Riyadh: Abderrazak Hamdallah has been voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week by statistical website Sofascore after scoring a hat-trick in round 21 of the season.
The 32-year-old Moroccan star of Al-Ittihad rated 9.8 after scoring three out of five goals in the 5-1 victory against Al-Fateh.
Hamdallah is now the top scorer of the season by 15 goals so far, keeping Al-Nassr’s Talisca one goal behind.
Goalkeeper Martin Campana of Al-Batin was the only star of his category.
Hassan Al-Tambakti from Al-Shabab, Oscar Duarte from Al-Wehda and Ali Al-Salem from Al-Adalah were the best defenders.
In midfield, Andre Carrillo of Al-Hilal, Igor Coronado from Al-Ittihad, Lucas Souza from Al-Khaleej, Abdullah Al-Ammar from Damac and Abdulrahman Al-Obud from Al-Ittihad ranked top of their categories.
Odion Ighalo of Al-Hilal and Hamdallah were the best performers in the forward line.
Ronaldo and Al-Nassr to take on PSG during summer friendly in Japan
The clash between Al-Nassr, who finished second in the Roshn Saudi League, and PSG will be held in Osaka on July 25
Messi was not among the players PSG used to illustrate the tour announcement on their website
Updated 02 June 2023
JAPAN: Cristiano Ronaldo and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr will take on Paris Saint-Germain during their summer friendlies in Japan.
The clash between Al-Nassr, who finished second in the Roshn Saudi League, and PSG will be held in Osaka on July 25.
However, there will be no head-to-head between Ronaldo and old rival Lionel Messi, with the Argentine set to leave PSG.
Messi was not among the players PSG used to illustrate the tour announcement on their website.
Last summer PSG traveled to Japan to play three local clubs and were greeted by sell-out crowds, even for their training sessions.
They round off their Japan visit against Inter, who play Manchester City in the Champions League final, at Tokyo’s National Stadium on August 1.
PSG clinched a record 11th French title last week as Messi scored in a 1-1 away draw at Strasbourg.
PSG are scheduled to play J-League club Cerezo Osaka on July 28.
City, Bayern Munich and Celtic have also announced tours to Japan this summer.
(With inputs from AFP)
Cristiano Ronaldo reflects on first season with Al-Nassr, new life in Saudi Arabia
The interview, which was published on the Saudi Pro League’s social media channels, comes at the end of the SPL season
Updated 01 June 2023
RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo has shared his thoughts on playing and living in Saudi Arabia in his first full interview since joining Al-Nassr Football Club.
The interview, which was published on the Saudi Pro League’s social media channels, comes at the end of a campaign in which Ronaldo’s Riyadh club claimed second place following a closely fought battle for the title with new champions Al-Ittihad.
The Portuguese superstar stressed the positives and building toward next season despite his disappointment at missing out on the title.
He said: “Well, my expectation (at the start) was a little bit different. To be honest I expected to win something this year, but it is not always the way we think or the way we want; sometimes we need passion, consistency, and persistence to achieve the best things.
“So, I still believe that next year we will improve a lot. Let us say in the last five or six months the team has improved a lot. In the league, all the teams improved.
“It takes time sometimes, but if you believe and you think it is your goal, I think everything is possible.
“I expected to win something this year, but we didn’t, but next year I am really positive and confident that things will change, and we will go in a better way. So, let us believe that and work on that.”
Ronaldo joined the club in January and has featured extensively in the SPL, making a significant contribution to the club’s performances with 14 goals in 16 matches.
He added: “The league is very good but I think we have many, many opportunities to still grow. The league is competitive, we have very good teams, very good Arab players.
“But they need to improve the infrastructure a little bit more, even the referees. The VAR system should be a little quicker. I think other small things need to improve.
“But I am happy here, I want to continue here, I will continue here. And in my opinion if they continue to do the work that they want to do here, for the next five years, I think the Saudi league can be a top five league in the world.”
Regarding the biggest change following his move, the former Real Madrid and Manchester United star said: “One example is that in Europe we train more in the morning, but here we train in the afternoon or evening and in Ramadan we train at 10 at night. So, this is strange, but as I tell you these situations are part of an experience, memories.
“I like to live these moments because you learn with these things. It is difficult, but it is nothing I have not seen before. My experience so far is that Saudi fans really love football and like to live the life and it is good and I am so happy now.”
Saad Allazeez, Saudi Pro League’s vice chairman, recently said of the player: “The arrival of Cristiano always had the potential to be one of the most impactful and transformational in football history. And that has proved to be the case.
“He is a special footballer and a special person whose impact goes far beyond football. The ‘Cristiano Effect’ has definitely been felt. This season has been our biggest yet, with more spectators on match days, more followers and global viewing than ever before.
“The Saudi Pro League is now aired by 48 platforms and TV broadcasters in over 170 countries worldwide, and attendances at Al-Nassr matches have doubled year on year since Cristiano signed.
“Saudi Arabia is already a football-obsessed nation with over 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s men and women either playing, attending or following football. Recent developments include the establishment of a professional women’s premier league and women’s national team and school girls league with 50,000 playing each week.
“And thanks to the new growth in the league’s popularity I’m sure other big names will look to follow in Cristiano’s footsteps and join the brilliant young homegrown talent who play in our league.”
Asked about players joining the league, Ronaldo said: “If they are coming, big players and big names, young players, old players, they are very welcome because if that happens, the league will improve a little bit.”
He added: “Living in Saudi is very good if you want to come here to have fun, to see the culture, to eat well.
“The Saudis live more at night which I think is quite fun and interesting. If you see the city during the night, it’s very beautiful. And if you like food, come to Riyadh — the city probably has some of the best quality restaurants I have come across.
“The most beautiful experiences I’ve had here were when I was in Boulevard World. It was something I really enjoyed. I took all my family there. So far it has been a very good experience.
“The family are happy, the schools are very good, and things that the country is building for the future.
“I like to see different things, try different things and this is why I am here as well. The next place that I want to see is AlUla. I want to go as I know it’s very beautiful. And as we travel around the country, you see many good places.”
He added: “Thank you very much for supporting me here every day, not only in the games or in the stadium, but outside in the streets and the places that I go.
“I will be part of your world, your culture. I will be here and I hope I make the people enjoy it through my games, my performance, and winning things.
“Again, thank you for welcoming me, and I will try to give my best during the time that I am here.”
Argentinian footballer Ever Banega to leave Al-Shabab next year
Ex-Sevilla midfielder contented in Riyadh, hopes team can make fans happy in 2023-2024 season
Updated 01 June 2023
RIYADH: Al-Shabab’s Argentine star Ever Banega is heading into his last season in the Roshn Saudi League after on Thursday announcing he would be leaving the club next year.
However, the 34-year-old former Sevilla midfielder, who joined Al-Shabab in January 2020, pointed out that he was contented in Riyadh and hoped that he and his teammates could make their fans happy during the 2023 to 2024 campaign.
In a statement to the league’s official broadcaster following the last match of the season against Damac, Banega said: “Next season will be my last with Al-Shabab. I am going through happy times in Riyadh.
“We are satisfied with what we have presented during this season from the beginning, and we are competing for the league, in addition to fighting the big clubs.
“The match that hurt us psychologically and reduced our chances in the competition was with Al-Ittihad that ended 2-1 to Al-Ittihad — after that match we went down,” the player added.
As well as Sevilla, Banega previously played for another Spanish club Valencia, and Italy’s Inter Milan.
Sports for All Federation recognized as national governing body for Functional Fitness in Saudi Arabia
SFA now eligible to register athletes for iF3 international events
SFA established in 2018 to develop community sports in the Kingdom
Updated 01 June 2023
RIYADH: The International Functional Fitness Federation on Thursday recognized the Saudi Sports for All Federation as the national governing body for functional fitness in Saudi Arabia.
SFA, the main body responsible for developing community sports in the Kingdom, was established in 2018. In line with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s blueprint for economic and social reform, the federation is mandated to raise physical activity levels in the Kingdom.
Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, managing director of the federation, said: “We are delighted to be recognized by iF3 as a member of the iF3 for functional fitness in Saudi Arabia. As part of our mission to drive community sports in the Kingdom, we have placed an emphasis on shining a light on the power of functional fitness, launching projects, and hosting events, such as SandClash, to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles. Functional fitness has grown tremendously over the years in Saudi Arabia, and we are determined to inspire more people and communities to take it up.”
She added: “The 2023 edition of our SandClash event attracted over 4,000 participants, with close to 800 athletes from 45-plus countries taking part in the two-day competition. Our future SandClash events promise to be even bigger, with more competitors and participants taking part, raising the bar for fitness-themed competitions and engagements in the region.”
Gretchen Kittelberger, president of the International Functional Fitness Federation, said: “The Saudi Sports for All Federation has been doing great work to promote and grow functional fitness in Saudi Arabia for several years. In addition to launching a diverse range of community-focused campaigns, state-of-the-art facilities, and youth programs, the Federation also hosts a wide selection of events, including the popular SFA SandClash: Saudi Arabia’s first and only official licensed Cross Fit competition event.
“Having seen the strides SFA has made to enhance Saudi sports culture, we are incredibly excited for the Federation to join iF3 and look forward to working with the Federation to continue advancing the growth of functional fitness in the Kingdom and wider region. Like iF3, SFA is also a member of TAFISA,” she added.
“We share much in common and are united by our unwavering belief in the power of functional fitness to help people of all ages lead healthier lives.”
“Together, we can make the sport even more accessible to all. Inspired by SFA’s innovative initiatives, we are excited to partner with the federation as it continues to serve as a champion and ambassador for functional fitness in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”
The SFA is now eligible to register athletes for iF3 international events. This season, the federation will be allotted quota spots, enabling the Federation to send athletes to worlds championships.
Party in Jeddah while Talisca takes center-stage in Riyadh from absent Ronaldo
Al-Ittihad celebrated in Jeddah their first league title since 2009
Updated 01 June 2023
The pressure may have been off Al-Ittihad in Jeddah on Wednesday but the celebratory atmosphere will never be forgotten by those present at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium. The memories will last longer than the 2-0 win over Al-Tai as fans heralded their heroes and first title-winners since 2009.
As expected, the hosts had the better of the 90 minutes but with the job already done, few of the home fans cared much that there was only a second half penalty to show for their efforts and then an injury time strike.
As well as a first domestic championship win for coach Nuno Santo, it was clean sheet number 19 for Marcelo Grohe and a third golden boot in Saudi Arabia for Abderrazak Hamdallah. The Moroccan scored from the spot with 17 minutes remaining against a backdrop of thousands of phones recording history and a moment that will be replayed again and again.
The goal took his tally to 21 for the season. There was just enough time for Helder Costa to add a second, a fitting way to end as the winger was brought over by Santo, his former coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Hamdallah finished a goal ahead of Anderson Talisca of Al-Nassr.
In the absence of Ronaldo who picked up a muscle injury at the end of last Saturday’s draw with Ettifaq that left the Yellows five points behind the leaders, Talisca took centre-stage as they defeated Al-Fateh 3-0. A smart low Abdulaziz Al-Aliwa pass found the Brazilian who rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home from close range. Shortly before the break, he netted again but this time the goal was ruled out. No matter, it came midway through the second half with a smart first time shot from just inside the area. Talisca then assisted Mohammed Maran to make it 3-0.
In third, Al-Hilal ended an up and down season with an up and down performance, taking a 3-0 lead over Al-Raed before being pegged back to 3-2. It has been a good campaign for teenage midfielder Musab Al-Juwayr who opened the scoring after 17 minutes. Mohammed Al-Qahtani added a second before the break and Abdullah Otayf, in his last appearance in the blue shirt, made it three with ten minutes remaining. Two late goals from the visitors showed that there is work to do however.
There are sure to be plenty of changes at the club over the coming weeks. Already head coach Ramon Diaz is back in Argentina and a number of the foreign players look to be on their way out. For now, though, finishing third, winning the King’s Cup and reaching the final of both the Asian Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup finals will have to do. For most clubs, that would be seen as quite a season but Hilal, who are now able to sign players after being banned from doing so in the past two transfer windows, are going to go again.
Al-Shabab, who once looked like they were the team to beat for the title, ended a run of five defeats in six with a 4-1 win over Damac. Aaron Boupendza signed off with all four. There should also be praise given to Al-Taawoun who won their last six games, including against the new champions, to finish fifth, just a point behind.
While everything at the top had been settled there was still the issue of which team will join Al-Batin in the second tier next season. Al-Adalah and Al-Khaleej had been finding their form of late to leave Al-Fayha looking nervously over their shoulders. In the second half, Al-Khaleej looked to be heading down as they were a man down and drawing 1-1 at home to Abha but then Morato intervened to score twice to give three points and another season in the top flight. Al-Adalah dropped.
It has been a season to remember and it will take time to digest everything that has happened. Not much can be said about next season but there are going to be a lot of changes in the next few weeks. A thrilling season is going to be followed by a busy summer.