From despair to hope: 2021 was a year like no other for Newcastle United fans

Analysis From despair to hope: 2021 was a year like no other for Newcastle United fans
There are a lot of lazy stereotypes about Newcastle fans that often get bandied about as fact. (AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2021

From despair to hope: 2021 was a year like no other for Newcastle United fans

From despair to hope: 2021 was a year like no other for Newcastle United fans
  • After the depressing Mike Ashley era, the Saudi-backed takeover has ensured a sense of positivity is coursing through the city, the club and the fans

There has been a small debate among certain sections of the Newcastle United fanbase this season about just how old the famous club that wear black and white in the North East of England are.

Do we mark anniversaries based on the older parent club, Stanley FC, founded in 1881? Or its merger with Newcastle West End in 1892 which created the club we know today, Newcastle United?

Whichever way you look at it, I think everyone will agree that 2021 marks one of the most significant years in the club’s history and in time could even be seen as the most important year of its existence.

As what you may call a rather proactive fan, I’ve spent most of the last 14 years, eight of them as an expat in Dubai, actively and vocally trying to promote change from the previous Mike Ashley ownership. As founder of the supporter's club, founding and interim chair of the Supporter's Trust, fanzine and newspaper writer, radio show host and currently YouTube broadcaster on the NUFC Matters channel, I’ve pushed for change in every possible way I can.

Finally, this year, it finally paid off, for all Newcastle fans.

After three years of attempts, resistance from football authorities, broadcast companies and anyone else who felt that they could chip in their two pennies’ worth, the consortium of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers — well-known property magnates in the UK who have a vested interest in Newcastle — finally took control of the club.

It hasn’t been easy.

The PIF has shown amazing resilience and patience to get the club. It was also not without legal action taken by the previous owner to force through the sale. Complex, and at times controversial, but in October 2021 the deal was signed, sealed and done.

Relief. Joy. Delirium. You can name any positive emotion you like. They all came to pass for all supporters of the club. There were literal celebrations in the streets. Under previous owner, Mike Ashley, we were a ghost ship of a club. Simply existing. Happy to survive and without ambition, the club had become a soulless vacuum, devoid of hope, dysfunctional and joyless. The mood swing since the takeover is palpable in every way you can measure.

Returning home to Newcastle for the recent holiday period I was able to see and feel first hand just how everything has changed in terms of mood, hope and more. The atmosphere in the city pre-match is something akin to the early 1990s and the Kevin Keegan “entertainers” years. Yet here we are, languishing at the bottom of the table, a genuine mountain to climb. But there is belief. Belief that in the PIF’s investment we have a springboard to better days. Belief that the consortium that has come together can provide the leadership and decisions to keep our status and build an exciting future. Belief in new manager Eddie Howe and the squad seemingly buying into his methods, personified by Brazilian Joelinton who looks like a whole new player.

It feels like we’ve been backed into a corner and between dubious VAR decisions, petulant comments in the press from so-called football writers and sniping from fans of other clubs, there is also a growing feeling of us against the world. And you know that may just be the kind of feeling that will help galvanize us all, the club, ownership, team, manager and fans, to do something amazing in the New Year and something spectacular in the years ahead.

There are a lot of lazy stereotypes about Newcastle fans that often get bandied about as fact when they couldn’t be further from the truth. Apparently we’re expectant, demanding, and have ideas above our station. For supporters of a club without a domestic trophy since 1955 or any competition win since the 1969 Inter Cities Fairs Cup, that always was a strange thing to say.

The reality is far from the truth. We want a club to be proud of, a team that gives 100 percent. We want hope and ambition, the desire to bloody the nose of the great and good and compete on a level playing field. With the investment of the PIF, we have gone from a club with no hope, no owner investment for 10 years and only $9.5 million in capital expenditure in that period (less than some League One clubs) to a reinvigorated sleeping giant, ready to rise. Hope has returned along with joy and the ability to dream again.

For a set of fans with supposedly “unreal expectations,” the ecstatic social media celebrations when the stadium’s windows were washed go some way to explain just how low the Ashley years had brought the bar and drained us all of so many of the simple pleasures that football can bring.

Now, all that has changed. We can dream big again.

One thing that stands out for me is the potential for growth. For NUFC as a club on the world stage. For Newcastle and its people as investment opportunities open up into the region. For PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers. For the PIF opening its portfolio to a truly global stage and for fans of Newcastle United, old and new, who in a small way can play their part in Saudi’s Vision 2030.

One thing is for sure — as anyone who knows Geordies would tell you — we won’t be a silent partner in any of this for sure.

From depressing lows to incredible highs, 2021 will be remembered as year like no other for Newcastle as a city, the North East of England as a region and for Newcastle United, the shining beacon that we look to as expats and the club we support through thick and thin.

For a so-called “small club in the North of England” we’ve made quite a lot of noise in the last quarter of 2021. And we’ve only just started.


Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix
Updated 43 sec ago

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix

Sainz takes 1st career pole position for British Grand Prix
SILVERSTONE, England: Carlos Sainz was fastest in the rain in Saturday qualifying for the British Grand Prix to earn his first career pole position in his 150th start.
He edged reigning Formula One champion Max Verstappen, who was booed by some in the crowd at the end of the session.
“Maybe some of them don’t like me, but that’s fine,” Verstappen said. “I don’t care.”
Sainz set the fastest time late in the third qualifying session to edge Verstappen by just .072 seconds. It was the seventh pole in 10 races for Ferrari this season, though Sainz teammate Charles Leclerc had earned the first six poles prior to Sainz’s surprise run.
“First pole position, it’s always special, and especially to do it in Silverstone in the wet,” Sainz said. “Kept it cool through the session and toward the end I decided to push.”
Sainz narrowly missed out on what would have been his first career win at the last race in Canada, when he finished just behind Verstappen.
Leclerc will start third, ahead of Sergio Pérez in the second Red Bull.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth for his home race as Mercedes seemed to have made progress with its problems of bouncing at high speed. His teammate George Russell was eighth.
As Verstappen spoke trackside following qualifying the boos were audible for the Dutchman. Verstappen and Hamilton collided in last year’s race, with Verstappen hitting the wall while Hamilton overcame a penalty to win.
The incident further heightened their often-bitter rivalry in a title race ultimately won by Verstappen, and turned some British fans against Verstappen. He was taken to a hospital for observation following the crash and complained that Hamilton showed poor sportsmanship by celebrating the victory as Verstappen was being medically evaluated.
The build-up to this year’s race has been dominated by former champion Nelson Piquet’s use of a racial slur and homophobic language to describe Hamilton in an interview which was filmed last year after the crash at Silverstone. The interview did not receive wide attention until this week, ahead of the return to the track.
Hamilton and other drivers condemned Piquet. Verstappen, who is dating Piquet’s daughter, Kelly, said Piquet had used “very offensive” language but added that the Brazilian was also “a really nice and relaxed guy” who was not a racist.
Leclerc said he felt his Ferrari was “competitive” but a mistake prevented him for challenging for pole position.
“I knew it was the lap where I had to put everything together and I didn’t as a driver, so I didn’t deserve to be on pole,” he said.

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon
Updated 02 July 2022

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon

French player who beat Serena reaches 4th round at Wimbledon
  • The unseeded Frenchwoman is making her debut at the All England Club
  • Tan’s debut at Wimbledon came on Day 2 of the tournament on Centre Court

WIMBLEDON, England: Whether her opponents are tournament favorites or crowd favorites, Harmony Tan keeps knocking them out of Wimbledon.
First there was Serena Williams, a seven-time champion at the All England Club. Then came 32nd-seeded Sara Sorribes Tormo. On Saturday, it was British player Katie Boulter.
“I think I like grass,” said Tan, who won three straight matches at a tournament for the first time in her career. “I really like to play with some slice, volley, everything with my game.”
The unseeded Frenchwoman is making her debut at the All England Club. She has played at the French Open four times, reaching the second round once. She also played at this year’s Australian Open and again reached the second round. At the US Open, she lost in the first round in 2018 in her only appearance at Flushing Meadows.
On Saturday, Tan beat Boulter 6-1, 6-1 on No. 2 Court. She never faced a break point in the match and converted five of the 10 she earned.
Tan’s debut at Wimbledon came on Day 2 of the tournament on Center Court, the biggest stadium on the grounds. That’s where she eliminated Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, in three sets.
“It was really emotional for the first round against Serena, and after it was just play match for match,” Tan said on court. “Today was really good tennis. I don’t know why, but ... it depends (on) the day.”
Tan will next face either Coco Gauff or Amanda Anisimova. The two Americans will face each other in Saturday’s first match on Center Court.
French Open champion Iga Swiatek was scheduled to face Alize Cornet on No. 1 Court. Swiatek is the top-seeded player at Wimbledon and has won 37 straight matches.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was scheduled to follow Gauff and Anisimova on Center Court. Then Rafael Nadal, another two-time champion at the All England Club, was to play Lorenzo Sonego in the main stadium after that.


Saudi Arabia’s Bukhari wins bronze at the Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships

Saudi Arabia’s Bukhari wins bronze at the Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships
Updated 02 July 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Bukhari wins bronze at the Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships

Saudi Arabia’s Bukhari wins bronze at the Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships
  • Medal is the first ever international podium finish in the sport by a female Saudi athlete

Abrar Bukhari has become the first Saudi female to win an international taekwondo medal after finishing third at the Chuncheon Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships.

Bukhari took bronze in the competition’s -40 kg category, two days after Saudi colleague Riyad Al-Dhafri also took bronze in the men’s -54 kg category.

Bukhari came to prominence three years ago after winning the bronze medal at the 2019 Arab Taekwondo Championship in Morocco, the first ever women’s medal for Saudi taekwondo.

The same year, Bukhari won a bronze medal at the 10th edition of the Asian Junior Taekwondo Championships in Jordan.

Her other achievements include bronze at the Fujairah Open Championship and the silver of the 2019 GCC Games in Kuwait.


PIF-backed LIV Golf announces $1m commitment to support Portland charities

PIF-backed LIV Golf announces $1m commitment to support Portland charities
Updated 02 July 2022

PIF-backed LIV Golf announces $1m commitment to support Portland charities

PIF-backed LIV Golf announces $1m commitment to support Portland charities
  • The donation builds on the launch of the organization’s ‘LIV to Give’ social responsibility initiative

LIV Golf has announced it will donate $1 million to support local environmental and community-based organizations in Portland, Oregon, and surrounding regions for this week’s LIV Golf Invitational Portland, the second tournament of the season.

The grant builds on the organization’s launch of the “LIV to Give” corporate social responsibility initiative, which supports education, environmental sustainability and golf development programs, as well as the well-being of communities now and in the future.

“LIV Golf has a bold, long-term vision to grow the game of golf while driving social change in communities across the world,” Atul Khosla, chief operating officer of LIV Golf Investments, said. “Making a positive impact through collaboration with non-profit organizations and community leaders is an integral part of LIV Golf’s mission, and we are proud to support The Wave Foundation and SEALKIDS Inc., charitable groups committed to protecting our future through environmental support and youth development.”

The Wave Foundation and SEALKIDS will both benefit from LIV Golf’s charitable support.

The Wave Foundation will use the funds towards its continued efforts to accelerate environmental programs that address climate change, environmental justice, and youth engagement. Through this grant, LIV Golf will also contribute to the foundation’s ongoing collaborations to develop a more equitable and resilient food system, as well as partnerships with indigenous regional communities that advance environmental sustainability and equity.

As part of this donation, the foundation will continue supporting and expanding its programs for meeting the needs of indigenous communities through food and nutrition relief, connecting local food producers to the marketplace, and collaborating on additional self-sustaining economic developments.

“The Wave Foundation is very close to my heart for its unwavering commitment to our Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs,” said Delson Suppah Sr., tribal elder for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “I appreciate the support of our tribal way of life and recommendations. I am grateful and humbled by this generous contribution and the continued efforts to help us achieve our mission.”

SEALKIDS is the only national non-profit organization devoted to providing specialized educational support for children in the US Navy SEAL Community. Through this grant, LIV Golf will help children, including those based in the Oregon region, who live in extraordinary circumstances. SEALKIDS’ approach of academic testing, tutoring, therapy, advocacy, and enrichment has a positive transformational impact on the lives of these children, and prepares them for a lifetime of confidence and success.

“Children in the Navy SEAL community have different challenges than other students. This generous donation from LIV Golf will create a lasting impact for our organization and the children we serve,” said Greg Bonifield, SEALKIDS chairman of the board.  “This grant will help expand our reach as we work to fulfil our mission."

Each beneficiary receiving funds will work alongside LIV Golf to ensure the programs deliver value in the local communities.

LIV Golf is owned and operated by LIV Golf Investments whose vision and mission are centered around making sustainable investments to enhance the global golf ecosystem and unlock the sport’s untapped worldwide potential.


Emirati racer Amna Al-Qubaisi shows her bravery as she sets the pace for female drivers in the region

Emirati racer Amna Al-Qubaisi shows her bravery as she sets the pace for female drivers in the region
Updated 02 July 2022

Emirati racer Amna Al-Qubaisi shows her bravery as she sets the pace for female drivers in the region

Emirati racer Amna Al-Qubaisi shows her bravery as she sets the pace for female drivers in the region
  • Alongside father Khaled and sister Hamda, the 21-year-old took the wheel in the Asian regional championship for Abu Dhabi Racing team this year

What Amna Al-Qubaisi lacks in physicality, she more than make up for in bravery and fortitude.

The 21-year-old Emirati driver, who races for Abu Dhabi Racing, suffered a heavy crash earlier this year that left her F3 car badly damaged.

A week later, she was back behind the wheel.

It has been an eventful start to her participation in the Formula Regional Asian Championship.

“I had been off of racing for a year and coming back into it, getting back into the rhythm took me a while,” Al-Qubaisi told Arab News at the sideline of the #WhatSheSaid talk, a panel of inspirational female athletes from the region.

“In my first race weekend, I claimed my first points, so it started off really well. And then I had that big crash, and I had to start gaining that confidence to get back into the rhythm.

“But overall, it was a really good race weekend, and I managed to close the gap for my teammates.”

Those teammates happen to be her father, UAE racing legend Khaled, and her 19-year-old sister Hamda. Amna has enjoyed building up the sporting rapport with her family.

“It was actually really nice. I expected a lot of arguments and fighting,” she said. “But all in all, it was like a bonding moment. We gave each other advice, we helped each other on track, with slipstream and everything. So it was really nice.”

The enjoyment does not mean there have been no challenges, but the sibling rivalry has worked to the benefit of the team.

“There’s a lot of pushing (each other) with my sister as well, because she’s been competing in F4, and then coming into F3,” said Al-Qubaisi.

“We’ve seen a lot on social media people comparing us, in terms of our experience, and we try to shut that out and not let it affect our relationship. So we take it as how it is, we help each other and we both are good in our own different ways.”

Abu Dhabi Racing claimed a impressive fourth-place finish in the Formula Regional Asian Championship. Above all, Al-Qubaisi was racing at the highest level of her career so far.

“It was very challenging, especially the handling of the car; it was very physical,” she said.

“The formula regional car is a really heavy car, much heavier than the FIA F3, so physically, it was really difficult to overcome. But pace-wise I was there. It’s just a matter of consistency, trying to be more focused and putting things together.

“It took me a while to adapt to it when I was off for a year. So I was training in the gym just didn’t have that same feeling of being in the car.”

The from the early days of karting at Yas Marina and Al-Ain raceway as nine-year-old, Al-Qubaisi has set an example for other aspiring female drivers in the UAE and the region. Slowly, other are starting to rise through the ranks as well.

“I’ve heard in our team, that there are two girls competing in karting, and they’re doing pretty well,” she said. “I’ve heard also a younger female Emirati is competing in Europe. So we are seeing a couple of girls getting into the sport and raising more awareness of the sport. So, hopefully, we can see them also in single seaters, or maybe even in GT cars.”

With government backing in terms of funding, programs and facilities, there has never been a better time for young drivers to get into racing

“I think people should be taking a lot of advantage of (what’s on offer) ,” she said.

“We have really good tracks. We have an F1 track, Yas Marina has a school where they provide opportunities for people who would like to take racing as a career, as a sport. They host a lot of races at Yas Marina, and at Dubai Autodrome as well. I think we should really take advantage because it’s also at low cost. It’s much cheaper than what Europe charges. So they are helping the racing community.”

For now, the Al-Qubaisi family remains firmly in the driving seat, in every sense, and Amna has high hopes for the future.

“Next season, we’re thinking to do a few rounds in Europe,” she said. “And hopefully F3 Asia again.”