How the Saudi Pro League became the football world’s biggest story

Special How the Saudi Pro League became the football world’s biggest story
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The arrival of Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo in Riyadh in December 2022 redefined the Saudi Pro League, bringing Saudi football to the attention of fans and broadcasters. (AFP)
Special How the Saudi Pro League became the football world’s biggest story
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Hilal's Brazilian forward Malcom stretches to control the ball (C) during the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup semi-final football match between Saudi Arabia's Al-Shabab and Al-Hilal at the King Fahd Stadium in Taif on August 9, 2023. Malcom is one of the latest world footballer to join the Saudi Pro League. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2023

How the Saudi Pro League became the football world’s biggest story

How the Saudi Pro League became the football world’s biggest story
  • Saudi football, not to mention Middle Eastern and Asian teams in general, will be seismic in the years ahead
  • Global interest in the league has skyrocketed, with broadcasters DAZN, Canal Goat and LA7 jumping on board

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo raised a few eyebrows when, only months into his move to Al-Nassr, he predicted the Saudi Pro League would be one of the top five in the world within a few years. Recent developments have shown his remarks to be right on the mark.

“(The) Saudi league is getting better and the next year will be even better,” he told Saudi sports channel SSC toward the end of last season.

“Step-by-step, I think this league will be among the top five leagues in the world but they need time, players and infrastructure. But I believe that this country has amazing potential, they have amazing people and the league will be great, in my opinion.”

It is a view he has since repeated with confidence and, each time he does so, his belief looks more and more justified and accurate.

Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo’s decision to join the Al Nassr football club redefined the Saudi Pro League. (AFP)

On July 18, while in Spain with his Al-Nassr teammates for their preseason training camp, Ronaldo doubled down on his comments. He committed to his Saudi adventure and dismissed many European leagues — and America’s Major League Soccer, the new home of his rival, Lionel Messi — in one fell swoop.

“Europe has lost a lot of quality,” he said. “The only one that is one of the best is the (English) Premier League. It’s way ahead of all the other leagues from my point of view.

“The Spanish league lost its level, the Portuguese one is not a top one, the German has also lost a lot of quality. The USA? No, the Saudi championship is much better than the USA.”

Given the number of major recent signings of top international stars by Saudi Arabia’s leading clubs during the summer transfer window, Ronaldo’s estimate of a “few years” could well be accelerated.

Some of the big moves to the Kingdom from Europe are worth highlighting: Karim Benzema from Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad; Sadio Mane from Bayern Munich to Al-Nassr; Riyadh Mahrez from Manchester City to Al-Ahli; N’Golo Kante from Chelsea to Al-Ittihad; Reuben Neves from Wolves to Al-Hilal; Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio to Al-Hilal; and the trio of Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson from Liverpool to Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli and Al-Ettifaq respectively.

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Karim Benzema are among football's big names who have moved to the Saudi Pro League following in Cristiano Ronaldo's footsteps. (AFP photos)

There are many more, as the number of players signing from abroad seemingly grows by the day.

What has taken place is nothing short of a revolution in Saudi football. It is comfortably the biggest story in the football world, following the unprecedented summer 2023 transfer window.

Of course, there were already many standout past and current foreign players in the Saudi Pro League over the past few years. The likes of Bafetimbi Gomis at Al-Hilal, Talisca at Al-Nassr and Abderrazak Hamdallah at Al-Ittihad, to name just a few, have all been hugely successful in the SPL, not to mention popular with the fans.

French midfielder N'Golo Kante moved from English Premier League's Chelsea football club to the Saudi pro League's Al-Ittihad earlier this year. (AFP)

But Ronaldo’s arrival in Riyadh on Dec. 31, 2022, redefined the Saudi Pro League. Once dismissed as a mere rumor, his move to Al-Nassr — after being released by Manchester United — changed perceptions of Saudi domestic football overnight. Coming shortly after the Kingdom’s historic 2-1 win over Argentina at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, it showed that the Kingdom had to be taken seriously.

Suddenly, other players began to take notice, as did the fans and the international media. The knock-on effects since then have been astonishing. Saudi Arabia’s top clubs, having been privatized and backed financially by the country’s Public Investment Fund, can now afford to pick off players at the peak of their careers from some of the biggest, and richest, clubs in the world.

Global interest in the league, which is also known as the Roshn Saudi League, has already skyrocketed, with international broadcasters also jumping on board. They include live sports streaming service DAZN, which has the exclusive rights to show games in the UK, YouTube channel Canal Goat, which will screen matches in Brazil, and free-to-air channel LA7 in Italy, according sources.

DAZN is set to stream three matches each week, beginning with Friday’s season opener between newly promoted clubs Al-Ahli and Al-Hazm. Sky Sports had picked up the UK digital broadcast rights to the Saudi top flight halfway through last season, but DAZN was the first to commit to a whole season.

Live sports streaming service DAZN is set to stream three matches in the Saudi Pro League every week. (AFP)

No doubt the effects of all these developments on the future of Saudi football, not to mention that of Middle Eastern and Asian football in general, will be seismic in the season and years ahead. But amid the excitement and euphoria, there are serious issues that need to be addressed.

While the wider picture is clearly positive, and is already ensuring the SPL is a league to be reckoned with, the future of football in the Kingdom will have to be managed carefully and strategically to ensure the overall health of the game is maintained for the benefit of the clubs, the national team and the nurturing of young Saudi talent.

The rate of signings in recent weeks has been relentless and has raised questions as to when the spending spree will end. Officially, the Saudi transfer window closes on Sept. 7, a week after the one in Europe. This has caused concern among clubs, particularly those in the English Premier League, who worry they might lose more players during that overlapping period with no opportunity to replace them.

Beyond this summer’s immediate deadline, however, things will remain somewhat open-ended in terms of outgoing and incoming players, although an obvious end point for some clubs would be when they fill their full quotas for foreign players.

Another area of debate surrounds how this strengthening of the elite clubs will affect some of the league’s smaller teams. This concern was recently addressed by authorities, who said targeted projects will be supported if and when they are implemented for clubs outside the big five.

Then there is the worry that the influx of foreign players will adversely affect the development and progress of young Saudi talent, along with the careers of established local players.

In this photo posted on social media, Al Nassr foot club's juniors are shown on training. There is the worry that the influx of foreign players will adversely affect the development and progress of young Saudi talent. (Twitter photo)

The SPL and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation have moved to allay those fears by formulating a strategy designed to drive competitiveness on and off the pitch. New regulations are being rolled out, designed to increase playing time for young Saudi players. They include a reduction in the age of eligibility from 18 to 16, and a requirement for squads to include 25 senior players and 10 under the age 21 beginning with the 2025-26 season.

It is a policy that Al-Ettifaq coach Steven Gerrard and new signing Jordan Henderson — two former Liverpool captains — have thrown their support behind by committing to help efforts to nurture the next generation of Saudi footballing talent.

“At Ettifaq we have a lot of promising young talent who have a bright future,” said Gerrard. “And I am really proud to be the coach of the team. Hopefully I can help support these players and help develop them into better players in the future.”

For now, there is no denting the sense of optimism and positivity sweeping through Saudi football. For fans of the SPL, old and new, the 2023-24 season’s big kick-off on Friday cannot come soon enough.


Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta
Updated 01 December 2023

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta

Team New Zealand dominate for second day at America’s Cup Jeddah Preliminary Regatta
  • The New Zealanders finished the day with 49 points

JEDDAH: Defending America’s Cup champions Emirates Team New Zealand extended their lead in the Preliminary Regatta event in Jeddah on Friday.

The New Zealanders finished the day with 49 points, which was enough to secure their place in tomorrow’s match race final.

In the first race, the Italians, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli were able to sail higher upwind and tack their boat faster to grab first place.

Following Luna Rossa, Emirates Team New Zealand got a better last gybe into the finish to take a hard fought second place over the Americans who came out firing after their nightmare first day.

The rest of the day’s results were as follows:

Day 2: Race 4

1st ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

2nd NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

3rd USA NYYC American Magic

4th GBR INEOS Britannia

5th SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

The second race of the day was won by Emirates Team New Zealand by just 4 seconds over the Italian crew of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.

Day 2: Race 5

1st NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

2nd ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

3rd SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

4th USA NYYC American Magic

5th GBR INEOS Britannia

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

Race three was another drama filled race with the first three boats on a string, cross for cross, Emirates Team New Zealand again winning the race by a matter of seconds over NYYC American Magic and Alinghi Red Bull racing.

Day 2: Race 6

1st NZL Emirates Team New Zealand

2nd USA NYYC American Magic

3rd SUI Alinghi Red Bull Racing

4th ITA Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team

5th GBR INEOS Britannia

6th FRA Orient Express Racing Team

Overall Standings after Day 2:

1. Emirates Team New Zealand, 49 pts

2. Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, 38 pts

3. Alinghi Red Bull Racing, 27 pts

4. INEOS Britannia, 22 pts

5. NYYC American Magic, 16 pts

6. Orient Express Racing Team, 14 pts

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023
Updated 01 December 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball fans captivated by Al-Hilal’s victory in the Saudi Games 2023
  • Prince Abdullah bin Fahad crowns the equestrian champions
  • Secret behind Zeyad Majrashia’s success in making an ultimate comeback in boxing

RIYADH: A massive crowd of fans enjoyed a captivating volleyball performance on Thursday during the 2023 Saudi Games men’s volleyball final, where Al-Hilal beat title-holders Al-Ahli three sets to one.
Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Musaed, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and director of the Saudi Games, crowned Al-Hilal the 2023 gold medal winners at the Green Hall of the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.
Al-Ittihad won the bronze medal after defeating Al-Nassr 3-1.
Meanwhile, Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud, deputy director of the Saudi Games, presented Al-Nassr’s women’s volleyball team with their gold medals after the defeated Al-Hilal 3-0.
Al-Ahli clinched the bronze medal in a tight match against Al-Anqaa, which finished 3-2.

Show jumping goes to Tuwaiq:
In the show jumping competition the Tuwaiq team won the gold medal, presented to them by Prince Abdullah bin Fahd Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Equestrian Federation, in Al-Janadriya on Thursday.
Al-Mughyrat collected the silver medal and Al-Sakab got the bronze.

Seven athletes win gold:
First place in the men’s shot-put final was awarded to Mohamed Tolo of Al-Hilal club, while second was presented to Ali Mubarak of Al-Safa, with Al-Hilal’s Kaidallah Khalid finishing third.
In the men’s pole vault final, Al-Hilal’s Hussain Al-Hizam came first while Hashim Al-Sharfa of Mudhar came second ahead of Al-Safa’s Muhsin Al-Dabboos, who finished third.
First place in the men’s javelin throw was presented to Ali Abdulghani of Al-Noor while second was awarded to Al-Adalah’s Murtadh Al-Hamad, whose teammate Waleed Al-Hamad came third.
Meanwhile in the 1,500 meter men’s race, Al-Hilal’s Raed Al-Jadaani got the gold medal. Al-Safa’s Fayez Al-Subaie and Al-Hilal’s Mohamed Chewai won the silver and bronze respectively.
In the men’s 110 meter hurdles, Al-Khaleej’s Essa Jarahtook came first in front of Al-Ahli’s Mohamed Al-Jedaani and Al-Safa’s Baqer Al-Jumah.
Athlete Ali Mas of Al-Ahli club won the gold medal in the men’s 100 meter sprint. Al-Hilal’s Abdallah Mohamed won the silver, and Tabarjal’s Abdulaziz Atafi secured bronze.
In the youth men’s 100 meters, Hattan Majrashi of Al-Ahli came first, ahead of silver and bronze medalists Bdah Al-Beshi of Bishah club and Al-Safa’s Ali-Tawfeeq respectively.

Al-Ibtisam conquers gymnastics, winning five Medals:
Sulaiman bin Mohamed Al-Jasser, president of the Saudi Gymnastics Federation, crowned the winners of Thursday’s gymnastics competitions at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Al-Malaz Gymnastics Hall.
In the men’s rings final, first place was awarded to Al-Ibtisam’s Ali Al-Mobireek, second was presented to Al-Ittihad’s Nasser Al-Sumiri, and third went to Al-Ibtisam’s Hassan Al-Muwais.
In the men’s pommel horse finals, Al-Ibtisam’s Kadhem Al-Antaif ranked first ahead of his teammate Habeb Aswaileh. Abdulkarim Al-Mur, of Al-Ittihad, came third.
In the floor competitions, Al-Ittihad’s Abdulaziz Al-Johani won gold, Al-Ibtisam’s Jaffar Al-Sayigh took silver, and Manaf Al-Amri, also of Al-Ittihad, claimed bronze.

Kamel snatches karting gold:
Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, the chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, crowned the karting competition champions in Riyadh’s Dirab Square on Thursday. The competitions were conducted under the supervision of SAMF.
Abdullah Kamel was awarded the gold medal while Prince Saud Al-Saud took the silver. Khalid Shalash claimed the bronze.

Shooting gold goes to Al-Harbi:
On Thursday, the Vice President of the Saudi Shooting Federation Prince Khaled bin Bandar Al-Saud presented medals to the winners of the men’s skeet shooting category at the City Public Security Training Range. Fahad Al-Harbi won the gold, while Mohammed Al-Khamshi and Majed Al-Tamimi clinched silver and bronze respectively.

Al-Hilal come top in squash:
Saudi Squash Federation board member Dr. Maad Faisal Al-Saati presented the medals to the winners of the squash competition at King Saud University on Thursday. Al-Hilal’s Abdulrahman Mustafa won the gold, while Mohamed Al-Nasfan, the Al-Safa player, and Al-Hilal’s Abdulaziz Aburegah took silver and bronze.

Fifteen medals in boxing:
Abdullah Al-Harbi, the president of the Saudi Boxing Federation, presented the medals to male and female winners in boxing competitions at the King Saud University Swimming Hall.
Youth boxer Zeyad Majrashi won the gold in the 57 kg category, and Al-Hilal’s Mohamed Al-Kridis won the silver. Al-Shabab’s Abdulaziz Al-Otaibi and his club-mate Mohamed Zaybiof took bronze.
In the 63.5 kg competition, Al-Wehda’s Mousa Al-Hawsawi claimed the gold medal, while Riyadh Club Combat’s Abdelkarim Zridy won silver. Okaz’s Ahmed Monshi and Al-Shoulla’s Abdullah Mosa took bronze.
Ismaail Lagdachi, of Riyadh Combat Club, won the gold in the 75 kg division, followed by Damac’s Hassan Mohamed Kaabi with silver. Al-Hada’s Mohamed Al-Amari and Riyadh’s Karim Hamzaoui took bronze.
In the 92 kg category, Al-Wehda’s Mohamed Al-Suphi won the gold while Al-Orobah’s Wesam Al-Alawi won the silver. Al-Ittihad’s Sultan Al-Musaed and Al-Ahli’s Mohamed Eljzzar took bronze.

Three shine in women’s boxing:
In the women’s boxing, Al-Shabab’s Sarah Al-Shahrani won the gold in the 50 kg division, ahead of Al-Taraji’s Kalthoom Hantool who took silver. Hala Al-Rashidi of Al-Ahli and Al-Shabab’s Yara Al-Amri won bronze.
Al-Orobah’s Majda Lidali topped the 57 kg division, and Al-Riyadh’s Ragad Al-Naimi came second. Al-Shabab’s Hanan Al-Subaie and Al-Ittihad’s Nada Al-Maimani made up the rest of the podium.

Boxing finals:
In the youth boxing competitions, Al-Ahli’s Ibrahim Juhani won the 48 kg category gold. The silver medal was presented to Al-Shabab’s Mohannad Majrashi while the bronze went to Al-Hilal’s Abdul Majeed Al-Zahrani and Al-Wehda’s Ahmed Samer Al-Shawi.
Fawaz Al-Luhaybi of Feid Club won the 57 kg category’s gold medal. Al-Shabab’s Adel Al-Motirii, clinched the silver while Al-Ahli’s Yazan Al-Ghamdi and Al-Shabab’s Hamad Ali Zaybi shared the bronze.
In the men’s 67 kg weight, first place went to Al-Diraiyah’s Majed Mjahid while second was presented to Al-Ahli’s Abdulaziz Yahya. The bronze medal was awarded to Al-Ittihad’s Mohamed Al-Soq and Al-Shabab’s Saud Soqaty.
In the 80 kg division, Al-Ittihad’s Youssef Elyas won the gold, and Al-Ahli’s Firas Salem took silver. Al-Wehda’s Mohamed Al-Ahmad and Al-Shoulla’s Faris Al-Waheed shared the bronze.

Individuals bowling finals:
Abdul-Malik Al-Shathri, president of the Saudi Bowling Federation, crowned the winners of the men’s and women’s individual bowling competitions at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex Bowling Center.
Abdulrahman Al-Kheliwi bagged the individual men’s gold ahead of Ahmed Abulresh who won the silver and Nawaf Tamimi who took bronze.
In the women’s competition, Jenice Dela came first, Sedrah Rafiq clinched the second place and Sharmaine Patayan came in third place.

Reda and Al-Ghamedi win the baloot gold medal:
Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Musaed, vice president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the director of the Saudi Games, presented the gold medal to Mohamed Reda and Abdulaziz Al-Ghamedi, the baloot duo who achieved a 2-0 victory in the finals against Fawaz Turkistani and Anas Al-Zahrani. The bronze medal was awarded to Abdulrahman Al-Kuwaiz and Sami Al-Angari.

Majrashia dedicates year of intensive training to win gold in boxing
Unveiling the secret to his success of winning the 2023 Saudi Games’ gold medal in the 57 kg division, boxer Zeyad Majrashia of Al-Shabab Club said: “After losing to Al-Hilal player Mohamed Al-Kraidis and securing the silver medal in the 2022 Saudi Games, I dedicated a year of intensive training while working on my mental game. My goal was to return for the gold medal, and I achieved it.
“The conditions were set for a rematch against the same opponent who defeated me last year, fulfilling my lifelong dream in a sport I began playing at the age of 10. I have proudly represented the Saudi national team in various international arenas. This gold medal is the most meaningful achievement in my career, and I’m determined to bring home more medals for the Kingdom in global championships,” he concluded.

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah
Updated 01 December 2023

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah

Emirates Team New Zealand sail into early lead as America’s Cup gets underway in Jeddah
  • The New Zealanders win the first 2 of the day’s 3 races to top the overnight standings on 22 points, ahead of Italian team Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on 18

JEDDAH: Emirates Team New Zealand dominated the first day of racing with two wins as the America’s Cup Preliminary Regatta in Jeddah began on Thursday. They topped the overnight standings with 22 points, followed by Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli of Italy on 18.

In the first race of the day, the New Zealanders finished ahead of British team INEOS Britannia, Swiss team Alinghi Red Bull Racing, and Orient Express Racing Team of France. American Magic were disqualified for leaving the regatta boundaries.

New Zealand’s success continued in race two, in which they finished ahead of Alinghi, INEOS, Luna Rossa, who had problems at the start, French team Orient Express and American Magic.

In the third race, Luna Rossa put in a very strong and controlled performance to win by a good margin, easily finishing clear of Orient Express, Alinghi, INEOS and New Zealand. American Magic once again were disqualified.

“It was a good start for us today, despite the error we committed in the third race, but we managed to be on the top,” Peter Burling, New Zealand’s skipper, told Arab News.

Ruggero Tita, helmsman for Luna Rossa, said: “We are super happy about this last-race win. Of course, it was a super-tricky race but we managed to arrive at the end on the foils which means that we did a really good job.”

The Swiss team of helmsmen Arnaud Psarofaghis and Maxime Bachelin, and trimmers Yves Detrey and Bryan Mettraux, faced lighter than expected winds as they put their full focus on staying up on the foils. The crew challenged for a podium place in the first race, finished second in race two, and then successfully chased down several boats from behind after a start penalty in in the third race to grab third place. They finished the day tied for third with INEOS on 15 points.

“It was a solid day for the team, one of those days where you come back (to be) in the middle of the standings and you say, ‘It could have been better but it also could have been a lot worse,’” said Pietro Sibello, their performance coach.

“So overall, I think it was a good day. We should all be happy and hungry for an even better day tomorrow.”

Arnaud Psarofaghis, the Swiss skipper said: “It was really tough conditions. Today was about sailing the boat as well as we could, and mainly about staying on the foils. The last week of training was really useful for us out there, given the marginal conditions.”

Three races are scheduled for Friday, followed by two on Saturday, after which the top two teams will advance to the final.

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
Updated 30 November 2023

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia

Tennis, the latest sport on the rise in Saudi Arabia
  • The game has been making its mark in the Kingdom’s sports evolution, so much that its nationwide popularity cannot be missed
  • Arij Almutabagani, president of the STF, has spearheaded the federation’s efforts to grow the sport

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has become one of the fastest-growing countries in world of sports, emerging not only as an international sporting hub, but also a center of activities, events, and spectacles.
From athletics, football, F1, boxing, basketball, and golf, many sports are driving unprecedented socio-economic transformation under Vision 2030. They are enriching lives, enhancing well-being, and presenting a whole new world of opportunity, paving the way for people to discover passions, pursue dreams, and realize potential.
Tennis has been making its mark in the Saudi sports evolution, so much that its nationwide growth and popularity cannot be missed.
As president of the Saudi Tennis Federation, Arij Almutabagani is one of the key figures leading the charge. Since assuming her position in 2021, she has spearheaded STF’s efforts to grow the sport across all levels, laying strong foundations for tennis and all involved to thrive.
Almutabagani’s primary aspiration is building a vibrant junior tennis scene. With 63 percent of Saudi’s over 32 million population under the age of 30 and with nationwide sports participation now at 50 percent, she is adamant that tennis can embrace the Kingdom’s youth opportunities.
“Our strategy is to nurture young players, develop infrastructure, and invest in grassroots initiatives because youth is the key to any sport’s long-term success,” she said. “We’re certainly on the right path. Our strategy is working and we’re seeing interest and participation increase.”
Almutabagani’s statements are backed by glowing statistics. Saudi today is home to 177 tennis clubs, up 146 percent since 2019. In the last four years, the number of registered players has increased by 46 percent to 2,300, and U14 players by 100 percent — from 500 to over 1,000.
STF also holds 40 national tournaments annually, including hosting three ITF Juniors tournaments in the past year, which marked the return of ITF events since the first was played back in 2022.
“Major strides have been taken and one of these was tennis being added to the school physical education curriculum earlier this year,” said Almutabagani.
STF’s partnership with the Saudi Sports For All Federation presented “Tennis For All” in 2022, a 16-week mass participation program to introduce tennis to a new generation of sports enthusiasts. Over 13,000 people were introduced to tennis in the first edition, with a higher figure in 2023.
This past April, “Tennis For All” was introduced in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum at 90 public schools, with STF training 170 physical education teachers to provide lessons. Participation more than doubled this time around, with an estimated 30,000 people.
“We’re targeting 200 schools in 2024 and 400 by 2025,” Almutabagani said. “Achieving this will support sustained growth as more tennis academies are launched and more national tennis centers are built. We already have 505 coaches and 182 officials in the Kingdom and we’ll be rolling out more opportunities for people to get involved.”
A sure catalyst for further sports transformation, Saudi Arabia currently hosts its first-ever professional tennis event — the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. A global, modern, and innovative competition featuring the world’s best U21 players, the finals are currently taking place at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City from until Dec. 2.
Sanctioned by the ATP Tour and hosted by STF, this historic event marks the beginning of a five-year contract to bring the pinnacle of young global tennis talent to the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia’s top male tennis player, Ammar Alhogbani, has practiced with and played against some of the eight players competing in the Next Gen ATP Finals. He said: “The growth of tennis in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi Arabians has been exceptional in recent years, I’m blessed to be even a small a part of it. To now also have the first sanctioned ATP event in our backyard is an immensely exciting part of our next chapter.
“I’m sure having the best young players from around the world here in Jeddah will inspire future generations of Saudi to follow in their footsteps and encourage all Saudi’s players to come out and experience the event for themselves.”
Looking ahead, the value of Saudi Arabia’s sports event industry is growing by 8 percent per year and will reach $3.3 billion by 2024 — a $1.2 billion increase from 2018. Additionally, significant events investments are being made, with $2 billion committed to help sports grow by 2024.
“Tennis will become a big part of Saudi’s future sports event industry, and this will be the first of many professional tennis tournaments that we stage,” added Almutabagani.
“We eagerly anticipate welcoming tennis enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and beyond to witness the exhilarating matches and experience the innovation and excitement that the Next Gen ATP Finals will bring to Jeddah.”

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023
Updated 30 November 2023

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023

Medals galore on Day 7 of Saudi Games 2023
  • Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud crowns swimming champions
  • Saudi Professional League’s Riyadh derby broadcast live to spectators

RIYADH: Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud hosted a medal ceremony for the winners of the swimming competitions at the 2023 Saudi Games on Wednesday.
The princess, who is the Games’ deputy director, was joined at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex by Patama Leeswadtrakul, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, and Mona Shehab from the Saudi Swimming Federation.
The star of the women’s events was Imane Elbarodi of Al-Fateh club, who won gold in both the 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter breaststroke events. Halaa Diab from Al-Ahli club and Kawtar Elbarodi, also from Al-Fateh, took silver and bronze, respectively, in both races.
In the youth category, Nadine Abdallah of Al-Ahli took gold in the 50-meter freestyle race ahead of Mashael Alayed and Hana Shahhat.
In the youths’ 50-meter breaststroke, Solaf Elkemary of Al-Shabab won gold, beating Maryam Ahmed of A-ACWA and Mashael Al-Ayed of Al-Ettifaq.

Degnah tops climbers
Nidal Degnah took the individual gold medal in the men’s climbing competition at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex.
Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Saud, chairman of the Saudi Climbing and Hiking Federation, officiated at the medal ceremony, where Taher Al-Haddad took silver and Matteo Largo bronze.
In the women’s event, Sarah Al-Qunebit saw off all-comers to take the gold ahead of Rouwaida Al-Aroui and Lydia Karpova.

Hot shots bag medals
Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Musaed bin Abdulaziz, vice president of the Saudi Shooting Federation, was in charge at the medal ceremony for some of the top shooters at this year’s Games.
The gold medal in the men’s 10-meter air pistol category, held at the City Public Security shooting range, went to Atallah Al-Enezie, with Muhammad Al-Maliki taking the silver and Salem Al-Mutairi the bronze.

Barghout beats them all
Omar Barghout was the star of the youth gymnastics event, taking gold in the all-around competition.
He held off the challenges of Khaled Al-Muzain from the Al-Ittifaq team and Al-Ittihad’s Faris Al-Harbi, who won silver and bronze, respectively.
The medals were presented by Sulaiman Mohamed Al-Jasser, chairman of the Saudi Gymnastic Federation.

Al-Hilal crowned men's volleyball winners
On Thursday evening, last year’s volleyball champions Al-Ahli lost the title race after Al-Hilal beat them (1-3) in the final match at the Ministry of Sports Hall at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Olympic Complex. Al-Ahli had a straight-sets win over Al-Ittihad in the semifinals. Meanwhile, this year’s gold medal winners Al-Hilal beat Al-Nassr in their semifinals.
In the women’s event, Al-Nasr won the gold medal after beating Al-Hilal in the final (3-0).

Al-Ettifaq triumph in esports
Al-Ettifaq have been crowned kings of the gamers after seeing off Triple eSport and Quest Esports in the esports competition at Saudi Media City.
Princess Sara bint Faisal Al-Saud, deputy chairman of the Saudi Esports Federation, presided over the medal ceremony.

Masters of martial arts
General Shaddad Al-Omari, president of the Saudi Taekwondo Federation, was on hand at King Saud University to present the medals to the winners in this year’s taekwondo competition.
In the over-80 kg category, Ali Al-Mabrouk of Al-Shabab took gold, with Al-Faraa’s Aaron Cook taking silver and Majed Al-Salim of Al-Ittihad and Yatherb Ali of Al-Fra both winning bronze.
In the under-80 kg event, Al-Shabab’s Ahmed Abu Ghaush took gold after beating Faisal Ali from Abha. Mohamed Al-Suwaiq of Al-Shabab and Mohamed Khayyat from the Falcons each won bronze.
Hasham bin Dookhy emerged as champion in the under-68 kg category, ahead of Rayan Al-Taifi from Al-Ittihad. Abdel Baset Abu Talib of Al-Nahda and Ahmed Al-Khawaher from Al-Salam both took bronze.
In the under-58 kg division, Riyad Hamdi won gold while Abdul-Ilah Asiri from Abha took silver. Fahd Al-Sameeh and Abdul Majeed bin Mughaisib, both youths, took home a bronze medal.

Riyadh derby treat
The Riyadh derby between Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal in the Saudi Professional League was broadcast live to spectators on giant screens at the Saudi Games fan zone.
Visitors to the zone were also treated to live entertainment, children’s play areas and two DJ platforms.

Al-Khawahir lifts herself to the top
A year on from winning bronze at the 2022 Games, Fatemah Al-Khawaher from Al-Salam club rose to the pinnacle of her sport on Sunday, taking gold in the 59 kg weight category.
Guided by former champion and national coach Abbas Al-Qaisoum, the 22-year-old took the top prize lifting just 1 kg more than her nearest rival.
“I experienced remarkable moments that fueled my determination and resilience,” she said. “I achieved what I had worked tirelessly for during these past 15 months. I brought pride and joy to my family, supporters and my club.”