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.”    


Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship
Updated 5 min 10 sec ago

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship
  • The wrestler, who performs under the Raw brand, is looking for a ‘premium spot’ on the event set for Cardiff on Sept. 3

RIYADH: WWE’s international calendar continues to grow as it brings its staple events to its global fan base.

After the Elimination Chamber was held in Jeddah in February and with Clash at the Castle set for Sept. 3 in Cardiff, one WWE Superstar who cannot wait to be on the road is the returning “American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes.

Commenting on the upcoming show in the UK, he said: “As one of the biggest fans ever of SummerSlam 1992, I am shocked it’s taken this long. Clearly by the sign-up interest and the pre-sale interest and everything that’s happening, this aims to be the biggest stadium show in the world.

“It truly does. It’s one of those things [that], as a member of the roster, I’ve got to find my way onto it,” he added. “I’ve got to find my way into a premium spot because I have watched SummerSlam ‘92 so many times I can do the commentary almost verbatim. It’s our time now. It has been 30 years...It’s time for us to make our moment.”

Rhodes, who made his comeback to WWE during the last WrestleMania, is looking forward to going on the road again.

“I’m very much looking forward to touring the world, not just because I have the opportunity to be a face of the WWE brand at the moment, but because we were closed off from one another for too long,” he said.

“I’m a global sports entertainer. I like to go everywhere. I did that when I was with WWE and outside the company, and then the pandemic happened, lockdown happened, so I am looking forward to going everywhere that this show goes,” Rhodes added. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. You follow your show, and WWE is seen in every country and in every language, and I want to be able to connect with those folks.”

A revered second-generation wrestler, Rhodes credits his father, the late legend “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, for getting him into wrestling training when he was only 12 years old.

During his career, the younger Rhodes was one of the founders of All Elite Wrestling, a promotion in the US in which he was the inaugural and three-time AEW TNT Champion and also served as an executive vice president. He was also the NWA and Ring of Honor World Champion. The one title that Rhodes has yet to win is the WWE Championship.

“I don’t want to say that it’s the most important thing in my life because I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself,” he said. “If you know me and, fortunately and unfortunately, I have been so open...in front of the audience that they do really know me, I think they know that it is the most important thing, that all the pressure in the world is on me to do it. It is the one that got away. No Rhodes got their hands on it.

“I have said it, made it clear, and if it goes unobtained that’s one thing, but I just couldn’t let it go unsaid,” Rhodes added. “With that in mind, I have a habit of very much putting things out in the universe when it comes to sports entertainment and making sure they happen. I am a big, big proponent of sticking to your word. I would love to give my word to the WWE universe that not only do I want it, but I am going to get it. Only time will tell.”


Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait
Updated 14 min 55 sec ago

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait
  • The female Green Falcons defeated the UAE 4-1 in the third-place match on Tuesday night

The Saudi women’s futsal team have won the bronze medal in the third Gulf Cooperation Council Games taking place in Kuwait after defeating the UAE 4-1 in the third-place match.

The result marked the first time that the Saudi women’s futsal team have a podium finish at any level of the sport.

The team had kicked off the tournament by losing to Bahrain 4-1 and followed that up with 2-1 victories over Kuwait and the UAE.

In the semifinals, they lost 3-1 against Kuwait on penalties after the match and the extra period ended in a 2-2 draw.


Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur
Updated 17 min 55 sec ago

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur
  • Dammam will host the qualifying campaigns for tournaments set to take place in Bahrain and Uzbekistan next year

Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year, they will also be confident about their prospects.

The draw for qualification for both tournaments took place at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. In order to get a ticket to appear at the U-20 tournament, which will take place in Uzbekistan next year, Saudi Arabia will have to find some of the form that took them to the title back in 2018, when it was an U-19 competition.

That was when the young Green Falcons defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final in Indonesia to be crowned continental champions. It is still their title to defend as the global pandemic ensured that the 2020 edition never took place, though Saudi Arabia had already booked a berth by winning their group in qualification back in November 2019. 

Then they just managed to finish above Uzbekistan and have been grouped with the Central Asians once again in Group A, which will take place in September. This time, however, results against the White Wolves will not matter as they are already assured of a place in the tournament as host nation. That means that Saudi Arabia will just have to finish above China, Myanmar and the Maldives to guarantee a spot, though the five best-performing runners-up in the 10 groups will also go through.

It would be a surprise if that did not happen and not least because all the games will be held in the eastern city of Dammam. Playing in front of their own fans in one of the country’s most passionate football cities will be a major advantage. China will be expected to provide the main test but with football going through a terrible time at the moment in the East Asian country, youth tournaments may not be the priority they once were. Chinese Super League clubs are going out of business, the country has given up hosting the 2022 Asian Games and the 2023 Asian Cup, and the future is very uncertain. 

With the political situation in Myanmar, there has not been too much football played in recent months, and the young White Angels may be struggling for match fitness. Even when the Southeast Asians are at their best, a trip to Saudi Arabia is tough. And last but not least are the Maldives. The South Asians can be difficult opponents but should be no match for the defending champions, especially on their home patch. 

The U-17 tournament, which has been rebranded from the past U-16 championships, will be held much closer to home, in neighboring Bahrain. Once again, the group, this time Group D, will be held in Dammam, and while it looks a little more challenging for the two-time champions, Saudi Arabia will again be strong favorites to progress with the format the same: the 10 group winners go through along with the five best runners-up to join the hosts Bahrain.

The 2020 tournament did not go ahead thanks to the pandemic, but Saudi Arabia had booked their berth before it was called off by finishing above Oman, Pakistan and Syria in September 2019. The cancelation was a bitter pill to swallow for the boys from Riyadh, Jeddah and elsewhere as they had failed to qualify for the 2018 edition, losing out to Jordan.

This group does not look quite so difficult as that. Interestingly, Myanmar and the Maldives are also opponents, and the same points apply to this age category as to the slightly older one. Neither will be expected to finish in the top two spots. India have ambitions in this regard and will relish the chance to test themselves against one of the continent’s big boys but maybe do not quite have the strength in depth to challenge in West Asia. Kuwait may be tricky. After suffering at the hands of Jordan in September 2017, the hosts will be wary of the Blues in October 2022.

But given the opposition, home advantage and where Saudi Arabian football is currently at, both the U-17 and U-20 teams are strongly expected to make it to both Uzbekistan and Bahrain in 2023 and once there, will be expected to challenge for the big prize.


UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
Abramovich was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File/AFP)
Updated 25 May 2022

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
  • Abramovich was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31

LONDON: Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as Chelsea owner is closer to ending after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
The government had to be sure that Abramovich, who was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not profit from the enforced sale of the club that his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football.
The reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions will be sold for 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) — the highest price ever for a sports team — once Premier League approval is granted.
Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31.
“Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual,” the British government said in a statement released Wednesday. “We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.
“The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.”
It was a hotly-contested sale process following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months ago and Boehly’s group had to guarantee 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) of investment in the team to be chosen as the new owners.
Chelsea had already agreed earlier this month to a deal with the consortium that features Boehly along with Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and funding from private equity firm Clearlake Capital.
Chelsea fans have become accustomed to lavish funding in the 19 years under Abramovich’s ownership, with more than $1 billion net spending on players who have helped the men’s team win 21 trophies.
Abramovich, who has not condemned the war, has said he would write off loans of more than 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to Chelsea but that has been complicated by the sanctions put in place by the British government.
Chelsea’s ability to sell match tickets and commit to new player spending has been curbed by the sanctions.
The certainty is that Chelsea will be playing in the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League last Sunday despite the off-field turmoil. The women’s team won a league and cup double with a squad funded by Abramovich’s investment.
Chelsea had won the men’s championship only once — in 1955 — when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Helped by expensive signings, the club won the Premier League two years later and has added four more since then, most recently in 2017.
Investment is needed in Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans for a rebuild of the 41,000-capacity venue put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 when British-Russian diplomatic tensions deepened.
The $3.1 billion cost of Chelsea eclipses the $2.3 billion paid in 2018 for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
As well as being part owner of the MLB’s Dodgers, Boehly also has minority stakes in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.


NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
Updated 25 May 2022

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting

NBA legends Kerr, LeBron lead sports world fury after Texas school shooting
  • Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr in one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport

LOS ANGELES: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made an impassioned plea for gun control in the wake of the Texas school shooting that left 18 children dead on Tuesday as the US sporting world reacted with horror over the tragedy.

Kerr refused to talk about his team’s NBA playoff match with the Dallas Mavericks in a pre-game press conference, held hours after a teenage gunman opened fire at a school in the Texas town of Uvalde.

An emotional Kerr, one of the most outspoken and articulate voices on social issues in American sport, slammed his hand on a table as he accused US lawmakers who refuse to vote on tougher gun laws of “holding the American people hostage.”

“I’m not going to talk about basketball,” Kerr told reporters shortly before Tuesday’s Eastern Conference finals game four in Dallas. “Any basketball questions don’t matter.

“Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here, and a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school.

“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there.

“I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother.

“How would you feel if this happened to you today” asked Kerr, whose father was murdered by Islamic militants in Beirut in 1984.

Kerr reserved toughest criticism for members of the US Senate who have refused to vote on legislation that would introduce stricter background checks for gun owners.

“Fifty Senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage,” Kerr said. “Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks, universal background checks? Ninety percent of us.

“We are being held hostage by 50 Senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want.”

Kerr’s sense of outrage was shared by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who also called for change.

“Like when is enough enough man!!!,” James wrote on Twitter. “These are kids and we keep putting them in harms way at school. Like seriously, “AT SCHOOL” where it’s suppose to be the safest!

“There simply has to be change. HAS TO BE!!“

NFL athletes also demanded change. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who grew up in Texas, wrote on Twitter: “Has to stop man...prayers to all the families in Texas.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive star DeMarcus Lawrence meanwhile tweeted directly at Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“Who is going to stand up and DEMAND we have better security at all these schools that can’t afford it????” Lawrence wrote. “How are our tax dollars not going to those who need the most protection??!! OUR CHILDREN! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!“

Former Houston Texans icon J.J. Watt added: “Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Horrifying horrifying news out of Texas.”