FIFA Club World Cup 2023 in Saudi Arabia will be historic and an end of an era

Analysis FIFA Club World Cup 2023 in Saudi Arabia will be historic and an end of an era
Hilal's players pose with their silver medals on the podium at the end of the FIFA Club World Cup final football match between Spain's Real Madrid and Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat on February 11, 2023.(AFP)
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Updated 17 February 2023

FIFA Club World Cup 2023 in Saudi Arabia will be historic and an end of an era

FIFA Club World Cup 2023 in Saudi Arabia will be historic and an end of an era
  • Intercontinental competition will take place in the Kingdom for the first time before undergoing a major expansion in the following edition

The 2023 FIFA Club World Cup is going to be historic for a number of reasons. It will be the first for a while that the tournament will actually take place in the same year as signified in its title and, more importantly, the first time ever it will take place in Saudi Arabia.

FIFA made the announcement on Tuesday after a meeting of its council, and for fans in the country it means at least that there is going to be another Roshn Saudi League team in the competition yet again.

The latest news came just 72 hours after Al-Hilal reached the final of the 2022 edition, losing a thrilling clash to Real Madrid 5-3 in front of an appreciative crowd in Morocco. It came at the end of an exciting tournament in which the Riyadh giants defeated the champions of Africa, Wydad AC, and South America, Flamengo, on their way to the big game against the European powerhouse.

The announcement also comes after the national team impressed at the World Cup with that famous win against Argentina. And while the triumph of the under-23 team at the Asian championships last year did not make the same number of headlines, it was important nevertheless. Add the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr then it has been a successful few months for football in Saudi Arabia.

Off the pitch, this is also another feather in the cap. Earlier this month, the Asian Football Confederation voted to give Saudi Arabia the 2027 Asian Cup. It will mark the first time that the continent’s quadrennial tournament — and its biggest — will take place in the country. There is going to be plenty of international football for fans to enjoy in the coming months and years.

This is partly a recognition of the work that Saudi Arabia put in during the global pandemic. In 2020, with COVID-19 spreading all around the continent bringing travel restrictions, lockdowns and huge strains on health services, it was not a surprise that competitions such as the AFC Champions League and qualifiers for various national team competitions found it difficult to play games. Saudi Arabia stepped in on several occasions to host games in secure bubbles and did so safely, efficiently and quickly.

Cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam have become tried and trusted go-to venues for the Asian Football Confederation. The AFC is keen to ensure that there are no major surprises going forward especially after China said in 2022 that it would be unable to host the 2023 tournament. It is not a surprise that FIFA have decided to do the same.

This year’s Club World Cup, due to take place in December, is, assuming that all goes to schedule, going to be the last before FIFA’s long-planned expansion goes ahead. It means that this is going to be the last time that only the champions of each confederation as well as a team that represents the host nation play in a tournament that lasts not much more than a week.

Al-Hilal got to the 2022 final playing just two games, the road to the trophy in the future is going to be a lot longer.

FIFA boss Gianni Infantino announced that the new-look competition is set to take place in the summer of 2025 which means that this December’s event will be the last to take place in winter. It goes without saying that, assuming that all goes smoothly later this year, that Saudi Arabia will be the frontrunner to stage the 32-team tournament when it all happens.

The governing body hopes this expanded event will go on to become a weighty part of the football calendar, not comparable to the traditional World Cup in terms of importance and prestige but one that is seen as a big deal all around the world. At the moment, the Europeans can be lukewarm about jetting off overseas in the middle of their domestic seasons yet they almost always win. They will have more teams than anyone else, with Infantino saying that the new format will be made up of 12 from Europe, six from South America, one from Oceania, one from the host country and four each from Asia, Africa and the CONCACAF region.

With many more European teams in the mix, some are going to end up losing games to opposition from elsewhere in the world. This is what the tournament needs if it is going to grow. It may well be that when the big teams from England, Italy, Spain and elsewhere (it remains to be seen how the slots will be allocated) start to lose to opposition from Africa or Asia then their attitudes to the competition will start to change. They will also bring their traditional rivalries. The prospect of Barcelona meeting Real Madrid or Liverpool taking on Manchester United on the global stage is an enticing one. Not just that but fans could witness Cairo rivals Al-Ahly meeting Zamalek or even Al-Hilal going toe to toe with Al-Ittihad or Al-Nassr or a showdown between teams from Argentina and Brazil.

There are still questions to be answered when it comes to the future of FIFA’s Club World Cup and some of those will be answered in Saudi Arabia in December. It is going to be the end of an era for a version of the competition but perhaps the start of something new and something much bigger for the tournament and Saudi Arabia.

Medal tally reaches 369 on 9th day of Saudi Games 2023

Medal tally reaches 369 on 9th day of Saudi Games 2023
Updated 02 December 2023

Medal tally reaches 369 on 9th day of Saudi Games 2023

Medal tally reaches 369 on 9th day of Saudi Games 2023
  • Prince Fahd bin Jalawi crowns athletics champions
  • Princess Delayel crowns Al-Nassr with basketball gold

RIYADH: Two athletes from the Al-Riyadh club won two gold medals in the track and field competitions on the ninth day of the Saudi Games 2023 on Friday.
Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s vice president and the games’ director, awarded Al-Riyadh’s Hani Al-Nakhli a gold medal in the men’s paralympic discus throw and his club-mate athlete Nadha Al-Humaydani the gold medal of the paralympic shot put.
Abdulrahim Al-Sheikh, head of the Saudi Paralympic Athletics Federation, attended the medal presentation ceremony at Al-Riyadh Club. Prince Fahd bin Jalawi also attended the wrestling and goalball paralympic medal ceremonies.
Meanwhile, Al-Riyadh’s Sultan Al-Hebshi won the silver medal in the paralympic discus throw ahead of Jazan’s Haidar Salamh, who won the bronze.
Sarah Al-Jumaah from Al-Riyadh secured the silver in the women’s shot put ahead of Al-Sharqiya’s Mohrah Al-Enez, who took the bronze.
Drift champions crowned:
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, crowned the winners of the drift competition, which concluded on Friday at the Dirab Field.
Zakaria Silwan won gold, Bader Al-Shurayhi silver, and Khaled Al-Zayed bronze.
Al-Nassr crowned winners of 3x3 men’s basketball:
Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud, the Saudi Games’ deputy director, presented the gold medal to the Al-Nassr basketball team after they won the 3x3 men’s basketball competition at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex’s fan zone.
Al-Nassr defeated Al-Hilal 16-11, while Al-Safa club clinched the bronze medal after winning against Al-Salam 19-11.
Mudhar Club won the youth category’s gold medal after winning 21-12 against Al-Hilal, who took the silver, while Al-Khowildiah won the bronze.
Prince Fahd, Princess Delayel in the fan zone:
Prince Fahd and Princess Delayel attended the lively fan zone of the Saudi Games, which attracted a large gathering on Friday. Spectators enjoyed watching the Riyadh Derby, featuring Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr, on large screens amid various engaging activities.
Al-Baha win goalball gold:
Ilgar Rahimov, president of the International Blind Sports Federation, awarded the winners in goalball on Friday at the Paralympic Hall of the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex. The Al-Baha team won the gold medal after winning 9-8 against Riyadh, which took the silver. Al-Qassim Club clinched the bronze with a 7-2 victory against Al-Hasa.
Olwani wins long jump:
Al-Ittihad’s Hamoudali Olwani topped the men’s long jump competition ahead of silver-medal winner Al-Hilal’s Ahmad Marzouq. Third came Al-Ahli’s Ahmed Obaid.
In the men’s discus throw, Mohammed Tolu from Al-Hilal took the gold while Osama Al-Aqili and Abu Bakr Zakaria won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Al-Hilal win 3000m steeplechase:
In the men’s 3000-meter steeplechase, the gold medal was awarded to Al-Hilal’s Raid Al-Jadaani, who came first ahead of Qilwah’s Ali Al-Shahrani and Al-Shabab’s Khalid Hazazi, respectively.
In the men’s 400m final, Al-Ahli’s Mazen Al-Yasen won the gold while Al-Shabab’s Yousef Masrahi and Qilwah’s Ismaeel Al-Subiani won the silver and bronze, respectively.
Malam wins gold at 100m:
Heba Malam from AlUla claimed the women’s 100-meter gold medal ahead of silver medalist Lujain Al-Humaid from Al-Safa. Yasmin Al-Dabbagh of Al-Ahli won the bronze.
In the youth category, Al-Adalah’s Lujain Hamdan came in first ahead of Noor Al-Jandan from Al-Khaleej and Bedoor Al-Herz from Al-Khaleej who came second and third.
Al-Wehda win gold in 60kg wrestling:
The Saudi Wrestling Federation’s President Fahad Al-Faraj awarded the gold medal of the 60kg Greco-Roman wrestling to Al-Wehda’s Munther Jandu. Meshal Al-Jayzani from Al-Nassr and Al-Wedha’s Rayan Hawsawi and Haitham Barahmah were presented the silver and bronze medals, respectively.
Wrestling champions:
In wrestling’s 70kg category, Al-Wedha’s Ahmed Barahmah bagged the gold medal after a 5-3 victory against Turki Al-Harthi, who took the silver. Al-Raed’s Mansur Zelmukanov and Al-Wedhi’s Abdulmajeed Ahmed won the bronze.
Meanwhile, in the 80kg category, Al-Nahdah’s Mohammed Abdelaal came in first after a 6-1 win against Al-Wedha’s Hassan Barnawi. Third place went to Al-Ettifaq’s Abdullah Al-Dossary and Al-Shabab’s Hassan Al-Harthi.
Al-Hilal’s Reda El-Maghraby took the 90kg gold medal while the silver was handed to Mahmoud Hawsawi from Al-Ahli. Al-Wehda’s athletes Ammar Hawsawi and Sanad Al-Sibyani shared bronze.
In the above-90kg category, Ohod’s Mohammed El-Ghazaly clinched the gold ahead of Al-Wedha’s Ghazi bin Bakr. Al-Ahli’s Mohammed Al-Mashyakhi and Al-Wehda’s Ibrahim Fallatah shared the bronze.
Saudi Gymnastics Federation president crowns the winners:
Suleiman Al-Jasser, president of the Saudi Gymnastics Federation, presented the medals to winners of the men’s pole vault in gymnastics. Al-Ibtisam’s Jaffar Al-Sayigh clinched the gold medal while Al-Ittihad’s Abdulaziz Al-Johani and Al-Safa’s Hasan Al-Sheef won the silver and bronze.
In the men’s parallel bar, Al-Ittihad’s Nasser Al-Samiri came in first ahead of Al-Ibtisam’s Habeb Aswailah and Al-Ittihad’s Manaf Al-Amri, who ranked second and third, respectively.
In the horizontal bar, Al-Ibtisam’s Ali Al-Mobireek won the gold while Al-Ittihad’s Abdulkarim Al-Mur won silver ahead of third-placed Al-Khowildiah’s Haidar Al-Jaroudi.
Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr women qualify to futsal semifinals:
The women’s futsal semifinals feature Al-Nassr against Al-Hilal and Al-Shabab against Al-Qadisiyah on Sunday. The group stage concluded on Friday at Al-Nassr Club after Al-Suqor defeated Al-Nawras 2-0 and Al-Hilal beat Al-Qadisiyah 13-0. The United Eagles thrashed the Golden Eagles 7-4 and Al-Shabab won against Al-Nassr 2-1.
Men’s basketball:
The men’s basketball competition kicked off Saturday in the Green Hall of the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex. The five-day event started with Al-Hilal beating Al-Salam 85-58, while Al-Safa won against Al-Khaleej 78-64 and Al-Wehda beat Al-Khowildiah 45-36.
Men’s futsal semifinals:
Al-Nassr Club hosted the men’s futsal semifinals, in which Al-Nassr eliminated Al-Ettifaq in the penalty shootout 5-4 after tying 4-4. Al-Riyadh were scheduled to face Al-Qadisiyah.

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta
Updated 01 December 2023

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta
  • The New Zealanders finished the day with 49 points

JEDDAH: Defending America’s Cup champions Emirates Team New Zealand extended their lead in the Preliminary Regatta event in Jeddah on Friday.

The New Zealanders finished the day with 49 points, which was enough to secure their place in tomorrow’s match race final.

In the first race, the Italians, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were able to sail higher upwind and tack their boat faster to grab first place.

Following Luna Rossa, Emirates Team New Zealand got a better last gybe into the finish to take a hard fought second place over the Americans who came out firing after their nightmare first day.

The rest of the day’s results were as follows:

Day 2: Race 4

1st ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

2nd NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

3rd USA NYYC American Magic

4th GBR INEOS Britannia

5th SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

The second race of the day was won by Emirates Team New Zealand by just 4 seconds over the Italian crew of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

Day 2: Race 5

1st NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

2nd ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

3rd SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

4th USA NYYC American Magic

5th GBR INEOS Britannia

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

Race three was another drama filled race with the first three boats on a string, cross for cross, Emirates Team New Zealand again winning the race by a matter of seconds over NYYC American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull racing.

Day 2: Race 6

1st NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

2nd USA NYYC American Magic

3rd SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

4th ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

5th GBR INEOS Britannia

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

Overall Standings after Day 2:

1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 49 pts

2. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, 38 pts

3. Alinghi Red Bull Racing, 27 pts

4. INEOS Britannia, 22 pts

5. NYYC American Magic, 16 pts

6. Orient Express Racing Team, 14 pts

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023
Updated 01 December 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023
  • Prince Abdullah bin Fahad crowns the equestrian champions
  • Secret behind Zeyad Majrashia’s success in making an ultimate comeback in boxing

RIYADH: A massive crowd of fans enjoyed a captivating volleyball performance on Thursday during the 2023 Saudi Games men’s volleyball final, where Al-Hilal beat title-holders Al-Ahli three sets to one.
Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Musaed, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and director of the Saudi Games, crowned Al-Hilal the 2023 gold medal winners at the Green Hall of the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.
Al-Ittihad won the bronze medal after defeating Al-Nassr 3-1.
Meanwhile, Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud, deputy director of the Saudi Games, presented Al-Nassr’s women’s volleyball team with their gold medals after the defeated Al-Hilal 3-0.
Al-Ahli clinched the bronze medal in a tight match against Al-Anqaa, which finished 3-2.

Show jumping goes to Tuwaiq:
In the show jumping competition the Tuwaiq team won the gold medal, presented to them by Prince Abdullah bin Fahd Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation, in Al-Janadriya on Thursday.
Al-Mughyrat collected the silver medal and Al-Sakab got the bronze.

Seven athletes win gold:
First place in the men’s shot-put final was awarded to Mohamed Tolo of Al-Hilal club, while second was presented to Ali Mubarak of Al-Safa, with Al-Hilal’s Kaidallah Khalid finishing third.
In the men’s pole vault final, Al-Hilal’s Hussain Al-Hizam came first while Hashim Al-Sharfa of Mudhar came second ahead of Al-Safa’s Muhsin Al-Dabboos, who finished third.
First place in the men’s javelin throw was presented to Ali Abdulghani of Al-Noor while second was awarded to Al-Adalah’s Murtadh Al-Hamad, whose teammate Waleed Al-Hamad came third.
Meanwhile in the 1,500 meter men’s race, Al-Hilal’s Raed Al-Jadaani got the gold medal. Al-Safa’s Fayez Al-Subaie and Al-Hilal’s Mohamed Chewai won the silver and bronze respectively.
In the men’s 110 meter hurdles, Al-Khaleej’s Essa Jarahtook came first in front of Al-Ahli’s Mohamed Al-Jedaani and Al-Safa’s Baqer Al-Jumah.
Athlete Ali Mas of Al-Ahli club won the gold medal in the men’s 100 meter sprint. Al-Hilal’s Abdallah Mohamed won the silver, and Tabarjal’s Abdulaziz Atafi secured bronze.
In the youth men’s 100 meters, Hattan Majrashi of Al-Ahli came first, ahead of silver and bronze medalists Bdah Al-Beshi of Bishah club and Al-Safa’s Ali-Tawfeeq respectively.

Al-Ibtisam conquers gymnastics, winning five Medals:
Sulaiman bin Mohamed Al-Jasser, president of the Saudi Gymnastics Federation, crowned the winners of Thursday’s gymnastics competitions at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Malaz Gymnastics Hall.
In the men’s rings final, first place was awarded to Al-Ibtisam’s Ali Al-Mobireek, second was presented to Al-Ittihad’s Nasser Al-Sumiri, and third went to Al-Ibtisam’s Hassan Al-Muwais.
In the men’s pommel horse finals, Al-Ibtisam’s Kadhem Al-Antaif ranked first ahead of his teammate Habeb Aswaileh. Abdulkarim Al-Mur, of Al-Ittihad, came third.
In the floor competitions, Al-Ittihad’s Abdulaziz Al-Johani won gold, Al-Ibtisam’s Jaffar Al-Sayigh took silver, and Manaf Al-Amri, also of Al-Ittihad, claimed bronze.

Kamel snatches karting gold:
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, the chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, crowned the karting competition champions in Riyadh’s Dirab Square on Thursday. The competitions were conducted under the supervision of SAMF.
Abdullah Kamel was awarded the gold medal while Prince Saud Al-Saud took the silver. Khalid Shalash claimed the bronze.

Shooting gold goes to Al-Harbi:
On Thursday, the Vice President of the Saudi Shooting Federation Prince Khaled bin Bandar Al-Saud presented medals to the winners of the men’s skeet shooting category at the City Public Security Training Range. Fahad Al-Harbi won the gold, while Mohammed Al-Khamshi and Majed Al-Tamimi clinched silver and bronze respectively.

Al-Hilal come top in squash:
Saudi Squash Federation board member Dr. Maad Faisal Al-Saati presented the medals to the winners of the squash competition at King Saud University on Thursday. Al-Hilal’s Abdulrahman Mustafa won the gold, while Mohamed Al-Nasfan, the Al-Safa player, and Al-Hilal’s Abdulaziz Aburegah took silver and bronze.

Fifteen medals in boxing:
Abdullah Al-Harbi, the president of the Saudi Boxing Federation, presented the medals to male and female winners in boxing competitions at the King Saud University Swimming Hall.
Youth boxer Zeyad Majrashi won the gold in the 57 kg category, and Al-Hilal’s Mohamed Al-Kridis won the silver. Al-Shabab’s Abdulaziz Al-Otaibi and his club-mate Mohamed Zaybiof took bronze.
In the 63.5 kg competition, Al-Wehda’s Mousa Al-Hawsawi claimed the gold medal, while Riyadh Club Combat’s Abdelkarim Zridy won silver. Okaz’s Ahmed Monshi and Al-Shoulla’s Abdullah Mosa took bronze.
Ismaail Lagdachi, of Riyadh Combat Club, won the gold in the 75 kg division, followed by Damac’s Hassan Mohamed Kaabi with silver. Al-Hada’s Mohamed Al-Amari and Riyadh’s Karim Hamzaoui took bronze.
In the 92 kg category, Al-Wehda’s Mohamed Al-Suphi won the gold while Al-Orobah’s Wesam Al-Alawi won the silver. Al-Ittihad’s Sultan Al-Musaed and Al-Ahli’s Mohamed Eljzzar took bronze.

Three shine in women’s boxing:
In the women’s boxing, Al-Shabab’s Sarah Al-Shahrani won the gold in the 50 kg division, ahead of Al-Taraji’s Kalthoom Hantool who took silver. Hala Al-Rashidi of Al-Ahli and Al-Shabab’s Yara Al-Amri won bronze.
Al-Orobah’s Majda Lidali topped the 57 kg division, and Al-Riyadh’s Ragad Al-Naimi came second. Al-Shabab’s Hanan Al-Subaie and Al-Ittihad’s Nada Al-Maimani made up the rest of the podium.

Boxing finals:
In the youth boxing competitions, Al-Ahli’s Ibrahim Juhani won the 48 kg category gold. The silver medal was presented to Al-Shabab’s Mohannad Majrashi while the bronze went to Al-Hilal’s Abdul Majeed Al-Zahrani and Al-Wehda’s Ahmed Samer Al-Shawi.
Fawaz Al-Luhaybi of Feid Club won the 57 kg category’s gold medal. Al-Shabab’s Adel Al-Motirii, clinched the silver while Al-Ahli’s Yazan Al-Ghamdi and Al-Shabab’s Hamad Ali Zaybi shared the bronze.
In the men’s 67 kg weight, first place went to Al-Diraiyah’s Majed Mjahid while second was presented to Al-Ahli’s Abdulaziz Yahya. The bronze medal was awarded to Al-Ittihad’s Mohamed Al-Soq and Al-Shabab’s Saud Soqaty.
In the 80 kg division, Al-Ittihad’s Youssef Elyas won the gold, and Al-Ahli’s Firas Salem took silver. Al-Wehda’s Mohamed Al-Ahmad and Al-Shoulla’s Faris Al-Waheed shared the bronze.

Individuals bowling finals:
Abdul-Malik Al-Shathri, president of the Saudi Bowling Federation, crowned the winners of the men’s and women’s individual bowling competitions at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex Bowling Center.
Abdulrahman Al-Kheliwi bagged the individual men’s gold ahead of Ahmed Abulresh who won the silver and Nawaf Tamimi who took bronze.
In the women’s competition, Jenice Dela came first, Sedrah Rafiq clinched the second place and Sharmaine Patayan came in third place.

Reda and Al-Ghamedi win the baloot gold medal:
Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Musaed, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the director of the Saudi Games, presented the gold medal to Mohamed Reda and Abdulaziz Al-Ghamedi, the baloot duo who achieved a 2-0 victory in the finals against Fawaz Turkistani and Anas Al-Zahrani. The bronze medal was awarded to Abdulrahman Al-Kuwaiz and Sami Al-Angari.

Majrashia dedicates year of intensive training to win gold in boxing
Unveiling the secret to his success of winning the 2023 Saudi Games’ gold medal in the 57 kg division, boxer Zeyad Majrashia of Al-Shabab Club said: “After losing to Al-Hilal player Mohamed Al-Kraidis and securing the silver medal in the 2022 Saudi Games, I dedicated a year of intensive training while working on my mental game. My goal was to return for the gold medal, and I achieved it.
“The conditions were set for a rematch against the same opponent who defeated me last year, fulfilling my lifelong dream in a sport I began playing at the age of 10. I have proudly represented the Saudi national team in various international arenas. This gold medal is the most meaningful achievement in my career, and I’m determined to bring home more medals for the Kingdom in global championships,” he concluded.

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah
Updated 01 December 2023

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah
  • The New Zealanders win the first 2 of the day’s 3 races to top the overnight standings on 22 points, ahead of Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on 18

JEDDAH: Emirates Team New Zealand dominated the first day of racing with two wins as the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta in Jeddah began on Thursday. They topped the overnight standings with 22 points, followed by Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli of Italy on 18.

In the first race of the day, the New Zealanders finished ahead of British team INEOS Britannia, Swiss team Alinghi Red Bull Racing, and Orient Express Racing Team of France. American Magic were disqualified for leaving the regatta boundaries.

New Zealand’s success continued in race two, in which they finished ahead of Alinghi, INEOS, Luna Rossa, who had problems at the start, French team Orient Express and American Magic.

In the third race, Luna Rossa put in a very strong and controlled performance to win by a good margin, easily finishing clear of Orient Express, Alinghi, INEOS and New Zealand. American Magic once again were disqualified.

“It was a good start for us today, despite the error we committed in the third race, but we managed to be on the top,” Peter Burling, New Zealand’s skipper, told Arab News.

Ruggero Tita, helmsman for Luna Rossa, said: “We are super happy about this last-race win. Of course, it was a super-tricky race but we managed to arrive at the end on the foils which means that we did a really good job.”

The Swiss team of helmsmen Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin, and trimmers Yves Detrey and Bryan Mettraux, faced lighter than expected winds as they put their full focus on staying up on the foils. The crew challenged for a podium place in the first race, finished second in race two, and then successfully chased down several boats from behind after a start penalty in in the third race to grab third place. They finished the day tied for third with INEOS on 15 points.

“It was a solid day for the team, one of those days where you come back (to be) in the middle of the standings and you say, ‘It could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse,’” said Pietro Sibello, their performance coach.

“So overall, I think it was a good day. We should all be happy and hungry for an even better day tomorrow.”

Arnaud Psarofaghis, the Swiss skipper said: “It was really tough conditions. Today was about sailing the boat as well as we could, and mainly about staying on the foils. The last week of training was really useful for us out there, given the marginal conditions.”

Three races are scheduled for Friday, followed by two on Saturday, after which the top two teams will advance to the final.

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 November 2023

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
  • The game has been making its mark in the Kingdom’s sports evolution, so much that its nationwide popularity cannot be missed
  • Arij Almutabagani, president of the STF, has spearheaded the federation’s efforts to grow the sport

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become one of the fastest-growing countries in world of sports, emerging not only as an international sporting hub, but also a center of activities, events, and spectacles.
From athletics, football, F1, boxing, basketball, and golf, many sports are driving unprecedented socio-economic transformation under Vision 2030. They are enriching lives, enhancing well-being, and presenting a whole new world of opportunity, paving the way for people to discover passions, pursue dreams, and realize potential.
Tennis has been making its mark in the Saudi sports evolution, so much that its nationwide growth and popularity cannot be missed.
As president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, Arij Almutabagani is one of the key figures leading the charge. Since assuming her position in 2021, she has spearheaded STF’s efforts to grow the sport across all levels, laying strong foundations for tennis and all involved to thrive.
Almutabagani’s primary aspiration is building a vibrant junior tennis scene. With 63 percent of Saudi’s over 32 million population under the age of 30 and with nationwide sports participation now at 50 percent, she is adamant that tennis can embrace the Kingdom’s youth opportunities.
“Our strategy is to nurture young players, develop infrastructure, and invest in grassroots initiatives because youth is the key to any sport’s long-term success,” she said. “We’re certainly on the right path. Our strategy is working and we’re seeing interest and participation increase.”
Almutabagani’s statements are backed by glowing statistics. Saudi today is home to 177 tennis clubs, up 146 percent since 2019. In the last four years, the number of registered players has increased by 46 percent to 2,300, and U14 players by 100 percent — from 500 to over 1,000.
STF also holds 40 national tournaments annually, including hosting three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year, which marked the return of ITF events since the first was played back in 2022.
“Major strides have been taken and one of these was tennis being added to the school physical education curriculum earlier this year,” said Almutabagani.
STF’s partnership with the Saudi Sports For All Federation presented “Tennis For All” in 2022, a 16-week mass participation program to introduce tennis to a new generation of sports enthusiasts. Over 13,000 people were introduced to tennis in the first edition, with a higher figure in 2023.
This past April, “Tennis For All” was introduced in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum at 90 public schools, with STF training 170 physical education teachers to provide lessons. Participation more than doubled this time around, with an estimated 30,000 people.
“We’re targeting 200 schools in 2024 and 400 by 2025,” Almutabagani said. “Achieving this will support sustained growth as more tennis academies are launched and more national tennis centers are built. We already have 505 coaches and 182 officials in the Kingdom and we’ll be rolling out more opportunities for people to get involved.”
A sure catalyst for further sports transformation, Saudi Arabia currently hosts its first-ever professional tennis event — the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. A global, modern, and innovative competition featuring the world’s best U21 players, the finals are currently taking place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City from until Dec. 2.
Sanctioned by the ATP Tour and hosted by STF, this historic event marks the beginning of a five-year contract to bring the pinnacle of young global tennis talent to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s top male tennis player, Ammar Alhogbani, has practiced with and played against some of the eight players competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals. He said: “The growth of tennis in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabians has been exceptional in recent years, I’m blessed to be even a small a part of it. To now also have the first sanctioned ATP event in our backyard is an immensely exciting part of our next chapter.
“I’m sure having the best young players from around the world here in Jeddah will inspire future generations of Saudi to follow in their footsteps and encourage all Saudi’s players to come out and experience the event for themselves.”
Looking ahead, the value of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is growing by 8 percent per year and will reach $3.3 billion by 2024 — a $1.2 billion increase from 2018. Additionally, significant events investments are being made, with $2 billion committed to help sports grow by 2024.
“Tennis will become a big part of Saudi’s future sports event industry, and this will be the first of many professional tennis tournaments that we stage,” added Almutabagani.
“We eagerly anticipate welcoming tennis enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and beyond to witness the exhilarating matches and experience the innovation and excitement that the Next Gen ATP Finals will bring to Jeddah.”