Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

AL-Hilal players have be getting reacquainted with the gym before they go to Austria to step up pre-season training.
Updated 11 July 2018
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Al-Hilal hire Spanish technical crew to oversee age-group teams

  • Al-Hilal annouce Spanish team to oversee the youth setup at the club.
  • Riyadh giants to step up pre-season training in Austria which includes five friendly games against European opposition.

Al-Hilal have hired a team of Spaniards to look after their age-group teams in a further sign that the Saudi Professional League is looking to become more international in its outlook. The Spanish technical crew will look after the under-17, under-15 and under-13 teams and look to build foundations that will hopefully serve the Riyadh giants well in the future. A club announcement read: “The Spanish technical director Mr. Josep Cifre Alaminos will supervise the technical work of Al-Hilal age-group teams, meanwhile Mr. Francesc Pereto will be in charge of the U-17 team. Mr. Eduardo Balada will be the physical fitness trainer of the team. Mr. Carlos Inarejos will lead the U-15 team, Mr. Miquel Angel Ponce will be their finest coach, while Mr. Eric Barragan will mange the U-13 side.”
The move to try and inject some Spanish flavor into the Al-Hilal setup comes just months after the General Sports Authority and the Saudi Arabian Football Federation signed a deal with Spain’s La Liga to loan nine Saudi Arabian players to Spanish clubs earlier this year.
The headline names in the deal were internationals Salem Al-Dawsari, Yahya Al-Shahri and Fahad-Al Muwallad moving to Villarreal, Leganes and Levante respectively, in a the hope it would prepare them well for the Green Falcons’ World Cup campaign. But the agreement also saw younger, less well-known players move to lower league clubs in a bid to give them an insight into a different footballing culture and allow that to help them grow as players.
Before the loan signings, the vast majority of Saudi Arabia’s best players, both young and old, competed in the country’s top flight. Only one player, Mukhtar Ali, played abroad with Dutch top flight side Vitesse Arnhem.
Al-Hilal’s pre-season training is under way with the early sessions all focusing on fitness and strength work with Nawaf Al-Abed continuing his return to full fitness after a groin injury kept him out of Saudi Arabia’s squad that came third in Group A in Russia.
The pre-season workout will go up a level or two when the squad travels to Austria on Saturday for a training camp. It will be new boss Jesus Jorge’s first opportunity to drum his footballing philosophy into his new charges, a squad that will be bolstered by the the return of not only the injured Al-Abed, but also Carlos Eduardo and Omar Khribin.
Both the Brazilian attacking midfielder and the Syrian Asian player of the year missed Al-Hilal’s AFC Champions League campaign, where they crashed out at the group stage months after narrowly losing the final to Japan’s Urawa Reds.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 24 May 2019
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.