Sport leaders eye Africa as talent source, investment target

Sport leaders eye Africa as talent source, investment target
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attends game four of the 2022 WNBA Finals between the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun at Mohegan Sun Arena on September 18, 2022 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 21 September 2022

Sport leaders eye Africa as talent source, investment target

Sport leaders eye Africa as talent source, investment target
  • In the event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hailed Africa as bursting with sporting potential

NEW YORK: Africa offers a vast underdeveloped market for global sports, with thousands of athletes ready to join international ranks if only there were major investment, industry leaders and stars say.

But more government and private-sector partnerships are needed to turbo-charge African sports and bring young players into top-tier leagues of football, basketball and even American football, participants at a business forum said Monday.

In the event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, NBA commissioner Adam Silver hailed Africa as bursting with sporting potential, noting that more than 10 percent of players in the world’s premier basketball league were born in African countries or have African parents.

“Invariably more NBA, WNBA players will be discovered, will be nurtured, will be developed and then be able to play at the highest level,” he said of the region’s younger generations and the benefits of expanding youth training programs there.

Silver also stressed that in order to attract the “literally billions in investments that are needed,” sport in Africa must be seen as economically viable.

“In order to persuade ... great businesspeople to invest in the infrastructure, we have to demonstrate that it’s a real business — that there is real return over time,” he said.

The forum featured former NBA stars like Congolese-American Dikembe Mutombo, WNBA sensation Chiney Ogwumike who is of Nigerian origin, and current Toronto Raptors power forward Pascal Siakam, a Cameroonian who caught the attention of scouts at a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa.

American football too has beefed up its presence. More than 100 current NFL players are African, according to Osi Umenyiora, a Super Bowl champion who leads an NFL initiative to expand the pipeline of new talent from places such as Ghana and Nigeria.

“From a business standpoint it would actually make sense to me to start making business in Africa now,” Umenyiora told the audience, adding the NFL has recently opened new player camps in Africa.

The discussion comes along the launch of the new African Super League, which is dangling major prize money for the 24 football clubs that qualify for the first edition next year.

Confederation of African Football president Patrice Motsepe said that while Africa’s link to European and American leagues is “important,” the Super League “will attract billions of dollars in football in Africa to pay the smartest and most talented young Africans and keep them on the continent.”

Recent 100-meter hurdles gold medalist Tobi Amusan, who in July became Nigeria’s first world champion in a track and field event, warned that Africa’s lack of infrastructure including training facilities could fuel a migration of athletes.

“I’m not saying don’t go to other places,” Amusan, who herself is based in Texas, told AFP.

“But if the government and private sector have stuff like this implemented in Africa, we keep our own grounded in our countries and not just have them wander away to other countries.”

The head of the region’s new top-flight basketball league also spoke of the delicate balance between international player recruitment and sports development on the ground.

“Africa needs to cease being just an exporter all the time,” said Amadou Fall, president of the Basketball Africa League, which launched last year.


Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
Updated 26 sec ago

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol

Newcastle sign teenage Australia striker Garang Kuol
  • Born in Egypt, Garang Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021
LONDON: Newcastle have reached an agreement to sign teenage striker Garang Kuol from Australian A-League side Central Coast Mariners in January, the Premier League club announced on Friday.
Kuol, 18, made his international debut for Australia against New Zealand last week, becoming the youngest Socceroo since Harry Kewell in 1996.
Born in Egypt, Kuol moved to Australia with his family as a refugee and joined the Mariners’ youth system in January 2021.
He only made his A-League debut for the Mariners in April but made an immediate impression, scoring four goals in his first seven appearances as a substitute.
Kuol told Newcastle’s official website: “It’s unreal. As a young boy in Australia, the Premier League is the main thing that everyone watches but nobody actually thinks they’ll reach those heights.
“To be one of those people, to be in the position I am, it’s amazing.
“Now that I’ve signed for Newcastle, I want to train hard, play hard, hopefully go to the World Cup and come back here.”
Newcastle United sporting director Dan Ashworth said: “Garang is a very promising young talent and we are excited that he’ll be continuing his development as a Newcastle United player.
“Our philosophy is to invest in our academy and in exciting young players for the future, as well as in players required to make an immediate impact in the first team.”

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
Updated 33 min 11 sec ago

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc

Yazeed Al-Rajhi eyes glory at Rallye du Maroc
  • Saudi driver will be joined by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz in third round of World Rally Raid Championship

AGADIR: Saudi world champion Yazeed Al-Rajhi has completed last-minute preparations ahead of the 22nd edition of the Rallye du Maroc, the third round of the World Rally Raid Championship.

Al-Rajhi, will be accompanied by German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz, the replacement for Michael Orr, who was injured in an accident at Baja Poland three weeks ago.

Crossing the desert from Agadir, in the southwest of Morocco, to Tan Tan and Al-Ayoun on the Atlantic coast will represent a new challenge for Al-Rajhi.

Day one of the rally will be a qualifying stage, while the race will last six days in five stages from Oct. 1-6. Competitors will cover a total of 2,319 km, including 1,583 km of special stages on the sand, gravel tracks and golden dunes.

The Yazeed Racing team faces a busy period until the end of the year, with Al-Rajhi  competing in three championships, including the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

The international events are the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Baja and the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship, in which Al-Rajhi currently ranked third.

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz tested the new Toyota Hilux over two days around the Moroccan city of Erfoud, which is known for its high sand dunes and varying terrain.

The Belgian team Overdrive prepared a new car similar to the vehicle that crashed in Baja Poland. The car is equipped with a V6 engine and twin turbocharger, unlike the one used in Aseer Rally few days ago.

“I’m looking forward to the Morocco rally a lot,” Al-Rajhi said.

“I thank my team for doing an amazing job as usual. We are looking forward to winning this rally and there is nothing stopping us from doing so. We need to focus and develop appropriate strategies to advance and collect points.

“Our challenge in the Morocco rally requires endurance and effort from man and machine. We have a long race ahead of us in the Moroccan deserts, and we hope that God will guide us on our way.”

Von Zitzewitz is looking forward to the challenge.

“Yazeed and I, along with the Overdrive team, believe we have what it takes to win the rally,” he said. “We have all the factors to win, and I pray that God will be on our side. The world of motorsport is unpredictable.”


Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
Updated 36 min 34 sec ago

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets

Coca-Cola giving football fans in Saudi Arabia chance to win 2022 World Cup tickets
  • The giveaway will take place on the official FIFA partner’s Twitter account

RIYADH: Coca-Cola is giving fans in Saudi Arabia a chance to see their favorite teams on football’s biggest stage with the opportunity to win thousands of 2022 FIFA World Cup match tickets.

With Saudi Arabia’s participation at Qatar 2022 less than two months away, Coca-Cola, an official sponsor of the tournament since 1978, will provide the opportunity to claim the tickets on its official Twitter account in the coming weeks.

In addition, Coca-Cola will bring the original FIFA World Cup trophy to the Kingdom in November where thousands of fans will have the opportunity to see football’s most prized possession.

The FIFA sponsors also revealed they have plans to invest in development programs for local Saudi talent and will soon be making an announcement on this.


New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home
Updated 23 min 5 sec ago

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home

New chapter for women’s football in Saudi Arabia as national team conclude first ever matches at home
  • Two fixtures against Bhutan saw a total of 12 goals and showcased the hosts development in only their third and fourth international matches
  • Players to return to clubs ahead of Premier League kick-off next month, as 50,000 girls register for inaugural nation-wide schools league

RIYADH: Following their launch last year, Saudi Arabia’s Women’s National Team has completed a historic week after taking on Asian counterparts Bhutan in their debut matches on home soil.

Taking place across four days at the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Stadium in Abha, both friendly fixtures witnessed six-goal thrillers.

The first match on Saturday saw the hosts bounce back from a 3-1 deficit at half-time to claim an 3-3 draw thanks to Al-Bandari Mubarak and Nora Ibrahim’s strikes in the closing 15 minutes. Both teams met again on Wednesday night with the visitors claiming an action-packed 4-2 victory.

Reflecting on the past week, SAFF Women’s Football Department Supervisor and board member, Lamia Bahaian, said: “We have been working very hard toward the moment we finally see our women’s national team compete at home.”

“We are extremely proud of how they’ve already inspired a nation and are helping pave the way for a career in the sport with over 50,000 young girls signing up for the first-ever schools league,” she said. “Since the launch of the team just last year, we’ve been grateful for the unconditional support shown to us by the Kingdom’s leadership. The players will now continue their development and progress in the Premier League’s inaugural season, in what is a hugely exciting moment in their careers.”

The matches represented the latest chapter in women’s football rapid journey in Saudi Arabia over the past few years. Since the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2019, it currently hosts 450 registered players, 49 qualified referees and more than 900 D, C and B licensed coaches.

The national team’s German head coach Monika Staab. (SAFF)

This progress is a result of a long-term strategy launched last year by the federation to grow interest and participation at all levels of the women’s game, with unprecedented investments in areas such as grassroots, player development, coaching, facilities, competitions and governance.

The national team’s players’ attention now turns toward their respective clubs ahead of the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League and return of the First Division League. Featuring eight clubs from across Saudi Arabia, most notably Saudi Pro League sides Al-Nassr, Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad for the first time, the newly formed Premier League takes place on a home-and-away basis with a total of 56 matches.

The First Division League, formerly known as the SAFF Regional Football League, will see a further 17 teams compete across three cities.

The national team’s German head coach, Monika Staab, said that she could not be prouder of the team’s performances and progress over the 180 minutes, in what were only the national team’s third and fourth matches following the encounters against the Seychelles and Maldives in February.

She believes playing the first meetings at home marks another historic milestone in the national team’s journey and the women’s game as a whole.

“This week will undoubtedly go down in the history of Saudi Arabian football. Playing our first matches at home was a massive source of pride for everyone involved in the women’s game across the country,” she said.

“I am extremely pleased with the experience gained by our girls and their performances against a tough opponent. They showcased their true fighting spirit and strong willingness to fight till the final whistle. We look forward to getting more international minutes under our belt, both at home and away, as we continue toward journey to achieve the ambitious goals set for women’s football.”


350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
Updated 30 September 2022

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad

350 security cameras installed at Mrsool Park ahead of Al-Nassr’s clash with Al-Ittihad
  • Cameras will monitor crowd’s behavior after several matches at the venue last season saw objects thrown onto the pitch

Mrsool Park’s stadium has been equipped with 350 security cameras ahead of Sunday’s high-profile clash between Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad in the fifth round of the Roshn Saudi League.

The stadium’s administration announced the installations in a post on its official Twitter account, saying it has adopted the latest security and safety technologies available for the match.

The 350 high-definition cameras are distributed throughout the stadium and will monitor the movements and behavior of the crowd, before, during and after the match.

Last season, several matches that took place at Mrsool Park witnessed spectators throwing objects onto the pitch, which resulted in fines for the clubs involved, including Al-Nassr, owners of the stadium.