Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu ready to face nemesis Neymar in Riyadh derby

Special Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu ready to face nemesis Neymar in Riyadh derby
Shabab No.1 Kim Seung-gyu says he’s ready to face Neymar in the SPL. (Twitter/@AlShababSaudiFC)
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Updated 30 September 2023
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Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu ready to face nemesis Neymar in Riyadh derby

Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu ready to face nemesis Neymar in Riyadh derby
  • South Korean No. 1 has conceded 3 penalties for his country taken by Al-Hilal’s Brazilian star
  • Kim Seung-gyu: I hope he doesn’t get a penalty this time, but I will do my best to save it even if it won’t be easy as he is one of the best in the world

RIYADH: Kim Seung-gyu is ready to face Neymar again. The Al-Shabab goalkeeper is looking forward to the Riyadh derby against Al-Hilal on Friday more than most players would be.

It is a chance for the team to continue their recent good form after a poor start to the season as well as an opportunity for the 32-year-old shot stopper to cross swords once more with the Brazilian star who has yet to score in Saudi Arabia since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain in August.

The South Korean No. 1, who has made more than 70 appearances for the Asian giants, faced the South American twice in 2022, first in a Seoul friendly and then in the Round of 16 clash against Brazil at the World Cup.

Neymar scored three penalties against Kim in those two matches — which the five-time world champions won with a combined score of 9-1 — sending him the wrong way each time.

Kim told Arab News: “I didn’t think I would play against him again so soon. I am excited to face him and am ready.

“I hope he doesn’t get a penalty this time, but I will do my best to save it even if it won’t be easy as he is one of the best in the world. Keeping a clean sheet is a priority for me as we want to win the game.”

That was not looking likely a few weeks ago as the six-time champions started the season poorly. Just two points were taken from the first five games, the low point a 4-0 loss at Al-Nassr, but Al-Shabab have won the last three, two in the league and one in the King’s Cup.

Three goals from the last two games from Belgian international and new signing Yannick Carrasco is one reason why the team are heading in the right direction after the slow start and Moroccan captain Romain Saiss has added some stability at the back.

Kim said: “There were some internal changes inside the club that needed to be done.

“We didn’t bring that many players in during the summer and as everyone knows, most of the other teams brought in a lot of players and filled their foreign quota of eight players and we didn’t have that when the season kicked off.

“We then brought in some very good players just before the window closed and we are on the right track. We had a slow start, but we are moving now and let’s see what happens later in the season. We are all feeling confident,” he added.

Kim moved to Riyadh in 2022, coming to Saudi Arabia from the Japanese J1 League where he starred for Vissel Kobe and Kashiwa Reysol. The glovesman who also won the 2012 Asian Champions League with South Korea’s Ulsan Horangi, has witnessed enough in his time in the country to see the changes.

“The standard of play is definitely improving all around the league and now I am playing against players that I only saw on TV before. As a goalkeeper it can be tough, but I am learning a lot and enjoying it.

“The league is getting better and better and that is good for all of us, and we have to keep working hard,” Kim said.

And that goes for the domestic goalkeepers too. There have been concerns expressed that there are few teams among the 18 in the top tier that give minutes to Saudi shot stoppers. At times, it has been left to Al-Nassr’s Nawaf Al-Aqidi and Abdulquddus Atiah at Al-Wehda to fly the flag.

New national team coach Roberto Mancini would surely love to have more Saudi Arabian goalkeepers in action in the league. It has been suggested that the country could follow the example of South Korea where only homegrown No. 1s are allowed between the sticks in the K League. Kim, however, does not think that is the correct path to go down.

“There are more positives for the Saudi Arabian goalkeepers themselves as well as the country. When I was in Japan, there were a lot of foreign goalkeepers and many people raised this same question, but as a professional player, you can’t take a spot in the starting line-up for granted, you must fight for it. You have to challenge your team-mates and then the chance comes, and this is how you develop as a player and then show what you can do on the pitch.

“I think this is a positive, Saudi Arabian goalkeepers have to come and fight for their places, and they will be better players,” he added.

Kim noted that the influx of world-class talent into the league had helped him to improve his game. He also pointed out that when he now reported for international duty, his South Korean team-mates were much more curious about what was going on in Saudi Arabia.

He said: “There are a lot of questions now when we meet up. They ask me about the big players coming in and they want to know what the league is like and what has changed. It is not just the players, but everyone is now much more interested.”

And they will be watching to see if Kim can get the better of Neymar on Friday.


Saudi national football team prepares for Asian qualifiers

Saudi national football team prepares for Asian qualifiers
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi national football team prepares for Asian qualifiers

Saudi national football team prepares for Asian qualifiers
  • Players participating in the King’s Cup final between Al-Nasser and Al-Hilal on Friday will join the national squad on Sunday
  • Green Falcons fly to Islamabad on Wednesday for their game against Pakistan on Thursday, and then host Jordan in Riyadh on June 11

RIYADH: The Saudi national football team gathered at their training camp in Riyadh on Thursday to begin preparations for the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup and the 2027 Asian Cup.
As the Green Falcons held their first training session on Thursday evening behind closed doors at Mahd Academy, members of the squad from Al-Nasser and Al-Hilal, who will meet in the final of the King’s Cup on Friday, were absent. They will join the national team’s preparations on Sunday after head coach Roberto Mancini gave them a day off on Saturday to recover.
The 31-player squad, announced by Mancini last week, will fly out on Wednesday for their game against Pakistan in Islamabad on June 6, and then host Jordan at Alwal park in Riyadh on June 11.
Saudi Arabia currently tops Group G of the Asian qualifiers, with 10 points from four games, ahead of Jordan (7 points) and Tajikistan (5). Pakistan are bottom of the group having lost all four games so far.


The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’
Updated 29 May 2024
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The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’

The Roshn Saudi League 2023/24: A ‘game-changing season’
  • ‘Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,’ says league CEO Omar Mugharbel
  • 5-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo set a league record by scoring 35 goals during the season, one more than Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19

RIYADH: During the 2023/24 season of the Roshn Saudi League, which concluded on Monday, 909 goals were scored in 306 matches, a 40 percent increase compared with the previous season.
Al-Nassr’s Portuguese superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, contributed 35 of those goals, in 31 games, setting a league record for the number of goals in a season.
As he looked back on Wednesday at some of the highlights of an eventful season, the league’s CEO, Omar Mugharbel, predicted that it will be remembered as a milestone in the growth of elite football in the Kingdom.
“Some of the best players in the world chose RSL to showcase their incredible talents alongside the next generation of young Saudi talent,” he said.
“Their arrival amplified even further the huge interest in the league from fans, broadcasters and sponsors. It is impossible to overstate how much of a game-changing season 2023/24 has been.”
The season began with major signings of several international stars, including Karim Benzema, Neymar, Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane, N’Golo Kante, Georgino Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Neves.
Champions Al-Hilal grabbed headlines around the globe when they set a world record for successive top-flight victories, winning 34 games in a row across all competitions during an unbeaten campaign.
On an individual level, five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo achieved further success in the calendar year 2023 when he netted the most club goals in the world, with 54 in 59 appearances in all competitions.
And during the 2023/24 season, the Portuguese star set a record by scoring 35 goals in the league, one more than previous record holder Abderrazak Hamdallah managed in 2018/19.
An increased focus on the development of young Saudi talent, to help them excel on the world stage, meant that age of eligibility to play in the league was reduced from 18 to 16 years old. The average age of players dropped to 27.5 years old.
Mugharbel said he has no doubt the league will continue to go from strength to strength, with preparations already underway for next season.
“What is crucial now is enhancing the offering for all stakeholders across the Roshn Saudi League to ensure that we deliver a product, on and off the field, that is truly and consistently world class across all metrics,” he said.
“These are hugely exciting times for football in Saudi Arabia and we look forward immensely to the Roshn Saudi League season 2024/25.”
Off the pitch, the transformation of the league attracted global attention. This was reflected in major milestones that were achieved across metrics such as broadcast deals, sponsorship agreements, and social media reach.
Games were broadcast in more than 160 countries on 38 global platforms as the league reached more fans than ever. Meanwhile, its social media channels attracted 6.72 million new followers during the season, representing a 141 percent increase from the start of the campaign.
The Manager of the Season award went to Al-Hilal boss Jorge Jesus, who was also named Manager of the Month five times along the way.
As noted, Ronaldo was Top Goalscorer, while Al-Hilal’s Yassine Bounou, who kept 15 clean sheets and conceded the fewest goals, was named Goalkeeper of the Season.


Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
Updated 28 May 2024
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Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten

Joy for Jesus as Al-Hilal complete Saudi Pro League campaign unbeaten
  • New champions beat A-Wehda 2-1 on the final day of the 2023-24 season

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s coach, Jorge Jesus, on Monday night expressed his joy after his title-winning team beat Al-Wehda 2-1 to end the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season without a loss.

Jesus said he is enjoying the best days of his career with the Riyadh giants.

Mohammed Kanno gave Al-Hilal a 19th-minute lead, with the home team equalizing in the 77th minute through fellow Saudi international Yahya Al-Najei. But Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in stoppage time to ensure a final-day win for the “Invincibles.”

“We were keen to end our last match in the league with a victory to preserve this exceptional league season, during which we broke records after gaining 96 points, achieved the largest victory in a single match, and we also finished the league without a loss,” Jesus said.

“I experienced many happy moments during my career with the clubs I coached, but my happiness with Al-Hilal is more than wonderful, especially in this exceptional season,” he concluded.


Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
Updated 29 May 2024
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Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs

Top Saudi clubs expanding into community-building programs
  • Al-Hilal FC, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in corporate social responsibility

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced this month the launch of its first Corporate Social Responsibility Awards 2024, marking a new age of sustainable development and community involvement in the Kingdom.

The CSR initiative recognizes and inspires private-sector firms corresponding to Saudi Vision 2030’s social responsibility objectives. It promotes local initiatives to implement international standards, encourage competition, and set exemplary corporate practices.
Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs, traditionally focused on sports, entertainment, and culture, are now expanding to include community-building programs. The CSR Awards 2024 will focus on these efforts, recognizing initiatives that promote social development and local progress outside of sports.
Teams including Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Ittihad and Ahli are leading the push in CSR. They are making significant progress in youth development, health promotion, and environmental sustainability. From grassroots football programs for poor children to scholarships for promising young players from disadvantaged backgrounds, these efforts are consistent with Vision 2030’s emphasis on economic diversification and social transformation.
Furthermore, European and Asian examples demonstrate how sports clubs advocate sustainability programs with broad reach and impact. Forest Green Rovers of England is the world’s first UN-certified carbon-neutral football team. Their environmentally friendly methods, such as an organic pitch and solar-powered facilities, have spurred others to pursue greener strategies.

FC Bayern Munich in Germany exemplifies how clubs may incorporate sustainability into their operations, with efforts such as the Allianz Arena’s energy-efficient architecture and recycling programs setting a high bar for environmental care.
Japan’s Kashima Antlers have introduced innovative sustainability techniques, such as rainwater harvesting and LED lighting systems, to reduce their environmental imprint in Asia.

Also, China’s Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao FC has conducted large tree-planting projects to help with reforestation and ecological conservation.
The ministry hopes to develop a culture in which social impact is synonymous with financial success, resulting in a more socially responsible economic landscape in Saudi Arabia.
The award criteria include community engagement, environmental sustainability, and ethical governance, emphasizing the organizational benefit of CSR activities. Sports clubs, as role models for other businesses, have a unique power to promote social ideals and effect constructive change.
Furthermore, communication and social media are essential in promoting CSR efforts, raising awareness, and mobilizing support. Platforms such as X, Instagram, and Facebook let clubs promote their sustainability efforts, communicate with followers, and increase their impact, resulting in a more inclusive and sustainable future.
With good communication, CSR programs in sports teams can indirectly enhance profitability by improving brand recognition, increasing fan engagement, attracting sponsorship, and lowering costs through energy efficiency and regulatory compliance.

All while offering access to funds and grants, these additional financial resources can help the club’s operations and allow for more investment in CSR efforts, promoting long-term sustainability.
Embracing Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s sports clubs are helping to reshape the country and pave the road for a more socially responsible and sustainable society.

These clubs demonstrate sports’ transformative ability to generate positive social change through their persistent dedication to CSR activities. As they continue on this journey, they will inspire others and set new standards for CSR excellence, paving the way for future generations.


‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
Updated 28 May 2024
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‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final

‘Happy’ Ronaldo confirms SPL top scorer award as he looks ahead to King’s Cup final
  • Two goals in 4-2 win over Ittihad takes Al-Nassr captain to 35 league goals for the season
  • It is the sixth time in Ronaldo’s career that he has finished a league campaign as top scorer

RIYADH: Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday night notched a brace in the 4-2 win over Al-Ittihad in Riyadh to close out the 2023-24 Saudi Pro League season with 35 goals and clinch the top scorer award.

Ronaldo opened the scoring is stoppage time of the first half and doubled the lead in the 69th minute. Al-Nassr’s other goals came from Abdulrahman Ghareeb (penalty, 79) and Meshari Al-Nemer (95), while Al-Ittihad’s goals came from Farhah Al-Shamrani (88) and Fabinho (92).

 

 

Ronaldo’s final tally broke the previous record held by Abderrazak Hamdallah, who scored 34 for Al-Nassr in 2018-19, and was also the sixth time in the Portuguese legend’s career that he has finished a domestic league season as top scorer.

Before joining the Yellows in January 2023, Ronaldo had finished top scorer in league campaigns for Sporting Lisbon in his native Portugal, Manchester United in the English Premier League, three times for Real Madrid in Spain and once with Juventus in Italy.

“I am very happy to end the season with a victory, as well as with my record, which I was not expecting, but it is very important in my career,” Ronaldo said after the win over the Tigers.

“We finished the league well, and now our goal is to win the King’s Cup, and I expect the team to give its best to achieve the title.”