Is tide turning against Ronaldo?

Is tide turning against Ronaldo?
From leading the Roshn Saudi League in Ronaldo’s early weeks in the country, Al-Nassr are now in a mini crisis (Twitter/@AlNassrFC)
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Updated 11 August 2023
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Is tide turning against Ronaldo?

Is tide turning against Ronaldo?
  • Renowned columnist questions in Saudi daily if Portuguese football star’s signing was winning or losing bet

Riyadh: Could the honeymoon period in Riyadh be over for star player Cristiano Ronaldo?

What was a match made in heaven between the Portuguese legend and Al-Nassr at the beginning of the year, has recently started to be questioned by football fans and pundits in the Kingdom.

From leading the Roshn Saudi League in Ronaldo’s early weeks in the country, Al-Nassr are now in a mini crisis.

Inconsistent results and unconfirmed reports of dressing room discord led to the sacking of coach Rudi Garcia, with senior players, led by Ronaldo, allegedly unhappy with the team’s tactics.

The 2-0 loss to Al-Hilal on April 18 was a major blow to Al-Nassr’s hopes of winning the league title they crave so much.

It could also be the day that public opinion started to turn on Ronaldo, and not just for events on the field of play.

What was perceived by some pundits as an obscene gesture — grabbing his crotch — toward Al-Hilal fans taunting him with chants of “Messi, Messi” angered many Saudi fans and pundits, with one lawyer calling for Ronaldo to be deported.

And there would be no redemption a few days later as Al-Nassr crashed out of the King’s Cup to Al-Wehda.

Now the murmurs of discontent have turned into outright skepticism, with many fans voicing their displeasure over his behavior on social media.

In a column for Arabic-language newspaper Al-Madinah, titled “Was signing Cristiano a winning or losing bet?”, Dr. Saud Kateb, former deputy minister for diplomacy at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, questioned whether the player’s move to Riyadh had delivered on its early promise, or indeed if it was the correct decision in the first place.

Kateb called for emotion to be put aside when evaluating the pros and cons of such a high-profile move, and other similar ones such as the hosting of major international events.

He said: “One should then differentiate between whether we are seeking to sign such athletes and host such events to enjoy them locally (which is definitely legitimate and required) or to achieve the objectives of our general diplomacy, which are also important.

“These objectives include boosting the nation’s image and branding as well as promoting tourism and investment in the country.

“The importance of this distinction lies in the fact that when these two directions overlap, the results and impact assessment criteria become unclear, while it is fully recognized that together, they represent objectives that are desired and required to sign athletes and host events.”

He noted that while personally welcoming the addition of such an exceptional talent to the Roshn Saudi League, he had questioned from the outset whether the expectations of the move would be realised, and if other high-profile, high-cost targets should be pursued just yet.

“There are several reasons behind my lack of optimism, which has angered some people. Firstly, I am convinced that excessively focusing on attracting the most famous and the biggest is not always the best way to achieve the objectives of our diplomacy and soft power.

“This is the case because, in addition to the huge cost of such moves, they are usually a double-edged sword, as the international media coverage that accompanies them does not only shed light on the positives. It also searches for the negatives and sometimes seeks to exaggerate and fabricate them,” Kateb added.

He pointed out that popularity in itself was not enough.

“In Cristiano’s case, it is wrong to assume that the fact that he has more than 100 million followers on social media is something positive under any circumstance.

“To form a more realistic picture in this regard, by simply scrolling through the comments that the player’s fans have left on international accounts, you will discover that they tend to be more negative than positive, especially during the period that followed the signing announcement.”

Kateb highlighted that while many people will trot out the line that any publicity is good publicity, Saudi Arabia had long surpassed the need to attract attention to its achievements.

On football, he said: “I think that it would be better to attract more useful players, whose excessive fame does not constitute an unnecessary burden for their clubs and the league as a whole.

“It is also important to focus on events, such as the Italian and Spanish super cups, and exert efforts to achieve impactful results similar to qualifying for the World Cup and beating Argentina.”

While not against attracting the best talent to the Kingdom, Kateb suggested that it be done in a calculated manner.

“What I have already mentioned certainly does not mean that we should completely forget the idea of attracting very well-known players and major events.

“However, it means that it should not be an objective by itself. The objectives should be carefully identified, while the priorities and various alternatives should be studied. All of that should be done away from the factors that rapidly cause a state of fascination, the results of which are not guaranteed,” he added.

Ronaldo, no doubt, remains hugely popular with many Al-Nassr supporters, and commands a global army of fans who hang on his every word, move, or social media post.

While their voices will be the loudest, those of Kateb and others like him should not be ignored either.


Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans
Updated 13 April 2024
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Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans

Vibrant Sajah Bazaar, live music as Eid meets golf to entertain 2024 Saudi Open fans
  • Sajah Bazaar to headline 2024 Saudi Open fan zone at Riyadh Golf Club
  • Fan zone will provide food, drinks from around the world

RIYADH: Visitors to this year’s Saudi Open golf tournament will also be able to enjoy live music and fireworks at the Riyadh Golf Club.
The four-day championship starts on Wednesday and as well as top-class sport promises plenty of family fun.
LIV Golf captain Henrik Stenson will headline the field, which also includes some of the leading players on the Asian Tour, like last year’s Saudi Open winner Denwit Boriboonsub.
Each day of the tournament, from 4-11 p.m., visitors will be able to visit the Sajah Bazaar where they can buy local goods like textiles and jewelry.
There will also be lots to do in the fan zone, including golf driving and putting challenges, Panna soccer, Teqball, food and drink from around the world and a children’s area.
There are also some great prizes up for grabs, with Al-Rajhi Takaful donating 50 car insurance vouchers worth SR1,000 ($267), while two lucky ticket holders will see their general admission tickets upgraded to hospitality tickets and get the chance to watch world class golf from the best seats in the house.
Two winners will be randomly selected daily, while each person who takes a photo of a golfer on the Al-Rajhi teebox and posts it to social media with #Golf&More will be entered into the prize draw to win car insurance.
The fan zone opens on Wednesday and Thursday from 1-11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.


ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
Updated 12 April 2024
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ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham

ICRF concludes participation in SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in Birmingham
  • Federation was seeking to promote camel sports globally
  • Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited pavilion

RIYADH: The International Camel Racing Federation has concluded its participation in the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit that took place in Birmingham from April 7-11.
The ICRF was seeking to promote camel sports around the world by being present at the event.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sports and chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, visited the federation’s pavilion on Tuesday, where he received an award that was presented to the SOPC.
Prince Fahad bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, ICRF’s president and SOPC’s vice president; Dr. Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee; and Robin Mitchell, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, were present at the award presentation.
Prince Fahad said: “We are pleased with what the federation’s pavilion presented at this summit, which around 1,500 leaders and key decision-makers from over 120 international federations attended.”
Participation at the event helped publicize camel sports which, according to the ICRF’s president, have a large role in Saudi culture and are a big part of the nation’s identity.
Prince Fahad added: “The federation’s goal through this participation was to shed light on the sport of our fathers and ancestors, which Arab countries have known since ancient times until it became part of their societies.”


World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday

World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday
Updated 11 April 2024
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World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday

World Fencing Championship for youngsters starts in Riyadh on Friday
  • Competition begins with foil fencing for participants under 20 years
  • 54 referees from around the world will officiate

RIYADH: The Cadet and Junior World Fencing Championship begins on Friday in the Arena Hall at King Saud University, Riyadh.
More than 1,700 fencers from more than 100 countries will be participating at the event, which concludes on April 20.
The championship starts at 8 a.m. with foil fencing for participants under 20 years, while the opening ceremony is at 5 p.m. and includes players, referees, a visual presentation about fencing, and a parade of the teams’ flags.
WFC’s organizing committee began its preparations for the event by issuing visas; selecting 15 hotels for the delegations of the teams and committees in the international federation; and assigning 30 buses to transport players from the hotels to training venues and competition halls.
The committee has also prepared 60 courts to the highest standards to comply with the International Fencing Federation.
The event will be officiated by 54 referees from around the world.
The championship is expected to attract global attention and media coverage, and its prestige will help in the pursuit of achieving the goals of Vision 2030 that aim to transform Saudi Arabia into a global destination for hosting major competitions and events.
Attendance for spectators at the Arena Hall is free of charge.


Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games

Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games
Updated 09 April 2024
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Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games

Young Saudi athletes prepare for first Gulf Youth Games
  • 145 men and 33 women will represent the Kingdom in 20 sports at the event, hosted by the UAE between April 16 and May 2

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will be represented by 178 athletes when the first Gulf Youth Games gets underway this month. The UAE is hosting the inaugural event, which begins on April 16 and continues until May 2.
In total, 3,500 athletes representing Gulf Cooperation Council countries will compete for medals in 24 individual and team sports.
The Kingdom will be represented by 145 men and 33 women in 20 of those sports: handball, volleyball, basketball, athletics, swimming, judo, fencing, archery, cycling, badminton, billiards, karate, taekwondo, chess, jujitsu, boxing, equestrianism, golf, e-sports, and paralympic events.
The Saudi athletes are making their final preparations at internal and external training camps, officials said. This first-ever event of its kind in the Gulf region comes in the run-up to the 33rd Summer Olympics in Paris, which will begin on July 26.


LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh
Updated 09 April 2024
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LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh

LIV Golf captain Stenson headlines field full of stars as 2024 Saudi Open returns to Riyadh
  • Stenson is determined to lift the trophy this time after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open
  • ‘I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course,’ says Stenson

RIYADH: Five fellow LIV Golf members will join captain Henrik Stenson at the 2024 Saudi Open, presented by the Public Investment Fund, that will return to Riyadh Golf Club from Apr. 17-20, 2024.
A number of DP World Tour players, including Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and the stars of the Asian Tour are also scheduled to join.
The eighth edition in December 2023 was the first time the tournament featured as a fully sanctioned Asian Tour event and saw Thai rising star Denwit Boriboonsub finish on 18-under-par, three shots ahead of 2016 Open Championship winner Stenson.
The 20-year-old has confirmed he will return to defend his title when the Asian Tour tees off after a five-week break in the Saudi capital.
Stenson, after catapulting himself into second place with a final round 65 at the 2023 Saudi Open, is determined to lift the trophy this time.
He said: “I am thrilled to be returning to Riyadh to play in the Saudi Open. I loved the atmosphere on my first visit to what is an incredible golf course, and I am very excited to experience that again.
“The facilities are highly impressive and highlight the strides that golf in Saudi Arabia continues to make,” added Stenson, who expects another strong and testing tournament against a field full of quality players.
“I am eager to go one better than last year and lift the trophy,” he said.
Building on last year’s successful hosting, the 2024 Saudi Open presented by PIF will once again see a strong LIV Golf contingent battle for the trophy as Andy Ogletree, Peter Uihlein, Eugenio Chacarra and David Puig join Majesticks joint-team captain Stenson and his former European Ryder Cup teammate Cabrera-Bello in Riyadh.
Puig, who won the season-opening Malaysian Open, currently tops the Asian Tour Order of Merit ahead of second-placed John Catlin from the US — winner of the recent International Series Macau presented by Wynn, where he shot the tour’s first-ever 59.
Asian Tour Commissioner and CEO Cho Minn Thant said: “We are delighted to be going back to Riyadh for the Saudi Open. The event proved an excellent addition to the Asian Tour having been elevated from the Asian Development Tour, and Riyadh Golf Club provided us with a perfect setting to end 2023.
“In Golf Saudi, we have a trusted partner who we are confident will deliver another fantastic tournament.”
Golf Saudi will again show its commitment to ensuring opportunities for everyone with a number of spots reserved for local Saudi and Arab golfers to compete in the tournament.
The Saudi Open presented by PIF is the fifth stop of the season on the Asian Tour.