Saudi Arabia can make second round, says former Green Falcons technical director Jan Van Winckel

Jan Van Winckel helped get Saudi Arabia to the tournament in Russia.
Updated 13 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia can make second round, says former Green Falcons technical director Jan Van Winckel

  • Former technical director has high hopes for the Green Falcons in Russia.
  • Saudi Arabia placed in Group A and Van Winckel says its one they can get out of.

MOSCOW: When Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia walk out in the curtain raiser of the World Cup on Thursday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, Jan Van Winckel, the former technical director of the Saudi Football Federation will be a keen observer. The Belgian firmly believes that the Falcons will be competitive in Russia. 
“I think Saudi Arabia have a good chance of reaching the second round,” Van Winckel told Arab News.
“In the two years that Bert van Marwijk, as coach, and I, as technical director, worked in Saudi Arabia, we succeeded in building a great team that was capable of competing with the best teams in the world. Our victory against Japan in the qualifiers demonstrated this.”
Saudi Arabia will be underdogs in Group A at the World Cup. The Falcons are ranked 67th in the world,  second-lowest at the tournament only behind the hosts Russia in 70th, but Van Winckel does not consider those stats a problem.
“Uruguay are the favorites, and they will likely easily qualify for the second round,” the Belgian said.
“It is amazing what Uruguay achieve with a population of fewer than four million people. In contrast, Russia has a rather weak generation of players, and it will be under a lot of pressure to qualify. I think Saudi Arabia and Egypt are at the same level. While Egypt definitely have the advantage of Mohamed Salah, Saudi Arabia can field a good team full of experienced international players.” 
The Saudi Arabia defense will face international stars, heavyweights like Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Across all sectors of the field, Pizzi’s team lack international exposure. The Saudi Arabia Football Federation and the General Sports Authority tried to mitigate for that by sending players abroad last January and lining up strong opponents in the final warmup matches, including a a valiant 2-1 defeat at the hands of Germany. 
“A country’s football is developed by the clubs,” Van Winckel explained. “Saudi Arabia has one of the best Asian leagues, and it often competes for the Asian Champions League, as Al-Hilal and Al-Ahli did recently. The maximum of three foreign players in Asian competitions can be a problem for Saudi teams, however. The local Saudi players are paid well, so they tend not to be inclined to play abroad, where they could gain experience that they can later bring back to the country. I think it is a good idea to promote European competition to Saudi players, but I think the focus should be on younger players.”
Van Winckel, however, warned against complacency, saying it was a must for Saudi Arabia to establish itself among the top 35-ranked teams in the world.
“You often notice that at successful moments people will rest on the laurels, that there is too little investment in the future and too little innovative thinking,” said Van Winckel.
“This is the trap of success; to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow. You often see this undulation with national teams.”
Today, Van Winckel works in various roles for Belgian club Beerschot and Sheffield United in England. After Saudi Arabia’s World Cup qualification the relationship between the Saudi Arabia Football Federation and Van Marwijk  soured with disputes over a new contract. The 2010 World Cup finalist left and Van Winckel also exited with him. 
“Although we were successful on all levels, the Saudi Football Federation decided to change the entire technical department following the elections,” Van Winckel said.
“The decision of the Saudi Football Federation to not extend Bert’s contract was in line with the overall changes in the technical department.” 


Saudi Arabia enjoy more golden success at Special Olympics

Updated 19 March 2019
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Saudi Arabia enjoy more golden success at Special Olympics

  • Kingdom's athletes claim three golds, one silver and three bronzes on day four in Abu Dhabi.
  • Saudi Arabia medal tally now up to an impressive 25.

LONDON: Saudi Arabia enjoyed another good day at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi winning three golds, one silver and three bronzes to take their medal tally to an impressive 25 after four days.
Abdulaziz Alharthi got the day off to a great start in the pool, the 17-year-old from Jeddah picking up gold in the men’s 25m freestyle.
That was then followed up with the second gold of the day as Mohammed Alolayan powered home in the 5,000m. It was his second medal of the Games after he took home a bronze in the triathlon.
Moayed Aldarwish completed the hat-trick of golds coming home first in the 400m.


That was not the end of the success for the Kingdom as Fares Almateq and Naif Alshammari won silver in the men’s doubles table tennis. This was Fares’ second win of the week, having impressively won gold in the men’s singles event earlier.
Heba Shawli then became another multiple-medal winner when she took home the bronze in the softball throw event — she having won gold in the 25m run event.
Faisal Algosaibi and Faris Khouj, also part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team, each won bronze in their division of the 25m freestyle swimming.


Other winners of multiple medals include Hassan Alhadhariti, who won three golds and one silver in powerlifting; Sara Felemban and Jana Albeshri, who both won silver in bocce women’s singles and women’s team events, and Shahad Sunbul, who won silver in the bocce women’s team event and bronze in the bocce women’s singles event.