Saudi Sports for All Federation launches 2nd National Cricket Championship

The cricket competition, organized in cooperation with the Saudi Cricket Federation, will see matches played in 11 cities across 10 regions over a period of four months. (Supplied/SFA)
The cricket competition, organized in cooperation with the Saudi Cricket Federation, will see matches played in 11 cities across 10 regions over a period of four months. (Supplied/SFA)
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Updated 14 October 2022

Saudi Sports for All Federation launches 2nd National Cricket Championship

Saudi Sports for All Federation launches 2nd National Cricket Championship
  • Competition will run for 4 months with matches played in 11 host cities
  • Organized with Saudi Cricket Federation, event set to attract 8,000 participants

RIYADH: The second edition of the National Cricket Championship got underway on Friday, the Saudi Sports for All Federation announced.

The competition, organized in cooperation with the Saudi Cricket Federation, will see matches played in 11 cities across 10 regions over a period of four months. The SFA said it expects the event to attract 8,000 participants.

The host cities are: Riyadh, Dammam, Jubail, Qassim, Tabuk, Medina, Yanbu, Jeddah, Abha, Jizan and Najran.

Running simultaneously will be the Softball Cricket Championship, which will take place in six cities and is set to attract about 5,000 players.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud said: “The return of the national championships, developed with our respected partners at the Cricket Federation, is an exciting time for the SFA. The engagement from across the country was electric in its first edition and we have even higher expectations for this year’s edition.

“The SFA continues to build on past successes. You asked for another competitive series, and we answered.”

Prince Khaled added that last year’s competition was one of the SFA’s most popular.

“The championship will engage residents and contribute to strengthening social communication while raising the standard of physical fitness,” he said.

Prince Saud bin Mishal bin Mohammed Al Saud, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, said he welcomed the partnership with the SFA.

“The National Cricket Championship is one of the most significant achievements of the Quality of Life Program in the sports sector in 2021.

“Since its inception last year, it has succeeded in increasing the popularity of the game and raising the number of its practitioners to a record level in most regions in the Kingdom, and we look forward to cooperation with our partners to involve all categories and increase the number of practitioners and reach all regions.”

He added: “We hope to organize activities and tournaments that will contribute to increasing the popularity of the game and raise the interest of individuals of different ages and abilities in this ancient game.”

A total of 369 teams and 15 cricket associations were involved in last year’s championship. The matches took place over 14 weeks at 106 stadiums, with the help of 456 professional officials and volunteers.


Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai

Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai
Updated 5 sec ago

Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai

Reed fares better than McIlroy after delayed start in Dubai
  • Three English players — Matthew Jordan, Daniel Gavins and Oliver Wilson — held the clubhouse lead after shooting rounds of 4-under 68

DUBAI: Patrick Reed fared better than Rory McIlroy after some pre-tournament friction as the Dubai Desert Classic got off to a wet start Thursday with only 11 players managing to finish their weather-affected first rounds.

Play only began at the European tour event after a delay of six hours caused by heavy overnight rain that left the course unplayable at Emirates Golf Club.

By the time the siren sounded to suspend play because of fading light, Reed was 4 under par after 16 holes and top-ranked McIlroy was 2 under having played 15 holes.

Thomas Pieters was leading on 5 under, though he also had three holes to play. Three English players — Matthew Jordan, Daniel Gavins and Oliver Wilson — held the clubhouse lead after shooting rounds of 4-under 68.

“It’s certainly strange around here,” Jordan said of the wet conditions, “to see water hazards and stuff in places that you don’t expect it to be.”

Reed and McIlroy traded verbal blows Wednesday after an interaction — of sorts — at the practice range on Tuesday that saw McIlroy snub Reed, who had gone over to wish the Northern Irishman a happy new year. Reed walked away before tossing a tee — featuring a logo of his 4 Aces team in the LIV Golf league — in the direction of McIlroy, one of the most vocal critics of the global series.

Reed said it was “unfortunate” that McIlroy didn’t shake his hand and was quoted as describing McIlroy as “an immature little child.”

It has set the scene for a potential on-course head-to-head in Dubai between two of golf’s most high-profile players. It didn’t come Thursday, with McIlroy starting at No. 10 in his first event of 2023 and Reed opening at the first hole.

McIlroy bogeyed two of his first six holes after leaving chips from the fringe short. He got up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at No. 18, picked up more shots at No. 2 and 3, and was lining up a birdie putt from inside 4 feet on No. 7 when the siren went off.

Reed birdied three of his first five holes and rebounded from a bogey at No. 10 by holing short birdie putts at Nos. 12 and 14.

Tommy Fleetwood (15 holes) and Victor Perez (16 holes), who won the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, were also on 4 under when they had to leave the course.

Half the field had yet to get on the course and will start their first rounds on Friday. Players were informed in the early hours of Thursday morning that Emirates Golf Club was “inaccessible” and told not to travel to the course due to several roads being flooded following heavy rain.

Play finally got underway following a few hours of dry weather and a massive clean-up operation by ground staff.

“It’s tough,” Jordan said. “I mean, it was nice to see that at 5.20 a.m. I could roll back over in bed and have a lie-in. So that was nice.”


Madrid snatch derby victory against Atletico to reach Copa semifinals

Madrid snatch derby victory against Atletico to reach Copa semifinals
Updated 33 min 24 sec ago

Madrid snatch derby victory against Atletico to reach Copa semifinals

Madrid snatch derby victory against Atletico to reach Copa semifinals
  • Vinicius netted at the death to send Los Blancos through to the final four for the first time since 2019
  • Athletic Bilbao won 3-1 at Valencia to join  Barcelona and Osasuna in Monday’s semifinal draw

MADRID: Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior’s extra-time strikes earned Real Madrid a 3-1 win over rivals Atletico Madrid on Thursday to reach the Copa del Rey semifinals.

The spiky, gripping derby clash turned against Diego Simeone’s side in the additional period when defender Stefan Savic was sent off.

Atletico took the lead through Alvaro Morata after 19 minutes but Rodrygo’s sensational slalom run past three defenders and slick finish pulled Madrid level with 11 minutes remaining.

After Savic’s 99th minute red card, Benzema tucked home from Marco Asensio’s pass and Vinicius netted at the death to send Los Blancos through to the final four for the first time since 2019.

The buildup to the derby was tainted when a crude effigy of Vinicius was hung from a bridge near Real Madrid’s training ground, which the club described as “a disgusting act of racism, xenophobia and hatred.”

Madrid fans had planned to sing Vinicius’ name in support in the 20th minute, matching his shirt number, but were stunned into silence by Morata’s goal moments before.

Atletico, hitting their best form of the season, conjured a brilliant move to break the deadlock, with Morata tapping home after Koke’s dink allowed Nahuel Molina to stroke a first-time cross to the back post.

Eder Militao might have equalized but headed over from point-blank range, the ball deflecting slightly behind his leap to make the chance harder.

Antoine Griezmann was moving with freedom between the lines, relishing his new deeper role and pulling the strings for Atletico as they dominated the first half.

Madrid added another name to a long injury list when Ferland Mendy had to be replaced before half-time, with Eduardo Camavinga slotting in at left back and Dani Ceballos coming on.

Along with injuries for Dani Carvajal, David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez, it left Madrid without any natural full backs.

Benzema was not far away from reaching Fede Valverde’s flick-on from Nacho’s drive, as Madrid started the second half strongly.

Jan Oblak produced a fine save to deny the French forward, with Vinicius unable to react quickly enough to finish from the rebound.

At the other end, Axel Witsel sent an overhead kick narrowly wide and Thibaut Courtois tipped a vicious Griezmann free kick over as Atletico tried and failed to kill off the game.

Rodrygo levelled with 11 minutes to go with his jinking solo effort and subtle near-post finish, taking the game to extra-time.

Atletico defender Savic foolishly handed Madrid the edge when he was sent off for two yellow cards in two minutes.

The first came during an argument with Vinicius and the second for fouling Camavinga.

Madrid immediately began to capitalize when Vinicius crossed for Antonio Rudiger, who headed narrowly wide.

Benzema struck lethally after 104 minutes when Vinicius miskicked Marco Asensio’s cross and the ball traveled through to the striker.

Madrid, who last won the Copa del Rey in 2014, kept Atletico at bay in the final 15 minutes before Vinicius dribbled through and fired home to clinch the victory.

Earlier, Athletic Bilbao won 3-1 at Valencia to join record 31-time winners Barcelona and Osasuna in Monday’s semifinal draw.


Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi
Updated 27 January 2023

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi

Disappointment for captain Ronaldo as Al-Nassr lose 3-1 to Al-Ittihad in Saudi Super Cup semi
  • The winners will face Al-Feiha, who recorded a surprise 1-0 victory over Al-Hilal in day’s other last-four clash, in Sunday’s final
  • Al-Hilal will now shift their focus to the opening game of their FIFA Club World Cup campaign, against Wydad AC of Morocco, on Feb. 4

Cristiano Ronaldo will have to wait a while to lift his first Saudi silverware, after Al-Nassr fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Al-Ittihad in their Saudi Super Cup semi-final on Thursday. The victors will meet Al-Feiha, who recorded a surprise 1-0 victory over Al-Hilal earlier in the day, in the final on Sunday.

Ronaldo, who was handed the captain’s armband for his second game with the league leaders, could have no complaints about the result. Al-Ittihad scored twice during an impressive first-half performance, and Nuno Santo’s side managed to hold on fairly comfortably after Anderson Talisca pulled one back for Al-Nassr midway through the second half.

Al-Ittihad took the lead after 15 minutes with almost their first attack of the game. Abdulrahman Al-Aboud exchanged passes with Abderrazak Hamdallah on the left side and then delivered a perfect low cross that Romarinho slotted home past goalkeeper Agustin Rossi, on loan from Boca Juniors and making his debut as a stand-in for the injured David Ospina.

Romarinho celebrates scoring his team’s first goal. (@ittihad) 

The Tigers visibly grew in confidence following the goal and looked like adding to their lead as they cut through the Al-Nassr back line time and time again. The Riyadh side struggled to bring Ronaldo into the game but then, just before the half-time, it looked as if the former Real Madrid star would open his Al-Nassr account.

A cross from the right found the skipper in the area and though he climbed high above the Al-Ittihad defense, his header from close range was straight at goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe.

Seconds later, Al-Ittihad extended their lead. Pity Martinez was robbed of possession on the right side and Romarinho broke free to float a perfect cross to the far side of the area. Hamdallah sent an equally perfect header back the way the ball had come and into the corner of the net.

Al-Nassr improved in the second half but still struggled to create clear chances. Ronaldo came close after 65 minutes but the five-time Ballon D’or winner sent his free-kick from just outside the left corner of the penalty area narrowly over the bar.

Shortly thereafter, Talisca put the Riyadh side back in the game as he fired home Luiz Gustavo’s low cross from the left. The Al-Nassr onslaught that might have been expected following the goal never really materialized, however, and Al-Ittihad sealed their place in the final in injury time thanks to a breakaway goal from Muhannad Al-Shanqeeti.

In May Al-Hilal lost the King’s Cup final to Al-Feiha after a penalty shootout. In Thursday’s game they did not even get that close.

The only goal of the game came after 21 minutes. Victor Ruiz had the ball in the middle of the Al-Hilal half and his perfect reverse through-pass split three defenders allowing Paulinho to run into the area, where the Brazilian calmly placed the ball to the left of goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

Paulinho celebrates the winning goal against Al-Hilal.  (@Alfaihaclub)

Just four minutes later, Al-Hilal were handed a perfect chance to get back on level terms. Abdullah Al-Hamdan, given a rare start by coach Ramon Diaz, dribbled into the right corner of the penalty area, where he was tripped by Ricardo Ryller. Up stepped Salem Al-Dawsari but he slammed his shot against the base of the left-hand post, though goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who did so much to help his team to victory in the King’s Cup, seemed to suggest he got a hand to it.

Al-Hilal had perhaps an even better opportunity immediately after the restart but, with the goal at his mercy, Al-Hamdan lifted the ball over from the edge of the six-yard box. Shortly after, the unmarked Saleh Al-Shehri headed wide from a good position. The blue wave continued to push forward but to no avail.

“Losing and saying goodbye to our chances of winning the Saudi Super Cup is painful,” said Al-Hilal striker Moussa Marega. “We must learn from the defeat and put it right in the future.”

Al-Feiha now have a chance to claim their second major silverware, while Al-Hilal must quickly shift their focus to another knockout tournament; the Asian champions will kick off their FIFA Club World Cup campaign against African title-holders Wydad AC of Morocco on Feb. 4.


Record-chasing Mbappé has Cavani’s PSG mark in his sights

Record-chasing Mbappé has Cavani’s PSG mark in his sights
Updated 27 January 2023

Record-chasing Mbappé has Cavani’s PSG mark in his sights

Record-chasing Mbappé has Cavani’s PSG mark in his sights
  • Mbappé's tally of 196 goals for PSG means he is only four behind Edinson Cavani's record for the club
  • Cavani is still idolized by fans, many of whom were angry at the club for letting him leave in 2020

PARIS: Kylian Mbappé can close in further on Paris Saint-Germain’s all-time scoring record when his team host Reims on Sunday.
Mbappé’s tally of 196 goals for PSG means he is only four behind Edinson Cavani’s record for the club. Cavani is still idolized by fans, many of whom were angry at the club for letting him leave in 2020.
Mbappé has taken longer to win PSG’s supporters over, especially when relations became frosty during the on-off transfer saga with Real Madrid.
But his exploits for France at the World Cup in Qatar increased his popularity all over the country, and since returning he’s been applauded at every away ground — although that might not be the case when PSG visit bitter rival Marseille twice next month.
The World Cup’s top scorer is in clinical form heading into Saturday’s match at Parc des Princes after netting five goals in a French Cup win on Monday, albeit against an amateur side.
Mbappé’s attitude in that game stood out along with his crisp finishing. He took the match very seriously and spoke of his respect for the non-league teams afterward.
“It’s a reminder for us that we all come from amateur football and it’s important to keep this link,” he said. “Even if it’s only for one game.”
Neymar has been largely anonymous for PSG since his World Cup heartbreak with Brazil, so PSG coach Christophe Galtier needs Mbappé to maintain his form.
“Kylian is among the greatest strikers, the world class strikers. He’s one of the best,” Galtier said. “He’s conditioned to score. That’s Kylian, a man of statistics and numbers. I don’t even need to encourage for him to break records.”
He is the league’s top scorer with 13 goals this season, one more than Lorient’s Terem Moffi and Lille’s Jonathan David, and it’s only a matter of time before Cavani’s record tumbles.
In far quicker time, too.
While Cavani notched his 200 goals in 301 games, Mbappé has taken just 241 matches to reach 196.
While his best season’s haul of 42 goals overall is less than Cavani’s best total of 49, Mbappé is already on 25 goals in 24 games so far in this campaign.
With half of the league campaign still to play, he could realistically hit 50 if PSG goes far in the Champions League and the French Cup.
That might be tough, however, since PSG face Bayern Munich in the round of 16 and are away to Marseille in the cup’s last 16.
A hectic schedule sees PSG playing seven games next month, including a league game at third-place Marseille that promises to be intense, and eight if they reach the cup quarterfinals.
Mid-table Reims are a hard team to beat, too, and are on an 11-match unbeaten run which includes holding PSG to a 0-0 draw at home in October.
PSG’s away form have been a concern recently, with consecutive defeats at Lens and Rennes allowing second-place Lens to close the gap to three points after 19 rounds.
So, PSG need a morale-boosting home win to get their confidence back, and help Mbappé close the gap on Cavani.


Vinicius effigy hung from bridge before Madrid derby

Vinicius effigy hung from bridge before Madrid derby
Updated 26 January 2023

Vinicius effigy hung from bridge before Madrid derby

Vinicius effigy hung from bridge before Madrid derby
  • The Vinicius effigy was described as a "racist attack" and "serious threat" against the Brazilian forward by Spanish media
  • Police sources told AFP they were investigating the incident, without offering further details

MADRID: A dummy dressed in a Vinicius Junior shirt was hung from a bridge near Real Madrid’s training ground ahead of the Copa del Rey quarter-final clash against Atletico Madrid on Thursday.
“Madrid hates Real,” read a banner draped on the bridge close to Valdebebas overnight Wednesday.
The Vinicius effigy was described as a “racist attack” and “serious threat” against the Brazilian forward by Spanish media.
Police sources told AFP they were investigating the incident, without offering further details.
The slogan is one which has been used by Atletico Madrid ultras in the past.
“Such acts are absolutely repugnant and inadmissible and shame society,” said Atletico in a statement.
“Our condemnation of any act that attacks the dignity of persons or institutions is categorical and unreserved.”
Atletico fans were filmed aiming racist chants at Vinicius in September before the Madrid derby at the Wanda Metropolitano in La Liga.
However, in December Spanish prosecutors closed an investigation into the chants, saying it was not possible to identify those culpable.
“We condemn the hateful actions against Vinicius,” wrote La Liga on Twitter.
“Intolerance and violence do not fit within football.”
Real Madrid’s 22-year-old winger is a divisive figure in Spanish football, with opponents sometimes angered by his flair and playing style, and his propensity to go to ground easily.
On the other hand, Vinicius is often targeted and hacked by opposition defenders to try and put him off his game, with no player in Europe fouled more this season.
“We have to protect him,” urged Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti on Wednesday in a news conference.
“Football needs him, he’s got an extraordinary talent and we have to protect him physically and in a mental aspect too.”
Real Madrid host rivals Atletico at the Santiago Bernabeu later on Thursday.