Saudi national footballers earn their stripes in new kit deal

Saudi national footballers earn their stripes in new kit deal
Saudi Arabia’s national football teams are to wear Adidas kit exclusively for four years. Above, the Kingdom’s men’s football team bound for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. (SAFF)
Short Url
Updated 17 November 2022

Saudi national footballers earn their stripes in new kit deal

Saudi national footballers earn their stripes in new kit deal
  • Four-year agreement with football federation and Adidas to cover men’s, womens and youth teams
  • Sportswear firm commits to developing women’s game to encourage stars of the future

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s national football teams are to wear Adidas kit exclusively for four years in a deal struck with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.

From March, the German sportswear maker will be sole supplier of all training and match wear for the federation’s men’s, women’s, and youth teams.

The deal was announced during a high point for Saudi football, with a new generation of talent coming through elite academies and progress for senior teams.

This year, the Under-23 team won the AFC U-23 Asian Cup without conceding a goal and the Under-20s defended their Arab Cup title to claim back-to-back championships.

Saudi Arabia’s national women’s team was also established this year, while the men’s team will travel to Qatar for their sixth appearance at the World Cup finals after a strong qualification.

The sportswear form has also signed individual deals with Saudi footballers including national captain Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Abdulelah Almalki and Abdullah Otayf.

Adidas has also signed an individual deal with the women’s international and top scorer in the inaugural women’s football league, Farah Jefry.

The agreement will also bolster Adidas’s commitment to developing the women’s game and investing in grass-roots football to widen access and unearth gems of the future.

Over the last year women’s football in Saudi Arabia has been unleashed with a new premier league, first division, schools league and regional training centers all established. The new partnership will seek to accelerate that growth even further.

Bilal Fares, Adidas’s regional manager for the Middle East, said his firm was proud to have signed the deal.

“We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives and we’re delighted to support the federation’s strategy to enhance access to women’s football across the Kingdom,” he said.

“The partnership (builds) on the brand’s wider ambitions to increase sports participation across the Kingdom in line with Vision 2030.”

SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal said the SAFF was looking forward to the new kit partnership.

“Adidas respects our past, our present and admires our committed ambition to open up football to all. In the Kingdom football is a force for good and brings joy to so many, joy which is spreading to even more people thanks to the growth of women’s football,” he said.

“There is fresh energy and a genuine sense of optimism and excitement in Saudi Arabia, that Adidas believes in and wants to be part of. For the Saudi people, Adidas is synonymous with football and are looking forward to kicking off this relationship.”

The agreement gives Adidas commercial and advertising rights on the field and across the media.


Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title
Updated 27 January 2023

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title

Brazilian pair win Australian Open mixed doubles title
  • Stefani and Matos are undefeated as a team, having won all seven matches together at the United Cup and at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE: The Brazilian pair of Luisa Stefani and Rafael Matos beat India’s Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna 7-6 (2), 6-2 on Friday to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title in Mirza’s last match at a Grand Slam tournament before she retires.

Mirza, who has won six Grand Slam doubles championships — three in mixed, including the 2009 Australian Open — will retire next month after a tournament in Dubai.

The Brazilian pair took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker and Mirza and Bopanna fought back to 3-2, but that was to be the last points the Indian duo took. They missed two overheads in a row, including Mirza’s shot into the net on set point.

Stefani and Matos broke Mirza’s serve in the fourth game of the second set to go up 3-1, with the break point coming after a lengthy exchange between the teams.

Stefani and Matos are undefeated as a team, having won all seven matches together at the United Cup and at Melbourne Park.
 


Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day

Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day
Updated 27 January 2023

Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day

Ryder extends Farmers lead to 3, Rahm gets hot on windy day
  • Ryder survived both the Santa Ana wind and the tougher South Course with just one bogey to reach 12-under 132

SAN DIEGO: Sam Ryder extended his lead to three shots in the Farmers Insurance Open with a 4-under 68 in challenging wind in the second round Thursday on Torrey Pines’ South Course while Jon Rahm had an eagle and three straight birdies late in his 5-under 67 on the easier North Course to get under the cut line.

Ryder survived both the Santa Ana wind and the tougher South Course with just one bogey to reach 12-under 132 and take a three-stroke lead over Brendan Steele, who shot a 70 on the South Course. Tano Goya was two more shots back after a 67 on the North Course.

The Santa Ana wind blowing out of the desert and down the mountains raked the course most of the day, with gusts up to 30 mph. It sent leaves, branches and even a tumbleweed onto greens, and cardboard trash cans tumbling down hillsides.

“Yesterday was very easy, today was very hard,” said Rahm, who took his first tour win here in 2017 and then won the 2021 US Open on the blufftop municipal course overlooking the Pacific Ocean. “It’s never easy out here on either one of the courses, especially the South, and when you get poa annua bumpy greens with this wind, it can be a bit of a nightmare, so glad I made a few.”

Rahm, ranked No. 3 in the world and looking to win for the third time three starts this year, rebounded from an opening 73 on the South Course by getting hot on his back nine. He eagled the par-5 fifth and then had three straight birdies. He had another eagle chance on the par-4 seventh but his long putt caught the left edge and skidded about a foot away.

After his frustrating opening round, “anything in the 60s would have been amazing,” Rahm said. “What I shot today, man, I’m going to be skipping out of the golf course today because it’s a great round of golf.”

Rahm, who won The American Express last weekend, started on the back nine and opened with consecutive birdies but bogeyed his third and ninth holes. He was even going into the par-5 fifth, when he started his run with an eagle.

“Holes five through nine, with or without wind is where you can take advantage of the course,” the Spanish star said. “Luckily, I’ve been hitting it really good. There’s no difference between those holes or any other five, four holes you can pick throughout the round, it’s just kind of guessed with the wind right in all of them. I think maybe I was a little more aggressive after that second shot on 6 and got in the mentality of making birdies instead of being a little tentative, which is easy to do when it’s blowing as hard as it was blowing today.”

Rahm, who went from tied for 116th on Wednesday to tied for 14th, said the cut line never came to mind.

“I was playing with the mindset of catching up to the leaders as much as possible, that’s it.”

Ryder, a 33-year-old who has never won on the PGA Tour, opened some distance after sharing the first-round lead with Aaron Rai and Brent Grant. Grant was in a group of six at 6 under.

“Yeah, it feels great. The thing I’ve been kind of telling myself is to just try and embrace it,” Ryder said. “It’s not a position that I’ve been in a lot, you know, so just trying to enjoy it. It’s kind of why we play, so just trying to look around and enjoy the moment.

“And I’m just doing everything pretty solid. It starts off the tee for me, I’m driving it well. My iron play is really good, so I feel like if I put it in the fairway, I can attack. And I don’t think I really missed many shots today. I missed a couple fairways, but the irons have been really good.”

Will Zalatoris, ranked No. 7 in the world, missed the cut after shooting 5-over 77 on the South Course.

The final two rounds will be on the South Course.


Djokovic wary of semifinal underdog Tommy Paul in quest for 22nd Slam title

Djokovic wary of semifinal underdog Tommy Paul in quest for 22nd Slam title
Updated 27 January 2023

Djokovic wary of semifinal underdog Tommy Paul in quest for 22nd Slam title

Djokovic wary of semifinal underdog Tommy Paul in quest for 22nd Slam title
  • The 25-year-old Paul, ranked 35th, is a surprise semifinalist, making this far at a major for the first time on the 14th attempt
  • Tsitsipas aims to snap a run of three semifinal losses in Melbourne as he meets Khachanov in the other last-four showdown

MELBOURNE: Novak Djokovic has won all nine of his Australian Open semifinals and is not ready to let Tommy Paul ruin his unblemished record on Friday as he closes in on a 22nd Grand Slam crown.
The Serb, who won his first Slam at Melbourne Park in 2008, struggled physically in the early rounds this year with a hamstring injury.
But straight-sets thrashings of Alex de Minaur and Andrey Rublev for the loss of just 12 games ominously signalled that the favorite is back to his best for the semifinals.
Should he beat the unseeded American Paul on Rod Laver Arena, he will face either third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas or Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov as a final roadblock to a 10th Australian Open title on Sunday.
Djokovic has extra motivation to go all the way and equal Rafael Nadal’s 22nd Grand Slam crowns after missing last year’s event when he was deported over his Covid vaccination stance. In his absence the Spanish great won.
“I always try to give my best, particularly in Grand Slams, because at this stage of my career those are the tournaments that count the most,” said the 35-year-old.
“But you could say that there is something extra this year. You could say because, yeah, the injury, what happened last year, I just wanted to really do well.
“So far I have a perfect score in Australian hard courts, in Adelaide (which he won) and here. I’ve been playing better and better. I couldn’t ask for a better situation to be in at the moment.”
With Djokovic on a 26-match win streak at the Australian Open — equalling Andre Agassi’s Open-era record at the first Grand Slam of the year — the 35th-ranked Paul is a heavy underdog.
The 25-year-old is a surprise semifinalist, making this far at a major for the first time on the 14th attempt.
“We never played a match against each other. Obviously he’s pretty comfortable here in Australia,” Paul said.
“It’s going to be a challenging match, but I’m playing some of my best tennis, so it’s a good time.”
Djokovic said he had been monitoring the American and would not underestimate the challenge.
“He’s been playing probably the tennis of his life,” he said. “Very explosive, very dynamic player. I think he can hit all the spots with the serve. Very complete player.
“First semifinals for him, so of course he doesn’t have much to lose.”

Tsitsipas versus Khachanov
Tsitsipas meets Khachanov in the other last-four showdown on Friday, aiming to snap a run of three semifinal losses in Melbourne, including over the past two years.
Now 24, he believes he has matured and that this could finally be his year as he bids to become the youngest champion since Djokovic won the title in 2011 aged 23.
“I’m feeling great with my tennis. I don’t think I felt so good in a long time,” the Greek said.
“I’ve said it — I’m a different player (from the past), playing different. My mentality is different.”
He has won all five previous encounters with Khachanov, most recently at the Rome Masters last year, and said he was eager to face the Russian again.
“It’s a match that I’m looking forward to,” he said. “I’m looking ahead for more, for better. Looking to create some magical experiences here in Australia.”
The 26-year-old Russian also made the semifinals at September’s US Open.
He has now made the quarters or better at all four Grand Slams and will draw on the experience when he plays the Greek star.
“I think the first semifinals, which I did in US Open, that gave me an extra boost and extra confidence to show where I really am, and what I can do when I’m at my best,” he said.
“I think all those things together, they push me to where I am right now.”

 


Sabalenka, Rybakina march into Australian Open final showdown

Sabalenka, Rybakina march into Australian Open final showdown
Updated 27 January 2023

Sabalenka, Rybakina march into Australian Open final showdown

Sabalenka, Rybakina march into Australian Open final showdown
  • Wimbledon champion Rybakina of Kazakhstan defeated two-time Melbourne winner Victoria Azarenka of Belarus on Thursday
  • Belarusian Sabalenka marched into the championship match with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 win over Magda Linette of Poland

MELBOURNE: Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina will clash in Saturday’s Australian Open women’s final after both won in straight sets in the last four in Melbourne.
Wimbledon champion Rybakina defeated two-time Melbourne winner Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 at a blustery and chilly Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne on Thursday.
Belarusian Sabalenka then marched into the championship match with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-2 win over Magda Linette.
The 24-year-old Sabalenka will be a slight favorite to win the title, for what would be her first major crown, and promises to be a bruising showdown between two hard-hitters.
“I’m super happy, super happy that I was able to get this win,” said the fifth seed after reaching her first Grand Slam final.
“Magda’s an unbelievable player. She played really great tennis.”
Sabalenka has been in the form of her life since arriving in Australia.
She won the Adelaide International warm-up tournament and has now extended her unbeaten streak to 10 matches, not losing a single set in any of them.
But it was Poland’s Linette, contesting her first major semifinal aged 30, who was out of the gate fastest, breaking to love in the opening game and holding for an early lead.
Sabalenka was being made to work hard and showed all her new-found patience to get back on terms with a break of her own, to love, for 2-2 and the set went to a tiebreak.
Sabalenka timed her moment perfectly to up the aggression, and the decibel level, racing to 4-0 with a scream.
An ace that barely clipped the line stretched it to 5-0 and she closed out comfortably after 51 minutes, having smacked 20 winners to just seven from Linette.
“I would say that I didn’t start really well,” admitted Sabalenka.
“And then on the tiebreak I kind of found my rhythm and just started trusting myself, started going for the shots. It was great tennis from me in the tiebreak.”
Sabalenka showed no sign of letting up in the second set, breaking Linette and with a scream of “Come on!” holding for a 3-1 advantage.
A second break took her within sight of the finish line, which she raced across in 1hr 33min.

Rybakina, 23, said she hoped she had made her watching family proud after another impressive display.
The Moscow-born Kazakh prevailed in 1hr 41min against the 2012 and 2013 champion Azarenka of Belarus to account for a third major winner in as many matches.
The 22nd seed Rybakina had already defeated reigning French and US Open champion Iga Swiatek in the fourth round and 2017 Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko in the quarter-finals.
Rybakina said her semifinal triumph was even more special because she had her sister and parents all watching at Melbourne Park for the first time.
“I’m super happy that we can spend evenings together and they can watch me live,” said Rybakina, whose parents were not there to see her win Wimbledon last year.
“For sure it’s great for them. I didn’t even talk with them yet. I’m sure they’re happy. They don’t see me often playing live, so I think this time, it’s a big result already.
“No matter how I play in the final, I think they’re very proud and happy.”
Azarenka, 33, was left to rue missed opportunities as her dream of a third Australian Open crown dissolved.
“Right now especially it’s kind of hard to digest,” she said.
“I’m proud of myself how I fought and I tried.
“Tennis-wise I felt like I just wasn’t there, especially in the important moments when I kept creating those opportunities for me. Just couldn’t convert them.”
 


Ukraine urges Australian Open to ban Djokovic’s father over pro-Russian stance

Ukraine urges Australian Open to ban Djokovic’s father over pro-Russian stance
Updated 27 January 2023

Ukraine urges Australian Open to ban Djokovic’s father over pro-Russian stance

Ukraine urges Australian Open to ban Djokovic’s father over pro-Russian stance
  • Social media video showed Djokovic’s father Srdjan posing with a man holding a Russian flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it

SYDNEY: Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia on Friday urged tennis officials to ban Novak Djokovic’s father from the Australian Open after he was filmed posing with fans brandishing Russian flags.
“He should be stripped of his accreditation. It’s up to Novak and his team to address this and fix it,” Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko told AFP.
Myroshnychenko also called on Djokovic, who is preparing to face Tommy Paul in the semifinals of the tournament, to personally apologize and to clarify his stance on the Russian invasion.
“It’s important for Novak to address this situation,” he said.
“He should apologize for what has happened, and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
A video posted to a pro-Russian Australian YouTube account on Thursday showed Djokovic’s father Srdjan posing with a man holding a Russian flag with Vladimir Putin’s face on it.
The video was captioned: “Novak Djokovic’s father makes bold political statement.”
Serbian tennis reporters confirmed it was Djokovic’s father and the Melbourne Age newspaper reported he said in Serbian: “Long live Russia.”
Another man was photographed by AFP inside the stadium during Djokovic’s match with a T-shirt bearing the pro-war “Z” symbol.
Tournament organizer Tennis Australia said Thursday it would continue to work with security to enforce entry rules, without directly addressing the incident with Djokovic’s father.