Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals

Update Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals
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Al-Hilal beat Al-Ittihad team, 3-1, with goals by Sergey Savic, Salem Al-Dosari and Malcolm Philip. (SPA)
Update Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals
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Al-Hilal beat Al-Ittihad team, 3-1, with goals by Sergey Savic, Salem Al-Dosari and Malcolm Philip. (SPA)
Update Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals
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Al-Hilal beat Al-Ittihad team, 3-1, with goals by Sergey Savic, Salem Al-Dosari and Malcolm Philip. (SPA)
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Updated 11 August 2023
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Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals

Iraq’s Al-Shorta and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal reach King Salman Cup semi-finals
  • Quarter-finals matches end Sunday, pitting Raja versus Al-Nassr, and Al-Shabab against Al-Wahda

RIYADH: The Iraqi Al-Shorta and Saudi Al-Hilal teams qualified for the semifinals of the King Salman Cup for Arab Clubs 2023, in the start of the quarter-finals of the tournament on Saturday evening.

Al-Shorta beat Qatar’s Al-Sadd 4-2 in Abha, while Al-Hilal beat the Saudi Al-Ittihad team 3-1 in Taif.

In the first match, Aso Rostom scored (two goals), Amir Sabah and Ahmed Farhan scored one goal each for Al-Shorta, while Akram Afif scored the double for Al-Sadd.

In the second match, Al-Hilal’s goals were scored by Sergey Savic, Salem Al-Dosari and Malcolm Philip, while Al-Ittihad’s goal was scored by Romario da Silva.

Al-Shorta will play the winner of the match between Moroccan Raja team and the Saudi Al-Nassr team, while Al-Hilal will face the winner of the Saudi Al-Shabab and Emirati Al-Wehda game in the last day of the quarter-final competitions.

The quarter-finals of the King Salman Cup for Clubs 2023 will be completed with two matches on Sunday, when Raja will play Al-Nassr, and Al-Shabab will face Al-Wahda.


European experience will benefit Saudi’s Future Falcons, say Valencia bosses

European experience will benefit Saudi’s Future Falcons, say Valencia bosses
Updated 14 June 2024
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European experience will benefit Saudi’s Future Falcons, say Valencia bosses

European experience will benefit Saudi’s Future Falcons, say Valencia bosses
  • La Liga club’s Technical Director Miguel Angel Corona and academy Director Luis Martinez spoke to Arab News about the Spanish Super Cup in Riyadh, developing Saudi talent and Valencia’s football methodology

VALENCIA: In January 2023, La Liga club Valencia, as the previous season’s Copa del Rey runner-up, participated in the Spanish Super Cup in Riyadh.

A fine performance against Real Madrid in the first semifinal at King Fahd International Stadium saw them earn a 1-1 draw in normal time before exiting after a 4-3 penalty shootout.

It was a chance for Saudi Arabia audiences to watch up close one of Spain’s more successful clubs of the 21st century.

“It was a great experience, of course,” Valencia Technical Director Miguel Angel Corona said, during Arab News’ visit to the club’s academy. “No doubt, the environment was amazing and exciting. Of course our opponent was Real Madrid, so that had an effect. But yes, I appreciated the (support) of the Saudi people.”

Valencia’s mission goes deeper than the annual cup competition, however, and aligns with La Liga’s ambitions to grow its brand in the Middle East and beyond.

Corona says the club is in the middle of a long-term rebuilding process.

“We have passed a very difficult situation in terms of finances, and we have an amazing young team,” said Corona. “We have a coach (former Valencia player Ruben Barja) that understands perfectly the environment, the club. And bit by bit, we are rebuilding this amazing club, because for the last two, three years it was very difficult.”

La Liga fans of a certain age in the Middle East will remember the club’s glorious period at the start of the century, when Valencia, first under Hector Cuper and then Rafael Benitez, reached two Champions League finals, won two league titles (2001/2002 and 2003/2004) and a UEFA Cup (2003/2004).

Corona is now hoping to attract a new generation of supporters.

“In the Premier League, they have Mohamed Salah, they used to have Riyad Mahrez, many players from Algeria, from Morocco, from Tunisia,” he said. “But they (also) love La Liga and we are well aware of that.

“Our social media indicators are very interesting,” said Corona. “We (have) fans in MENA (Middle East and North Africa), Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and also in Saudi, with the Valencia CF fan group we have there. We feel the love and we want to attract more fans, to bring the club even closer to these fans.”

A few months on from last year’s Spanish Super Cup adventure in Riyadh, Valencia were involved in a lesser-known tournament back home that is perhaps no less important for the long-term ties with — and development of — Saudi Arabia football.

Organized in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sport, the Al-Abtal International Cup, an international under-19 tournament, had two teams from the Kingdom compete against clubs from England, France, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Austria and Croatia at several Spanish venues.

Valencia reached the final and lost to Real Madrid, but earlier in the group stages they had faced the two teams that Saudi Arabia had entered, the “Green” and “White” Future Falcons teams.

The head of the VCF Academy, Luis Martinez, describes the Future Falcons initiative — which has resulted in the Saudi Arabian Football Federation also host under-14 tournaments — as a “great idea.”

“I think that will help to increase their level for sure,” he said, referencing the development of young Saudi Arabia talent. “Because at the end, you increase the level of competitiveness.”

“We have played three years in the tournament,” Martinez added. “The first year (2021), we won the tournament. Second year (2022), we were beaten in semifinals. And last year, we played the final in Prague (against Real Madrid). This year, logistically, we couldn’t participate.”

“The level is good,” he added, but cautioned that Saudi Arabia players may need more experience to compete against established teams from Europe.

“It’s true that the level of the competition that they wanted to create is very high, (but) sometimes you see that they are maybe still not ready to compete at that level.

“Because in the end, they are inviting Valencia, Real Madrid, Villarreal, Zagreb, Liverpool, Benfica, or Lisbon. Those teams are top in Europe. To reach that level is complicated for anyone. For us, for anyone. (But) I think, if they (Saudi Arabia teams) continue like this, the level will go up.”

There are signs that at lower age-group levels, Saudi Arabia’s players are increasingly more competitive. In 2022, a team from the Mahd Academy played against Valencia and Villarreal during a trip to Spain.

And Martinez’s age-group teams have also come up against young Saudi Arabia teams on visits to the Kingdom. In March this year, Valencia took part in the first La Liga FC Futures U-14 tournament held at the Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, which was won by Villarreal.

“We played the team from the Mahd Academy and at that age, 14 years old, the level was great,” said Martinez. “They were competing and they were performing well.

“So I think the level is going up, I think in Saudi in general they are investing in football. Of course they are investing a lot in professional football with the big stars, but if they keep investing as well in football development with good professionals, with good structures, methodology, the level must go higher.”

Martinez believes that many players from the Middle East and North Africa region are blessed with natural skills that are gained from being allowed to play with freedom at a young age. Street football, he calls it.

“A lot of players from maybe Morocco and Middle East and Africa, they have the skills, but maybe not the tactical awareness,” he said. “The funny thing is, maybe we, in Spain or south Europe, historically were the source of this kind of talent, players who play in the street, and I think we are destroying this a bit.”

“Right now players in Spain, the kids they don’t play in the streets. So maybe we are losing these type of players that are very technical because they are very anarchic. That’s why we have to go and find them in those countries.”

For Martinez, it is all about finding the right balance between technical skill and tactical awareness. To achieve this, he points to the methodology used at the Valencia CF Academy, which was voted the fourth best in Europe in 2023.

Raul Albiol, David Silva, Isco, Jordi Alba, Paco Alcacer and Ferran Torres are just a few players who have risen through the Valencia ranks to become global superstars.

“The main objective is written at the main door of the academy,” said Martinez.

“It’s developing players for the first team, or if they are not able to play for the first team, at least to place them in professional football. It seems easy, or it seems like something everybody would understand. You are an academy, you develop players for the first team. But it’s not that easy.”

A tactical methodology is implemented throughout the club, from the youngest age group to the first team, ensuring players rising through the ranks will fit into the various teams as they progress.

However, the main challenge for Martinez is how to balance individual talent with maintaining a competitive, winning culture for the team.

“You need to put the focus on developing players, and not as much in just developing teams and making winning teams,” Martinez said. “So that’s, for us, is the key focus. Finding the right people, coaches and rest of the staff, who understand that we are here to develop players.”

“The goal is always developing players (first). The teams that we use are, let’s say, tools to develop those players. This is in opposition to professional football, because at the end, in professional football, your goal is the team, to bring success, to win trophies, to win the league, to go to the Champions League.”

One of the academy’s main targets is to ensure players continue their education as a part of a holistic approach to developing individuals off the pitch.

The club has only one team in each of the under 16, 17 and 19 age groups, as well as the B team. The academy is also home to a 40-bed dormitory for the players, where they are provided with all their needs.

“If you have good players, you have good facilities, good coaches, normally the consequence of all this would be winning. But it shouldn’t be the focus of the situation. The focus of the situation should be developing players.”


Esports enthusiasts set for GCC League 2024 finals in Riyadh

Esports enthusiasts set for GCC League 2024 finals in Riyadh
Updated 11 June 2024
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Esports enthusiasts set for GCC League 2024 finals in Riyadh

Esports enthusiasts set for GCC League 2024 finals in Riyadh
  • ‘The enthusiasm, passion, and love for esports in all GCC nations are well-known around the globe,’ says SEF’s Chairman Prince Faisal bin Bandar
  • Contestants to battle it out for regional supremacy, share of $150,000 prize pool across Rocket League and TEKKEN 8

RIYADH: Esports enthusiasts are gearing up for a sensational spectacle with the inaugural GCC League 2024 finals in Riyadh on June 27-28, when contenders go head-to-head across the Rocket League and TEKKEN 8 competitions.
Presented by the Saudi Esports Federation, the GCC League is the newest Middle Eastern esports tournament that brings together six countries and some of the region’s greatest athletes and clubs for a series of showdowns.
SEF’s Chairman Prince Faisal bin Bandar said on Tuesday: “We cannot wait for the GCC League 2024 finale, and we share the excitement of esports fans throughout the region and beyond, ahead of what promises to be another world-class event in Riyadh.”
The first-ever edition began last month as 12 teams from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE faced off in an online Rocket League tournament, the vehicular soccer game and one of the world’s most popular titles.
Following 10 days of non-stop group stage action from May 12-21, the stage is set for exhilarating back-to-back encounters later this month.
Live from Riyadh, the remaining contestants will battle it out for regional supremacy and their share of a $150,000 prize pool across Rocket League and another world-renowned title, TEKKEN 8.
Prince Faisal said: “The enthusiasm, passion, and love for esports in all GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations are well-known around the globe — and this is one of many factors behind what makes the GCC League particularly exciting and intriguing. This upcoming event is simply unmissable for all with a vested interest in our industry.”
Among the challengers are Xenon Esports of Kuwait and the Oman National Team B. They advanced to the finals as winners of Groups A and B respectively in the tournament’s first online stage last month.
Also in the running for glory are Group A qualifiers, the Bahrain National Team, and Group B qualifiers Unity Esports (Kuwait) and KHK Esports (Bahrain).
Prince Faisal added: “Welcoming the region’s biggest and best talent for a brand-new competition is the latest illustration of our enduring commitment to provide new opportunities for regional talent to shine.”
Alongside the greatest athletes and clubs from across the region, local esports fans are sure to provide Team Falcons and Twisted Minds with incredible home support as these clubs are representing the host nation.


Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit
Updated 11 June 2024
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Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit
  • The electric car event’s longest championship season to date will include 17 races at 11 locations
  • The Kingdom will host races in Diriyah for a seventh time on Feb. 14-15 on a new track, details of which are yet to be announced

RIYADH: The provisional calendar for Season 11 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, unveiled on Tuesday, confirms a return to Diriyah early next year and reveals the event’s longest season, with the largest number of races and locations to date.
It once again includes a race double-header in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 14-15. This will be the seventh time the Kingdom has been part of the Formula E championship and the races will take place on a new track in Diriyah, the precise details of which will be announced later.
The 11th season of the pioneering all-electric racing event will for the first time consist of 17 races at 11 locations. In addition to the new track in Diriyah, the provisional calendar, subject to validation by the FIA World Motorsport Council, reveals a new race location in Miami; a double-header of races in Monaco, marking a first for the principality in any motorsport championship; a double-header in Tokyo; and the return of Jakarta to the calendar.
“For Season 11 we’re taking electric racing to the next level and doing things that have never been done before in motorsport,” said Jeff Dodds, the CEO of Formula E.
“Our world-leading GEN3 EVO will debut in front of hundreds of millions of fans around the globe, while adding two brand new locations and combinations of double-headers to grow our sport further.
“The new and improved calendar offers a perfect blend of circuits for drivers to push their upgraded cars to the limit, while staying true to our street-racing DNA and the on-track action it produces.”
The Season 11 campaign will begin in Sao Paulo on Dec. 7, following preseason testing from Nov. 4-7 in Valencia, as the all-new GEN3 EVO race car — capable of going from 0-60 mph in just 1.82 seconds, 36 percent faster than the current GEN3 vehicles — is put through its paces and tested in public for the first time.
The new circuit in Diriyah will host the first double-header of the season, and on April 12 the championship returns to Miami for the first time since the first season, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway venue, which has hosted NASCAR and IndyCar races for decades.
Monaco will will host back-to-back races on the full Circuit de Monaco for the first time, and following the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix in March this year, for which public roads in the world’s most populous city were closed for an automotive event for the first time, it will host a double header of races on May 17 and 18.
Jakarta returns to the calendar after a one-year hiatus, and the season will conclude with a double-header finale at ExCeL London. One location is yet to be confirmed, as final discussions with a new venue continue ahead of final confirmation of the calendar following the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council Meeting.
“We’re thrilled to offer a calendar with some fresh new highlights while building on our legacy locations,” said Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E.
“Returning to Miami gives us a home in one of the US’s most iconic and sports-mad cities, while securing a double-header in Monaco is a dream come true. We can’t wait to build on the success of Tokyo and deliver a double-header, while returning to Jakarta and entertaining our huge Indonesian fanbase, too.
“With 17 races across the season and our most advanced race car debuting on-track, we’re offering our fans cutting-edge sport we could only have hoped for when founding the championship just over 10 years ago.”
Marek Nawarecki, director of the FIA Circuit Sport Department, said: “The 2024-25 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar features a range of circuits that will truly showcase the qualities of the brand new GEN3 EVO car, set to be introduced next season.
“I’m glad that Formula E capitalizes on the success of the Tokyo and Shanghai races while also returning to some of its iconic venues and retaining a good amount of street circuits, which is in its core DNA. I’m also hopeful that this new season will again play host to some fascinating action on track.”


Riyadh crowned champions of Chestertons Polo in the Park

Riyadh crowned champions of Chestertons Polo in the Park
Updated 10 June 2024
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Riyadh crowned champions of Chestertons Polo in the Park

Riyadh crowned champions of Chestertons Polo in the Park
  • The Riyadh team were crowned champions after defeating the London team 6-2

LONDON: The Riyadh Polo Team emerged victorious as the 14th edition of the Chestertons in the Park championship concluded in the British capital on Sunday.

The Riyadh team were crowned champions after defeating the London team 6-2.

British player Patrick O’Dwyre of the runners-up won the award for best player in the championship, while Sofia, played by Francisco Elizalde of the Riyadh team, won best horse.

Faisal Abu Nayan, Noor Abu Khadrah, and Argentinians Francisco Elizalde and Matias Lallores made it to the final after beating the Dubai team 9-8 in the quarterfinals and the Buenos Aires team from Argentina 9-3 in the semifinals.

Amr Zidan, the president of the Saudi Polo Federation, said he was very happy that the Riyadh team had won the championship against such strong competition.


World No.1 Korda looks to maintain gold streak at Aramco Team Series in London

World No.1 Korda looks to maintain gold streak at Aramco Team Series in London
Updated 03 June 2024
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World No.1 Korda looks to maintain gold streak at Aramco Team Series in London

World No.1 Korda looks to maintain gold streak at Aramco Team Series in London
  • A historic start to 2024 for Korda with 6 wins, including Major championship
  • Defending champion is set to compete with strong field ahead of bid to retain gold medal at Olympics in August

LONDON: World No.1 Nelly Korda will be heading to London this summer in imperious form, as the history-making golf superstar defends her Aramco Team Series presented by PIF — London title at Centurion Club, from July 3-5.

Korda has been inspiring in 2024, securing six titles, including five consecutive LPGA titles and her first Chevron Championship. Her visit to London will be the only time to catch the American playing in England this year.

Overcoming grueling conditions in 2023, Korda cemented her win at Centurion Club by scoring an impressive 11-under-par, claiming her first title on British soil and besting home favorite Charley Hull in the process.

With the 2024 Paris Olympics set for August, and the Solheim Cup in September, the 2024 schedule is relentless for Korda, but the opportunity to defend her title in London was one that she could not turn down.

“Winning in London last year was definitely one of the highlights of 2023 for me. I played some really solid golf across the weekend, which showed me that my game was in a good place,” she said.

“I am very proud of the hard work I have put in the past year and it is nice to see some of the results paying off. I am always looking to improve and focus on my next event and I am excited to be coming back to the Aramco Team Series in London.”

The defending Olympic gold medalist has ascended the Rolex Women’s World Golf rankings this year, now looking untouchable at the top — but despite this success Korda is level-headed, and keen to ensure she can use her profile to inspire more young girls to take up golf.

“It is inspiring to be in a position to have a positive influence on the game.

“Making an impact on the next generation is something that is important to me. I try to inspire young girls and boys to encourage them to pick up a golf club for the first time — and the Aramco Team Series is a big part of that, as I’ve seen firsthand how their initiatives can have such a positive impact on the next generation.”

Already announced for the event are English duo Charley Hull and Georgia Hall, each looking to build on positive outings of their own in 2023 — and this time, overcome Korda on their home soil.

The duo will be part of a field that boasts a host of Olympians and Major winners, with the innovative team event attracting a blend of stars from both the LPGA and Ladies European Tour.