Fans hail new beginning for Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia

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A picture shows the exterior of Newcastle United football club's stadium St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England on October 8, 2021. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)
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A pedestrian passes a Newcastle United football club-themed mural in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England on October 8, 2021. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)
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A Newcastle United football club supporter stands with a flag above the club logo at their stadium St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England on Oct. 8, 2021. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)
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Newcastle United supporters celebrate the sale of the club to a Saudi-led consortium, outside the club's stadium at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)
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Public Investment Fund (PIF) governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)
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Newcastle United's new director Amanda Staveley (R) and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi (L) talk to the media on Oct. 8, 2021, after the sale of the football club. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)
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Updated 11 October 2021

Fans hail new beginning for Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia

  • Supporters dreaming of better days again with new owners having a clear vision for the club
  • The $410 million Saudi-backed takeover of the club was delayed by 18 months

DUBAI: Everything was ready. Those party hats. The chips and dip. The cans. And then, nothing. The party had to be called off.

But 18 months on, the biggest celebration the city of Newcastle has seen in years is into its fifth day and shows no signs of slowing down.

Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign at Newcastle United is over after Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, Amanda Staveley’s PCP and the Reuben brothers completed the much-delayed $410 million takeover of the club.

The party was back on, and to say the Geordie fans have been keeping the neighbours up would be an understatement.




Newcastle United supporters celebrate the sale of the club to a Saudi-led consortium, outside the club's stadium at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“We’ve got our club back,” supporters, waving Saudi flags, sang outside St James’ Park. “We can dare to hope again,” Alan Shearer, arguably Newcastle’s greatest player, posted on Twitter.

Halfway across the world, supporters in the Middle East are also excited for the club.

Radio and podcast presenter Peter Redding, a long-time Newcastle season ticket holder now based in Dubai, sums up the feelings of many.

“After witnessing the exciting and exhilarating times under Kevin Keegan, most Newcastle fans and myself felt helpless watching over the last 14 years under Mike Ashley’s reign,” he said. “Newcastle United is the pivotal regime of a city both, physically and mentally, it’s all anybody ever talks about.”

 

 

“To be under exciting new owners who share that passion with a clear vision is more than exhilarating,” he added. “Firstly they have given us our club back, and judging by the party scenes in the city after the announcement, this is just the beginning for Newcastle and Saudi Arabia.”

Joe Morrison lived a life most Newcastle fans could only dream off from 2001 to 2005. For three years under Sir Bobby Robson, and then two under Graeme Souness, he was the club’s Head of Media.

From mingling with the coaches and players to watching training sessions and matches, he was always close to the action.

Now a renowned television presenter in the Middle East and Asia, he looks back on that happy time wistfully.




A pedestrian passes a Newcastle United football club-themed mural in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England on October 8, 2021. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“We were in the Champions League when I was there, and we’ve never been back since,” Morrison said. “That just goes to show you how far the club had fallen. Even before Bobby Robson we were in Europe and when you have that regular diet it’s a real loss when it’s suddenly taken away.”

Those happy days could soon be back.

“It was the last time the club had a glow about it,” he said. “After Sir Bobby, that glow faded away, the lustre was gone.”

In 2005, Morrison moved to the Middle East, eventually becoming the presenter of ART’s coverage of Premier League football, and has since seen the proliferation of football culture in this part of the world. One thing however remains constant.

“How do you get the world’s best players playing for your team? You’ve got to have big bucks, it’s as simple as that.” 

For Morrison, the first point to address is a new manager.

“I’d be looking at the likes of Zinedine Zidane,” he said. “Why? Because he’s a big-name manager and when you don’t have Champions League football, you need to have a manager who a player would come and play for. Someone they would recognize, some they would appreciate, and Zidane ticks off all those boxes right now.”

Having to wait till January to strengthen the squad is no bad thing, according to Morrison, as it will allow the new owners to take their time and scout the right players.

“Someone like Jan Oblak, the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper, would be fabulous,” he said. “And up front you have a very unsettled Harry Kane, who may have not been allowed to leave Spurs last summer, but I’m sure will be allowed to leave this summer, maybe even in the January window. Shore up the back and make sure you’re not conceding goals, make sure you’re scoring goals, they’re always the most pressing problems for any new owners.”

For Dubai-based Newcastle fan Mohsin Khan, the most important aspect of the new take-over was the departure of the old owner.




Newcastle United's new director Amanda Staveley (R) and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi (L) talk to the media on Oct. 8, 2021, after the sale of the football club. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“The overriding feeling is relief, the primary thing for me was getting rid of Mike Ashley,” Khan said.

He accepts that fans of other clubs will be “envious” and hopes that the club is developed “organically” with investments going into renovating the stadium, surrounding area and creating jobs, and not just on buying players.

Khan says that the writing was already on the wall for Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, even without the takeover, and the time has come to replace him with someone who has the desire to take the club forward.

“There are a few names that have been mentioned like [Antonio] Conte, but he said that he doesn’t want to join a project at this early stage so in my mind I’m not bothered about him,” he said. “I don’t want that type of personality.”

Khan would be happy with an up and coming manager.

 

 

“Someone like Graham Potter from Brighton, I think he’s doing a really good job. Maybe Steven Gerrard,” he said. “He’s got the capabilities. Obviously Rangers are not in the Premier League, but I think he looks like an exciting manager. And possibly a good manager to have at this early stage when we’re trying to develop the club.”

As for a more established name, his first choice in a perfect world would have been for a figure that is still loved at Newcastle.

“Maybe at this point you need a big manager in order to attract players, so Rafa (Benitez) would have been the ideal one, but that ship has sailed unfortunately.”

Looking at players, Khan says that calls to sign the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are just a bit of fun by the fans.




Newcastle United's English defender Jamaal Lascelles (C) heads the ball wide during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Leeds United on Sept. 17, 2021. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

“Newcastle fans are intelligent enough to know that the caliber of players that will come in will be experienced and exciting, but they’re not going to be that upper tier level of player initially,” he said. “Maybe (Philippe) Coutinho because he’s been linked several times, that could be our one marquee signing. Other than that, it would be great to get a few names in with Premier League experience, James Tarkowski of Burnley, he’d be a good signing. Sensible signings, we need to get a couple of defenders in and we need a striker. And I’d also like to replace Jonjo Shelvey, I’m not a big fan of his.”

Born in the UK, Khan grew up in Abu Dhabi before moving back to his home country as a teenager. That was when he fell in love with Kevin Keegan’s mid-90s Newcastle team, particularly Andy Cole. In 2018 he relocated to Dubai and discovered how popular English football was in the region. 

“Football is massive here, it really did take me by surprise,” he said. “When I first moved here during the World Cup three years ago, it was amazing to see how passionate everyone is about football. If Newcastle can turn themselves into one of the contenders, then there will be many more people following them. They’re a big club. I’ll be really excited to see more fans walking around in Newcastle shirts in the next year or so.”


Shakib Al-Hasan stars as Bangladesh thrash Oman to stay afloat in T20 World Cup

Updated 23 sec ago

Shakib Al-Hasan stars as Bangladesh thrash Oman to stay afloat in T20 World Cup

  • The Oman bowlers kept picking up wickets and could have limited Bangladesh to a far lower score with better catching
MUSCAT: Star all-rounder Shakib Al-Hasan took three wickets and scored 42 as Bangladesh hammered hosts Oman by 26 runs on Tuesday to stay alive in the Twenty20 World Cup.
World number six Bangladesh came into the game in Muscat needing a win to stay in the hunt for the Super 12 stage.
They elected to bat and were bowled out for 153.
Left-hand opener Mohammad Naim, who smashed 64 off 50 balls, and Shakib set up the victory for Bangladesh with a key second-wicket stand of 80 after the Tigers lost two early wickets.
Mustafizur Rahman, who returned figures of 4-36, and Shakib then shared seven wickets to keep Oman to 127-9 as Bangladesh bounced back from their opening Group B loss to Scotland.
“We’ll take this win, but I think there are a lot of areas we need to improve,” skipper Mahmudullah Riyad said after the win.
“Shakib and Naim batted brilliantly, they had a good partnerships and that took us to 150-plus. But we should have done better with the new ball. Bowled a lot of wides.”
Oman opener Jatinder Singh smashed 40 off 33 balls before falling to Shakib’s left-arm spin and it seemed the wicket deflated Oman.
Shakib struck with successive balls but Mohammad Nadeem prevented the hat-trick and went on to make 14 not out.
Mahedi Hasan was impressive impressively economical with figures of 1-14 from his four overs of finger spin.
Oman fast bowlers Bilal Khan and Fayyaz Butt took three wickets each to peg back Bangladesh after the big partnership between Naim and Shakib.
Naim, who replaced Soumya Sarkar for the key match, survived two dropped catches on 18 and 26 to go on and raise his third T20 half-century.
The Oman bowlers kept picking up wickets and could have limited Bangladesh to a far lower score with better catching as Kashyap Prajapati dropped two chances and Jatinder spilled another.
“It is not acceptable the way we are fielding right now,” skipper Zeeshan Maqsood told reporters.
He added, “Oman is confident of a good show in the last game and a win will help us boost our cricket as we will meet the top nations and learn from them.”
Earlier in the day, Scotland beat Papua New Guinea in the first match to record their second successive win and are now on the verge of making the next stage.
Oman, who hammered Papua New Guinea in the tournament opener on Sunday, have two points with one win and stay second in the group above Bangladesh.

Al-Hilal edge Al-Nassr to reach ACL final

Updated 20 October 2021

Al-Hilal edge Al-Nassr to reach ACL final

RIYADH: Saudi giants Al-Hilal stayed on course for a second AFC Champions League title in three years with a tense 2-1 semifinal victory over cross-city rivals Al-Nassr on Tuesday.

Mali striker Moussa Marega and Saudi international Salem Al-Dawsari struck either side of the break in Riyadh to set up a title clash with either Pohang Steelers or Ulsan Hyundai of South Korea who meet in the second-semifinal of the tournament on Wednesday.

Al-Hilal won their third Asian title in 2019 but were dramatically kicked out of the tournament last year after several members of their squad tested positive for COVID-19.

But the team known locally as “Al Zaeem,” or “The Boss” seem to have successfully banished the memories of that fateful day from their minds with an impressive run this year as they moved within striking distance of another international trophy.

Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr have clashed on numerous occasions domestically but the magnitude of a crucial continental clash was not lost on them as both teams made a cautious start at the King Saud University Stadium in the Saudi capital.

The first notable chance fell Al-Hilal’s way but Al-Dawasari failed to take advantage of the opportunity by firing wide from the edge of the box after receiving a pass from Matheus Pereira.

Al-Hilal were not to be denied for long though as Marega scored his first goal of the tournament in the 17th minute.

Mohamed Al-Burayk found Bafetimbi Gomis with a long pass and the 36-year-old Frenchman deftly steered the ball for Marega who made no mistake with a right-footed shot to the bottom left corner of the post.

Al-Nassr raised their game a notch after that but were dealt a body blow when defender Ali Lajami was sent-off seconds before half-time for a foul on Marega.

Despite the setback Al-Nassr managed to hold their own and found the equalizer five minutes after the break with Anderson Talisca heading home from close from a cross by Abdulfattah Asiri following a corner.

Sultan Al-Ghanem and Talisca missed chances thereafter for Al-Nassr and soon Al-Hilal wrested control once again with Al-Dawasri scoring his third goal of the knockouts, his chip taking a slight deflection off Abdulla Madu before finding the net.

Al-Hilal survived several anxious moments after that with Abderrarazak Hamdallah an Abdulla Madu missing chances in stoppage time.

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World Cup bid not derailed by Euro 2020 trouble — UK Sport

Updated 20 October 2021

World Cup bid not derailed by Euro 2020 trouble — UK Sport

  • England have been ordered to play one UEFA competition match behind closed doors
  • UEFA president played down fears that the disorder would affect a British and Irish World Cup bid

LONDON: The UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 World Cup is not “up in smoke” despite the English FA being sanctioned for the chaos that marred the Euro 2020 final, according to a leading figure at UK Sport.
England have been ordered to play one UEFA competition match behind closed doors, with a further match suspended for two years for disorder at the final which saw ticketless fans break their way into the stadium.
Further trouble marred England’s World Cup qualifier with Hungary last week as visiting fans clashed with police.
However, Simon Morton, chief operating officer of UK Sport, which is involved in an ongoing feasibility study on whether to bid, said his view was that crowd trouble had not derailed plans.
“There are lessons to be learned, the FA has commissioned a review from Baroness Casey. It’s very serious. But I do not think it is the bid up in smoke,” he told the UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Tuesday.
“However, I don’t think it’s reflective of how this country organizes sporting events. We have an excellent reputation, not only for hosting brilliant events but also hosting safe and secure events.
“We have to get the balance right here. It was unacceptable, but I think most countries around the world would recognize it is not reflective of what normally happens.”
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin played down fears that the disorder would affect a British and Irish World Cup bid, telling The Times last month that he saw Wembley as a key venue for UEFA in hosting club competition finals in the future.
However, Morton cautioned against proposals for the World Cup to be held every two years rather than four.
FIFA’s head of global development, Arsene Wenger, has been at the forefront of promoting the idea.
The International Olympic Committee expressed its concern earlier this week on what the impact could be for other sports.
“I think the oversaturation of sporting competition events is a real risk,” added Morton.
“One of the reasons why sport is so popular is because of its scarcity. I think when we host events, you want to know that that’s special, because you’re attending the world championships.”


Halep beats Potapova in Kremlin Cup opener, Jabeur retires

Updated 19 October 2021

Halep beats Potapova in Kremlin Cup opener, Jabeur retires

  • Halep won 6-1, 6-4 against Anastasia Potapova despite losing her serve three times
  • Tunisian Ons Jabeur retired from her first-round match

MOSCOW: Simona Halep started her campaign at the Kremlin Cup with a straight-sets win on Tuesday, while Ons Jabeur retired from her first-round match.
Halep won 6-1, 6-4 against Anastasia Potapova despite losing her serve three times and next plays Veronika Kudermetova in the second round after the Russian beat 18-year-old qualifier Oksana Selekhmetova 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Halep hasn’t won more than three consecutive matches since returning in August from a three-month layoff with a calf injury that kept her out of the French Open and Wimbledon.
Eighth-ranked Jabeur retired when 6-1, 1-0 down against Ekaterina Alexandrova. There was no immediate information from the Tunisian or the WTA about the reason for her retirement, which makes it harder for Jabeur to qualify for the WTA Finals.
Marketa Vondrousova eliminated seventh-seeded Elena Rybakina 6-4, 6-4 and plays qualifier Lesia Tsurenko in the next round.
Anett Kontaveit won 6-3, 6-3 against Katerina Siniakova to set up a second-round match with experienced German Andrea Petkovic, who was leading 2-6, 6-0, 2-0 when her opponent Jelena Ostapenko retired.
In the men’s draw, fifth-seeded Alexander Bublik was upset by Illya Marchenko 6-4, 6-3 and veteran French player Gilles Simon surprised eighth-seeded Laslo Djere 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-3.


Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

Updated 19 October 2021

Man City crush Brugge to re-energise Champions League push

  • Pep Guardiola's side bounced back in style from last month's loss to Paris Saint-Germain
  • Cole Palmer, 19, bagged his first Champions League goal minutes after coming on as a substitute

BRUGES, Belgium: Manchester City delivered a dominant Champions League performance to sweep past Club Brugge 5-1 on Tuesday and re-emphasize their status as major contenders for a first European title.
Joao Cancelo gave City a deserved lead on the half-hour and Riyad Mahrez converted a penalty just before the break as Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back in style from last month’s loss to Paris Saint-Germain.
Kyle Walker added a third early in the second half and 19-year-old Cole Palmer bagged his first Champions League goal minutes after coming on as a substitute.
Hans Vanaken pulled a goal back to great delight from the home supporters but Mahrez capped a thumping City victory with his second of the night.
The win leaves City side with six points after three games in Group A, with the champions of England and Belgium to meet again in two weeks in Manchester.
Ederson returned in goal for City after flying direct to Belgium last week following Brazil’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers, while Jack Grealish replaced Raheem Sterling in the front three.
Viewed as the weakest team in a group also featuring 2020 semifinalists RB Leipzig, Brugge had surprisingly held PSG to a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the section at the Jan Breydelstadion.
City, facing Brugge for the first time, twice had the ball in the net inside the opening 15 minutes. Grealish’s lob was ruled out for a push on Clinton Mata, with Rodri’s tap-in disallowed for offside.
Phil Foden fired into the side-netting after running onto a long ball, the England international’s free roaming as a false nine constantly troubling Brugge.
It came as little surprise Foden created the opening goal for Cancelo, chipping a delightful ball over the defense that the Portugal defender poked through the legs of former Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Stanley Nsoki chopped Mahrez down in the area late in the first half, the Algerian doubling City’s lead as he sent Mignolet the wrong way from the spot.
Mahrez nearly struck again before half-time but Mignolet beat away his first-time strike from Foden’s lay-off.
Walker all but put the match out of reach on 53 minutes when Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne combined, the latter rolling through for Walker to drill low past Mignolet.
Mignolet denied Foden with his legs as City continued to stream forward. Not even a spate of changes could check their momentum as Palmer scored three minutes after replacing De Bruyne.
No sooner had Belgium star De Bruyne walked off to warm applause from the home supporters than Palmer curled in from Raheem Sterling’s assist.
Mignolet saved well from Sterling after he escaped in behind the defense, with Ederson producing a sharp stop to turn away Charles De Ketelaere’s diving header.
Brugge refused to fold and Hans Vanaken steered in a consolation nine minutes from time, but the game finished as it started, with City flexing their muscle as Mahrez burst clear to complete the rout.