AFC adopts Saudi recommendation to increase foreign player quota in Champions League

AFC adopts Saudi recommendation to increase foreign player quota in Champions League
Asian Football Confederation said Friday it was adopting recommendations from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to increase foreign players that teams could field in the AFC Champions League. (Courtesy AFC)
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Updated 25 February 2022

AFC adopts Saudi recommendation to increase foreign player quota in Champions League

AFC adopts Saudi recommendation to increase foreign player quota in Champions League
  • The Asia federation is to align the schedule of its flagship club competition to match the domestic leagues in West Asia
  • When the 2023 continental competition kicks off, all 40 entrants in the group stages and the play-offs, will be able to field a total of six foreign players

DUBAI: The Asian Football Confederation announced on Friday that it was adopting recommendations from the Saudi Arabian Football Federation to increase the number of foreign players that teams in the AFC Champions League can field.
It will also align the tournament’s schedule to match those of most domestic leagues in West Asia.
When the 2023 continental competition kicks off, all 40 entrants in the group stages and the play-offs, will be able to field a total of six foreign players, an increase of two from the current limit. The stipulation that one of the imports must be from a fellow Asian nation remains. This decision, the AFC said, is “aimed at strengthening the quality, competitiveness and stature of the AFC club competitions.”
While the move will be welcomed in Riyadh, it does not go quite as far as SAFF would have liked. The federation had wanted limits on foreign players to be increased but their ideal outcome was that the continental quota would reflect the limits in the continent’s respective domestic leagues. At the time of the proposal, eleven leagues around the continent allowed more imports for their domestic competition — including the Saudi Professional League, which allows seven foreign players.
In November, when the idea was raised, SAFF General Secretary Ibrahim Al-Kassim explained the reasoning behind the idea.
“The Saudi Football Association’s proposal to increase foreign players in the Asian Championship will ease contractual problems with players,” Al-Kassim said. The move would bring Asia into line with the major football confederations around the world. “Only the Asian Confederation and the Oceania Confederation set a limit for foreign players, and the top 20 international ranking teams allow their countries an open number of foreign players.”
In another major move, the AFC announced that the tournament, which was expanded to 40 teams in 2021, will change calendars and align Asia’s Champions League with its European counterpart. From 2023, it will run from autumn to spring instead of spring to autumn.
This decision, the AFC said, “...will enable Asia’s top clubs to benefit from more synchronized transfer windows, improved opportunities to sign quality players and coaches with respect to worldwide leagues’ seasons, and a more even distribution of club matches annually to maintain a balance with national team matches.”
Due to the challenges presented by the global pandemic, as well as the Qatar World Cup in November and December this year, the latter stages of the 2022 Champions League have been pushed back until early 2023, with the final taking place in February. The subsequent tournament is expected to kick off in September 2023.
This move will also align the Champions League with the Saudi Arabian league and others in the western zone of the tournament that is split into two geographic halves until the final. It will make it easier to manage squads and player contracts, though it will also mean that the final stages of the competition will take place at the same time as the climax of domestic campaigns.
In the preliminary round for the 2022 tournament Al-Taawoun take on Al-Jaish of Syria on March 15 for the right to enter Group D.
Title holders Al-Hilal start their defense in Group A in April against Qatar’s Al-Rayyan, Istiklol of Tajikistan and a yet-to-be-confirmed play-off winner. Al-Shabab are in Group B, along with Al-Jazira of the UAE, India’s Mumbai City and Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya of Iraq. King’s Cup winners Al-Faisaly will take on Qatari powerhouse Al-Sadd, Al-Wehdat of Jordan and another play-off entrant in Group E.


Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card

Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card
Updated 19 August 2022

Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card

Chelsea boss Tuchel given one-game ban after Spurs red card
  • Tuchel's touchline ban has been suspended temporarily, pending the full written reasons for the decision
  • Conte has been fined £15,000 after both managers admitted improper conduct

LONDON: Thomas Tuchel has been given a one-match suspension and fined £35,000 ($41,000) after the Chelsea manager was sent off following his furious clash with Tottenham boss Antonio Conte, the Football Association (FA) said on Friday.
Tuchel’s touchline ban has been suspended temporarily, pending the full written reasons for the decision, allowing the German to take his place in the dugout for Sunday’s Premier League clash at Leeds.
Conte has been fined £15,000 after both managers admitted improper conduct following a pair of angry exchanges during last Sunday’s stormy 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel and Conte were booked after they first squared up to each other when the Italian celebrated Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s equalizer close to the Chelsea technical area.
Then, after Harry Kane headed Tottenham’s second equalizer deep into stoppage-time, Tuchel shook hands with Conte at the final whistle in such an aggressive way that it drew a fiery response from his counterpart.
The feuding bosses had to be separated by players and coaching staff, but were both sent off by referee Anthony Taylor.
“An independent regulatory commission has today ordered that Thomas Tuchel be fined £35,000 and banned from the touchline for one match, and Antonio Conte be fined £15,000 after they respectively breached FA Rule E3,” the FA said.
“Thomas Tuchel and Antonio Conte admitted that their behavior after the final whistle of the Premier League game between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC on Sunday, August 14 2022 was improper, and both managers requested a paper hearing.
“These sanctions are subject to appeal, and Thomas Tuchel’s one-match touchline ban has been suspended temporarily pending the independent regulatory commission’s written reasons for its decision that will be made available in due course.”


Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs

Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs
Updated 19 August 2022

Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs

Police recover Lewandowski’s watch, stolen while signing autographs
  • A young man approached and snatched the watch from the player's wrist
  • Spanish media reported the watch was a Patek Phillippe worth 70,000 euros

BARCELONA: Police said they had recovered Robert Lewandowski’s watch, stolen as the star striker signed autographs before a Barcelona training session.
The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon when the 33-year-old striker, who joined from German club Bayern Munich in July, arrived at training and stopped in front of fans for autographs, Catalan police told AFP Friday.
A young man approached and snatched the watch from the player’s wrist.
Spanish media reported the watch was a Patek Phillippe worth 70,000 euros ($70,300) and that Lewandowski climbed back in his car and gave chase but lost the thief.
The police were alerted at 4:30 p.m. local time (1430 GMT) and within an hour they had caught the 19-year-old, who was hiding in the bushes around the stadium. They recovered the watch which was nearby.
He was arrested for “robbery with violence,” the police said. They explained that even though Lewandowski was not hurt, taking the watch off his body was considered violent.


Golf Saudi, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande team up to boost female golf opportunities

Golf Saudi, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande team up to boost female golf opportunities
Updated 20 August 2022

Golf Saudi, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande team up to boost female golf opportunities

Golf Saudi, La Reserva Club de Sotogrande team up to boost female golf opportunities
  • Golf Saudi launched its Ladies First Club in 2020
  • The Ladies First Club International will feature free beginner golf lessons by experts

JEDDAH: Golf Saudi and Spain’s La Reserva Club de Sotogrande joined forces at Aramco Team Series Sotogrande this week to offer 100 women and girls the chance to start a golf journey that could see them playing alongside star players in 2023.

Golf Saudi launched its Ladies First Club in 2020, introducing golf to women in the Kingdom and encouraging them to keep playing the sport.

The initiative at La Reserva Club Sotogrande is international, and women will get the chance to play golf for the first time.

The Ladies First Club International will feature free beginner golf lessons by experts from both Golf Saudi and La Reserva on Friday and Saturday. 

The club’s top practice facilities will prepare the newcomers for expert practice. They will then be invited to continue playing golf by enrolling in a program that will continue through next summer.

Participants who want to join Ladies First Club International at La Reserva Club can sign up in person at the event.

Until the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande returns to La Reserva Club in 2023, the long-term strategy will give participating women and girls access to at least one free lesson each month.

The goal is for women from the program to have the opportunity to play with top Ladies European Tour players in the tournament’s official pro-am.

Majed Al-Sorour, deputy chairman and CEO of Golf Saudi and Saudi Golf Federation, said: “It is exciting that we’re using the success of Golf Saudi’s Ladies First Club in Saudi Arabia to continue driving interest and participation in golf internationally.”

He said: “The central ambition of the initiative is for as many women as possible to take up golf and then continue to play the sport that has the potential to be life-enhancing in so many ways. Kicking off this initiative with La Reserva Club de Sotogrande and the Aramco Team Series is a great platform to raise awareness and inspire more newcomers to the sport — and win an amazing chance to play with the pros next year.”


Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
Updated 19 August 2022

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash

Anthony Joshua maintains weight advantage over Oleksandr Usyk for Jeddah clash
  • Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos
  • Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms

JEDDAH: British boxer Anthony Joshua weighed in more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavier than defending champion Oleksandr Usyk on Friday ahead of their “Rage on the Red Sea” world title rematch in Saudi Arabia.

Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos (244.5 pounds) while Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilograms (221.6 pounds), both similar to last year’s fight in London.

Usyk, 19-0 and the favorite after his unanimous decision on Joshua’s home turf, confounded predictions that he had packed on several kilos of muscle to counter the towering Joshua.

The fighters came face-to-face in a 90-second stare-down before shaking hands and posing for the cameras.

“All this stuff, weight, face-off, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said. “I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100 percent. Anything shorter than that, it’s a bonus.”

Many commentators have written off Joshua after a hesitant showing against the quick and skillful Usyk at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.

But the 6ft 6ins (1.98m) Briton, who is striving to become a three-time world champion, has promised to be more “competitive.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested Joshua will go for the knock-out.

Saturday’s clash will be the 12th consecutive world title fight for Joshua, the 24-2 former Olympic gold-medallist whose other professional defeat was a shock TKO by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.

Joshua avenged that loss six months later in the “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the first heavyweight world title fight in the Kingdom.

Elsewhere on the undercard, Saudi Arabia’s Ziyad Al-Maayouf will face Mexico’s Jose Alatorre on Saturday, and said earlier this week he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received and feels a little under the pressure with all eyes on him.

And in a moment of history for sport in Saudi Arabia, Somali-born Briton Ramla Ali will fight the Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova in the first women’s professional boxing match in the Kingdom.

Also in an action-packed night of boxing, the Rage on the Red Sea undercard includes several other exciting fights, with former WBA and Ring magazine super-middleweight champion Callum Smith and former two-weight world champion Badou Jack both featuring.

* With AFP


16-year-old German talent Chiara Noja named Golf Saudi ambassador

16-year-old German talent Chiara Noja named Golf Saudi ambassador
Updated 19 August 2022

16-year-old German talent Chiara Noja named Golf Saudi ambassador

16-year-old German talent Chiara Noja named Golf Saudi ambassador
  • Youngest European pro champion joins fellow ambassadors Anna Nordqvist, Anne Van Dam and Carlota Ciganda
  • Noja became a scratch golfer aged 11, before topping the European Rankings at both Under-12 and Under-14 levels

SOTOGRANDE: German golfer Chiara Noja — the youngest European golfer ever to win a professional tour event — has been announced as the latest Golf Saudi ambassador, following in the footsteps of icons of the women’s game including Anna Nordqvist, Anne Van Dam and Carlota Ciganda, all of whom have been named Golf Saudi ambassadors this year.
Noja became a scratch golfer aged 11, before topping the European Rankings at both Under-12 and Under-14 levels, and has maintained her upward trajectory ever since, turning professional in October 2021, aged just 15.
She has enjoyed a stellar first year on the pro tour, making all the cuts at the Dubai Moonlight Classic, Aramco Saudi Ladies International, and the Aramco Team Series – Jeddah. In June, Noja secured her maiden professional victory at the Amundi Czech Ladies Challenge, nine strokes ahead of Sára Kousková, and rose to the top of the LETAS Order of Merit.
Majed Al-Sorour, the CEO and deputy chairman of both Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “Chiara immediately impressed me when I saw her play last year in Saudi Arabia. She put in two impressive back-to-back performances at both of our tournaments.
“To not only make the cut in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International and finish T40, but to do so with a shoulder injury, before following this up with a T26 in the Aramco Team Series (shows) her talent and bodes very well for both our new partnership, but also for the future of women’s golf on the Ladies European Tour,” he continued.
“Having also both lived and played in the Middle East, she has the potential to become a role model for all young girls here in the region and help us with our long-term aims at Golf Saudi of developing the women’s game in the Kingdom.”
Noja will not only feature in Golf Saudi-owned events going forward but will also, more importantly, aid the organization in its ongoing journey to bring golf to new audiences, particularly young girls and women, both globally and within the Kingdom.
Noja’s ambassadorship was announced during this week’s Aramco Team Series event in Sotogrande, which runs until August 20. The field is packed with global stars, with Noja facing household names including Nelly and Jessica Korda, Nordqvist, Ciganda and last year’s winner Alison Lee.
Part of Noja’s new role with Golf Saudi will be to mentor female amateurs. She will draw on her own experiences of rising through the amateur ranks and explain what it takes to become a professional, as well as discuss how golf can reach new audiences and ensure its future development.
“I have always enjoyed fantastic support from the whole team at Golf Saudi, not only via invites to their fantastic events but also in terms of advice. By turning professional, I have been able to concurrently continue my academic career whilst still developing and improving as a golfer,” Noja said.
“I was lucky enough to make my debut on the Ladies European Tour at the end of 2020 and the subsequent 12 months gave me the confidence to turn professional in 2021,” she continued. “Golf Saudi is doing amazing things for the game whether it’s through their Mass Participation programs to drive youth engagement and their efforts to draw more people to our sport, particularly young girls and women.
“I am delighted to be confirmed as the latest Golf Saudi ambassador and to not only work alongside so many female superstars from women’s golf but also to support such an ambitious organization as Golf Saudi. Having come to prominence at a similar time to Golf Saudi, I’d like to think that we’ll be able to share insights mutually and both do our bit in terms of growing the game in Saudi Arabia and globally.”