Lebanon’s Arab Basketball Championship stars receive heroes welcome from fans in Beirut

Lebanon’s Arab Basketball Championship stars receive heroes welcome from fans in Beirut
Lebanese basketball team players, who won the Arab Basketball Championship for the first time, at Beirut airport happily showing off their hard-won trophy. (File/NNA)
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Updated 18 February 2022

Lebanon’s Arab Basketball Championship stars receive heroes welcome from fans in Beirut

Lebanon’s Arab Basketball Championship stars receive heroes welcome from fans in Beirut
  • Star Wael Arakji said: ‘We did our best to achieve this victory to give hope to our people and remind them that we don’t surrender, whatsoever’
  • People took to social media to thank the players after Lebanon won the championship for the first time with a 72-69 victory over Tunisia in the final in Dubai on Wednesday

DUBAI: Lebanon’s national basketball team received a hero’s welcome on Thursday as they returned home after winning the Arab Basketball Championship for the first time.
They were crowned champions after a historic victory in Dubai on Wednesday when they defeated Tunisia 72-69 in the final.
Hundreds of fans gathered at Beirut airport to greet their sporting heroes with music and chanting. In return, members of the winning team happily showed off their hard-won trophy.
For many people in Lebanon, the team’s victory at the 24th ABC was an emotional and uplifting moment amid the worsening social, political and economic crises in the country. Some saw it as a rare glimmer of hope and optimism, as thousands of people in the country took to social media to praise and congratulate the players and thank them for providing even a brief distraction from their daily woes.
Many expressed their gratitude to the winners for helping to restore the image of their country, which they said has been tarnished by corrupt politicians. Some even jokingly called for the players to to be put in charge of the country.
One of those players, 27-year-old Wael Arakji, told Arab News: “We did our best to achieve this victory to give hope to our people and remind them that we don’t surrender, whatsoever.
“We made history, winning this championship for the first time amid all the darkness that Lebanon has been facing since the 2019 revolution, the Beirut Port blast in 2020 and the economic crisis.”
He thanked the fans, including those in the UAE “who supported us during the tournament until the end — without them, we wouldn’t have triumphed.”
He added: “This victory should be Lebanon’s torch of hope and I wish that it marks the end of our miseries and the beginning of a brighter tomorrow.”
Arakji, who delivered a spectacular personal performance in the final, scoring 22 points, promised fans that the team will now focus on beating Jordan and Saudi Arabia to qualify for the FIBA World Cup.
In the meantime, Lebanese fans continued to celebrate. Moe Shamseddine, a photographer living in Barcelona, said: “This result has united us again in times where the country is passing through its worst crisis ever and we needed such a ray of hope.”
Rana Nadim, a teacher in Dubai, said the victory warms the heart amid all the challenges facing Lebanon.
“Finally, we get to see some positivity amid all this grimness that the criminal and corrupt politicians have been giving us,” she said.
A Twitter user called Fathi wrote: “My heart is growing in this great country that, despite all its aches and sufferings because of its rulers, yet the people have will to survive and love life and challenge.”
In a message on Facebook, a doctor called Dany posted an image of the team celebrating and commented: “This is the type of loyal and hardworking patriots who should run the country, not the corrupt politicians.”
May Bassam, who lives in Paris, told Arab News that that the politicians should step down and the victorious basketball stars should rule the country.
“They stood united altogether and won five games in row to bring us joy … they are our true heroes,” she added.


Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic
Updated 15 sec ago

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic

Lin, Atthaya shine at LPGA Volunteers Classic
  • The 26-year-old from Guangzhou, chasing her first win on the US LPGA Tour, vaulted into the lead with a brilliant eagle on the par-5 17th hole that took her to 6 under

LOS ANGELES: China’s Lin Xiyu grabbed a one-shot lead from in-form Thai teenager Atthaya Thitikul in the opening round of the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Classic in Texas on Thursday.

Lin fired a 6-under-par 65 to head the field at The Colony Golf Club, north of Dallas, in a low-scoring first round.

The 26-year-old from Guangzhou, chasing her first win on the US LPGA Tour, vaulted into the lead with a brilliant eagle on the par-5 17th hole that took her to 6 under.

Lin’s round included five birdies, with the lone blemish a bogey on the par-4 fourth.

The 19-year-old Atthaya, meanwhile, coming off her second LPGA Tour victory at the NW Arkansas Championship last weekend, had to settle for a 5-under 66 after a bogey on her final hole of the day.

Teeing off on the back nine, Atthaya surged up the leaderboard with a hat trick of birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to make the turn at four under.

Two more birdies on the first and eighth holes left her at six under, before a bogey on the ninth dropped her down to a share of second alongside Lizette Salas, who also posted a five-under-par 66.

England’s Charley Hull, Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, Canada’s Maddie Szeryk and American Lexi Thompson were tied a further shot back on 4 under after shooting 67s.

Thompson had seemed set for share of second place but saw an otherwise flawless round spoiled with a bogey on her final hole.

Three players, including Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn and France’s Celine Boutier were tied in eighth place after shooting 3-under 68s.


Big in Japan: Warriors-Wizards games to woo NBA fans, sponsors

Big in Japan: Warriors-Wizards games to woo NBA fans, sponsors
Updated 30 September 2022

Big in Japan: Warriors-Wizards games to woo NBA fans, sponsors

Big in Japan: Warriors-Wizards games to woo NBA fans, sponsors
  • The financial rewards are as clear as the patch of Japanese online retailer Rakuten on the jerseys that Curry and the Warriors will wear
  • Ogura thinks the investments being made by Japanese companies for these games is worth it given the NBA’s strong appeal to the younger generation

TOKYO: Before Stephen Curry makes a single 3-pointer, before Rui Hachimura gets his first ovation from Japanese fans who came to cheer one of their own, the NBA Japan Games are already a huge win in one regard.

The money.

Big money is riding on — and getting spent on — the NBA’s most recent foray into Japan, which has the reigning champion Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards set to play a pair of preseason games there on Friday and Sunday. Every seat inside Saitama Super Arena has been sold, and the league has more marketing partners for games in Japan than ever before.

The financial rewards are as clear as the patch of Japanese online retailer Rakuten on the jerseys that Curry and the Warriors will wear.

“These are the Japanese people who grew up on Michael Jordan,” said Junya Ogura, senior manager at Japanese automaker Nissan’s brand and media strategy department. “We are banking on a return that will come in the future.”

Nissan Motor Co., which sponsors Japanese professional baseball and soccer, had a high-profile deal with tennis superstar Naomi Osaka which recently ended. It is sponsoring NBA games for the first time.

Ogura thinks the investments being made by Japanese companies for these games is worth it given the NBA’s strong appeal to the younger generation, a trend that’s backed up by marketing studies. Nissan is sharing the role of presenting partner for the games with Rakuten, which has had a lucrative relationship with the Warriors — at least $20 million a year, largely to have its patch on Golden State’s jerseys — since 2017.

Rakuten also has a sponsorship deal with Curry, part of his massive off-court empire. Rakuten also sponsors Japanese baseball and soccer and holds the Japan Open tennis championships, plus live-streams NBA games. And that was one of the primary reasons why the NBA returned to Japan for a pair of preseason games between Houston and Toronto in 2019, ending what was a 16-year drought between games in that country.

“Excited to be here,” Curry said.

The tickets cost up to 420,000 yen ($2,900) each for courtside “VIP” seats. Both Friday and Sunday games are sold out at the Saitama Super Arena, where the US won the gold medal at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The massive arena was largely empty for those games, tickets unable to be sold because of the virus.

Now, every seat has been grabbed. Plus, the NBA has drawn 15 marketing partners to support the preseason games in Japan, including American Express, Hennessy, NEC and Nike, and now has 19 marketing and promotional partners in Japan.

“Obviously it’s about the money,” said Bob Dorfman, a San Francisco-based sports analyst at Pinnacle Advertising.

“Building the fan base in Asia, and everywhere else in the world, results in more sponsorship dollars, increased media rights and greater merchandise sales.”

The NBA may have more global appeal than other US sports, being easier to understand than football, for instance, according to Dorfman, who has worked in Japan.

“Every team has foreign-born players on their rosters, and the league’s top stars are cultural icons, trendsetters, and social media giants. The game is cool,” he said.

That translates not only into sponsorship money but also youngsters spending on sneakers and other fashion items and merchandising.

Between 1990 and 2003, the NBA staged 12 regular-season games in Japan. The courtship between the NBA and the Japanese fan — not to mention Japanese companies and NBA fans globally — is now fully underway again.

A giant 3D display at a Tokyo street-crossing depicts Curry and other NBA stars as “manga,” or Japanese comic, characters. The NBA’s Japanese-language social media accounts have amassed more than 1.6 million followers.

While the players are in town, they will be taking part in various fan events. Besides Hachimura, the NBA now has another Japanese player, Yuta Watanabe, who is with the Brooklyn Nets.

The NBA is also excited about the potential for women’s basketball. Japanese women were the silver medalists in the last Olympics. Rui Machida, an Olympian, signed earlier this year with the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

“Our fan base is growing,” said NBA Asia managing director Ramez Sheikh. “There is real momentum around basketball in Japan, and it’s a real important market for the NBA.”

Wizards officials acknowledged they were surprised by the big reaction signing Hachimura drew from Japan. They suddenly saw more Japanese in the stands, tour buses started coming, and Japanese media showed up in big numbers.

“It was all about Rui,” said Hunter Lochman, chief marketing officer at Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Wizards. “It’s fast-paced. It’s high scoring. It’s a great sport and it’s a global sport.”

Besides Japan, a pair of preseason games are scheduled for Abu Dhabi this season, with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks going there early next month. Regular-season games will be played in Mexico City in December and Paris in January.

Kyle Kuzma, a Wizards forward, said he was excited about being in Japan for the first time.

He already had sushi, planned to go shopping and was approached by a fan on the street, who gave him chopsticks with his name and the name of his girlfriend etched onto them.

“This is a big moment,” Kuzma said. “It’s a big stage.”


Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote
Updated 30 September 2022

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote

Neymar backs Bolsonaro in Brazil vote
  • Neymar, 30, had previously stayed out of the fray for Sunday’s polarizing election, in which Lula leads in opinion polls

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro got a celebrity endorsement Thursday for his re-election bid from football superstar Neymar, who posted a video on TikTok of himself dancing to a pro-Bolsonaro campaign song.

Grinning, the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil striker, arguably Brazil’s most famous celebrity, flashed the No. 22 — Bolsonaro’s candidate number — with his fingers as he rocked out to the electronic dance jingle, three days from the far-right incumbent’s election showdown against leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“Vote, vote, and press ‘confirm’ for 22, that’s Bolsonaro,” goes the song, a reference to Brazil’s electronic voting machines — which the president alleges, without evidence, are plagued by fraud.

Bolsonaro wasted no time retweeting the Neymar seal of approval.

Neymar, 30, had previously stayed out of the fray for Sunday’s polarizing election, in which Lula leads in opinion polls.

But he sent a video message to Bolsonaro Wednesday after the president visited the footballer’s charitable children’s foundation.

“Hello, President Bolsonaro... I wanted to thank you for your illustrious visit,” he said on Instagram after Bolsonaro visited the Neymar Jr. Institute, a non-profit organization the football star founded in 2014.

It runs educational, cultural and sports programs for 3,000 underprivileged children.

Bolsonaro backers have adopted the yellow-and-green jersey of Brazil’s national team as a symbol of support for the president, along with the Brazilian flag.

Both men are vocal about their Christianity.


Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight
Updated 30 September 2022

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight

Cameron vs McCaskill: Abu Dhabi to host its first-ever female boxing world title fight
  • Two of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters will square-off for the undisputed super-lightweight world title

ABU DHABI: The first female boxing world title fight to be held in Abu Dhabi will see American Jessica McCaskill taking on Britain’s Chantelle Cameron at Etihad Arena on Yas Island for the undisputed super-lightweight world title on Nov. 5.

McCaskill, the reigning undisputed welterweight champion, will square off against WBC/IBF light-welterweight title holder Cameron after the former dropped down in weight to enhance her pound-for-pound credentials.

Organized by Matchroom Boxing and Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, the mega-bout is part of the Champions Series inaugural fight card, which is headlined by Russian star Dmitry Bivol’s WBA light-heavyweight title defense against Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.

Undefeated Cameron (15-0, 8 KOs), often known as Il Capo, has held the WBC Women’s Light-Welterweight Championship since 2020, and previously won world championships in two weight classes.

She successfully defended her title in May against Victoria Noelia Bustos, a previous world champion, in London.

McCaskill (12-2, 5 KOs), nicknamed CasKILLA, recently defeated Mexico’s Alma Ibarra to complete her third successful defense of the welterweight title.

The Missouri veteran made the decision to once more shift down a division to 140 lbs to secure the fight with Cameron that she has long been gunning for.

“This is a historic encounter not just for the careers of the two fighters, but also for the sport of boxing in the Middle East,” said Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport.

“To have two of the game’s best female fighters facing off in Abu Dhabi for the undisputed super-lightweight world title is the perfect way to show the world that Matchroom and DCT Abu Dhabi mean business with this partnership.

“We are making history on Nov. 5 and looking forward to doing so in front of a sold-out Etihad Arena.”

 


Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv
Updated 29 September 2022

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv

Djokovic makes winning return to ATP action in Tel Aviv
  • Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-3 win over his 115th-ranked opponent in 86 minutes, firing 30 winners and breaking Andujar four times
  • It was the fewest games Djokovic has lost in any match this season

TEL AVIV: Novak Djokovic, playing a singles tournament for the first time since winning Wimbledon in July, reached the Tel Aviv quarter-finals on Thursday with a straight-sets victory over Spain’s Pablo Andujar.
Djokovic eased to a 6-0, 6-3 win over his 115th-ranked opponent in 86 minutes, firing 30 winners and breaking Andujar four times.
It was the fewest games Djokovic has lost in any match this season.
He was always in control against his Spanish rival who he has now defeated three times, taking control of the match by winning the first seven games.
“The first match started off in a perfect way for me,” said Djokovic, who last played in Israel as a teenager 16 years ago in a Davis Cup tie.
“I won seven games in a row and we were fighting in that eighth game (which took over 20 minutes to complete).
“It was one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my life and I’ve played many, many games in my life. But credit to Pablo for fighting and playing a great match as well.”
Former world number one Djokovic hasn’t played a singles event since capturing a seventh Wimbledon title 10 weeks ago after his refusal to get vaccinated ruled him out of the US Open and the entire American hardcourt swing.
His only other appearance had been in the Laver Cup team tournament in London last week.
It was there that he saw long-time rival Roger Federer retire from the sport.
However, the 35-year-old Djokovic, now ranked at seven in the world, insisted on the eve of the Tel Aviv event that retirement was not on his agenda.
“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis,” said Djokovic, whose 21 Grand Slam titles is just one short of Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.
“I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level.”
Djokovic, showing no sign of the right wrist trouble which bothered him in London, will face Canada’s 149th-ranked Vasek Pospisil in Friday’s quarter-finals.
The Serb boasts a 5-0 career record over the 32-year-old Canadian.
Pospisil reached the last-eight by eliminating Israeli qualifier Edan Leshem 6-3, 6-2.
France’s Arthur Rinderknech saved a match point to clinch a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (9/7) win against third seed Diego Schwartzman.
The world number 58 will next play Roman Safiullin.
British qualifier Liam Broady stunned fifth seed Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to set up a meeting with second seed Marin Cilic.