Hattan Alsaif looking to inspire Saudi females in world of MMA after joining PFL

Hattan Alsaif looking to inspire Saudi females in world of MMA after joining PFL
Hattan Alsaif is the first Saudi woman to join the Professional Fighters League. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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Hattan Alsaif looking to inspire Saudi females in world of MMA after joining PFL

Hattan Alsaif looking to inspire Saudi females in world of MMA after joining PFL
  • The Riyadh resident recently became the first female athlete from the Middle East to join the Professional Fighters League

The latest Saudi Arabian addition to the Professional Fighters League is a history maker. On Jan. 30, Hattan Alsaif became the first female mixed martial arts fighter from the Kingdom and the Middle East to join the sport’s fastest-growing brand.

“It feels so awesome, so exciting,” she said. “But it’s also not easy. You can say it’s a heavy (burden) that I’m carrying because I’m the first Saudi female to sign with the PFL, and maybe even the first female from the Middle East. So all the eyes are going to be on me, I have to represent my country and I have to represent all Arabs. But I’m also sure I’m good enough to represent them.”

The 22-year-old Riyadh resident took gold at the 2023 International Federation of Muay Thai Associations World Championships, an event in which she was honored with the “Breakthrough Female Athlete” award. And she followed that up with first-place finishes at the World Combat Games and the Saudi Games.

It is a lot to squeeze into career that only began in September 2021, when she first took up Muay Thai seriously. Joining the PFL has now brought her to a worldwide audience.

“For sure. PFL is a very big platform, it’s not easy to get there,” Alsaif said. “Some huge names are fighting there and this is what gets me more excited. I know myself, and I believe in myself and I believe that God would never put me there if I was not good enough. No, God has his plan, he got me there because he has a plan for me.”

She added: “I also believe in my coach, before I ever do anything or sign any contract, I always go to my coach and ask ‘do you believe that I’m good enough or ready enough?’ Only the coaches can see if their champs are really ready or not. So I went to my coach and asked ‘do you think I’m ready enough to be with PFL?’ And he said ‘Yeah, you are ready.’”

Alsaif trains with Feras Sadaa, coach of the Saudi Muay Thai national team, at Fight Club in Riyadh. She also works closely with one of Saudi Arabia’s two fighters currently participating in the PFL.

“I’m on (Saudi PFL fighter) Abdullah Al-Qahtani’s team, so I’m a member of his family,” she said.

Added support comes from the Saudi Arabian Mixed Martial Arts Federation, established in 2019.

“Mixed martial arts, even the combat sports are all very new in Saudi Arabia. We can say that only two years it started. It’s a very big thing, but it’s also new, no one knew about it, it was hard to get support,” she said. “But you can see the Ministry of Sport are trying their best to support the women and the men. And even the federations of other types of sports, they are trying their best, they are introducing championships. So everything is growing step by step.”

Alsaif is expected to make her PFL bow sometime in 2024, but says for now she is keeping her plans a “surprise.” Mostly she is looking to adding success inside the MMA cage to her impressive Muay Thai resume.

“Next for me is to have victories, always,” she said. “I always say that I don’t have any just one thing that I’ve got my eyes on. No, I see my life as a path that I’m walking through. And every day, or every year or every month, something new will jump on my path and I will take it. A medal, a belt, or whatever it is. I just want to take everything before I go away from this life.”

Alsaif says she “would love to” become a role model for Saudi Arabia’s females looking to get into MMA or other sports.

“Even before I started combat sports, I wanted to be someone that can inspire other people, can help other people,” she said. “I would do my best to inspire any other people.”


Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
Updated 52 min 54 sec ago
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Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension

Three top clubs need a new coach, Emery off the market after Aston Villa extension
  • “We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday
  • The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking

DUBAI: Ahead of a summer when three of the biggest jobs in world soccer are up for grabs, Unai Emery became the latest top coach to decide to stay put.
The Aston Villa manager extended his contract until 2027 on Tuesday to stay in Birmingham at a time when Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern Munich all have looming vacancies.
In recent weeks, candidates Xabi Alonso and Julian Nagelsmann took themselves off the market by committing their futures to Bayer Leverkusen and Germany, respectively.
Emery was reportedly on the radar of Bayern and Barcelona after establishing himself as one of the shrewdest coaches in the sport with his work at Villa over the past two seasons.
Having taken over a team that were in danger of relegation in October 2022, he has guided Villa to fourth in the Premier League and into the semifinals of the Europa Conference League.
“We are enjoying our way together with Villa fans, the club owners, management and this great group of players that we are proud of,” Emery said Tuesday.
“Ambition already is, and must always be, the motto of this project.”
The field of candidates for the jobs at Barcelona, Liverpool and Bayern is shrinking.
Alonso was the favorite for Liverpool and Bayern, having played for both teams during a storied career. But he announced last month that he would remain at Leverkusen, the team he has gone on to lead to their first German title at the expense of Bayern.
“This is the right place for me to be, to develop as a coach,” Alonso said.
Nagelsmann, fired by Bayern last season, was a contender to return to the German giant until last week when he extended his contract with the national team through to the 2026 World Cup. He was also considered a possibility for Liverpool, which faces the daunting task of replacing Jurgen Klopp at the end of the season.
Klopp said in January he would step down after a trophy-laden spell of more than eight years on Merseyside.
Alonso seemed like a natural fit as an ex-player who has made a remarkable start to his coaching career with Leverkusen.
Sporting Lisbon coach Ruben Amorim replaced Alonso as the favorite for the Liverpool job, while Roberto De Zerbi has impressed at Brighton.
Bayern need a replacement for Thomas Tuchel, who is stepping down at the end of the season. His reputation has taken a hit after failing to win the title this year, but he could yet walk away a Champions League winner after leading Bayern to the semifinals of European club soccer’s elite competition.
The Champions League trophy could yet see Tuchel in the running for one of the other two top jobs available this summer.
Barcelona need a new coach after Xavi Hernández said in January that this would be his last season.
Speculation that Emery was on the Catalan club’s radar had increased in recent days.
Emery’s reputation has only grown since taking over from Steven Gerrard when Villa was above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Emery, who joined from Villarreal, led Villa to a seventh-place finish and qualified the team for Europe for the first time since 2010. Villa did not say at the time of his appointment in 2022 how long his original contract would run.
The 52-year-old Emery has won four Europa League trophies — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal — and won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
He previously coached in England with Arsenal from 2018-19.
“We are thrilled and are building a sporting operation around Unai to support him with a view of returning Aston Villa, a co-founder of the English Football League as we prepare to celebrate our 150th anniversary, to its historic levels of greatness,” club chairman Nassef Sawiris said.


Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK

Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK
Updated 23 April 2024
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Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK

Unbeaten Stoinis ton helps Lucknow chase 211 to beat CSK
  • It was Stoinis’ first IPL century and his second in T20 cricket, trumping an unbeaten 108 by Chennai skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad
  • Stoinis reached his hundred in 56 balls as he and Hooda, who made 17 not out off six balls, secured Lucknow’s second straight win over Chennai

CHENNAI, India: Australia’s Marcus Stoinis hit an unbeaten 124 as Lucknow Super Giants chased down a target of 211 with six wickets and three balls to spare against Chennai Super Kings on Tuesday.
It was Stoinis’ first IPL century and his second in T20 cricket, trumping an unbeaten 108 by Chennai skipper Ruturaj Gaikwad at his home M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.
Lucknow looked in trouble at 88-3 after 11 overs but Stoinis put on 70 runs with Nicholas Pooran, who hit 34 off 15 balls, and an unbeaten 65-run stand with Deepak Hooda to achieve victory in 19.3 overs.
Stoinis reached his hundred in 56 balls as he and Hooda, who made 17 not out off six balls, secured Lucknow’s second straight win over Chennai, replacing the five-time winners in fourth spot.
Needing 17 to win in the final over, Stoinis smashed Mustafizur Rahman for a six and three fours, including one off a no ball.
“Tough pill to swallow, but good game of cricket,” said Gaikwad. “LSG played really well in the back end. We had the game in control till 13-14 overs, but Stoinis played a great innings.”
Stoinis walked in in the first over after Quinton de Kock’s departure for a duck and paced his innings to perfection as he hit 13 fours and six sixes in his 63-ball knock.
It was the highest score by a batsman while chasing in the IPL.
Hooda said Stoinis “played like a warrior, he is a kind of motivation to us.”
Sri Lanka pace bowler Matheesha Pathirana took two wickets including the dangerous Pooran.
Chennai posted 210-4 courtesy of Gaikwad’s second IPL ton and a 104-run stand between the captain and Shivam Dube, who smashed 66, after the hosts were invited to bat first.
Gaikwad took on the opposition attack despite losing Ajinkya Rahane and Daryl Mitchell and raised his hundred from 56 balls with a six and four.
Gaikwad became only the third Chennai player after India’s Murali Vijay and Australia’s Shane Watson to hit two IPL tons and moved to second in this season’s batting chart with 349 runs.
Royal Challengers Bengaluru star Virat Kohli tops the chart with 379 runs.
Dube got to his fifty with a four and a six before being run out in the final over, which saw veteran M.S. Dhoni walk out to a rousing reception and hit a four off the final ball.


Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears
Updated 23 April 2024
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Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears

Soccer agent ‘threatened’ Chelsea director over Zouma fee, UK court hears
  • The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
  • French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.


Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’
Updated 23 April 2024
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Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’

Ten Hag says reaction to Man Utd FA Cup win a ‘disgrace’
  • Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment
  • “The comments are a disgrace“

LONDON: Erik ten Hag says the media reaction to Manchester United’s performance in the FA Cup semifinal against Coventry was “a disgrace,” robustly defending his side’s achievement in reaching a second straight final.
United surrendered a 3-0 lead at Wembley on Sunday and were saved from a humiliating exit in extra time only by a VAR intervention, which ruled out a goal for offside in the final moments.
They eventually scraped through against the Championship side on penalties to set up a re-match of last year’s final against City.
Ten Hag admitted after the match his team had “got away with it” but played down any notion of embarrassment.
But he has been widely criticized, adding to speculation he is on borrowed time at Old Trafford.
Former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said the performance would “cement his sacking.”
But Ten Hag was in defiant mood on the eve of United’s Premier League match against bottom side Sheffield United on Wednesday.
“You asked the question: ‘Is it embarrassing?’ No, the reaction from you was embarrassing,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“It is the comments. Top football is about results. We made it to a final and we deserved it not only by this game but also the other games.
“We lost control for 20 minutes, we also had bad luck, 3-2, 3-3. We were very lucky in the end, it is clear. Penalties was very good and we made it to the final, it is a huge achievement. Twice, in two years, is magnificent. For me as a manager, four cup finals in four years.
“The comments are a disgrace.”
United, winless in their past four Premier League games, are in danger of missing out on a European spot next season after a poor campaign.
They are already realistically out of the race to qualify for the lucrative Champions League but still have the Europa League and the Europa Conference League to aim for.
“We have to win every game, we know that,” said Ten Hag. “That’s what United stands for and that is our approach, go from game to game but we have to qualify for Europe and we now have two opportunities — in the league and the FA Cup final.”
Ten Hag said he would work closely with newly appointed technical director Jason Wilcox to determine the future direction of the club.
Wilcox, 53, has left second-tier Southampton to take up the job at Old Trafford with immediate effect.
“We have to form a partnership, which is very important,” said Ten Hag. “We are a little bit behind in the process so we have to catch up and we will go and speed up the process.”


AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience
Updated 23 April 2024
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AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience

AlUla Camel Cup promises a one-of-a-kind experience
  • Tickets to major heritage event available online
  • The camel racing spectacular runs from April 24-27

AlUla: The AlUla Camel Cup, considered the pinnacle of camel racing in the region, promises an exhilarating spectacle for sports aficionados and cultural enthusiasts from across Saudi Arabia and the world.

Organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla in partnership with the Saudi Camel Racing Federation, the event will provide a celebration of sport, culture and entertainment.

In addition to the camel racing, there will be static and mobile displays and acts that celebrate AlUla’s heritage and Saudi Arabia’s artistic legacy, including music and performances that highlight the historical significance of the camel in local culture.

Workshops for adults throughout the day will cover calligraphy, traditional pottery making, incense crafting and Sadu weaving, providing hands-on learning experiences for visitors. Children, meanwhile, will enjoy a range of educational and creative activities, from camel origami and clay modeling to an augmented reality scanner that animates drawings.

Additional attractions include camel riding, a Light Brite experience where guests can try their hand at face painting, and a calligraphy light show after sunset. Visitors can also indulge in a traditional Saudi Arabian coffee roasting and tasting session.

Culinary delights from various cuisines will be available at pop-up stalls, while the retail experience will feature regional brands offering an array of products, including camel-themed streetwear, souvenirs and artisanal items reflecting AlUla’s heritage.

The event will also host the AlUla Design Award Ceremony on Friday, where the winning camel covers will be displayed in the Heritage Village.

Rami AlMoallim, vice president of destination management and marketing at the commission, said: “As the second edition of the AlUla Camel Cup draws closer, we warmly invite sports and culture enthusiasts from around the globe to join us for an experience unlike any other. This event exemplifies RCU’s commitment to sporting excellence infused with cultural depth, reflecting both our rich Saudi heritage and our forward-looking vision for AlUla.

“We are gearing up to deliver an unparalleled celebration of the ancient sport that is camel racing, set against the breathtaking backdrop of this oasis city that will resonate with fans and families alike. We look forward to welcoming guests to experience in person this culmination of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural landscape and sports innovation.”

The event, being staged at the Mughayra Heritage Sports Village, will feature the region’s fastest camels and most skilled jockeys, promising several rounds of top-tier competition.

The inaugural Camel Cup last year drew thousands of visitors and this year promises an even more significant experience because 2024 is the Year of the Camel, celebrating the animal’s status in Saudi culture and society.

Ticket prices start at SR50 ($13). For bookings and further information, visit experiencealula.com.