Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

Corinthians' Willian (R) and Flamengo's Rodinei (L) vie for the ball during their Copa Libertadores football tournament quarterfinals all-Brazilian second leg match, at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 12 August 2022

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

  • "Willian asked us for his (contract) termination," said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves
  • "Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn't play well, my family received threats and insults on social media," Willian told the Globo Esporte website

SAO PAULO: Former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Willian quit Corinthians on Friday following the Brazilians’ Copa Libertadores elimination against domestic rivals Flamengo, after claiming he and his family received death threats on social media.
“Willian asked us for his (contract) termination. We are sad not to have him anymore and also because it didn’t go the way we expected. But we have to keep those here that are happy,” said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves.
It was only a year ago that the 34-year-old only rejoined the club where he made his professional debut in 2006. Local media have linked him with a move to promoted English Premier League side Fulham.
The return to Corinthians in Sao Paulo quickly turned sour for Willian both on the pitch where he scored one goal in 45 matches, and off it.
“Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn’t play well, my family received threats and insults on social media. My wife, my children, recently they also started attacking my father, my sister,” Willian told the Globo Esporte website.
“I didn’t play as well as I expected but I was never a player who scored 20 or 30 goals a season,” he told ESPN Brasil on Wednesday.
Willian, who also played for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and Russians Anzhi Makhachkala, leaves the club three days after they were eliminated from the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals by Flamengo, 3-0 on aggregate.

Lluis Cortes unveiled as new Saudi Arabia women’s national team head coach

Updated 11 December 2023

Lluis Cortes unveiled as new Saudi Arabia women’s national team head coach

  • Former Barcelona Femeni and Ukraine manager unveiled at an official ceremony in Riyadh this afternoon
  • Cortes led Barcelona Femeni to historic continental treble in 2021 and has won the UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year award

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has announced the appointment of Lluis Cortes as the new women’s national team head coach. The Spaniard succeeds Rosa Lappi-Seppala on a four-year contract until 2027 and was unveiled at an official ceremony in Riyadh this afternoon.

“Lluis was the outstanding candidate to lead our women’s national team in this exciting new era and we are thrilled to have finalized this important appointment,” said Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the SAFF.

“We believe Lluis’s coaching capabilities, knowledge of the game, and extensive experience will play a huge role as we look to maintain our sustained and steady progress in the years ahead. He is a deep thinker and is looking to develop the long-term strategy so I’ve no doubt he will make an important impact upon Saudi women’s football on and off the pitch. We’re really looking forward to working with him.”

The most impressive achievement of Cortes’ career to date came in the 2020/21 season as head coach of Barcelona Femeni. Widely regarded as one of the greatest campaigns in women’s club football history, he led the side to a continental treble by winning the Primera Division, Copa de la Reina, and UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Following his two years in charge at Barcelona Femeni, where he also won another Primera Division title, one Supercopa de Espana, and the UEFA Women’s Coach of the Year award, he managed the Ukraine women’s national team from 2021-2023.

“Being confirmed as Saudi Arabia’s new women’s national team head coach is a real privilege,” said Cortes. “I want to thank the Saudi Arabian Football Federation for this wonderful opportunity to work in a country that loves the game so much and is really growing football for all. The prospect of working with such an ambitious and energetic group of young players is really exciting and I will look to incorporate my philosophy of attractive and attacking football on our journey together.”

“The team’s progress in such a short space of time can only be described as incredible,” he continued. “Already there is much to be proud of and a lot achieve. The grassroots are flourishing, a new Under 20 national women’s team announced and the Women’s Professional League is developing fast. So, I am confident the future is even brighter as we have all the ingredients to climb up the FIFA rankings.”

“The aim is to keep working, keep improving, and take further steps toward our aim of competing at the highest level internationally. This is why I’m here and I can’t wait to meet the players and get started.”

Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

Updated 11 December 2023

Pakistan not here to compete but beat Australia, says team director Hafeez

  • Pakistan play their first Test match of the three-match series against Australia on Dec. 14 in Perth
  • Hafeez says Canberra pitch where Pakistan face PM XI was ‘slowest pitch’ a visiting side could play on 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan men’s cricket Team Director Mohammad Hafeez said on Monday the visitors had arrived in Australia not to compete but beat the home side, as the green shirts brace for a tough challenge against the World Test champions when their three-match Test series kicks off this week. 

Pakistan face Australia in the first Test match at Perth on Dec. 14. The visitors have traditionally found playing in Australia harder than other venues around the world, having lost their last 14 Tests in the country, spanning five whitewashes.

Australia’s pace battery, in the form of skipper Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Mitchell Starc is one of the most feared in the world. Pakistani batters have fared poorly in the Test format, with its batters traditionally finding it difficult to bat on the bouncy Australia surfaces. 

“Everyone is excited to take the challenge, performing in Australia would be great for them,” Hafeez told reporters at the WACA ground. “As a Pakistan team, we are here to beat Australia, not to compete here.”

The former Pakistani cricketer said Shan Masood’s side had done well in the training session. 

“We have ticked most of the boxes in our training,” he said. “Everyone on the team is excited to showcase their ability and eager to win. Unfortunately, Abrar Ahmed is unfit but everyone else is fit and ready to take on Australia.”

Ahmed was ruled out of the Perth Test match last week due to a leg injury. Pakistani spinner Sajid Khan has been called up to be his replacement. 

Hafeez seemed annoyed by the tour arrangements for Pakistan’s four-day match against the PM XI side in Canberra last week, at one point implying it might have been tactical.

“That was the slowest pitch a visiting team could ever play on in Australia,” he said. “The disappointment was really high because we weren’t expecting these kinds of arrangements. Maybe it’s tactical but we’re ready for it. We’re not using it as an excuse, we’re absolutely ready for the challenges coming up.”


Pakistan squad: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi

Australia squad: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Cameron Green, Lance Morris

Series schedule

First Test: Dec. 14-18, Perth

Second Test: Dec. 26-30, Melbourne

Third Test: Jan. 3-7, Sydney

Saudi Games ends with promise of bigger edition next year

Updated 11 December 2023

Saudi Games ends with promise of bigger edition next year

The Saudi Games 2023 ended on Sunday after more than 8,000 male and female athletes competed in events across 53 sports.

The closing ceremony took place within the event’s Fan Zone after 15 days of intense competition in 31 venues.

Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz bin Musaed, deputy chairman of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee and director of the Saudi Games, announced the hosting of the third edition next year.

The ceremony began with the Saudi national anthem, followed by a captivating highlight reel showcasing memorable moments involving athletes, coaches and fans across the tournament. A parade of the event’s winners was also held to recognize the athletes and their achievements.

Prince Fahd said the Saudi Games success reflected the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to champion sports, empower youth, promote societal development and foster opportunities for talented people.

The ceremony ended with a drone show, as well as a memorable musical performance from Fouad Abdelwahed and Modhi Al-Shamrani.


Princess Delayel crowns champions of judo and wushu

Saudi Games 2023 Deputy Director Princess Delayel bint Nahar Al-Saud, in the presence of Mohamed Al-Qahtani, president of the Saudi Wushu Federation, crowned the winners of the judo and wushu competitions, which ended yesterday at King Saud University Sports Hall.

Five gold medals in wushu

Moaaz Al-Tamduri secured the gold in the wushu under 65 kg division, while Tami Al-Amri claimed the silver. Rashed Al-Rashidi and Saud Al-Molhem both took the bronze. In the under 75 kg category, Hattan Manshi won the gold, Osama Shaban claimed the silver, and Osama Shaban and Faisal Manshi clinched the bronze. In the under 85 kg category, Mostafa Nada secured the gold medal, followed by Abdulahad Gari with the silver and Fahd Al-Qahtani and Ali Hawari with the bronze.

In the women’s competitions, Alaa Al-Abbad won the gold in the under 60 kg category, followed by Sarah Abduljawad with the silver. Dalal Al-Hothali and Suhad Jeddawi both came away with the bronze. Zainab El-Ghamdi took the under 75 kg category gold, while Arub Abu Mansur claimed the silver. Wejdan Banawas and Sara Mokhtar both secured the bronze.

Al-Ettifaq, Al-Ahli announced table tennis champions

Princess Reham bint Saif Islam Al-Saud, executive director of ceremonies and events management at the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, together with Dr. Abdullah Al-Bar, president of the Saudi Table Tennis Federation, crowned the winners of the table tennis competitions, which ended yesterday at the Paralympic Games Hall at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex.

Al-Ettifaq’s Rana Daloua was awarded the gold in the women’s singles, followed by Al-Nassr’s Saadi Shadan with the silver. Al-Raed’s Shaimaa Al-Hammadi secured the bronze.

In the men’s youth category, Al-Ahli’s Khalid Al-Shareif won the gold, Al-Fateh’s Ali Al-Taher took the silver, and Al-Khaleej’s Ahmed Hussein claimed the bronze. In the men’s singles division, gold was awarded to Al-Shabab’s Shady Hegazi while Al-Ittihad’s Abdulaziz Al-Abbad secured silver, and Ali Al-Khadrawi, from the same club, claimed the bronze.

Hessah brings home the youth judo gold

Gold in the women’s under 57 kg judo category was awarded to Al-Shabab’s Hessah Al-Melaiki. Al-Nassr’s Ghadah Al-Atiek took the silver, and Sondos Al-Shareef and Reema Al-Sudayri, both from Al-Nassr, secured the bronze.

Al-Semairi wins rapid chess gold

Dalia Al-Semairi claimed the gold in women’s rapid chess, which ended yesterday at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Olympic Complex swimming hall. Hala Shahein came away with the silver medal, while Adeem Al-Dosari secured the bronze.

The Olympic team leads the medal count

Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee athletes finished first in the Saudi Games 2023 medal count, securing a total of 171 (56 gold). Al-Shabab Club secured second place with 53 medals (23 gold). Al-Hilal Club followed in third place with 65 medals (22 gold). Al-Ahli Club ranked fourth with 36 medals (11 gold). Al-Ittihad Club claimed fifth with 39 medals (eight gold). Riyadh Club for the Disabled secured sixth place with 15 medals (eight gold). Al-Nassr Club came in seventh with 31 medals (six gold). AlUla Club ranked eighth with 13 medals (five gold). Al-Hada Club claimed the ninth position with 14 medals (five gold), and Al-Safa Club rounded out the top 10 with 27 medals (four gold).

Saudi Arabia football signs talent pact with Bosnia pro side

Updated 11 December 2023

Saudi Arabia football signs talent pact with Bosnia pro side

  • Kingdom’s Future Falcons links up with FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo for trials, coaching cooperation
  • FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo has won top domestic titles, including the league 8 times

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s talent program, Future Falcons, has signed a cooperation pact with top Bosnia football team FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo.

The signing ceremony in Bosnia was attended by the program’s General Director Ghassan Felemban, and FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo’s President Yusuf Tanovic.

The agreement includes opportunities for players from the Future Falcons program to have trials with FK Zeljeznicar. It also involves collaboration between the coaching staff, employees, and administrators of both teams.

The agreement will allow scouts and coaches to participate in the Al-Abtal Cup, a tournament in which the Bosnian club competes. FK Zeljeznicar recently appointed national coach Abdulhakeem Al-Tuwaijri to oversee the training of the first team in November. The team includes a former Future Falcons player, Abdulmalik Al-Jaber.

Felemban thanked the Saudi Arabian Football Federation for its support under the organization’s president, Yasser Al-Misehal, and added that the Bosnia side would bring much-needed expertise into the Kingdom.

FK Zeljeznicar Sarajevo has won the league eight times, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Cup six times, and the Bosnia and Herzegovina Supercup three times. They also reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup in the 1984/1985 season.

Al-Ittihad all to play for in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 11 December 2023

Al-Ittihad all to play for in FIFA Club World Cup

  • Expectations high as Saudi team enjoy home advantage
  • Saudi Arabian sides have proud history in tournament

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian teams have a good record in the FIFA Club World Cup but for the first time it will take place on home soil. That gives Al-Ittihad extra support, incentive as well as pressure.

The first Saudi team to participate was Al-Nassr who went to Brazil for the old FIFA Club World Championship. In a tough group, the Riyadh team finished third, losing to Real Madrid, beating Raja Casablanca, and then going down to local team Corinthians.

Al-Ittihad played at the first tournament in its current format in 2005 as they went to Japan as Asian champions.

It started with a 1-0 win over Al-Ahly (the Egyptians lay in wait on Friday, assuming Al-Ittihad beat Auckland City on Tuesday). On a cold Japanese evening, talismanic midfielder Mohammed Noor got the only goal of the game with 12 minutes remaining, getting to a cross before goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary and then belting the loose ball home from close range.

That was enough to book a semi-final against Sao Paulo. It was always going to be difficult against the South American champions and in front of more than 30,000 fans in Tokyo, Al-Ittihad gave it a real good go. Most of the crowd were there to support the Brazilians but the Saudis got a standing ovation at the end.

It was 1-1 at the break as Amoroso put Sao Paulo ahead before Noor equalized. Amoroso and then Rogerio Ceni, the highest-scoring goalkeeper in the history of football, netted from the penalty spot.

Asian player of the year Hamad Al-Montashari made it 3-2 midway through the second half to set up an exciting finish but Al-Ittihad just could not get the equalizer and then went on to lose to Costa Rica’s Saprissa in the third and fourth place play-off by the same 3-2 margin.

Saudi Arabia then had to wait until 2019 for their next appearance as Al-Hilal ended the drought in the Asian Champions League by defeating Urawa Reds of Japan. In many ways for Saudi Arabia, the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup was a mirror of what happened in 2005, though it took place in Qatar and not Japan.

It started with a 1-0 win over the African champions, this time Esperance de Tunis. Bafetimbi Gomis got the all-important goal. That earned a semi-final against a giant from Brazil. Salem Al-Dawsari put the Blues ahead to send thousands of fans in Doha wild with delight. But it was not to last as Flamengo hit back to win 3-1. The Riyadh giants outshot the South Americans but just could not get the goal needed.

That meant a match for third place with Monterrey. After the game ended 2-2, with Carlos Eduardo and Gomis scoring, it went to penalties with the Mexican team winning 4-3. Eduardo and Mohammed Kanno failed to convert.

It once again demonstrated that Saudi Arabian teams could compete on the global stage and Al-Hilal had another chance in 2021 in a tournament.

That started with a 6-1 thrashing of hosts Al-Jazira of the UAE. There was plenty of attacking talent on display on that day in Abu Dhabi with Odion Ighalo, Matheus Pereira, Kanno, Al-Dawsari, Moussa Marega, and Andre Carrillo all getting on the scoresheet.

Instead of South American semi-final opposition, the Blues of Riyadh faced the Blues of London. Chelsea ended up winning 1-0 but it was a fine performance from Al-Hilal who more than matched the European champions. Romelu Lukaku scored just after the half-hour.

If that was impressive, the match for third place was a disaster and it ended in a 4-0 loss to Al-Ahly. By the half-hour mark, Al-Hilal were two goals down and two men down as Pereira and Kanno were dismissed. Also dismissed soon after was head coach Leonardo Jardim. It was a low point but under his replacement Ramon Diaz, the team then went on a winning spree at home and won an unlikely league title.

Al-Hilal were back for the 2022 edition held in 2023, to deliver a truly memorable performance.

In February, it started with a tricky game against African champions Wydad Casablanca, in front of 44,000 fans in Rabat. It was a fighting display. Going a goal behind early in the second half, Al-Hilal looked to be on their way out. Yet, with seconds remaining Kanno scored to take the game into extra time and almost as soon as it started, the midfielder was sent off.

Despite that, the Saudi Arabians took the game to penalties when young midfielder Musab Al-Juwayr scored the decisive penalty.

Then came the usual semi-final against Brazilian royalty but this time the result was anything but usual. Al-Hilal won 3-2 against Flamengo. Al-Dawsari scored twice from the spot in the first half, a brace that sandwiched a Pedro goal. Luciano Vietto then extended the Asian champions’ lead with 20 minutes remaining and they held out for a famous 3-2 win.

That earned a first Saudi Arabian final against Real Madrid when Al-Hilal gave as good as they got, losing 5-3 in a wildly entertaining game against the mighty European champions.

It meant that Al-Hilal returned home with their heads held high –though it came at a cost in terms of fatigue in their later domestic form.

Just three months after Saudi Arabia’s World Cup win over Argentina, it showed once more that the country was a football force. There has been more attention since with all the big-name signings and headlines.

It means that Al-Ittihad, playing on home soil, have much to live up to in terms of Saudi Arabian history in the tournament as well as global expectations.