Former champ Laliscia: ‘AlUla has potential to become endurance capital of the Middle East’

AlUla will host over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022. (Supplied/RCU)
AlUla will host over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022. (Supplied/RCU)
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Updated 18 January 2022

Former champ Laliscia: ‘AlUla has potential to become endurance capital of the Middle East’

AlUla will host over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries at the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022. (Supplied/RCU)
  • Laliscia new general sports director for The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022
  • Contest will see over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries battle for prize of $4.2 million

ALULA: Former Endurance World Champion Gianluca Laliscia believes that AlUla has the potential to become one of the leading destinations for his sport, and wants to use this month’s 2022 Fursan Cup to take another important step on that journey.

“As soon as I set foot in AlUla, I could see the huge potential,” said Laliscia, who won the FEI Endurance World Championship in 2005, and since retiring from competition. has gone on to found and successfully run a number of businesses within the endurance world, including his current position as CEO and chairman of sistemaeventi.it, and founder of Italia Endurance Stables & Academy.

As the new general sports director for The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022, he is uniquely positioned to give an expert view on AlUla.

“As a place it has all the ingredients that you would want for a world class endurance ride — natural terrain, stunning landscape, a deep history of, and respect for, horses, as well as a collective and heartfelt ambition to grow the sport, both at an elite level but also as a source of equestrian tourism,” he said.

“Endurance is a wonderful sport. It’s my sport. It is unique amongst equestrian sports in that it involves a strong connection between three key elements: The rider, the horse and nature. For me, endurance riding is about freedom and emotion, and AlUla definitely has the potential to become the endurance capital of the Middle East.”

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022 is an international 120 km endurance competition organised in cooperation with the Royal Commission AlUla and Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, that will feature over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries. It is the third year that the event is being held and offers a prize fund worth $4.2 million.

Participants complete the course by riding four loops that take an average of eight hours to finish.

“Endurance also has a big connection with tourism, which is a very important point because the same track the international riders are using can also be used by amateurs. It is like a gym in an open space,” Laliscia said.

Reflecting back on his experience in Italy last May at the Longines FEI Endurance World Championship 2021 in Pisa he said: “In Italy, where the last World Championship took place, the total amount spent by visitors in that destination during one week was about €20 million ($22.7 million). People like to come and attend endurance events; and these people are very passionate.

“So, if we work well with the FEI, the SEF and the RCU, then I 100 percent believe that AlUla will be the capital of endurance in the Middle East because the people that I’ve met here are all working towards the same goal, which is very important.”

The event will be one of the main attractions of the Winter at Tantora Festival. Phillip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer of the RCU, said: “AlUla’s equestrian events are key pillars of what is a longer term strategy to share with the world the monumental beauty of AlUla as a place that is unique in the Arabian Peninsula and perfect for exploring on horseback.

“The RCU vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities for the elite end of the sport as well as more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.

“The experience of horseback riding amongst the desert splendour and rock formations creates unforgettable memories. Our third staging of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup will be no different for our all riders.”


Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash
Updated 10 min 41 sec ago

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash

Frankfurt, Rangers try to end title drought in their Europa League final clash
  • Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again

LONDON: Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers will get a chance to end decades of despair when they meet in the Europa League final on Wednesday.

For Frankfurt, it will be an opportunity to win their first European trophy in more than 40 years. For Rangers, a chance for their first continental title in 50 years.

Triumph in the second-tier competition in the Spanish city of Seville will also guarantee the winner an automatic spot in the group stage of next season’s Champions League.

“For Eintracht, for the fans, for the club, for the players, (winning again after 42 years) would be the most important thing ever,” Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner told UEFA.com. “It has extraordinary significance, great significance, and that’s why we’re going to try our best so that we come home with the trophy and spend one or two nights celebrating with our fans.”

It will be Frankfurt’s first European final since beating Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1980 in an all-German matchup in the UEFA Cup, the predecessor to the Europa League.

Rangers were close to European glory when they played in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but they lost to Zenit St. Petersburg. The Scottish club is looking for their first European trophy since earning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972.

Both clubs have huge fan bases, and tens of thousands are expected to swarm into southern Spain this week to try to see their team succeed again, prompting concern from local authorities and UEFA.

There had been fan violence involving visiting fans in Seville when local clubs Sevilla and Real Betis hosted matches earlier in the competition. Before the semifinals between Frankfurt and West Ham in Germany, more than 30 arrests were made after supporters of both clubs clashed in several locations in Frankfurt.

Fans of the German club also attracted headlines when more than 30,000 made their way into the Camp Nou in Barcelona for the second leg of the quarterfinals.

UEFA has asked for fans without tickets not to travel to Spain for Wednesday’s final, and warned about the dangers of purchasing tickets on the secondary market.

More than 40,000 seats will be available at Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium, but only about 10,000 tickets were allocated to each club. Seville city officials planned to open fan zones to accommodate those not able to make it to the game.

The match will pit two physical and high-intensity teams with impressive runs to the final.

Rangers, led by captain and top scorer James Tavernier, lost their first two group games but eventually gained momentum. It will be boosted by having already eliminated two German clubs — Borussia Dortmund in the first knockout round and Leipzig in the semifinals.

“When you’re in the knockout stages, it’s all or nothing, and the character of my players has been outstanding,” said Rangers coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who was hired in November after Steven Gerrard joined Aston Villa. “To be able to win against those strong opponents is really good, so we have the character to play this final, we have the qualities, and we also have the belief. That’s the most important thing, to have the belief that you can achieve.”

Frankfurt, led by veteran goalkeeper Kevin Trapp, made it to the final unbeaten after eliminating some strong opponents — Real Betis in the round of 16, Barcelona in the quarterfinals and West Ham in the semifinals. Frankfurt are trying to become the third unbeaten team to win the title in the Europa League era, after Chelsea in 2019 and Villarreal in 2021.

“Every team that gets to the final has earned it because it’s a long road. You have to win a lot of matches,” Glasner said. “Rangers eliminated two top teams from the Bundesliga over two legs. That shows they’re very good and also shows they’re well equipped for German football, so I’m expecting a very even, hard-fought contest.”

The last encounter between the two clubs was painful for Rangers. The Scottish club conceded six goals in each of the two legs of the European Cup semifinals in 1960, being deprived of an opportunity to play a home final in Glasgow. Frankfurt went on to lose the final to Real Madrid 7-3.

Frankfurt have not made it back to Europe’s top club competition since that final, while Rangers made their last appearance in the group stage of the Champions League in the 2010-11 season.

The last time the UEFA Cup final was played in Seville, in 2003, Rangers’ Scottish rival Celtic lost the title to José Mourinho-coached Porto.


Ali Abdulghani wins javelin gold on successful first day for Saudi Arabia at GCC Games in Kuwait

Ali Abdulghani wins javelin gold on successful first day for Saudi Arabia at GCC Games in Kuwait
Updated 16 May 2022

Ali Abdulghani wins javelin gold on successful first day for Saudi Arabia at GCC Games in Kuwait

Ali Abdulghani wins javelin gold on successful first day for Saudi Arabia at GCC Games in Kuwait
  • Kingdom’s Mohammed Daoud Tolo and Abdullah Abkar both take silver in shot put and 100 meters
  • There were also bronze medals for Muzna Al-Nassar in the women’s 10,000m and Hammoud Al-Awani in the men’s long jump

Ali Abdulghani claimed Saudi Arabia’s first gold medal of the third GCC Games in Kuwait by winning the javelin competition on Monday.

Abdulghani took top spot on the podium with a throw of 71.15 meters.

Abdullah Abkar took the silver medal in the men’s 100 meters with a time of 10.21 seconds, while compatriot Mohammed Daoud came fourth in a time of 10.32 seconds.

Mohammed Daoud Tolo also claimed a silver for the Kingdom in the shot put after a throw of 20.49 meters, while Hammoud Al-Alwani took bronze in the long jump with a distance of 7.15 meters.

There was another silver for Saudi Arabia as Mazen Al-Yassin finished second in the men’s 400 meters with a time of 45.83 seconds.

The first medal for the women’s team came in the 10,000 meters, with Muzna Al-Nassar claiming bronze with a time of 45:32.05 minutes.

In the women’s 100 meters, the Kingdom’s Yasmine Al-Dabbagh finished fifth with a time of 12.90 seconds, while Lojien Al-Hamid came seventh in 13.72 seconds.

Saudi runner Ruaa Al-Sulaimani finished fifth in the women’s 100-meter hurdles with a time of 18.83 seconds.

Saja Jalal, who was taking part in two events, finished sixth in the women’s shot put with a distance of 6.84 meters and fifth in the long jump with leap of 3.98 meters.

In the men’s futsal competition, the Kingdom’s team kicked off with 3-1 win over Bahrain with goals from Mohsen Fakihi, Fahad Al-Rudaini and Moaz Asiri.

But the women’s futsal team did not fare so well, going down 4-1 to Bahrain in their first match.


Hate ‘alive and well’ within football, anti-racism charity says

Hate ‘alive and well’ within football, anti-racism charity says
Updated 16 May 2022

Hate ‘alive and well’ within football, anti-racism charity says

Hate ‘alive and well’ within football, anti-racism charity says
  • Two men arrested for making ‘discriminatory gestures’ at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
  • Brentford players report racial abuse against family members during game at Goodison Park

LONDON: An anti-racism charity has said “hate is alive and well within football,” after incidents were reported during Premier League matches this weekend.

Two supporters were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offenses following “discriminatory gestures” at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

London’s Metropolitan Police said the two men were ejected from the Burnley section of the ground during the Clarets’ 1-0 defeat.

Meanwhile, two Brentford players reported to police that their family members were racially abused at Goodison Park during their away match with Everton, with the Merseyside club confirming they were working with police.

“There is no place in football — or society — for racism, we are assisting Merseyside Police to ensure the individual is identified and dealt with appropriately,” it said in a statement.

Defender Rico Henry, who scored the winning goal for Brentford in a 3-2 victory, tweeted: “I never usually speak out on things that don’t physically harm me or my family but to see my mom upset after being racially abused by a few Everton fans brought fire to my stomach.”

Ivan Toney also took to Twitter to call out a supporter, whom he alleged was racially abusing his family members, saying: “And for the man that racially abused my family I’ll do everything I can to get you the punishment you deserve!”

Troy Townsend, head of player engagement at charity Kick It Out, praised the swift action of the clubs involved and said he hoped anyone found guilty of using racially aggravated language or gestures would be punished.

“We have been made aware of a spate of new alleged anti-Semitic and racist comments and gestures linked to several clubs over the weekend,” he said.

“While investigations are ongoing, we cannot comment on the specifics of cases, however, the events of the weekend once again highlight the fact that hate is still alive and well within football.

“Everton, Burnley and Tottenham all acted swiftly and we commend their energy in addressing these incidents. We hope appropriate and decisive action is taken against all those involved.”


King’s Cup final against Al-Feiha could derail Al-Hilal’s pursuit of SPL title

King’s Cup final against Al-Feiha could derail Al-Hilal’s pursuit of SPL title
Updated 16 May 2022

King’s Cup final against Al-Feiha could derail Al-Hilal’s pursuit of SPL title

King’s Cup final against Al-Feiha could derail Al-Hilal’s pursuit of SPL title
  • The reigning Saudi champions could be emotionally and physically drained by the time they face leaders Al-Ittihad four days after Thursday’s showpiece final

The latest round of games in the Saudi Professional League was postponed as a mark of respect to UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan who passed away on Friday.

It meant that the Saudi Classico, the big clash between leaders Al-Ittihad and second-placed defending champions Al-Hilal, will have to wait a little longer.

The dates have changed and this could cast a different light on the title race. Now the rivals from Jeddah and Riyadh will meet on May 23. As a reminder, the gap between the two is six points with four games remaining. If Hilal win, then the pressure will be on Al-Ittihad for the first time since they went top of the league and started pulling away. Then the fight would really be on for the final three games of the campaign.

That can still happen, but now with a difference. Before the rescheduled title decider, Al-Hilal will first have to take on Al-Feiha in Thursday’s King’s Cup final.

This adds an extra dimension to the title race. The champions would surely have preferred to face Al-Ittihad first, cut the lead to three points and then let the leaders deal with that. Now however, they have to play a prestigious — as well as emotionally and physically draining — cup final just four days earlier and then go straight into the biggest league game of the season.

And the King’s Cup final is sure to be a big deal. It is the first chance for Al-Feiha to win a major trophy. The club are in sixth place in the league and are not going to finish any higher than that. Relegation is not an issue so they can focus all their energies on the game.

“If you look at how we play then you can see that we are a difficult opponent for the big teams,” said Al-Feiha coach Vuk Rasovic. “We will do our best to make our fans happy. The King’s Cup final is a very special match for us.”

Rasovic’s men are not to be underestimated and showed that by defeating Al-Ittihad in the semi-final. The Tigers, who are aiming to win the league for the first time since 2009, may now be quite happy with that elimination. Al-Hilal are favorites to emerge victorious but it is going to be a battle and extra-time and penalties are certainly not out of the question. There is also the risk of more injuries to a team that already has a number of players in the treatment room as the league campaign reaches a climax.

For Al-Hilal, the situation is now a little similar to Liverpool’s in England. The Reds have been chasing Manchester City at the top of the English Premier League, but on Saturday had to play the FA Cup final against Chelsea. They ended up winning that game but it was a grueling and hard-fought 90 minutes, followed by extra-time and then an emotional penalty shootout triumph. Liverpool are now scheduled to play Southampton on Tuesday in a game that they have to win if they are going to keep their league ambitions alive. They then end the season at home to Wolves on Sunday. This congested fixture list is made more difficult by Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk leaving the Wembley pitch with injuries on Saturday. But while the knocks don’t seem too serious, they were worrying moments for coach Jurgen Klopp and the fans.

All of these issues leave Ramon Diaz with plenty to think about. Had the final come after the Al-Ittihad game, then the Argentine would have a clear vision on his team’s chances for the title. Now, he needs to do all he can to win the King’s Cup and hope that this does not derail Al-Hilal’s slim chances of the league.

In some ways, having so many big games is a reflection of Al-Hilal’s success but Al-Ittihad will be much the fresher of the two teams when they meet in Jeddah next week and that could make a huge difference, especially in the closing stages of the match.

There are pressures at the bottom of the table too. The relegation battle is fierce, with the bottom half of the table all in danger. Al-Taawoun will be happy they played before the postponement came into effect and won their crucial six-pointer against Al-Batin. That dragged Al-Ettifaq into the bottom three but they are expected to defeat Al-Hazem, the only team adrift at the bottom. Al-Faisaly lost on Thursday and will be watching other results anxiously. The extra days have given teams a little more time to rest ahead of a crucial few weeks — all except Al-Hilal, who have big game after big game.

What was already a long season has become a little longer and will now run from August to June. There have been plenty of stops and starts with breaks for the successful World Cup qualification campaign and various Asian Champions League games. It can’t have been easy for the players but there is still plenty of excitement for the fans, starting with the King’s Cup final on Thursday and a potential title decider just four days later.


Futsal teams kick off Saudi Arabia’s participation at third GCC Games

Futsal teams kick off Saudi Arabia’s participation at third GCC Games
Updated 16 May 2022

Futsal teams kick off Saudi Arabia’s participation at third GCC Games

Futsal teams kick off Saudi Arabia’s participation at third GCC Games
  • Both men and women’s teams will take the field, as will Kingdom’s athletics squads at the tournament in Kuwait

Saudi Arabia’s men’s and women’s futsal teams will on Monday kick off the Kingdom’s bid for glory at the third Gulf Games in Kuwait, which will run until May 31.

The Saudi national athletics team for men and women will also be part of the action on the opening day, with runner Abdullah Abkar joining the 100m qualifiers, while Youssef Masrahi, Mazen Al-Yassin and Mohammed Daoud compete in the 400m qualifiers.

In the women’s athletics, runner Ruaa Al-Sulaimani is a finalist in the 400m, Saja Jalal will compete in the long jump and shot put competitions, and her colleague Lojien Al-Hamid will run in the 100m.

Hussain Al-Hizam and Ahmed Al-Yassin will be looking for podium finishes in the pole vault final on Monday evening, and at the same time Mohammed Tolo will be aiming for gold in the final of the shot put competition. Hammoud Al-Alwani and Mohammed Al-Yami, meanwhile, will compete in the long jump.