Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race

 Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race
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Reema Juffali celebrates finishing second at the 24 Hours of Dubai with her team-mates at SPS Automotive Performance. (Supplied)
 Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race
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The 24 Hours of Dubai was Reema Juffali's first experience of endurance racing in a GT3 car. (Supplied)
 Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race
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Reema Juffali carries the Saudi flag at the end of the 24 Hours of Dubai race. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race

 Saudi star Juffali eager to continue in GT3 after clinching 2nd at 24 Hours of Dubai race
  • After making her endurance racing debut at Dubai Autodrome, Juffali has her eyes set on Le Mans

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s motorsport star Reema Juffali has outlined her ambitions to continue racing in GT3 following her second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Dubai race, with her eyes firmly set on competing in Le Mans.

In her debut GT3 race behind the wheel of the #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3, the Jeddah-born driver impressed for SPS Automotive Performance at the weekend as she joined her teammates Valentin Pierburg, George Kurtzand and Ian Loggie to steer the team to second place in the GT3-AM class at the Dubai Autodrome.

She was behind the wheel for around six hours in total, testing her driving skills in the endurance format competitively for the first time since racing in the single-seater British F3 Championship last year.

“The result was beyond many expectations that I had so I am really happy with how it all went,” said Juffali.

“The goal was simply to finish and as this was my first GT3 and endurance race, I had set a realistic expectation. But when we saw what we were capable of during qualifying, we saw that there was the potential for a podium finish. Because of our strategy and approach, we got to finish, which is a great feat in itself but to also get second position in our class and a top 10 finish overall was an incredible feeling.”

While she enjoyed competing in the 24 Hours of Dubai, she believes her single-seater racing experience was crucial in achieving the impressive debut result and has her dream of lining up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans — the world’s oldest active endurance racing event — firmly in her sights.

“During my time in single-seaters, I wanted to learn as quickly as I could with the best in the business and learn the hard way,” Juffali said. “It was something I was willing to take because I knew there was a greater reward in the long run. This race is a testament to that, and I know that I am in the right place now and have the right tools to take the next steps towards my dream of racing in Le Mans.”

She added: “The biggest thing for me is to go into GT3 racing, that’s the plan and finding the right team and environment to become the best that I can and gain the best experience. Hopefully in the next two years I can compete in Le Mans if it all goes well.”


Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape
Updated 19 sec ago

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape
  • Strongarm tactics used by BCCI to get its way have become commonplace in ICC governance regime as calls for independent board members, more egalitarian distribution of power and money have not been heeded

One of the most disturbing aspects of cricket that has emerged through these columns has been the questionable quality of governance that exists in parts of the cricket world.

 

 

Ten years ago, a report was published that looked into the governance of the International Cricket Council, the governing body of international cricket. The report included an analysis of governance structures, ethics, membership and funding. It also considered the purpose of the ICC, which, according to its Memorandum of Association of the time, was “to administer, develop, co-ordinate, regulate and promote cricket world-wide in co-operation with its members.”

The review was initiated by then ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorat and was led by former UK Chief Lord Justice Harry Woolf in association with a prominent international consulting firm. As such, the review was deemed to be independent. Despite reservations from the Indian Board of Control for Cricket, the ICC board had approved it.

There were 65 recommendations and a number of damning criticisms of the way the ICC was functioning. One of these suggested that the body “reacts as though it is primarily a members’ club, its interest in enhancing the global development of the game is secondary. In today’s environment, this is not an acceptable situation. Cricket is a global game and there is a need for global governance.”

At that time, the executive board comprised chairs or presidents from each of the 10 full (Test-playing) members, three elected associate member representatives, and the ICC CEO, vice president and president, who chaired. The perception was that this construction allowed those member countries with the most power to look after themselves rather than the wider game.     

Woolf’s report recommended a restructuring of the ICC’s board to make it more independent. It suggested ways to reduce the domination of bigger countries and called for a re-examination of the rights and benefits of the Test-playing full member nations. This focused on a different financial model based on the need of members that would enable the ICC to distribute funding in accordance with its overarching role to promote and develop international cricket.

Additionally, it called for measures to increase transparency in dealings by the ICC and its members, setting out clear parameters for ethical conduct. 

Narayanaswami Srinivasan, BCCI board president and India’s representative on the ICC board, quickly announced that the BCCI rejected the key recommendations of the report out of hand, without saying why.

Srinivasan also owned an IPL franchise through his company, India Cements. Following the uncovering of match-fixing scandals and conflicts of interest involving the operation of the franchise, the Supreme Court of India was asked to intervene. One of its acts, in March 2014, was to order that Srinivasan should step down as BCCI president. This only served to create space for him to become, in June 2014, the first chair of the ICC board, following constitutional changes precipitated by the Woolf report.

Given Srinivasan’s outright rejection of Woolf’s recommendations, the chances of implementing the most contentious ones were remote. Instead, an attempt to increase the concentration of power within the ICC was mounted, even before the new chair took post. Under a proposal put forward by India, Australia and England, a new executive committee comprising representatives from each country, plus one other full member, would be created, with the “Big Three” holding rotating chairs of key committees. This did meet with opposition from other full members and some concessions were garnered, but the direction of travel was opposite to Woolf’s.

In the ever-twisting relationship between the ICC and BCCI, Srinivasan was removed as chair in November 2015 at the request of the BCCI, which was concerned about ongoing conflicts of interest. He was replaced by Shashank Manohar, then president of the BCCI. He served two two-year terms with the ICC, being instrumental in reformulating Srinivasan’s plans. This occurred in 2017, but not without drama.

In April 2017, the board approved, by 13 votes to 1, a revised financial model for the 2016-2023 cycle. Under this, India would receive $293 million, England $143 million, Zimbabwe $94 million and the other seven full members $132 million each. It would be no surprise to learn that the dissenting vote was India’s since it had been seeking $570 million. Other changes approved by the board opened the way for more Test cricket nations, removed the affiliate level of membership to leave only two categories — full and associate member — and introduced an independent female director, along with amendments that expanded on and clarified the roles and objectives of the ICC to provide leadership in international cricket.

All of this required ratification by the full council in June 2017. Meanwhile, India threatened to boycott the ICC’s Champions Trophy, so it should not be surprising to learn that the revenue distribution had changed by the ratification date. The BCCI was allocated $405 million, England $139 million and the other full members unchanged or slightly reduced amounts. Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test status and shared $240 million with associate members. India did enter the Champions Trophy.

Strongarm tactics used by the BCCI to get its way have become commonplace in the ICC governance regime. While some of Woolf’s recommendations have been implemented over the years, his key calls for independent board members and a more egalitarian distribution of power and money have not. This is hardly a surprise given the BCCI’s overwhelming dominance on both counts.

It claims to generate 70 percent of cricket’s global revenues. On that basis, it feels entitled to the lion’s share of ICC revenue distribution.

The battle is over the size of that share and who determines it. This ought to be the ICC with its remit to promote and develop cricket at all levels throughout the world. It is hard to resist the feeling that Woolf would be distinctly unimpressed by the shackles and tensions under which the ICC still has to operate, imposed mainly by the BCCI. Who is going to control the future landscape of world cricket, especially if the next ICC chair is Indian?


Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
Updated 26 May 2022

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
  • Uzbekistan recently announced as venue for tournament in West zone

RIYADH: The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed the Football Association of Thailand as the host member association for the upcoming AFC Women’s Club Championship – Pilot Tournament in the East region.

The match schedule has also been finalized with teams in the East – Taichung Blue Whale FC from Taiwan, Myanmar’s ISPE FC Women, and a club from Thailand to be decided by June 2022 – with games set to be played from Aug. 15 to 21.

In addition, the Uzbekistan Football Association was confirmed as the host member association for the West, which will be comprised of participating clubs from the host country, India, Iran, and Jordan and will be staged from Aug. 20 to 26, marking the first time the competition has been held across the two regions.

While the final cast of participating clubs will be confirmed at a later date, this year’s edition will also see the introduction of the first ever regional final contest between the East and West group leaders, which will take place in conjunction with the 2022 AFC Cup final on Oct. 22.

The winners will join 2019 victors Nippon TV Beleza from Japan and 2021 champions Amman Club from Jordan in the pilot editions’ honors roll, with the ultimate aim of chasing continental club glory ahead of the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League in 2024.


Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex
Updated 26 May 2022

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid gives Spanish football inferiority complex
  • Days before Champions League final against Liverpool, new La Liga champs left reeling when French international opted to stay at Paris Saint-Germain
  • Spanish game has lost some star attractions since departures of Cristiano Ronaldo from real Madrid, Lionel Messi from Barcelona

RIYADH: Real Madrid may be days away from another Champions League final, but it seems the biggest talking point at the club at the weekend was Kylian Mbappe’s decision to stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Spanish giants, and their President Florentino Perez, simply do not take kindly to be being rejected, and certainly not twice as the French World Cup winner has just done.

On Saturday, Mbappe confirmed he would stay on at Paris Saint-Germain instead of making a move that had been all but set in stone earlier in the week. His new contract will keep him in the French capital until 2025 and allegedly give him benefits and powers never before afforded to a professional footballer.

And it was not only in Madrid where the decision did not go down well.

In recent days, even Barcelona President Joan Laporte has criticized Mbappe’s decision, calling players who signed long-term contracts for PSG “slaves to money.”

But perhaps the most outraged reaction came from the president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, who questioned the French club’s ability to pull off such a lucrative deal having incurred losses of $750 million in recent seasons and with a salary bill of more than $640 million. It was, he said, an “insult to football.”

In short, the move has been seen as a slap in the face for La Liga and Spanish football.

La Liga, astonishingly, even filed complaints to UEFA and the EU against Paris Saint-Germain “in defense of the integrity of the economic system of European football.”

In its statement, La Liga considered the actions of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the Parisian club, “a danger to European football,” and stressed that such deals threatened the economic sustainability of the game in Europe, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs and sporting integrity at risk in the medium term. The deal, it said, was a “complete scandal.”

It is not hard to see where all the anger stems from. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid and, later, Lionel Messi from Barcelona, La Liga has lost some of its luster.

Mbappe’s rejection of Real Madrid comes only weeks after Erling Haaland, also a target at the Bernabeu, signed for English Premier League champions Manchester City.

This has not been helped by Barcelona’s marked decline and economic troubles, despite Xavi Hernandez bringing about a relative mood of positivity around his young team. And though Real Madrid have fared better, winning the league title this season, and reaching the Champions League final, at times they have seemed a shadow of the team that won three continental titles under Zinedine Zidane.

Signing Mbappe would have been Tebas’ way of redressing the balance, Madrid once again becoming home to the world’s best player.

That will not happen now.

Even should Real Madrid win the Champions League final in what is sure to be a heated confrontation with a wounded Liverpool, few can deny that in recent years the war quality of the squad at the club has waned, something that Perez was keen to address with other new signings.

There is a danger, however, that the world’s best players are looking elsewhere. Spain, for so many years the ultimate destination, no longer has the same pull.

Never was this clearer than on Sunday night, when the whole world seemingly tuned in enthralled to the finale of the Premier League season.

They were not disappointed either, as the Etihad Stadium witnessed Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City win the title after a remarkable five-minute spell saw them overrun a two-goal deficit against Aston Villa, while Liverpool kept the pressure on to the last with a 3-1 win against Wolves at Anfield.

The Premier League may be overhyped at times, but days like that make it hard to deny that it remains the strongest, most exciting, and most popular league in the world. In marketing speak, its product is unmatched.

That is what Tebas is up against.

The two Spanish giants will no doubt strengthen their squads in anticipation of another battle for supremacy next season, but El Classico may not be the draw it once was if players continue to head to the Premier League or Paris Saint-Germain.

For Perez, the announcement of Mbappe was a major step to establishing Real Madrid as Europe’s prominent destination, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s final against Liverpool.

Now he has to start all over again.

Already there are reports of a deal with Aurelien Tchouameni of Monaco. Will Real Madrid compensate for the Mbappe deal by attempting to sign Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane from their Champions League final opponents, or even Richarlison from Everton? And will Perez and the fans even be satisfied with any of these after having their heart set on Mbappe?

That such questions have preoccupied Spanish fans and officials ahead of European football’s biggest game shows the extent to which they have been rattled.

A defeat for Real Madrid on Saturday, and Spanish football’s recent sense of an inferiority complex might just grow even more.


Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals
Updated 26 May 2022

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals

Celtics beat Heat to move within a win of NBA Finals
  • The Celtics improved to 6-2 on the road in this year’s playoffs

MIAMI: Jaylen Brown scored 25 points and Jayson Tatum added 22 as the Boston Celtics moved to the brink of the NBA Finals on Wednesday by defeating Miami 93-80.

Tatum also contributed game-highs of 12 rebounds and nine assists as the visiting Celtics took a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series, which continues in Boston on Friday.

“We can’t think it’s over with,” Tatum said. “We have to go home like we’re down 3-2, with that sense of urgency. Not being satisfied. We’ve got things to clean up, we’ve got to be playing better. The job is not done yet.

“It’s far from over.”

The Celtics, who rallied from a 3-2 deficit to eliminate defending champion Milwaukee in the second round, are one victory from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010, when they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

They have not captured the NBA crown since 2008, when they beat the Lakers.

“This is a great opportunity,” Brown said. “We have an opportunity to do something special.”

The Celtics improved to 6-2 on the road in this year’s playoffs.

A physical, defensive-minded contest was decided late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, when the Celtics went on a 24-2 run, Brown scoring 13 in the spurt and Tatum adding seven.

“We just got it going offensively,” Brown said. “We stopped turning the ball over. We cleaned it up, made more shots and got settled in.”

The Celtics dominated the third quarter, outscoring Miami 32-16 and closing the period with a 10-0 run for the largest lead to that point at 69-58 entering the fourth quarter.

For the game, Brown hit 10-of-19 from the floor, 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

“The game opened up in the second half,” Brown said. “My team needed me to come out and respond.”

Miami went 4-for-22 shooting from the floor in the third quarter.

“The consecutive missed open shots started to affect us on the other end,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

“As poorly as we played offensively, we were able to compete defensively and keep them to under 100.”

Boston then opened the fourth quarter with a 14-2 run to seize command at 83-60 and the Celtics held off Miami from there, an emphatic slam dunk by Brown serving notice the visitors would not be letting the Heat make the game dramatic over the final minutes.

“We played great defense in the first half. We played great defense in the second half,” Brown said. “Once we started shooting the ball straight I knew we’d have a good half.”

Bam Adebayo led Miami with 18 points and also added 10 rebounds. But the Heat shot only 30-of-94 from the floor and 7-of-45 from 3-point range.

“We wear teams out defensively and make it hard on them mentally and physically,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “If we do that we’re in good shape.”

The Heat’s starting backcourt, Max Strus and Kyle Lowry, were a combined 0-of-15 from the floor, 0-for-12 from 3-point range.

“I’ve got to play better,” Lowry said. “Tonight I played terrible. When I get on the court I have to be better.”

Al Horford added 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two blocks for the Celtics. The 35-year-old Dominican center seeks his first NBA crown.

“Al is old reliable,” Brown said. “He gives us whatever we need.”

Boston’s Marcus Smart played despite a right ankle sprain and teammate Robert Williams was on the court despite a left knee injury.

Smart had five points, five rebounds and four assists plus stalwart defensive moves while Williams contributed six points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots.

“Rob is a very big part of what we do,” Horford said. “I’m impressed at his poise. He’s huge for us.”


Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck
Updated 26 May 2022

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck

Verstappen heads to Monaco where Leclerc awaits a change of luck
  • Verstappen took control of the championship by easing six points clear of Monegasque driver Leclerc of Ferrari, who was forced into retirement at the Circuit de Catalunya

MONACO: World champion Max Verstappen heads home this weekend hoping to survive the chaos and beat archrival and luckless local hero Charles Leclerc again in Sunday’s 79th running of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Just days after leading his teammate Sergio Perez over the line in a Red Bull 1-2 last weekend in Spain, the 24-year-old Dutchman will bid for a repeat to consolidate his grip at the top of this year’s title race.

Verstappen took control of the championship by easing six points clear of Monegasque driver Leclerc of Ferrari, who was forced into retirement at the Circuit de Catalunya.

He seeks a fourth consecutive win and second in the classic contest in Sunday’s potentially rain-affected race.

“Qualifying is critical, like always,” said the 2021 victor.

“Monaco is always a hectic weekend, but special. The track is old school, narrow and it makes your heart rate go so high it’s insane.

“We have to be constantly on the edge. It’s a pretty crazy place with Formula One cars! I finally won there last year — and it was a massive relief to cross the line.”

Like Leclerc, who was born and lives in the Mediterranean principality, Verstappen is based there — for climatic and tax purposes — along with several other drivers including seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

As a result, they enjoy an intimate knowledge of the circuit regarded as the most iconic and glamorous on the F1 calendar, but also the rare luxury of sleeping at home during a race weekend.

For Leclerc, however, that comfort has yet to be of any help on the tight, unforgiving and sinuous barrier-lined street track that requires total concentration and extraordinary driver skills.

At just 3.337 kilometers, it is the shortest on the calendar, offers few overtaking opportunities, rapid and multiple gear changes and tricky changes in elevation and direction. Only 42 percent of the lap is run at full speed, the lowest of the year.

Despite knowing all this and having gone by bus to school on the same stretches of asphalt, Leclerc has yet to finish his home Grand Prix in three attempts since 2018. Last year, after crashing on Saturday, he could not start Sunday’s race.

Before that, he had to retire after starting from pole in a Formula Two race in 2017 and, more recently, earlier this month, crashed a classic 1974 Ferrari, raced by Niki Lauda, at a historic demonstration event.

Yet he remains calm and optimistic, hoping a change to the classic Monaco routine this year — with practice starting on Friday, and not Thursday, as was once traditional — will help.

“I think it gives us the rhythm of the other races, which could be good so I am looking forward to that and giving it a go,” he said, deflecting any negative thoughts after a power failure in Spain, while leading, brought him his first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the season.

“My attitude is always the same, regardless,” he added. “Every point is valuable. We know that even the smallest mistake can make a bid difference.”

After dominating practice and starting from pole in Spain, Leclerc and Ferrari will hope they can continue to set the pace, but they know Red Bull will be a threat and reliability a key factor.

“Since the start of the season, the team that has done everything perfectly was the one to win. We will do everything to be that team,” said Leclerc.

“We have the confidence that we can make it, which is a good starting point.”

After returning to competitive form with a heavily upgraded car in Spain, where George Russell was third and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton fifth, Mercedes will also be hopeful, but realistic.

“We made a big step and halved the advantage of the front-runners,” said team chief Toto Wolff.

“But there’s still a long way to go. And Monaco was not our happiest place in the past. My expectations are lower than at any other circuit.”

Mercedes have won only once since 2016 after winning four in a row and the unique showpiece race has been Red Bull’s twice in three years since Ferrari’s last win in 2017, with Sebastian Vettel.

To many observers, another Ferrari win and an end to Leclerc’s agonies is long overdue.