Meet Fayik Abdi, the first Saudi Arabian skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games 

Meet Fayik Abdi, the first Saudi Arabian skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games 
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Fayik Abdi is the first ever Saudi skier to qualify to the Winter Olympics. (Supplied)
Meet Fayik Abdi, the first Saudi Arabian skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games 
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Fayik Abdi is the first ever Saudi skier to qualify to the Winter Olympics. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2022

Meet Fayik Abdi, the first Saudi Arabian skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games 

Meet Fayik Abdi, the first Saudi Arabian skier to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games 
  • The 24-year-old got the nod ahead of team-mate and friend Salman Al-Howaish for Saudi Arabia’s solitary spot at the 2022 Beijing Olympics from Feb. 4-20

JEDDAH: Mention the Winter Olympics, and chances are you imagine participants from nation’s with snow-peaked mountains and cold weather.

What you don’t expect are athletes from a country known for its high temperatures, such as Saudi Arabia.

It’s time to adjust expectations. Saudi Fayik Abdi, 24, has qualified to compete in Alpine skiing — Giant Slalom category — at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to take place from Feb. 4-20.

The skier’s qualification created history as he became the first athlete from Saudi Arabia, and the GCC, to make the Winter Olympics.

On Jan.19,  the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee tweeted: “Fayik Abdi to participate in Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, selected by the technical management of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee as the first Saudi and Gulf player to participate in the Winter Olympics.” 

Chen Weiqing, ambassador of China to Saudi Arabia and representative of China to the IOC, followed up with his own tweet: “Champions among us.” 

Two Saudi skiers had qualified to the games, Abdi and Salman Al-Howaish, but as the rules allowed only one to participate, the former got the nod.

The Saudi Arabian Winter Sports Federation told Arab News: “Two players achieved points that helped them to be both qualified for the Olympics, but due to the regulations of the Winter Games, there is only one seat for the eligible alpine skiers from the Kingdom.”

“A technical comparison was conducted in cooperation with the Saudi Olympic Committee, and Abdi was selected to officially participate in the alpine skiing competition in the giant slalom category,” they said. “As a result of obtaining the highest evaluation in the comparison and as an appreciation of the historical achievement, the two athletes will equally receive a financial reward for qualifying for the Olympics.”

Abdi, in an exclusive interview with Arab News, spoke about his journey as a Saudi skier and how honored and proud he is to represent his country in Beijing.  

“I was so happy when once I received the federation’s email in the first week of January, saying that the athlete with highest world ranking on the Olympic list will be chosen to go to the Olympics, but actually it did not change much because I knew I was the one chosen,” he said. “I think I need to try to keep my head down and focus on what I need to keep doing which is training, staying grounded and humble.”

To compete with your teammate for a historic spot at the Olympics needs some sort of understanding. 

“We mentioned early on, between him and I, that we need to have healthy competition, and we need to push one another to be better every day and if we do that, we will be able to qualify, so I would say it was a collective effort,” Abdi said. 

“To be honest I need to give a lot of credit to my teammate Salman Al-Howaish because he worked hard and his skiing motivated me to also work hard and ski well.” 

Abdi explained that the best skier in the world has 0 points so the closer the result to 0 the better.

“There is a slight difference between my score and Al-Howaish score. Mine was 131 FIS points and he had 151 FIS points.”  

FIS is the international governing body that sets international competition rules for a range of snow sports. He added: “Al-Howaish  and I are really good friends and I was so happy that we were able to cross paths as we come from a place where not so many people ski.”

Throughout his skiing journey, Abdi has skied in many countries including France, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Montenegro and Italy. In the Olympics, he will be competing with Alpine skiers from around the globe such as Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, Beijing, India, Haiti, Austria, and Norway. 

“I started skiing at the age of four in Faraya, Lebanon, the country’s largest and most popular ski destination; not continuously as it was quite challenging to do that while living in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “My mom taught me how to ski; it is the sport I fell in love with right away ever since I have been going in skiing trips,” he said. 

Abdi has mainly been practicing skiing in Utah for the past five years after moving to the US in 2016. 

“I also skied many times on ski trips to Switzerland,” he said.

In 2019, Abdi received a certification called “Outdoor Emergency Care,” catered around dealing with emergencies in the mountains during snowy weather. 

“I did it in Snowbird, Utah in order to be prepared in case of emergency,” he said. 

Alpine skiing is a skiing technique known best in central Europe, and practiced in the mountainous terrain of the Alps, having evolved during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“I choose Alpine skiing because I like skiing fast,” Abdi said. “It is an extremely technical sport; when people watch it they do not realize how technical it is.”

The 2022 winter season in the southern region of Saudi Arabia has witnessed snowy weather, specifically in Tabuk’s Al-Lawz mountain.

Abdi said that he practiced skiing in the Kingdom once in NEOM last year while filming a shoot. 

“It was a great experience, I didn’t even know that we have mountains this high in Saudi, and I am really excited for what NEOM is doing regarding growing the skiing industry in Saudi and making it a sport that we can actually participate in.” 

Saudi Arabia may be a desert country with a first-time qualifier to the Winter Olympics, but it has provided the best support an athlete could hope for. 

“I would like to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Winter Sports Federation, and the Olympic Committee for all the support, funding, and trust they put throughout this journey,” Abdi said. 

“The support we have received from the Kingdom and Saudi Winter Sports Federations is incredible, we have received what the best teams in the world won’t get half of. It is really impressive how much my country has put into this.” 


Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy
Updated 15 sec ago

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy

Al-Fayha shock Al-Hilal in King’s Cup final to claim first-ever major trophy
  • The underdogs took the Saudi and Asian champions to extra time after holding them to a 1-1 draw in normal time, before winning 3-1 on penalties

Al-Fayha defeated Al-Hilal 3-1 in a penalty shootout on Thursday to claim the King’s Cup, the first major trophy in the club’s history.

After two hours of football ended 1-1 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, the men from Al-Majma’ah were the ones celebrating after Panagiotis Tachtsidis fired home the decisive spot-kick.

It was a stunning ending to the game, during which a Salem Al-Dawsari goal deep into first-half stoppage time broke the deadlock and put Al-Hilal ahead, before Ramon Lopes equalized for the underdogs midway through the second half.

The Riyadh giants had more of the game in terms of possession and chances but nevertheless found it hard going against determined opponents who have the best defensive record in the country. Had Al-Hilal been a little more clinical during the opening exchanges it might have been a very different evening.

It was a breathless opening by the favorites. Coach Ramon Diaz had talked before the game about how his team needed to take their chances because Al-Fayha have the tightest defense in the country, and had they heeded those words Al-Hilal could have almost put the game beyond reach within the first 10 minutes.

With less than five minutes on the clock, the men in blue almost took the lead when Nasser Al-Dawsari burst through onto a loose ball in the area and lifted his shot over the goalkeeper. It was heading toward the back of the net when, almost out of nowhere, Hussein Al-Shuwaish appeared and hooked the ball clear. Soon after, Al-Fayha goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic got down low at his near post to save well from Odion Ighalo.

Five minutes later, Al-Hilal again came close. Moussa Marega sent over a perfect cross from the right side for Al-Dawsari, who arrived unnoticed and unmarked. Somehow, the winger managed to head wide with the goal at his mercy.

Al-Fayha weathered this early storm during the first 20 minutes, during which they did not even manage to secure one fifth of the possession, before finally starting to venture into opposition territory. At the midway point of the first half, Ahmed Bamsaud sent a header over the bar. By that time, the game had settled into a scrappy affair and it looked likely that the two teams would go in goalless at the break.

But with virtually the last kick of the half, Al-Dawsari struck. Collecting the ball from Salman Al-Faraj just inside the left side of the area, the 30 year old took a touch and, with the goalkeeper perhaps expecting a curler into the top corner, fired a low shot with his right foot that beat the diving Stojkovic at the near post.

The half-time show lasted more than 30 minutes and after the restart it took a little time for the game to rediscover its rhythm but Al-Fayha were noticeably more aggressive. After 66 minutes, the underdogs were back on level terms.

It was not a great goal to concede, from Al-Hilal’s viewpoint. Defender Ali Al-Bulaihi completely missed a cross from the right and Lopes got to the ball ahead of Jang Hyun-soo around the penalty spot. His shot on the turn should have been saved by Abdullah Al-Mayouf, who instead could only palm the ball onto the underside of the bar on its way into the net.

Al-Fayha could have gone on to win the game in normal time but were unable to take their chances. The pace slowed in extra time and the play became cagey once more.

After 98 minutes, Al-Hilal’s two Al-Dawsaris combined down the left but the goalscorer pulled his shot just wide. As you might expect, the Asian champions made almost all the running in the 30 minutes of extra time but were just not able to find a way through.

And so to penalties. The shootout started well for the favorites as Al-Mayouf saved the first spot kick but Ighalo failed to capitalize, hitting the bar. After Al-Fayha got off the mark by scoring their second penalty, Al-Faraj blasted his attempt wide and it was all uphill from there for Al-Hilal, especially after Stojkovic then saved well from Abdullah Al-Hamdan.

In the end, it was left to Tachtsidis to fire home with his left foot, giving Al-Fayha the win and the first major trophy in club history.

Al-Hilal are now left to focus on the league, starting with a massive clash against leaders Al-Ittihad on Monday.


Exclusive: Floyd Mayweather Jr talks life in Dubai ahead of Don Moore exhibition fight on top of Burj Al-Arab

Few boxers can match Mayweather’s remarkable unbeaten career in the ring. (AFP)
Few boxers can match Mayweather’s remarkable unbeaten career in the ring. (AFP)
Updated 21 min 9 sec ago

Exclusive: Floyd Mayweather Jr talks life in Dubai ahead of Don Moore exhibition fight on top of Burj Al-Arab

Few boxers can match Mayweather’s remarkable unbeaten career in the ring. (AFP)
  • Only a select group of VIPs will be at the bout, which was postponed from last week after the passing of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan

DUBAI: For most of his career as one of the greatest boxers of all time, Floyd Mayweather Jr, was used to being on top of the world.

This weekend, he will, in a very literal sense, return to the summit.

On Saturday, Mayweather Jr will step into the ring in Dubai at the helipad of Burj Al-Arab, although only a select group of Sheikhs and VIPs will see the legendary 45-year-old American fighter take on Don Moore. 

The event will be the world’s first NFT Sporting event, with Mayweather earning a reported amount of $25 million.

Currently, he is spending time with celebrity friend, Tamer Hassan, renowned British Hollywood actor and humanitarian, and Hassan’s close friend, celebrity publicist and real estate power broker, Kas Syed for Espace Real estate alongside friend and American footballer, Antonio Brown.

Mayweather was due in the ring last weekend but the fight was postponed due to the passing of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa.

"I am saddened by the passing of HH Sheikh Khalifa and will continue to support this amazing country, I love coming here and will continue to invest and broaden my business into Dubai" He told Arab News.

Few boxers can match Mayweather’s remarkable unbeaten career in the ring. From 1996 until his retirement in 2017, he won 15 world titles, ranging from super featherweight to light middleweight.

Like Hassan and Syed, Floyd now retired and a boxing promoter himself, still misses being in the ring. For many boxing experts and fans, he is the greatest pound for pound boxer of modern times.

Mayweather seems to be enjoying his time in Dubai, in and outside the gym.

The boxer has spent the week skiing in the mall of the Emirates, splashing out in Dubai mall, visited the Museum of the Future and topped it off with a luxury cruise on a yacht hosted by Espace Real Estate and Superfly Yachts DXB. Mayweather also treated his closest friends and family to a whopping 150 burgers and 150 pizzas.

Asked if he has any plans to bring his talent elsewhere in the region, Mayweather told Arab News: “The Middle East is always welcoming and combat sports is growing fast in the region. As the name says, Money May, if it makes sense, I am there.”


Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three

Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three
Updated 33 min 41 sec ago

Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three

Everton seal Premier League survival after epic escape, Burnley out of bottom three
  • Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink
  • Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season

LONDON: Everton staged a dramatic fightback from two goals down to preserve their Premier League status with a 3-2 win against Crystal Palace, while Burnley climbed out of the relegation zone after a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa on Thursday.

Frank Lampard’s side recovered from conceding twice in the first half as Michael Keane and Richarlison netted after the break before Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s late winner sparked wild celebrations at Goodison Park.

After a nerve-jangling battle to avoid playing outside the top-flight for the first time since 1954, Everton can finally relax with one game to play.

Their thrilling comeback was a microcosm of Lampard’s reign since he took over in January, with Everton staring disaster in the face before pulling back from the brink.

Everton are four points above the relegation zone, leaving fourth-bottom Burnley and third-bottom Leeds scrapping for survival.

“It is the character of this club, the fans and the players that dragged us through,” Lampard said.

“The players to a man were incredible. The fans lifted them and we created a special night in Everton’s history.

“The spirit of the club was immense. I’m overwhelmed.”

Burnley, who host Newcastle in Sunday’s final round of fixtures, climbed above Leeds on goal difference thanks to their point at Villa.

They will be safe if they match Leeds’ result at Brentford on the last day.

Whatever happens at the weekend is unlikely to surpass the emotion at Goodison, where fans wept tears of joy during a frenzied post-match pitch invasion.

The celebrations turned nasty when supporters taunted Palace boss Patrick Vieira, who responded by kicking one fan.

Palace had silenced the boisterous crowd with their 21st minute opener.

Vitalii Mykolenko allowed Jean-Philippe Mateta to get in front of him and the Palace forward headed in Eberechi Eze’s free-kick.

Several bottles were thrown toward Mateta and the atmosphere turned even more toxic in the 36th minute when Jordan Ayew poked home after Abdoulaye Doucoure failed to clear.

But Lampard had labelled the game “all or nothing” and Michael Keane gave Everton a vital 54th minute lifeline, the defender applying the finishing touch from Mason Holgate’s header.

Revitalized, Everton laid seige to the Palace goal and Richarlison hooked the equalizer past Jack Butland in the 75th minute.

With Goodison at fever pitch, Dominic Calvert-Lewin completed the comeback in the 85th minute with a clinical header that sparked a jubilant pitch invasion.

At Villa Park, Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet won a penalty on the stroke of halftime when he was bundled over by Emiliano Buendia.

Ashley Barnes sent Emiliano Martinez the wrong way with a cool strike for his first goal since February 2021.

In the 48th minute, Buendia volleyed Villa’s equalizer, with Burnley protesting that a foul throw should have been given in the buildup.

Burnley finished with 10 men after Matt Lowton was sent off for a high tackle on Calum Chambers in stoppage-time.

“Terrific point for us. We’re at home on the last day and it’s in our hands,” Burnley interim boss Mike Jackson said.

Chelsea effectively guaranteed a third place finish with a 1-1 draw against Leicester at Stamford Bridge.

Given their vastly superior goal difference advantage over fourth placed Tottenham, who sit three points behind them, the FA Cup runners-up will not be caught.

James Maddison gave Leicester a sixth minute lead from the edge of the area before Marcos Alonso volleyed home in the 35th minute.

Thursday’s drama was only an appetizer for what will be a thrilling final day of the season.

Manchester City will be crowned champions for a fourth time in five seasons if they beat Villa at the Etihad Stadium.

But second placed Liverpool, one point behind Pep Guardiola’s team, would steal the title if City drop points and they defeat Wolves at Anfield.

In the battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League, Tottenham need to win at Norwich to be certain of pipping Arsenal, who host Everton and are two points behind their north London rivals.

Manchester United can qualify for the Europa League with a win at Palace, although they would drop into the Europa Conference League with a defeat and a West Ham victory at Brighton.


Cricket adapts to changing post-pandemic landscape

Cricket adapts to changing post-pandemic landscape
Updated 19 May 2022

Cricket adapts to changing post-pandemic landscape

Cricket adapts to changing post-pandemic landscape
  • An easing of COVID-19 constraints has led to an abundance of play in recent months, as tournaments, particularly ICC World Cup qualifiers, catch up on a backlog of fixtures

Throughout cricket, when the person batting has scored 50 runs, it is normally the cue for applause, the strength of which will be according to the manner and style of the innings. In former days of league cricket in northern England, when the professional reached 50, it was customary for a club official to go around the spectators with a box asking for small change to be proffered in recognition of the feat.

This is my 50th column for the Arab News. In recognition of this, I organized my own collection — that of recurring topics which have emerged during the compilation of these columns. Too many emerged to be discussed in one column. Hence, I will focus on those which have material implications for the future of the game.

Acting as a backdrop to the whole year has been the impact of COVID-19. It is easy to forget that, at this stage of 2021, preparations were being made in England for international matches to be staged at biosecure venues in front of a restricted number of spectators. This method of “keeping the show on the road” worked for a time, but players began to feel the pressure, leading to concerns for their mental well-being. These are now being taken more seriously.

Another lasting impact of the pandemic on cricket has been the way it has been forced to adapt its products and revenue streams. The Indian Premier League could not be played in India in March/April 2020. It was later switched to the UAE, taking place between mid-September and mid-November, thus preserving its media and sponsorship income streams. In 2021, the IPL began in India but was suspended halfway through, resuming in the UAE in September.

Apart from ensuring that the tournaments were completed, the switches also provided the UAE with enhanced exposure within the cricketing world.

This was further highlighted to a broader audience when the delayed men’s 2020 T20 World Cup, due to be hosted by India, was played in the UAE, plus Oman, in October/November 2021. Additional stimulus has been provided by positive performances from both men’s and women’s teams in the UAE and Oman, plus Bahrain, in World Cup qualifying 20 and 50-over competitions. All of this points to a real advance in competitiveness within these countries, on and off the field.

Emergence from the constraints imposed by the pandemic has led to an abundance of cricket in recent months, as tournaments, particularly ICC World Cup qualifiers, catch up on a backlog of fixtures.

Into this mix, new tournaments have been added or existing ones expanded. In 2021, The Hundred was introduced in England and Wales, a format played nowhere else in the world, designed to appeal to a younger spectator.

In the same year, a T20 minor League Cricket Championship was introduced in the US, consisting of 27 teams from four regions. This is a developmental league for the US major Cricket League, planned for six cities in 2023.

In 2022, the IPL was expanded from eight to 10 franchises, necessitating an extension in its duration. Within the last year, the direction of travel for cricket, in terms of a focus on the T20 format, has been reaffirmed, especially in emerging countries.

What has also been reaffirmed is the dominance of Australian cricket in both men’s and women’s cricket. This is based on its men’s team winning the T20 World Cup in November in the UAE, its crushing of England in the 2020/21 Ashes. The women’s team won the 50-over ODI World Cup in April, and beat England in a combined Test and short format series in January/February. For the time being, India’s bid to dominate has been halted in recent months, partly because of a hiatus caused by changes of coach and captain.

One of the most significant developments in the last 12 months has been the increased support for women’s cricket. This has taken the form of increased funding, increased audiences, both in person and on media channels and increased remuneration, although gender parity has not yet been reached. Most women’s cricket is played to the shorter formats and cricket’s authorities seem reluctant to increase the opportunities for women’s Test cricket.

It is in India where women’s cricket has the greatest latent potential, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India has been slow to provide the platforms for its realization. Even recently, it expressed the view that, at this stage, there is not enough depth in the women’s game in India to justify further investment. This has been accompanied by vague talk about a women’s IPL.

Despite the current president of the MCC being a woman, as well as holding the post of managing director of women’s cricket for the England and Wales Cricket Board, cricket remains a game dominated by male administrators.

By way of example, only one of the 18 professional county cricket clubs in England and Wales currently has a woman in the post of either chair or CEO. Somewhat bucking the fashion, one county had a woman in both positions in 2019. Neither are still in post. The chair, herself a woman of color, stepped down in November 2021, apparently saddened by the high-profile allegations of racism within the domestic game.

My column of Nov. 24, 2021 covered those revelations. They rocked cricket, especially in Britain, where inquiries, sackings and recriminations ensued.

These have died down, but the problem cannot have dissipated overnight. Out of the key recurring topics of the last year — coping with the impact of the pandemic, recognition of mental health issues, continuing growth of T20 competitions, surge in support for women’s cricket, limelight for the UAE and Oman, and Australia’s resurgence — racism is the most concerning one.

Work is underway within the game to counter its impact and bring about behavioral change. However, progress is not always obvious and needs monitoring. Time is required to educate and develop the willingness to change among those who remain in doubt.


Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Feiha in King’s Cup final

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Feiha in King’s Cup final
Updated 19 May 2022

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Feiha in King’s Cup final

Favorites Al-Hilal wary of upset against Al-Feiha in King’s Cup final
  • Saudi, Asian champions expected to add to 9 cup wins but recent exertions in 3 competitions may open door for underdogs

RIYADH: It is no surprise that Al-Hilal are favorites to defeat Al-Feiha in Thursday night’s King’s Cup final.

It is a team with more than 60 titles and trophies to its name, taking on an opponent that has none. Yet the nine-time winners — only Al-Ahli with 13 have won more — will not have it all their own way at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah.

This is the biggest game in the history of underdogs Al-Feiha, and it is going to be a right royal battle, one fitting of this tournament. Al-Hilal have had plenty of big games this season and have a few more to come but there is something special about Saudi Arabia’s premier cup competition.

If years and decades of history are against Al-Feiha then past weeks and months are not. After all, they have taken four points from Al-Hilal already this season, more than most. There was a hard-fought 0-0 draw in December in Riyadh and then, on May 3, a famous 1-0 victory for the Orange at home to delight their fans.

Such results have helped to take Vuk Rasovic’s men into a comfortable sixth place in the table which means that they can fully focus on the final. It has already been a great season for the club, but it could get a great deal better.

The Serbian boss, who led Al-Faisaly to the 2018 final where they lost to Al-Ittihad, is ready.

Rasovic said: “We know our opponents well and we know that they are the best team in Asia. We also know that we deserve to be here, and we will be ready both physically and technically. I can say however that while we know that we have to be at our best defensively against Al-Hilal, we will be playing to win.”

The odds may be against Al-Feiha, but they have in their line-up Aleksandar Trajkovski, the attacker who caused a sensation in March when he scored the goal for North Macedonia that ended the hopes of Italy, European champions, of appearing at the 2022 World Cup. Few know better that anything can happen on the pitch. His exploits were well-noted in Europe as is the fact that the team have a Serbian coach and a Serbian goalkeeper in Vladimir Stojkovic. The former Red Star Belgrade and Nottingham Forest No. 1 has had an excellent season between the posts and the club’s decision to sign the veteran star in 2021 has been vindicated.

“You can imagine I am sure that, a year ago, it was not easy to convince the administration to sign a 38-year-old goalkeeper, but I did it as I know him well, know his quality, and how he is very professional and works very hard in training,” added Rasovic, who took Partizan Belgrade to the 2013 Serbian league championship.

Just a few days before came another example of how Al-Feiha can mix it with the best as they defeated league leaders Al-Ittihad 1-0 in the semi-final. Both games showed that they can take their chances and can keep the best attackers in Saudi Arabia, probably the best attackers in Asia, at bay.

“Of course, it is not easy to play against those two teams but if you analyze what we have done this season, you can see that we are a stubborn opponent when we play against the big teams,” Rasovic said.

That is borne out by the fact that Al-Feiha have conceded just 22 goals in the league this season, fewer than any other team.

Such defensive strength means that it could be a frustrating night for the league champions. When the two teams met earlier this month, Al-Hilal were kept at bay while Sami Al-Khaibari volleyed home a corner after 33 minutes to score the only goal of the game. Al-Feiha believe that their opponents are vulnerable to crosses into the box.

With that in mind, at least opposite number Ramon Diaz will be delighted that central defender Ali Al-Bulaihi has had an extra few days to recover from injury following the postponement of the last round of league games at the weekend. That meant the huge top of the table Classico against Al-Ittihad will have to wait until Monday but did buy a tired team some time.

Full-back Yasser Al-Shahrani should also be fit. There are still some absences but with attacking players such as Odion Ighalo, Moussa Marega, and Matheus Pereira fit and raring to go, Al-Hilal should have the firepower to test the miserly opposition defense to win another major trophy.

“I am very happy for the rest we got before playing this final,” Diaz said, adding that there were no such things as weak teams when it comes to a final. “The game will be decided by what happens on the pitch and not with expectations.”

The Argentine boss was understandably keen to dismiss the league results between the two teams this season.

“We lacked focus in that meeting but now we want to win the cup for our fans. In the final you either win or you get nothing, and we have to be at our best and focus more and reduce mistakes made.”

In what is likely to be a tight game, the team that makes the fewest mistakes may just end up with their hands on the trophy. Al-Hilal have dozens of those but Al-Feiha are looking for a first King’s Cup.