New era of Saudi football kicks off

Special New era of Saudi football kicks off
Karim Benzema greets Al-Ittihad fans at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 8, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 13 August 2023

New era of Saudi football kicks off

New era of Saudi football kicks off
  • After an unprecedented summer transfer window that has seen some of the world’s top players move to the Kingdom, the 2023-24 SPL season finally kicks off on Friday
  • Al-Ahli have sensationally added Liverpool legend Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City, perhaps the most talented of all the new arrivals

The 2023-24 Roshn Saudi League season kicks off on Friday and to say it is eagerly awaited is an understatement.

Fans in Saudi Arabia have never had such talent in their own backyard, and there has never been such international attention. 

Al-Ittihad are the defending champions and the ones to beat in a league expanded from 16 to 18 teams. The Tigers are the only one of the “Big Four,” taken over by the Public Investment Fund in June, to have the same coach in place. Nuno Santo impressed in his first season and now has added Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante, Fabinho and Jota to an already-strong squad.

There are a few clouds on the Jeddah horizon. As Al-Hilal found last season, going deep into the Asian Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup and King’s Cup can impact league form. Having so many games should at least help keep all the players happy with rumors already that Abderrazak Hamdallah, the Saudi Pro League’s top scorer last season, is unhappy at playing second fiddle to Benzema. There is also the major injury to defensive lynchpin Ahmed Hegazi but overall, Ittihad look formidable.

Al-Nassr finished second after half a season of Cristiano Ronaldo. Now they have a full campaign with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

Marcelo Brozovic and Sadio Mane have come in from Inter Milan and Bayern Munich respectively and are genuine top-class players. Then there is Seko Fofana and Alex Telles adding to the talent from last season such as Anderson Talisca, Abdulrahman Ghareeb and Sultan Al-Ghannam. Al-Nassr are stacked, especially in midfield and attack.

After a poor start to pre-season, the team looks to be coming together under coach Luis Castro. It remains to be seen if the boss — one of six Portuguese managers in the league — can deal with the pressure that is on the Yellows to win the league. 

Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal know all about that and are desperate for title No. 19 after third place last time around. Going far on four fronts was too much for the squad that had not been refreshed due to past transfer window bans. 

It’s stale no longer. Kalidou Koulibaly has come in from Chelsea to shore up the defense and the midfield has been seriously upgraded with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ruben Neves arriving from Lazio and Wolverhampton Wanderers respectively. Both were wanted by elite clubs in the big European leagues and are significant signings. Coach Jorge Jesus, appointed for a second spell, also has Brazilian forward Malcom from Zenit St. Petersburg. 

Hilal are sure to be challenging as the club is a winning machine with a number of Saudi Arabian internationals such as Salem Al-Dawsari, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohamed Kanno and Ali Al-Bulaihi and others to call on. Jesus may want a prolific goal scorer to replace Odion Ighalo. If he gets one, then the Blues really will take some stopping.

Many eyes will be on Al-Ahli who have come back up from their season in the second tier. The Jeddah club have signed goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Chelsea and have sensationally added Liverpool legend Roberto Firmino and Riyad Mahrez from Manchester City, perhaps the most talented of all the new arrivals.

Going from the second division to the title is a huge jump but with no continental commitments, they can give it their all and a good start could set them up for a great season and a return to the top four.

Al-Shabab, fourth last season, look to be the best of the rest but haven’t been as busy in the transfer market as their rivals, though there is still time. Ettifaq will be looking to break into the top six on the back of hiring Steven Gerrard as head coach and bringing in Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson.

Liverpool’s worldwide fanbase will be keeping an eye on how they do, but all football fans will be doing the same for the whole league.

This is going to be a Saudi Arabian season like no other.

Jeddah set to host second preliminary regatta of 37th America’s Cup 

Jeddah set to host second preliminary regatta of 37th America’s Cup 
Updated 27 November 2023

Jeddah set to host second preliminary regatta of 37th America’s Cup 

Jeddah set to host second preliminary regatta of 37th America’s Cup 

JEDDAH: Jeddah is preparing to host one of the most anticipated regattas in the sailing world as the America’s Cup comes to town between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2.

The regatta is taking place at Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina, one of the most modern in the Red Sea.

Emirates Team New Zealand will be defending their title against teams from the UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, and the US.

Participating teams alongside the defending champions include INEOS Britannia, Alinghi Red Bull Racing, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, NYYC American Magic, and Orient Express Racing Team.

The race schedule will include three days of fleet races. The racing area is immediately offshore from the Jeddah Yacht Club and Marina, and races will be broadcast live on the America’s Cup YouTube channel.

The schedule is: Nov. 28, official practice; Nov. 29, official practice; Nov. 30, race day one — three fleet races; Dec. 1, race day two — three fleet races; Dec. 2, race day three — two fleet races, match race final (one race).

The event is backed by the Saudi Sailing Federation and the Ministry of Sport, in conjunction with Neom.

Both bodies are working in partnership with the America’s Cup to ensure that the event will be a “catalyst” to inspire local people, as well as helping to broaden access to the Red Sea, according to Samia Bagdady, CEO of the Saudi Sailing Federation.

The federation also plans to use the event to launch new initiatives to help as a key driver for the region’s top sailors of tomorrow to get the support and training they need to compete on the global stage.

Jeddah spectators and America’s Cup fans are eager to get a glimpse of the world’s finest foiling sailors as they engage for the first time in such a race on the Red Sea.

Hattan Halawani, 29, a resident of Jeddah, told Arab News that it was a great opportunity to see the top sailors competing.

He added: “We are really lucky to witness this highly anticipated event here in Jeddah and we are looking forward to spending an exciting time, starting on Wednesday.”

Spectators can watch the action on the big screen, and there will be daily entertainment, along with a merchandise store where fans can buy their favorite team kit while grabbing refreshments.

The yacht club’s top floor will give America’s Cup sponsors and guests VIP views overlooking the racing area.

Team bases will be next to the marina, with viewing spots adding an extra layer of excitement.

Spectators will be able to watch boats coming in and out of the marina as they head out or back from the racing, as well as having spectacular views from the Jeddah Corniche Race Village.

Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad triumph in volleyball clashes at Saudi Games

Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad triumph in volleyball clashes at Saudi Games
Updated 25 November 2023

Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad triumph in volleyball clashes at Saudi Games

Al-Hilal, Al-Ittihad triumph in volleyball clashes at Saudi Games
  • Al-Hilal defeat Abha by three sets to one
  • In the women’s competition, Al-Ahli defeat Al-Ittihad in three clean sets

RIYADH: Al-Ahli men’s volleyball club defeated Damac in a match held at the Ministry of Sports Hall in the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex during the Saudi Games 2023 competitions.
Al-Hilal defeated Abha by three sets to one, before Al-Ittihad beat Al-Khaleej by a similar result.
In the women’s volleyball competition, Al-Ahli won against Al-Ittihad in three clean sets. Similarly, Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, and Al-Anqaa secured victories against their respective opponents.

Weightlifting enthusiasts witnessed the youth, women, and men’s competitions at the Riyadh Club Sport Hall on Friday. Al-Hada Club’s Murtadha Al-Nasser outclassed his contenders in the 55 kg youth category, leading with a total of 198 kg.
In the women’s 49 kg competition, Margarita Yelisseyeva from Al-Nour Club came out on top with a total of 133 kg.
In the men’s 61 kg category, players from Al Taraji team claimed the top three positions.
Seraaj Al Saleem came in first with a total of 265 kg, followed by Mansour Al Saleem with 255 kg and Laith Al Baqer with 248 kg.

Billiards and snooker
Billiards saw the 32nd round of 10-ball billiards for men, the 16th round of 14-ball snooker for men took place, and the nine-ball billiards for women.

Wheelchair basketball
The Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex’s Paralympic Hall hosted the wheelchair basketball competitions. The Riyadh team defeated Al-Qassim with a score of 102-15, while the Jazan team claimed victory against Al-Hasa by 36-20.

Saturday’s competitions
The Green Hall at Riyadh’s Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex hosts volleyball action, featuring both men’s and women’s teams as part of Saturday’s competitions.
Meanwhile, Riyadh Club Sports Hall hosts weightlifting competitions, and wheelchair basketball matches resume in the Paralympic Hall.
The Black Diamond Center will see the completion of billiards competitions, while the kiteboarding competitions will conclude at the Lagoona Resort at the King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah.
Boxing competitions are set to begin in the swimming hall of the King Saud University, featuring various weight categories for both men and women.
Additionally, men’s and women’s singles badminton competitions will commence at the Leadership Development Institute at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.

Guinness World Records challenges in the fan zone
The fan zone at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex opens its doors to visitors on Sunday to offer an array of interactive experiences, including the active program from the Guinness Book of World Records. Participants can challenge themselves, friends, and family to break world records and create memorable moments. Entry to the fan zone is free, but advanced registration is required via the website

Riyadh hosts Asian Paralympic General Assembly on Saturday

Riyadh hosts Asian Paralympic General Assembly on Saturday
Updated 24 November 2023

Riyadh hosts Asian Paralympic General Assembly on Saturday

Riyadh hosts Asian Paralympic General Assembly on Saturday
  • Heads of international and regional Paralympic federations are expected to attend the four-day forum
  • Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s vice president, will inaugurate the forum’s first day

RIYADH: For the first time in its history, Riyadh will host the forum and the electoral General Assembly of the Asian Paralympic Committee, with the participation of more than 200 attendees representing 45 Asian countries.
Several heads of international and regional Paralympic federations are also expected to attend the four-day forum, according to a media statement on Friday.
Prince Fahad bin Jalawi, the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s vice president, will inaugurate the forum’s first day on behalf of SOPC’s President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.
There will be speeches from SOPC, and Majid Rashid, president of the Asian Paralympic Committee, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Meanwhile, Prince Abdulaziz will be awarded the honorary prize for his service to Paralympic sports in the Asian continent.
The first day’s evening witnesses the ceremony for the Asian Paralympic Committee Awards in its seven categories, in addition to a dinner in honor of the delegations participating in the forum and the General Assembly.
Rashid will preside over the committee’s General Assembly on Nov. 28.
Members of the assembly will witness the opening ceremony of the Saudi Games 2023 at 7:30 p.m. in the evening.
The committee’s General Assembly concludes on Tuesday when the executive office elections for the Asian Committee for 2023-2027 will take place.
SOPC is hosting the assembly for the first time since its recent merging of the Olympic and Paralympic committees in December 2021. This is a result of the General Assembly’s decision to support the equality of opportunities that both Olympic and Paralympic athletes can enjoy under various initiatives and investments connected to Vision 2030.

Al-Rajhi, Al-Balooshi and Al-Tuwaijri lead car, motorcycle and quad battle after opening stage of Rally Qassim Toyota 2023

Al-Rajhi, Al-Balooshi and Al-Tuwaijri lead car, motorcycle and quad battle after opening stage of Rally Qassim Toyota 2023
Updated 24 November 2023

Al-Rajhi, Al-Balooshi and Al-Tuwaijri lead car, motorcycle and quad battle after opening stage of Rally Qassim Toyota 2023

Al-Rajhi, Al-Balooshi and Al-Tuwaijri lead car, motorcycle and quad battle after opening stage of Rally Qassim Toyota 2023
  • Saudi trio of Asiri, Seaidan and Al-Hameli on top in T2, T3 and T4 categories
  • Al-Rajhi said: “It was a good stage for us. I drive well and Timo did a great job with no mistakes”

BURAIDAH: Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Mohammed Al-Balooshi and Haitham Al-Tuwaijri extended their advantages in the car, motorcycle and quad categories after the Ash Shimasiyah desert stage of 186 km at Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 on Friday morning.
After winning the Prologue on Thursday afternoon, Al-Rajhi and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk opted to start the first of two desert stages from 10th on the road, and the Saudi used that starting position to full advantage to win the day’s test in his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux and extend his lead to 2 minutes 41 seconds.
Al-Rajhi said: “It was a good stage for us. I drive well and Timo did a great job with no mistakes. We had a clean run and we have a good gap and, I think for tomorrow, we take it easy.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon began the stage from ninth on the road. The Brazilian was able to record the second quickest time to maintain a cushion of 7 minutes 4 seconds over third-placed Saleh Alabdulali and co-driver Mohammed Al-Naim in a Yazeed Racing-backed Toyota.
Alabdulali said: “I had a puncture in the very first kilometer of the stage and it took me two minutes roughly to change the tyre. The stage was very open, so it needed more attention for navigation and checkpoints. Lucas caught us after 70 or 80 km and we finished the stage together. It was a decent start after a three-year hiatus and a new car for me with one day to practice and adapt. I’m hoping for a better run tomorrow.”
Race World Can-Am Maverick driver Yasir Seaidan teamed up with former French Dakar rider Michael Metge to finish the day in fourth and build up a lead of 5 minutes p13sec in the T3 section for lightweight prototype machines. He said: “A nice fast stage but it was not suitable for Can-Ams with only 135 km/h top speed on the speedy sections. We crossed the dunes nicely with the crispy hard top layer (sand) after the rain.”
Their closest challenger was Dark Horse Team Can-Am Maverick X3 driver Saleh Al-Saif, who finished the stage in fifth and held a similar position in the general classification. The UAE duo of Rashid Al-Ketbi and Ali Mirza brought the first of the R-X Sport-run Can-Ams home in 10th behind the Nissans of Khalid Al-Feraihi. Faris Al-Moshna, Abdullah Al-Haydan and Al-Mashna Al-Ramali.
Al-Ketbi said: “Dania (Akeel) urged me to participate in the rally. It was enjoyable. Our initial aim is to finish the rally safely without problems, so we drove accordingly.”
Saudi Arabia’s leading female driver Dania Akeel came home in 11th and fourth in T3 in the second of the R-X Sport Mavericks with French co-driver Stephane Duple.
“Fun and fast,” said Akeel. “A lot of open spaces. Beautiful desert scenery as always. The desert was green instead of brown because of all the rain. It was a big advantage for T1 cars. We would catch the T1 on the dunes in a short distance and then lose them again on the flats. It was interesting trying to pass the faster cars with a higher speed limit.”
Mohammed Al-Asiri held a narrow advantage over Khaled Al-Shammeri and Abdullah Al-Sanad in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles, while Ahmed Al-Shegawi lost his overnight T4 lead to Maha Al-Hameli’s 20th-placed Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo RR.
UAE rider Mohammed Al-Balooshi was again the class of the motorcycle field on his KTM 450. The FIM Bajas World Cup champion won the day’s stage by 2 minutes 59 seconds to extend his lead over local rider Anas Al-Rahyani to 3 minutes 15 seconds. Qatar-based Martin Chalmers and the Saudi duo of Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera and Marwan Al-Ramani rounded off the top five on a stage where Gerard Lubbinge was the only biker to struggle with the loss of over a quarter of an hour.
Al-Balooshi said: “Very fast tracks but we reached the finish line in one piece. I am hoping to continue on the same pace tomorrow.”
Fifth-placed Al-Ramani added: “It was a nice stage. I enjoyed it with such an atmosphere. They were very fast tracks so it should be taken cautiously by the newbies. I put in a good performance.”
The Yamaha duo of Haitham Al-Tuwaijri and Qatar-based Emiel Stuckens were again the class of the quad field but the Belgian won the stage to reduce his rival’s advantage to 58 seconds. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi was a distant third and Hani Al-Noumesi came home in fourth. Clutch issues sidelined Abdulrahman Alabdullatif before the stage started.
Stage winner Stuckens said: “It was awesome. The weather was nice and the scenery was beautiful. The tracks were very fast and it was nice navigation. I liked it.”
Al-Tuwaijri said: “It was a fast and easy stage with no risks and no dramas. Tomorrow, I will push more.”
The third round of the Saudi Toyota Championship is being organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, in conjunction with the Ministry of Sport, and in alliance with Abdul Latif Jameel Motors Toyota as the official partner and strategic partner Saudi Investment Bank. The event is under the supervision of SAMF President Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal.
Saturday’s action will take place over a shorter Al Mithnab stage of 121 km with the first motorcycle starting the timed section at 07:05 a.m. and the first car at 08:35 a.m.

Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 – positions after SS1 – unofficial (top 20 only):
1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota Hilux (T1P) 1hr 34min 42sec
2. Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Armand Monleón (ESP) Toyota Hilux (T1P) 1hr 37min 23sec
3. Saleh Al-Alabdulali (SAU)/Mohammed Al-Naim (SAU) Toyota Hilux 1hr 41min 46sec
4. Yasir Seaidan (SAU)/Michael Metge (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 1hr 53min 03sec
5. Saleh Al-Saif (SAU)/Egor Okhotnikov (FIA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 1hr 58min 16sec
6. Khalid Al-Feraihi (SAU)/Sébastien Delaunay (FRA) Nissan 1hr 59min 25sec
7. Faris Al-Moshna (SAU)/Khalid Al-Bakr (SAU) Nissan 1hr 59min 44sec
8. Abdullah Al-Haydan (SAU)/Bader Al-Ajmi (KWT) Nissan 2hr 00min 45sec
9. Al-Mashna Al-Ramali (SAU)/Mazen Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 2hr 01min 50sec
10. Rashid Al-Ketbi (ARE)/Ali Mirza (ARE) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 03min 17sec
11. Dania Akeel (SAU)/Stéphane Duplé (FRA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 03min 40sec
12. Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh (SAU)/Omar Al-Lahim (SAU) Nissan 2hr 06min 55sec
13. Mohammed Asiri (SAU)/Suleiman Al-Oraini (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 07min 18sec
14. Hamad Al-Harbi (SAU)/Aleksandr Alekseev (FIA) Can-Am Maverick X3 (T3) 2hr 07min 20sec
15. Khaled Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Fahad Al-Omar (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 08min 19sec
16. Owaid Al-Shammeri (SAU)/Ayidh Al-Harbi (SAU) Nissan 2hr 09min 29sec
17. Fahad Al-Marmash (SAU)/Yazeed Al-Shammeri (SAU) Nissan 2hr 09min 52sec
18. Abdullah Al-Sanad (SAU)/Abdullatif Al-Sanad (SAU) Nissan (T2) 2hr 09min 53sec
19. Majed Al-Thunayyan (SAU)/Aleksei Kuzmich (ARE) Nissan (T2) 2hr 16min 38sec
20. Maha Al-Hameli (SAU)/Oriol Mena (ESP) Can-Am Maverick XRS Turbo (T4) 2hr 19min 07sec
T1 unless stated

1. Mohammed Al-Balooshi (ARE) KTM 450 2hr 19min 41sec
2. Anass Al-Rahyani (SAU) KTM 2hr 22min 56sec
3. Martin Chalmers (QAT) Beta 430RR 2hr 26min 23sec
4. Abdulhalim Al-Mogheera (SAU) KTM 2hr 26min 50sec
5. Marwan Al-Rahmani (ARE) KTM 2hr 27min 10sec
6. Bader Al-Hamdan (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F 2hr 28min 42sec
7. Ehab Al-Hakeem (SAU) Yamaha WR450 F 2hr 36min 43sec
8. Hamdan Al-Ali (ARE) Husqvarna 2hr 36min 48sec
9. Philip Horlemann (ARE) Husqvarna 2hr 46min 40sec
10. Bader Al-Bader (SAU) KTM 2hr 50min 00sec
11. Ibrahim Bugla (ARE) Husqvarna 3hr 00min 53sec
12. Gerard Lubbinge (QAT) KTM 3hr 12min 46sec

1. Haitham Al-Tuwaijri (SAU) Yamaha 2hr 42min 23sec
2. Emiel Stuckens (QAT) Yamaha 2hr 43min 21sec
3. Abdulaziz Al-Atawi (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 01min 14sec
4. Hani Al-Noumesi (SAU) Yamaha 3hr 08min 23sec
5. Abdulrahman Alabdullatif (SAU) Yamaha TRXX 700
13hr 28min 48sec
6. Maya Tamime (TUN) Honda 14hr 50min 28sec

Volleyball, kiteboarding kick off day one of Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball, kiteboarding kick off day one of Saudi Games 2023
Updated 24 November 2023

Volleyball, kiteboarding kick off day one of Saudi Games 2023

Volleyball, kiteboarding kick off day one of Saudi Games 2023
  • Weightlifting, billiards and wheelchair basketball to begin on Friday

RIYADH: The second edition of the Saudi Games began on Thursday as the Al-Hilal women's volleyball team secured a victory over Al-Nassr, with a score of three games to two, at Green Hall at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex in Riyadh.

In an action-packed day of volleyball, the women’s Al-Riyadh team defeated Manjam Al-Mwuahib with an impressive 3-0 win, while Al-Ittihad achieved a 3-0 victory against Al-Zulfi. Meanwhile, Al-Ahli triumphed over Al-Anqaa with a final score of 3-0.

The volleyball competitions will continue on Friday — in the women's category, Al-Riyadh and Al-Nassr will go head-to-head, while Al-Hilal will take on Manjam Al-Mwuahib. Al-Ahli will face off against Al-Ittihad, and Al-Zulfi will compete against Al-Anqaa. 

In the men's volleyball, Al-Safa will play Al-Ibtisam, Al-Nassr will face off against Al-Faisaly, and Al-Ahli will compete against Al-Wehda. Lastly, Al-Hedaya will take on Damac.

The kiteboard competition will also continue on Friday at the Lagoona Beach in the King Abdullah Economic City in Jeddah.

Weightlifting will start on Friday at the Riyadh Club Sports Hall, commencing with the youth category's 55 kg division, followed by the women's 49 kg category. The day will conclude with the men's 61 kg competition.

The Black Diamond Center will host tomorrow's billiards match-ups, which will include men's 10-ball and Snooker competition and women's 9-ball competition.

Friday's wheelchair basketball will get underway in the Paralympic Hall of the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Complex.