Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 

Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 
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This is the second time the Magpies have held a training camp in the Kingdom. In January they beat Al-Ittihad 2-1 in a friendly in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 
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(Supplied)
Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 
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(Supplied)
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Updated 05 December 2022

Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 

Newcastle arrive in Riyadh for Diriyah Season Cup 
  • Saudi Professional League champions Al-Hilal will face-off against an impressive Magpies side who have not been beaten since August

RIYADH: Newcastle United arrived in Riyadh today to face Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal next Thursday for the Diriyah Season Cup.

The match will be held at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Al-Malaz as part of the second edition of Diriyah Season.

Saudi Public Investment Fund-owned Newcastle will hold a training camp that will last until Dec. 10 .

Saudi Professional League champions Al-Hilal will face-off against an impressive Magpies side who have not been beaten since August, and who currently sit third in the Premier League.

This is the second time the Magpies have held a training camp in the Kingdom. In January they beat Al-Ittihad 2-1 in a friendly in Jeddah.

Visitors and fans of sports and football from inside and outside the Kingdom can buy tickets for the Diriyah Season Cup match through the official website https://diriyahseason.sa/ar.


Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown
Updated 15 sec ago

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown

Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly eye unlikely FIFA Club World Cup Final showdown
  • Saudi and Asian champions take on Brazil’s Flamengo, Cairo giants Al-Ahly face mighty Real Madrid in semifinals
  • Al-Hilal and Flamengo met at the same stage in 2019, with the South Americans winning 3-1

It was less than three months ago when Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari scored spectacular goals to defeat Argentina and set the 2022 World Cup on fire.

There is now another massive South American test for the pair as Al-Hilal take on Brazilian giants Flamengo in the semifinals of the FIFA Club World Cup in Tangier on Tuesday. The prize of a final against mighty Real Madrid or Arab rivals Al-Ahly awaits.

The Saudi Arabian and Asian champions are still recovering from an epic showdown with local heroes Wydad AC on Saturday.

Not only did the Riyadh giants have to come back from a goal down against the African champions — and complete 120 minutes of a tough encounter — but they also had to deal with 50,000 intimidating fans.

Al-Hilal came through in the end thanks to a late equalizer from Mohamed Kanno and then a tense penalty shootout.

Al-Hilal and Flamengo met at the same stage in 2019, with the South Americans winning 3-1. Al-Hilal took the lead thanks to an Al-Dawsari goal after just 18 minutes. Flamengo equalized and then, with 12 minutes remaining, Bruno Henrique — not the player who now turns out for Al-Ittihad — put the Rio de Janeiro club ahead. A late own-goal from Ali Al-Bulaihi sealed Hilal’s fate.

Both Al-Bulaihi and Al-Dawsari should play this time too, with Jang Hyun-soo another survivor from that game.

Jang said: “Facing a Brazilian team such as Flamengo in the semifinals will be difficult.

“We previously faced them in the same tournament. We lost at that time but we always aim to win every game we play, and this is no different.

“We will give everything we have to reach the final and then to be champions.”

Absences make the task harder. Midfielder Kanno, sent off for two bookable offenses on Saturday, is out, while Peruvian winger Andre Carrillo is doubtful.

Given that a quartet of Saudi Arabian internationals — captain Salman Al-Faraj, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik and Abdulellah Al-Malki — did not even make the journey from Riyadh, then coach Ramon Diaz has a lot to think about.

With one South American triumph in the last 15 tournaments, Flamengo, led by former Al-Ahli coach Vitor Pereira, would love to take the trophy back home.

They are in decent form back in Brazil, they do not have the injury problems of their Saudi opponents, but have had a lengthy journey.

If Al-Hilal do manage to win, it would put them in a major final, and their fans in dreamland. It would be another major achievement for Arab football; it is hard to imagine what an Al-Hilal and Al-Ahly final would mean to the region.

But first the Egyptians have the matter of a semifinal against Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world.

The Spaniards not only won the European title for a record-extending 14th time last year, but they are also the most successful team in this tournament, with four championships.

For Al-Hilal to beat Flamengo would be seen as a surprise, but Al-Ahly triumphing would be an even bigger shock.

But the Cairo giants are in good form. Ten wins and five draws from the first 15 games of the Egyptian Premier League season have steered them well clear at the top of the standings, and they have already progressed past Auckland City and Seattle Sounders in this tournament, by 3-0 and 1-0 respectively. 

Real Madrid, with stars such as Luka Modric, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, are hot favorites, although they trail rivals Barcelona in Spain by eight points following defeat at the weekend.

Al-Ahly’s Swiss coach Marcel Koller said: “It is a great achievement to set up a date with Real Madrid in the semifinals.

“We will prepare both theoretically and technically for the game and we know it will be a big challenge.”

The Red Giants have faced European champions once before, losing 2-0 to Bayern Munich in 2020 on their way to third place — the same position they finished last year after defeating Al-Hilal in the third and fourth-place play-off.

It is possible that these two giants of Arabian football will meet at the same stage again this weekend — but there is also still time to dream that it will be in the final.


Newcastle United ‘praying for’ former star who is missing after Turkiye quake

 Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
Updated 58 min 39 sec ago

Newcastle United ‘praying for’ former star who is missing after Turkiye quake

 Newcastle United’s former midfielder Christian Atsu celebrates after scoring a goal. (File/AFP)
  • “Praying for some positive news,” Atsu’s former club Newcastle said in a social media post
  • Huge earthquake has killed more than 2,200 people and injured thousands more on Monday

ISTANBUL: English Premier League Newcastle United has voiced fears for the fate of its former player Christian Atsu after a huge earthquake killed more than 2,200 people and injured thousands more on Monday in Turkiye and northwest Syria.

Atsu is reportedly among those trapped under the rubble in the Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.
The Ghanaian international spent several years with Newcastle and Chelsea before signing with Turkish side Hatayspor last summer.
“Praying for some positive news,” his former club Newcastle said in a social media post.
The magnitude 7.8 quake, which hit before sunrise in bitter winter weather, was the worst to strike Turkiye this century and heaped more destruction on Syrian cities already devastated by years of war. It was followed in the early afternoon by another large quake of magnitude 7.7.


Prince Khaled hails ‘amazing first week’ as Aurelien Giraud and Rayssa Leal win gold at skate champs opener in Sharjah

Prince Khaled hails ‘amazing first week’ as Aurelien Giraud and Rayssa Leal win gold at skate champs opener in Sharjah
Updated 06 February 2023

Prince Khaled hails ‘amazing first week’ as Aurelien Giraud and Rayssa Leal win gold at skate champs opener in Sharjah

Prince Khaled hails ‘amazing first week’ as Aurelien Giraud and Rayssa Leal win gold at skate champs opener in Sharjah
  • The Street 2022 World Championships, and the Park 2022 World Championships which runs until Feb. 12 at Aljada Skate Park, are qualifiers for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

SHARJAH: France’s skateboarder Aurelien Giraud has won the men’s Street 2022 World Championships at Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah, while Brazil’s 15-year-old Rayssa Leal claimed gold in the women’s event.

The Street and Park world championships are being co-organized by World Skate and the UAE-based master developer Arada.

Both events, which run until Feb. 12 at Aljada Skate Park in Sharjah, act as qualifiers for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

“We’ve had an amazing first week and as you would expect from a world championships, the standard has been incredibly high, the support has been loud and colorful and the emotions have run high,” said Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, vice chairman of Arada, developers of the competition’s new venue.

“During the Street finals, as you’ve seen, it was exciting to see Aurelien Giraud from France and Rayssa Leal from Brazil take gold in the men’s and women’s events respectively. Judging by the tears and celebrations it was obvious how much it meant to them to win in Sharjah, and it was a really riveting competition.”

“From a wider perspective, it’s been a truly multicultural event, with spectators and athletes from 63 nations around the world, most of them travelling to the Middle East for the first time,” he added. “We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the athletes, fans, and our partners at World Skate.”

A dramatic Sunday in the men’s Street saw Giraud out of the medal positions entering his fourth attempt in the final’s trick section, where a stunning backside 360 claimed 91.48 points and, ultimately, gold. Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro earned silver with 267.38 points — not quite enough to beat Giraud’s 269.33 total — while 12-year-old Japanese sensation Onodera Ginwoo took bronze through his 263.04 score.

The women’s final proved incredibly close, with Leal — whose top run of 83.32 was added to with best trick scores of 85.04 and 87.22 — earning 255.58 points to claim gold. It was a total enough to edge out 12-year-old Australian Chloe Covell’s 253.51 and Japan’s Momiji Nishiya’s 253.30 into silver and bronze. Even more impressively, Leal triumphed despite heavy strapping on a wrist injury sustained during a fall in practice earlier in the week.

With the Street competition over, the action moved swiftly onto the Park Championship, and Prince Khaled believes both events will have a long-term influence on the sport in the region.

“These championships have already witnessed impressive worldwide coverage and have really helped to put Sharjah and Aljada on the map as a new heavyweight destination for skateboarding globally,” he said. “The Park competition is getting underway now, wrapping up on Sunday Feb. 12, so the eyes of the skateboarding world are still very much on the UAE.”

“Skateboarding is one of the fastest-growing sports globally but I think it’s fair to say that the bigger competitions have generally been based in North and South America, Australia, Europe and Japan, where the sport is already well-known and popular,” said Prince Khaled. “For any sport to become truly global, it needs to come to places like the Middle East, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with these events.”

Prince Khaled said the competitions are just the beginning for Arada, and he looks forward to continuing the developer’s partnership with World Skate in the near future.

“A major focus for us going forward will be improving the number of local skaters taking part,” he said. “While we’ve had great representation from Bahrain, Oman and Morocco, the presence of a world-class facility like the Aljada Skate Park is really going to help local skaters take the next step to compete at the highest level and maybe even stand on the podium one day.”

Prince Khaled also revealed his delight at handing the winners their medals in Sharjah. “From a personal perspective, my work at the Saudi Sports for All Federation gives me a lot of opportunities to be engaged at every level with athletics; I don’t think there’s anything more invigorating,” he said.

“To award these globally relevant athletes the medals at Aljada, our community, gave me a lot of pride. To see everyone on (the) ground living this huge moment together, that’s what creating communities is really about.

“To date, Aljada has welcomed thousands of people to watch the Olympic skateboarding qualifiers, and the athletes felt our energy, they knew we were rooting for them and holding our breath during the most difficult segments,” said Prince Khaled.

Men’s Street 2022 World Championships final points results:

Aurelien Giraud, 269.33 (France)

Gustavo Ribeiro, 267.38 (Portugal)

Ginwoo Onodera, 263.04 (Japan)

Kelvin Hoefler, 248.59 (Brazil)

Richard Tury, 245.52 (Slovakia)

Jagger Eaton, 179.15 (US)

Chris Joslin, 179.08 (US)

Sora Shirai, 155.78 (Japan)

Women’s Street 2022 World Championships final results:

Rayssa Leal, 255.58 (Brazil)

Chloe Covell, 253.51 (Australia)

Momiji Nishiya, 253.30 (Japan)

Rizu Akama, 251.91 (Japan)

Funa Nakayama, 240.79 (Japan)

Gabriela Mazetto, 221.45 (Brazil)

Paige Heyn, 211.71 (US)

Pamela Rosa, 126.52 (Brazil)


Saudi Arabian women’s football gathers momentum and investment with launch of new U-17 team

Saudi Arabian women’s football gathers momentum and investment with launch of new U-17 team
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Arabian women’s football gathers momentum and investment with launch of new U-17 team

Saudi Arabian women’s football gathers momentum and investment with launch of new U-17 team
  • New youth age group follows the footsteps of main squad and futsal side
  • Squad of 28 players selected for training camp in Riyadh after regional trials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has launched its third women’s national team — the Under-17 squad — with 28 players set for a training camp in Riyadh this weekend.

The formation of the team demonstrates the rapid progress of the women’s game in Saudi Arabia since the inception of a dedicated women’s department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation in 2019. 

The U-17 squad will hope to follow in the footsteps of their senior counterparts, who were recently victorious during their international friendly tournament debut and are well on their way to officially entering the FIFA Rankings List next month.

Today, there are two active professional leagues featuring 25 clubs and 523 players representing over 20 different nationalities. At amateur level, almost 50,000 schoolgirls took part in the inaugural schools’ league featuring 4,700 teams across Saudi Arabia. Off the pitch, 49 referees are officially registered and officiating league matches, with the first Saudi female referee — Anoud Al-Asmari — breaking into FIFA’s licensed list last month. 

Over 1,000 licensed coaches are also nurturing young female talent across clubs, academies, schools and training centers across the country.

Marking a further milestone in the women’s game, Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the SAFF, said: “Saudi Arabia has become an ambitious supporter of sport to help inspire its young population to get active and to lead healthy lives. Our investments, which include grassroots facilities, partnerships and hosting global events, reflect the country’s rapid progress and transformation.

“Women and girls are central to everything we do in sport, and we are working to provide equal access to facilities, opportunities and careers, both on and off the pitch,” he said. “In football that means our national teams, regardless of male or female, get equal pay in terms of daily allowance while on national duty. They train on the same pitches, stay in the same type of accommodation, and use the same equipment.

“The establishment of the U-17 team today is yet another sign of our strong commitment to women’s sports, and football in specific,” Al-Misehal added. “Having been selected to host (the) AFC Asian Cup 2027 … our commitment now lies on our bid to host the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 2026. We invite everyone to visit our country to see for themselves how the country’s transformation is impacting daily lives and the role sport is playing across all areas of society.”

While many sectors have benefitted under Vision 2030 — the Kingdom’s economic and social reform program — sports for schoolgirls have seen a significant boost, with thousands grasping new opportunities that previously did not exist. As a result, today 37 sports federations have a women’s national team, with four female presidents leading them. There has also been a marked increase in sports participation at all levels, with over 200,000 girls playing sport every week.

Mirroring much of the transformation happening across all areas in Saudi Arabia, the strong women’s football movement stems from a long-term strategy and commitment by the SAFF to grow interest and inspire participation at all levels of the game, with unprecedented investments in grassroots, player development, coaching, refereeing and competitions.

The U-17 squad was chosen following try-outs across the country’s three regional training centers in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, that welcome girls as young as six years old three times a week in an effort to increase participation and develop skills at an early age. The centers saw more than 300 talented players try out for the U-17 national team selection. Some players were also chosen after being spotted playing in the inaugural Schools’ League launched at the end of last year.

In a boost to future development, five players from the 28 selected are already honing their skills in front of crowds every weekend in the Women’s Premier League. The U-17 national team’s first training camp has just been completed, with the second confirm from Feb. 9-11, 2023.

Lamia Bahaian, supervisor of the Women’s Football Department and board member at the SAFF, said: “We are fortunate to see such a big turnout for the try-outs and it really shows the passion these girls have for football. They want to play, watch and participate in any way — and while that certainly makes our job easier, it also adds an additional responsibility to give the women’s game the platform it deserves.

“We’ve been working towards the establishment of the U-17 team for a couple of years now as it’s a very important element in our mission to offer a 360 degrees women’s football ecosystem. It’s great to see that five of the players are already earning minutes in the Women’s Premier League, and is indicative of how the creation of the league has benefited the all-round growth of the women’s game.”


Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in DP World ILT20

Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in DP World ILT20
Updated 06 February 2023

Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in DP World ILT20

Battle for fourth place goes down to the wire in DP World ILT20
  • Desert Vipers, Gulf Giants and MI Emirates occupy top three spots while Dubai Capitals desperately hang on to fourth place

Over the past few days, final positions have been fought for in the round-robin stage of the UAE’s DP World ILT20 Cricket League.

Although Abu Dhabi Knight Riders had failed to secure a win so far in nine matches, they finished on a winning note by defeating the Sharjah Warriors to put a dent in the latter’s hopes of finishing in the top four.

Those four teams will contest play-off matches. The first-placed team will play the second-placed team, providing the winner with a direct route to the final. Third and fourth-placed teams will face off, the winner playing the loser of first versus second. The Gulf Giants and the Desert Vipers will finish first and second. On Saturday, they met in the round robin, Vipers sitting top of the league. Bragging rights were at stake.

The Giants batted first and, at 129 for four after 14.2 overs, looked to be running short of a competitive total. However, Shimron Hetmyer accelerated the rate and the Giants closed on 180 for six, a very gettable target for the Vipers. They started with the intent of finishing as quickly as possible. Rohan Mustafa struck three fours in the first over, all hammered through the offside. However, the bowlers changed their lengths, preventing him from advancing, and he stopped laying bat on ball before nicking one through to the wicketkeeper. Alex Hales started more slowly before getting into his stride, greeting Chris Jordan’s first ball with a huge straight six.

At 57 for 1, compared with 55 for 1 for the Giants at the same stage of their respective innings, Hales holed out to a ball turning away outside the off-stump by trying to hit it over mid-wicket but did not get enough power on it, being caught on the boundary. The bowler was local Aayan Afzal Khan. Whether this was a deliberate ploy is not clear but it seemed that Hales knew as soon as he hit the ball that it was not the right decision. He remains the top run-scorer in the League but is being chased closely. Shortly afterwards, the captain, Colin Munro, gave a wicket away needlessly, hitting straight down the ground to be safely caught by David Wiess. Two wickets were thrown away. This is difficult to understand from the sidelines. Certainly, Munro’s twirling of the bat into the air as he departed gave comfort to those lesser cricketers of us who have felt the same way after playing a rash stroke.

The Giants were now in the ascendancy after being on the back foot. A change of pace, bowler and length had been decided upon very quickly on the field and the bowlers effected this well. Further innovation came when Erasmus bowled from 23 yards, inducing a faint edge from Sam Billings, who was trying to resurrect the innings. He had no option but to review the decision, which went against him.

The Giants bowlers, especially Chris Jordan, were putting the ball in the right areas, causing an implosion of the Viper’s innings. Tom Curran, who ended undefeated on 42 was left with too much to do on his own and the innings petered out disappointingly, 25 runs short on 155 for six. After an early misfire with their bowling, the Giants recovered with an astute performance in the field. England’s James Vince has captained their matches in the League, although Carlos Braithwaite was nominated for this match. Whoever was pulling the strings should be thankful for Jordan’s experienced input.

Another captaincy conundrum arose in Sunday’s match between the MI Emirates and the Dubai Capitals, who had been led by Rovman Powell. Although Powell was in the line-up, Yusuf Pathan was named as captain, performing the role energetically, having won the toss and elected to field. In the second half of MIE’s innings, Powell was fielding at long off and long on at both ends, necessitating a long walk/run from one end of the ground to the other.

Dubai Capitals needed to win this match in order to stand a chance of making the last four. Jake Ball embodied their determination, making an early breakthrough in his first over with two wickets. Mohammad Waseem and Lorcan Tucker steadied the innings before Waseem tried to slog a straight ball from Adam Zampa. Tucker also departed to leave MIE on 76 for four after nine overs. Captain Nicholas Pooran rebuilt the innings, pulling anything possible. Dan Mousley gamely supported him but struggled for rhythm. In the 17th over, Zampa had three men short on the offside within the field restriction markers. In response, Pooran pulled Zampa for six.

However, he then drove to cover on the boundary and was caught low down for 43. The last over was entrusted to Jake Ball, who had Jordan Thompson caught by Powell at long off. Ball would have had another wicket caught in the deep but for overstepping the crease to concede a no-ball on the fifth ball of the over and then saw the batter dropped of the next ball, before the innings closed with a run-out on 164 for seven.

Dubai Capitals started slowly against a very mean Craig Overton. Robin Uthappa stepped up the pace before falling to Overton for 29. George Munsey was out reverse sweeping against Zahir Khan and two balls later Powell slogged to deep mid-wicket and was caught low down by Mousley. The very next ball, Pooran dropped Sikander Raza at slip, possibly a match-turning moment. Raza and Dasun Shanakar then carefully rebuilt an innings, which seemed to be at the point of derailment. In a very well-timed run chase, Shanaka, in particular, gradually asserted authority in conditions where evening dew began to affect the bowler’s grip, wides and no-balls creeping into their delivery.

In the 15th over, Shanaka powered Thompson for six, with two fours to follow, placing his side at 128 for 3, compared with MIE’s 116 for 4 at same stage. Raza then accelerated and the target was reached with 11 balls remaining to secure an impressive comeback, both batters reaching fifty.

Dubai Capitals lie in fourth place, a mere 0.013 ahead on net run rate. Their fate will be determined by the result of the final round-robin match between the Gulf Giants and the Sharjah Warriors, who must win to claim fourth spot and a place in the finals.