Local heroes set to mix it with world’s best at Dubai Desert Classic

Local heroes set to mix it with world’s best at Dubai Desert Classic
Seventeen-year-old will tee off alongside some of the world's best players on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club. (Dubai Desert Classic)
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Updated 27 January 2022

Local heroes set to mix it with world’s best at Dubai Desert Classic

Local heroes set to mix it with world’s best at Dubai Desert Classic
  • UAE-based Ahmad Skaik and Josh Hill tee off at Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club after impressive recent showings

DUBAI: The UAE will be well represented at this week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic with two talented young local heroes, Ahmad Skaik and Josh Hill, teeing up alongside some of the world’s best golfers on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.

Dubai-born Hill hit the local headlines last week, making the cut in the Abu Dhabi Championship at Yas Links at the tender age of 17 and finishing just outside the top 50 on a respectable +3 after four tough days in difficult conditions.

At 24, UAE national Skaik has also been putting together some impressive recent performances, notably making the cut at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship before narrowly missing out on the weekend at the Aviv Dubai Championship, the penultimate tournament in the DP World Tour last November.

Both are raring to have a crack at the Majlis after receiving tournament invites for the $8 million Rolex Series event, which has attracted three of the world’s top 10, Ryder Cup stars, Major winners, and more.

Hill’s objectives are simple — taking things one shot at a time: “I don’t have any goals other than things like making sure I commit to every shot, making sure me and my caddie talk through the shot well, go through the process. I don’t really want to think about the result; that will come if I’m able to stick to those goals.”

On the prospect of facing the game’s big guns at a renovated Majlis course, he added: “I really like the changes to the course. The revamp of the greens has gone well and they’re running quite nicely. They’re a bit firm, but it’s the same for everyone. It’s obviously longer off the back tees, but you’ve just got to hit quality golf shots, same as last week, same as any tournament.”

Hill added: “It doesn’t really matter who you get paired with. It’s not going to change how I look at the course, or the week. It’s nice to get a good group, but it doesn’t really matter.”

Left-hander Skaik, still a student in his final year at university, is also looking forward to taking on the Majlis and testing himself against the best while playing from the tips. 

Of the Majlis, he said: “I like the Majlis off the tee, but it is different off these ones, I usually play from the blue tees for the men’s championships, but this is a great challenge. I’m hitting the ball well so that’s a positive.”

Skaik, who has been fitting in some practice while studying over the winter, had a tough weekend last time out when he missed the cut at the Abu Dhabi Championship. However, the left-hander was not too disappointed with his game overall, explaining that luck played a major part in two brutal rounds at the event’s new home at Yas Links.

“I would say I got a bit unlucky in the draw,” he said. “On day one I had a late tee time and played with a two-club wind for 17 holes. On day two, I had to come back to play the 18th to finish my round, into a 3-club wind. When I went out again for my second round the wind got up again and it was a 4-club wind all round.

“I actually played well off the tee both rounds and I hung in with my putting although it was tough, but my iron shots spun too much for the conditions, so I think I need to go to the UK to master those shots and links conditions. I need to keep these shots in my bag in case the situation arises again.”

On his ambitions for this week, Skaik just wants to contribute toward the growth of the game in the region. “It is always an honor to represent my country — and Arabs in general — and I want to inspire youngsters to show them that we can play in these tournaments, compete, and do well. I showed at the Aviv that it is possible. I’m one of them, so if I can do it they can do it as well.”

Simon Corkill, tournament director — Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, said: “The inclusion in the field of Ahmad and Josh this year underlines the commitment and investment we are making for the future of our game. Their success will elevate golf to another level in the UAE and wider Middle East region. We wish them well this weekend.”    


Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row
Updated 8 sec ago

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row
  • The 2-1 win meant Ramon Diaz’s team could not be caught by Al-Ittihad, who ended the season disappointing fashion with 0-0 draw again Al-Batin

RIYADH: Al-Hilal have been crowned champions of Saudi Arabia for a record-extending 18th time  after defeating Al-Faisaly 2-1 in Riyadh on Monday night to finish two points at the top of the table above rivals Al-Ittihad who were held to a 0-0 draw by Al-Batin. 

Two goals from the league’s leading scorer Odion Ighalo gave coach Ramon Diaz’s team an 11th win from the last 12 games and top spot for the third successive season, a campaign which is the longest ever after starting in mid-August 2021. It is a fantastic achievement for the Asian champions as they were 16 points behind Al-Ittihad in February when coach Ramon Diaz took over. 

Ighalo’s 22nd goal of the season after just seven minutes took the early nerves out of the occasion at the King Fahd International Stadium. The former Manchester United striker turned and fired home from close range after a smart pull-back from Brazil’s Michael. The second strike, which came four minutes after the hour, was similar. Michael beat two defenders on the right and squared the ball to Ighalo who swept home.

The game, and the title race, seemed to be all over but with 20 minutes remaining, the visitors silenced the celebrating home crowd with substitute Clayson arriving late to send a powerful header past Abdullah Al-Mayouf after a perfect Khalid Al-Kabi cross from  the right side. Suddenly there was tension among the home fans as Al-Faisaly, needing a result to guarantee top tier football next season, pushed forward in search of a potentially decisive point. 

The closest the men from Dammam came was deep into injury time when a shot from Tavares was cleared off the line, by a hand, claimed the visitors. This has been a season with plenty of last-minute drama and hearts were in mouths as Greek referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos went to the pitchside monitor. He waved away the desperate appeals and though the players did not know it, Al-Faisaly’s top flight status was already safe.  After 10 minutes of added time, it was all over. It was a frantic end to a frantic season and the celebrations reflected the champion’s relief and the delight at one of their more unlikely title triumphs.

Al-Hilal’s victory meant that, as they had the better head-to-head record against their challengers, that there was nothing Al-Ittihad could do down in Jeddah. The goalless draw with Al-Batin was, however, a disappointing end to a campaign that had promised so much.

The Tigers dropped 13 points in the final eight games, a run that cost them what would have been a first title since 2009. Al-Ittihad huffed and puffed against Al-Batin, who now drop to the second tier but were unable to break the deadlock in the first half. 

It was a terrible night all round for Jeddah as 2016 champions Al-Ahli were relegated to the second tier for the first time ever. A 0-0 draw against fourth place Al-Shabab condemned the 2012 Asian Champions League finalists to the drop.

That meant that Al-Ahli, Al-Batin and Al-Hazm are all relegated but it was a tense 90 minutes at the bottom half of the table with seven teams in with a chance of the drop going into the final game. 

Al-Taawoun ensured their survival with a 1-1 draw at Damac, who finish in fifth, while Al-Tai confirmed safety with a 3-0 win over Al-Hazm, a third victory in four games. Al-Raed defeated Abha 1-0, a result that preserves the top flight status of both teams, while Ettifaq are also safe thanks to a 1-0 win at Al-Feiha.

Elsewhere, Al-Nassr ended their season in third after a 2-1 win over Al-Fateh but it was elsewhere in Riyadh where the strains of "We Are The Champions" could be heard.


World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
Updated 27 June 2022

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
  • She will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32

LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur eased into the Wimbledon second round on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.
Jabeur, a quarter-finalist in 2021 and fresh from the grass-court title in Berlin, will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32.


2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
Saudi Arabia recently won the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. (SAFF)
Updated 27 June 2022

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
  • The Young Falcons won the Kingdom’s debut U-23 Asian Cup title
  • Saudi women’s team took second pace in the WAFF Futsal Championship

RIYADH: The triumph of the Young Falcons at the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the recent successes of the women’s national team has marked yet more milestones for Saudi Arabian football this year, after the senior team qualified for the World Cup in Qatar and the Kingdom’s clubs rack up great results in continental competitions.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “The success of the Saudi national teams demonstrates that our strategy is yielding positive results. Bringing back to the Kingdom the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time ever with our very own Saudi national coach, Saad Al-Shehri, is a source of great pride and satisfaction.

“The players who achieved this great feat will be part of the main drivers of the success of our National Team going forward.”

He added: “This gives us greater confidence and trust in our younger generation, beside the achievements we had this year for both men’s and women’s football. We are working on developing a pathway tailored for every up-and-coming Saudi footballer on the grassroots level.

“We are working on extending a very large pool of Saudi talent with the support needed for the upcoming generations of Saudi football to match the highest professional levels of the game, be it in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, as well as the dietary, psychological, physical and athletic aspects.”

The U-23 victory comes soon after the senior Green Falcons team qualified for their sixth World Cup participation ahead of this year’s tournament in Qatar. Herve Renard’s team topped their qualification group, which featured continental giants such as Japan and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League continues to grow in quality and importance at the Asian level, with Al-Hilal currently the holders of the AFC Champions League title. This year, three Saudi teams are set to feature in the competition’s round of 16, with Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Faisaly having topped their respective groups in the first round.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Futsal National Team also grabbed the silver medal in the West Asian Football Federation’s Futsal Championship. The Green Falcons demonstrated incredible quality throughout the tournament, before narrowly losing 5-3 to hosts Kuwait in the final. The team continued their fine run of form on the road reaching the quarterfinals in the Futsal Arab Cup taking place in Dammam following a thrilling 3-2 encounter against Iraq that ended their campaign.

Saudi women have also enjoyed their fair share of success in football this year. In February, the newly launched Saudi Women’s National Team played its first ever official games against the Seychelles and the Maldives, winning both games with the same 2-0 result. 

The Kingdom concluded their successful hosting of the 2022 West Asian Football Federation’s Women’s Futsal Championship in Jeddah, where the Saudi Women’s Futsal National Team made its debut in the competition and claimed a silver medal following a 4-2 defeat in the final against Iraq.


WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.


Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions need to match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin to secure a record 18th championship

DUBAI: Al-Hilal take on Al-Faisaly on Monday night at King Fahd International Stadium knowing that if they match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin, they will be crowned Saudi Pro League champions for a record 18th time.

It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions.

The Riyadh giants trailed Al-Ittihad by 16 points earlier in the campaign but a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season now sees them lead the SPL table on goal difference. A win tonight will guarantee the title, regardless of what the team from Jeddah, who have suffered a late loss of form and nerve, does.

Although Al-Hilal are strong favorites to defeat Al-Faisaly and claim the league title, Argentine coach Ramon Diaz will warn against any complacency, particularly as he will be missing the services of defenders Ali Al-Bulaihi and Jang Hyun-soo.

History suggests, however, that Al-Hilal’s fans will be celebrating tonight, having seen their team defeat Al-Faisaly 17 times in their 23 meetings, with the other six ending in draws.

Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly, in 11th place, go into the match still unsure of whether they will be playing top tier football next season, an indication of just how many clubs are still fighting relegation as the season comes to a close.

Having played 12 consecutive seasons in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Faisaly are flirting with the drop going into the last day, as they did in the 2016-17 season.