Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup

Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the GSA, tour the stadium in Jeddah where the Spanish Super Cup will be played. (GSA)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Saudi Arabia gears up for the Spanish Super Cup

  • Chairman of GSA: Hosting sports events positions Kingdom on world stage

JEDDAH: Spanish football makes its debut in Saudi Arabia this week, as fans gear up for another mega sporting event when four elite Spanish football teams — FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia FC and Atlético de Madrid — strut their stuff in Jeddah in the Supercopa de España (Spanish Super Cup).

This will be the first edition of the cup under its new four team format, to be held Jan. 8 to 12 at the 62,000- capacity King Abdullah Sports City Stadium.

Speaking to Arab News during the Dakar Rally press conference, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA) said: “We are fully prepared to host the top four teams from Spain, and I am sure football fans here in Saudi Arabia are very excited to see their favorite Spanish clubs in action.

“Hosting global sports events is part of our long term (plan) and we are pushing our credentials as an international actor through sport. Saudi Arabia has recently hosted a number of events, such as the Italian Super Cup between Juventus and Lazio, Brazil versus Argentina, Formula E racing, the Joshua-Ruiz boxing match, golf’s European Tour tournament, the tennis exhibition tournament, Dakar Rally, with more still to come. One of the key visions in the ‘2030 Vision’ is to promote and grow sports within the Kingdom,” he added.

Tickets for the Spanish Super Cup started to go on sale from Dec. 11 last year, and according to organizers, all games are already sold out. Tickets for the semifinals started at SR75 ($19.99), with the final at SR150.

The Spanish Super Cup, in its new format, will be played in Saudi Arabia for the next three years.

The cup has previously been contested over two legs between the holders of the La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

The 2019-20 Spanish Super Cup will be the 36th edition of the annual competition that started in 1982. Real Sociedad won the inaugural title against Real Madrid, losing the first leg 1-0, and winning the second leg 4-0 for a 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Spanish Super Cup was held only once outside the country — last year when the Ibn Battuta Stadium in Morocco hosted Barcelona and Sevilla, which saw the Catalans triumph 2-1.

Barcelona are the dominant team in the competition, with 13 wins overall.

Saudi fans will miss the opportunity to watch five major stars: Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, midfielder Arthur Melo, forward Ousmane Dembele, Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard and Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno are all out injured.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have avoided each other in the semifinals draw. Real clash with Valencia on Jan. 8 and Barcelona face Atletico on Jan. 9. The final will take place on Jan. 12.

Lewis Hamilton on top as Mercedes dominate Formula One opening practice

Updated 03 July 2020

Lewis Hamilton on top as Mercedes dominate Formula One opening practice

  • Lewis Hamilton tops times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at season-opening Austrian Grand Prix

SPIELBERG, Austria: Defending six-time champion Lewis Hamilton topped the times ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as Formula One roared back at Friday’s opening practice at the belated and surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
Three months after the cancelation of the original campaign starter in Australia and six months on from the last race meeting, it was business as usual for the dominant black arrows with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull ahead of McLaren’s Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz.
After a slow start on a damp surface at the Red Bull Ring, following overnight rain, Hamilton, sporting a new Black Lives Matter helmet to match his black race suit, was on the pace immediately in his W11 car of the same color, repainted from silver this year to support equality and diversity.
It was as if the lengthy delay created by the COVID-19 pandemic had no effect on the teams, cars and drivers other than Ferrari whose new SF91 machine was, as forecast, unable to match the pace set at the front by Mercedes.
Ferrari plan to revise their car with updates for the Hungarian race in two weeks’ time following the second event in Austria next week.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who is set to leave the outfit at the end of the year, struggled to 12th, two places behind team-mate Charles Leclerc, in the eerie surroundings of the fan-less circuit in the Styrian Alps where pit-stops were curiously controlled with all the mechanics in masks and protective gear.
In mild weather conditions, with track temperatures measured at 22 degrees Celsius compared to 57 degrees for last year’s race, Mercedes had no cooling problems as Hamilton outpaced Bottas by three-tenths and was six-tenths clear of Verstappen.
Sergio Perez was fifth in Racing Point’s ‘pink Mercedes’ ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Alex Albon in the other Red Bull and McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo of Renault. Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas.
The session saw Verstappen recover from a spin at Turn One and Daniil Kvyat of Alpha Tauri run off at the final corner, causing Williams’ George Russell to take dramatic avoiding action while Romain Grosjean was stuck in the Haas garage with brake problems throughout the session.