Saudi Arabia will welcome Hayya fan card holders during 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Saudi Arabia will welcome Hayya fan card holders during 2022 World Cup in Qatar
Travelers will be able to visit destinations like AlUla, which has been revamped to welcome domestic and international tourists. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 August 2022

Saudi Arabia will welcome Hayya fan card holders during 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Saudi Arabia will welcome Hayya fan card holders during 2022 World Cup in Qatar
  • Fans who possess one of the cards can apply for an electronic multiple-entry visa that allows them to remain in Saudi Arabia for up to 60 days
  • Qatar previously announced that anyone wishing to enter the country to attend World Cup matches will have to apply for the mandatory Hayya card to do so

RIYADH: Holders of the 2022 Qatar World Cup Hayya card are welcome to visit Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.

The card, which Doha authorities will issue to all football fans attending the competition, allows holders to enter Qatar and access stadiums. Other benefits include free public transport on match days. The world cup kicks off on November 20 and continues through December.

The ministry said that holders of a Hayya card will be able to apply for an electronic visa that allows them to enter the Kingdom beginning 10 days before the start of the competition. It added that applications will be made through the Saudi Unified National Visa Platform and full details of the process will be announced later.

Successful applicants will receive a multiple-entry visa that allows them to remain in the Kingdom for up to 60 days. Previous entry to Qatar is not required but all visitors must have medical insurance.

Khalid Al-Rubian, a member of the Saudi Sport Marketing Association, told Arab news that it is important that government departments coordinate their efforts to take advantage of the great opportunity the World Cup provides to attract visitors to the Kingdom.

A member of the Saudi Sport Marketing Association Khalid Al-Rubian. (Supplied)

“Saudi government agencies should work together to create a unified system to maximize investment during the World Cup being held in a neighboring country,” he said.

He highlighted the vital roles of the Ministry of Tourism and the General Entertainment Authority in marketing Saudi tourism to football fans during the competition by introducing them to Saudi Arabia and top attractions in the country that are “historical, religious, cultural or in geographical areas attractive to travelers.”

Mutaz Abugabala, the executive director of Business Solutions Group, which specializes in event management, said investment in tourism is part of the Kingdom’s plans to develop and diversify the economy to reduce its dependence on oil.

The executive director of Business Solutions Group Mutaz Abugabala. (Supplied)

Sultan Al-Mutairi, director of the research center at King Saud University’s Faculty of Tourism and Antiquities, said tourism is a sector in which economic activity is growing in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He added that tourists are interest in visiting nations in the region because of their “cultural excellence.”

The director of the research center at King Saud University’s Faculty of Tourism and Antiquities Sultan Al-Mutairi. (Supplied)

Unifying entry regulations of countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council area would help to make them more attractive as potential hosts of events and provide opportunities for enhanced marketing efforts, said Al-Mutairi.

The Kingdom’s Eastern Province is likely to be one of the most popular tourist destinations during the World Cup, he predicted. Al-Ahsa, for example, offers a variety of attractive destinations, he said, including its date-palm oasis, which is a World Heritage Site, while Qatif’s old city and many other archaeological sites are also known for their natural beauty and cultural heritage.

Local airlines previously announced that they will provide hundreds of daily shuttle flights during the World Cup for football fans traveling to Qatar from across the Gulf region. Saudia said it will operate 40 flights a day, with carriers in the UAE, Kuwait and Oman announcing similar plans.

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
Updated 52 min 47 sec ago

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open

Ailing Elena Rybakina withdraws from French Open
  • ‘I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night’
  • World number four had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round

PARIS: World number four Elena Rybakina withdrew from the French Open on Saturday due to illness, handing a significant and unexpected title boost to defending champion Iga Swiatek as Zhang Zhizhen chased history for China.
Rybakina had been due to face Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain in the third round in the opening match on Court Philippe Chatrier.
“I was not feeling good yesterday and the day before. I didn’t sleep last night,” said the 23-year-old Wimbledon champion.
“I had fever and a headache and it’s difficult to breathe. I tried to play in the warm-up but I feel it’s the right decision to withdraw.”
Rybakina had swept into the last 32 without dropping a set.
The Russian-born Kazakh was seen as a potential champion having arrived at Roland Garros with the prestigious Italian Open clay court title under her belt.
She had been seeded to face two-time champion Swiatek in the semifinals.
“I guess with my allergy that my immune system just went down and I picked up something,” said Rybakina. “The doctor said there’s a virus in Paris.”
Rybakina said she will focus on recovery ahead of defending her title at Wimbledon which gets underway on July 3.
“The plan was to play Berlin, Eastbourne, and Wimbledon. There are not many tournaments on grass, but the most important thing is to get healthy again.”
Sorribes Tormo, ranked 132 in the world, will be playing in the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time.
She will face either Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia or Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the quarter-finals.
Later Saturday, world number one Swiatek takes on China’s 80th-ranked Wang Xinyu for a place in the last 16 as she continues her bid to become the first back-to-back champion since Justine Henin in 2007.
Zhang meets world number four and last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud hoping to become the first Chinese man since Kho Sin-Khie in 1936 to make the last 16 in Paris.
Zhang, ranked 71, had never won a Grand Slam main draw match until this French Open but he had announced himself as a capable clay-courter by reaching the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open last month.
“For me, it’s not pressure to be here,” said the 26-year-old.
“I’m trying to show my best self, show everything what I have and try to compete with these guys. That’s the reason I’m here. It’s no pressure for me.”
Russian 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva, the breakout star of Roland Garros, faces 2022 runner-up and sixth-ranked Coco Gauff for a place in the fourth round.
Andreeva came through qualifying and has made a mockery of her world ranking of 143 by dropping just six games in two rounds in the main draw.
The France-based Russian is the youngest player to make the last 32 since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva went to the 2005 quarter-finals.
She is just the seventh player under the age of 17 to make the third round in 30 years, a group that includes the likes of serial Slam champions Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.
“My dream? I know that Novak Djokovic did 22 Grand Slams so I want to go until 25,” said Andreeva who played the junior tournament in Paris last year.
Holger Rune, who reached the quarter-finals on his debut in 2022, takes on Argentina’s Genaro Alberto Olivieri.
The 231st-ranked Argentine has dedicated his run to the third round to his father who passed away during pandemic.
“He was my sidekick, the person who helped me in every way — psychologically, emotionally,” said the 24-year-old.
“I always remember him. I hope he is now watching everything that is happening to me this week and that he has an even bigger smile than I do.”

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23
Updated 03 June 2023

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23

The highs and lows of Roshn Saudi League 2022-23
  • A campaign like no other saw Cristiano Ronaldo move to Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal stall and Al-Ittihad end a 14-year drought

A Roshn Saudi League campaign like no other is in the books.

Jeddah giants Al-Ittihad ended their long wait for top-flight glory, while Al-Batin and Al-Adalah dropped into Yelo League.

A series of other substantial events occurred throughout a remarkable campaign which transformed preconceived notions about the Middle East’s premier club competition.

From Cristiano Ronaldo’s paradigm-shifting, mid-season Al-Nassr switch to Al-Hilal’s historic run at the FIFA Club World Cup and beyond, here are Arab News’ highlights from a memorable 2022-23.

Best player

A new benchmark was set for goalkeeping excellence by Ittihad’s Marcelo Grohe.

The Brazil custodian surged past the previous record of 14 clean sheets in a single Pro League campaign, ending with an official Opta tally of 18 (which would be 19 if he had not been afforded deserved adulation by a late substitution in the season finale vs. Al-Tai).

His 58 saves occurred in a title campaign which saw him beaten only 13 times. Remarkably, it took until match week six for him to concede.

Ittihad’s success was built from the back and Grohe laid firm foundations.

Best coach

Ittihad’s missing ingredient to end a 14-year title wait proved to be Nuno Santo.

Last season’s agonizing near miss under Cosmin Contra left a sense of desolation and desire for change. The club’s turn to their bearded ex-Valencia, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur supremo proved astute.

Defensive rigidity was instilled as Egypt center-back Ahmed Hegazi became his conduit on the pitch, with Ittihad letting in five fewer goals than anyone else. But this did not come at a cost up top, with a second-best tally of 60 goals scored helped by 21-goal top marksman Abderrazak Hamdallah.

March’s astute 2-0 victory vs. Nassr and April’s roller coaster 2-1 win against Al-Shabab — more on that later — proved critical junctures.

Breakthrough moment

Saudi Arabian football changed forever on December 30, 2022.

This was when Ronaldo’s heralded arrival was announced and a proud footballing nation’s limitless sporting ambitions became real.

The ex-Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid forward could not deliver silverware for Nassr, despite notching an impressive 14 times in 16 top-flight outings. That must wait for next season.

But he did deliver vast global attention, booming interest in television rights — 48 channels/platforms now broadcast to 170 countries — and packed stands wherever he performed.

Ronaldo has helped set a course for Roshn Saudi League to enter the “top-five leagues in the world.” Enormous intrigue surrounds which stellar names will join him on this quest.

Breakthrough performer

Saudi Arabia’s lineage of elite strikers, from Majed Abdullah to Nasser Al-Shamrani, appears in safe hands with Firas Al-Buraikan.
The Al-Fateh star — who started World Cup 2022’s group-stage victory vs. eventual-champions Argentina — produced a career-best 17 top-flight goals, two more than he had netted in every other campaign combined since his bow in April 2018. This eye-catching tally was enough to make him the league’s fourth-highest scorer.

Best signing

Al-Khaleej required a source of inspiration — and they found one in Fabio Martins.

Pedro Emanuel’s promoted side were 15th on four points prior to the ex-Shabab loanee’s mid-season procurement on a free transfer after an unfulfilled spell at the UAE’s Al-Wahda.

A trio of rejuvenating victories followed in the Portuguese winger’s opening three matches. Martins ended the campaign on seven goals and three assists from 17 run-outs, with Khaleej finishing safe in 14th.

Signing who failed to spark

It seemed the perfect winter replacement for the irreplaceable David Ospina.

Nassr swiftly reacted to the Colombia goalkeeper’s serious elbow injury by loaning Agustin Rossi. The 27-year-old had amassed more than 100 league run-outs for Boca Juniors, been previously called up by Argentina and performed to such a high standard that a pre-contract had been agreed with 2022 Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo.

Reality, however, would prove distinctly underwhelming. February’s shaky debut in a 2-2 draw at Al-Fateh saw him swiftly displaced by Nawaf Al-Aqidi and he only started again two months later when the Saudi Arabia prospect suffered fitness issues of his own.

Best match

“Epic” barely does justice to April 27’s unforgettable 2-1 victory for Ittihad over Shabab.

This was a contest from which three penalties were scored, one critical spot-kick was missed and an 106th-minute winner cemented long-held title aspirations for the victor, while crushing those of the vanquished.

Hamdallah and Cristian Guanca exchanged efforts from 12 yards in an ultra-competitive top-three clash. Referee Srdjan Jovanovic would again point to the spot in the 89th minute, this time for Al-Shabab.

Conjecture followed when Gabon forward Aaron Boupendza took on penalty duties. His “Panenka” chip floated harmlessly into the arms of a grateful Grohe.

Fast forward a quarter of an hour at an electrified King Abdullah Sports City and Hamdallah lobbed home his own penalty. Cue pandemonium in this game for the ages.

Best goal

Ronaldo’s free-kick abilities remained sharp with a sensational 38-yard strike which sparked March’s rousing comeback victory against Abha.

Valuable points appeared to be draining away after Nassr loanee Abdulfattah Adam’s early opener for the visitors went without reply.

This was until the 78th minute when Ronaldo unleashed a ferocious low effort from distance which swerved past the despairing grasp of Cameroon’s emergent 2022 World Cup No. 1, Devis Epassy.

Outstanding achievement

Stratospherically high standards at Hilal mean the 2022-23 season will always be tinged by disappointment.

But this does not provide full context. The Riyadh heavyweights competed with distinction on all fronts, despite a transfer ban and punishing schedule which would have derailed other clubs.

They became the first Asian outfit to reach a FIFA Club World Cup showpiece final, made the final of their AFC Champions League defense and secured a top-three Roshn Saudi League finish.

The dramatic penalty shootout victory — after Ali Al-Bulaihi’s 99th-minute leveler vs.  Al-Wehda — in the King’s Cup decider will never be forgotten.

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape
Updated 03 June 2023

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James defy age to redefine the sporting landscape
  • At 38, both sports stars continue to be two of the most relevant athletes on the planet and architects of their own narrative

Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James are two sports icons who defy age and dominate their fields. These legendary athletes not only share the remarkable age of 38 but also possess an unwavering commitment to maintaining their peak physical condition.

However, their impact extends far beyond their athletic prowess.

Ronaldo and James have spearheaded revolutions in football and basketball, respectively, transforming the way the games are played and empowering players in unprecedented ways.

Ronaldo — redefining football’s orbit

In 2022, Ronaldo left Old Trafford after an abrasive interview with Piers Morgan in which he criticized his coach and colleagues, resulting in an agreement between Manchester United and the Portuguese superstar to part ways.

Ronaldo then took his talents to Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr FC, a move that is revolutionizing the world of football. In 2023, players are now eager to join the Saudi Pro League, inspired by his example.

Less than a year after Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh, Karim Benzema is now rumored to be joining a Saudi club, potentially Al-Hilal or Al-Ittihad. Reports from ESPN speak of a two-year contract worth a staggering €400 million ($429 million), beckoning Benzema to play against his former Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo.

With Paris Saint-Germain confirming Lionel Messi’s departure at the end of the season, persistent reports suggest that the Argentine may be next in line to join the Saudi Pro League.

The thought, once met with disbelief, is now contemplated by fans and experts alike. Ronaldo’s move has made possible a world where the greatest football talents dare to chase new adventures in Saudi Arabia, making the Saudi football league a must-watch.

James — architect of player empowerment in basketball

In 2010, the world of free agency basketball and sports as a whole underwent a monumental change, all because of a few simple words spoken by NBA icon James, who was a free agent at the time.

During “The Decision,” a special broadcast for a national television audience, James uttered a single sentence that would reshape professional basketball: “This fall, I’m taking my talents to South Beach and joining the Miami Heat.”

The move set James on the path to forming a super team, joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, which resulted in winning two NBA championships.

James’ move birthed a new era of player empowerment, in which athletes dictate their narratives, shape team dynamics, and unleash their full potential. The ripple effects of his groundbreaking choice continue to reverberate across the basketball world. In 2016, we witnessed superstar Kevin Durant join the already championship-winning team, the 73-9 mighty Golden State Warriors, alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Now, in 2023, players are taking matters into their own hands, forming alliances, and reclaiming power from team owners.

Ronaldo and James rewrote the rulebook of sports.

Their audacity, unparalleled skill, and fearless pursuit of destiny have reshaped the sports landscape as we know it. We will continue to see basketball superstars forming super teams in pursuit of winning championships and footballers joining the Saudi football league, met with strong financial deals and formidable competition.

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise
Updated 03 June 2023

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise

Adrian Beltre named honorary GM of Baseball United’s Karachi franchise
  • Future MLB Hall of Famer will partner with Dubai-based organization’s leadership, Karachi Monarch’s to-be-named manager

KARACHI: Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league focused on the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, has announced that league co-owner and future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre will serve as the honorary general manager for its latest franchise, the Karachi Monarchs.

The Karachi franchise, which was introduced earlier this week, is the second franchise announced by Baseball United and the first professional baseball franchise in the history of Pakistan.

The Karachi Monarchs will compete in Baseball United’s Dubai Showcase in November alongside the Mumbai Cobras, the India-based Baseball United franchise announced earlier this month. The two franchises are projected to drive significant interest from the fan bases in each country.

According to the International Cricket Council, last year’s Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan was watched by 230 million viewers worldwide. The last Super Bowl, played in February of 2023, was watched by 115 million viewers.

“I am looking forward to helping expand the awareness and excitement for baseball in Pakistan,” said Beltre, a four-time All-Star and one of only 33 players in Major League Baseball history with 3,000 hits. “Our Karachi franchise is a huge milestone for baseball within this sports-loving country, and we are excited to work with our partners on the ground to continue to grow the game. And when Karachi plays Mumbai later this year in Dubai, it’s going to be a historic moment and an incredible atmosphere. I can’t wait.”

The honorary GM role will include input into player selection, coaching hires and baseball strategy, as well as participation in sponsorship and community events within both the UAE and Pakistan.

Beltre will partner with Baseball United’s executive team and the Monarch’s first manager — who will be announced next week — to help select the team’s initial roster during the league’s inaugural draft. The Baseball United draft is slated for later this year.

“With Adrian, Karachi now has one of the best leaders in baseball to help guide and shape its franchise,” said Kash Shaikh, president, CEO and co-owner of Baseball United. “He’s had a storied career at the highest level, and he’s very passionate about teaching and sharing the game. Pakistan already has a strong foundation of baseball fans and baseball infrastructure, and now with the nation’s first-ever professional baseball franchise, there is even more opportunity for growth. We believe that the Monarchs will soon be one of the most popular teams in the country.”

Baseball United recently announced a partnership with Pakistan Federation Baseball to help grow the game at the grassroots level and extend baseball’s reach within the Pakistani community.

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win
Updated 03 June 2023

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win

Novak Djokovic laments fans who ‘boo every single thing’ after lengthy French Open win
  • Other seeded men advancing included No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 11 Karen Khachanov and No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti
  • No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 9 Daria Kasatkina moved into the women's fourth round

PARIS: Novak Djokovic makes no secret of the way he loves to feed off negativity during a tennis match. Doesn’t really matter whether he’s ahead or behind on the scoreboard. The guy simply finds motivation and inspiration from all manner of slights, real and perceived.

Maybe it’s how a chair umpire is officiating that particular day ... or the way Djokovic’s entourage is sitting in place in the stands instead of rising to encourage him ... or the criticism he receives for wading into a political issue — all of which already have happened during this French Open.

Or maybe it’s how he’s treated by the spectators who, as they did on Friday during Djokovic’s 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over 29th-seeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the third round at Roland Garros, get on his case and jeer him for seemingly no good reason at all.

Which is what happened at Court Philippe Chatrier during the longest three-set Grand Slam match of the 22-time major champion Djokovic’s long and distinguished career, clocking in at 3 hours, 36 minutes. He wasn’t thrilled at how difficult things had been in the match, didn’t love double-faulting three times in a single game, and really didn’t like the feedback coming from a portion of the fans.

“A majority of the people comes to enjoy tennis or support one or the other player. But they are individuals. There are people — there are groups or whatever — that love to boo every single thing you do. That’s something that I find disrespectful and I frankly don’t understand that,” Djokovic said later at his news conference. “But it’s their right. They paid the ticket. They can do whatever they want.”

After being two points from dropping the second set, trailing 5-4 in that tiebreaker, Djokovic grabbed control. He took the next three points, each of which ended with an error by Davidovich Fokina, then, the set his, Djokovic took a couple of steps toward the sideline, before reacting by punching the air, spinning around, throwing an uppercut, holding his right fist aloft and roaring.

That drew some unfriendly noise from some in the crowd. More displeasure with him was expressed a moment later, when the chair umpire announced that Djokovic was taking a medical timeout while a trainer massaged his upper left leg.

Sitting in his chair with his shirt off and a white towel around his shoulders, Djokovic heard the negativity and responded with gestures. He waved a hand, as if to say, “Give me more!” He gave a sarcastic thumbs-up and nodded. He applauded. He shook his head and chuckled.

“At times, you know, I will stay quiet. Not ‘at times’ — actually, 99 percent of the time, I will stay quiet,” said Djokovic, who won the French Open in 2016 and 2021 and, in addition to seeking a 23rd major championship to break his tie with Rafael Nadal, can become the first man with at least three trophies at each Slam site. “Sometimes I will oppose that, because I feel when somebody is disrespectful, he or she deserves to have an answer to that. That’s what it is all about.”

In addition to the No. 3 Djokovic, other seeded men advancing included No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, the runner-up to Djokovic in Paris two years ago and at the Australian Open this year, No. 11 Karen Khachanov and No. 17 Lorenzo Musetti, who eliminated No. 14 Cam Norrie. Lorenzo Sonego defeated No. 7 Andrey Rublev, while Juan Pablo Varillas took out No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2 in Friday night's last contest.

Alcaraz was a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 26 Denis Shapovalov in the night session. After trailing 4-1 in the second set — “I was in trouble,” Alcaraz said — the reigning US Open champion grabbed seven consecutive games to take control for good.

He'll next play Musetti, who won their only previous matchup, while Djokovic meets Varillas, a 27-year-old from Peru who is ranked 94th and had never won a Grand Slam match until this week.

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 9 Daria Kasatkina moved into the women's fourth round, along with Sloane Stephens, Elina Svitolina and 2021 runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, but No. 3 Jessica Pegula was sent packing.

Pegula quickly gathered her belongings and marched out of the main stadium after a 6-1, 6-3 loss to Elise Mertens, a far earlier exit than the American has been used to at Grand Slam tournaments lately.

Pegula was a quarterfinalist at four of the five most recent majors, including a year ago at Roland Garros.

She's never gone further than that stage at a Slam and never really got into this match against the 28th-seeded Mertens on a day with a breeze at about 10 mph (15 kph) and a chill in the low 60s Fahrenheit (low teens Celsius).

"I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball," said Pegula, whose parents own the NFL's Buffalo Bills and NHL's Buffalo Sabres. "And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game."

With Pegula joining No. 5 Caroline Garcia, No. 8 Maria Sakkari and No. 10 Petra Kvitova on the sideline, four of the top 10 women's seeds already are gone. That's part of a pattern this year at Roland Garros: Only 12 seeds made it through two rounds, the fewest in Paris since the field expanded to 32 seeds in 2002.