Moroccan golfer Ines Laklalech aims to inspire at ‘special’ Saudi Ladies International

Moroccan golfer Ines Laklalech aims to inspire at ‘special’ Saudi Ladies International
Moroccan Ines Laklalech is only the second Arab female golfer to gain membership of the Ladies European Tour. (LET)
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Updated 13 March 2022

Moroccan golfer Ines Laklalech aims to inspire at ‘special’ Saudi Ladies International

Moroccan golfer Ines Laklalech aims to inspire at ‘special’ Saudi Ladies International
  • 24-year-old player from Casablanca making her professional debut in Jeddah

JEDDAH: Young Moroccan golfer Ines Laklalech is counting down to what promises to be a “special” professional debut when she becomes only the second Arab woman ever to compete as a full member on the Ladies European Tour at this week’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International, presented by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund.

The 24-year-old player from Casablanca earned her 2022 tour card in December, despite managing just 15 amateur tournaments in a pandemic-hit two-year spell as she sought to secure her place at women’s golf’s top table.

Now she has achieved that dream, sport-obsessed Laklalech is ready to make her mark in what will be her maiden event as a full professional at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, near Jeddah.

She will seek to finish as high up the leaderboard as possible and also inspire the next generation of Arab girls across the world who she believes – like her – have greater opportunity than ever before to chase their own ambitions.

Laklalech, who has a bachelor’s degree in management science from University College London, said: “I’m so happy to be playing the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF this week. I didn’t play in Kenya (the LET’s first event of 2022) so it’s my first tournament of the season.

“The Saudi Ladies International was actually the first LET event I played as an amateur back in 2020 – and I made the cut. So this will be my second LET tournament, in the same place as the first, but this time as a professional.

“In 2020 it was a great, great tournament and experience. I loved it – particularly because it was in an Arab country, which to me made it even more special. This time I know what to expect a little more, and I’m very, very excited to play. The course is great, the windy conditions mean things can get very interesting and tough out there, so I’m excited.”

The debut Aramco Saudi Ladies International back in 2020 was a landmark moment for women’s sport within the Kingdom as it became the first ever professional, international women’s sporting event to be held in Saudi Arabia.

More than 1,000 Saudi women and girls signed up to learn to play golf over the course of the tournament weekend as part of a free coaching initiative.

And, as a female Arab golfer, Laklalech was aware of the tournament’s impact.

“For me, high-level golf always happened in the US and Europe. Now we’re seeing such a strong field of players in both the men’s and women’s events in Saudi Arabia. I would never have thought of competitive golf being played in Saudi Arabia before, especially a women’s event, knowing how things had been restricted in the past. To see this now though is so good for the future of golf and for all women in the Arab world.

“The Saudi Ladies International shows Arab women that if they want to make a living out of their passion – be that in sport or anything else – they can, just as much as a man would. It shows that women can play competitive sports no matter what their background and no matter where they’re from.”

It will be her third trip to the Kingdom, as she made the pilgrimage to Makkah with her family in 2011.

Thriving in the unfamiliar is something the Moroccan is used to though, having first lifted a golf club aged 10 in one of the few places in Casablanca “with a green field and lots of trees,” and quickly going on to join and then beat the boys’ club – of which she was one of only two girl members – at her local course, aged only 12.

In her drive to make it to the Ladies European Tour, however, she has always had one shining light to look up to: The tour’s first ever Arab player, fellow Moroccan and Saudi fan favorite Maha Haddioui.

They – plus fellow Moroccan youngster Lina Belmati – will all compete in Saudi Arabia this week.

She said: “If you told me I’d be a professional golfer one day, I would’ve said ‘No way,’ because there wasn’t a lot of women playing the sport in Morocco. 

“What Maha has done though was incredible for me, as the first Arab woman to ever make it to this level. Having someone from your country make it to the top makes the dream feel more real, as you can identify yourself more easily with that person. She has and continues to play an important and very inspiring role for Arab women and the people of Morocco, and now that I’m the second Arab woman on tour, hopefully there will be more after us.”

She will go up against Haddioui plus a “who’s who” of many of the world’s best golfers, including the likes of Georgia Hall, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Anne van Dam. However, she goes into the event without fear.

“I’m excited to see what the next years hold for me. Anything new is exciting, and this elite golf is all new to me. My goals for this week and for the whole season are just to keep on learning every single day, and take as much experience as I can. I’m expecting a lot of highs and lows and I just want to enjoy every part. I’ll just aim to do my best every single shot and have no regrets.”


Barcelona strengthen squad by adding Kessie, Christensen

Barcelona strengthen squad by adding Kessie, Christensen
Updated 7 sec ago

Barcelona strengthen squad by adding Kessie, Christensen

Barcelona strengthen squad by adding Kessie, Christensen
  • Kessie has 58 international appearances with his national team and played at the Tokyo Olympics as Ivory Coast reached the quarterfinals
  • Christensen comes after his contract with Chelsea ended. His deal is also until 2026 and contains the same buyout clause as Kessie’s

BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona boosted their midfield and defense by signing Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen on Monday.

The 25-year-old Kessie, who had been playing for AC Milan since 2017, arrives as a free agent on a contract until June 2026 and a buyout clause of €500 million ($522 million).

Christensen comes after his contract with Chelsea ended. His deal is also until 2026 and contains the same buyout clause as Kessie’s.

Kessie will be officially introduced on Wednesday. The Ivory Coast midfielder will be the second Ivorian to play for Barcelona, after Yaya Toure in the late 2000s.

The 26-year-old Christensen will be introduced on Thursday. The Danish central defender joined Chelsea’s youth teams in 2012 and had a stint with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga before returning to Chelsea.

Christensen helped Chelsea win the Champions League, the Europea League and the Club World Cup, and was on the Danish national team that reached the semifinals of the 2020 European Championship.

Barcelona called him “strong and with great vision, a powerful center back who is excellent in the air” and “technically proficient with the ball at his feet, a perfect fit” for the Catalan club.

Kessie has 58 international appearances with his national team and played at the Tokyo Olympics as Ivory Coast reached the quarterfinals.

Kessie moved to Italy in 2014 to sign for Atalanta, where he played in the club’s youth squads before joining second-division team Cesena on a loan. Coach Gian Piero Gasperini eventually brought him back to Atalanta and he scored twice in his Serie A debut in 2016.

Kessie joined Milan on loan in 2017 and permanently signed with the club in 2019 for €33 million ($34.5 million). He helped AC Milan win its first title in 11 seasons this year. In his six seasons with Atalanta and Milan, Kessie scored 45 goals.

Barcelona called Kessie “the complete package” and a “strong midfielder with tactical awareness.”

“Kessie is a player who contributes in attack and in defense,” the club said. “Capable of winning the ball back in midfield, the African midfielder also has impressive stats as a goal-scorer, partly due to his ability to make runs into the penalty area.”

He will join a midfield that includes Sergio Busquets, Nico González and Frenkie de Jong.


Galtier appointed PSG coach on two-year deal

Galtier appointed PSG coach on two-year deal
Updated 8 min 2 sec ago

Galtier appointed PSG coach on two-year deal

Galtier appointed PSG coach on two-year deal
  • The 55-year-old Galtier was pictured arriving at the Parisians’ offices just outside the French capital on Monday with a press conference scheduled at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday at 2 p.m. (1200 GMT)

PARIS: Christophe Galtier has been appointed coach of French champions Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year deal, club sources confirmed on Monday.

Galtier, who spent last season in charge of Ligue 1 rivals Nice, takes over from Argentine Mauricio Pochettino.

The 55-year-old Galtier was pictured arriving at the Parisians’ offices just outside the French capital on Monday with a press conference scheduled at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. (1200 GMT).

PSG have been working to secure the appointment of a new coach for several weeks, but no move has been finalized while Pochettino and his backroom staff remain under contract.

PSG’s squad, minus those who were on international duty in June, reported for pre-season training on Monday.

Galtier, who left Nice last month, has developed a reputation as the leading coach in the French club game over the last decade.

He enjoyed eight successful years at Saint-Etienne, where he won the League Cup in 2013, before a four-year stint at Lille was crowned with the Ligue 1 title in 2021, when they pipped PSG.

Pochettino is set to leave Paris after 18 months in charge in which time he won the Ligue 1 title last season but also oversaw a disappointing exit from the Champions League in the last 16 at the hands of Real Madrid.

Having at one point been linked with a move for Zinedine Zidane, PSG’s swoop for Galtier may come as a surprise to some who expected the Qatar-owned club to opt for a more glamorous name on the bench.

However, the former Portsmouth assistant manager previously worked with Luis Campos, the Portuguese super scout who was recently named as PSG’s football adviser and who built the Lille team that won the league under Galtier.

PSG’s hopes of Champions League success in the short term were boosted by Kylian Mbappe’s decision at the end of last season to turn down Real Madrid and sign a new three-year deal at the Parc des Princes.

They have already made one signing ahead of the new campaign with the arrival of 22-year-old Portuguese midfielder Vitinha from Porto for a reported fee of 40 million euros ($42 million).

Mbappe, Lionel Messi and PSG’s other international stars will begin pre-season training next week.

PSG will depart for a short pre-season tour of Japan to play three games between July 20 and 25, before their first competitive match of the campaign on July 31 against Nantes in the French season-opening Champions Trophy in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The Ligue 1 season will begin on the weekend of Aug. 6 and 7.


KAU champ, UBT runner-up in women’s basketball for universities, colleges

KAU champ, UBT runner-up in women’s basketball for universities, colleges
Updated 04 July 2022

KAU champ, UBT runner-up in women’s basketball for universities, colleges

KAU champ, UBT runner-up in women’s basketball for universities, colleges
  • The tournament is aimed at promoting collegiate basketball within the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030 objective of encouraging regular participation in sports and athletic activities

JEDDAH: King Abdulaziz University won the First Women’s Basketball Tournament for Universities and Colleges 2022 organized by Jeddah United in cooperation with Jeddah Municipality.

The tournament is aimed at promoting collegiate basketball within the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030 objective of encouraging regular participation in sports and athletic activities. 

Champion team King Abdulaziz University.

Princess Reem Al-Faisal was the chief guest at the awards ceremony, in which trophies and medals were handed out by Jamil Attar, CEO of tournament sponsor Tarfeeh Fakieh; Engineer Hattan Hamouda representing Jeddah Municipality; and Obaid Madani from the event’s executive partner, Jeddah United.

University of Business and Technology finished second to champions KAU. 

Runner-up team University of Business and Technology (UBT).

UBT and Saudi national team player Reem Al-Maiman clinched the Most Valuable Player award while Dar Al-Hekma University won the Best Sportsmanship accolade. University of Jeddah rounded out the four teams in the competition.

“We were very happy to be part of this university tournament, an opportunity for King Abdulaziz University team to continue playing and represent our beloved university,” said Ruqayyah Mohammed Alzahrani, deputy manager for sports activities and university team administrator.

“Jeddah United united the teams! It was a friendly tournament. UBT ranked second place proudly, believing that we are all winners,” said Wala Maghrabi, UBT sports club manager.

For her part, UBT team captain Al-Maiman said: “The tournament was organized professionally by Jeddah United and with the support of the Referees Committee of the Saudi Basketball Federation, which gave the players the motivation to continue playing and competing in basketball.”


Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports
Updated 04 July 2022

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports

Ronaldo misses Manchester United training for ‘family reasons’: reports
LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo missed training with Manchester United on Monday due to “family reasons,” just days after the Portugal star reportedly told the club he wants to leave.
United players who had been away on international duty over the close-season were scheduled to meet up with the rest of the squad on Monday.
But, according to British media reports, Ronaldo did not attend, with his reason for failing to appear at United’s training ground accepted by the club.
However, the 37-year-old’s absence will be interpreted as the latest salvo in his bid to engineer a move away from Old Trafford.
Ronaldo is said to be disappointed by United’s decline since he returned to the club from Juventus last year.
United failed to qualify for this coming season’s Champions League after finishing sixth in the Premier League.
Despite the arrival of new manager Erik ten Hag from Ajax, Ronaldo reportedly does not believe United can challenge for major honors in the near future.
In the twilight of his career, Ronaldo would prefer to join a club capable of satisfying his desire to compete for the game’s top prizes.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo, who has a year left on his United contract, has played 19 consecutive seasons in the Champions League and is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer.
The former Real Madrid star’s agent Jorge Mendes has reportedly sounded out Bayern Munich and Chelsea about a potential move, yet United are said to be adamant Ronaldo is not for sale.
Ronaldo was United’s top scorer with 24 goals last term, but his campaign was marred by public shows of frustration on several occasions as the team struggled under first Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then interim boss Ralf Rangnick.
Ronaldo’s absence from training comes as United are due to leave for their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia on Friday.

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship
Updated 04 July 2022

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship

UAE wins at AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship
  • Commando Group takes the top sport with AFNT and Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in second and third
  • Emirati Zayed Al-Kathiri grabs the gold medal in the black belt contest

FUJAIRAH: The AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship came to a stunning conclusion on Sunday with the UAE taking home the most medals courtesy of excellent performances across the amateur and professional divisions.

Zayed Al-Kathiri, the star of Baniyas Club and the national team, won the gold medal in the 62-kilogram category at the championship, his first official competition in the black belt division. He defeated Brazilian Bruno Borges in a match that stoked the passion of the spectators.

The UAE took the lead in the national rankings, beating Brazil in second and Colombia in third.

The championship, held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, crown prince of Fujairah, saw heated contests with plenty of fervor and superb skills on display. The dramatic final day concluded as Commando Group Academy took the title, surpassing AFNT in second, with Sharjah Self-Defense Sports Club in third.

Brig. Ahmed Hamdan Al-Zeyoudi, chairman of the UAE Taekwondo Federation, Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, vice president of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, and Youssef Abdullah Al-Batran, UAEJJF board member, were among the guests who attended the competition on the second day.

“I express sincere gratitude and appreciation to Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, the crown prince of Fujairah, for his patronage (of) the championship,” said Al-Batran.

“His highness always provides full support and care for combat sports, especially jiu-jitsu, to ensure its prosperity, and contributes to consolidating the country’s position as the global capital for the sport.”

“The Fujairah International Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship is becoming more and more significant and offers the perfect environment for developing future world champions in various international forums and championships. The strongest evidence of this is the fact that it was able to draw in more than 800 male and female participants from 50 different nations across the globe,” he added.

Al-Kathiri was ecstatic about his win.

“I am overjoyed with this first black belt accomplishment. Competitions in this category are different from others as the participants are very strong and experienced. I approached most of my fights today with optimism, careful analysis of my opponents’ styles, and a total dedication to the technical staff’s instructions, all of which contributed to this success.”

Obaid Salem Al-Nuaimi of the Al-Jazira Club, who took gold in the 56-kilogram professional division, added: “The path to success was not simple considering the presence of a group of the strongest opponents.”