Saudi stadia ready to host FIFA Club World Cup, says Sports Ministry

The two stadia in Jeddah set to host matches at the FIFA Club World Cup are ready, an official at the Saudi Ministry of Sport said on Thursday. (AN Photo)
The two stadia in Jeddah set to host matches at the FIFA Club World Cup are ready, an official at the Saudi Ministry of Sport said on Thursday. (AN Photo)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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Saudi stadia ready to host FIFA Club World Cup, says Sports Ministry

Saudi stadia ready to host FIFA Club World Cup, says Sports Ministry
  • 90% of tickets for the tournament have been sold
  • 1.5m applications for tickets from 100 countries

JEDDAH: The two stadia in Jeddah set to host matches at the FIFA Club World Cup are ready, an official at the Saudi Ministry of Sport said on Thursday.

The competition will be held in the city from Dec. 12 to 22 at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sports City venue.

Thamer Basunbul, deputy minister for sports facilities at the ministry, told the media that preparations at the two grounds had been completed.

He said: “Both stadiums have been renovated to FIFA standards and we can say with confidence that we have delivered on our promise of two world-class stadiums.

“The renovation includes removing the running track, expanding media centers, expanding the entrance for players, and adding a new lower tier. In addition, new LED lighting and screens have been installed around the front edge of the roof for spectators to have an immersive digital experience.”

He said plans were also in place to renovate existing stadia and build new ones for the 2034 FIFA World Cup should the Saudi Arabia bid be successful.

He added: “Stadia will also be leveraged long after the competition, in line with the nation’s Vision 2030, by improving the venues’ usability for both other sports and non-athletic events. This will reinforce the stadiums’ central position within their communities.”

Meanwhile, the Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Affairs at the Saudi Football Federation Majed Al-Sahib has confirmed that 90 percent of tickets for the tournament have been sold.

He added there had been 1.5 million applications for tickets from 100 countries, including fans from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, India, and England.

Al-Sahib said: “The fan zone at King Abdullah Sports City can accommodate more than 12,500 people, while the fan zone at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sports City can hold 6,500.

“We are targeting an attendance of 2 million fans and, therefore, the fan ticket system has been updated and the number of electronic gates has been increased, which has reached a total of more than 200 gates in the two stadiums.”


Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers
Updated 12 sec ago
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Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers

Murray buzzer-beater lifts Nuggets over Lakers, Knicks stun Sixers
  • The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Embiid was dejected but defiant, telling reporters: “We should be 2-0“

LOS ANGELES: Jamal Murray fired the game-winner at the buzzer as the NBA champion Denver Nuggets erased a 20-point deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 on Monday and take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference playoff series.

The drama in Denver followed a scintillating comeback by the New York Knicks, who scored eight points in the final half-minute to stun the Philadelphia 76ers 104-101 for a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference set.

Nikola Jokic delivered a triple-double of 27 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists for Denver and Murray broke out of his shooting doldrums, with 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

The Nuggets notched their 10th straight win over LeBron James and the Lakers, a run of dominance that includes Denver’s sweep in last season’s Western Conference finals.

The Lakers, led by the 32 points and 11 rebounds of Anthony Davis, were in control for most of the night, pushing a 59-44 halftime lead to 20 points early in the third quarter.

James scored 26 points and handed out 12 assists, but the Nuggets kept chipping away and tied it at 95-95 on Michael Porter Jr’s basket with 1:15 remaining.

James put the Lakers up 99-97 with a driving layup but Murray tied it again with a step-back jumper with 30 seconds remaining.

After James missed a three-point attempt, Murray rose over Davis and connected on a fall-away jumper with four-tenths of a second left.

“I told my teammates when I was struggling, I’m gonna look for y’all,” Murray told broadcaster TNT. “And every single one of them told me to keep shooting, keep shooting.

“They just told me to stay aggressive and keep looking for it, keep hunting it. I had the ball with a few seconds left and I knew once I made a couple, the next one should go down as well.

“I just beat him to my spot and elevated, went through my shot,” he said. “I’m thankful enough that that was one of the few that went down for me.

It was a similar story in New York, where the Knicks took the lead over the Sixers for the first time in the third quarter.

Philadelphia’s NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid was clearly hindered late by pain in his surgically repaired left knee, but the Sixers appeared to have regained control when Tyrese Maxey, fed by Embiid, made a three-pointer with 1:09 to play that put the Sixers up 100-96.

But Jalen Brunson’s three-pointer with 27.4 seconds left pulled the Knicks within two points and after Josh Hart came up with a steal, Donte DiVincenzo capped a chaotic possession with a three-pointer — after missing his first attempt — to put the Knicks up 102-101.

OG Anunoby sealed it at an ecstatic Madison Square Garden with a pair of free throws.

It was a crushing defeat for Philadelphia, who were up by five with less than a minute to play.

The 76ers were furious that officials failed to respond to their calls for a time-out in the critical seconds, Embiid adding a jab over missed foul calls.

“That’s unacceptable to put us in that situation,” Embiid said. “Everybody on the floor was trying to call time-out... but they didn’t give it to us.

“But forget about the time-out, there’s a bunch of fouls .... that’s unacceptable.

“We’re going to win this series,” he added. “We’re the better team and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Brunson finished with 24 points despite connecting on just eight of 29 shots from the field. He added eight rebounds and six assists and Hart added 21 points and 15 rebounds for New York.

The series shifts to Philadelphia on Thursday.

Maxey, who skipped the Sixers’ morning shoot-around because of illness, finished with 35 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Embiid added 34 points and 10 rebounds but missed a three-pointer at the final buzzer.

In Cleveland, the Cavaliers cruised to a 96-86 victory over the Orlando Magic, their second straight wire-to-wire victory giving them a 2-0 series lead.

Donovan Mitchell scored 23 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 20 rebounds for the Cavs.

Paolo Banchero led Orlando’s scoring with 21 points and Franz Wagner added 18. The youthful Magic will be hoping to turn things around when the series shifts to Orlando.


Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 36 min 38 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Saudi Arabia lose to Iraq as both teams progress to quarterfinals of 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • The 2-1 reverse sees the Green Falcons finish second in Group C of tournament that is also a qualifying competition for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1 on Monday night at Khalifa International Stadium in Al-Rayyan as both teams secured their spots in the last eight of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Saudi Arabia entered the match as leaders of Group C with a maximum of six points from two matches. But the reverse sees them drop to second in the final standings, with Iraq — also on six points — taking top spot with a superior head-to-head record.

With three points apiece, Tajikistan and Thailand finished third and fourth respectively and were eliminated from the competition.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Iraq took the lead one minute into first-half stoppage time through an Ali Jasim penalty but there was still time for Saudi Arabia to equalize nine minutes later with a spot kick converted by Ahmed Al-Ghamdi.

Iraq secured the win thanks to Mustafa Saadoun’s winner on 63 minutes.

Monday also saw the conclusion of Group B with South Korea beating Japan 1-0 and China overcoming the UAE 2-1.

South Korea and Japan had qualified from the group ahead of the final round of matches.

Tuesday will see the final round of Group D matches, with Uzbekistan and Vietnam already guaranteeing their progress to the last eight as they sit on six points apiece.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. The winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification to the Olympic Games.

The two losing semifinalists will contest third place, with the winners also booking a place in Paris, while the fourth-place finishers have a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle

Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle
Updated 23 April 2024
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Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle

Stacked fight card set for PFL Europe Newcastle
  • Path to Greatness’ event by Saudi Arabia-backed brand takes place June 8 at Utilita Arena with bantamweight and flyweights competing
  • Boxing world champion Savannah Marshall makes her PFL SmartCage debut in her hometown of Newcastle against Brazil’s Mirela Vargas

NEW YORK: The Professional Fighters League has announced a stacked card for its PFL Europe Newcastle event on June 8, featuring bantamweights and flyweights looking to secure spots in the playoffs this September.

 

The “Path to Greatness” event has prize money of $100,000.

 

Local hero Savannah Marshall makes her cage debut against Brazil’s Mirela Vargas.

 

Dan Hardy, head of fighter operations for PFL Europe, said: “We can’t wait to come back to Newcastle on June 8th, where PFL Europe officially launched in 2023. Our bantamweight and women’s flyweight rosters are packed with quality and represent the best that the elite European MMA scene has to offer. And with the Regular Season format all of these fighters know what’s at the end of the line — the European title, $100k and a pathway to our Global Season.

 

“But it wouldn’t be a PFL Europe event without a stacked evening of showcase bouts, and we have a great selection of future stars, simmering tensions and a local hero in Savannah Marshall making her MMA debut.”

 

Marshall has 10 victories by knockout as a boxer. She joins the deepest female combat sports roster in the world, which includes a familiar foe in Claressa Shields. Her first test in the cage comes in the form of Vargas, a three-fight professional.

 

With the winners progressing and the losers going home, the stakes could not be higher for the bantamweights. England’s highly regarded Scouser Dean Garnett (12-2-1), who is on a four-fight win streak, faces Belgium’s Ayton De Paepe (12-4) as both step into the PFL SmartCage for the first time.

 

Also at bantamweight, last year’s finalist, Ireland’s Frans Mlambo (15-6) looks to return to winning ways against Scotland’s “The Apocalypse” Luke Shanks (10-4). Meanwhile, returning champion Khurshed Kakhorov (12-1) defends his PFL Europe title against Georgian Kikadze Bondo (8-3-1) who dominated striking expert Dom Wooding last time out.

 

Rounding off the bantamweights, Alexander Luster (7-1), who has lit up the German MMA scene with all seven of his professional wins coming inside the first two rounds, faces Alperen Karabulut (10-3-0, 1 no-contest), the first Turkiye fighter to compete inside the PFL SmartCage.

 

In the women’s flyweight division, one of the most highly regarded female prospects in the world, Shanelle “The Nightmare” Dyer (4-0), will make her PFL Europe Season debut against Georgian submission specialist Mariam Torchinava (9-2). Also on the card Dyer’s bitter rival and viral sensation, Sammy-Jo Luxton (2-0), makes her long awaited PFL Europe debut versus the returning Dutch talent Lizzy Gevers (3-1).

 

Also competing in the flyweight division, 2023 finalist Valentina Scatizzi (2-2) from Italy will face France’s experienced 43-year-old Marie Loiseau (6-4), and Ireland’s Dee Begley (4-5) faces Poland’s Paulina Wisniewska (2-0).

 

There will be one additional welterweight fight, with Jack Grant (19-8) facing Charlie Leary (17-13-1), with a chance to proceed to the playoffs and join the semifinalists who were victorious in Paris.

 

The 2024 PFL Europe Season began last month with a sold-out show in Paris. After Newcastle, the action moves to Glasgow’s OVO Hydro on Sept. 28. The season will conclude at a venue to be announced later.

 

PFL Europe Newcastle Main Card:

 

Main Event: Savannah Marshall (debut) vs Mirela Vargas (1-2)

 

Lightweight Showcase Bout: Kane Mousah (14-6) vs Dylan Tuke (7-4)

 

Welterweight Season Bout: Jack Grant (19-8) vs Charlie Leary (17-13-1)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Dean Garnett (12-2-1) vs Ayton De Paepe (12-4)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Shanelle Dyer (4-0) vs Mariam Torchinava (9-2)

Featherweight Showcase Bout: Ibragim Ibragimov (6-0) vs Josh Reed (13-8)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Frans Mlambo (15-6) vs Luke Shanks (10-4)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Lizzy Gevers (3-1) vs Sammy-Jo Luxton (2-0)

 

Lightweight Showcase Bout: Mark Ewen (5-0) vs Mathias Poiron (7-1)

 

Bantamweight Season Bout: Khurshed Kakhorov (12-1) vs Bondo Kikadze (8-3-1)

 

Women’s Flyweight Season Bout: Valentina Scatizzi (2-2) vs Marie Loiseau (6-4)

 

Featherweight Showcase Bout: Ben Woolliss (2-0) vs Maher Belkhadir (1-1)

 

Bantamweight Bout: Alexander Luster (7-1) vs Alperen Karabulut (10-3-0, 1 NC)

 

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Dee Begley (4-5) vs Paulina Wisniewska (2-0)


New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight
Updated 23 April 2024
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New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight

New Al-Tai boss Ramos believes dream debut win could boost SPL relegation fight
  • Uruguayan coach, whose side travel to Al-Fayha on Thursday, achieved dramatic last-gasp win over fellow relegation battlers Al-Riyadh at the weekend

RIYADH: Leonardo Ramos, the new Al-Tai manager, believes the club’s victory in his debut match could be vital to secure Roshn Saudi League football next season.

Ramos oversaw a dramatic 2-1 win for the Hail club at 10-man Al-Riyadh on Friday in the capital courtesy of a Khalid Al-Shuwayyi own goal 12 minutes into injury time.

The win lifted Al-Tai, who had gone four games without victory prior to the Uruguayan’s arrival, out of the relegation zone and into 14th place in the 18-team league.

“I know that every player in the team needs to bring his best abilities on the field, so the reason for my presence is my experience in ensuring this happens,” Ramos said. “Certainly, the ultimate goal is to play with greater performances and to improve the level and position of the club in the table. The win benefits this.

“The league is definitely approaching the end faster than I would have liked, but I think we can help the players a lot,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of games before I came here, and game by game we’ll have more vision. We were so happy because this was our first game together — and we are happy to have improved our position in the table. We have gone up in the table and that’s important.”

Al-Tai’s opener on Friday night at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh came from Bernard Mensah in first-half injury time. Al-Riyadh saw Abdullah Al-Khairbari red-carded just after the interval but equalized through Abdulhadi Al-Harajin. This came before Al-Shuwayyi watched in horror as a cross ball trundled into the net off his shoulder deep into stoppage time.

Ramos, 54, who earned eight caps for his country as a player, previously managed Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabian football in 2018 and was most recently in charge of Montevideo City Torque in his home country. He replaced Romanian national Laurentiu Reghecampf as Al-Tai manager.

Next up for Ramos and Al-Tai is a trip to Al-Fayha on Thursday, with kickoff at 6 p.m. The club then conclude their campaign with matches versus Al-Khaleej, Al-Raed, Al-Fateh, Al-Hilal and a final-day-of-the-season clash with fellow relegation battlers Al-Okhdood.

The Roshn Saudi League bottom five spots has Al-Hazem last on 16 points, followed by Al-Okhdood on 24, Abha and Al-Riyadh on 25 — with the former in the drop zone due to a considerably inferior goal difference — and then Al-Tai on 26 points. With the standings so tight, Ramos knows exactly what is needed now.

“For sure we need to continue working on improving performances,” the Uruguayan said. “I believe we played an outstanding match (against Al-Riyadh), although there were times that we lacked the rhythm, team spirit, and overall performance. Most of the time, we played on the sides and at the back, and we did not move progressively enough towards the opponent’s goal.

“However, we showed determination and desire to win, and we made some changes in the second half of the match to improve the result and achieve the victory, which we succeeded in at the end. I am very happy to work with the players, and the club overall, and achieving the victory was a great result.”

 


Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year
Updated 23 April 2024
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Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year

Spanish women among top Laureus winners and Djokovic is world sportsman of the year
  • Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award
  • American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award

MADRID: Spain’s first Women’s World Cup triumph last year earned two more major plaudits at the Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday.

Spain were chosen world team of the year for 2023 and midfielder Aitana Bonmatí was picked as the best sportswoman.

Novak Djokovic received the sportsman of the year at the ceremony in Madrid, and American gymnast Simone Biles was given the comeback of the year award.

Real Madrid forward Jude Bellingham earned the breakthrough prize, and Rafael Nadal won the sport for good award thanks to his foundation.

The Spanish women’s World Cup breakthrough last August in New Zealand and Australia was tarnished in the following weeks because of an unwanted kiss of forward Jenni Hermoso by then-federation president Luis Rubiales after the final.

Laureus rewarded Spain as the first all-female team to win the team award.

Before the World Cup, Bonmati also helped Barcelona win a second Women’s Champions League. She’s the first female soccer player to win the Laureus, after also receiving the Ballon d’Or and FIFA best player award.

“I want to thank all my teammates and the staff of my club and national team who have helped me a lot, and because of them I am here today,” Bonmati said.

Djokovic won his record-equalling fifth Laureus sportsman award — tying Roger Federer — after titles at the Australian Open, French Open and US Open to reach a record 24 Grand Slam singles triumphs. NFL great Tom Brady presented Djokovic the award.

Biles made a record-breaking return to competition last year when she won four gold medals at the world championships, including a record sixth all-around title.

Nadal’s foundation was rewarded for helping more than “1,000 vulnerable young people in Spain and India,” according to Laureus.

Teenager Arisa Trew won the action sportsperson award after becoming the first female skateboarder to land a 720 in competition.

Dutch wheelchair player Diede de Groot was selected as the sportsperson of the year with a disability after winning her third straight calendar tennis Grand Slam.