Kingdom’s marshal team gears up for Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix

Kingdom’s marshal team gears up for Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix
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800 volunteers participating at Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend. AN photo by Abdulrahman Bin Shulhub
Kingdom’s marshal team gears up for Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix
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800 volunteers participating at Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend. AN photo by Abdulrahman Bin Shulhub
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Updated 19 March 2023

Kingdom’s marshal team gears up for Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix

Kingdom’s marshal team gears up for Saudi Arabian F1 Grand Prix
  • 800 volunteers participating at Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend
  • 40% of the team consist of ‘proud and excited’ Saudi women

JEDDAH: The Kingdom’s marshal team is gearing up for the STC Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2023 on Sunday, with the group consisting of 800 volunteers, 640 of whom were given extra training and opportunity to help organize this global event.

This is the Saudi marshal team’s second time organizing the Formula 1 race, having gained experience and praise for their first event at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Arab News spoke to a number of the team members including Abdullah Al-Mabrok, chief marshal assistant. “I started as an observer marshal back in 2018. Now I’m an assistant for (all the) marshals on track. We help the marshals whenever they need support off track (and) on track. I’ve (always) loved motorsports, the Formula 1. I do all the circuit races as well. It’s where I find myself in my free time.”

Anas Flimban, a track marshal, has volunteered for the third time. “It’s really amazing to (have) this experience and opportunity to be here.”

Mohammed Al-Rawa, chief post marshal, was proud to see an entire team made up of Saudi youth at such a big event.

Mohammed Najeem, assistant chief recovery marshal, said that his task consists of recovering the damaged cars on track. “We have to do that in the fastest way possible and the safest way as well.”

Mossab Al-Bakry, radio marshal and observer, said that he was proud to be part of the race. “Being a marshal in my country feels so great. It’s nice to see all of the other countries come see us, see how great it is here, how advanced it is contrary to what they hear (in the media).”

He added that he has received overwhelmingly positive comments on the area’s architecture and buildings. “I feel really proud.”

Sultan Al-Khaldi, fire marshal, said that he was thankful for everyone’s efforts in making this global event a success. “I want to thank our leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who gave us this opportunity to show our passion and love for this sport.”




40% of the team consist of ‘proud and excited’ Saudi women. AN photo by Abdulrahman Bin Shulhub

It is noteworthy that 40 percent of the team consists of women, who showed great passion and enthusiasm during the training and practical stage, proving themselves as strong as their male peers in executing the tasks assigned to them.

Fairooz Bahkli is a female track marshal who is participating with the team for the third year. “I’m so proud to represent Saudi women in Formula 1.”

Her teammate Fatimah Al-Owerdhy, a flag marshal, took part in the Formula 2 previously and this is also her third year with the Saudi Marshal team. She wished everyone the best of luck this year.

Observer marshal Lama Al-Ghamdi, who recently completed a master’s in bioscience at KAUST, said that it was “an honor to serve the country. It’s really rewarding at the end, to be honest.”

Sultana Al-Harbi, who is volunteering for the first time as a trainee flag marshal, said she was proud and excited to be a part of “such a beautiful country that is expanding and improving year by year.”

She was happy to see Saudi marshals representing the Kingdom in “an amazing space, such as the Formula 1, which is the number one racing experience in the world.”


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 31 March 2023

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.”


Gaming is booming but work still to be done, Saudi esports chief tells FII Priority conference

Gaming is booming but work still to be done, Saudi esports chief tells FII Priority conference
Updated 31 March 2023

Gaming is booming but work still to be done, Saudi esports chief tells FII Priority conference

Gaming is booming but work still to be done, Saudi esports chief tells FII Priority conference
  • Global esports market is forecast to be worth $1.87 billion in 2025, with 377 million esports gamers in the Middle East

MIAMI: Saudi Arabia’s youth are driving innovation in the gaming and esports sector thanks to the Kingdom’s growing investment and commitment to developing it as a viable career choice, the chief of the Saudi Esports Federation said on Thursday.

However, Prince Faisal bin Bandar said that the Kingdom, and the global esports sector as a whole, could do more to make the industry even more inclusive, especially for women.

Valued at $1.38 billion in 2022, the global esports market is forecast to be worth $1.87 billion in 2025, and with 377 million esports gamers in the Middle East, the region is expected to become the fastest-growing gaming region in the world.

With a large youth population and high smart phone and Internet use rates, in Saudi Arabia alone, 68 percent of the country’s citizens consider themselves gamers. The Kingdom is also set to host Gamers8 this summer, the world’s largest esports and gaming event.

“This next generation are living (esports), they are the ones pushing the innovation,” Prince Faisal said. “Our job, and what we’re doing in Saudi Arabia, is putting the tools in place for them to take it and run with it, to take the lead, and we can just get out of their way,” he said.

While US content dominates the TV, film and music markets globally, gaming is much more an international industry that has allowed Saudis to flourish on the world stage and, like the rest of the world, is one of the most gender-balanced and inclusive arenas in the Kingdom.

“The tools required to build games are now accessible to everyone,” Prince Faisal said. “And in gaming in general, it is pretty equal, it’s about 48 percent female, 52 percent male,” he said.

“Where we have a lot of room to catch up is in the professional (gaming sphere); there’s a lot of room for women to grow within that, even though there has been a lot of growth over the past five years, worldwide, and not just in Saudi Arabia.

“(However) in Saudi Arabia, we’ve had our first international champion, Najd Fahd, who won the collegiate ladies FIFA world championship, and she’s one of our role models to showcase that this is a valid career path not just for young men but also for young women.

“What we need to do is give more room for our young men and women to show they are the heroes of the future, and let them be the voice of the next generation,” he said.


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.