Super Bowl opening night returns with circus atmosphere

Super Bowl opening night returns with circus atmosphere
NFL Network reporter Michael Irvin speaks with Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni during Super Bowl Opening Night at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona Monday. (USA TODAY Sports)
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Updated 07 February 2023

Super Bowl opening night returns with circus atmosphere

Super Bowl opening night returns with circus atmosphere
  • The circus atmosphere that kicks off the NFL’s biggest week returned Monday for the first time since 2020

PHOENIX: Nick Sirianni answered questions about Rocky, Santa Claus and even which of his players on the Philadelphia Eagles he’d want to date his 5-year-old daughter when she grows up.

Welcome to Super Bowl opening night where football talk gives way to the wild and wacky.

The circus atmosphere that kicks off the NFL’s biggest week returned Monday for the first time since 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to meet the media on video conferences the past two seasons.

Sirianni and the Eagles took the stage first at Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Suns. “Fly, Eagles, Fly” chants greeted players and coaches before they spent an hour answering wide-ranging questions from more than 2,000 media members.

For the record, Sirianni loves the Rocky movies. He identifies with Sylvester Stallone’s fictional movie character, who is part of Philadelphia’s fabric as much as the cheesesteak.

“I live and coach in the greatest sports town in America,” Sirianni said. “It means so much to everybody there. That’s what you want. When you’re a little kid playing in a peewee football game, you want everybody to see you. You want your fans to love it. You want them to be there. You want them wearing green on Friday. You want them to be throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. You want to put talent on display in front of the greatest sports town in America. I love the fact that my kids are growing up in a sports town where football means so much because football means so much to me.”

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, an AP NFL MVP finalist, drew the largest crowd. Reporters staked out his spot about an hour before the event started. The first question came from Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, an NFL Network analyst.

“I feel like it’s not a time to reflect,” Hurts said about his journey to stardom. “We came here to finish the job.”

Overall, opening night wasn’t quite as outrageous as past years.

In Arizona in 2008, a female reporter showed up wearing a white wedding dress and veil and proposed to Tom Brady, who was trying to lead the New England Patriots to the first 19-0 season in NFL history.

One radio host walked around shirtless wearing a barrel. Otherwise, it was more about odd questions than odd looks.

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain perfect start after win over Baniyas

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain perfect start after win over Baniyas
Updated 25 September 2023

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain perfect start after win over Baniyas

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl maintain perfect start after win over Baniyas
  • The Dubai club joined Shabab Al-Ahli and Al-Ain on 9 points at the top of the table

Switzerland striker Haris Seferovic’s star power told when his Al-Wasl joined holders Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club and dethroned champions Al-Ain in maintaining 100 percent starts as the ADNOC Pro League resumed after the international break.

The Dubai club beat resilient Baniyas 3-2 on Sunday, with the ex-Benfica, Eintracht Frankfurt and Galatasaray hitman claiming a goal and assist.

This followed usual suspects Fede Cartabia and Yahya Al-Ghassani leading the way for Shabab Al-Ahli in their commanding 2-0 win at 10-man Al-Bataeh, plus Al-Ain blitzing sorry Ajman 6-0.

In other games, UAE center-back Khalifa Al-Hammadi channeled Zinedine Zidane with an astounding volley during fourth-placed Al-Jazira’s 4-0 thumping of Ittihad Kalba; Sharjah extended bottom-placed Al-Nasr’s miserable beginning with a 1-0 defeat; and 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khrbin edged Al-Wahda beyond promoted Hatta — also without a point — via the same scoreline.

New-signing Paco Alcacer netted on Saturday when Andres Iniesta’s Emirates Club rose to seventh, courtesy of a 2-0 triumph against unwinding Khor Fakkan.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from matchweek three.

Player of the Week — Haris Seferovic (Al-Wasl)

Great expectations followed July’s arrival of Seferovic in Dubai.

His was the kind of globally recognized name not seen at Zabeel Stadium since the tumultuous reign of Diego Maradona, more than a decade ago.

Seferovic cannot match “El Pibe de Oro” for on-field ability, or off-field drama. No one can.

The 93-cap center-forward does, however, provide substantial ballast to his employer’s hopes of ending a title drought which stretches back to 2006-07.

Instincts honed at three World Cups and two European Championships witnessed him perfectly positioned to tap-in from a Baniyas defensive error. His imposing stature then meant he could stretch to keep a corner alive which resident “Golden Boy” Ali Saleh scrambled home.

Zabeel Stadium has been club-great Fabio De Lima’s stage. The club’s fortunes have rested on the shoulders of the UAE top flight’s fourth-highest scorer.

It was too much weight for one star, no matter how gloriously talented, to carry. Fast forward to 2023/24 and third-placed Wasl boast envious options everywhere.

Seferovic and Saleh exchanged assists versus Baniyas, with highly promising Ivorian youngster Adama Diallo netting a fifth ADNOC Pro League goal in 380 minutes via an assist from UAE forward Caio Canedo — back at his beloved club following four, mixed seasons at Al-Ain.

Tireless Malian midfielder Siaka Sidibe, again, shone off the bench; beguiling ex-Baniyas playmaker Nicolas Gimenez shimmered in a first run-out versus former employers; and there was even an 89th-minute cameo from exalted 2016 AFC Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman.

Red Star Belgrade double winner Milos Milojevic’s stellar support cast ensured De Lima’s blank on the night mattered little.

More momentum should be gained in meetings versus strugglers Khor Fakkan, Ajman and Hatta. If Seferovic aides in putting those teams to the sword, anything is possible.

Goal of the Week — Khalifa Al-Hammadi (Al-Jazira)

Frank de Boer had much to admire in Jazira’s ruthless restart.

A typical preponderance of possession — 62 percent/38 percent — at expected dark horses Kalba translated into a comprehensive triumph, despite losing the attempts count 17/7.

Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo was hugely influential; former Fulham flyer Neeskens Kebano netted an opening goal in pride of Abu Dhabi colors; and club favorite Al-Hammadi conjured a strike of ethereal quality.

Football fans of long memory cherish France icon Zidane’s glorious volley, sent on its way from behind his head, in the 2001-02 UEFA Champions League final. It is not impudent to suggest Al-Hammadi’s effort was of a similar ilk.

With the match already wrapped up at 3-0, an out-swinging corner from substitute Richard Akonnor floated, harmlessly, away from the penalty spot. UAE regular Al-Hammadi, however, had different thoughts.

The 33-cap center-back — who was the youngest performer from his nation’s 2019 AFC Asian Cup semifinalists — skipped into the air. Facing away from goal, this delivery was met first time with a delicate sweep past the despairing grasp of Eisa Hooti.

A staggering effort from one of Asia’s outstanding defenders.

Coach of the Week — Alfred Schreuder (Al-Ain)

In a weekend stained by shameful behavior from Ajax supporters in “De Klassieker,” a maligned former coach continues to excel in foreign lands.

Alfred Schreuder lasted only eight unsettled months at Johan Cruyff Arena, up to January 2023. A fresh start at UAE football’s most-decorated outfit has produced results of rich promise.

The 50-year-old’s sixth victory from six matches was inspired by the creative abilities of Al-Ain recruits Kaku and Omer Atzili.

A flurry of 21 goals have come in the ADNOC Pro League, ADIB Cup and AFC Champions League, to the concession of just three. They roar into Thursday’s heavyweight contest at Sharjah.

UAE football is in fine fettle

An early season repeat, in the league, of last term’s ADIB Cup, President’s Cup and UAE Super Cup showpiece finals between Sharjah and Al-Ain whets the appetite.

The grandstand event — taking place on Thursday, Sept. 28 — represents another staging post for an upwardly mobile UAE game.

Meanwhile, ex-South Korea tactician Paulo Bento debuted as UAE national team coach this month with a 4-1 friendly win against Costa Rica, providing ample encouragement ahead of World Cup 2026 qualifying and the winter’s Asian Cup.

Renewed depth at international level was hallmarked by the UAE Olympic team advancing on the same day, as group winners ahead of China, into the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

In the 2023-24 AFC Champions League, Sharjah’s and Al-Ain’s return of four points on Matchday 1 was, also, the most of any west Asian nation.

That competition has provided a plethora of chastening experiences in the previous seven years. Little hope had been engendered internationally under successive regimes.

Such successes, allied with a burgeoning domestic scene, add to UAE football’s sense of anticipation. Another golden cycle may be underway.

World powerboating champion Al-Qemzi wins again to crown brilliant season

World powerboating champion Al-Qemzi wins again to crown brilliant season
Updated 25 September 2023

World powerboating champion Al-Qemzi wins again to crown brilliant season

World powerboating champion Al-Qemzi wins again to crown brilliant season
  • Team Abu Dhabi secures F2 Grand Prix victory in Portugal in final race of the 2023 campaign

VILA VELHA DE RODAO: Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashed Al-Qemzi recorded another emphatic victory in the Grand Prix of Portugal on Sunday to round off his fourth triumphant season in the UIM F2 World Championship.

The Emirati driver was in complete control on the Tegus River circuit at Vila Velha de Rodao as he led from start to finish, from pole position, to cruise home by 4.8 seconds from Portugal’s Duarte Benavente.

His third Grand Prix success of the season came a week after he had secured his fourth F2 world title to add to his triumphs in 2017, 2019 and 2021, and not for the first time in this campaign, Al-Qemzi looked in a class of his own.

Even two yellow flags in quick succession, which forced restarts toward the end of the race, could unsettle Al-Qemzi as he produced another faultless display to underline his status as the outstanding F2 driver of his generation.

Claiming the third podium position on the day following his Grand Prix success last weekend, Lithuania’s Edgaras Riabko took the championship silver medal, while there was bronze for Estonia’s Stefan Arand, who finished fourth on the day.

Taking fifth place, Team Abu Dhabi’s Mansoor Al-Mansoori finished sixth overall in the championship, which has been one of the most fiercely contested in recent years.

The depth of competition simply brought the best out of Al-Qemzi, as he secured the 17th world championship title for Team Abu Dhabi since Guido Cappellini took charge as team manager eight years ago.

Having grabbed pole position with a devastating last lap 24 hours earlier, he was in command from the start on Sunday as he won the race to the first turn, and never looked back.

His path to another Grand Prix win was briefly delayed by accidents which removed Norway’s Tobias Mune-Kaas and Sweden’s Mailda Wiberg, but the back-to-back restarts only seemed to push Al-Qemzi on to the inevitable victory.

While the F2 title was always the top priority this season for Al-Qemzi, with that championship season now over, he will have little time to switch off before returning to action for Team Abu Dhabi next weekend.

He joins forces with his cousin, the vastly experienced Thani Al-Qemzi, in the penultimate round of the 2023 UIM F1H2O World Championship, the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy in Olbia.

Stepping in for the suspended reigning champion, Shaun Torrente, Rashed will relish the opportunity to deliver another world title to the UAE capital.

With the final round of the season to follow in Sharjah in December, Team Abu Dhabi are currently third in the team championship, just five points adrift of Team Sweden and two behind Sharjah Team, having won the crown for five successive seasons.

Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC sweep titles at LIV Golf Chicago

Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC sweep titles at LIV Golf Chicago
Updated 25 September 2023

Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC sweep titles at LIV Golf Chicago

Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC sweep titles at LIV Golf Chicago
  • The 30-year-old American claimed his second individual title of the season, as well as captaining his team to victory
  • Crushers moved into second place in the team standings with one regular-season tournament left

SUGAR GROVE: Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau won LIV Golf Chicago in spectacular fashion on Sunday, shooting a final-round eight-under 63 at Rich Harvest Farms that was reminiscent of his record-breaking performance last month in Greenbrier when he shot a closing 58 to win his first LIV Golf title.

But the win came at the expense of one of his teammates, Anirban Lahiri, who was seeking his first victory in eight years. Lahiri, who held the lead for most of the day after overtaking 36-hole leader Sebastian Munoz, missed a par putt on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff with DeChambeau.

“To be honest with you, I was actually sad,” said DeChambeau, who was watching from just off the green. “I really wanted him to make that so we could go battle it off in a playoff and finish it off the right way. That was the first emotion that I had.

“Secondly, you’ve got people coming over and congratulating you, and it’s just like: ‘Oh, I really didn’t feel like I won. This isn’t the normal feeling I usually have when you win a tournament.’ It was definitely a huge mix of emotions.”

DeChambeau, who started the day eight strokes off the lead, finished at 13 under while Lahiri and Ripper GC’s Marc Leishman tied for second at 12 under. Leishman, who shot 66, took second-place points via the better final-round score than Lahiri, who shot 69.

DeChambeau and Lahiri did celebrate the team victory together, as the Crushers shot a 15-under counting score on Sunday to finish at 33 under, three strokes ahead of Fireballs GC. Along with DeChambeau’s 63, Charles Howell III (67) and Paul Casey (68) contributed counting scores. Fireballs GC took second while league-leading 4Aces GC claimed third via tiebreaker over RangeGoats GC.

The victory is the second this season for the Crushers, who moved into second place in the team standings with one regular-season tournament left next month in Jeddah. The top four teams in the standings after that event will receive byes going into the Team Championship in Miami.

“This is why I love what we’re doing,” Casey said. “It’s the individual and the team element, and the individual element is rewarding to a certain level, and the team element is rewarding to a whole ’nother level. They’re different. You can’t compare them but boy, does it feel good to play good with these guys.”

Lahiri’s tie for second on the traditional leaderboard is his seventh runner-up finish in all his starts since joining LIV Golf last year. He was seeking his first victory since a pair of wins in February 2015.

He was a bogey-free four-under on his round through 14 holes, but he three-putted the 15th and 18th holes and admitted afterward: “I played really bad, to be honest. I was fighting my swing the whole day.”

Meanwhile, DeChambeau birdied seven of his last 12 holes as his putter heated up. His lengthy putt at 12 left him in disbelief, as he continued to move up the leaderboard.

“I just kept trying to hit as many fairways as I could and hit the irons close and make some putts,” DeChambeau said. “That’s ultimately just kind of what happens when I get on a roll. It just doesn’t stop. Kind of like, uh-oh, here comes the train.”

Lahiri knew his captain was playing well, as the Crushers had moved up the team leaderboard. While the team element remains a vital part of the LIV Golf competition, he knows the individual trophy remains the primary objective.

“I think all four of us would agree that you’re trying to win the tournament outright first,” Lahiri said. “At least that’s how I look at it. Anyone else who says otherwise is lying. But the team win was something that we all knew we needed to pull off, and we knew we should pull off.”

As much as DeChambeau was elated about his own performance, he was also respectful of his teammate’s disappointment.

“It’s one of those things you never want to see a teammate go through,” DeChambeau said. “But it is what it is, and I think he’s learned a lot, obviously. … Your time is coming.”

On Sunday, it was DeChambeau’s time, and he now moves to third in the individual standings, giving him a chance for the outright title next month in Jeddah along with No. 1 Cameron Smith and No. 2 Talor Gooch.

Here are the standings and counting scores for Sunday’s final round of the team competition at LIV Golf Chicago.

1. CRUSHERS GC (-33): Bryson DeChambeau 63, Charles Howell III 67, Paul Casey 68 (Rd. 3 score: -15)

2. FIREBALLS GC (-30): Sergio Garcia 67, Abraham Ancer 69, Eugenio Chacarra 69 (Rd. 3 score: -8)

3. 4ACES GC (-25): Peter Uihlein 66, Pat Perez 70, Patrick Reed 70 (Rd. 3 score: -7)

4. RANGEGOATS GC (-25): Talor Gooch 68, Bubba Watson 68, Harold Varner III 69 (Rd. 3 score: -8)

5. TORQUE GC (-23): Joaquin Niemann 68, Mito Pereira 71, Sebastian Munoz 73 (Rd. 3 score: -1)

6. MAJESTICKS GC (-22): Henrik Stenson 67, Sam Horsfield 68, Ian Poulter 72 (Rd. 3 score: -6)

7. RIPPER GC (-21): Marc Leishman 66, Matt Jones 69, Jediah Morgan 72 (Rd. 3 score: -6)

8. STINGER GC (-19): Charl Schwartzel 69, Branden Grace 70, Louis Oosthuizen 71 (Rd. 3 score: -3)

9. CLEEKS GC (-14): Richard Bland 67, Bernd Wiesberger 70, Graeme McDowell 72 (Rd. 3 score: -4)

10. SMASH GC (-11): Jason Kokrak 70, Brooks Koepka 71, Matthew Wolff 72 (Rd. 3 score: E)

11. HYFLYERS GC (-11): Brendan Steele 68, James Piot 71, Cameron Tringale 73 (Rd. 3 score: -1)

12. IRON HEADS GC (-6): Scott Vincent 70, Danny Lee 70, Kevin Na 71 (Rd. 3 score: -2)

Leather, willow and sunflowers: China gets to grip with cricket

Leather, willow and sunflowers: China gets to grip with cricket
Updated 25 September 2023

Leather, willow and sunflowers: China gets to grip with cricket

Leather, willow and sunflowers: China gets to grip with cricket
  • Chinese spectators at Zhejiang University of Technology Cricket Field take active interest in cricket
  • Cricket, arguably South Asia’s most popular sport, is included among the 19th Asian Games 

HANGZHOU, China: There’s a reverential hush from the respectful crowd as Pakistan’s Sadia Iqbal opens the bowling to Bangladesh’s Shathi Rani in the Asian Games women’s bronze medal match in Hangzhou.

The sound of leather on willow echoes around the purpose-built cricket ground, which until recently was full of sunflowers.

The atmosphere is more village green than the fever pitch of, say, Pakistan’s Qaddafi Stadium, but the few hundred spectators are fully engaged — even if many admit to never seeing the game before.

Almost entirely Chinese, the crowd “oohs and aahs” and clap when a wicket falls, cheer every boundary and then look bewildered when a loud lbw appeal pierces the serenity of the Zhejiang University of Technology (ZJUT) Cricket Field.

“I didn’t ever see cricket before so I was interested to know more about this sport,” said spectator Huang Dapeng, who runs his own business in Hangzhou.
“I’m starting to understand it a little, but I am really enjoying it anyway.”

A few have some knowledge of the game and seem captivated.

“I traveled to Sri Lanka before and a friend invited me to watch cricket, so I became interested,” said Liang Xiaoqian, a travel agent.

“When I heard it was in the Asian Games I wanted to learn more about this game,” she added, ahead of Monday afternoon’s final between India and Sri Lanka.
“I am enjoying watching. I will be supporting Sri Lanka in the gold medal match.”

Others are there just because it is the Asian Games and they want to watch sport, any sport.

“It’s the only Asian Games tickets we could get,” said a smiling Jeff Wang, an engineer who was sitting in the stand with his father Wang Hang.

“It’s my first time to watch cricket. It’s unknown to me before, I don’t really know what is going on.

“But I did hear this game is very famous in South Asia.”

Looking out over the near-circular ground, it is hard to believe that before the Asian Games the pristine mowed grass was a field of sunflowers.

It won’t be getting overgrown after. The newest of the ZJUT campus’s sporting facilities will have life after the Asiad.

“It will remain forever,” venue manager Li Danlin told AFP. “There will always be cricket played here from now on.”

The university has more than 20 colleges and 80,000 students. They will be taught about the game and encouraged to play, according to Li.

“We hope that cricket clubs will form and use the venue,” she added.

Pakistan head coach Mohtashim Rasheed said it was vital to spread cricket to new territories.

“Very exciting to see the crowds here coming to watch, all Chinese people, that is a very healthy sign for developing cricket in China,” Mohtashim, the brother of Pakistan Test player Haroon Rasheed, told AFP.

“It is a complicated game so we have to develop in China and other countries. The most important thing is to get it into schools.

“I would love to do an exchange program here to help boys and girls learn the game. They can start small, a shorter version like six-a-side,” added Mohtashim.

“If you could get under-10s playing, then in five years you would see a difference,” he added.

“For the older-age kids we could bring it with baseball. I think they like playing baseball and it is similar.

“Swing a bat and hit a ball. That’s a translation that could be made.”

Saudi U-23 football team beat Vietnam 3-1 in Asian Games

Saudi U-23 football team beat Vietnam 3-1 in Asian Games
Updated 25 September 2023

Saudi U-23 football team beat Vietnam 3-1 in Asian Games

Saudi U-23 football team beat Vietnam 3-1 in Asian Games
  • The Greens will face the Indian team in the qualifying rounds on Thursday

HANGZHOU, China: The Saudi under-23 football team qualified for the second round of the event in the Asian Games after defeating Vietnam 3-1 on Sunday.
Scoring for the Green Falcons were Mohammed Al-Yami in the 43rd minute, Mohammed Maran in the 87th minute, and Zakaria Hawsawi in the 90th minute.
The Greens will face the Indian team in the qualifying rounds on Thursday.
In tennis, Ammar Al-Haqbani of the Saudi team qualified for the round of 32 in the men's singles competitions, after defeating Qatar'sRashid Naif, 2-0, in the round of 64.

Ammar will next meet on Monday the 60th ranked player in the world, Zhizhen Zhang of China's.
His sister, Yara, lost to Mongolia's Maraljo Shumjav in the round of 64 of the women’s singles tennis competition in two sets to zero.
Ammar and Yara will open the tennis doubles competition at 3 p.m. Monday, facing the Indonesian national team. 

In Taekwondo, the Saudi Arabia's Wahid Mughais was eliminated from the quarter-finals of the individual poomsae competition, after losing to Vietnam's Tran with a score of 7230 against 7490 points.
Wahid had qualified for this round by defeating the Bangladeshi Hussein Noureddine with a score of 7400 against 6460 points.
His colleague Abrar Bukhari dropped out of the competition after losing to Pakistan's Naila with a score of 7340 against 7180 points.

The Saudi under-23 football team qualified for the second round of the event in the Asian Games after defeating Vietnam 3-1 on Sunday. (Supplied)

In e-sports, Saudi Arabia's Ahmed Mujahid retired from competitions early after losing to Vietnam's Duc Hieu Trong with a score of 2-0, and losing to (Non Martinez) from Macau with the same score.
In boxing, the Kingdom's Musa Al-Hawsawi lost his match to Kyrgyzstan's Azat Usenaliev by knockout in the second round of the round of 32 competitions in the over 63-kilogram category.
Saudi rowers Sultan Al-Shali and Turki Al-Aarif ended their participation in the tournament after finishing 12th in the overall standings of the doubles competition in the (LM2x) category. The duo finished the race with a time of 6.56.63 minutes.
In handball, the Saudi handball team lost its first match to Japan with a score of 29 against 37 points. The first half of the match ended with a Japanese lead of 20-14 points.
The Greens Hand will play their second match in the tournament, when they meet the  Mongolian team at 4 p.m. on Monday.