summer: Raphinha came from Leeds for $59 million, Jules Koundé from Sevilla for $55 million, and Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich for $46 million.

Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva could be the next to arrive if rumors are to be believed.

So how did the bankrupt club become one of the world’s biggest spenders? In a word, levers. Or, in effect, selling future income.

The first two levers allowed the club to cash in $535 million by selling 25 percent of its TV rights for the next 25 years to the US investment fund Sixth Street.

Barcelona currently earn $167 million a year from TV broadcasting rights. At these prices, Sixth Street would receive $1.05 billion over the next 25 years, double what was invested in the lever.

The club also sold 49 percent of Barça Studios, the club’s audio-visual production company, in exchange for $203 million.

In a few short weeks, fans had to become familiar with a process — all above board, everyone was assured — few had heard of before.

But legal concerns aside, is it reasonable, even ethical, for a bankrupt club to become the summer’s highest spending club? It does not sound like financial common sense.

To understand the necessity for these levers, it is first necessary to understand how the club works.

Barcelona, like Real Madrid, is fully owned by its members, and the statutes prohibit transforming the club into a “sports company” — like Chelsea. In short, it is not possible for another company to buy capital from the club.

In addition to these episodes of creative accounting, the fact remains that the club gave up part of its future TV income in an effort to create a new “virtuous circle” of victories and income that is far from guaranteed.

The idea that Barcelona’s salvation lies in mortgaging income for the next 25 years is a gap in the Laportian economic reasoning that is difficult to fill.

The president’s plan is to make the club sexy again, giving it a reboot of sorts that will ensure the new star signings will further attract resources and new fans, and create bonds and new incomes that exceed those now mortgaged.

All experts, critics and even supporters of Laporta agree this is a high-risk operation. If the team does not perform on the pitch, the house of cards could fall apart.

The 0-0 against Rayo Vallecano will hardly have placated the critics. With over $150 million spent on five signings this summer, expectations were sky-high at Camp Nou in the first game of the new La Liga season.

In front of a full house at Barça’s dilapidated stadium, Hernandez started three of their new signings, but Andreas Christensen, Raphinha and Lewandowski could not help the team achieve victory in drab performance.

Laporta has taken a massive risk, and it could well be his last card. His critics await. Should it fail, Barcelona might just have to face the possibility of becoming a sociedad anónima deportiva (sports company) owned by outside forces, something unimaginable until recently. And Laporta will go down in history as the villain who allowed it to happen under his reign.


Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown
Updated 17 August 2022

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown
  • The Ukrainian and British fighters hit the pads with their trainers and spoke to the media

JEDDAH: Fight Week preparations for the Rage on the Red Sea stepped up a gear on Tuesday night when 12 fighters from the card held public workouts at Jeddah’s Saudi Airlines Club.

Main event boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, who meet for the second time, at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena on Saturday, gave fans and the media a first glimpse of how they’re shaping up going into their heavyweight showdown.

Usyk, who defends the unified world heavyweight titles, said: “I’m very pleased that I’m going to fight very soon. I’ve been watching Anthony Joshua for years already, so I’ve learned a lot and look forward to the fight.”

Commenting on everybody in his homeland of Ukraine being able to watch the bout for free, Usyk added: “I’m also very pleased about this as we all worked hard to ensure this outcome.”

Usyk and Joshua hit the pads with their trainers and interacted with members of the public and media during their 10-minute sessions, teasing what’s to come when they go head-to-head on fight night.

“Previous experiences are helpful, but ultimately, it’s all about what you do on the night. Whoever throws and lands the most punches wins,” said Joshua. “I’m focused, ready to do my best, and get the job done.”

“Saudi Arabia’s been very good to me, shout out to everyone here (in the Kingdom),” he continued. “I’ve had a good time, everyone at the hotel and gym has been looking after me, and it’s been like a second home,” he added. “I’ve good memories of here from last time out (against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019) and it’s time to create new ones.”

Also on show was Zhang Zhilei ahead of his bout with Filip Hrgovic, rivals Callum Smith and Mathieu Bauderlique, as well as Badou Jack, Andrew Tabiti, Rashed Belhasa, and Bader Samreen.

Rounding out the dozen boxers were Ziyad Al-Maayouf and Ramla Ali, who were given huge support from those in attendance.

They will both make history at the Rage on the Red Sea as the first Saudi and female fighters, respectively, to feature on an international professional card in the Kingdom.


UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal
  • Shamma Al Kalbani was Emirate’s first woman to win a medal at World Games

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has congratulated Shamma Al Kalbani for becoming the first Emirati woman to win a medal during the World Games.

The president met Kalbani – who scooped bronze in the 63kg category women’s jiu-jitsu at the Birmingham World Games in July - alongside the other Emirati winners of the jiu-jitsu competition at the games on Monday.

The competition, which took place in Birmingham, Alabama, is one of the most important global multi-sport events in the world.

The UAE grapplers won five medals at the championship, with Faisal Al-Ketbi winning gold in the 85 kilogram and open weight categories, and Mohammed Al-Suwaidi taking home silver in the 69 kilogram division. Shamma Al-Kalbani became the first Emirati female athlete to clinch a medal at the World Games, winning two bronze medals in the 63 kilogram and open weight categories.

 

 

He also congratulated the board of directors of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and commended their efforts in developing the martial art.

In response the delegation thanked the president for his support of the sport in the country.


Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey
  • The defeat in Konya ends a run of 10 consecutive victories for the Kingdom’s U-23 team

Saudi Arabia’s footballers fell short of gold in the football competition at the Islamic Solidarity Games after a 1-0 defeat to hosts Turkey in Konya on Tuesday.

The loss ends the team’s run of 10 straight victories, stretching back to the triumphant AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan in June, for the young Green Falcons.

The winning goal was scored by Metehan Altunbas, of Turkish club Adanaspor, in the 27th minute of the match.

Saudi’s players received their silver medals from President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who is also the president of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation.

The podium finish is Saudi’s second in the Islamic games across its five editions.

The team’s coach, Saad Al-Shehri, had previously won the competition as a player with Saudi Arabia in 2005.