Next World Forum driving major business growth in gaming and esports

Next World Forum driving major business growth in gaming and esports
Turki Alfawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation. (SEF)
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Updated 01 September 2023
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Next World Forum driving major business growth in gaming and esports

Next World Forum driving major business growth in gaming and esports
  • Agreement signed between 6 Gulf countries to establish the GCC Esports Federation
  • ‘This is just the beginning,’ says Turki Alfawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation

RIYADH: The Next World Forum, the global industry gathering created to shape the future of the gaming and esports sector, has helped drive major business growth, organizers said on Thursday as the two-day conference concluded.

Hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh in Kingdom Center, the Next World Forum brought the global gaming and esports community together to discuss the development of its ecosystem.

Organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, more than 2,500 delegates were in attendance, including CEOs, government ministers, investors, gamers, developers, publishers, broadcasters, and leaders from gaming, entertainment, technology and sports.

An agreement between the six GCC countries to establish the GCC Esports Federation and elevate athletes through annual eLeague tournaments, was one of 14 signed Wednesday and Thursday at the Next World Forum. Other business deals were also agreed at the forum’s second edition, which has built on the success of last year’s inaugural event.

Turki Alfawzan, CEO of the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “The Next World Forum has provided the worldwide industry of gaming and esports an extensive platform for business growth and progression that further our aims of Saudi Arabia becoming a global hub for gaming and esports.

“Being part of the Next World Forum platform has proved a win for everyone. In our exceptionally rapid industry that is changing dramatically on a seemingly constant basis, the chance to converge in Riyadh instigates big ideas, meaningful discussions, and exceptional business opportunities.

“As we all reflect on two days of inspiration and action, our message from the conclusion of this year’s Next World Forum is very much that this is just the beginning.”

The opening day’s panel sessions included discussions with Gareth Bale, the former star footballer and esports investor and enthusiast, and Michael Bay, the producer and director of films including “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and the “Transformers” film series.

On day two several sessions took place titled: “The Players Deserve Better: The Future of Gaming and Esports Facilities,” “Power Play Chat: A Conversation between Changemakers,” “Virtual Realities, Real World Consequences: The Impact of Politics in Gaming,” “Breaking the Code: The Challenges for Women in Gaming Leadership,” and “The Next Level: A New Chapter for the Saudi Esports Federation.”

Other sessions were titled: “AI-pocalypse Now – Where Do We Draw the Line?” “Press the Pause Button: Analyzing Esports Players’ Mental and Physical Health,” “Better Digital Governance in the Metaverse and the Blockchain,” “Gaming Localization: Speaking to Gamers in their Language,” and “Stronger Together: The ESL FACEIT Group Story.”

Reaam Alkhudairi, program manager for the Next World Forum, and corporate communications and public relations team lead at the Saudi Esports Federation, said: “Encapsulating creativity, innovation and diversity, we are immensely proud that the Next World Forum panels embraced the full spectrum of gaming and esports and its associated industries. Featuring eminent leaders and expert speakers, the forum attracted more than 2,500 delegates this year from all corners of the world, fully reflecting the global appeal of gaming.

“The Next World Forum this year set out seeking to ask the tough questions of gaming and esports — after much discussion over the past two days, one thing every delegate will absolutely agree upon is that the forum has helped significantly shape the future of our industry.”

The Next World Forum also brought the curtain down on Gamers8: The Land of Heroes, the biggest gaming and esports festival worldwide, which began on July 6 at Boulevard Riyadh City featuring 16 elite tournaments from 13 top titles.


Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
Updated 17 June 2024
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Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024

Jude Bellingham’s goal secures England a 1-0 win against Serbia at Euro 2024
GELSENKIRCHEN: Jude Bellingham scored to give England a winning start at the European Championship by beating Serbia 1-0 on Sunday.
The Real Madrid star put England in front with a stooping header in the 13th minute at the Veltins Arena after Bukayo Saka’s cross.
Victory sent England to the top of Group C after Denmark drew 1-1 with Slovenia earlier in the day, with Christian Eriksen scoring three years after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field at the last Euros.
Gareth Southgate’s England was a beaten finalist at the last Euros, losing on penalties to Italy in the final three years ago. It is one of the favorites this time around.
The buildup to the game had been overshadowed by concerns about violence between rival supporters. And some of those fears were realized when police rushed to separate brawling fans in Gelsenkirchen earlier in the day.
Social media footage showed men throwing chairs at each other outside a restaurant festooned with Serbian flags in the city.

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland
Updated 16 June 2024
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Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

Netherlands start Euro 2024 campaign with 2-1 win over Poland

HAMBURG: Substitute Wout Weghorst snatched a late winner for the Netherlands in a 2-1 victory over Poland on Sunday in their opening Euro 2024 clash.

The Burnley striker, who burst into life at the 2022 World Cup, once again brought his best game to the big stage in Hamburg as Poland looked to have frustrated their opponents, despite injured striker Robert Lewandowski being unable to play.

The Barcelona striker’s replacement Adam Buksa, headed Poland in front after 16 minutes before Cody Gakpo levelled with a deflected effort at the Volksparkstadion.

Netherlands failed to convert further openings and Poland improved as the game seemed to be heading for a draw, before Weghorst intervened in the 83rd minute to delight his team’s fans.

Clad in their traditional vibrant orange, a sea of bouncing Dutch supporters took over the streets of Hamburg before the game, hoping for a second European Championship trophy.

Coach Ronald Koeman, in his second stint at the helm, won the tournament with the Oranje as a player in 1988.

The Netherlands, who performed strongly two years ago at the Qatar World Cup after failing to reach Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup, came out of the blocks quickly. Despite lacking the star power of previous generations — the likes of Arjen Robben, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Robin van Persie — their current trio of forward are dynamic.

Liverpool winger Gakpo took the creative reins alongside Memphis Depay and Xavi Simons, and tested Wojciech Szczesny with a low drive.

Midfielder Tijjani Reijnders steered a good chance narrowly wide before Michal Probierz’s Poland took the lead against the run of play with one of their first forays forward.

Separately, police shot and injured a man who threatened them with an axe and a Molotov cocktail ahead of a match in Hamburg. The incident triggered a “major operation” in the city’s St. Pauli district, police said on X, formerly Twitter.

“The attacker was injured and is currently receiving medical treatment,” they added.

According to a police spokesman, there was no indication that the incident was linked to the Euro 2024 clash between Poland and the Netherlands taking place later on Sunday.

The attacker “came out of a pub with a pickaxe and a Molotov cocktail and threatened the police,” the spokesman said, adding that the suspect was shot in the leg.

The incident took place near the Reeperbahn station, more than a kilometer away from the city’s official fan zone.

Meanwhile, Scotland manager Steve Clarke said Sunday that he had to “kick a couple of backsides” and “give a couple of cuddles” after his side’s humiliating 5-1 defeat to Germany to open Euro 2024.

Clarke accepted responsibility for a failed tactical plan as the host nation ran riot against the 10-man Scots in Munich on Friday night.

“I’ve spoken to the players about what I feel was wrong from my side and what I gave them,” Clarke told reporters.

“I think their interpretation of what we asked them to do was wrong, so we’ve worked on that.

“I had a little chat with a lot of them on the training pitch this morning. Just to try to put one or two things in their head about things they maybe didn’t do on the pitch that they should have done.”

Scotland have never made it out of the group stage at a major tournament in 11 attempts.


‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card

‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card
Updated 16 June 2024
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‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card

‘I feel dangerous!’: Former champion Robert Whittaker accepts risky Khamzat Chimaev replacement to save UFC Saudi Arabia card
  • Ikram Aliskerov (15-1) steps in to replace Khamzat Chimaev (13-0)
  • Whittaker plans to ‘go in there and conquer’

LONDON: It has been a turbulent week for the UFC, with two high-profile cards enduring significant reshuffling. In the same 24 hours as Conor McGregor’s removal from UFC 300 was confirmed, it transpired that Khamzat Chimaev had been pulled from his main event clash with Robert Whittaker at UFC Saudi Arabia due to illness.

The Kingdom has emerged as an epicenter for combat sports in recent months, and the June 22 event in Riyadh will mark the first time the UFC hosts an event there. The loss of Chimaev is significant; not only is the Swede a significant contender for the middleweight title, but he is also a big star. The UFC was forced to pivot, and in stepped Ikram Aliskerov, a ferocious fighter on a seven-fight winning streak, with his only career loss coming at the hands of Chimaev.

This is a huge opportunity for the Russian. Ranked outside the top 15, but with two straight first-round finishes since his arrival in the UFC, the 31-year-old has a chance to usurp his opponent’s No. 3 ranking in the division. Whittaker deserves huge credit for accepting the fight, where he stands to gain little but lose a lot.

“It’s a little annoying. I spent months working for Chimaev because he’s a unique fighter, but I’m sure none of the skills I worked on will go to waste,” explained the Australian in an exclusive interview with Arab News. “The Reaper” acknowledges the challenge posed by Aliskerov: “Ikram’s a hard fight. I know he’s kind of come out of nowhere, but that element makes him more dangerous in other aspects. Plus, I think he’s better at certain angles in the fight game than Chimaev anyway,” he explained, adding, “The task is the same: Get in there, conquer, and go home.”

Whittaker ascended to the interim middleweight champion status following his victory at UFC 213. He later attained the position of undisputed champion when Georges St-Pierre relinquished the UFC Middleweight Championship in 2017. It was a landmark moment for “Bobby Knuckles,” who became the first-ever Australian champion in UFC history. Aside from knowing what it is like to hold the belt, the 26-7 star is a veteran of 21 fights inside the Octagon, and his attitude exemplifies just why he is so beloved by most MMA fans.

“It is what it is! I came here to fight. I’m headlining the card, I understand the responsibilities that that entails, I understand the amount of work that needs to go around it. The card is reliant on me to some degree,” said Whittaker. “Another thing is I’ve put three months’ work in. I’m shredded, I’m fit, I’m ready to fight. I’m not going to throw that away. If there’s a way to save the card, I’m going to do that. Props to Ikram for taking it. The fight goes on.”

Whittaker comes into this fight on the back of a crucial win over No. 8-ranked Paulo Costa at UFC 288. Having suffered a second-round knockout loss to current champion Dricus du Plessis in his previous fight, it was vital for the Sydneysider to get back in the win column. “It was massive. Any win is important. A win after a loss is even more important, especially the way that I lost against Dricus,” he reasoned, before adding, “I’m going into this fight with my head screwed on with the objective clear in my sights and a new kind of predator’s gaze.”

Du Plessis has already stated in interviews that even if Whittaker were to beat Chimaev, that would not be enough to earn a title shot. With the Aussie now facing an unranked opponent, it is likely he will need one more to seal a crack at gold, and many fans have been calling for a scrap with another former champion, Sean Strickland. “He looks like an awkward fight. I was trying to get him out to fight him before he beat Izzy (Adesanya), and then that obviously derailed my plans a little bit,” said Whittaker.

“We’re both in the division, we’re both at the top. Our paths will cross,” he added.

As far as Du Plessis’ comments go, Whittaker could not care less. The 33-year-old is fully focused on the task at hand and having spent 13 years fighting at the highest level, he understands one thing rings truest in the world of MMA: “Mate, winning opens doors,” he said. “I’ll worry about getting my hand raised and putting on a show and see how the chips fall after.”


T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland

T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland
Updated 16 June 2024
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T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland

T20 World Cup: Babar delivers captain’s knock as Pakistan bow out with win over Ireland
  • Ireland had recovered from a poor start to make 106-9 with Gareth Delany making 31 runs off 19 balls
  • Shaheen Afridi took three wickets and then hit two sixes as Pakistan ended a disappointing tournament

LAUDERHILL: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam guided his team to victory over Ireland on Sunday, with an unbeaten 32, in their final game at the T20 World Cup, avoiding another embarrassing loss for his already eliminated side.
Shaheen Shah Afridi took three wickets and then hit two sixes to win the game as Pakistan ended a disappointing tournament with a three-wicket win at Central Broward Stadium.
Ireland had recovered from a poor start to make 106-9 with Gareth Delany making 31 off 19 balls and although Pakistan wobbled at 62-6, captain Babar’s 32 off 34 balls steadied the ship and avoided another defeat.
Pakistan’s shock defeat to the USA and loss to India meant they were eliminated from second-round contention before Sunday’s final Group A game in Florida.
After the first three games at the South Florida venue were all abandoned because heavy rains caused a waterlogged outfield, the overwhelmingly pro-Pakistan crowd were rewarded with some top class opening bowling.
Left-arm seamer Shaheen Shah Afridi (3-22) did the bulk of the damage picking up three early wickets as Ireland’s top order was ripped apart.

Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates the wicket of Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida on June 16, 2024. (AP)

The Irish, who have not been able to practice for the past week due to wet facilities, were in deep trouble at 32-6 with seamer Mohammad Amir also picking up two wickets on a surface that was offering plenty for the quick bowlers.
Delany provided some much needed resistance for the Irish, blasting three sixes as he made 31 from 19 balls.
Delany’s entertaining knock — and a 44 run partnership with Mark Adair — came to an end when Imad Wasim’s slow left-arm spin found the edge and Shabad Khan ran in from point to make the catch.
Adair tried to keep the momentum going but he departed for 15 when he slogged Imad to long on and Afridi held on to the catch despite Usman Khan colliding with him.
All-rounder Imad picked up his third wicket by bowling Barry McCarthy but Josh Little provided some valuable lower order runs with his unbeaten 22 taking Ireland to three figures.

Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir, back to the camera, celebrates with teammates the wicket of Ireland’s George Dockrell during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup cricket match between Ireland and Pakistan at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill, Florida, Sunday, June 16, 2024. (AP)

McCarthy, who finished with figures of 3-15, gave Ireland some hope with a lively opening spell, picking up the wickets of Mohammad Rizwan (17) and removing Usman Khan and Shabad Khan cheaply.
When Curtis Campher dismissed Imad Wasim, whose cut shot to point was well held by Harry Tector, Pakistan looked in danger of another upset at 62-6.
But a 33 run seventh wicket partnership between Babar Azam and Abbas Afridi steadied the innings and Shaheen Shah Afridi’s two big heaves over mid-wicket ensured victory with seven balls to spare.
“Let’s see, what team needs, I’ll be okay with it. We have a good bunch of players, we’ve to go home, chat and see where we lacked, and then come back. Couldn’t finish off close games, as a team we weren’t good as a team,” said Babar.
The win meant that Pakistan finished third in the group and Ireland ended bottom with a solitary point from their washed-out game against the USA.


Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion
Updated 16 June 2024
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Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia crowned Australian Open badminton champion

SYDNEY: Malaysian Lee Zii Jia outlasted Japan’s Kodai Naraoka in the men’s singles final to be crowned Australian Open badminton champion Sunday, while Aya Ohori of Japan clinched the women’s title.
With many of the top-ranked players giving the tournament a miss, world number eight Lee took advantage to upset his sixth-ranked opponent 21-19, 11-21, 21-18 in Sydney.
It was his sixth career win on the BWF World Tour and came on the back of victory at the Thailand Open last month.
Ohori triumphed with a gutsy 17-21, 21-19, 21-16 come-from-behind beating of 35th-ranked Indonesian teenager Ester Nurumi Tri Wardoyo.
It was only her second title on tour, having won her first at the Thailand Masters this year.
In the men’s doubles final, China’s He Ji Ting and Ren Xiang Yu swept past Indonesian pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-11, 21-10
But another Indonesian duo, Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma and Amallia Cahaya Pratiwi, broke through to win the women’s doubles, having lost previous finals at the Spain Masters and Thailand Open.
They recovered from a game down to oust Malaysia’s Lai Pei Jing and Lim Chiew Sien 12-21, 21-7, 21-13.
Chinese top seeds Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Zin overcame countrymen Guo Xin Wa and Chen Fang Hui in the mixed doubles decider by two-games-to-one.
The circuit moves to Fort Worth in the United States next.