Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach

Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach

Al-Ittihad ready to wow home fans in FIFA Club World Cup opener, says coach
  • ‘It is not an easy game and we do really respect Auckland City but we’re confident we can do a good job,’ adds Marcelo Gallardo
  • The Kingdom is hosting the competition, so the Saudi Pro League champs have home advantage in the game, the winners of which will play Egyptian side Al-Ahly on Friday

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad head coach Marcelo Gallardo said his players are fully prepared for their FIFA Club World Cup opener on Tuesday and looking forward to putting on a show for the home fans in Saudi Arabia.

“Our goal is to perform at our best and try to win the game to keep up our good run through the next round,” Gallardo said ahead of their match against Auckland city of New Zealand. “It is not an easy game and we do really respect Auckland City but we’re confident we can do a good job.”

Speaking about the benefit of home advantage in the game, the winners of which will progress to play Egyptian side Al-Ahly in the second round on Friday, he added: “Our fans will certainly help, no doubt. Our fans are our strength; we have said that we are strong at home and, in particular in such matches, hope we can qualify to the next round because I believe tomorrow’s match is very critical.”

Al-Ittihad captain Karim Benzema, who previously played in the competition during his time with Real Madrid, said he and his teammates look forward to giving the Saudi fans something to cheer about.

“Our players are very anxious to play and they know exactly how important this match is,” he said.

“My previous experience is totally different from this one and I hope I can help my players in this important match. We know it will not be easy but we have to have the mentality that we can win this match.”

Auckland’s head coach, Albert Riera, said his side will face a tough challenge against the reigning Saudi champions but is confident they are capable of stepping up when it matters.

“For sure we’re the underdogs, we’re aware of that, and being the underdog is an advantage but all of the work that we’ve put in, all the effort that every player is putting into every training session is not so that we go there and don’t compete and not try to win,” he said.

“We’re here to make Auckland City fans proud, to make New Zealand proud and to try and compete as much as we can.”

This year’s tournament is the 20th FIFA Club World Cup and marks Auckland City’s 11th appearance in the competition. Saudi Arabia is hosting the event for the first time.


Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture

Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture
Updated 29 February 2024
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Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture

Cristiano Ronaldo handed one match ban, fine after obscene gesture
  • The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Ethics and Discipline Committee also ordered the Portuguese star to pay an additional SR20,000 to Al-Shabab, as compensation for the Riyadh club’s complaint filing fees

RIYADH: Al-Nassr striker Cristiano Ronaldo has been suspended for one match and fined SR10,000 ($2,666) after making an offensive gesture following his team’s victory over Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League on Sunday.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Ethics and Discipline Committee also ordered the Portuguese star to pay an additional SR20,000 to Al-Shabab, as compensation for the Riyadh club’s complaint filing fees.

Following the game on Sunday, videos posted on social media showed Ronaldo cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, seemingly aimed at rival Al-Shabab supporters.

In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard, referring to Ronaldo’s longstanding football rival from Argentina.

The committee called in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to hear his response to the complaint filed by Al-Shabab, and asked the official broadcaster to provide footage of the incident in question.

The committee said in a statement that the decision is non-appealable.

This is not the first time that the Portuguese legend has been at the heart of fan controversy.

Earlier this month, the star was seen putting a scarf down his shorts before throwing it back at Al-Hilal fans after Al-Nassr loss in the Riyadh Season Cup. In the same game, the striker reacted angrily to Al-Hilal fans chanting the name of Lionel Messi.

Last year, the 39-year-old attacker grabbed his crotch after Al-Hilal fans taunted him by again invoking the name of the Argentine World Cup winner.


No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals
Updated 28 February 2024
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No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals
  • The 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships winner receives standing ovation as he bows out with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat in what is likely to be his final appearance at event
  • No. 2 seed Andrey Rublev defeats qualifier Arthur Cazaux 6-4, 6-4, and Alexander Bublik enjoys a hard-fought 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor

DUBAI: Andy Murray’s hopes of fairy-tale ending to what seems likely to be his last appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships were dashed by in-form Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who defeated the 36-year-old Scot 6-2, 6-4 on center court at Dubai Tennis Stadium on Wednesday night.

The three-time Grand Slam champion, winner of this tournament in 2017, cut a frustrated figure against the No. 5 seed, who is 11 years his junior.

Clearly desperate to give his enthusiastic and vocal Dubai fans something to cheer, Murray, who beat Fernando Verdasco in the final here seven years ago, could be seen continually talking to himself as he struggled with his own game and the energy of his opponent.

He won the opening game on serve but then Humbert, who needed three sets to see off veteran wildcard Gael Monfils in his opening match, broke serve twice in succession. He simply had too much for Murray to cope with and took the opening set 6-2.

The second set followed a similar path, with Murray holding serve in the opening game, only for Humbert to break twice in a row as he calmly wrapped up the set 6-4 to claim a spot in the quarter-finals.

Murray received a standing ovation as he left the court in Dubai for what is probably the final time, the fans acknowledging his service not only to the sport in general but to the evolution of this particular tournament.

After the game, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist admitted he is in the twilight of his illustrious career.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” he said. “I get asked about it after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play.

“I’m not going to talk more about that between now and whenever the time comes for me to stop. But yeah, I don’t plan on playing much past this summer.”

Humbert, who has an ATP title to his name already this year, thanks to victory in Marseille this month, was a picture of relaxation as he celebrated his victory and looked forward to the quarter-finals.

“Consistency has been the key for me this year,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m really happy that I’m playing well. It’s really nice to play in a venue like this in front of a great crowd. I was really calm today and knew what I needed to do.”

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 2 seed and last year’s beaten finalist, Andrey Rublev, was the first player to book a quarter-final berth, dashing the hopes of French qualifier Arthur Cazaux.

Cazaux, who was making his debut in Dubai this week, produced some fine tennis to get through the qualifiers and then defeat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 32. But Rublev took control of their last-16 clash on center court from the opening game, breaking his opponent’s serve and holding firm to take the first set 6-4.

The second set went with serve until Rublev, a winner in Hong Kong in January, broke Cazaux in the seventh game and held his subsequent serves to seal a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Alexander Bublik booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. Bublik, who survived a scare in his opening match when he came back from a set down against qualifier Tomas Machac, was once again pushed hard by Griekspoor, but dug deep to secure victory.


Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition
Updated 28 February 2024
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Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition

Anthony Kim joins LIV Golf after 12-year absence from pro competition
  • American competing as wildcard in pursuit of full-time status, starting in Jeddah
  • Greg Norman: It’s clear that he (Kim) has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world

JEDDAH: US golfer Anthony Kim has joined LIV Golf as a season-long wildcard player after being out of the professional game for almost 12 years.

The 38-year-old former Ryder Cup star will make his official return to pro competition at LIV Golf Jeddah, taking place from March 1 to 3 at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, LIV Golf officials announced.

Kim said: “After stepping away from the game years ago due to injury, I’m happy to officially announce my return to the world of professional golf.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very grateful for all the highs, lows, and lessons learned from the first part of my career. I want to compete with the best players in the world, and I’m on a mission to prove to myself that I can win again.

“The next step on that journey starts now, and I’m excited to give everything I’ve got this season on the LIV Golf League.”

LIV Golf commissioner and CEO, Greg Norman, said: “LIV Golf was launched to create new opportunities for players and fans that drive this sport forward in exciting ways, and when I think of Anthony Kim, I can’t imagine a more perfect fit for what we’re trying to do.

“His talent is undeniable, and we are thrilled to welcome him back to professional golf with our league.

“It’s clear that he has the fire to win again and show why he was one of the most compelling players in the world, and we will support him on that mission as he works to earn his way back to the top of the game,” Norman added.

Kim will compete in all remaining 2024 LIV Golf regular season tournaments as one of two wildcard players aiming to accrue points in the league’s individual standings and earn a team place in 2025. He joins season-long wildcard player Hudson Swafford, competing against the LIV Golf League’s 13 four-player teams across the 14-event global schedule.

The three-time PGA Tour winner posted his best full season in 2008 when he finished sixth on the money list and fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. That season led to a career-high eight top-10 finishes, including six top-three finishes.

The American spent 20 weeks inside the top 10, with a career-high of No. 6 in 2008 after winning the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National.

In 15 career major starts, his best finish was a third place at the 2010 Masters, where he finished behind current LIV Golf members Phil Mickelson (winner) and Lee Westwood (second).

Kim notched two other top-10 Major finishes both coming at The Open, once in 2008 – T7 and again in 2011 – T5. He also set a tournament record with 11 birdies during round two at the 2009 Masters.

Kim is no stranger to team golf after compiling a successful track record with Team USA and the University of Oklahoma. The California native has represented Team USA at both the amateur and professional level a total of three times and was victorious on each occasion.

He played a crucial role at the 2008 Ryder Cup, posting an emotional victory over current LIV Golf member Sergio Garcia in the opening match of the Sunday Singles as the Americans beat Europe for the first time since 1999.

A three-time All-American and freshman of the year (2004) while at the University of Oklahoma, Kim set the school record for the lowest scoring average in relation to par with a 71.73 (+0.22) – narrowly besting Abraham Ancer, 72.42 (+0.93).

In June 2012, Kim had surgery on an injured Achilles tendon in his left leg and was expected to return in the 2013 season on a Major Medical Exemption. However, he has not played in a professional event since the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.


Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior

Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior
Updated 28 February 2024
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Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior

Red Bull F1 boss Horner cleared of inappropriate behavior
  • A statement from Austrian energy drinks brand Red Bull, the parent company of the world champion Formula One team, said the “grievance has been dismissed”
  • The complainant has a right of appeal

LONDON: Red Bull team chief Christian Horner was cleared Wednesday of wrongdoing following an investigation into complaints of inappropriate behavior against him made by a female team member.
A statement from Austrian energy drinks brand Red Bull, the parent company of the world champion Formula One team, said the “grievance has been dismissed.”
Horner, who has been team principal since 2005, denied the allegations made against him and was subjected to a lengthy interview by an independent London lawyer acting as investigator, who submitted a report to Red Bull.
The lawyer’s report was delivered on Tuesday and has been considered by Red Bull directors.
In a statement, Red Bull GmbH said: “The independent investigation into the allegations made against Mr.Horner is complete and Red Bull can confirm that the grievance has been dismissed.
“The complainant has a right of appeal. Red Bull is confident that the investigation has been fair, rigorous and impartial.
“The investigation report is confidential and contains the private information of the parties and third parties who assisted in the investigation and therefore we will not be commenting further out of respect for all concerned.
“Red Bull will continue striving to meet the highest workplace standards.”
Horner flew to Bahrain from London on Wednesday, but was not present at the circuit for a media day ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
He is expected to be on the pit wall for the opening practice sessions on Thursday.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported the allegation of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff for the British-based team earlier this month.
Asked about the accusations, Horner, 50, told De Telegraaf: “I completely deny these claims.”
Formula One chiefs had said they wanted the issue resolved at the “earliest opportunity.”
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described the investigation as “an issue for all of Formula One” and called for transparency.
Under Horner’s guidance, Red Bull have become the dominant force in Formula One, with Max Verstappen winning the past three drivers’ titles.
Horner, who is married to former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, has been in charge of the team since they entered Formula One 19 years ago.
During that time he has overseen seven drivers’ world championships and six constructors’ titles.
Red Bull dominated the 2023 season, winning 21 of the 22 races as Verstappen defended his drivers’ crown.


Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships

Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships

Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships
  • Saudi participants who win gold, silver or bronze qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Mohammed Al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Weightlifting Federation, heads 12-player team

DUBAI: The Saudi Paralympic weightlifting team hopes taking part in the Fazza 13th Para Powerlifting 2024 World Cup will mean qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The championships, which started on Wednesday, are being held in Dubai until Mar. 6. Saudi participants who win gold, silver or bronze medals are automatically eligible for the 2024 Olympics.
Mohammed Al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Weightlifting Federation, heads a 12-strong team that comprises Adnan Bousaid, Talal Al-Balawi, Asil Hausawi, Tariq Balghaith, Saeed Hausawi, Khalid Al-Najim, Sulaiman Al-Shaddoukhi, Abbad Hausawi, Fajr Al-Sumairy, Shareefa Al-Amari, Hassna Al-Najm, and Maha Al-Rashidi.