SAFF launches groundbreaking funding program to empower women’s football

The new SAFF program will support women's football in the Kingdom to the tune of $13.3m. (SAFF)
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Updated 26 June 2023

SAFF launches groundbreaking funding program to empower women’s football

  • The program commits $13.3m to support and develop Premier League and Women’s First Division clubs
  • Women’s football is already experiencing impressive growth in the Kingdom, with the number of clubs and players increasing by 30 percent in the past year

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has today announced a groundbreaking funding initiative and support system for women’s football clubs worth $13.3 million.

This groundbreaking initiative is designed to further enhance the rapidly growing women’s football leagues and the wider sport in Saudi Arabia, ensuring its sustainability and development for years to come.

With a vision to inspire and nurture future generations of female footballers, SAFF’s funding program will provide vital financial assistance to the Saudi Premier League and Women’s First Division clubs.

To be eligible for this funding, clubs must have a SAFF membership and Nafes license to actively participate in all women’s tournaments organized by the federation. They must also meet the organizational and technical requirements issued by SAFF. Furthermore, clubs must demonstrate their financial adequacy and commitment to the financial efficiency system according to national standards. 

SAFF will allocate the $13.3 million to women’s football programs across the country, supporting clubs and players to continue the rapid growth of the women’s game in recent years.

Lamia Bahaian, the newly elected vice president of SAFF, said: “Today’s announcement is another monumental step for SAFF in our unwavering dedication to developing and sustaining a thriving women’s football presence in the Kingdom. We aim to inspire young girls (to believe) that a career in football is not only feasible for them but promising. Women and girls are central to everything we do in sport, ensuring that we provide equal access to facilities, opportunities, and careers both on and off the pitch. This is made possible thanks to the tremendous support received from SAFF’s management.

“A key motivation behind this program has stemmed from witnessing an incredible 30 percent growth in women’s football clubs and players across Saudi Arabia — not just the major cities — over the past year. The interest potential of women’s football is vast, and we want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to support and sustain this growth.”

The program sets four key goals for participating clubs:

1. Enhance club governance and sustainability through improved structure and strategy, in addition to financial and operational monitoring.

2. Expand competitions and diversify teams to include an U-17 team and women’s futsal senior team.

3. Create job opportunities and develop the workforce by appointing Saudi female coaches within the technical staff, and recruiting women in the administrative, technical, and medical positions.

4. Cultivate athletes to represent national teams by signing professional contracts with Saudi female players and nurturing their development from the grassroots level to the senior team.

In alignment with Saudi Vision 2023, women’s sports in the Kingdom have made significant progress, with over 190,000 females now actively participating in sports each week. Women’s football, in particular, has witnessed substantial advancements, including the establishment of a dedicated women’s football department in 2019, the creation of a national women’s team, and the launch of the SAFF Women’s Premier League.

Today, the Premier and First Division leagues feature over 30 clubs and 600 players from over 20 nations. On an amateur level, almost 50,000 schoolgirls took part in the inaugural schools’ league across 4,700 teams from all corners of Saudi Arabia.

In addition, over 49 female referees are officially registered and officiating league matches, with the first Saudi female referee – Anoud Al-Asmari – breaking into FIFA’s licensed list. There are 1,080 additionally licensed coaches playing a significant role in nurturing young female talent across clubs, academies, schools, and training centers in different cities around the country.

Emotional Klopp tells fans ‘I love you to bits’ as his final match with Liverpool ends with a win

Updated 10 sec ago

Emotional Klopp tells fans ‘I love you to bits’ as his final match with Liverpool ends with a win

  • Goals by Alexis Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah secured one last victory of the Klopp era
  • They lined the streets outside Anfield to welcome Klopp and his players and produced a paper mosaic of the word “JURGEN”
LIVERPOOL: The last time as Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp ran over to The Kop and delivered those repeated fist pumps that have been his signature during his transformational spell at Anfield.
The Liverpool fans — many with tears in their eyes, just like some of the team’s players -responded with a series of deafening roars, and then cheered Klopp as he did a circuit of the field.
Soon enough, he had disappeared out of view down the tunnel.
Gone, but never forgotten.
“I’m one of you now — I love you to bits,” Klopp said among his last words as he addressed the crowd inside Anfield after his final game as Liverpool’s manager, a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton on Sunday.
The match on the final day of the Premier League season doubled as a tribute to a German coach who led Liverpool to seven major trophies in his nearly nine years at Anfield and forged such a connection with the city that he has been compared to Bill Shankly — the club’s legendary manager from 1959-74.
No wonder Klopp looked emotional throughout an afternoon that Liverpool fans never wanted to come.
They lined the streets outside Anfield to welcome Klopp and his players, and then produced a paper mosaic of the word “JURGEN” in the stand opposite the dugouts as he emerged for the game.
“People are calling it The Last Dance. So let’s dance,” Klopp told Sky Sports just off the field before kickoff – and Liverpool obliged by strolling to one final victory for Klopp thanks to goals by Alexis Mac Allister and Jarell Quansah.
In some ways, it was business as usual for Klopp.
He touched the “This is Anfield” sign in the tunnel on the way out to the pitch.
He patrolled the middle of the field with his hands behind his back during the warmups, watching his own team — and then, with that trademark glare, his opponents.
He waved to fans behind the Liverpool dugout and tapped his heart just ahead of kickoff, before soaking in an emotionally charged rendition of the club’s anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
“This morning I woke up,” Klopp said before the game, “and I was completely in game mode.”
The farewell party really started after the final whistle, which he marked by embracing each member of his backroom staff and also Wolves manager Gary O’Neil. Liverpool captain Virgil van Dijk was in tears as he hugged Klopp near the center circle.
The goodbye celebrations reached a crescendo as Klopp walked back out onto the field about 45 minutes after fulltime, wearing a red hoodie with the words “Thank You Luv” on the front and “I’ll Never Walk Alone” on the back, to speak to the crowd one last time.
“It doesn’t feel like an end. It feels like a start,” Klopp said. “Because I saw a football team full of youth, full of creativity, full of desire.
“For a few weeks, I got too much attention and it feels really uncomfortable but this time I realize a lot of things. People told me I turned them from doubters into believers. That’s not true. Believing is an act. You had to do it yourself. You did it. And nobody tells you now to stop believing.”
With Liverpool right back Trent Alexander-Arnold now in tears, Klopp continued in his speech to the home fans: “Because we have you, the super power of world football.”
He followed it up by chanting the name of Arne Slot, his likely successor.
“Arne Slot, la la la la la,” Klopp sang, to the tune of “Live is Life” by Austrian band Opus.
Liverpool finished third in the standings, nine points behind champion Manchester City, but at least won a trophy in Klopp’s final season — the English League Cup.

Abu Dhabi-backed MMA championship makes successful France debut

Updated 19 min 22 sec ago

Abu Dhabi-backed MMA championship makes successful France debut

  • Benoit Saint Denis, Espen Mathiesen, Ffion Davies, Khaled Al-Shehhi emerge as champions at ADXC in Paris

ABU DHABI: Some of the world’s best grapplers and jiu-jitsu athletes participated this past weekend in the ADXC 4 championships at the Dojo de Paris in France.

The Grappling Main Event at the fourth edition of the Abu Dhabi Extreme Championship featured the long-awaited duel between UFC powerhouses Benoit Saint Denis and Marc Diakiese go the way of the home favorite.

Fighting in his homeland, Saint Denis used his grappling prowess to emerge victorious in the ADXC cage. Saint Denis almost submitted England’s Diakiese in the first round, but the latter managed to survive to go five rounds.

Norway’s Espen Mathiesen is now a two-time ADXC champion after defeating France’s Leon Larman in the Jiu-Jitsu Main Event. The Norwegian athlete played to his strength and defeated his opponent with a collar choke in the first round.

In the Grappling Co-Main Event, Wales’ Ffion Davies beat her opponent Morgan Black in the second round with an armbar, after intense pressure in the first round.

In the Jiu-Jitsu Co-Main Event, Khaled Al-Shehhi and Leonardo Mario found themselves evenly matched over the five rounds of three minutes each. Al-Shehhi started with a takedown, followed with a submission attempt and, when that did not work, used the single-leg to press Leonardo against the cage wall.

Mario applied pressure on Al-Shehhi’s guard, but the UAE powerhouse had a better run in the duel, using his technique to attack on top and even reach the side. Ultimately, Al-Shehhi did enough to convince the majority of the referees and won with a split decision.

In another matchup between MMA athletes, Abdul-Kareem Al-Selwady controlled Amin Youb throughout the first two rounds, even managing to mount in the third. Youb attempted to attack with a guillotine, but Al-Selwady managed to avoid the danger and convinced the referees, who unanimously decided in favor of the “Pride of Palestine.”

In a well-balanced fight between purple belts, the UAE’s Shamma Al-Kalbani took on Lina Grosset of France. The first round saw both athletes exchanging foot attacks while the following one brought a little more movement, with reversals and guard-passing attempts. The third and final round saw Grosset putting on pressure from the top, but Al-Kalbani dished out some sneaky attacks and won via split decision.


ADXC 4 results:

Main Event: Benoit Saint Denis defeated Marc Diakiese via unanimous decision.

Espen Mathiesen defeated Leon Larman via collar choke.

Co-Main Event: Ffion Davies defeated Morgan Black via armbar.

Khaled Al-Shehhi defeated Leonardo Mario via split decision.


Main Card

Abdul-Kareem Al-Sewady defeated Amin Youb via unanimous decision.

Cassio Silva defeated Marko Oikarainen via unanimous decision.

Nathiely de Jesus defeated Elizabeth Mitrovic via unanimous decision.

Nia Blackman defeated Magdalena Loska via split decision.

Steven Ray defeated Ibrahima Mane via guillotine.


Preliminary Card

Youness Bennouali defeated Florian Bayili via split decision.

Geo Martinez defeated Nicolas Renier via heel hook.

Kalim Mastouri defeated Luca Anacoreta via unanimous decision.

Kasper Larsen defeated Alexander Alexandrov via rear-naked choke.

Shamma Al-Kalbani defeated Lina Grosset via split decision.

Saudi Arabia hosts Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship

Updated 45 min 28 sec ago

Saudi Arabia hosts Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship

RIYADH: The Red Bull Four 2 Score Championship is returning to Saudi Arabia for its second edition from May 24 to June 7.

The tournament will feature teams of four players each competing in local qualifiers across three Saudi Arabia cities, culminating in a national final. The ultimate goal for participants is to win an all-inclusive trip to the world final in Germany later this year.

The event is being held in partnership with Red Bull Mobile, Subway and the Kingdom’s Ministry of Sports and Sports for All Federation.

Qualifiers will take place in five stages in Riyadh and Jeddah, with the national final scheduled for June 7 in Abha.

The tournament’s rules and concept are designed to showcase Red Bull’s “power football” philosophy. In the first and last 60 seconds of the 10-minute matches, goals are doubled. There are no breaks or goalies, emphasizing the importance of scoring at critical moments. Both male and female players aged 16 to 35 are eligible to participate.

The two winning teams from the female and male categories will represent Saudi Arabia alongside other international teams at the world final, hosted by RB Leipzig.

Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knicks

Updated 20 May 2024

Timberwolves knock out defending champion Nuggets, Pacers oust Knicks

  • Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a Game 7
  • Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals while the Pacers booked an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics

LOS ANGELES: The Minnesota Timberwolves erased a 20-point deficit to stun Denver 98-90, knocking the defending NBA champions out of the playoffs Sunday as Indiana ousted the New York Knicks.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Jaden McDaniels added 23 points and Anthony Edwards hit his stride late as the Timberwolves became the first team to come back from a halftime deficit of more than 11 points to win a Game 7.

The Pacers connected on an NBA playoff record 67.1 percent of their shots — making 53 of their 79 attempts from the floor — in a 130-109 Game 7 triumph over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Edwards, who has emerged as a star for the Timberwolves at 22, said poise was the key to Minnesota’s latest unlikely victory over three-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets.

Down by 15 at halftime, Minnesota trailed by 20 early in the third. But Denver went cold as Edwards found his range and the Timberwolves cut the deficit to one point going into the fourth quarter.

Edwards, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, said coach Chris Finch told him at the break to “play quicker.”

“If they’re going to continue to trap you, you got to make the right play and trust your teammates,” Edwards said. “We was just poised throughout the entire game. We just fought, fought.

“And KAT played spectacular tonight,” Edwards added of Towns. “He carried us tonight.”

Minnesota had pulled within one point going into the fourth quarter and took the lead for good on Rudy Gobert’s driving layup in the first minute of the final period.

Jokic scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. He added 19 rebounds and seven assists and Jamal Murray scored 35 points but both said the Nuggets just missed too many shots.

“I felt like we got the shots we wanted and the opportunities were there,” Murray said.

The Timberwolves, who had rocked the Nuggets with two wins in Denver to open the series before dropping three straight games, closed it out with a blowout Game 6 win and their final comeback triumph.

“It’s a special moment,” Finch said. “This is a hell of a team with the best player on the planet. The series was wild, and this game was just a microcosm of the series.”

Minnesota will play the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals while the Pacers booked an Eastern Conference finals showdown with the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 26 points while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard added 20 apiece as six Pacers players scored in double figures.

Donte DiVincenzo made nine three-pointers on the way to 39 points for the Knicks. Jalen Brunson scored 17 and handed out nine assists before departing with a broken left hand at the start of the fourth quarter — a final injury blow for the ravaged Knicks.

The Pacers broke through for their first road win of the series with a breathtaking offensive display in the first half, when they made 29 of their 38 shots for a 76.3 shooting percentage.

The Knicks cut a 15-point halftime deficit to six early in the third, but the Pacers had all the answers.

“Just a great game overall, top to bottom for us,” Haliburton said. “We hadn’t won on the road all series — we just found a way.”

The Knicks, chasing a first Eastern Conference finals berth since 2000, hurt their own cause with two costly turnovers on inbounds plays and the Pacers quickly pushed the lead back to 19 points.

The Knicks had hoped for a boost from forward OG Anunoby, who returned to the starting lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury.

But Anunoby was clearly limited and departed in the first quarter as hurting teammate Josh Hart soldiered on despite an abdominal strain.

“Guys gave everything they had, and that’s all you could ask,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who was without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic for the playoffs.

“It was a battle all year and there was nothing left to give at the end.”

Whittaker and Chimaev to clash at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural UFC event

Updated 20 May 2024

Whittaker and Chimaev to clash at Saudi Arabia’s inaugural UFC event

  • Dubai-based Chimaev is aiming to continue his undefeated streak and rise up the middleweight ranks

RIYADH: The UFC will mark its inaugural event in Saudi Arabia with a main event between No. 3-ranked Robert Whittaker and undefeated No. 10 Khamzat Chimaev on June 22.

Tickets for the event, organized in collaboration with the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority, are now on sale.

Former middleweight champion Whittaker (26-7-0), fighting out of Australia, returns to the Octagon with the aim to continue his winning streak.

A professional fighter since 2009, Whittaker made his mark by becoming middleweight champion at UFC 213, with his most recent win taking place against Brazil’s Paulo Costa at UFC 298.

Chimaev (13-0-0), fighting out of the UAE, aims to continue his undefeated streak. He has six wins by knockout, five by submission, and eight first-round finishes. At UFC 294, Chimaev defeated former welterweight world champion Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman in a middleweight bout.

Also on the card is Sergei Pavlovich (18-2) who takes on Alexander Volkov (37-10) in an all-Russia clash.

Other fights include Kelvin Gastelum (18-9-0, 1 no contest), fighting out of the US, taking on Daniel Rodriguez (17-4-0) also from the US, in a welterweight matchup.

Brazil’s Johnny Walker (21-8-0, 1 no contest), fighting out of Ireland, faces Volkan Oezdemir (19-7-0) from Sweden. And undefeated Shara “Bullet” Magomedov (12-0-0), fighting out of Russia, takes on newcomer Joilton Lutterbach (38-10-0) from Germany.

For Arab fans, Nasrat Haqparast (16-5-0), fighting out of Morocco, clashes with Jared “Flash” Gordon (20-6-0, 1 no contest), from the US, in the lightweight division. And Abu Azaitar (14-4-1), fighting out of Morocco, takes on Denis Tiuliulin (10-9-0, 1 no contest) from Russia, at light-heavyweight.