Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
Rudie Garcia has been appointed new coach of Al-Nassr. (Arriyadiyah)
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Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr

Saudi clubs gear up for next season, new coach already at Al-Nassr
  • Champions Al-Hilal extends Jang Hyun-soo’s contract, with defender Ali Al-Bulaihi and keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf likely to stay
  • New management at runners-up Al-Ittihad possible after disastrous title bid

On Monday evening, Al-Hilal became champions of Saudi Arabia for the 18th time, defeating Al-Faisaly to finish first above Al-Ittihad, but the next day, rivals were already on the move, making plans for next season.

There is not much time for rest and preparation. The just-finished campaign lasted for 10-and-a-half months due to international breaks, continental club commitments, the AFC U-23 Asian Cup (which Saudi Arabia won earlier this month) and the postponement in May due to the death of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Those that start early will get the advantage and Al-Nassr, for one, are wasting no time. Head coach Miguel Angel Rosso was always going to be on his way at the end of the season, though the Argentine boss did manage to get the Yellows to third, just four points behind Al-Ittihad and six behind the champions. Bosses at the club had their eyes on another coach for some time, and on Tuesday announced that they had finally got their man.

Rudi Garcia is preparing to leave France and head to Saudi Arabia on a two-year contract.

“The first step to prepare for the next season is to contract with the coach,” Musalli Al-Muammar, CEO of Al-Nassr, said. “The negotiations were long and arduous but we got through the obstacles and difficulties. Garcia will be in Riyadh next week, to complete preparations and study the situation of the team.”

The Frenchman has a fine resume. He was linked in November to the interim Manchester United head coach position that eventually was filled by Ralf Rangnick. The 58-year-old was in charge of Lyon in 2020 when they knocked Juventus and Manchester City out of the UEFA Champions League and went all the way to the semifinals where they were eliminated by Bayern Munich. He took Roma to successive second-place finishes behind the dominant Juventus and now has a two-year contract to take Al-Nassr back to the top of Saudi football for the first time since 2019, when they won their ninth title.

First order of business for Garcia will be to keep Talisca, the Brazilian who scored 20 goals last season. There have been reports that he may be heading back to Europe, though recent comments from the man himself suggest that he may stay. Meanwhile, Vincent Aboubakar, looks to be heading to Qatar. The Cameroonian striker scored eight goals though was not quite as impressive after returning from the African Cup of Nations earlier this year as top scorer. Uruguayan forward Jonathan Rodriguez has already left. Argentine defender Ramon Mori is also likely to be surplus to requirements along with Brazilian midfielder Anselmo.

One benefit of getting a coach with recent experience at the top of the European game is the players he can bring in. Already French media is reporting that Al-Nassr are about to beat Lyon to sign Ghislain Konan, the Ivory Coast international left-back. He has been one of the most highly rated defenders in the French league and would be a fine addition to the SPL.

David Ospina has also been strongly linked with Riyadh. The former Arsenal goalkeeper has been released by Napoli and it was thought that he could be heading to Lazio but that was before Garcia took the job in Riyadh. It remains to be seen if one or both of those stars follow Garcia from Europe to Saudi Arabia but it is certain that there will be more talent to arrive at Al-Nassr in the coming weeks.

Like true champions Al-Hilal have not been standing still either and have already announced the extension of Jang Hyun-soo’s contract and it is likely that central defensive partner Ali Al-Bulaihi and goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf will get the same treatment.

And what of Al-Ittihad? The Tigers, who led the SPL table so long but then let a 16-point advantage over Al-Hilal become a two-point deficit when it mattered, are licking their wounds. The pain will be there for some time to come but preparations for next season can’t wait. They are going to go ahead without Cosmin Contra. For much of the season it was questionable whether the Romanian boss needed to win the title to keep his job but the way it ended, with Al-Ittihad throwing it away and dropping 13 points from the last eight games, means that there will be a new coaching team in place. Club officials are hoping it is sooner rather than later.

There is plenty of talent in Jeddah with the prolific Romarinho in attack, the talented Igor Coronado and the commanding Ahmed Hegazi in defense. Winger Fahad Al-Muwallad is set to appeal the 18-month ban he received in May for testing positive for a banned substance, and his return would be a big boost. It may be harder to keep Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah who has been linked with a move to Europe. Most importantly however is getting the right coach in quickly.

Football never stops and last season is already history. There is a lot of work for title hopefuls if they are going to give themselves the best chance of stopping Al-Hilal making it four in a row. Al-Nassr are making the early running but all need to get their preparations in gear.


Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh
Updated 7 sec ago

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh

Nutrition for health and sports under spotlight in Riyadh
  • Saudi federation holds workshops with PepsiCo
  • Seminars part of Vision 2030’s xQuality of Life Program

The importance of nutrition for athletic performance and general health was under the spotlight in Riyadh recently with the Saudi Sports for All Federation, or SFA, holding its second series of workshops with PepsiCo’s Gatorade Sport and Science Institute.

The popular program saw 61 participants selected from 303 applicants, which included Community Sports Groups, coaches, and experts in several sporting codes.

Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the SFA, said: “At SFA, we take a holistic approach to health and wellness that encompasses all elements required for a healthy lifestyle. The sports nutrition workshop is one of our initiatives to provide our communities with trainers to help them navigate a lifestyle driven by sports and physical activity.

“Participants from the workshop are now equipped with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to support fellow citizens and residents with guidance on nutrition and hydration as we embark on our goal to increase sports and physical activity in the Kingdom,” she said.

PepsiCo’s GSSI was established in 1985 to help athletes with expert nutritional advice.

Karim Khedr, franchise VP, said: “Through our partnership with SFA, we are aiming to improve people’s quality of life in Saudi Arabia. We recognize the importance of working with partners who share the same ambitions — and together we want to empower athletes for success by providing tools to advance them to become strong assets in building a better future.

“We are proud to see the number of participants who attended the sports nutrition training workshops and look forward to further playing our part in supporting the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 goal of being among the leaders in selected sports regionally and globally.”

The three-day seminar covered a range of topics, including hydration, the function of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals, and dietary supplements.

Participants received personalized GSSI certificates and will serve as sports ambassadors.

The workshops are supported by the Ministry of Sport. This is part of Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the number of people exercising at least once a week to 40 percent.


Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
Updated 10 August 2022

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury

Naomi Osaka exits opening match at Toronto with back injury
  • She had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round
  • Includes straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

TORONTO: Naomi Osaka’s recent struggles continued Tuesday with an early exit at the National Bank Open.

The four-time Grand Slam champion retired from her first-round match with a back injury. She was trailing 7-6 (4), 3-0 against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi when she withdrew from the contest.

“I felt my back from the start of the match, and despite trying to push through it, I just wasn’t able to today,” Osaka said. “I’d like to pay credit to Kaia for playing well and want to wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Entering the tournament, Osaka had been eliminated from her last three competitions in the first or second round, including a straight-sets loss to Coco Gauff at last week’s Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. That was her first tournament since the French Open as she recovered from an Achilles injury.

Prior to that run, she had her best tournament of the year making it to the final of the Miami Open in early April before losing to top-ranked Iga Swiatek.

The 31st-ranked Kanepi will next play No. 8 Garbine Muguruza of Spain.

In other matches, 10th seeded Gauff beat fellow American Madison Brenglem 6-1, 6-3; China’s Zheng Qinwen got past Canada’s Rebecca Marino, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4; Italy’s Camila Giorgi defeated ninth-seeded Emma Raducanu of England, 7-6 (0), 6-2; and Bianca Andreescu of Canada beat Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Elize Mertens of Belgium, Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, Ajla Tomljanovic of Russia, Amanda Anisimova of the US, and Zhang Shuai of China also advanced.

Osaka struggled with unforced errors and had four of her five double faults in the first set. She won the first game with the help of three unforced errors from Kanepi, but the four-time Grand Slam champion lost her momentum after going up 2-1.

Kanepi won four of the next seven games to go up 5-3. From there, Osaka had to fight her way out of two set-point opportunities from Kanepi. With a mix of a strong backhand and multiple errors from Kanepi, Osaka was able to tie it up and send the set to a tiebreaker.

With the tiebreaker tied 3-3, Kanepi turned up her level of play taking four of the next five points as Osaka handed her set point on a shot past the baseline. Kanepi built on that momentum in the second set, taking advantage of Osaka’s mishaps and firing sharp forehands past the Japanese star.

After hitting her second ace of the match earlier in the final game, Kanepi closed out with a strong serve that Osaka returned high and wide.

Andreescu won this event in 2019 before taking the US Open title in what was a breakout year for the 22-year-old. She hasn’t won a tournament since, having battled through injuries and taking a “mental break” at one point in 2021. Andreescu’s lone final appearance this year has been at the Bad Homburg Open where she fell to Caroline Garcia.

Andreescu will play Alize Cornet of France in the second round.


Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
Updated 10 August 2022

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out

Kyrgios lifts mental game for seventh straight win, Murray out
  • Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season

MONTREAL: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios let an early lead slip but regrouped on Tuesday for a 6-4, 6-4 first-round victory over Sebastian Baez at the ATP Montreal Masters.

World No. 37 Kyrgios, a title winner last week in Washington, next faces world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, who won last week’s Los Cabos crown.

“It will be a great test and a lot of fun,” Kyrgios said. “He’s a hell of a player. He’s unorthodox — an animal.

“I want to see where my game’s at so I’ll be giving it my best shot.”

The day was a disaster for Britain’s Andy Murray as the treble Grand Slam winner was cut off in the first round, a 6-1, 6-3 victim of Taylor Fritz.

The American presented nothing but frustration to Murray, who lost with just seven winners and 19 unforced errors while Fritz fired 30 winners in 87 minutes.

“It’s an honor to be on court with Andy,” Fritz said. “He has been dominating since before I came onto the tour.”

Medvedev’s chances of retaining the top ranking over the next month are on the line when he plays Kyrgios.

The 27-year-old Australian secured his seventh straight match victory since losing to Novak Djokovic in last month’s Wimbledon final.

Kyrgios said he is on point physically but had to work to maintain mental strength in the match played 48 hours after lifting the trophy in the US capital.

“Physically I feel fine, mentally I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve not had much sleep in the last few days.

“I’ve put Washington behind me already. I’ve not played great in Montreal in the past, so I’m just trying to create some good memories for myself.”

Kyrgios held a comfortable 5-1 margin in the opening set before Argentine Baez fought back to 4-5 before dropping the set.

The Aussie managed to stop the rot and left nothing to chance in the second set as he closed out victory.

Kyrgios has won 13 of his last 14 singles matches and stands 28-7 this breakthrough season.

Earlier, fellow Aussie Alex De Minaur finished off a match delayed from Monday by rain, winning four of the only five points remaining to add to the misery of Canadian Denis Shapovalov 7-5, 7-6 (7/4).

Shapovalov stands 1-9 since upsetting Rafael Nadal at Rome last May as his slump deepens.

French showman Gael Monfils defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez 7-6 (7/4), 3-6, 6-2.

Matteo Berrettini’s comeback from the Covid-19 positive test which forced him to quit Wimbledon stalled out, with the Italian losing 6-3, 6-2 to Paolo Carreno Busta in the opening round.

Berrettini played a clay final last month against Casper Ruud in Gstaad, but was unable to make a decent start to his pre-US Open cement season.


Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault
Updated 10 August 2022

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault

Man City’s Mendy goes on trial for rape and sexual assault
  • All the alleged offenses are said to have taken place at Mendy’s home address in Prestbury near Macclesfield, also in northwest England, between October 2018 and August last year

LONDON: Manchester City and France footballer Benjamin Mendy stands trial Wednesday for the alleged rape and assault of seven women, which could see his playing career end in jail if convicted.

Mendy, 28, is due at Chester Crown Court in northwest England to face eight counts of rape, one count of sexual assault and one count of attempted rape, relating to seven young women.

He pleaded not guilty in May to nine of the 10 charges, but was subsequently hit with the further rape count which has not yet been put to him in a court.

All the alleged offenses are said to have taken place at Mendy’s home address in Prestbury near Macclesfield, also in northwest England, between October 2018 and August last year.

He is standing trial before a jury along with his co-defendant Louis Saha Matturie, 40, who has also pleaded not guilty.

Matturie denies eight counts of rape and four counts of sexual assault, relating to eight young women. His alleged offenses span from July 2012 to August last year.

Both the defendants are on bail, with Mendy subject to what a judge previously called “stringent” conditions, including the surrender of his passport.

After his arrest last August he was initially held at Altcourse prison in Liverpool, and then a prison in Manchester, before being freed on bail in January.

None of the women said to have been assaulted can be named under English law, which also places restrictions on what can be reported about the case.

The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.

It begins in the same week that former Manchester United star Ryan Giggs started his trial on charges of attacking and coercively controlling his ex-girlfriend.

Mendy joined Premier League champions City from French side Monaco in 2017. He has played 75 times for the Manchester club, but his playing time was limited by injuries and a loss of form.

He was suspended by City after being charged by police in August.

The last of Mendy’s 10 caps for France came in November 2019, after the defender won the World Cup in 2018.


Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs
Updated 10 August 2022

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs

Benfica, Kyiv, Eindhoven and Rangers advance to Champions League playoffs
  • The first leg of the playoffs take place on Aug. 16/17 with the return fixtures a week later

PARIS: Two-time former champions Benfica will play Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv while Ruud van Nistelrooy’s PSV Eindhoven will face Glasgow Rangers after they all qualified for the final Champions League qualifying playoff round on Tuesday.

Luuk De Jong claimed an 109th-minute winner as PSV Eindhoven edged Monaco 3-2 in extra-time in the Netherlands, to go through 4-3 on aggregate.

De Jong was adamant his side deserved the win.

“Monaco hit the bar and the post, I hit the target,” said the PSV captain.

Monaco had been awakened overnight when fireworks were set off outside their hotel, and there was a fiery atmosphere inside a packed stadium in a see-saw match.

Joey Veerman fired the Dutch ahead on 21mins with a sweet shot into the far corner but Guillermo Maripan then levelled clinically with a cool finish in a goalmouth scramble.

Monaco striker Wissam Ben Yedder then raced on to a sweeping through ball to smack home the go-ahead goal before PSV grabbed a late equalizer as Mexican Erick Gutierrez delivered PSV on 89 minutes.

Benfica beat Mitjylland 3-1 to win 7-2 on aggregate thanks largely to midfielder Enzo Fernandez and 20-year-old striker Henrique Araujo who scored before Pione Sisto responded for the Danes.

Argentinian Fernandez, 21, and Araujo were making just their second European appearances as Diogo Goncalves claimed the third goal for the 1961 and 1962 winners.

In Scotland Malik Tillman completed a turn around when he scored the decider with 11 minutes left as Rangers beat Union Saint-Gilloise 3-0.

The Belgian outfit had won the first leg 2-0 in their first appearance in European competition since 1964-65.

Kostiantyn Vivcharenko and Viktor Tsygankov guided Dynamo Kiyv past Austrians Sturm Graz 3-1 over two ties with efforts in extra time.

Dynamo were second in the Ukrainian Premier League when Russia invaded the country earlier this year.

Earlier, Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol, who stunned Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu during last season’s group stages, were knocked out by Viktoria Plzen as the Czech outfit won 4-2 over two legs.

The first leg of the playoffs take place on Aug. 16/17 with the return fixtures a week later.