Cristiano Ronaldo sends message of support to Morocco’s earthquake victims

Cristiano Ronaldo sends message of support to Morocco’s earthquake victims
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Updated 10 September 2023
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Cristiano Ronaldo sends message of support to Morocco’s earthquake victims

Cristiano Ronaldo sends message of support to Morocco’s earthquake victims
  • The UN on Sunday estimated that 300,000 people had been affected by the earthquake

LONDON: Al-Nassr and Portugal superstar footballer Cristiano Ronaldo shared a message of support for victims of the Moroccan earthquake on his Instagram channel on Sunday.

More than 2,100 people have been killed and thousands more injured after a powerful 6.8 magnitude quake rocked an area around 72 km southwest of Marrakesh on Friday.

“My deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost their lives in the earthquake in Morocco. Sending love and prayers to all in Morocco at this very difficult time,” Ronaldo said in an Instagram story.

The UN on Sunday estimated that 300,000 people had been affected by the earthquake and some Moroccans have complained on social networks that the government has not allowed more help from outside.

Flags were lowered across Morocco on Sunday as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning.


Ronaldo returns against Al-Ain as Al-Nassr eye AFC Champions League glory

Ronaldo returns against Al-Ain as Al-Nassr eye AFC Champions League glory
Updated 04 March 2024
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Ronaldo returns against Al-Ain as Al-Nassr eye AFC Champions League glory

Ronaldo returns against Al-Ain as Al-Nassr eye AFC Champions League glory
  • 9 points behind Al-Hilal in the SPL title race, Al-Nassr’s best chance of success this season could be in the Asian competition

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo returns to action for Al-Nassr on Monday with a simple task: rescue the team’s season and lead them to success in the AFC Champions League.

On Monday, the nine-time Saudi Arabia champions will make the short trip to the UAE to take on Al-Ain in the first leg of the quarterfinal in Asia’s biggest club competition. It comes at a crucial time in the season for a team that has never won the continental title.

At the moment, Al-Nassr are in second in the Roshn Saudi League but Ronaldo was on the sidelines last Thursday with head in his hands as Al-Nassr hosted the bottom team Al-Hazem.

Four times the Yellows took the lead and fans and Ronaldo sat back in anticipation of a comfortable win. Yet four times the visitors came back, helped by some dreadful Al-Nassr defending, to draw 4-4 and grab a point.

The 39-year-old had been banned for one game after making an offensive gesture during a Saudi Arabia league match four days earlier. At the end of the 3-2 win over Al-Shabab, video footage appeared to show Ronaldo cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, in a gesture that seemed to be aimed at Al-Shabab fans.

The draw with Al-Hazem leaves Al-Nassr — even at this stage of the season — with a mountain to climb if they are to win the Saudi Pro League.

“Ronaldo strengthens the team and ensures that the opponent respects you more but his absence had nothing to do with the result,” said a visibly frustrated Al-Nassr coach Luis Castro. “The fact is that we are conceding too many goals and the problem is not organizational but due to individual mistakes. At the moment we are now focused on the Asian Champions League.”

Al-Hilal’s 3-1 win over Al-Ittihad on Friday leaves them strong favorites for another league championship. In theory it is not over — Hilal themselves have overturned such deficits in the past to lift the title. But with the leaders winning their last 25 games in all competitions, it is almost unimaginable that they will not win a 19th league title.

So it means that Al-Nassr know that only glory in Asia and winning the continental championship for the first time will save their season. The King’s Cup is always a welcome domestic trophy, but does not quite hold the same gravitas.

The tie against Al-Ain will not be easy. The Emirati club won their group and then got past Nasaf of Uzbekistan in the round of 16. They are going well at home and abroad and are unbeaten in eight, with seven of those ending in victory.

They possess plenty of attacking talent and will have watched Al-Nassr’s defensive issues of late with interest. Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba especially will be looking forward to it. The Togolese international has already scored six goals in Asia this season and has been in fine form domestically.

Al-Ain boss Hernan Crespo will have some sympathy for Al-Nassr. The Argentine legend was in charge of Qatar’s Al-Duhail last year and took the team to the last four where they were hit for seven by Hilal.

“We know how strong Al-Nassr are,” said Crespo. “They are full of talented players and it will be a great challenge for us. You expect to face tough opposition at this stage of the continental championship. We will have to be at our best.”

While Ronaldo’s return is big news, there will also be huge interest in Tuesday’s clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in Riyadh.

Hilal’s recent SPL win over the Tigers was deserved though, the team from Jeddah could have gone in at the break 2-0 ahead instead of 1-0, and then the rest of the game would have been very different.

The problem for Al-Ittihad, and shared by the rest of the Saudi Arabia teams as well as Asia, is how to stop Al-Hilal.

Now that the Blues are nine points clear at the top of the table, they can almost afford to turn their focus to the Champions League.

Hilal may still have Neymar out, but Aleksandar Mitrovic is in excellent form as are Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

But Al-Ittihad can also save their season. The best they can probably manage at home is to sneak into the top three.

A win in Asia, however, and a third continental title would make what has been a forgettable season into something special. It is the biggest game of their season and Al-Nassr can say the same.


Saudi Arabian Football Federation launches platform to broadcast local competition matches across the Kingdom

Saudi Arabian Football Federation launches platform to broadcast local competition matches across the Kingdom
Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi Arabian Football Federation launches platform to broadcast local competition matches across the Kingdom

Saudi Arabian Football Federation launches platform to broadcast local competition matches across the Kingdom
  • SAFF+ will initially deliver coverage of 15 men’s and women’s competitions utilizing cloud broadcast technology and cameras in 62 stadiums
  • Platform also set to house player database to support clubs, coaches, scouts and national youth teams with talent technical analysis

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has unveiled SAFF+, an AI-assisted multi-purpose digital platform that will air all local competition matches that do not have exclusive broadcast rights.

The SAFF+ platform will begin streaming matches on a trial basis through its dedicated website, with a smartphone application set to be launched next week, the federation said in a release on Monday.

The platform will initially broadcast live coverage of 15 competitions held across 62 stadiums, with more to follow. Utilizing cloud broadcasting technology alongside the high-quality multi-angle cameras fitted in stadiums, SAFF+ will deliver coverage with a Riyadh-based broadcast center overseeing and managing production.

Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said: “The launch of SAFF+ is the realization of a dream to help take Saudi football to the next level and provide fans with instantaneous access to matches being held throughout the Kingdom. By embracing digital transformation and technology integration, we’re excited to enhance fan access to various levels of our national football ecosystem while simultaneously delivering benefits to clubs, coaches, scouts, and our national youth team set-ups through this innovative digital-first platform.”

Besides broadcasting a wide range of men’s and women’s matches across Saudi Arabia, the SAFF has revealed that the platform will also become home to an extensive player database. This is for clubs and national youth teams to access player statistics and data for technical analysis and performance evaluation. Furthermore, this feature is intended to assist coaches and scouts in their talent discovery endeavors.

The new channel is the latest step in the SAFF’s long-term, football transformation strategy, launched in 2021 to help elevate Saudi Arabia to elite status in world football.

The platform will also feature digital content related to the federation’s activities and events, serving as a hub where fans can keep updated on the country’s latest football news, and access behind-the-scenes content.


‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd

‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd
Updated 04 March 2024
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‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd

‘World class’ Foden reaches new heights as Man City inflict more misery on Man Utd
MANCHESTER: Pep Guardiola said Phil Foden has become a “world class” talent capable of deciding big games after the 23-year-old scored twice in Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Manchester United on Sunday.
Marcus Rashford’s wonder strike had fired United into a shock lead at the Etihad.
Erling Haaland was then guilty of a miss that will go down in Premier League folklore when he fired over an open goal just before half-time.
But Foden ensured City ceded no ground in the title race as he blasted into the top corner to level and then produced a composed finish 10 minutes from time.
Haaland atoned for his earlier miss in added time as City moved to within one point of Liverpool ahead of a top-of-the-table clash between the two next Sunday.
“I always had the feeling he would score goals and now he is winning games. To become a world class-player at that age you have to win games,” said Guardiola.
“He lives to play football. That’s why with 18, 19 years old he proved things but now he’s more mature.
“He always scored goals but now scores goals that win games and when you do this, you reach another level as a player.”
An 11th league defeat of the season for United leaves Erik ten Hag’s men 11 points adrift of the top four with 11 games remaining.
United could have few complaints after being outplayed and having just one shot on target, even if it was a spectacular one.
Rashford rounded on his critics this week as he hit back at questions of his commitment.
The England international has been a pale imitation of the forward who scored 30 goals last season for most of this campaign, but showed a glimpse of the quality by smashing in off the crossbar from long range.
Guardiola’s men dominated from that moment on, but were kept at bay for nearly an hour by wayward finishing and some fine goalkeeping by Andre Onana.
Twice the Cameroonian foiled Foden when clean through, while Rodri was also denied by a smart stop low to his left.
United’s lead remained intact until half-time but only thanks to a moment that will be replayed for years.
City finally cut the visitors’ massed defense to shreds as Rodri’s cross was headed back across goal by Foden, inviting the finishing touch from Haaland.
However, he incredibly turned the ball over with the goal gaping from point-blank range.
The rearguard action from the Red Devils was finally undone as Foden produced a strike to match Rashford’s in the first half.
Ten Hag was furious that a foul had not been awarded to Rashford at the other end, but he appeared to go to ground too easily under contact from Kyle Walker.
Rodri picked out Foden, who cut inside and arrowed a blistering shot into the top corner.
A slick one-two between Foden and Julian Alvarez opened up the United defense for the decisive goal as the England international fired in his 18th of the season.
“That’s my aim, to turn up in the big games,” said Foden, who has now scored six goals in nine Premier League games against United.
“That’s what I want to do. I think this season I’m proving that.
“I understand what it means to the fans. It means everything to me. To score is even better, but it was all about the win today.”
Haaland’s redemption rounded off a fine afternoon for the English champions.
Rodri dispossessed Sofyan Amrabat and teed up the Norwegian to curl beyond Onana for his 28th goal of the season.

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference
Updated 03 March 2024
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IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference

IT firm Atos announces Riyadh HQ, sports technology center during LEAP conference
  • The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s development

LONDON: Global information technology services firm Atos announced on Sunday its plans to open a sports technology center in the second quarter of 2024 as part of its new MENA (Middle East and North Africa) headquarters in Riyadh.

Announced at the LEAP 2024 conference, an Atos statement said the center would enable the firm to continue providing “best-in-class IT services and solutions to global sporting events” and “develop cutting-edge technology applications to benefit athletes, fans and the sports sector in Saudi Arabia.”

Marc Veelenturf, CEO for the Middle East and Turkiye at Atos, said: “Through the Sports Technology Center of Excellence, Atos will empower organizations in Saudi Arabia with the technologies needed to thrive in the Kingdom’s digital economy. Drawing upon our best-in-class digital tools and IT solutions, the center will become the epicenter for major events technology and digital innovation in the region.” 

The firm said its new Riyadh HQ and center of excellence would also help support Saudi Arabia’s public sector initiatives, transformation projects and various giga-projects and smart destinations such as Expo 2030 and Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo.

Mutaz Salem, general manager at Atos, said: “Atos will enable Saudi’s major projects to become pioneering, future-proof smart destinations rooted in tradition, sport and culture with strong expertise and experience.”

Javier Escudero, commercial director at the firm’s Major Events arm, said: “The center of excellence will be located in the heart of Riyadh to provide major events with seamless technology, orchestrating flawless operations and secure data flow.

“Our unique track record in sport includes over 25 Asian projects such as the Olympic Games, and Asian, Arab and Gulf Games. Atos’ innovative solutions will serve as the backbone, enabling organizers to captivate audiences worldwide while ensuring reliability and precision behind the scenes.”


Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash

Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash
Updated 03 March 2024
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Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash

Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeat Karachi Kings by 20 runs in PSL clash
  • Usman Khan played a brilliant innings of 106 runs not out to build momentum for Multan
  • Chasing 190 runs to win, Karachi Kings could barely reach 169 runs at the end of 20th over

ISLAMABAD: Table-toppers Multan Sultans defeated Karachi Kings by 20 runs in their Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition match at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Multan decided to bat first after they won the toss. Usman Khan played a brilliant innings of 106 runs not out to build momentum for his side.

Along with Khan, Mohammad Rizwan scored a half century to power Multan to 189 runs. In response, Karachi could only score 169 runs from their 20 overs.

“Sultans Supremacy in Karachi,” the PSL commented on X after the match. “Multan keep their place at the top of the standings after achieving a commanding win over Karachi.”

Blessing Muzarabani took two wickets for 32 runs, while Hasan Ali dismissed one for 34 runs.

Chasing 190 runs to win, Shoaib Malik and Shan Masood scored 38 (28) and 36 (29) respectively. Mohammad Nawaz chipped in with 27 runs not out as Karachi reached 169 at the end of 20th over.

Usama Mir dismissed two for 29, while Khushdil Shah and David Willey took one wicket each.

This was Multan’s sixth win from their seven matches, while Karachi have won only two of their six games this season.