Valencia boss praises Saudi Arabia’s vision for sports

Valencia President Anil Murthy during the press conference on Tuesday. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Valencia boss praises Saudi Arabia’s vision for sports

  • Murthy hopes to beat Real Madrid and reach the final match of the Spanish Super Cup against the winner of the Barcelona-Atletico Madrid semifinal

JEDDAH: Valencia are hoping to open their own football academy in Saudi Arabia, Anil Murthy, club president, said on Tuesday.

Murthy expressed his admiration for Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), after the prince spoke about his vision for sports and the development of young Saudis during his recent visit in Spain.

“Therefore, it is our duty to reach those young Saudis and hopefully soon we will plan to open our own football academy here in Saudi Arabia and reach those talented Saudi players, in addition to increasing the popularity of Valencia among Saudi fans who are known for their passion for football,” Murthy said.

Murthy was speaking ahead of the Spanish club’s semifinal match against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday at King Abdullah Al-Jawhara International Stadium.

“We do appreciate the great hospitality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since we arrived, and we are really looking forward to playing in front of Saudi fans here,” Murthy said.

Murthy and the Valencia delegation arrived in Jeddah on Monday night.

Since he joined the club a little over two years ago, Valencia’s 46-year-old Singaporean president said that he has been focused on a strategy that prioritizes growth at home and abroad.

Murthy warned that the club needed to remain sustainable in the long-term by working within its “limitations and constraints.”

“We don’t have a lot of money like other clubs to buy the best players in the world but we put our resources in the best place. We invest mostly in young players because we know these players are the future of the club and this is what keeps the club stable. This is our value,” he said.

“We must build a club structure which works and which is sustainable. Not for one season, but for many years to come. That is the ultimate goal.”

“Clubs who only work for the short term often end up suffering because of financial difficulties.”

Of the death threats he received as the president of Valencia, Murthy said: “Yes, it happened but this can happen from criminals and they are a minority. The only way to solve this issue, we expelled the violent from the stadium and things are now OK.”

Murthy hopes to beat Real Madrid and reach the final match of the Spanish Super Cup against the winner of the Barcelona-Atletico Madrid semifinal, and win it with the support of Valencia’s fans in Saudi Arabia.

Prior to his role at Valencia, Murthy was a diplomat with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, specializing in European affairs. He was deputy chief of mission in Paris and concurrently permanent delegate to UNESCO for four years. He has nearly 16 years of experience with the Singapore government, advising ministers on public policies ranging from trade to culture and diplomacy.


Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 03 July 2020

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.