The 10 best Arab footballers to play in Europe

01/06/20

As football takes tentative steps back toward normality, we take a look at some of the best Arab talent to make their mark in Europe’s top leagues. (AFP)
  • As football takes tentative steps back toward normality, we take a look at some of the best Arab talent to make their mark in Europe’s top leagues

DUBAI: Germany’s Bundesliga is back. Spain’s La Liga, Serie A in Italy and the English Premier League, and maybe even the Champions League, are set to follow soon.

This means the likes of Mohamed Salah, Riyad Mahrez and others will once again be on our screens chasing some of the game’s top prizes.

As football takes tentative steps back toward normality, we take a look at some of the best Arab talent to make their mark in Europe’s top leagues.

10. Ali Al-Habsi

The only player from the Gulf to make the list, and one of a handful to try his luck abroad, Ali Al-Habsi is nothing short of an icon in his native Oman.

Having started at local club Al-Mudhaiba, his career has seen him play for Norway’s Lyn Oslo before a move to England and stints at Bolton, Wigan (where he won an FA Cup medal despite not playing in the 2013 final against Manchester City), Brighton and Reading. A two-year spell in the Saudi Professional League with Al-Hilal was followed by a return to England and West Brom, where he currently remains at the age of 38.

Admired and loved everywhere he has gone, and a role model and hero in his country and across the Gulf.

9. Mido

Many see this as a career that promised more than it delivered with the much-traveled Egypt international perceived not to have made the most of his undoubted talent during his European journey. Still, he has a track record that few Arab footballers can match, with spells of varying success at Ajax, Marseille, Roma, Tottenham, Middlesbrough and West Ham, among others.

After starting his career in Cairo with Zamalek, Mido made his big move to Europe by joining Genk in Belgium, but really caught the eye at Ajax, where he partnered a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, and won the Eredivisie title in 2001-02.

A turbulent international career brought 51 caps, but he will mostly be remembered by European audiences as a maverick talent with a nomadic streak that never truly settled at any of his clubs.

8. Hakim Ziyech

To many football fans, Hakim Ziyech only came to wider attention in the past two years, but at 27 he is already a veteran of eight years of top-flight football in Holland’s Eredivisie.

After spending two years each at Heerenveen and FC Twente, he truly blossomed after joining Ajax in 2016.

Despite representing the Netherlands at age group levels, the Dutch-born Hakimi eventually chose to play senior international football for Morocco, and in 2018 was part of the team that acquitted itself so well at the World Cup in Russia.

In 2018-29 he delivered some outstanding displays as Ajax progressed to the Champions League semifinal — where they were ultimately beaten in heartbreaking fashion by Tottenham — and also won the Eredivisie title. His performances against Real Madrid and Juventus, as well as his consistency in the Dutch top flight, quickly marked him out as one of  Europe’s hottest prospects. Chelsea emerged as the big winners in the race to sign Ziyech, paying €40 million for his services as of next season.

Holland’s loss is the Premier League’s gain.

7. Achraf Hakimi

Another young superstar on the rise. Achraf Hakimi remains officially on the books of Real Madrid — where he had spent a decade as youth and first team player — but has for the past two seasons proved himself as one of the continent’s finest right-backs with Borussia Dortmund.

His forays into the opposition half and goal contributions, whether scored or assisted, have invited comparisons to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander Arnold as two of the finest players in their position today.

With his two-season loan deal in Germany about to expire, the Madrid-born 21-year-old is set to return to his parent club where coach Zinedine Zidane could well consider him ready to be starter.

Despite not playing in the 2017-18 Champions League final against Liverpool while still at Madrid, Hakimi claimed a winners’ medal to become the first Moroccan to achieve that feat.

Hakimi was part of Morocco’s squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and with 28 caps to his name already, a long and successful career at club and international level beckons.

6. Abdelkrim Merry (“Krimau”)

A true pioneer in every sense. One of the first Arab footballers to star in Europe, the man nicknamed Krimau played his entire career in France. But unlike many North African footballers who followed in his footsteps, the Casablanca-born forward would end up representing Morocco, rather than his adopted home, fleetingly but to great acclaim.

His meagre international career of only 13 matches included his nation’s memorable participation at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where Morocco topped their group ahead of European heavyweights England, Poland and Portugal.

Against the latter, Krimau captured the imagination of the watching world, scoring once and generally running the Portuguese defense ragged as Morocco ran out 3-1 winners. The result confirmed them as the first African and Arab nation to progress to the knock-out stages of the World Cup, where they narrowly lost to eventual finalists West Germany.

At club level, Krimau started off at Bastia before playing for Lille, Toulouse, Metz, Strasbourg and Saint-Etienne, to name just a few of his clubs.

5. Noureddine Naybet

Younger fans may not be familiar with Naybet’s career, but the Moroccan international is to this day fondly remembered at Deportivo La Coruna, for whom he won one Spanish La Liga title, one Copa Del Rey and two Spanish Super Cups after joining from Nantes in 1996.

Naybet, capped 115 times by his country, and a veteran of the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, had joined Portugal’s Sporting Club from Moroccan powerhouse Wydad before moving to France in 1993.

Rounded up his career in Europe in the Premier League with two seasons at Tottenham, but his heroics in Spain is what he will forever be revered for.

4. Mehdi Benatia

Yet another of the string of Moroccan internationals to excel in Europe, with his medal collection the envy of most footballers around the world.

The French-born Mehdi Benatia has spent the entirety of his career in Europe, starting out at Marseille before eventually moving to Udinese and then Roma in Italy.

It was at Bayern Munich and Juventus, however, that he hit the peak of his career, winning two Bundesliga and three Serie A titles respectively as well as enjoying German and Italian cup success.

Capped a wonderful career by leading his country to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after an absence of 20 years from football’s ultimate stage.

3. Riyad Mahrez

The gifted Algerian winger’s two Premier League titles could not have been in more different circumstances. The first, with Leicester City in 2015-16, is widely regarded as one of football’s most unlikely triumphs, one that to this day stretches credibility. The second, in 2018-19, was part of Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Manchester City side that claimed the Premier League trophy for the second year running.

All of which makes his relatively modest introduction to English football all the more remarkable.

After joining Leicester from Le Havre at the start of 2014, he helped the club to win the Championship a few months later and, after a difficult first season in the top flight, that miraculous Premier League title as well as the PFA Player’s Player of the Year for good measure.

Remains one of a select group of 10 players to have won English football’s biggest prize with two different clubs.

2. Rabah Madjer

One of the first Arab players to make an impact in Europe. And what an impact it was.

Rabeh Madjer gained worldwide acclaim with the equalizer for Algeria in their stunning 2-1 win over West Germany at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. That proved to be an inspiration for a stellar career.

After seven years at hometown club NA Hussein Dey, Madjer joined Racing Paris in 1983, before moving on two years later to Portuguese giants Porto, where he enjoyed the best and most memorable years of his career. Most famously, he scored a memorable back-heeled equalizer against Bayern Munich in the 1987 European Cup Final, which Porto eventually won 2-1.

Later that year he scored an extra-time winner against Penarol of Uruguay as Porto won the Intercontinental Cup (the predecessor to the FIFA Club World Cup) in Tokyo.

Three Portuguese league titles and 50 goals in six years confirm him as one of his nation’s, and Arab football’s, greatest exports.

1. Mohamed Salah

Arguably the most recognizable and greatest Middle Eastern and Arab footballer of all time. He excelled at Basel in the Swiss Super League, and then struggled to get playing time at Chelsea, before a spell in Italy with Fiorentina and Roma set him on the path for global domination.

Since signing for Jurgen Klopp’s team in the summer of 2017, he has become one of the world’s best players, his move coinciding with, even inspiring, Liverpool’s transformation from contenders to proven winners. In his first season, the man fans call the Egyptian King finished top of the Premier League scoring charts with a record 34 goals and played a leading role in Liverpool’s march to the Champions League final, where he famously was injured and substituted in a 3-1 loss. He also won FIFA’s Puskas award for a solo effort against Everton.

The following season, Salah retained the Golden Boot as Liverpool just missed out on the Premier League title, but made up for it with Champions League success, the forward scoring the opener in the 2-0 win over Tottenham in the final. This season, the 27-year-old Salah finds himself on the verge of winning the Premier League trophy, something Liverpool have not done in 30 years.

Having led Egypt — for whom he has scored 41 international goals — to the 2018 World Cup, his legendary status, at home and for Liverpool, is beyond debate.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Adidas’ latest campaign shot in Saudi Arabia

Time: 17 February, 2020

Adidas Originals decided to shoot its latest “Change is a Team Sport” campaign in Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)

DUBAI: In celebration of the 50th anniversary of its iconic superstar sneakers, Adidas Originals decided to shoot its latest “Change is a Team Sport” campaign in Saudi Arabia.

Featuring four talented women hailing from the Kingdom, the campaign images were photographed against the striking backdrop of the AlUla heritage site.

It is the first time a major brand has shot a campaign at the UNESCO heritage site. (Supplied)

For the campaign, the athletic giant tapped designer Alaa Balkhy, rapper Aseel Saraj, fashion blogger Jory Al Maiman and skateboarder and actress Sarah Taibah to showcase the sportswear brand’s iconic sneakers.

It is the first time a major brand has shot a campaign at the UNESCO heritage site.

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Saudi basketball team celebrates first anniversary of sports diplomacy project

Time: 06 February, 2020

Riyadh United and the Diplomats team celebrate their one year anniversary. (AN Photo)
  • Riyadh United has been holding regular games with the capital’s diplomatic community in a bid to promote the message of peace and understanding
  • The project was launched by co-founder of Riyadh United and Shoura Council member, Lina Al-Maeena, together with the Belgium Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur

RIYADH: A Saudi basketball team is celebrating a year of sporting diplomacy aimed at strengthening international relations.

Through a unique initiative, Riyadh United players have been holding regular games with the capital’s diplomatic community in a bid to promote the message of peace and understanding between nations through sport.

The project was launched last year in the city’s Diplomatic Quarter by co-founder of Riyadh United and Shoura Council member, Lina Al-Maeena, together with the Belgium Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur.

“It is an amazing initiative of women united together on a court, communicating in one language and collaborating for a healthier and happier lifestyle, while also activating one of the Vision 2030 goals of social empowerment,” said Al-Maeena.

The Kingdom aims to increase the population’s sports participation from 13 percent to 40 percent by 2030.

Mineur, captain of the Diplomats basketball team said: “We had the idea to join forces (with Al-Maeena) and have a team of diplomats against a team of Saudi ladies. It was a great idea.

“Sport is one the best ways to build bridges between people and nations. After one year of training between Saudi women and female diplomats, we look forward to many more years of friendly matches.”

The teams meet every two weeks, but plans are in the pipeline to set up weekly games.

Dalia Fatani, owner of art, craft and design Studio Lucha, and one of the first members to join the Riyadh United team, said: “The teams were established to build bridges between countries through sport, and also to strengthen our stamina as women. It gets us out, it gets us moving and we feel young again.”

Prof. Selwa Al-Hazzaa, head of the ophthalmology department at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, was a guest of honor at the anniversary celebrations.

More women playing basketball, or other sports, would help to lower obesity levels and reduce the risk of developing or exacerbating diabetes, and it also highlighted the importance of exercise for a healthy lifestyle, said Al-Hazzaa. “You guys (the team members) are role models to these young girls.”

Fatani said that Al-Maeena and her husband, Obaid Madani, had first set up Jeddah United female basketball team 16 years ago to encourage more people to play her favorite sport.

“Riyadh United is the sister of Jeddah United and we started in 2011. We really did it because we played basketball in school, but we didn’t have the ability to find a place or a coach, or a team even.

“But eventually it worked out and since then we’ve played almost yearly. It is a magnificent feeling,” added Fatani. “It’s really about building more connections with people through sports.”

Foreign missions have praised the Riyadh initiative, and in a tweet the UK Embassy said: “To celebrate the first anniversary of the Diplomats and the Riyadh United women’s teams, we played basketball to strengthen relationships, develop sports skills and make new friends. Congratulations to all of you.”

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KSA plans to be world’s most progressive golf destination

Time: 05 February, 2020

Saudi Arabia hopes to become the leading nation for golf. (File/Shutterstock)
  • The Kingdom plans to become the most innovative market in the sport within the next 10 years
  • The Kingdom is aiming to have up to 27,000 registered golfers

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the European Tour event and the inauguration of the Saudi Golf Summit at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia is taking one of the most significant development moves in golf’s recent history.

The Kingdom plans to become the most innovative market in the sport within the next 10 years, said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi.

“Golf isn’t just a game,” Al-Sorour told Arab News, “it is related to various sectors and it creates well-paid jobs that attract Saudis.”

He added that golf requires commitment, dedication, self-governance, etiquette and discipline and that due to these values, he wants golf “to become part of the fabric of modern Saudi Arabia.”

The Kingdom is aiming to have up to 27,000 registered golfers and to ensure that over one million Saudi nationals have actively tried golf.

Golf Saudi wants to inspire and provide opportunities to every player regardless of ability, status or gender.

To help develop national talents, the organization is working on establishing golfing camps for children with a minimum of one camp per week at each golf course, with each camp consisting of roughly 30 children.

In order to achieve its plan, Golf Saudi is working in collaboration with the public and private sector, “Partnership government ministries is fundamental for progress, we are working with the ministries of transportation, education, environment and communication,” Al-Sorour said.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi said the Kingdom plans to become the most innovative market in the sport within the next 10 years. (AN Photo/Huda Bashata)

He continued: “We are working with giga projects and independent developers, so the nation’s golf portfolio will be stronger than ever.”

Golf Saudi has developed a tourism framework to align this strategy with tourism stakeholders in the country. Golf course development plans are reaching their latter stages at the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh and the Red Sea Project.

Moreover, other giga and mega projects in the Kingdom will also include golf facilities at Diriyah Gate and Neom.

Al-Sorour said that the national golf team is gradually improving, and he anticipated that it will be able to compete on a global level within five years: “Golfers need time for training to develop properly.”

Golf Saudi is collaborating with the Ministry of Education to include golf in the basic and higher education system.

“We cannot spread the game’s culture without cooperating with the education ministry,” said Al-Sorour.

“We are having constant meetings and trying to create a partnership to integrate golf in the school curriculum.

The European Tour event took concluded this year at KAEC’s award-winning Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. It has won a number of international awards recognizing the golf, clubhouse and luxurious facilities.

Anas Najmi, head of the quality of life sector in KAEC, told Arab News that the top factor of spreading any game is having the infrastructure and the right facilities.

“Everyone knows about golf as a widely spread game on a global level, we have tried over the past period to ensure that we have enough world-class infrastructure with the highest standards so we can host activities, tournaments and championships,” Najmi said.

KAEC, with its award-winning facilities and first-of-its-kind golf academy in the region, has been attracting more locals interested in playing golf.

“We see a trend of lots of students wanting to know more about golf and willing to learn and practice, it is a game for many ages,” Najmi told Arab News, adding: “We have a huge interest in helping visitors and golf enthusiasts.”

Naomi continued: “We are strategically positioned in the heart of a population of 10 million, the recently inaugurated train station connects the city to Jeddah, Madinah and Makkah within an hour.

“We get lots of delegations from universities and schools, both public and international.”

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Princess Nourah University launches its 2020 sports gate

Time: 30 January, 2020 

The department offers diverse sporting activities such as basketball, football, volleyball, and others.
  • The sports gate aims to increase the number of sports practitioners at the university

RIYADH: The vice-rector of Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University (PNU) for Academic Support and Student Affairs, Dr. Amal Al-Habdan, launched the Nourah Sports Gate 2020 on Tuesday.

Organized by the sports affairs department, the official announcement was made in the presence of a number of college deans, heads of departments, administrative and educational staff at the university, female students and a number of external parties such as the Saudi Badminton Federation and the Saudi Arabian Judo Federation.

The sports gate aims to increase the number of sports practitioners at the university, by offering a number of fitness programs (PNU FIT) and sports.

The event involves a number of sports activities, including a 5 kilometer run for all university employees.

The department also offers diverse sporting activities such as basketball, football, volleyball, and others, in addition to athletics areas that include high and long jumping, shot putting, sprinting and group fitness exercises.

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Almulla and Salhab give thumbs-up for inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship

25/01/20
Saudi Arabia will hold its first-ever women’s professional golf tournament in March when the Saudi Ladies Championship tees off at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (Supplied)
  • Record prize money of $19.87 million for the LET 2020 season offered

JEDDAH: Saudi golfers Othman Almulla and Faisal Salhab have said they cannot wait for the Saudi Ladies Championship to happen in the Kingdom, after a UK newspaper confirmed the tournament was one of three new events added to the Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule.

The Daily Telegraph said the Ladies European Tour would offer record prize money of £15.2 million ($19.87 million) for the 2020 season, an increase of almost £4 million on last year. The cash injection comes in part due to having three new events, all offering prize money of at least $1 million, including the inaugural Saudi Ladies Championship to be held in March.
The exclusive report said there would be 24 events on the LET this year, an increase of four from last year. In addition to the Saudi tournament and the Scandinavian Mixed event, the third event to have a prize pot of over $1 million will be a new event to be held in the UK in August, ahead of the Ladies Scottish Open and the Women’s Open.
Almulla and Faisal will both tee off alongside the biggest names in golf in the Saudi International, which starts next Thursday at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
Almulla, who turned professional during the inaugural staging of the Saudi International last year, is playing on a pro invite while the 23-year-old Riyadh-based Faisal qualified following his victory in the 5th Saudi Open at the Riyadh Golf Course in November last year.
Saud Alsharif, from the Eastern Province like Almulla, completes the Saudi trio in action in the Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 European Tour event. Alsharif earned his second straight stint in the tournament by virtue of his top ranking.
Almulla, a decorated amateur golfer and the youngest to qualify for the Dubai Desert Classic before another Saudi, Khaled Attieh, broke his record, told Arab News: “I think it’s a wonderful time for the sport of golf in Saudi Arabia, with the big developments the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi have put in place.”
“We already see the rewards of their ambitious plans with the first-ever female participation in an international event at the Pan Arab and GCC Championships in Egypt and Oman this year.
“And now with the first-ever ladies professional golf championship happening in Saudi Arabia, this will further motivate and inspire the next generation of golfers to continue improving,” Almulla added.
Salhab, who just ended a training camp with Alsharif and coach Jamie McConnell, director of instruction at the Claude Harmon Golf Academy in Dubai, said: “It’s great to have a Ladies European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. It emphasizes how the game is growing.
“It’s unreal to have such big events for men and women hosted in the Kingdom and hopefully inspire the next generation of golfers to pick up the sport.
“By having an event like this one take place in our backyard will hopefully expose many women to learn about the beautiful game,” Salhab added.
The Saudi Ladies Championship, professional golf’s newest high-profile tournament being hosted by the country, will take place March 19 to 22 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club under the aegis of the LET and the Saudi Golf Federation.
Golf Saudi announced last month that it was working with several LET stars to promote golf to local audiences, and to enhance the visibility of its Saudi golf development program and the country’s golf tourism. The UK’s Carly Booth, Amy Boulden and Rachel Drummond, and Swedish pair Camilla Lennarth and Isabella Deilert, will each wear the Golf Saudi logo as ambassadors of the program.

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Princess Reema bint Bandar and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid attend International Olympic Committee meetings

Time: 15 January, 2020

 

Princess Reema bint Bandar and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid attended the meeting in Lausanne. (Photo Supplied/Greg Martin)
  • Princess Reema expressed her delight that Saudi Arabia had made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society “to embrace sports as a way of life”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s representatives to various commissions of International Olympic Committee (IOC) attended the IOC’s annual meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland this week. The meetings coincide with the Winter Youth Olympics, which are currently being held in Lausanne and end on Jan. 22.
Two board members of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — Princess Reema bint Bandar (Women in Sports Commission) and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid (Public Affairs and Social Development Through Sports Commission) — represented the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has three representatives in the IOC, with Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal on the Marketing Committee.
Among the topics discussed during the Women in Sports Committee’s meeting were gender equality in sports, the participation of women in community sports, and the prevention of harassment.

SPEEDREAD

• Among the topics discussed during the event were gender equality in sports, the participation of women in community sports, and the prevention of harassment.

• Saudi Arabia has made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society to embrace sports as a way of life.

“We work closely with all members of the Olympic family through the IOC Women in Sports Committee to support the participation of women at all levels of sports,” Princess Reema said after the meeting. “We discussed all the advances that have been achieved in this area, as well as some of the key challenges that are facing women currently.”
She also expressed her delight that Saudi Arabia had made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society “to embrace sports as a way of life.”
Prince Jalawi said that, given Saudi Arabia’s preeminence in the region, the Kingdom has made its presence felt in the Olympic family. “At the Public Affairs and Social Development through Sport Committee, we work to harness the power of sports to serve all communities and help to build cultural bridges between them. Sport is a very powerful tool to realize these goals,” he said.

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The ‘Clash on the Dunes’ boxing match will be at iconic venue

Time: November 25, 2019

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down. (Supplied)
  • Andy Ruiz II and Anthony Joshua will match at the Diriyah Arena
  • Joshua will be looking to regain some of his belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier

RIYADH: A boxing match needs a spectacular venue and few can compare to the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia which is now ready for the Clash on the Dunes as World Champion Andy Ruiz II takes on Anthony Joshua.

Earlier this week, Joshua has promised the world an ‘iconic evening of boxing’ as he flew into the Kingdom on Saturday night ahead of the bout on December 7.

The first-ever World Heavyweight title fight to take place in the Middle Easy will be staged in the custom-built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the home of heroes and kings.

“The arena and site are utterly breath-taking, with a theme park and concert the night before as well. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before in boxing. The Clash on the Dunes will be a night to remember. We can’t wait,” Eddie Hearn, Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing, said.

The Diriyah Arena has been constructed by 175 staff working tirelessly to transform the 10,000 sq m site, which includes 295 tonnes of steel, which would stretch 57km. Work began on October 7, just two months out, with 3,000 sqm of scaffolding needed to complete the work.

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down.

Joshua will be looking to regain his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier this year, but the British heavyweight will have the backing thousands of UK fans join boxing enthusiasts from more than 60 countries.

Ahead of landing in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night to set up his pre-fight training camp, Anthony Joshua said: “It’ll definitely be a night people will tell their grandchildren they were at, one of those iconic evenings of boxing. Everyone from Saudi has been brilliant to work with.”

Fans will approach the Diriyah Arena via the Diriyah Oasis, a huge sprawling entertainment hub which includes ice-skating outdoors, sky diving, jetski-ing and ziplining among a host of activities on offer. The Diriyah Oasis is split into the four zones – Nature, Imagination, Reflection, Excitement- giving families a place to come together, and at its heart lies an astonishing grand installation by world-renowned Italian artist, Edoardo Tresoldi.

The Clash On The Dunes forms part of the Diriyah Season, epic month of sports which kicked off with Formula E at the weekend, the Diriyah Tennis Cup featuring eight of the best men’s players on the planet, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line.

The Diriyah Season is also supported by the Diriyah Music Festival with huge concerts taking place around the event. On December 6, the night before the Clash On The Dunes, major artists who are yet to be announced will perform. So far artists such as Imagine Dragons, DJ Alan Walker, Clean Bandit and Maluma have performed to 40,000 concert goers.

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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince organizes flights to carry Al-Hilal fans to Japan for Champions League final

Time: November 14, 2019

Al-Hilal secured a 1-0 win over the Japanese club in the first leg on Saturday in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Al-Hilal secured a 1-0 win over the Japanese club in the first leg on Saturday in Riyadh
  • The crown prince’s decision comes as a result of his support for Saudi Arabian football in the AFC championship

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has ordered four planes to transport Al-Hilal fans to Japan to support the club in their AFC Champions League final second leg match against the Urawa Red Diamonds.

Al-Hilal secured a 1-0 win over the Japanese club in the first leg on Saturday in Riyadh. The return leg is in Saitama, near Tokyo on Nov. 24.

The Saudi Press Agency said the crown prince’s decision comes as a result of his support for Saudi Arabian football in the AFC championship and to boost the morale of the team to seal the title.

The Saudi General Sport Authority have begun to coordinate with Al-Hilal’s administration to arrange for transporting fans to Japan.

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Wrestling fans witness first women’s WWE match in Saudi Arabia

Time: November 01, 2019 
WWE wrestler Natalya is participating in the WWE wrestling show in the Kingdom for the second time. ( AN Ziyad Alarfaj )
  • For WWE wrestler Natalya, Saudi Arabia is very clean, “the people are friendly and the food is amazing. I’ve had some of the best hummus of my life in Saudi Arabia.”

RIYADH: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Crown Jewel fans were ignited for a monumental evening.

The loaded card for Riyadh Season was not the only treat in store for attendees. It also marked the first women’s WWE match in Saudi Arabia, setting a precedent for fans in King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh as they cheered raucously for Natalya and Lacey Evans.

“This is my second time in Saudi Arabia and I’m so excited,” Natalya told Arab News before the match, which she won. Her first trip was to Jeddah a few months ago. “We’ve been really busy since we landed. We went to a children’s hospital, lots of media interviews and working out.”

She said she had a great time during her first trip, and it was a nice introduction to the Kingdom.

Photo Gallery of the show 

“I was just as excited then as I am now. I’d never been to Saudi Arabia before so I didn’t know what to expect … but now I feel so excited and ready to be here,” she added.

“One thing that stood out to me on both trips is the people. They’ve been so polite and respectful and nice to all of us. You feel so welcome,” Natalya said.

“Saudi Arabia is very clean, the people are friendly and the food is amazing. I’ve had some of the best hummus of my life in Saudi Arabia,” she added.

“To be here in Riyadh, this trip is more special because I’ll be part of the first ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia. I think that’s why it feels so different, so much more special than before,” she said.

“I feel like we’re opening new doors. We’re creating an even closer bond with Saudi Arabia. When you look back on WWE’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, we’ve been coming here for years. We’ve been coming to the Middle East since the 1990s,” she added. “I’m excited and grateful that the WWE universe and our fans in Saudi Arabia get to be part of this journey with us, and that our fans around the world get to experience this life-changing event. It’s very special,” Natalya said.

“This first ever women’s match … is bigger than me, bigger than Lacey, bigger than WWE … Sharing this journey with everybody makes it more special, knowing that WWE is in over 180 countries around the world, knowing that so many people will be with us,” she added.

“I couldn’t be more grateful, and I know it’s something I’ll never forget … I want to thank you all for welcoming us with open arms.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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