Saudi football team to play Palestinian team in Ramallah as part of Asian World Cup qualifiers

The Saudi national football team. (SPA file photo)
Updated 04 October 2019

Saudi football team to play Palestinian team in Ramallah as part of Asian World Cup qualifiers

  • On Thursday, the Rajah Casablanca became the first Moroccan football team played in the West Bank
  • The Palestinian Football Federation asked Saudi Arabia to let its team play in occupied Palestinian territories

RIYADH:  The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) on Friday said the Saudi national team will play against the Palestinian team on October 15 at the Martyr Faisal Housseini Stadium in Ramallah, Palestine, as part of the Asian World Cup qualifiers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

SPA quoted Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al Faisal, chairman of the Saudi General Sport Authority (GSA), as saying the decision was in response to the request of the Palestinian Football Federation of its desire to host the game.

The Palestinian federation wanted “to ensure that the Palestinian team is not deprived of playing the game at home among its fans like in other countries, and as part of abiding by the agenda of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and ensure equal opportunity for both team,” said the report.

The Saudi game in the West Bank would mark a change in policy for the Gulf state, which has previously played matches against Palestine in third countries.

The Palestinian football association earlier announced the forthcoming visit of the Saudi national team on Thursday as the first Moroccan football team played in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But 28 fans of the Raja Casablanca club were denied entry to the occupied West Bank by “Israeli occupation forces,” Morocco’s MAP news agency said, quoting the country’s embassy in Jordan.

READ MORE: Raja Casablanca first Morocco football team to play in Palestinian territories

Arab clubs and national teams have historically refused to play in the West Bank, where the Palestinian national team plays, as it required them to apply for Israeli entry permits.

Thursday evening’s match kicked off at 1600 GMT, with Raja Casablanca eventually beating Palestinian team Hilal Al-Quds 2-0 in the Arab Champions Cup.

The Moroccan giants had won the first leg 1-0 at home, with the team’s supporters waving Palestinian flags and chanting songs supportive of the cause.


Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

Updated 29 sec ago

Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

  • Experience and inspirational qualities come to the fore as MI players chase club’s first IPL title since 2020

LONDON: West Indies legend Kieron Pollard can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher.

Pollard, who is now batting coach at the IPL giants, had a glittering career as a player with the franchise, winning five titles over eight seasons, including four as captain.

His experience and nous will be crucial in helping the current crop of MI players win the club’s first IPL title since 2020, said South African Boucher, who has been head coach since last season.

“(Pollard) is fantastic. He’s got so much character in the changing room; he’s a strong person and a lot of the players trust him and look up to him,” Boucher told sport news website

“Whenever Polly opens his mouth in the dressing room, people listen. Not because he is going to hold them up against the side of the wall, but because they know what he’s done.

“Having him in the dressing room has a calming effect on the batting. You have a look at our stats in the batting, the aggressive nature we went about things (last year), the calmness in the dugouts, all that type of stuff. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Polly as well because of his way that he is and his whole demeanour and understanding that he’s got.

“He’s still playing in franchises around the world he’s in the know about who’s playing good crickets and we feed off that,” he added.

Boucher said the team had high expectations for the coming season, which starts on March 22 and will end, if successful in the grand final, on May 26.

“I think anytime you join Mumbai Indians, there’s a lot of expectation and the expectation is to win at all times. We have won the championship quite a few times. Once the owners and the fans get a sniff of that, then they want to do it every time,” he said.

He particularly praised the team’s batting display and its positive style of cricket last season, acknowledging the challenges faced in the bowling unit as a result of injuries. Although the Indians finished third, falling short of the intended win, Boucher said he viewed it as a commendable effort given the situation.

“Our bowling was a little bit shy because of the injuries that we picked up. The third position is not what we wanted; we wanted to win, but third was not a bad effort, judging what we had to go through last season. But a catch maybe taken here or there could have  put ourselves into a final and then who knows what happens in the final,” he said.

“We do believe in the spinners that we have in the side already. Piyush (Chawla) had a fantastic season last time around. No one really thought that he would probably have that kind of impact that he had. We are backing him to do something similar,” he added.

Boucher also played up the importance of getting results at the team’s home stadium at Wankhede, but also the ability of his team to adapt to different conditions at away grounds.

“In our home games at Wankhede spin doesn’t play a major part in the game. So our side is very much sort of geared toward our home conditions, but we do feel that we’ve got enough cover if we do go into a different venue and the ball is turning and gripping; we do feel that we do have the guys to sort of consolidate those conditions,” he said. 

SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

Updated 01 March 2024

SAFF launches formal FIFA World Cup 2034 host campaign

  • Logo, website and short film released under slogan ‘Growing Together’
  • Federation chief Yasser Al-Misehal: ‘Our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey’

JEDDAH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation on Friday launched its formal bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2034 under the slogan “Growing Together.”
In October last year, the Kingdom said it intended to bid to host the tournament, before the SAFF submitted an official letter of intent and declaration to FIFA.
The campaign proved a formality when the Kingdom became the only country to enter the contest to host the tournament.
The federation, as part of its formal bid, has unveiled a bid logo, website, as well as a short film that celebrates the passion, spirit and diversity of football in the Kingdom.
SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “Telling our football story to the world is of massive importance. And we believe ‘Growing Together’ is the perfect, yet simple description of our approach to hopefully hosting the tournament in 10 years’ time.”
Bidding to host a FIFA World Cup has been made possible by the rapid transformation taking place in the Kingdom, the SAFF chief said.
“We’ve made unprecedented progress in both the men’s and women’s game and our bid is an open invitation to the world to join us on this exciting journey. As we proved when we welcomed over 100 nationalities to the FIFA Club World Cup Saudi Arabia 2023 in Jeddah, the future is bright when we grow together,” Al-Misehal added.
As one of the fastest and most exciting growth stories in world football, Saudi Arabia, through its bid, seeks to capture the parallel between the Kingdom’s rapid transformation and the positive impacts of hosting FIFA’s flagship event.
Aspiring to become the first single host nation of a 48-team FIFA World Cup, the three pillars underpinning the bid are “Growing People Together,” “Growing Football Together” and “Growing Connections Together.”
Over the last six years, Saudi Arabia has hosted more than 100 international events across almost 40 sports, and is in active football partnerships with more than 100 countries.
The campaign slogan aims to capture the spirit of bonds between the Kingdom and football communities in countries around the world.
The bid logo — made up of intertwined rows of multi-colored ribbons displaying iconic football and cultural symbols — aims to promote Saudi Arabia’s status as a young nation with rich heritage.
It also features five colors reflecting natural diversity across the Kingdom: Desert amber, oasis green, radiance red, rich lavender and sunrise yellow.
The short film released for the bid was filmed across the country, exploring the passion for football in all sections of Saudi society.
It features players from the Saudi under-17 women’s national team and 22-year-old Saudi women’s national team midfielder Layan Jouhari. Background music was composed by powerhouse Saudi platform MDLBEAST.
SAFF recently launched a dedicated bid unit, in line with FIFA regulations, to lead the charge for the Saudi 2034 bid, which will last up until the end of the year.
The unit’s chief, Hammad Al-Balawi, said: “This campaign is powered by the hopes and dreams of 32 million people in Saudi Arabia. Our responsibility is to submit the best possible bid to FIFA, make our country proud and fulfill the trust placed upon us by more than 130 member associations across the world who supported our bid.”
The bid’s website is Fans can celebrate the launch of the campaign using the hashtags #Saudi2034bid and #GrowingTogether.

Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah

Updated 01 March 2024

Rahm and Meronk share lead after first round of LIV Golf Jeddah

  • Despite the windy conditions, six players shot rounds better than 65 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club
  • “Really good day. Drove it great. Anytime you shoot a bogey-free 62, there’s not much that goes wrong,” said the Spaniard

JEDDAH: The high quality of the field at LIV Golf tournaments was apparent once again when, despite the wind picking up at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, six players shot better than 65 in the opening round of LIV Golf Jeddah.
The highest-ranked player in the field, world No. 3 Jon Rahm, shot a sparkling bogey-free eight-under par 62 to share the lead with Poland’s Adrian Meronk, who made seven birdies and an eagle.
Crushers GC Captain Bryson DeChambeau closed spectacularly with six birdies in his last seven holes in a round of seven-under par 63, which could have been even lower but for a double bogey and two three-putts. The American was joined in tied third place by South African Charl Schwartzel and the red-hot Joaquin Niemann of Chile.
Stingers GC Captain Louis Oosthuizen was the other player with a sub-65 round, making six birdies in his six-under 64.
Anthony Kim, the man in the spotlight as he made his return to professional golf after a hiatus of 12 years, opened with a 76 and was last in the 54-man field.
Reigning Masters champion Rahm started the day on the third hole and finished with three straight birdies on the 18th, first and second holes in what is his first visit to the Kingdom.
“Really good day. Drove it great. Anytime you shoot a bogey-free 62, there’s not much that goes wrong. I put it in the right spots and gave myself the opportunities,” said the Spaniard.
“The key to that low score was three lengthy putts I made. And I made pretty much every putt I looked at inside 10 feet.
“I feel like my record when I’m playing tournaments at a venue for the first time, has been pretty good for some reason. Sometimes, not knowing is a blessing.”
The Dubai-based Meronk, who is playing his first season on LIV Golf, made a bogey on his second hole of the day, but more than made up for it when he chipped in for an eagle on the par-4 10th hole from 35 yards.
“I’m feeling way better this week than my first two weeks (Mayakoba and Las Vegas). I had some quality practice time last week in Dubai. I’m happy where my game is, and it’s definitely a big difference from even Vegas a couple of weeks ago,” said Meronk, ranked 50th in the world.
Kim made one birdie in his round and showed his rustiness by topping his second shot of the day on the 18th hole, followed by a shank with his second shot on the seventh. However, his driving was very good all day, and his putting was on point the whole day.
“Obviously disappointed with the score, but I played much better than what I scored,” said the 38-year-old American. “I’ve got a lot to build on. Just made a lot of unforced errors, and that was unfortunate, but I feel like I’m not that far away.”
In the Team Championship, Rahm-led Legions XIII took the opening-day honors as Tyrrell Hatton (-5) and young Caleb Surratt (-4) pushed the team aggregate to 17-under, one shot better than the all-South African Stingers GC (-16).

Spain prosecutors to demand longer rape sentence for Brazil star Alves

Updated 01 March 2024

Spain prosecutors to demand longer rape sentence for Brazil star Alves

  • Alves was sentenced on February 22 after being convicted of raping a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022
  • Prosecutors had called for him to be jailed for nine years followed by 10 years of probation

MADRID: Spanish prosecutors will appeal against the four-and-a-half year sentence handed to former Brazil international footballer Dani Alves for rape and seek a longer jail term, judicial sources said Friday.
Alves was sentenced on February 22 after being convicted of raping a young woman at a Barcelona nightclub in December 2022.
The 40-year-old footballer was also handed five years’ probation after serving his jail sentence and ordered to pay the victim 150,000 euros ($162,000) in compensation.
Prosecutors had called for him to be jailed for nine years followed by 10 years of probation.
One of the world’s most decorated footballers, who played for Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, Alves insisted the sex was consensual.
Immediately after the sentence, his lawyers said they would appeal.
The victim, who testified behind a screen to protect her identity, said Alves had violently forced her to have sex in a private bathroom of the nightclub despite her begging him to release her, causing her “anguish and terror,” prosecutors said.
Police officers who later came to the nightclub told the court about the woman’s state of agitation and “shock” as well as her anxiety that “nobody would believe her” if she filed a complaint.
In sentencing him, the Barcelona court said: “The victim did not consent and there is evidence that, beyond the complainant’s testimony, permits the rape to be considered proven.
“The court considers as proven the fact that the defendant abruptly grabbed the complainant, threw her to the ground and penetrated her vaginally, preventing her from moving, while the complainant said no and wanted to leave,” it said.
Alves’ lawyers had argued that the victim had been “glued” to the player while dancing at the nightclub, saying there was “sexual tension” between them.
But in its 61-page decision, the court said that did not mean “that she consented to anything that might have subsequently happened.”
In October 2022, Spain’s parliament passed the “only yes means yes” law which tightened the criminal code on sexual violence by requiring explicit consent for sexual acts.
The move — which had long been demanded by assault survivors and women’s rights groups — removed the requirement for rape victims to prove they were subjected to violence or intimidation.
It sought to shift the focus away from the victims’ resistance to a woman’s free and clearly expressed consent. It was amended six months later to close a loophole.

SAFF: 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship ‘will be the first of many’ tournaments held in Kingdom

Updated 01 March 2024

SAFF: 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship ‘will be the first of many’ tournaments held in Kingdom

  • Jordan defeat Nepal in penalty shoot-out to claim victory in 1st official 11-a-side women’s tournament held in Kingdom
  • Saudi officials hail ‘exciting new era for professional women’s football’ after milestone event draws nationwide interest

RIYADH: The latest chapter in Saudi Arabia’s football evolution came to a close last weekend as the 2024 West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship — the first official 11-a-side women’s tournament held in the Kingdom — reached its conclusion. 

A milestone occasion that attracted nationwide interest and engagement, the eighth edition of the championship was staged in Jeddah throughout its 11-day duration from Feb. 19 to Feb. 29 as seven countries competed alongside the host nation.

Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Nepal, Palestine, Syria and Guam joined Saudi Arabia with fixtures played at the King Abdullah Sports City and Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sport City stadiums. A total of 15 matches were played across the group and knock-out stages.

The final was played in front of over 4,000 fans at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Sport City Stadium and ended 2-2 after full time, with Jordan winning the tournament via a penalty shoot-out against Nepal in Thursday’s final.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s message following the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship was clear — this debut official 11-a-side women’s tournament on home soil “will be the first of many.”

“We promise that the 2024 WAFF Women’s Championship is the start of an exciting new era for professional women’s football in Saudi Arabia,” Lamia Bahaian, vice president of the federation, said in a statement.

“Besides showcasing our hosting credentials to the region and wider world, it has paved the way for more competitions to make their way to our shores in the years ahead. For sure, this will be the first of many.”

Bahaian said that the women’s game is inspiring audiences as a driving force for positive change, with the Saudi Arabia women’s national team “instrumental” to the direction of travel.

“Reaction to the tournament and the way it was received by fans and the wider community was incredible — witnessing fans embrace the competition, get behind our women’s national team, and attend matches was a genuine joy,” she said.

“Our national team has been instrumental here. The players are pursuing their dreams and representing their country for everyone to see. This has helped introduce women’s football to audiences new and old, laying new foundations for sustained growth and development while contributing to a positive shift in wider society.”

Underpinned by a strategy to help elevate Saudi Arabia to elite status in world football by 2034, huge strides have been taken in the last few years, with growth witnessed across a series of key metrics. 

Since 2021, the number of female clubs nationwide has increased by 112 percent, with the number of local players up 150 percent and national teams up 300 percent.