Ittihad wins e-League, leads qualifiers for eMBS Cup

Al-Ittihad celebrates after winning the eSaudi Professional League. (Photo Supplied)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Ittihad wins e-League, leads qualifiers for eMBS Cup

  • The eMBS cup will be held May 13-14 in Riyadh and tickets are available on the tournament website
  • Spectators from around the world can watch the matches via the SAFEIS Twitch and YouTube

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad capped a dominant eSaudi Professional League 2019-2020 season by winning the title in the last round, beating Al-Baten 4-1 and becoming the first Saudi club to clinch the league championship. 

The Ittihadi achievement did not come as a surprise for the fans, having  in their ranks the reigning FIFA eWorld Cup champion Mossaed Al-Dossari and star player Rakan Al-Mutairi, among others.  

In a statement Al-Dossari  said: “I can’t believe we won our club’s first ever eSPL championship. I have loved this club since I was a kid and to have a chance to represent them is an honor. 

“This is only the first step, now it's time to focus on the eMBS Cup and every other national and international trophy out there.” 

The last rounds of the league saw some of the most heated matchups of the entire championship.  

Teams fought to secure one of eight seats in the eMBS Cup for a chance to win their clubs’ first title in the same way  Ittihad won theirs.  Al-Qadisiah club claimed the eighth and last spot and joined the teams that will get a shot at the cup title. 

 “The incredible excitement the league saw was due to the desire to participate in the cup. We want to win this one for our fans, they deserve only the best. The need to secure a place pressured us physically and psychologically. In the end, we managed to grab the eighth seat,” said Majid Al-Saleem of his team’s qualification. 

The eMBS cup will be held May 13-14 in Riyadh. The knockout format tournament will be hosted at SARENA SAFEIS Arena, which can accommodate 1,000 spectators.  

Tickets for the eMBS Cup are available on the tournament website and spectators from around the world can watch the matches via the SAFEIS Twitch and YouTube. 

The Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports (SAFEIS) is the regulating body in charge of developing elite gaming athletes and the gaming community and industry in the country. Its goal is for Saudis to be among the most accomplished gamers around the world and for Saudi Arabia to be a global gaming hub. 

Since its establishment in late 2017, the federation has organized multiple world-class national and international tournaments. For more information, visit SAFEIS website: https://www.safeis.sa/.


Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

Updated 23 May 2019
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Interview: Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter on standing up to ‘ruthless’ Erdogan

  • ‘I have an obligation to speak against atrocities,’ basketball star tells Arab News
  • ‘Whatever I am going through in my personal life doesn’t impact my performance on court’

CHICAGO: NBA superstar Enes Kanter says he loves his homeland Turkey as much as he loves professional basketball. 

Yet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father, and bullied his family after accusing the basketball player of being part of the Hizmet movement of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president asserts was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Two years ago this week, Erdogan demanded that Kanter be arrested, and fears of violence from the Turkish state have gotten so bad that the FBI installed a panic button to help protect the player.

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression.

“His (Erdogan’s) regime’s and his hostility to me began in 2013 when I first start criticizing (the) government on unjust, unfair and illegal closures of college preparatory centers linked to businesspeople in the Hizmet movement,” Kanter said.

 “This closure pretty much became the first public clash between the Erdogan regime and the Hizmet movement,” he added.

“It was obvious that there was something that Erdogan doesn’t like about the Hizmet movement. Up until the closures of college preparatory centers, no one knew about that,” Kanter said.

“The way Erdogan handled this relationship was brutal, ruthless, unjust and unfair. I can’t stand for any of these, so I stood up against this tyranny and started criticizing. Neither Erdogan stopped his approach nor I, and we’ve kept clashing since then.”

Kanter said he will continue to play professional basketball, and will not be silent about the Turkish government’s repression. (AFP)

Kanter played for the Turkish national team at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and for the Turkish U18 national team in 2009.

He led Turkey to the bronze medal at the European Championships in France, and was named Best Player and Best Center at the 2009 European Championships by Eurobasket.com. 

Kanter signed with the Utah Jazz in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2015, the New York Knicks in 2017, and the Portland Trail Blazers in February this year.

The Trail Blazers lost the Western Division Playoffs, the first step to the NBA Championships, to California’s Golden State Warriors in the final game on Monday.

Erdogan’s threats have placed enormous pressure on Kanter, but he insists it has not impacted his performance or his commitment to help the people of Turkey.

“I’m a successful professional athlete, and whatever I’m going through in my private life would never impact my performance on court,” he said.

“They’re two different worlds for me … I’ve known nothing else but basketball … since I was 13, so I guess it’s pretty important,” he added.

“I see basketball and my platform as a way to teach the younger generation how to be successful and hopeful for the future,” Kanter said.

“Once you’re a successful professional athlete, younger generations see you as a role model, so … I’m trying to do my best to set my life as a role model to them,” he added.

“I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities. I believe that as a human being I should be standing for human rights, democracy and freedom of speech … Me being a celebrity makes it easier for people to hear, see and experience what I believe.”

I believe I have an obligation as a human being to speak up against any atrocities.

Enes Kanter, Portland Trail Blazers center

On Erdogan, Kanter does not mince words. “He’s a dictator by definition. He silences media, destroys opposition, demonizes his critics … so all these make him a dictator,” Kanter said.

“Turkey deserves a leader who’s open minded, democratic, progressive, intelligent, modest and forward thinking, a leader who embraces everybody in the community regardless of their political choices.”

The harassment from Erdogan has put Kanter’s family at risk too. “I can’t say they’re safe when my dad lost his job and got jailed based on terrorism charges because I’m his son,” Kanter said. “These allegations are baseless and ridiculous, so how could I feel they’re safe?”

He said he respects Gulen and the Hizmet movement, rejecting Erdogan’s claims against them.

“I’m so close to Mr. Fethullah Gulen in terms of his life philosophy and teachings. I admire his way of extracting an individual’s inner potential … in order to be a better person in his or her community,” Kanter said.

“Erdogan should know that he’ll be brought to justice one day and pay for his mistakes. First, he should stop all his unjust, inhumane acts against the people of Turkey. Second, he should start making everybody’s life better in Turkey.”

Before moving to the US in 2009 to attend college in California, Kanter was a star basketball player in Turkey’s premier leagues.

He said despite playing for the NBA in the US, he still sees himself as a champion for Turkey and its people.

“I was Turkey’s best basketball player, and I’m still Turkey’s best basketball player. The only difference is that I’m now representing my country in the US. I left Turkey for a better opportunity in my career, to play in the NBA,” he added.

“I think everyone in society has an obligation to speak out on issues of human rights and democracy, and to stand tall against atrocities, inhumane practices and dictatorships,” Kanter said.

Celebrities like himself “have a bigger opportunity to make a difference and to raise awareness on such issues because of our platforms,” he added.

Erdogan has continuously attacked Kanter, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. (AFP)