South Korea football team departs for World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang

Star footballer Son Heung-min, center right, who also play for Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, is included in the South Korean squad. (Yonhap/AFP)
Updated 14 October 2019

South Korea football team departs for World Cup qualifier in Pyongyang

BEIJING: South Korean footballers departed for Pyongyang on Monday to play a World Cup qualifier against North Korea amid deadlocked talks over the North’s nuclear arsenal.
The teams — with Tottenham’s star forward Son Heung-min included in the South Korean squad — are expected to face each other at the Kim Il Sung Stadium on Tuesday.
This will be the first competitive men’s game between the two sides to be held in Pyongyang, and has raised hopes for new momentum in ties between the two Koreas.
But Pyongyang refused to hold direct talks with Seoul on the logistics for the match, denying South Korean fans and journalists permission to travel with the team.
South Korean players said the absence of cheering fans will be a first.
“It’s much better to play in a packed stadium rather than an empty one, but I think we’ll be able to play a good match if we use it as motivation,” said defender Kim Min-jae before boarding a flight to Pyongyang at Beijing airport.
The South Korean footballers were accompanied by a delegation of 55 people, limited to players, coaches and staff.
Broadcasters in the South said that plans to air the match live had fallen apart, with some media reporting that there may be attempts to carry the North Korean feed.
The match comes in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests that raised tensions in the region, and after the breakdown of talks with the United States over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.


Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

Updated 14 December 2019

Saudi women ride into history with ‘dream’ home debut

  • Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival 13 Saudi female jockeys are participating in the qualifier, set for Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21
  • 13 Saudi female jockeys are participating in the qualifier, set for Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21

RIYADH: Saudi women riders are saddling up to make history when they compete side by side with their male counterparts for the first time as part of this month’s Diriyah Equestrian Festival.

Olympic and World Cup qualification points are up for grabs in the second edition of the festival being held on Dec. 14 and Dec. 19-21.

However, more significantly, women riders will compete in the same arena as their male counterparts for the first time in the Kingdom’s history.

Over the course of two weekends, the festival will feature 120 riders, 150 grooms, 50 officials, 300 companions and trainers, 250 club members and 150 crew.

The 13 Saudi women competitors are excited that the moment to shine on their home turf has finally arrived.

“This is a dream,” said 18-year-old Lama Al-Ajmi. “It’s an international four-star competition and I will finally get to represent my country on home soil.

13 Saudi female jockeys participate for the first time in the Diriyah Equestrian Festival. (SPA)

“For me, this is the start. This is the start for all of us. I want to be on top and the Olympics are my dream,” she added.

Sultanah Abar, 32, a graphic designer and former UN employee, will compete alongside her brother Abdelkarim in the festival — their first time riding together in an international competition in their homeland.

“I started riding when I was four years old,” she said. “But until now I’ve only been able to compete abroad. Finally, we can compete at home and it makes me proud.” 

Wafa Al-Hasoun, 24, also voiced her excitement at being able to join an international competition in her country. “We used to watch, now we participate and look to win. We’re very excited to finally be part of this,” she said.

The equestrian festival is part of the wider Diriyah Season, a month of major sports events such as Formula E, top-class men’s tennis and the recent world heavyweight title fight The Clash On The Dunes.

The Diriyah UNESCO World Heritage site will also stage performances from some of the globe’s biggest music artists, including Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris, as part of the festival.

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