Al-Hilal set for FIFA Club World Cup 2025

Al-Hilal set for FIFA Club World Cup 2025
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Updated 15 March 2023

Al-Hilal set for FIFA Club World Cup 2025

Al-Hilal set for FIFA Club World Cup 2025
  • Saudi giants to take part in expanded 32-team competition

Riyadh: Saudi winners of the 2021 AFC Champions League, Al-Hilal football club, will take part in the FIFA Club World Cup 2025 along with 31 other teams from different continents.

FIFA confirmed on Tuesday that the Club World Cup 2025 will witness the participation of four teams from Asia, winners of the previous four editions of the AFC Champions League, starting from 2021 to 2025.

The African continent will also participate with four teams, including the winners of the CAF Champions League from 2021 to 2025, confirming the participation of Al-Ahly of Egypt, the 2021 champion, and the Moroccan Wydad, the 2022 champion.

Meanwhile, Europe will participate with 12 teams, including Chelsea, winners of the UEFA Champions League in 2021, and 2022 champions Read Madrid, along with the 2023 and 2024 winners. The remaining teams from Europe will be determined according to their classification approved by the International Football Association.

From South America, the six champions of the last four editions from 2021 to 2025 will take part, in addition to two other teams.

There will also be four teams from North America, one team from the Oceania continent, as well as the host team.

FIFA said in an official statement on its website that “in the event of a club winning two or more editions of the confederation’s premier club competition during the 2021-2024 period, a club ranking calculated based on sporting criteria will be used to grant access.”

The criteria set by the FIFA also included that “a cap of two clubs per country will be applied to the access list with an exception in case more than two clubs from the same country win the confederation’s premier club competition over the four-year period.”

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard
Updated 4 min 39 sec ago

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard
  • The 22-year-old boxer will face off against Georgi Velichkov of Bulgaria at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday

One of Saudi Arabia’s top boxing prospects is set to take another major step in his career on Saturday night.

Super lightweight boxing prospect Ziyad Almaayouf will face off against Georgi Velichkov of Bulgaria on the undercard of a heavyweight matchup between Anthony Joshua and Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena in the heart of London’s Docklands.

It will be the third time Almaayouf has fought on the undercard of a Joshua fight, with the two previous bouts taking place in Saudi Arabia.

Almaayouf told Arab News that his first fight outside of the Kingdom brought new pressures.

“The pressure is always there. The more you run from it, the more it runs after you, but, as a fighter, I have to stand there and be there,” he said. “(In this fight) I want to display defense, offense, composure — I am not only representing Saudi Arabia, but I am also representing boxing in Saudi Arabia.”

In clear recognition of his potential, Almaayouf, known by the nickname “Zizo,” will have a world-class trainer in his corner on Saturday night. That is because Almaayouf is trained by Buddy McGirt, a former world champion in two weight classes.

McGirt has trained former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and is the current coach of WBO middleweight world champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan.

“I studied McGirt long before I knew him as coach, he is one of the figures that has been inspirational to me in the sport of boxing. The other is His Royal Highness Prince Khaled (Al-Saud), who has always been there for me,” Almaayouf said.

Almaayouf is not sure if his next fight will be in Saudi Arabia, but he is excited to see the growth of the sport in the country of his birth.

“It all starts with exposure, which starts to build fighters — that’s how we build fighters who show heart (in the ring). We need to be patient because that comes through the trials, turbulence, and failure in the ring. You can’t teach it. This is a tough business.”

Almaayouf is quick with a smile, and his affable personality has already won him many fans in Saudi Arabia and beyond. While being taught an entirely different sport, the young Almaayouf first became interested in boxing.

As a young tennis student, a chance encounter with a boxing class changed the trajectory of his life. The 22-year-old began training for the sport at age 11. Only COVID-19 prevented him from representing Saudi Arabia at the Tokyo Olympics and he proudly wears the Saudi emblem on his warmup jacket.

“I saw some people while training for tennis. These boxing students didn’t have a place (to train) and would use the track next to us. I saw them, and I remember thinking, who is Saudi Arabia? Who in the Arab world ever achieved in boxing? I wanted to be involved in that.”

Almaayouf speaks with pride about what the sport has achieved in Saudi Arabia in just a few short years — from heavyweight world title fights to the growth of boxing gyms across the country. Almaayouf wants to be a part of that evolving story.

“I am proud to be here as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia and its athletes, which, guided by Vision 2030, is the fastest growing economy in the world, and sport is part of that vision.”

Padel Classification Championships kick off in Riyadh with $37,000 purse

Padel Classification Championships kick off in Riyadh with $37,000 purse
Updated 31 March 2023

Padel Classification Championships kick off in Riyadh with $37,000 purse

Padel Classification Championships kick off in Riyadh with $37,000 purse

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sports, launched the Padel Classification Championships in Riyadh on Thursday.

The championships have been organized as part of Riyadh Season, and will help boost sporting activity in the Kingdom and add to the game’s rising popularity.

Padel, a racket sport typically played in an enclosed space slightly smaller than a tennis court, is one of the world’s fastest-growing games.

Prize money for the Riyadh championships totals SR140,000 ($37,000)

The championship includes three tournaments covering three societal categories, the first of which is the men’s championship, with players competing in three categories — A, B and C.

Winners of category A will receive a cash prize of SR35,000, SR20,000 and SR10,000, respectively.

In category B, the winners will win SR7,000, SR4,000 and SR3,000, respectively, while in category C, winners will pocket SR2,500, SR1,500 and SR1,000. 

In the women’s contest, the winners will receive SR10,000, SR7,000 and SR3,000, respectively. 

The third championship is dedicated to the 12-17 age group.

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
Updated 29 March 2023

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
  • Event will take place at SoFi Stadium in California April 1-2

RIYADH: WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Logan Paul are set for matchups at WrestleMania 39 taking place at SoFi Stadium in California on April 1 to 2.

The two-day premium live event will feature 12 matches as legendary WWE Superstars face off against the new generation on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

After passing the unprecedented 900-day milestone as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Reigns has his eyes firmly set on retaining the title against his latest challenger, Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 39.

A victory for the champion would allow Reigns to surpass the 1,000-day streak at WWE King and Queen of the Ring, set to take place in Jeddah in May.

Meanwhile, social media sensation Paul will take on his latest opponent in a long line of rivals, as the new superstar goes head-to-head with Seth Rollins to continue his meteoric rise in the sport.

In the women’s championship battles, SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair will defend her title against Rhea Ripley. Ripley enters the match following her spectacular victory at Royal Rumble to earn her title shot at WrestleMania 39, presenting a career defining moment for the Australian as she takes on Flair, an opponent she has never conquered.

Bianca Belair will be determined to retain her Raw Women’s Championship as she heads into the ring for a mammoth clash with Asuka, who earned her place in the title match after emerging victorious at Elimination Chamber in February.

WWE fans are also set to see legends of the past with Hollywood star and WWE icon Cena bringing his two decades of experience to WrestleMania 39.

Cena will face off with the new generation of local talent in the form of US Champion Austin Theory in an unmissable moment in WWE history.

The recent feud between former allies, Scotland’s Drew McIntyre and Ireland’s Sheamus, has led to a three-way title fight for the Intercontinental Championship against German Giant, Gunther, in an explosive clash of the European heavyweights in California.

With more matches still to be announced, WWE fans in the Middle East can get ready for the epic showcase of WrestleMania 39 with weekly SmackDown and Raw episodes showing live and exclusively on Shahid.

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
Updated 29 March 2023

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
  • Frenchman leaves to take over his country’s women’s national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup

Saudi Arabia’s fans, players and football officials are today coming to terms with the news that Herve Renard has left his position as head coach of the national team to take charge of the women’s team of France.

Rumors of his exit have been circulating for over a week, and following his last two international matches in charge of the Green Falcons, 2-1 friendly losses to Venezuela and, last night, Bolivia, they became a reality.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation confirmed Renard’s departure with a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation Board of Directors has agreed on the contract termination of the Head Coach of the Saudi National Team Mr. Herve Renard upon his request,” said the statement.

“A legal settlement has been (completed) to end the contract between the two parties. The President and the Board of Directors of SAFF wish Mr. Renard every success in his future career.”



Meanwhile, Renard released his own farewell message in a three-tweet thread following the loss to Bolivia.

“Having been the coach of (the) National team of Saudi Arabia is a great pride for me. Since August 2019, I had the chance to be an integral part of the life of this beautiful country. I have seen this team grow alongside me and achieve a fabulous World Cup,” he posted.



“This fantastic and unforgettable win against Argentina. Very proud to have been able to show to the world the progress and a good image of the Saudi football. It’s time for me to fly to another horizon but with this memories engraved in me,” he added.

He also thanked the minister of sport, the head of SAFF and everyone at the national team. “Special thanks to @AbdulazizTF @Yalmisehal @SaudiNT and to all the players, the staff, and all the fans for their incredible support,” the final tweet said.

The official account of the Saudi national team also followed up with a video message from Renard.



The Frenchman has presided over a period of success during his four years in Riyadh and while that has been welcomed in the Kingdom, it has also been noticed elsewhere, not least in his home nation.

His move to France will come as a blow to the Saudi Arabia Football Federation who looked like they had a respected coach who loved the job and was in it for the long haul. After taking over in 2019, he signed a contract extension in 2022 that would have taken him to 2027.

Renard has improved the team, established a style and, most importantly, delivered on the pitch.

All of Asia was impressed during qualification for the 2022 World Cup when the Green Falcons finished above Japan and Australia in a tough group. Placed in a difficult group in Qatar, Saudi Arabia more than held their own.

The world watched in awe as Renard’s men defeated eventual champions Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game. It was not only a come-from-behind victory, and not only achieved courtesy of fine goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari but, most importantly, it was deserved. Once they took the lead, Argentina quickly ran out of ideas in the face of determined and organized defending.

It was immediately hailed as one of the best results in the history of the World Cup and it certainly sparked the 2022 tournament into life. In the end, Saudi Arabia could not quite make the second round but returned home with heads held high and reputations enhanced.

Renard’s next task was to prepare for next January’s Asian Cup. It started with friendly games at the end of March against Venezuela and Bolivia but now it has ended, and somebody else will have to continue that journey.

It could be that Renard would not have left a job he seemed to enjoy for any other nation except his homeland. The 54-year-old takes over a troubled women’s team, however.

In early March, Corinne Diacre was sacked as head coach following a revolt from players. After six years in charge, a number of senior stars said that they would not play at this summer’s World Cup as they were dissatisfied with the standard of the coaching setup. The French Football Federation had little choice but to make the change, acknowledging that changes needed to be made. It was rumored that they wanted Thierry Henry but the former French international striker is said to be interested in the US women’s national team.

It is no surprise that the FFF have turned to Renard. He has shown that he can win tournaments, leading Ivory Coast and Zambia to the African Cup of Nations titles. He impressed at the 2018 World Cup with Morocco and did the same four years later with Saudi Arabia. With just four months before the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand, there is not much time but Renard has demonstrated in the past that he can turn teams around and achieve success.

The Frenchman is giving up plenty, however. Not just the chance to lead Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup next January but there is the 2026 World Cup — and with the expanded tournament, it would be a surprise if the boys from Riyadh do not make it — as well as the 2027 Asian Cup that will be held in Saudi Arabia.

The Frenchman has swapped all that for the chance to take his home nation to a World Cup that will be held this summer and one that France, grouped with Brazil, Jamaica and Panama, have the potential to win.

While fans in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and elsewhere will perhaps have a passing interest in how France performs Down Under, now the focus is on finding the right person to lead Saudi Arabia forward.

After the World Cup and the improved reputation of football in the country, there should be plenty of interested parties.

Farewell: Herve Renard signs off as Saudi Green Falcons head coach

Farewell: Herve Renard signs off as Saudi Green Falcons head coach
Updated 29 March 2023

Farewell: Herve Renard signs off as Saudi Green Falcons head coach

Farewell: Herve Renard signs off as Saudi Green Falcons head coach
  • Perhaps the most enduring image from the game was the warm hug Salem Al-Dawsari gave the coach after equalizing just before half time
  • By then, French media had confirmed that Renard had agreed a deal to fill the vacant position as manager of the French women’s team

Herve Renard’s four-year reign as manager of the Saudi national team ended on Tuesday with a whimper as his team fell to a 2-1 friendly defeat in Jeddah at the hands of Bolivia.

The lasting image from a disappointing game, from the Saudi perspective, was perhaps the moment when Salem Al-Dawsari, who has shone during Renard’s time in charge, hugged the coach warmly after he equalized just before the break.

It was a touching moment that, even at that stage of the game, looked like a fond farewell to a tactician who was leaving to coach the French national women’s team.



That deal was reported by French media during the game as being done, and confirmed by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation a few minutes after the final whistle.

The visitors grabbed the winning goal in the second half to make it four wins in Asia for South American teams in the space of a day, after South Korea, Japan and Australia had all lost at home.

Few Saudi fans will have cared much about that. They left the game disappointed, especially with the porous defense that was on display. The Green Falcons have made progress under Renard but while there will be plenty for his successor to work with, there is also plenty still to do.

There were warning signs early on; in the seventh minute, Mohammed Al-Owais struggled to deal with a back-pass but recovered in time to make the save.

But then, after some promising moves from the hosts, the South Americans took the lead. Jaime Arrascaita’s low cross from the left should probably have been dealt with by Abdulelah Al-Amri but the Al-Nassr centre-back failed to clear and Marcelo Moreno was waiting to take advantage and poke the ball home from close range.


Saudi Arabia tried to push forward but, as was the case during their 2-1 loss to Venezuela on Friday, they struggled to carve out any clear openings. That began to change in the last 10 minutes of the first half, however. Their best chance up to that point came in the 35th minute when a free-kick fell to Al-Amri in the area but his shot on the turn went straight into the arms of goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra.

Saleh Al-Shehri went closer five minutes later from a Mohammed Kanno cross but the striker’s shot from close range was blocked by Jairo Quinteros — illegally so according to the referee after he consulted the pitch-side monitor.

Up stepped Al-Dawsari, calmly sending Viscarra the wrong way and the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. It was his sixth successful penalty kick since missing one against Poland in the second game of the Qatar World Cup.

There was plenty of energy on display after the break. Abdul Aziz Al-Bishi, recalled to the side, chested the ball too hard when through on goal just before the hour, and seconds later Abdullah Al-Hamdan was perhaps relieved to see the offside flag raised as he shot straight at the goalkeeper while unmarked in the area. In the 65th minute, Al-Amri had the ball in the net but Al-Hamdan was offside.

Then Bolivia were back in front and it was another poor goal to concede. Al-Owais parried a low cross back into the area, Diego Medina fed the ball to Carmelo Algaranaz and the substitute had the luxury of time to juggle the ball, turn and fire a low shot into the bottom corner.

Saudi Arabia tried to get back on level terms but were unable to get the breakthrough they needed. All thoughts turned to Renard when the final whistle sounded, signaling the end of what will be remembered as a successful era, despite recent results.