200 elite riders to race in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup in AlUla

200 elite riders to race in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup in AlUla
The 2024 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup kicks off on Feb. 10 (Supplied)
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Updated 05 February 2024
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200 elite riders to race in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup in AlUla

200 elite riders to race in Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup in AlUla
  • Competitors from 51 nations will take part in the event’s fifth edition starting Feb. 10

ALULA: The fifth edition of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup in AlUla will have 200 riders from 51 countries competing from Feb. 10.

The Endurance Cup has been organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla in partnership with the Federation Equestre Internationale, and the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation.

The upcoming edition will have the largest prize money for an endurance event and features some of the world’s finest riders, horses and trainers.

“We eagerly anticipate the arrival of a stellar lineup of talents for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup — a lineup that solidifies both its popularity and prestige,” said Ziad Al-Suhaibani, chief sports officer at the RCU.

“The success of this event extends beyond regional acclaim, resonating on the global endurance circuit. With immense excitement, we look forward to hosting one of the most thrilling and action-packed Endurance Cups to date. Audiences are assured of two days of awe-inspiring displays of endurance and sporting excellence.”

The race will host the top 20 endurance riders in the FEI world rankings alongside a host of professional female riders and other elite performers from the GCC and further afield.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, 200 riders from 51 countries — including five from AlUla — will engage in a challenging 120 km CEI 2 competition with the Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques’ Endurance Cup awaiting the winner.

The following day, 67 riders — including one from AlUla — will compete in an additional 160 km CEI 3 competition that will serve as a prelude to the 2026 FEI World Endurance Championships in AlUla.

Women make up nearly 20 percent of the 200 riders in the 2024 edition.


Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
Updated 58 min 13 sec ago
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Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament

Germany warns of Islamist threat on eve of Euro 2024 tournament
  • “Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said
  • Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament

BERLIN: Germany welcomed police officers from across Europe on Thursday to bolster its defenses against potential threats at the Euro 2024 soccer tournament, with Interior Minister Nancy Faeser promising vigilance on the eve of the opening match.
“Our focus of course is above all on the threat of Islamist terrorism, hooligans and their offenses, everyday crime, violent criminals, but this time also on cyber-attacks,” Faeser said at a ceremony for around 350 foreign police officers dispatched for the event.
Groups such as Daesh have already called for attacks at the month-long tournament, which begins with the host country’s Group A opener against Scotland on Friday.
“Our security authorities therefore have the Islamist scene firmly in their sights,” Faeser said, while adding that authorities were not currently aware of any specific plots.
Germany expects 2.7 million people to attend matches in stadiums across the country and some 12 million in its fan zones for outdoor viewing, including on a long stretch of turf laid out in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.
The fan zones were popular during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, but it remains to be seen whether the public mood at this event can rise above simmering tensions at a time of conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, and as the far right sees its support surge in Europe.
“Some people are trying to bring these conflicts into our country,” the minister warned, adding that propaganda and hate speech on German streets would not be tolerated.
Some 22,000 police officers will be working each day at the tournament.
German security authorities are also working with international partners to identify potential threats and the country has ramped up its border controls.


Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
Updated 13 June 2024
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Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup

Messi to miss Olympics but leaves door open for 2026 World Cup
  • Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26

MIAMI: Eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has confirmed in an interview with US broadcaster ESPN that he will not attempt to win a second gold medal with Argentina at the Paris Olympics this summer.
“I spoke with (Argentinian Olympic coach Javier) Mascherano, and we immediately agreed on the situation,” Inter Miami forward Messi said in the interview broadcast on Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult moment, because there’s the Copa America, and that would mean two or three consecutive months away from my club.
“At my age, I don’t want to play everything and I need to make the right choices,” added the former Barcelona star who was a member of Argentina’s 2008 Olympic gold medal winning team.
Messi, who turns 37 on June 24, will be with defending champions Argentina at the Copa America from June 20 to July 14 in the United States, just a few weeks before the Olympics start on July 26.
Messi, however, has not closed the door on taking part in a record-breaking sixth World Cup, to be held in 2026 between the US, Canada and Mexico.
“It’s great to have records and continue to achieve things but I won’t take part in a World Cup just to say I’ve done six,” said Messi.
“If I feel good and everything is in place for me to be there, fine, but I won’t go just to go.”
“It’s very difficult to imagine what can happen because it’s still two years away. I don’t need to commit right now to whether or not I’ll be there.”


Team Falcons emerge champions in Saudi qualifier for Esports World Cup

Team Falcons emerge champions in Saudi qualifier for Esports World Cup
Updated 13 June 2024
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Team Falcons emerge champions in Saudi qualifier for Esports World Cup

Team Falcons emerge champions in Saudi qualifier for Esports World Cup
  • The Honor of Kings Invitational Midseason-Esports World Cup will take place in Riyadh from July 4 to Aug. 25

RIYADH: Team Falcons have guaranteed their spot at the $3-million Honor of Kings Invitational Midseason-Esports World Cup in Riyadh from July 4 to Aug. 25.

Team Falcons demonstrated their dominance in the Saudi Arabia qualifier, with Luban emerging as their best player.

They overcame rival Saudi Arabia esports clubs including Twisted Minds, R8 Esports, Geekay Esports, Onyx Ravens, RTG (Road to Glory), The Vicious, Dragons, and GS Team.

The tournament was broadcast live from June 9 to 11 on the official Honor of Kings Arabia channels and within the “Honor of Kings” game.

The “Honor of Kings” game has become the world’s most popular mobile multiplayer online battle arena contest. It has over 200 million registered users and more than 100 million daily players.

The free-to-play game was launched in the Middle East and North Africa in February 2024.


The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
Updated 13 June 2024
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The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket

The unimaginable pressure of playing top class cricket
  • Fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperforming can mean the end of a contract or career

Fans of cricket may find it impossible to understand the pressures that professional players are under. Although some of us have played good standard club cricket and faced tight match situations, we have not had the pressure of our career and livelihood being at stake, playing in front of crowds, screened by the media and subject to scrutiny. This is now ubiquitous, both mainstream and on social media.

It was instructive, therefore, to listen to one England’s greatest batsmen, at a time before batter became the preferred term and social media existed, provide some insights into these pressures. This was none other than Yorkshire and England’s Geoffrey Boycott. The occasion marked the launch of the 11th book under Boycott’s name — “Being Geoffrey Boycott,” published by Fairfield books — 60 years since he made his debut for England on June 4, 1964. 

This was at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, against Australia. Looking at pictures of him on the day, his large glasses, cap and kit, unadorned by sponsorship logos, are a large remove from the appearance of modern-day cricketers. However, there is a commonality: that of pressure to succeed. In Boycott’s case, that pressure had been heightened when he was told, aged 17, that he needed to wear glasses. This ended his football career, during which he played for Leeds United’s under-18 team. 

In his debut match he top scored in England’s first innings but could not bat in the second because of a finger injury sustained in the first. This kept him out of the following two matches before he scored his maiden Test match century in August 1964. He would go on to score 8,114 runs in 108 Test matches in a career which had its fair share of controversy and turmoil. Between 1974 and 1977 Boycott made himself unavailable for England selection focussing, instead, on captaining Yorkshire.

In late September 1978, his mother died. Two days afterwards, Yorkshire’s committee met to inform Boycott that he was to be removed as the county’s captain because of a failure to win trophies and his unpopularity amongst the players. Boycott was asked if he had suffered from mental health issues during these years. He said no, he had been close to his mother and it had saddened him to see her deteriorate week after week. His reaction was a natural one to a deeply mourned loss. The treatment by Yorkshire compounded this, in terms of its timing and nature.

From the outside this appears a cold-hearted decision, especially its timing. Boycott was devastated. He continued as a player the following season, breaking more records. This says much about his determination to succeed against the odds. He was known for being a singular man and for spending time away from teammates after play. Cricket involves a series of battles between individuals, primarily between bowler and batter. A wicket, a boundary, a catch, a century, a five-wicket haul represents individual achievement within a team setting. Opponents look to identify and expose weaknesses.

It can be argued that this is the case in all sports. However, cricket has a difference, especially with batting. If a batter makes a mistake, he or she is not straight into the next piece of action. There is time to reflect on the reason for the dismissal. It may be days before the player’s next innings. This allows much time for introspection, analysis and self-analysis.

The fear of failure is ever present, so a premium is placed on eliminating mistakes, since continued underperformance can mean the end of a contract or career. Fear induces nervousness, breeds insecurity and anxiety, creating conditions which counteract those needed to succeed. They are also conditions which sports psychologists recognise as underpinning mental illness.

Professional cricketers, as with other athletes, have an inherent desire to succeed. The consequences of failure are evident from an early age and often result in being dropped from the team. Boycott admitted to having a fear of failure during his career, of nerves and of a determination to overcome them. He said that he was able to block out all external noise when batting. This set him apart from many other players, revealing immense mental strength. He also emphasized the need for high-quality technique and practice. This was echoed by a former Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, who contends that, unless playing a certain shot or bowling a particular delivery has not become a habit, it is almost impossible to produce that shot or delivery under pressure.

Such pressure situations have grown exponentially with the advent of T20 cricket.  These are evident in abundance in the current ICC men’s T20 World Cup. South Africa were 3 for three against the Netherlands and 27 for four against Bangladesh, but recovered to make scores that were just sufficient to earn victory. The recoveries were instigated by the middle order batters, notably David Miller. Imagine the pressure that was on him to perform, especially as South Africa has a history of losing matches which it should have won. Crucially, he reined in his natural game and adapted to the pitch conditions. Bangladesh required 11 runs from six deliveries to win against South Africa, two batters were caught on the boundary trying to hit sixes. The match between India and Pakistan went to a super over. Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir was entrusted with it but, under pressure, failed to bowl straight and Pakistan lost. 

The margins in these pressure situations are very thin. Results can go either way, determined by the performance of those who have trained themselves to be able to handle such situations. The mentality required for this was exemplified by Geoffrey Boycott’s approach to the game, completely unlike that of an all-time great Australian all-rounder, Keith Miller, who had served with the Royal Australian Air Force in the Second World War. His dashing approach to life and cricket was summed up in a single (adapted) quote: “Pressure is a Messerschmitt directly behind you, playing cricket is not.”

How times have changed.             


‘Incredibly rewarding’ — head of SAFF Women’s Football Department hails Saudi Women’s futsal team

‘Incredibly rewarding’ — head of SAFF Women’s Football Department hails Saudi Women’s futsal team
Updated 13 June 2024
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‘Incredibly rewarding’ — head of SAFF Women’s Football Department hails Saudi Women’s futsal team

‘Incredibly rewarding’ — head of SAFF Women’s Football Department hails Saudi Women’s futsal team
  • The national team secured back-to-back wins against Serbia in their training camp
  • Aalia Al-Rasheed says the victories ‘are indications that we’re on the right path’

RIYADH: The head of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s Women’s Football Department, Aalia Al-Rasheed, has lauded the Kingdom’s female futsal players as they near the end of their training camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the last two weeks, Saudi’s national futsal team has secured impressive back-to-back victories against Serbia in Sarajevo.

In the first match, they recorded a 3-2 thanks to goals from Al-Bandari Mubarak, Seba Tawfiq and Al-Bandari Hawsawi. This was followed by a 5-2 win, with Al-Bandari Mubarak scoring all five of Saudia Arabia’s goals.

The national team are currently ranked 51st in the FIFA Futsal Women’s World Ranking, whilst the Serbian national team are ranked 43rd.

“These wins show just how much effort and passion our team puts into every game,” said Al-Rasheed. “Winning against a strong team like Serbia really boosts (their) confidence and highlights the progress we’re making in women's futsal. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the hard work of our players and coaching staff pay off in such a significant way.”

She added: “We’ve been focusing on building a strong, cohesive team, and these victories are indications that we’re on the right path. Our goal is to keep pushing forward, learn from every match, and continue to grow. We’re determined to keep this momentum going and reach even greater heights. The support from SAFF and the dedication of our players are key to our success, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved so far.”

The friendly matches were part of the team’s training camp in Sarajevo, which started in May and continues until June 15. Overseen by head coach Mato Stankovic, it is seen as a critical part of their preparation for upcoming competitions and matches.

The players currently in Sarajevo are: Layla Ali, Leen Mohammed, Al-Bandari Mubarak, Noura Ibrahim, Atha Fahad, Abeer Nasser, Raghad Mukhayzin, Rahaf Al-Mansouri, Al-Hanouf Saud, Mohrah Al-Malhi, Nadeen Saleh, Al-Bandari Hawsawi, Raghad Saleh, Lana Abdulrazaq, Bayan Sadagah, Seba Tawfiq, Yara Alfaris, Raghad Munai, Manar Al-Onaizi, and Noura Al-Athel.