Newcastle United hold international fan event during stay in Riyadh

Special Newcastle United hold international fan event during stay in Riyadh
Newcastle United fans meet with Eddie Howe in Riyadh. (Twitter/@NUFC)
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Updated 07 December 2022

Newcastle United hold international fan event during stay in Riyadh

Newcastle United hold international fan event during stay in Riyadh
  • More than 100 supporters spend time with club’s management, coach Eddie Howe, players
  • Newcastle United fan Mark Allison: They (the owners) wanted to hear our opinions; they wanted to know what they could do for international fans

RIYADH: Newcastle United’s first international fan event in Saudi Arabia brought together supporters of the club from several continents and countries.

About 100 fans from across the Gulf region and beyond converged on the Hyatt Regency Riyadh Olaya Hotel to hear talks from PCP Capital Partners’ Amanda Staveley, RB Sports & Media’s Jamie Reuben, United head coach Eddie Howe, Magpies’ CEO Darren Eales, and a selection of players and other club representatives.

It was the first time United have ever taken part in a fan engagement exercise of this nature, and a first for the Saudi capital.

Staveley and Reuben posed for photographs with supporters, signed flags and discussed the future direction of the club.

Kuwaiti Bader Marafi, a United fan since 1996, told Arab News: “It is a dream come true.

“This is the first time I have been close to the Newcastle hierarchy and the players.

“I have been able to talk to them, exchange ideas. We (need to) thank the club, the staff, the players and everybody for giving us this glorious opportunity.”

His sentiments were echoed by Mark Allison, who made the trip of more than 3,000 miles to be at the event.

He said: “It was great engagement, great interaction.

“Everything felt so welcoming. They (the owners) wanted to hear our opinions. They wanted to know what they could do for international fans.”

For Neil Mitchell, a former fan representative with the NUFC Supporters Trust and a long-term friend of co-owners Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, it was an emotional moment following his trip from Dubai.

He said: “For her to come over and speak to me and my friend Steve (Hastie) was touching. I was really delighted.

“In this region people will follow the lead of Saudi Arabia: it is the big brother of the region.

“Everyone wants success and that’s why there is every confidence this club’s profile will continue to grow in the Middle East.

“It will also spread far beyond that. The potential for growth of this club is exponential.”

Joe Moore, the former head of protest group Toon For Change, was bowled over by the welcome after traveling from Tyneside for the event.

He said: “It has been amazing. The people keep stopping me when I am walking in my Newcastle shirt and they want to talk about the club.

“I wanted to come and experience this country for myself, and it has been amazing.

“I can’t speak highly enough of it. I would definitely look to come back here in the future.”

Popular YouTuber Adam Pearson was similarly impressed by the welcome.

He said: “Everyone is really friendly. It is crazy how friendly people are.

“I will tell other fans that a trip here is worth it.”

Riyadh resident Abdullah Alqashami says that although Newcastle are not yet a huge name in the Kingdom, their popularity is growing.

He added: “Newcastle is not just a team to support, it is a way of life: the stadium, the fans.

“Having a chance to speak to people at the club is very special to me.

“People believe in the vision. Saudis love their country and they will support Newcastle.”


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

Newcastle United ‘praying for’ former star who is missing after Turkiye quake
Updated 11 sec ago

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

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

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.


Saudi Cup sees Trawlerman out to net Red Sea Turf Handicap

Saudi Cup sees Trawlerman out to net Red Sea Turf Handicap
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi Cup sees Trawlerman out to net Red Sea Turf Handicap

Saudi Cup sees Trawlerman out to net Red Sea Turf Handicap
  • Co-trainer Thady Gosden’s stayer rides crest of a wave ahead of $2.5m contest

RIYADH: Joint-trainer Thady Gosden believes the demands of the Red Sea Turf Handicap is ideal for Ebor hero Trawlerman, when the Godolphin-owned 5-year-old tackles the $2.5 million contest at The Saudi Cup meeting on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The application of a hood to help him settle in the early stages of his races saw him improve throughout the second half of last season.

After winning a competitive Goodwood handicap, he overcame the widest draw to land the prestigious Ebor Handicap over 2,800 meters at York in August.

He was given a superb ride by Frankie Dettori to battle back for a last-gasp victory having made much of the running.

The pair finished the season behind star stayer Trueshan in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup on British Champions Day at Ascot.

Dettori, who is set to retire at the end of the year, has confirmed he will ride at The Saudi Cup meeting. He will compete on the opening day in the International Jockeys Challenge alongside some of the world’s best riders.

The veteran Italian rider is likely to team up with Trawlerman the following day in the 3,000-meter Red Sea Turf Handicap at the world’s most valuable race meeting with $35.35 million up for grabs over the two days.

Gosden, who trains on a joint license with his father John, said: “Trawlerman has always been a very talented horse.

“He progressed well throughout last year, winning the Ebor and then did well stepping up into stakes company on ground that probably had a little too much dig in it on Champions Day.

“He’s got a great mentality and he’s very tough, as we saw in the Ebor. He looked like he was beat but he came back and ground it out at the finish.

Gosden revealed that Trawlerman had a holiday after Champions Day and has been training well since the start of the year.

“The Red Sea Handicap is an ideal race for him,” the trainer said. “It’s a very competitive race, we’ve seen that in the last couple of years, and you’ve got to have a quality horse to get into the field let alone win it, but he’s exactly the right type.

“You’d like to think he could develop into a Cup horse later in the year. He obviously stays well and since he’s worn a hood he relaxes through his races,” Gosden said.

“Obviously the race is a little while off but Frankie won the Ebor on him so it would be logical for him to ride Trawlerman.”

Trawlerman will be joined at The Saudi Cup meeting, held over two days at the King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, by talented stablemate Mostahdaf.

He will run in the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup, worth $1.5 million on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Mostahdaf has enjoyed a break since finishing last in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France when the testing ground was all against him. He had earlier recorded his third victory at Group 3 level when successful in the September Stakes on Kempton’s all-weather track.

Gosden added: “Mostahdaf ran well throughout last year. He won the September Stakes at Kempton and the ground was very deep at Longchamp for the Arc de Triomphe. It rained a huge amount and he wasn’t in love with the ground at all.

“This is a drop back down in distance and this race should suit him. He’s in good order. He always has a positive attitude and he’s been training well.

“He always runs well fresh, so going there without (a) prep run isn’t something you’d worry about.”

The Gosdens have enjoyed great success at The Saudi Cup meeting. Mishriff finished runner-up in the 2020 Saudi Derby in the event’s inaugural year and then returned 12 months later to win the $20 million Saudi Cup itself.

Thady, then assistant to his father, was heavily involved in overseeing Mishriff’s preparation at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh. He was impressed with everything he saw in Saudi Arabia.

Gosden revealed: “The track is world class, as are the quarantine facilities.

“The event has improved year on year. I was out there in the inaugural year with Mishriff running in the Saudi Derby and it was fantastic — it’s improved even more since then.

“There’s a great atmosphere at the track and there’s a lot of culture to see in Saudi, it’s always very interesting,” he added. “It’s obviously a meeting everyone wants to have runners at. The prize money is exceptional and it fits into the calendar very well with the racing in Dubai the following month.”

“For horses coming from Britain it’s not the most straightforward preparation as it’s obviously winter over here.” said Gosden. “We can’t train the horses on the grass, it’s all on the all-weather gallops, so it’s not simple but it can be done.”