6 Saudi internationals hit with punishments for disciplinary violations before the Asian Cup

6 Saudi internationals hit with punishments for disciplinary violations before the Asian Cup
Al-Nassr’s Sultan Al-Ghannam (L) and Nawaf Al-Aqidi are among those punished for disciplinary violations. (X: @TheNassrZone)
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Updated 13 February 2024
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6 Saudi internationals hit with punishments for disciplinary violations before the Asian Cup

6 Saudi internationals hit with punishments for disciplinary violations before the Asian Cup
  • Saudi national team coach Robert Mancini revealed on eve of tournament that some players had refused to play in friendlies

Six Saudi Arabian football internationals have been punished for disciplinary violations ahead of the recent AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, as reported by the Saudi Press Agency.

Coach of the Green Falcons Roberto Mancini dropped a bombshell before the tournament when he revealed that the reason behind the axing of three of the team’s more experienced players — Salman Al-Faraj of Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr pair Sultan Al-Ghannam and Nawaf Al-Aqidi — was their refusal to play in certain friendly games prior to the main event in Qatar.

The announcement caused uproar at the time among fans, with suggestions that the Italian’s action could affect team morale.

But it now looks like the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has come down strongly on Mancini’s side with a series of punishments for those players, along with Mohammed Maran, Khalid Al-Ghannam, and Ali Hazazi.

Goalkeeper Al-Aqidi has been suspended for five months and fined SR300,000 ($80,000) for violations which include a request to postpone the team’s camp; a request for the team’s management to deliver a message in which he stated that he did not want to join the camp; sending a message containing abusive language; and a request to leave the camp because he believed that he was the team’s third-choice goalkeeper.

Sultan Al-Ghannam has been fined SR200,000 for his request for an exemption from joining the team’s camp ahead of the Asian Cup, during a meeting on Dec. 28.

Al-Faraj, who captained Saudi Arabia at the World Cup in Qatar, has been hit with a SR100,000 fine after he refused to join the squad after being summoned to the team camp that was held in October.

The other three players — Maran (Al-Nassr), Khalid Al-Ghannam and Hazazi (both Al-Ettifaq) — have been suspended for a month and each fined SR200,000 following their request to leave the national team’s camp after they were left out of the official Saudi squad for the AFC Asian Cup, despite there still being an opportunity to force their way into the final list if other players were injured.


Green Falcons exit 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship after loss to Lebanon

Green Falcons exit 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship after loss to Lebanon
Updated 22 February 2024
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Green Falcons exit 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship after loss to Lebanon

Green Falcons exit 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship after loss to Lebanon
  • Hosts now cannot reach knockout stages of the West Asian Football Federation tournament with only a match against Guam left in Group A

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia have exited the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship after losing 3-2 to Lebanon at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on Wednesday night, Arriyadiyah have reported.

The Green Falcons have no points from two defeats in Group A, having lost their opener 3-1 to Jordan.

The Jordanian team leads the group with a maximum of six points, on goal difference from Lebanon. Both teams have now progressed to the semifinals.

Guam, who Saudi Arabia play in a dead rubber fixture on Friday, sit bottom of the group with no points after two losses.

Lebanon took the lead after only three minutes through Christy Maalouf, and only three minutes later doubled their lead through an own goal from Saudi Arabia’s Nouf Saud.

Syntia Salha seemed to have put the match beyond the Green Falcons with a third for Lebanon from the penalty spot on 38 minutes.

The Kingdom’s players showed commendable spirit in the second half against strong opponents to pull back two goals, from Lana Abdulrazak (61) and Seba Tawfiq (81) but could not pull off what would have been a stunning comeback.


Neymar dons Saudi attire to celebrate Founding Day

Neymar dons Saudi attire to celebrate Founding Day
Updated 22 February 2024
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Neymar dons Saudi attire to celebrate Founding Day

Neymar dons Saudi attire to celebrate Founding Day

RIYADH: Brazilian football star Neymar caught everyone’s attention when he appeared wearing traditional Saudi clothes during preparations for the Kingdom’s Founding Day celebrations.

His club, Al-Hilal, shared photographs of the player wearing the thobe, shemagh and headband famously associated with the late King Abdulaziz, showcasing the general atmosphere ahead of the day.

Neymar was accompanied by Esteve Calzada, the CEO of Al-Hilal, and Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus, along with other teammates, and trended on social media platform X dancing the Ardah, Saudi’s national dance.

The widely adopted white thobe in the Kingdom, favored for its comfort in the hot climate and desert setting, is complemented by other traditional attire for special occasions. This includes Almorudan, worn over the thobe, distinguished by its long arms and commonly donned during Ardah performances.

The 32-year-old recently returned to Riyadh to continue his rehabilitation after undergoing surgery for a ruptured cruciate ligament in his left knee. He sustained the injury during Brazil’s loss to Uruguay in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers last October.

Founding Day is celebrated in the Kingdom on Feb. 22 each year to commemorate its establishment by Imam Mohammed bin Saud in 1727 CE.

The Saudi Ministry of Sports recently announced the 21st round of the Roshan Professional League tournament would be named the Founding Round to symbolize the day’s significance.

Neymar is not the only player to celebrate Founding Day with his Saudi fans. Last year, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was shown wearing traditional attire along with his Al-Nassr teammates.


Saudi Arabia fall short in 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship opener against Jordan

Saudi Arabia fall short in 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship opener against Jordan
Updated 20 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia fall short in 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship opener against Jordan

Saudi Arabia fall short in 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship opener against Jordan
  • Despite the 3-1 loss, Kingdom can still progress from Group A with matches against Lebanon and Guam up next

Saudi Arabia’s women’s national team lost 3-1 to Jordan in their 2024 West Asian Football Federation opener at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah on Monday night.

Despite a spirited performance throughout the 90 minutes from Lluis Cortes’ side, Jordan took control of Group A. Saudi Arabia can still qualify for the knockout stage with matches against Lebanon and Guam to come on Wednesday and Friday respectively.

Jordan took the lead through Mai Sweilem in the 24th minute before Leen Mohammed equalized for the Green Falcons nine minutes later (33).

Jordan regained the lead through Maysa Jbarah on 61 minutes, with Ayah Al-Majali confirming victory with a third goal for the visitors from the penalty spot after 72 minutes.

Taking place in Jeddah until Feb. 29, the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship is the first official 11-a-side women’s tournament held in Saudi Arabia. This year’s eighth edition welcomes seven nations alongside the hosts, including Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Guam and Nepal.

The WAFF Women’s Championship is the latest international football tournament in Jeddah, where both the 2023 FIFA Club World Cup and 2022 WAFF Women’s Futsal Championship have been held.


Injured Neymar to miss Copa America in June

Injured Neymar to miss Copa America in June
Updated 19 February 2024
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Injured Neymar to miss Copa America in June

Injured Neymar to miss Copa America in June
  • Al-Hilal’s Brazilian star was injured playing for his country in October and is not expected to return until next season

Al-Hilal star Neymar is certain to miss the 2024 Copa America in the US, a spokesman for the Brazil national team has told Arriyadiyah.

Rodrigo Pavia said the 32-year-old star will not join the Selecao squad despite the fact that the Brazilian team will not play their first match until June 24, against opponents yet to be confirmed.

“Neymar will not participate in the Copa America,” he told Arriyadiyah on Sunday. “This is something that has become certain, as his recovery will not be completed by that time.”

“We might expect him to return for the World Cup qualifiers next September, I think he may be ready by then.”

Neymar’s personal fitness trainer and compatriot Ricardo Rosa is currently overseeing the third stage of the player’s rehabilitation, private sources revealed to Arriyadiyah.

Neymar suffered a rupture in the cruciate ligament of his left knee during his country’s 2-0 loss to Uruguay in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on Oct. 18, and later underwent surgery at the Hospital Mater Dei in Belo Horizonte at the hands of Rodrigo Lasmar, the Brazilian national team doctor.

Lasmar has insisted he will not rush Neymar back to action and that he expects the player to return at the start of next season, specifically during August.


Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again

Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again
Updated 18 February 2024
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Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again

Mighty Mitrovic continues fine scoring form as Al-Hilal win again
  • Win also extended Al-Hilal’s winning streak to amazing 21 games in all competitions

RIYADH: Aleksandar Mitrovic’s two goals sent Al-Hilal on their way to a 3-1 win over Al-Raed on Sunday, restoring the side’s seven-point lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League above local rivals Al-Nassr.

The win also extended Al-Hilal’s winning streak to an amazing 21 games in all competitions.

Less than 24 hours after Cristiano Ronaldo gave Al-Nassr the lead against Al-Fateh for his 21st league goal of the season, Mitrovic, second in the goalscoring standings, scored his 18th after just two minutes. It signaled the start of a dominant performance from the Riyadh giants.

The Serbian striker was on hand at the near post as Salem Al-Dawsari galloped down the left, skipping past defenders, only for the ball to spill to Mitrovic to hook from close range. It was the first official goal to be scored at the newly built Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, the stadium that is now Al-Hilal’s new home.

Al-Dawsari certainly looked comfortable already in these state-of-the-art surroundings and continued to cause all kinds of problems down that side with his direct running and tricky football. He tried to set up Mitrovic more than once to no success but the next clear chance came after 19 minutes when the Asian Player of the Year found Malcom in the middle but the Brazilian fired just over the bar.

The second goal was not far away. After 27 minutes, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was brought down in the area by Mohammed Al-Dossary and Mitrovic stepped up to find the back of the net for the 19th time this season.

There seemed to be little chance of the visitors, who had won their last two league games, taking anything back to Buraidah as they barely threatened to get on the scoresheet. Any possibility was officially extinguished seven minutes after the restart. Ruben Neves floated over a free-kick from the right for Kalidou Koulibaly to head into the bottom corner for the Senegalese defender’s second goal since arriving from Chelsea last summer.

The points were then all but sealed, leading to a drop in intensity. Al-Raed, who stay in 14th, got their consolation in added time. Julio Tavares broke free and then, as he arrived in the area, slipped a pass to his right for Amir Sayoud to lift over goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

It did not dampen the spirits of the Al-Hilal fans. The team are next in action on Thursday when they can book a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League if they avoid a two-goal defeat at home to Sepahan of Iran.