NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
The Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks will meet at the NBA Abu Dhabi Games on Oct. 6 and 8. (Getty images)
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Updated 18 August 2022

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region

NBA Abu Dhabi Games may be slam dunk for basketball in the region
  • Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, talks to Arab News about the two games between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena

With the NBA Abu Dhabi Games on Oct. 6 and 8 hosting the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island, Arab News spoke to Saleh Mohamed Al-Geziry, director general of tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi, about sports tourism, the partnership with the American league, and how it will lead to promoting basketball in the UAE and the region.

Here’s what he had to say:

On the partnership between the NBA and Abu Dhabi:

Our collaboration with the NBA is an exciting next step in our ambitious sports tourism strategy for the emirate, as we work to offer an unbeatable year-round calendar of fantastic sporting events. It’s hard to overstate basketball’s massive global appeal — the NBA is an incredibly popular league with millions of fans around the world, and viewership numbers that keep climbing year on year.

So, it was a natural choice to bring a sporting league of this magnitude to Abu Dhabi — it’s a fantastic opportunity to further raise our destination’s global profile, as the eyes of the basketball world will be firmly focused on the UAE capital this October.

The NBA partnership is ideal for Abu Dhabi; we already have a track record of numerous successful tie-ups with high profile global IPs and the emirate is a destination that prides itself on offering unique and innovative experiences. Now, with the NBA Abu Dhabi Games this October, we can offer some of the world’s biggest basketball superstars facing off in the region for the very first time.

And of course, fans converging in Abu Dhabi for this first-in-the-region event will have a positive impact on airlines, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and shopping malls while creating a great atmosphere.

On the massive response from basketball fans to the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games:

The response has been phenomenal — the inaugural NBA Abu Dhabi Games is a sold-out event, and the anticipation is palpable among NBA fans across the country and the region. None of this is a great surprise to us, as we knew the interest was there, but it is still so gratifying to see the fan engagement and excitement in the lead-up to this ground-breaking sporting event.

The great news for fans in the city is that the action is not just focused on the arena, this is an unmissable week-long celebration of sport, entertainment and culture featuring two historic NBA games, citywide activations, an interactive fanzone and special appearances by NBA legends.

On the different NBA events to take place over the coming years:

Abu Dhabi and the NBA have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership, so we are exploring which activations and events make the most sense for the coming years.

One exciting offshoot of our collaboration that will definitely be taking place annually is the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, launched in February this year. It introduced the NBA and basketball to a whole new generation of 11- to 14-year-olds in Abu Dhabi, who also had the chance to meet and learn from seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry and Olympic gold medalist Clyde Drexler.

On the partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi raising basketball’s profile in the UAE:

The partnership between the NBA and DCT Abu Dhabi has already begun to contribute directly to the growth of basketball within the region. Take the Junior NBA Abu Dhabi League, for instance, where more than 450 boys and girls from 30 schools across the emirate participated in its first-ever edition this year — and I have no doubt that we will see participation numbers rising in the future.

Looking to the wider region, this partnership also brings a huge range of activations to the GCC for the first time, including a series of NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness, an NBA 2K League Exhibition event at the annual Middle East Film & Comic Con, and interactive fan events featuring former and current NBA players. Such events will only grow interest in the sport of basketball and we look forward to seeing that development continue in the years ahead.

On how the NBA could develop local talent in the UAE and the region:

Hosting world-class sporting events ensures elite international players visit and inspire the local population, helping to grow interest and motivate young players to hone their talent and follow their dreams. Through its various high-profile events, Abu Dhabi has helped fuel the popularity of multiple sports throughout the region, including motorsports, golf, football, cricket, tennis, and swimming.

Basketball is firmly on that list. An increasing number of Emirati teams are entering international competitions, and more than 220 players from the Middle East recently joined Basketball Without Borders, a program that develops talent outside of the USA. Commonly known as the NBA Academy, this year’s cohort includes five players from the UAE.

What to expect at NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022:

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 is a first for the region, and undoubtedly a special and incredibly exciting time for basketball fans in the UAE and beyond. The sport of basketball is high-octane, with games speeding by at a breakneck pace, and those attending the games in October can expect non-stop action and thrills. I’m sure the audience’s energy will be electric as they cheer on their favorites.

What will make that time extra special are the accompanying activities and interactive fan events, which will provide unmissable opportunities to meet some of the world’s greatest basketball stars. Appearances by current top NBA players, as well as legends of the sport, will ensure that the NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will be an unforgettable experience for basketball fans.

Of course, we hope that fans venture beyond the on-court action and take the time to explore what the emirate has to offer. Visitors can ride the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, soak up the sun on our stunning beaches, take in some culture at Louvre Abu Dhabi, or enjoy alfresco dining experiences at Yas Bay. No matter what they’re looking for, there really is something for every visitor in Abu Dhabi.


The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
Updated 16 sec ago

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United

The view from Saudi: a year of momentous change at Newcastle United
  • On and off the pitch, standards and expectations have been raised

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Newcastle United takeover, club Chairman Yasser Al-Rumayyan delivered a special open letter to the club’s fans.

“The first game after the takeover will live long in my memory,” he said recalling the home game against Tottenham on Oct. 17, 2021 and the “feeling of pride at holding the black and white scarf entering the stadium.”

So much has happened since that day, and I was lucky to experience many of those moments both in Newcastle and at home in Saudi Arabia.

Here are my main takes from a memorable year.

Hope returns

When Keith Patterson, a popular Newcastle fan who helped push the takeover, was asked about the biggest change at the club after the Saudi-backed purchase, he replied simply: “Hope.”

That there is the hope of winning a trophy — something that could not be envisioned a year ago — is a sign of just how ambitious Newcastle United, both the club and its fans, have become.

It might not come this season, but now there is real hope that a first trophy since the 1969 Fairs Cup is on the way.

Pre-season sets tone for new campaign

Winning the Premier League is not the target for Newcastle right now, and supporters know that a far more realistic target is winning a domestic cup at Wembley or reaching Europe next season.

The club’s intentions were clear from the pre-season camps in Austria and Portugal, which saw impressive displays against Benfica and Atlanta in particular.

With an improved, settled squad in place, the feel-good factor of the summer has carried over into the season.

Intelligent recruitment

The January transfer window set a high bar for Newcastle’s recruitment, with Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn, Bruno Guimaraes and Chris Wood joining on a full-time basis.

And things have only improved since then, with the summer window seeing the likes of Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak joining Eddie Howe’s squad.

During the summer, fans were impatient for big-name signings, but the management’s vision was different, with Howe prioritizing individuals with the right personality for his team before anything else.

Off the pitch, recruitment has also been meticulous, the club biding their time to get the right people in place. From signing Howe himself, to adding Sporting Director Dan Ashworth, CEO Darren Eales and others, Newcastle now has a management team that is the envy of most clubs.

A promising start to the Premier League season

The start to the 2022-23 season could not be more different from that of last season, when Newcastle failed to win any of their first 14 fixtures.

This time around, Newcastle kicked off with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest and after eight matches find themselves seventh in the league and eyeing Europe.

The 11 points have come from two wins, five draws and only one narrow loss to Liverpool. Some of those draws could have been wins as well, and while a lot of hard work still awaits Howe and his squad in the coming months, no one is complaining about this positive start.

Upcoming challenges off the pitch

Newcastle’s to-do list remains a long one, and one of the challenges — a welcome one — is how to meet the demands of fans.

St. James’ over-52,000 capacity could be sold several times over for every match. There has even been talk of a brand-new stadium with an 80,000 capacity.

In theory, that may solve a problem, but in reality, it will initiate a bigger one. St. James remains the heart of the city, and its location is culturally and financially precious.

Far more likely is redeveloping this historic home.

Mehrdad Ghodoussi, part-owner of Newcastle United, has made it clear that the club is in talks with the city council to try and expand St. James’ capacity.

Leaving the stadium, he said, would be “like tearing your soul out.”

He added: “There are a lot of things that need to happen first. If we can get it to 60,000 or 65,000, it will be amazing, and we’ll look at every possibility.”


Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme
Updated 44 min 57 sec ago

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme

Chicherit takes victory in Morocco, Loeb responds with stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme
  • Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi took fourth place overall in another Toyota Hilux, while Qatar’s Al-Attiyah now leads in world title race

AGADIR: Guerlain Chicherit took his Prodriver Hunter to a milestone victory in the Rallye Du Maroc today as Sebastien Loeb produced a brilliant last-stage win for Bahrain Raid Xtreme.

Partnered by fellow-Frenchman Alex Winocq, Chicherit extended his overnight lead to reach the finish in Agadir with a 10-minute, 55-second margin over Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro in their BRX Prodrive Hunter.

After being forced to retire from the penultimate leg with steering problems, BRX star Loeb produced the perfect response alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin, setting the fastest time on the final leg to keep alive his title hopes in the World Rally-Raid Championship, or W2RC.

Second fastest on the day, having led the rally since the end of Tuesday’s third stage, Chicherit went into the record books by securing a maiden rally victory — surely the first of many — for the impressive Hunter.

Significantly, all three Prodrive Hunters completed the rally running on sustainable Eco-Power fuel, which reduces CO2 emissions by 80 percent.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah is the new W2RC leader after finishing third overall in his Toyota Hilux, just over 29 minutes adrift of Chicherit and almost 19 mins away from runner-up Terranova. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi took fourth place overall in another Toyota Hilux.

Loeb had been firmly on course to extend his lead in the W2RC when he started the previous day’s stage, lying third overall, with a lead of almost 23 minutes over Al-Attiyah.

But 127 km into the stage, he was halted by steering problems, which eventually forced his retirement for the day, with the BRX team working through the night to put the Prodrive Hunter back in action today.

The final leg, which returned the Rallye Du Maroc to Agadir, was as challenging as it was spectacular: 185 km of special stage and 189 km of liaison, all along the Atlantic coast, finishing with a 10 km beach run along the famous Plage Blanche.

From the start, Loeb had his sights on maximum W2RC points as the stage winner, setting the pace on the first 30 km and gradually increasing his lead over Chicherit at 93 km, 249 km and 274 km, before cruising home along the white beach with 1 minute, 8 seconds to spare.


High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship
Updated 53 min 19 sec ago

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship

High-flying Saudis face Kuwait, test 2023 Asian U-17 Championship
  • A couple of big wins over Myanmar and Maldives leave the young Green Falcons top of their group and on course for next year’s finals

Saudi Arabia’s young footballers continue to set high standards and are once again eyeing an age group tournament success.

The Young Falcons thrashed Maldives 9-0 on Wednesday in the second qualification game of the 2023 Asian U-17 Championship to stay on top of Group D and on course for a place at next year’s tournament.

Following the 6-0 defeat of Myanmar in the opening round two days previously, the most recent win keeps the Saudis three points ahead of India in second and Kuwait in third, the opponents in the next two games. Only the 10 group winners are guaranteed qualification, along with the six best-placed runners-up. With the start Saudi Arabia have made — as well as the advantage of playing all four group games in their home city of Alkhobar — the odds are looking good.

Perhaps the result of the team coming off a two-week training camp in the eastern city of Dammam, scoring goals has been no problem with 15 in two games so far, a strike rate that clocks in at a goal every 12 minutes. They have been spread around the team nicely too. Ramiz Al-Attar has contributed three with Talal Haji, Nawaf Al-Jadaani and Nawaf Al-Janahi all managing two each.

It has been the perfect start, but the real tests come on Friday and Sunday. The first is against Kuwait who lost 3-0 to India on Wednesday. It was a disappointing performance from the Blues who defeated Maldives and Myanmar before their loss and will almost certainly be out of the running, even for second place, if they lose to Saudi Arabia.

If coach Adbulwahab Nasser Al-Harbi’s men can take the three points on Friday, then a draw will almost certainly be enough against an improving India to take top spot. Given Saudi Arabia’s goal difference, it is also likely that just one win from the final two games will earn the youngsters at least a place in the tournament as one of the best runners-up.

Al-Harbi will be looking for four wins out of four, however. There is some pressure to do so. Saudi Arabia’s U-23 team won the Asian Championship in June, and the U-20 team lifted the Arab Cup in August, defeating Egypt in the final, and then went on to finish top of their group in qualification for the 2023 Asian Championships. The ambitions of the U-17 team are not just to qualify for the continental event but to win it wherever it takes place (the host has not yet been named).

Saudi Arabia have lifted the trophy, in its former guise as the Asian U-16 Championships in the inaugural meeting in 1985, and then repeated the feat in 1988. The best showing since then was a place in the semifinals in 1992, a record that is not good enough for one of the continent’s powerhouses. Other Arab winners are Oman, who have managed to do so twice, with Qatar champions in 1990 and Iraq triumphant in 2016. These teams, and others from the region, are all in action in the coming days.

In Group A, Japan look set for first place, leaving hosts Jordan, Syria and Turkmenistan fighting it out for that coveted second-placed spot. With Syria facing the impressive Japanese next, Jordan have a chance to move clear if they can defeat Turkmenistan. The UAE won their first two games in Group B, including a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 win over a struggling Palestine team, but a 3-2 defeat to Indonesia leaves the situation looking uncertain heading into Friday’s crunch clash with Malaysia.

Group C is an all-Arabian affair. Oman are currently top as the only team with maximum points. Yet the next game is against Qatar in second, a meeting of two past champions, and this will go a long way to determining who qualifies. If Oman win, the group will likely be theirs. Lebanon are bottom with one point from the first three games, and Bahrain and Iraq both need to win their remaining games if they are to have a chance.

There is still a long way to go in Group E, though Yemen had a great start with an 8-0 demolition of Bhutan and face a big task against Singapore. Yet it could be the following game against hosts Bangladesh that decides what happens. A win there and Yemen should join Saudi Arabia in next year’s U-17 Championships, though Kuwait and India will still have something to say about that.


Adebayo, Cain lead Heat over Durant, Simmons and Nets

Adebayo, Cain lead Heat over Durant, Simmons and Nets
Updated 07 October 2022

Adebayo, Cain lead Heat over Durant, Simmons and Nets

Adebayo, Cain lead Heat over Durant, Simmons and Nets
  • Both sides seemed to stretch their stars for some extra minutes in the shortened NBA preseason

NEW YORK: Bam Adebayo scored 17 points, undrafted rookie Jamal Cain added 15 points and 11 rebounds and the Miami Heat beat the Brooklyn Nets 109-80 on Thursday night.

Kevin Durant led Brooklyn with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting in 26 minutes. Ben Simmons had four points and 10 rebounds for the Nets.

Miami star Jimmy Butler played for the first time in the preseason, scoring two points in the first half and then sitting in the second half. Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo didn’t play for the Heat.

The Nets were minus Joe Harris, who was resting an ankle that left him out most of last season, and Kyrie Irving, who had the night off after the birth of his child. Seven Heat players scored in double figures.

Kyle Lowry had 15 points and Dru Smith, Duncan Robinson and Jamaree Bouyea each added 12 for Miami. Cain signed with the Heat in July after playing for Marquette and Oakland University.

Cam Thomas scored 13 points and Markieff Morris had 10 for the Nets.

Through the first half, the teams tried various combinations, mixing the starters with some key bench players. Both sides seemed to stretch their stars for some extra minutes in the shortened NBA preseason.

Durant played 19 minutes in the first half and scored 18 points, making six of seven shots. Simmons and backcourt mate Royce O’Neale each played 18 minutes.

TIMBERWOLVES 114 LAKERS 99

In Las Vegas, Rudy Gobert, making his first preseason appearance after an offseason trade to Minnesota, had five points and 12 rebounds in a 17-minute stint in Minnesota’s victory over Los Angeles.

Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Jaylen Nowell had 13 points each for Minnesota. Nathan Knight scored 11 points in 10 minutes.

Thomas Bryant, who started at center for Los Angeles, led the Lakers with 18 points and seven rebounds. Cole Swider scored 17 and Scotty Pippen Jr. added 14 points.

The Lakers starting lineup looked much different than Wednesday night’s loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. Los Angeles was without LeBron James and Russell Westbrook as Los Angeles played on the second night of a back-to-back. Anthony Davis missed another game with a lower back tightness.

Karl-Anthony Towns was not available for Minnesota, still ramping up after an illness led to hospitalization.

MAGIC 102 SPURS 99

Paolo Banchero, the overall No. 1 pick in the June draft, had nine points and five rebounds to help Orlando win in San Antonio.

Wendell Carter Jr. had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic. He shot 8 of 13 as most of the Orlando starters played between 20 and 23 minutes. Franz Wagner had 12 points and Moritz Wagner added 10.

Doug McDermott led the Spurs with 14 points, and Keita Bates-Diop added 12.

HAWKS 123 BUCKS 113

Dejounte Murray scored 25 points in his Atlanta debut and the Hawks beat Milwaukee in the NBA’s first game in the UAE and the Arabian Gulf.

The teams will play another preseason game on Saturday at Etihad Arena.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 19 points. Jevon Carter added 17.

Hawks star Trae Young had 22 points.

The game featured the NBA’s three Holiday brothers. Aaron Holiday had 16 points and Justin Holiday added nine for the Hawks. Jrue Holiday had 12 for the Bucks.

THUNDER 131 ADELAIDE 36ERS 98

Tre Mann scored 26 points, including hitting 8 of 10 on 3s and Oklahoma City beat a team from the Australian National Basketball League.

Lindy Waters III scored 23 points and Eugene Omoruyi added 19 points for the Thunder.

Craig Randall II, who had 35 points in the 36ers’ 134-124 win over the Phoenix Suns, led Adelaide with 27 points. Robert Franks scored 20 points and Antonius Cleveland had 19 points.

Adelaide used torrid 3-point shooting, hitting 56 percent from beyond the arc, to defeat the Suns in the opening game of their preseason tour. But the accuracy was not the same against Oklahoma City as the 36ers went 11 of 36 from distance.

TRAIL BLAZERS 138 MACCABI RA’ANANA 85

Shaedon Sharpe, the seventh overall pick from Kentucky in last summer’s draft, scored 27 points, connecting on 10 of 13 shots to lead the Portland past Maccabi Ra’anana.

Keon Johnson added 18 points for Portland. Norris Cole led Maccabi with 19 points and six assists.


Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry
Updated 07 October 2022

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry

Bellingham, Musiala headline new-look Dortmund-Bayern rivalry
  • The now 19-year-olds played together in multiple England youth teams growing up before Musiala opted to play senior international football for Germany

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund host Bayern Munich on Saturday with arguably the two sides’ most important players, Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala, boasting a combined age of only 38.

Recent meetings of Germany’s two most successful clubs have often been billed as clashes between since-departed strikers Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski.

Instead this weekend, Bellingham, who has captained Dortmund in their last two matches, will go up against good friend and former teammate Musiala at Signal Iduna Park.

The now 19-year-olds played together in multiple England youth teams growing up before Musiala opted to play senior international football for Germany, making his debut last year.

Musiala has nailed down a place in Bayern’s starting XI this season, repaying coach Julian Nagelsmann’s faith with team-leading tallies in the Bundesliga of five goals and three assists.

Bellingham’s rise, to the extent he has worn Dortmund’s captain’s armband, has maybe been even more impressive — and more crucial to his team.

The England international netted for a third straight Champions League match in midweek during a 4-1 thumping of Sevilla in Spain.

The youthful complexion of the teams goes beyond Bellingham and Musiala, however, with Dortmund’s Karim Adeyemi and Giovanni Reyna and Bayern pair Mathys Tel and Ryan Gravenberch also nominated for this year’s Golden Boy award, won two years ago by Haaland while he was at Dortmund.

On Thursday, Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl suggested 17-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko could start on Saturday ahead of the struggling Anthony Modeste.

“He was very agile, very energetic (and) very dedicated. He played a really good game,” Kehl said on Thursday of Moukoko’s performance against Sevilla.

The teams go into the game level on points, two points behind early leaders Union Berlin and Freiburg.

Questions were being asked about Bayern’s chances of winning an 11th straight Bundesliga title after a four-game winless run in the league.

But they bounced back with a 4-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen last weekend before putting five past Viktoria Plzen in Europe.

“It’s a special game in Germany and a special game for us,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.

“You all know what has happened in Germany in the last 10 years.”

Bayern coach Nagelsmann faces concerns about two of the most experienced players, with both Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich in COVID isolation.

Speaking on Tuesday, Nagelsmann said the duo were “basically doing well” and “should be there if their health doesn’t deteriorate.”

A decision on the pair’s availability will be made late on Friday.

The Suriname international has been a driving force behind Union’s surprise charge to the Bundesliga summit, scoring six goals in eight league appearances, having previously mustered only seven in 59 in the German top flight.

Becker also got off the mark in the Europa League on Thursday, scoring the winner as Union got their first points in Group D by beating Malmo 1-0 in a game which was marred by crowd trouble in Sweden.

Union will be hoping Becker can continue his red-hot streak at Stuttgart on Sunday, by when they could have been passed by Dortmund or Bayern and Freiburg in the table.

8 — Successive victories over Dortmund for Bayern.

27 — The number of goals Robert Lewandowski scored for Bayern against Dortmund before leaving for Barcelona.

60 years — New Bayer Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso took Real Sociedad B to the Spanish second division in 2021-22 for the first time in six decades.

4 — Dortmund have won 1-0 four times in eight Bundesliga matches this season. They only won by that scoreline twice in the league last term.

 

Fixtures (1330 GMT unless stated)

Friday

Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen (1830)

Saturday

Augsburg vs. Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen vs. Schalke, Bochum vs. Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz vs. RB Leipzig, Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich (1630)

Sunday

Borussia Moenchengladbach vs. Cologne, Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg (1530), Stuttgart vs. Union Berlin (1730)