5 things to look out for in quarterfinals of African Champions League

5 things to look out for in quarterfinals of African Champions League
Al-Ahly wobbled a little in the group stage before pulling through and now the Egyptian titans have to prepare for a tough test against Raja Casablanca. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 April 2022

5 things to look out for in quarterfinals of African Champions League

5 things to look out for in quarterfinals of African Champions League
  • 6 of 8 clubs taking part in 1st legs are from Arab nations including reigning champions Al-Ahly of Egypt

RIYADH: The first legs of the African Champions League quarterfinals take place on Friday and Saturday, with six of the eight contenders representing Arab nations. Here are five talking points about the big games.

1. Al-Ahly hoping that history does and does not repeat itself

The defending champions wobbled a little in the group stage before pulling through and now the Egyptian titans have to prepare for a tough test against Raja Casablanca. There is no doubt that the Reds have what it takes to go all the way as they did in 2021 but there will be some concerns in the mind of coach Pitso Mosimane.

A lack of firepower almost cost the team in the group stage and the strikers will have to be less wasteful and the midfield more creative against the Moroccans.

There is something else. A first league defeat of the season last week saw Al-Ahly lose top spot to Cairo rivals Zamalek and bring a reminder of what happened last year. Zamalek were able to pull clear at home while Al-Ahly were busy overseas.

The Champions League campaign helped produce a fixture pile-up which meant that the Red Giants were unable to close the gap and had to settle for second in the domestic league. Still, the prospect of a record third straight African title means that Al-Ahly will be desperate to fight on all fronts and repeat last year’s continental success.

2. Time for a Moroccan win

It is no surprise to see both Raja Casablanca and Wydad AC in the last eight — the Moroccan pair are true heavyweights of African football with five continental championships between them. Yet only one of those wins have come in the 21st century when Wydad won in 2017. There have, however, been three runners-up spots in that time.

Raja, desperate to end their drought which stretches back to 1999, are set for a titanic clash against Al-Ahly. They are full of confidence after sailing through the group stage, unlike their opponents. There is also a chance for a little revenge as the Egyptians won their last meeting, the CAF Super Cup in December, after a penalty shootout.

Wydad also won their group with some ease and are strong favorites to get past CR Belouizdad as the Algerian team have never made it past this stage before in their past three appearances in the tournament. With their experience and firepower — 15 goals were scored in Group D — the Moroccans will expect to have at least one team in the last four.

3. Clubs can put smile back on face of Algerian football

It has been a tough year for fans in Algeria. First came the Africa Cup of Nations when the Desert Foxes arrived as defending champions and favorites to take the title. It was a disaster as a star-studded team finished bottom of a group that did not look too challenging, collecting just one point and one goal in the process. It was a long journey home.

At least there was the World Cup to look forward to, yet the play-off against Cameroon in March also ended in heartbreak. Despite winning the first leg away from home, Algeria conceded a 124th minute goal in Blida and saw their dreams of Qatar go up in smoke.

Now it is the turn of the clubs, though both CAF Champions League representatives face very tough challenges. If ES Setif, champions in 2014, can beat Esperance de Tunis and CR Belouizdad, relative novices in Africa, and overcome two-time champions Wydad AC to reach the semi-final, then it will provide at least some cheer for fans at home.

It will be far from easy, but Algeria know only too well that the favorites do not always progress.

4. Radhi Jaidi and ES Tunis looking for success

A little like the Tunisian national team, Esperance de Tunis are nothing if not solid. The four-time champions conceded just twice in six games in a group stage that they went through undefeated. They are also going well at home and sit on top of the league standings with less than a goal let in every two games.

This is a team that were champions of Africa in 2011, 2018, and 2019 and appeared in five finals in total in the previous decade. They have what it takes to take a third title in five years and coach Radhi Jaidi is looking to build a career on the bench that matches his exploits on the pitch.

The 46-year-old was the first Tunisian to play in the English Premier League when he signed for Bolton Wanderers in 2004 and then went on to feature for Birmingham City and Southampton where the former international started a coaching career that has also taken him to the US and Belgium. If he can lead ES Tunis to African glory, then his future really will be bright.

5. Arab dominance set to continue

North Africa is the dominant region in the Champions League with clubs from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria all winning in recent years.

The last time a non-Arab team reached the final was in 2016 when Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, led by current Al-Ahly boss Mosimane, defeated Zamalek to take the title. It is necessary to go back to 2009 to find a final with both teams from elsewhere in Africa as Nigeria’s Heartland FC lost on away goals to TP Mazembe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That is the only time it has happened this century.

And the dominance is set to continue. Only two teams from elsewhere have made it to the last eight this time around. Mamelodi Sundowns will take on Petro de Luanda of Angola. The South Africans will be strong favorites as they finished six points above Al-Ahly in the group stage, though Luanda are not to be underestimated as they took second in their group and ended up seven points above five-time champions Zamalek. The Sundowns have what it takes to go all the way but if they are to do so, they are going to have to beat some serious Arab powerhouses.


Serena announces upcoming retirement from the sport

Serena announces upcoming retirement from the sport
Updated 09 August 2022

Serena announces upcoming retirement from the sport

Serena announces upcoming retirement from the sport
  • On Monday, Williams played only her second singles match since she returned to action at Wimbledon in June
  • The 40-year-old said after that match that she could see the light at the end of the tennis tunnel in her career

LONDON: Serena Williams said on Tuesday that she is “evolving away from tennis” as she detailed her upcoming retirement from the sport that she dominated for the majority of her career with 23 singles Grand Slam titles.
On Monday, Williams played only her second singles match since she returned to action at Wimbledon in June after a year-long absence from competition, beating Spain’s Nuria Parrizas Diaz to reach the second round of the Toronto Open.
But the 40-year-old said after that match that she could see the light at the end of the tennis tunnel in her career before suggesting the US Open starting this month could be her swansong.
“I have never liked the word retirement,” Williams wrote in a Vogue article.
“It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.
“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.
“A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.”
Williams won her last Grand Slam in 2017 and has been chasing an elusive 24th crown that will draw her level with Margaret Court who holds the record for most majors.
She came tantalisingly close to achieving that feat, featuring in four major finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017.
“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT (greatest of all time) because I didn’t pass Court’s record, which she achieved before the ‘Open era’ that began in 1968,” former world number one Williams said.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a Slam final, then yes, I’m thinking about that record. Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help.”
Williams later talked in an Instagram post about the time to move in a “different direction.”
“That time is always hard when you love something so much,” she added. “My goodness do I enjoy tennis.
“But now, the countdown has begun. I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks.”


Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi targets victory in Lithuania to revive title hopes

Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi targets victory in Lithuania to revive title hopes
Updated 09 August 2022

Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi targets victory in Lithuania to revive title hopes

Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi targets victory in Lithuania to revive title hopes
  • Emirati ace vows to fight back from Polish setback and tips team-mate for the top

ABU DHABI: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi has set his sights on victory in the Grand Prix of Lithuania at the weekend to revive his hopes of a fourth UIM F2 World Championship crown.

The Emirati driver is determined to shrug off last month’s setback in Poland when a race error from one of the backmarkers put him out this season’s opening round.

“A similar thing happened to me in the first Grand Prix last season, and I still came through to take the title,” said the Emirati driver, ahead of Sunday’s second round of the championship in Kupiskis.

“I believe I still have a good chance this time. I have a brand new boat which is very good for me. I would have won in Poland but for a mistake by another driver, but that’s behind me now and I’m aiming for a win in Lithuania.”

Mansoor Al-Mansoori’s second place in Augustow behind Germany’s Stefan Hagin underlined his own credentials, and Al-Qemzi believe his Abu Dhabi team-mate can do well in this championship.

“Mansoor is improving all the time, and he has a great future in F2,” he said. “The management at Abu Dhabi Marine Sports Club choose the best to represent the team, and Mansoor has what it takes to get to the top.”

Holding second place in the F2 championship, Al-Mansoori is prepared for another big challenge in Kupiskis in the boat which took Al-Qemzi to the world title last year.

“The result in Poland has given me a lot of confidence,” Al-Mansoori said. “It showed that I can compete with the guys at the top in F2, and motivates me to fight for another good result in Lithuania.

“My focus is to finish in a good position. I’m still fairly new to F2, still building and gaining experience. I want to support Rashed, and at the same time follow his steps, and it’s an honor to be driving the boat of the three-times world champion.”

The Team Abu Dhabi duo are in a strong field of 21 boats assembling in Kupiskis, where Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko is aiming to complete back-to-back wins in his home event.

After a Saturday afternoon qualifying session, the F2 boats will contest an evening match race event before the Grand Prix of Lithuania gets under way.


Saudi athletes claim silver, bronze at Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey

Saudi athletes claim silver, bronze at Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi athletes claim silver, bronze at Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey

Saudi athletes claim silver, bronze at Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkey
  • Mohammed Tolo second in shot put and Ali Al-Khadrawi third in table tennis
  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the federation, proud of performances

Saudi Arabia claimed two more medals at the Islamic Solidarity Games, in shot put and table tennis, on Monday in Turkey.

This comes ahead of the tournament’s official opening ceremony in Konya, on Tuesday night.

President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who also serves as president of Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, was in attendance on Monday as Mohammed Tolo claimed silver for Saudi Arabia in the shot put with a throw of 20.12 meters.

Saudi’s second medal of the day came from Ali Al-Khadrawi who took bronze in the individual table tennis competition, having lost 4-1 in the semifinals to Iran’s Amir Hussein.

Al-Khadrawi had reached the last four with a 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Turkey’s Abdullah Talha.

The Kingdom’s overall medal tally at Konya 2022 now stands at three (one silver and two bronze).

Meanwhile, Saudi’s U-23 team defeated Azerbaijan 1-0 in their opening match of the football competition, the winning goal coming from Ahmed Al-Ghamdi’s 95th-minute penalty.

The athletics competition saw two Saudi runners reach the final of the 400-meter race, with Mazen Al-Yassin winning Heat 2 in 45.94 seconds, while Yousef Masrahi finished second in Heat 1 with a time of 45.95.

Mohammed Al-Maawi qualified for the final of the 400 hurdles, by finishing third in the heats in 50.84.

Abdullah Abkar qualified for the semifinals of the 100 sprint by coming second in Heat 2 in a time of 10.06.

In the final of the men’s 5000, Tariq Al-Omari finished sixth with a time of 13 minutes, 95.05 seconds, while Yasmine Al-Dabbagh came sixth in the women’s 100 qualifiers in 12.81. It was a personal best for the Saudi Olympian, whose previous record stood at 12.90.

In the Paralympic swimming competition, Ibrahim Al-Marzouki, already winner of a bronze in the 50-meter butterfly, finished fourth in the 200 freestyle final with a time of 4:39.21, the same position as Saudi colleague Turki Al-Harbi in the 200 medley (2:54.73).


Formula E’s Alberto Longo proves doubters wrong ahead of milestone 100th race

Formula E’s Alberto Longo proves doubters wrong ahead of milestone 100th race
Updated 09 August 2022

Formula E’s Alberto Longo proves doubters wrong ahead of milestone 100th race

Formula E’s Alberto Longo proves doubters wrong ahead of milestone 100th race
  • ‘Some people laughed but look how far we’ve come’
  • Maserati, McLaren and ABT on next year’s grid is mark of success

Formula E’s co-founder and chief championship officer Alberto Longo is happy to have proved people wrong as the championship prepares to host its 100th race this Sunday.

South Korean capital Seoul will stage the double-header season finale rounds on Aug. 13 and 14 with Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne sitting at the top of the drivers’ standings and a firm favorite to clinch his first Formula E title.

Since the inaugural race was held in Beijing in 2014, Longo has been among the key figures in helping the Formula E Championship grow and says he and his team are “super proud” of the manner in which its presence has increased worldwide.

“I am so proud of what we are today compared to what we were when the first race was held. I remember when we first had the idea of this competition. Some people laughed about the venture we were thinking about, and now look how far we have come.

“I can only remember those first days where there were some brave people who put in their efforts and believed in what we were doing. There are a lot of people that we have to thank, as we are here because of them. We now have a World Championship with spectacular races around the world, in some of the most amazing cities, with fantastic teams as well as an excellent line-up of drivers.”

“Today, you are not talking about the future anymore — we’re talking about the present and what is happening today. Overall, I’m super proud of what we have achieved but this is only the tip of the iceberg — and there is a lot more to come.”

Longo believes Formula E will continue to go from strength to strength as it enters a new era with the introduction of the Gen 3 cars next season. He insists the new additions of popular car manufacturers Maserati, McLaren and ABT on next year’s grid is a prime example of Formula E’s success and revealed there is no shortage of interest when it comes to the cities that want to be part of future Formula E season calendars.

“There are many manufacturers that come and go and that happens in every championship, but we do have the power to attract new manufacturers and that is a fact,” Longo said.

“This year, we have three new teams with Maserati, McLaren, and ABT. That is fantastic because in just a single year, it shows how we can attract such big names in motorsport.

“It’s not just from car manufacturers’ perspectives, but also with new cities. We are dealing with more than 100 cities on a yearly basis that want to host an event in Formula E — and that is way different to how it was during the earlier stages of when Formula E had just been launched.”


Al-Nassr continue impressive pre-season form with 2-1 friendly win over Torremolinos

Al-Nassr continue impressive pre-season form with 2-1 friendly win over Torremolinos
Updated 09 August 2022

Al-Nassr continue impressive pre-season form with 2-1 friendly win over Torremolinos

Al-Nassr continue impressive pre-season form with 2-1 friendly win over Torremolinos
  • The win came in the Riyadh club’s fourth match of their ongoing training camp in Spain

Al-Nassr defeated Spanish club Torremolinos 2-1 in the Saudi team’s fourth friendly match of their pre-season training camp taking place in Marbella.

The Riyadh club drew 2-2 in their first match against Las Palmas, and beat Zaragoza 2-1 in the second and Malaga 2-0 in the third.

Against Torremolinos, Al-Nassr started with a high press early on, Pity Martinez having a shot saved after only four minutes, while the referee disallowed a goal by Talisca after 15 minutes for offside.

Quick-fire goals in the 43rd and 44th minutes by Vincent Aboubakar and Talisca saw Al-Nassr take a two-goal lead into the break.

Torremolinos reduced the deficit in the 74th minute, but Rudi Garcia’s team, thanks to several substitutions, managed to see out the match for the 2-1 win.

Al-Nassr will host Al-Wehda at Mrsool Park on Aug. 27 in their opening fixture of the 2022-23 Saudi Pro League season.