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
In addition, Coca-Cola will bring the original FIFA World Cup trophy to the Kingdom in November. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 30 September 2022

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.


Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi
Updated 41 sec ago

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi

Flora Duffy wins record fourth World Triathlon title in Abu Dhabi
  • Silver went to Georgia Taylor-Brown, with a first podium for Lena Meissner in third

ABU DHABI: Flora Duffy became the only woman ever to win four World Triathlon titles on Friday afternoon in Abu Dhabi, confirming her status as the greatest female athlete that the sport has ever seen.

Bermuda’s Olympic hero was again able to deliver when it mattered most, navigating plenty of drama on the 40 km bike race and then easing away from the only woman who could stop her date with destiny, Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Silver went to Taylor-Brown, with an excellent first podium for Lena Meissner in third. The finals meant another eventful fourth-place finish for Taylor Knibb after coming off on the bike secured her the series bronze.

“I’m really, really proud of this one,” said a beaming Duffy afterward. “It was a difficult start to the year for me coming out of the Olympics and Covid. It took a lot of work to get my mind back into it, so I’m thrilled. I smiled a few times when it was just me and Georgia…I feel like she brings me to another level. We don’t really give each other an inch and I just wanted to stay safe. When I got a little bit of a gap on the third lap of the run, it was a little sooner than I anticipated but I thought, ‘Well, gotta go now.’”

Taylor-Brown finished with the silver at the end of an exhausting campaign, and Meissner with a gutsy first-ever World Triathlon Championship Series podium ahead of Knibb. Leonie Periault ran her way into fifth, Vittoria Lopes hung on for an excellent sixth ahead of Taylor Spivey, Emma Lombardi, Miriam Casillas Garcia and Cassandre Beaugrand, rounding out the top 10.

“I gave it everything I had today,” said Taylor-Brown. “It’s been a hard few months, but I’m really proud of myself out there today, giving it everything and doing all I could. We were battling it out to the end, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I don’t think she would. I’m still learning in every race, and I still want that world title one day.”

Meissner said it would take a few days for the achievement to sink in.

“It was tough, but I got here 10 days ago, and I had good heat prep and there was lots of water and ice out there,” she said. “I just tried to stay calm and confident, and it just worked perfectly for me today.”

Meanwhile, Knibb commented: “I’m pretty shocked. There were a lot of ups and downs in the season and today. The corner was entirely my fault. I wasn’t fully processing things at that point, and it was a bit of user error and I’m sorry to Maya and Vittoria and Lena behind me for that. Hopefully I will be back here in March to go again.”


Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon
Updated 33 min 8 sec ago

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Runners get set to ‘race through history’ at Pyramids Half Marathon

Over the years, several sports events have had the privilege of being staged at the resplendent pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

From squash to tennis to most recently a 3x3 basketball tournament, a few athletes have enjoyed the rare opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.

The running community in Egypt — and beyond — has been afforded that golden chance since 2019, thanks to the introduction of the TriFactory’s Pyramids Half Marathon, which returns to the Giza Plateau for a fourth edition on Dec. 10.

Some 4,000 runners from more than 80 countries took part in the inaugural staging of the race three years ago, held across a trio of distances: full marathon, half marathon and 10km. The marathon was won by Greg Billington, an American Olympian who competed in the triathlon in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and won Paralympic gold as a guide for Brad Snyder in the visually impaired category of the paratriathlon event in Tokyo 2020.

 

 

Despite its incredible landscape, scenic coasts and great weather, Egypt is not necessarily a destination for runners from across the globe but the people behind The TriFactory are one of the main driving forces looking to change that.

Ayman Hakky, the co-founder of The TriFactory, a sports events management company specializing in endurance sports, staged Egypt’s first commercial triathlon back in 2014 in the Red Sea resort town of El Gouna.

Originally a water polo player and a footballer, a knee injury steered Hakky away from his chosen sports and pushed him toward endurance races. He fell in love with triathlon and began participating in events worldwide, in the process forming a team of amateurs who trained together in Cairo for various races. The team was fittingly called Train for Aim.

From Trinidad and Tobago to Morocco, from Portugal to the UAE, Hakky flew everywhere to participate in races, and his team eventually completed a full Ironman.

“It became very costly to do all that traveling, and I started to wonder why don’t we have this kind of quality here in Egypt?” Hakky told Arab News in an interview in Cairo.

A first step

Using the knowledge he gathered from attending proper races abroad, but without any practical experience as an organizer, Hakky staged his very first event, the Gouna Triathlon. He had no expectations and thought only the 20 or 30 people he trains with at Gezira Club would show up. Instead, 200 participants signed up from various running communities across Cairo.

“All of a sudden, it was a major start for us, and I had no intention of doing this as a business,” said Hakky. “I just made a few calls so they can close a street for us in El Gouna, and it wasn’t at a professional standard of organization at all.

“But I realized the business potential from this event. We finished this one-off event and people were already asking me, ‘What’s next?’ I realized a community has been created and these 200 people all posted on social media, and each one of them had two or three friends that wanted to come to our next event.

“So, our next event was at least double in size. Three months later, we held an event in Sahl Hasheesh and 400 people took part. Things kept doubling in size, spiraling, until we gained lots of experience.”

The TriFactory was founded in 2015 by Hakky and Mahmoud Abdelhakim, and soon they were organizing triathlons and marathons all over Egypt, from Aswan to Alexandria to Sharm El-Sheikh.

 

 

‘Major turning point’

It was Abdelhakim who first got the idea to stage a marathon by the pyramids, knowing it was the natural next step for him and his partners.

Hakky was worried about the logistics of it all, the permits they would need from the government and the hassle of trying to organize something big at such an iconic location.

But they went for it, and gave it the slogan “Race through history,” reminding the runners they would be getting such a historic landmark for a backdrop. In February 2019, the Pyramids Marathon came to life, and it survived a terrible sandstorm that threatened the success of the event.

“The Pyramids Marathon was a major turning point for us. Four thousand people took part across three distances and so many different nationalities turned up. It was a great start, but it was a very difficult day for us,” reflected Hakky.

The tough weather conditions were overwhelming for Hakky and his partners, but overall, they knew they had started something special, and the participants felt it too.

“What I generally like about this event is that the course is really nice, the vibe, the people…Conditions were tough in the first one and the weather made things quite chaotic, yet everyone loved it because it was the first time we got the opportunity to run by the pyramids,” said Nayera Helmy, an amateur runner who has been an active member of the running and triathlon community in Egypt since 2013.

Helmy did not sign up for the 2020 edition of the event but returned last year and is currently getting ready for her third outing in Giza.

“When I took part in 2021, I saw how the organization massively improved. Everything that needed tweaking was taken care of,” she said.

“The course got much closer to the pyramids. Instead of having this massive uphill during the race, they reversed the direction of the route so it was more downhill for us. Everyone was cheering, a lot of participants, a lot of international runners…When you’re running, you can see the look on the faces of international runners who cannot believe they are running by the pyramids. It was so nice to see.”

 

 

Presidential backing

From the second year, organizers made the strategic decision of scaling back the event to a half marathon, which requires fewer hours of road closures and is far easier to manage.

The demand for a full marathon in Egypt was also not very high, so since 2020, the event has comprised three distances: a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km, which opened up participation for people who were keen to run or walk a shorter distance.

“This is our fourth year. We’ve gone from strength to strength and this year, we are under the auspices of the Egyptian presidency, which is huge,” said Hakky.

With the support of the presidency and the Ministry of Sports behind them, The TriFactory has high hopes of expanding the race in the future, knowing that no major city can host a proper marathon without the backing of crucial governmental entities.

“We’re very excited about this step because we’re ambitious about the possibility of bringing it back to a full marathon in the future. We can start to aggressively promote the event abroad, so we can reach the numbers we see in events around the world,” said Hakky.

“The 4,000 participants we get is nothing compared to global numbers. Even the Beirut Marathon, which is a role model for me, attracts 50,000 participants. And Lebanon as a country has some tough circumstances.

“But the entire country is behind the event. All institutions — the military, the presidency, the tourism board — get behind it, and they lock Beirut down for a half day and they stage the marathon.”

Message from Bolt

The TriFactory prides itself on following international standards when it comes to staging its events, and that level of professionalism is what attracted so many people to sign up and brought several sponsors to knock on its doors.

Puma, its platinum sponsor this year, got its superstar ambassador Usain Bolt to post a video message wishing the Pyramids Half Marathon runners good luck and giving them some advice for race day.

“Now we are dreaming that maybe Puma can attract him to attend the event. There’s actually talk of him possibly coming,” said a hopeful Hakky.

While eight-time Olympic gold medalist Bolt might not be a shoo-in, there will be an Olympic silver medalist lining up at the pyramids this December, with Egyptian pentathlete Ahmed Elgendy, who was a runner-up in Tokyo 2020, confirming his participation.

Registered for the 10km but with the possibility of moving up to the half marathon if he feels up for it, Elgendy does not need to train over long distances in his main sport, the modern pentathlon, but says he is a runner at heart and has been keen to take part in the Pyramids Half Marathon.

“The first TriFactory event I attended was their recent Soma Bay Endurance Festival and I was really impressed by how well organized it was. I really liked the energy of the people behind TriFactory and could tell they really want to do something special,” Elgendy told Arab News.

“I’ve seen events here in Cairo where people are running between cars, which is not safe. But they’re not like that. They know what they’re doing and are trying hard to match international standards in everything. In the process, I feel they’re also educating the local community about how an event like this should be run.”

The appeal of running by the pyramids is not exclusive to visitors from abroad; it is a special occasion for locals as well.

“I haven’t even visited the pyramids since I was like 6 years old. So this is a great opportunity for me, to visit the pyramids and run there,” added Elgendy, who is not setting a specific target for himself this race but just doing it for fun.

 

 

‘Running at home is special’

Helmy is an experienced runner who has done both the Paris and New York marathons in the past. While taking part in such iconic long-standing events around the world has been incredible, she admits that running at home, in Egypt, has a special feeling to it.

She remembers the early days when the endurance sports scene in Cairo was in its infancy stages, where participants would complete the race and then rush back to set up water stations for those who had not finished yet. Things have massively improved since then.

“We now have a lot of opportunities to run in Egypt. It’s very nice to run with your own community. Running in international marathons abroad is very nice, but ultimately, you’re running with strangers, or just two or three people who have made the trip with you,” said Helmy.

“In Egypt, the nice thing is that you’re encouraging other runners from the community to run with you. So during a run, you can spot people whom you have personally helped get into the sport, or encouraged to participate. That’s a nice feeling to be part of that.

Nayera Helmy, an amateur runner who has been an active member of the running and triathlon community in Egypt since 2013.

“Plus, it’s fun to run with people you know. So running in Egypt is always special, and it gives us a chance to run in places we don’t regularly visit (here).”

For Hakky and his partners, the goal is to establish the Pyramids Half Marathon as a staple on the international running calendar and to hit 10,000 participants (the roads around the pyramids are quite narrow and cannot handle much more than that).

Hakky dreams of a scenario in which Cairo streets can shut down for half a day so that runners can start elsewhere in the city and make their way toward a finish line at the pyramids, which would be the ultimate reward at the end of a full marathon.

“The advancements made in transportation and the underground system in Cairo (are) allowing us to dream of a scenario like that,” he added.

He also explained that “Race through history” is not just a slogan. The idea is to hold a series of running events at different historical sites across Egypt. The concept has already started to take shape as The TriFactory staged a 5km at the Saqqara Pyramid earlier this year, introducing runners to the unique Step Pyramid of Djoser.

In total, The TriFactory holds between 10 to 15 events annually, with lots of room for growth. But the heart of the business definitely lies on the Giza Plateau.

“The Pyramids Half Marathon has become our biggest event for sure in terms of size and exposure and everything. So long-term, we want to invest more effort in this event because it has become our flagship event,” he concluded.

The deadline for registration for the Pyramids Half Marathon is Nov. 30. You can sign up for the event here.


Saudi national team footballer refutes Rolls Royce prize rumors

Saudi national team footballer refutes Rolls Royce prize rumors
Updated 26 November 2022

Saudi national team footballer refutes Rolls Royce prize rumors

Saudi national team footballer refutes Rolls Royce prize rumors
  • Fake news stories have been circulating that each player was given a fancy car after the impressive win over Argentina

DUBAI: One of Saudi Arabia’s national team footballers refuted rumors circulating that each player was rewarded a Rolls Royce for beating Argentina 2-1 in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 group stages match. 
“We are here to serve our country and do the best, so that’s our biggest achievement,” said Saleh Alshehri during a press conference. 
Alshehri also explained to the journalist asking the question that serving his country was the only reward he needs.

 


Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate
Updated 26 November 2022

Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate

Sluggish England frustrated in US stalemate
  • Southgate's men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game
  • Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time

AL KHOR, Qatar: England missed a chance to book their place in the World Cup last 16 as Gareth Southgate’s side produced a limp display in their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday.
Southgate’s men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game of the tournament, but they rarely troubled a determined US team.
Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time.
They managed just one shot on target and could easily have conceded in the first half when the US were in control for long periods at the Al Bayt Stadium.
For the third time in three World Cup meetings with the US, England failed to live up to their status as favorites.
After a shocking defeat in the 1950 tournament and a 1-1 draw in 2010, this was another defiant American effort against England, cooling some of the hype around the Three Lions following the Iran rout.
Although it was an extremely underwhelming performance from England, they are still in control of their own destiny.
A draw in their final group game against Wales on November 29 would ensure England progress to the knockout stages, while a victory would seal first place.
The US, who have drawn their first two games, play Iran on the same day knowing a win would send them into last 16.
Gregg Berhalter’s group are the second youngest team at the World Cup, but a day after America celebrated Thanksgiving they left sluggish England looking like they were the ones who had indulged in too much turkey.
With Harry Kane and Harry Maguire recovered from an ankle injury and illness respectively, England named an unchanged team for the first time since the 2018 World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia.
But, whereas England dominated possession against timid Iran from the opening moments, they found the US far more willing to press higher up the pitch.
The US desire to engage England briefly left space in behind them and Jude Bellingham’s buccaneering run and pass freed Bukayo Saka down the right side of the US area.
Saka’s cross reached Kane, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman.
That near-miss proved a mirage in the desert for England as Hajji Wright, a surprise selection in place of Josh Sargent, had the Americans’ first sight of goal with a well-timed run into the area for a header that whistled wide.
It was a warning that the US could trouble England and moments later Weston McKennie should have put them ahead.
Timothy Weah’s cross from wide on the right eluded the flat-footed England defense and the unmarked McKennie pulled the trigger from 10 yards, only to fire just wide of the relieved Pickford’s goal.
Showing no signs of being intimidated by England, Berhalter’s side were inches away from turning the enterprising display into a stunning lead when Christian Pulisic jinked into space and lashed a rising drive against the crossbar from just inside the area.
Giving the ball away far too easily and labored in their build-up play, England looked rattled and Pulisic tested their fraying nerves with a header that glanced wide.
In a rare moment of menace from England, Saka’s pass found Mason Mount and the Chelsea’s midfielder low drive from 20 yards brought a first save from US keeper Matt Turner.
Epitomising the US spirit that was such a contrast to England’s lethargy, Tyler Adams crunched into a tackle on Saka, winning the ball and roaring in delight afterwards.
England remained stuck in first gear yet Kane nearly snatched an undeserved winner in stoppage time when he headed wide from Luke Shaw’s free-kick.


Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming

Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming
Updated 26 November 2022

Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming

Germany face Spain with spectre of early World Cup exit looming
  • Germans were hammered by some observers for losing focus on the football when they should be concentrating on avoiding a second successive group stage exit in a World Cup
  • “Really, our focus is 100 percent on football, nothing else,” Havertz said in a pre-match press conference

DOHA: Just one match into the Qatar World Cup, Germany face what amounts to a must-win clash against Spain on Sunday, a team they have not beaten in a competitive fixture since 1988.
Before Germany were stunned 2-1 by Japan in their opening match, the team faced heavy criticism for backtracking on a promise to wear a rainbow “OneLove” armband in support of diversity and human rights.
Their response was powerful — a team photo before the Japan match in which all 11 players covered their mouths, suggesting they had been silenced by FIFA, who had threatened on-field sanctions for anyone wearing the armband.
But after Japan scored two late goals to beat Hansi Flick’s team, the Germans were hammered by some observers for losing focus on the football when they should be concentrating on avoiding a second successive group stage exit in a World Cup.
On Friday, Chelsea striker Kai Havertz said the players were holding onto their beliefs but knew the challenge ahead, especially against a Spain team that steamrollered Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening game.
“Everyone knows our point of view and how we think,” Havertz said in a pre-match press conference.
“Really, our focus is 100 percent on football, nothing else. We just said what we think, what our point of view is, everyone knows that, and now it is about playing football.”
With supermarket chain Rewe pulling their sponsorship and with TV ratings for the Japan game the lowest in Germany for a World Cup in more than 30 years, Havertz recognized that the challenges were not just on the field, saying: “I know not everyone is behind us.”
Havertz revealed the squad and Flick held a wide-ranging team meeting on Thursday, admitting “it was time to tell ourselves the truth.”
Havertz said “everyone left the meeting knowing what’s going on.”
Sitting alongside Havertz, midfielder Julian Brandt said “we had a very good exchange. All of us left the conversation feeling like we had the determination to win the game.”
The importance of the Spain match at the Al Bayt Stadium cannot be underestimated — national squad manager and 1996 Euros winner Oliver Bierhoff has asked what another early exit would mean for the future of football in Germany.
Speaking with Germany TV network ARD on Friday, Bierhoff said losing “our first final” in Qatar would have widespread ramifications for the sport.
“What does it mean for German football? For the further development?” Bierhoff asked.
“And if you go a little deeper: (what does it mean) for the investment we have to make to stay competitive (and) to have new players in eight or ten years?“
Far from being haunted by the ghosts of their early exit in Russia however, Havertz said the match could represent “a turnaround” for the under-fire side, saying “we all dreamed of playing these games.”
“Now we are in a bad moment, but I think that can switch around quite fast — if we win the game on Sunday.”
Captain Manuel Neuer on Friday said Sunday’s match was “a huge chance,” emphasising the side could learn from Russia “we blew it once and now we know how not to do it.”
Brandt agreed.
“Spain come to the stadium on Sunday on the back of a 7-0 victory but it is a chance, on Sunday, a chance to change the atmosphere.”