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Jeddah to play host to Basket Ball World Championships in October

Time: March 18, 2019   

RIYADH – A contract for the Kingdom to play host the Basket Ball World Championships for “Cities 3X3”, in mid-October, was signed here on Monday, Saudi Press Agency said.

The signing ceremony was in the presence of Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee; Abdulrahman Al-Massaad, president of the Saudi Basket Ball Federation and the First Vice President of the Basket Ball World Federation Ignacio Andreas.

Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said that the championships will be held, in Jeddah governorate, in October, pointing out that such a move is a preliminary step to host more prestigious world championships, in future, so as to cement the Kingdom clout, on the world sports’.

Meanwhile, the First Vice President of the Basket Ball World Federation Ignacio Andreas expressed thanks and appreciation to the Saudi Basketball Federation to host the Basket Ball World Championships for “Cities 3X3”. He expressed confidence about the Kingdom’s success in hosting the event due to the capabilities and potentials it possesses.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Saudi Arabia win first gold medal at Kickboxing Championship in Jordan

Time: March 18, 2019  

Zahra Al-Qurashi, the Saudi mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, took gold in the women’s 70 kg kickboxing category at the Open International Tournament for Clubs in Amman. (SPA)

AMMAN: Zahra Al-Qurashi, the Saudi mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, took gold in the women’s 70 kg kickboxing category at the Open International Tournament for Clubs in Amman, after beating local competitor Heba Abdul Jalil on Sunday.
The competition kicked off on Saturday in Jordan. Al-Qurashi won the gold medal after defeating Jordanian fighter Heba Wasfi.
Al-Qurashi expressed her pleasure at winning her country’s first gold medal in the sport, stressing the difficulty of the fight with her Jordanian counterpart.
Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors and commended the result and the support the sport receives from Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia wins 3 golds in powerlifting

Time: March 16, 2019   

Saudi basketball team
Ali Al-Qahtani — bronze in swimming
Hassan Al-Hadhariti — three golds

ABU DHABI — Saudi Arabia’s athletes continued to win multiple events during the Special Olympics World Games here Saturday.

Saudi Arabia’s Hassan Al-Hadhariti, 23, showed true strength at the powerlifting competition. He took home gold in combined squat, bench press and deadlift; gold in squat; gold in deadlift; and silver in bench press. His teammate, Nasser Aldawsari, 22, achieved bronze in squat.

Meanwhile, the Saudi men’s basketball team won against Finland 31-13.

Competing in Dubai, Ali Al-Qahtani, 30, clinched a bronze in the 50m freestyle swimming competition.

Hassan Al-Hadhariti said: “Powerlifting has taught me a lot about discipline and control. Now, winning these medals for the Kingdom has made me feel very proud.”

As the largest team ever to represent Saudi Arabia at Special Olympics World Games, 50 athletes — 21 female and 29 male — will participate in 10 disciplines throughout the event, including basketball, bocce, athletics, powerlifting, roller skating, swimming, triathlon, table tennis, bowling and unified sports. They were accompanied by a delegation including representatives from Special Olympics Saudi Arabia Federation (SOSAF), coaches, and healthcare professionals, as well as their family and more than 200 volunteers from Saudi Arabia. Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will see more than 7,500 athletes from 192 nations compete in 24 sports from March 14-21.

Following the World Games 2019, Saudi Arabia Special Olympics Federation will continue to support Special Olympics athletes through a comprehensive ecosystem of programs, including athletics and physical activity coaching, healthcare, and more. — SG

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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Entertainment Village proves a huge draw

Time: February 02, 2019  

Entertainment Village at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).

KAEC, Jeddah — The inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA, the first-ever European Tour golf event to be played in Saudi Arabia, is already proving a huge draw as a new wave of golf fans flock to see the action — both on and off the course.

Saudi nationals are descending on Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in thousands to get their first taste of the sport, cheer on the world’s best players and try the sport for themselves in the tournament’s fun-packed Entertainment Village.

The Entertainment Village has been a focal point for families throughout the week with live music, food trucks and a range of golf activities attracting the crowds. Men, women and children of all ages have turned up in their droves to try putting challenges and receive swing lesson from Zouhaier Jebri, the club’s head professional.

Hamza Hegazi, nine, and Layla Altelmissani, 15, are two youngsters who visited the tournament to see the sport being played by professionals then ended up trying it for themselves in the Entertainment Village. Layla, has now signed up for Royal Greens Golf & Country Club’s dedicated academy and the Saudi Golf Federation’s (SGF) Junior Development Program.

“I’ve been here every day since Wednesday,” said Layla. “I go to the World Academy in King Abdullah Economic City and we came for a field trip with the school. The activities are great fun and being able to watch the world’s best players is something we’ve been dreaming of — now it’s actually happening.”

Hamza added: “I’ve had a great time with my friends trying out the putting games. We are now members of the academy at Royal Greens. I hope I can play in this tournament one day.”

Another Saudi national trying golf for the first time was Zahra, a college tutor visiting the tournament from her home in Jeddah.

“I didn’t really know what golf was, but some of my students told me to come and I’m glad I did,” said Zahra. “It’s a new opportunity for Saudi Arabia and I wanted to come and support the country as well as the players. It’s a new experience for everyone and I wanted to be here to see what it was like. I will definitely be coming back next year.”

The strong level of public interest reinforces the Saudi Golf Federation’s vision to bring the European Tour to Saudi Arabia. With the main event generating huge interest, the Federation is leveraging that interest to grow the game of golf across the country.

“It was special to see so many people, male and female, of all ages, embracing the activities and showing an interest in golf,” said Majed Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation. “It’s extremely encouraging to witness how people have taken to the game. They are welcoming it with their hearts. We hope they share their experiences with their friends and family as we work together to grow this great game in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette

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SAGIA to partner with Saudi International golf tournament

Time: January 24, 2019

LONDON: The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has announced its partnership with the Saudi International, the inaugural European Tour event to be held in the Kingdom.
The tournament will be be broadcast in over 45 countries across the world, reaching 450 million homes through more than 30 global broadcasters and sees big names such as Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose tee it up at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on the Red Sea coast.
“The sport and entertainment sector presents excellent potential for investors. Saudi Arabia has a large, young and affluent population with a growing interest in sports and government support and a wide range of regulatory reforms are opening more and more opportunities across the sector. Indeed, the Saudi International is the latest in a series of high-profile sporting events to take place in Saudi Arabia this year — including the Formula E Grand Prix and the Italian Suppercoppa,” Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of SAGIA, said.
“As well as highlighting a sector with exciting potential for investment, The Saudi International also provides an opportunity to showcase a side of our country that many of those watching from around the world will never have seen before.”
The tournament, which begins next Thursday, is the final leg of the Desert Swing and arguably has the strongest field of the trio of Middle East events — the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and Dubai Desert Classic being the other two. Four of the world’s top five players in the rankings will be looking to win the inaugural championship, as well as Major champions such as Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi women dominate at motor racing event in Dirab

Time: January 21, 2019

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Saudi Arabian women dominated the first round of the women’s SWS-SPRINT Championship in Dirab. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian women dominated the first round of the women’s SWS-SPRINT Championship, which is organized by the FunXtreme Racing Circuit in Dirab for motorcars and motorcycles.
It is sponsored by the Saudi Federation of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles at the SWS World Championship.
The second round saw the participation of a number of Saudi, Gulf and Arab women drivers, who fought it out for the title until the final meters of the race to become the winner.
Yasmin Madani finished first with 0.09 ppm, Amjad Al-Omari came in second place and Princess Madawi Al-Saud took third place.
Sarah Al-Harthi, Director of the Women’s Race Program at FunXtreme circuit, praised the impressive levels of the first and second rounds of the women’s competitions, stressing that they are no less exciting than the other categories/groups, especially since it is being held for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Harthi expressed her deep satisfaction with the excellent professional level of the tour.
She also praised the increasing media interest in women’s races, which reflects the positive interaction of the media and its role in enhancing the participation of Saudi women in all fields.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Cristiano Ronaldo: Visit to Saudi Arabia was excellent

Time: January 17, 2019     

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki presenting gold medal to Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal of the match against AC Milan to win his first trophy with Juventus, which became the first club to win the Supercoppa Italiana eight times.

The match was played out to a sold-out King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah in front of more than 61,000 fans.

“I’m very happy, it was what I wanted, I’m very happy to have won my first title with Juventus,” Ronaldo said.

“The atmosphere was excellent at all times,” he said while describing the facilities in Saudi Arabia, which hosted the tournament for the first time. “Everything was excellent,” he said.

“All the organizational and technical matters have been fine since we arrived in Saudi Arabia. The stadium and the fans were pushing us for a good match,” he said.

It was Ronaldo’s fourth goal in his past four matches as he showed little sign of being affected – on the pitch at least – by a case of alleged rape involving an American woman.

Ronaldo has been asked by police to provide a DNA sample in an investigation of the allegation by Kathryn Mayorga, a former model and schoolteacher, that he raped her in his Las Vegas hotel penthouse in 2009 and paid her to keep quiet. Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.

Juventus, which has won the league the past seven seasons, leads Serie A by nine points and is in the quarterfinal of the Italian Cup as well as the last 16 of the Champions League.

“We have to take it to step by step,” Ronaldo said. “The aim was to start well this year and we have done and now we have to continue to work for our other objectives.”

This article was first published in Al Arabiya English  

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In pictures: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus secure first title of 2019

Time: January 17, 2019 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal to hand Juventus their first trophy of the season with a 1-0 win over ten-man AC Milan in the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia. With painted faces and banners, thousands of female soccer fans entered the King Abdullah Sports City stadium through designated turnstiles for “families”, with solo women barred from purchasing tickets.

This article was first published in Arabian Business

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Why this Italian will visit Jeddah (clue: It’s not just about football)

Time: January 12, 2019

The General Sports Authority chairman Turki Al-Shiekh signed a contract with the CEO of Serie A, Marco Brunelli, to host the Supercoppa Italiana between Juventus and AC Milan in Saudi Arabia. (GSA)

Since I wrote on social media that I would go to Jeddah for the Supercoppa, the Italian Super Cup football match this week between Milan and Juventus, many people have asked me why. The answer is simple: It is a sporting event that goes beyond sport.
To be there is to give visibility and trust to a nation that is engaged in an important program of reforms, and is at the same time a historical point of stability in a region that is also crucial for us Italians.
Traveling around the world, I have the opportunity to talk to many young Saudis, and I know how much they are in favor of reforms; I also know that everything cannot change overnight, and I know how frustrating it is not to see your efforts recognized by the world. This is why we need to be there.
The turning point in relations between China and the US in the early 1970s was a game of ping-pong. More recently, there were negative comments about last year’s winter Olympics in South Korea, which in fact became the springboard for reconciliation with the North. And when the 2018 Giro d’Italia cycling event started in Israel, the critics said it would be a disastrous Middle Eastern digression; instead it was a fantastic success, followed by enormous crowds both there and in Italy.

To be there is to give visibility and trust to a nation that is engaged in an important program of reforms, and is at the same time a historical point of stability in a region that is also crucial for us Italians.

Max Ferrari

To say that we must be in Jeddah because Italy is one of the leading commercial partners of the Saudis is correct and important, but it is not the main point. We must be there to honor and witness a path of openness that many in Europe know little about because much of the mainstream media either hides it or denies it. Media outlets opposed to the Trump adminstration have targeted its allies in the Arab world, starting with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
I myself have had my doubts. After a conversation in December 2017 with Faisal J. Abbas, Editor in Chief of Arab News, in which he explained Vision 2030 and the reforms it would bring, I was skeptical — not about the will to implement them, but, being accustomed to Italian slowness, about the timescale. I was therefore amazed when, soon after, women were permitted to drive, there were cinemas, theaters, concerts; all things hardly imaginable until a year ago, and open to both sexes. I then saw the developments in family law, the ban on marriages of minors, the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the Coptic Pope in Egypt, the meetings with Roman Catholic and Protestant representatives, the Saudi role of peace mediator (alongside the UAE) between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the fight against terrorist groups often tolerated in Europe, and much more — including the excellent work in the cultural field carried out by the Saudi Embassy in Rome. While all this is going on, Europe’s so-called “free press” seems to care more about where in a football stadium women may sit. And they couldn’t even get that right.
How appropriate that, as the Super Cup approaches, Arab News, which I genuinely believe is the voice of a changing region, has called for the abolition of male guardianship of women as being incompatible with Vision 2030. I am sure this epochal reform will soon become reality. Not only would this benefit women, it would benefit Saudi Arabia by removing a stick that its enemies use to beat Riyadh and its allies.
Instead, let the Italian Super Cup kick hypocrisy and misinformation where it hurts.

  • Max Ferrari is a journalist and politician. He is a former parliamentary journalist, a war correspondent in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and director of a TV channel. He is an expert in geopolitics and energy policy. Twitter: @MaxFerrari

This article was first published in Arab News

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Why 2018 was a breakthrough year for Saudi sports

Time: December 24, 2018

  • Despite a disappointing World Cup, 2018 was a good year for Saudi sports

LONDON: The sight of drivers in fast cars revving their engines and speeding around the historical Ad Diriyah district of Riyadh offered proof, if any were needed, that when it comes to sport, the Kingdom has moved up a gear or two in the past 12 months.

The Formula E race earlier this month was the first motorsport event of global significance to take place in Saudi Arabia. The format’s Middle East debut offered a glimpse not only of the country’s sporting future as a host of world-class races and matches but also the likely direction of motorsport itself.

There are many pundits who claim Formula E’s electric cars could soon rival the gas guzzlers of Formula One in the popularity stakes.

Felipe Massa, a former F1 star who made the leap to Formula E, told Arab News during the Riyadh race weekend that the sport is on track to overtake its older rival.

“Formula E and electric cars will definitely be the future, even possibly the short-term future,” the Brazilian, who finished in 14th on his debut, said.

“We are even racing in a country known as an oil country, so I think this shows how much the championship is growing.”

If Massa is correct, the decision to host Formula E, rather than F1, could prove to be a remarkable bit of foresight by the General Sport Authority (GSA).

The environmentally conscious show of speed certainly proved popular as thousands of Middle East “petrolheads” descended on the street circuit in the Saudi capital to witness Antonio Felix da Costa win the inaugural Saudi E-Prix.

The weekend also brought a party atmosphere unlike anything the Kingdom had witnessed before, with a mixed crowd dancing to the tunes of DJ David Guetta and other international line-ups.

On top of that there was a feeling that the Formula E race would become a annual sporting highlight not only in the Kingdom but also in the region and beyond.

But Saudi Arabia is no stranger to the global sporting stage. Take this year’s football World Cup, when the Green Falcons took on hosts Russia in the much-anticipated opening match.

An estimated 3.4 billion people watched the tournament, and a significant number of those would have been glued to the TV to watch the opener. While the result — a 5-0 defeat to an inspired Russia side — did not go according to plan, the Saudi team showed grit in their next two games, losing 1-0 to Uruguay in the second clash before winning their first match at a World Cup since 1994.

That came in a well-deserved 2-1 victory over Arab rivals Egypt. The Green Falcons’ performances were better than the results suggested and offered hope that Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men can use the World Cup as a springboard to success in next month’s Asian Cup in the UAE.

Since the win over Mohamed Salah and Co., the Green Falcons have been beaten just once, by the might of Brazil, and will head to the tournament full of confidence.

If Pizzi’s players are seeking inspiration, they need look no further than their younger counterparts. The Young Falcons soared to glory, beating South Korea 2-1 in the final to claim the Asian U-19 Championships in November. Turki Al-Ammar, who won the MVP award, personified the spirit in the side, and provided hope for next year’s U-20s World Cup and beyond as the senior national team look to take more strides in the future.

It was not only in motorsport and football that Saudi Arabia packed a global punch. On Sept. 28, Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City played host to a boxing world title fight — the first such event to take place in the Kingdom.

Britain’s Callum Smith beat compatriot George Groves to win the WBA super-middleweight title and the World Boxing Super Series crown. On the same night Saudi boxer Abdulfatah Julaidan made history as the first man to win a professional bout in the Kingdom.

American Anthony Duncan saw the transformative effect of boxing first-hand at King Abdullah Sports City.

“Of course, we hope that the impact of this night will be felt for many years to come,” Duncan told Arab News. “Many people weren’t sure what they were going to get, but after watching it up close and personal, I know they will be aspiring to become champions.”

While that fight night was solely for men, women’s boxing has also been jabbing its way into the public consciousness in Saudi Arabia.

Halah Al-Hamrani is proving herself to be a trailblazer, training women fighters in the Kingdom. She hopes to stage the first boxing competitions for women in the Kingdom next year, and has lofty ambitions of propelling one of her charges to Olympic glory.

“My ultimate dream for women’s boxing in Saudi Arabia is for one of them to go to the Olympics,” Al-Hamrani told Arab News in October.

In October, the Kingdom took nine athletes to the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires. The young guns returned with three medals. Two bronze came in weightlifting and the 400m hurdles, while Mohammed Al-Assiri’s karate triumph in the final of the men’s Kumite -61kg was the Kingdom’s first Olympic gold at any level. It also ensured that Buenos Aires will be remembered as Saudi Arabia’s greatest medal haul, eclipsing the one bronze and one silver at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

It is easy to dismiss success at youth level since the difficulties of translating youthful talent into success as an adult are well known. But it is hard to dismiss the hopes and inspiration the young heroes take back from events such as the Youth Olympics, to say nothing of the galvanizing effect such an experience can generate.

Ali Yousef Al-Othman, who won a weightlifting bronze, told Arab News after collecting his prize that the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time is his top priority.

“My dream was to win a medal at the Youth Olympics,” he said. “Now that dream has changed and I will work harder than ever to make Tokyo 2020 a reality.” Such Olympic hopes require focus and dedication and a reserved, often understated, ambition.

The Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports was initiated in 2017, a step toward positioning the Kigndom as a main eSports hub in the Middle East and the world.

Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, Princess Reema said, “we truly believe that this is a sector that we can develop and grow, and is ripe for investment.”

Last August, Saudi teenager Mosaad Aldossary picked up a $250,000 prize winning the global FIFA eWorld Cup Grand Final.  Last November, the Saudi eSports team won first prize in the Tekken 7 competition at the 10th edition of the IESF eSports World Championship in Taiwan, the first participation for the team.

One event that is anything but understated is WWE, and in April this year the “sport” that is pure Americana — at once brash and back-breaking — had its debut in Saudi Arabia.

“The Greatest Royal Rumble” and its big names — John Cena, Triple H and Brock Lesner — provided a prelude to the Crown Jewel event, held at the end of October.

More than 60,000 people, including women, attended both events. Immediately afterwards, wrestling clubs were flooded with inquiries from children wanting to be the next Triple H or Undertaker, proving once again that from watching sport comes a desire to take part.

But for all the history-making events and achievements that are marking the passage to a new era, the real change in Saudi sport has been out of the spotlight.

In the past year the number of sports being playing in the Kingdom has risen dramatically. From having 30 federations, the GSA now has 64, increasing the number of sporting options open to all Saudis, regardless of gender.

In the future, the work of heroes such as Al-Hamrani could prove to be as significant as the big-name events and stars heading to Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in Arab News

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