EA Sports FC kicks off new title extravaganza with Saudi Pro League in the game

The highly-anticipated game launches on all platforms on Sept. 29, 2023. (@EASports Instagram)
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Updated 18 July 2023
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EA Sports FC kicks off new title extravaganza with Saudi Pro League in the game

  • The highly-anticipated game launches on all platforms on Sept. 29, 2023
  • Ronaldinho, Luis Figo and Erling Haaland were on hand to showcase EA Sports’ new football title

After months of speculation, drip-fed information, and a very public split from the world football governing body, FIFA, EA Sports has revealed its new title contender. EA Sports FC made its debut on July 13 live from an undisclosed location in Amsterdam — with the full launch on all platforms expected on Sept. 29.

Typical for EA Sports announcements, this was a bombastic affair that played out in front of the assembled global press and content creators, and streamed to millions of fans worldwide.

It included a procession of football icons: Ronaldinho, Didier Drogba, Luis Figo, and decorated England Lionesses defender Alex Scott all appeared and waved to the crowd. By the time treble-winning goal-machine Erling Haaland walked to the stage like a WWE superstar in green silk pajamas, it was clear that this was less to do with the action on the pitch and more a show of strength off it. More on this later.

In terms of the game, FC24 — as it is now abbreviated — will be very familiar to the FIFA crowd. Like that comfy pair of old five-a-side boots, it comes with the tried, tested, and incredibly popular Ultimate Team mode. This season’s twist will include professional players from the women’s game playing alongside the gents.

HyperMotionV — the tech that dictates the ebb and flow of the in-game action — will now use more than 180 real-life professional games to, as EA Sports says, “translate the rhythm and fluidity” into FC24.

This means the action will be closer to what you see in the stadiums or on TV than ever before, to capture the drama of the world’s most popular sport.

The evolution of the graphics and animations continues with the upgraded Frostbite Engine. Players will mimic their real-life counterparts’ movements more accurately, while the kits will have their own physics that will move realistically depending on each player’s stride and playing style.

Speaking of which, PlayStyles is an innovation for FC24. Built on the Opta stats database that crunches the numbers on everything a footballer does in a game, PlayStyles will “go beyond the overall rating” to make players feel and play like their real-life counterparts. This was the most interesting part of the showcase — Haaland’s PJs being a close second — and something that has plagued EA Sports’ FIFA for decades. All the players previously felt alike, with the only real difference coming in the speed attributes of each one.

Now, Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr. will have a devastatingly flamboyant approach to the game full of slick tricks and feints, while Liverpool stopper Virgil van Dijk will be strong and have a more noticeable physical presence. Both signature styles will help players stand out on the pitch and contribute to the overall team.

It is early days, but it has the potential to allow less exciting players such as Newcastle United’s Bruno Guimaraes to flourish with their movement and passing, rather than just being quick or able to score at will.

We also know that the Roshn Saudi League — Saudi Pro League — will return to EA Sports FC. With superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic now plying their trade in the league, it is going to offer a great alternative to the more illustrious competitions this year.

Regarding gameplay tweaks, this is all that EA Sports divulged to fans at its star-studded event. There was a “gameplay” trailer, which fans were quick to point out contained around one second of actual footage. As mentioned earlier, this EA Sports event was light on tangible information and felt more like a climax to a marketing campaign — an act that would reestablish it as the football game of choice, which is odd considering it is currently a one-horse race.

There is no doubt EA Sports FC will follow in the illustrious stud marks of the popular FIFA series. It is guaranteed to sell millions of copies as it always has because it is the same developers making the same all-conquering game under a different name.

However, the cynical view is that the showcase was geared toward reminding its old partner, FIFA, where the power lies. In the runup to the event, EA Sports called on the stars of the game to post their excitement about EA Sports FC on social media. The military-like precision of the social media strategy that followed the initial announcement saw David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Mo Salah and others post about their excitement regarding FC24. This was a direct flexing of marketing might and a reminder of how ingrained EA is within the world of football.

Announcing partnerships with the Bundesliga, Serie A, and the English Premier League is a hat trick that will be hard to follow. And bagging UEFA’s exclusive Champions League license is a devastating blow akin to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Bayern Munich-busting injury time goal in the 1999 final. Make no mistake, EA Sports is pulling no punches in its pursuit of dominance.

At this stage, it is business as usual at EA Sports, with or without world football’s governing body. This is a continuation of the success it has already enjoyed in the football video game space, and it is not showing signs of slowing down. Over to you, FIFA.


New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club

Updated 21 May 2024
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New Liverpool boss Slot admits he could not resist lure of club

LONDON: Arne Slot said the chance to work at one of the world’s biggest clubs was “difficult to ignore” after Liverpool confirmed on Monday that the Feyenoord coach would be their new manager.

Just 24 hours after Jurgen Klopp’s emotional farewell at Anfield, the Premier League club said in a statement that the Dutchman would take up the position of head coach on June 1, subject to a work permit.

The club did not specify the length of Slot’s contract but it was widely reported in the British press that he had signed a three-year deal.

The new manager’s arrival was an open secret, with Liverpool reportedly agreeing a compensation deal worth up to £9.4 million ($12 million) with Feyenoord.

Slot, 45, confirmed Anfield was his next destination at his final pre-match press conference at the Eredivisie club on Friday.

“It is certainly not an easy decision to close the door behind you at a club where you have experienced so many wonderful moments and worked successfully with so many wonderful people,” he told Feyenoord’s website on Monday.

“But as a sportsman, an opportunity to become a head coach in the Premier League, at one of the biggest clubs in the world, is difficult to ignore.”

Klopp, 56, announced in January that the 2023/24 season would be his last at Anfield, and took charge of his final game on Sunday, a 2-0 win against Wolves.

In his farewell speech to the crowd, the German urged fans to throw their full support behind his successor, leading them in a chant of “Arne Slot, na na na na na.”

“You welcome the new manager like you welcomed me,” he said. “You go all-in from the first day. And you keep believing and you push the team.”

Slot, linked with a move to Tottenham last year, became Feyenoord boss in 2021 after impressing in his first managerial role at AZ Alkmaar.

He led the Dutch giants to the inaugural Europa Conference League final at the end of his first season, which they lost 1-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

Slot then delivered just a second league title in 24 years to De Kuip last season before penning a new three-year deal.

Feyenoord have enjoyed a strong season, winning the Dutch Cup and coming second to an all-conquering PSV Eindhoven side in the league.

Under Slot, Feyenoord have delighted the fans at De Kuip with an attacking brand of football and Slot has won praise from Klopp himself.

“I like the way his team plays football. If he is the one, I like that he wants it,” Klopp said last month.

“It’s the best job in the world, best club in the world. Great job, great team, fantastic people. A really interesting job.”

Liverpool captain and fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has hailed Slot’s attacking mindset, saying it would suit the philosophy at Anfield.

Speaking about the future under the new boss, Van Dijk said: “It is all about sticking together and giving him the chance of showing what he is capable of with the other guys who will come in.

“He probably knows already but everyone knows our expectations are always huge and it is about managing that in the right way and getting the maximum out of all of our players.”

Slot has huge shoes to fill at Anfield after Klopp restored Liverpool to the elite of English and European football during his nine-year reign.

Under his leadership Liverpool won a sixth Champions League crown and a 19th league title, as well as a clutch of other trophies.

Initially, Bayer Leverkusen boss and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso was the favorite to succeed Klopp at Anfield.

However, Alonso committed to staying at Leverkusen as he led them to a first-ever Bundesliga title.

Liverpool finished third in the Premier League, qualifying for next season’s Champions League, and won the League Cup in Klopp’s final season.


PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

Updated 20 May 2024
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PIF, WTA sign multiyear partnership to speed up global growth of women’s tennis

  • PIF will become first naming partner of the WTA rankings
  • PIF to continue to be a catalyst for growth of women’s sport

NEW YORK: The Public Investment Fund and the Women’s Tennis Association on Monday signed a multiyear partnership to support the growth of women’s professional tennis and inspire more females around the world to take up the sport.
The partnership also aims at enhancing and developing initiatives that support players at all levels.
As a global partner of the WTA, the PIF will become the first naming partner of the organization’s rankings, the highest official rankings for professional women tennis players.
And through the partnership with the WTA, the PIF will continue to be a catalyst for the growth of women’s sport, according to Mohamed Al-Sayyad, the fund’s head of corporate brand.
Al-Sayyad said: “We look forward to working with the WTA to increase participation and inspire the next generation of talent. Underpinned by PIF’s four strategic sponsorship pillars, this partnership aligns with our ambition to elevate the game and bring positive growth to the sport around the world.”
The PIF WTA rankings will track players’ journeys, and the PIF will work with the WTA to celebrate and support players’ progress.
WTA’s CEO Marina Storti said: “We are delighted to welcome PIF as a global partner of the WTA and our first-ever official naming partner of the WTA rankings.
“Together, we look forward to sharing the journey of our talented players across the season, as we continue to grow the sport, creating more fans of tennis and inspiring more young people to take up the game.”
As part of its commitment to inspire youngsters, the PIF will work with the WTA to expand existing initiatives and develop new opportunities for young players, providing a significant boost to the game’s next generation of stars.
The PIF announced its partnership with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) in February and became the official naming partner of the PIF ATP rankings. The PIF has now become the only global partner across both the WTA and ATP tours.
The new partnership between the WTA and the PIF follows the recent announcement that the season-ending WTA Finals will be hosted in Riyadh for the next three years, starting in 2024.


Liverpool confirm Slot will replace Klopp as manager

Updated 20 May 2024
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Liverpool confirm Slot will replace Klopp as manager

  • Liverpool said in a statement that the Dutchman, 45, would take up the position of head coach on June 1, subject to a work permit
  • Slot’s arrival has been an open secret, with Liverpool reportedly agreeing a compensation deal worth up to $12 million

LONDON: Feyenoord coach Arne Slot was Monday confirmed as Jurgen Klopp’s successor at Liverpool by the Premier League club.
Liverpool said in a statement that the Dutchman, 45, would take up the position of head coach on June 1, subject to a work permit.
The club did not specify the length of his contract in their statement but Sky Sports said it understood Slot had signed a three-year deal.
Slot’s arrival has been an open secret, with Liverpool reportedly agreeing a compensation deal worth up to £9.4 million ($12 million).
He confirmed Anfield was his next destination at his final pre-match press conference at the Eredivisie club on Friday.
Klopp announced his departure in January and took charge of his final game on Sunday, a 2-0 win against Wolves.
In his final speech to the Anfield crowd, the German urged fans to throw their full support behind Slot.
“You welcome the new manager like you welcomed me,” he said. “You go all-in from the first day. And you keep believing and you push the team.”
Slot moved to Feyenoord in 2021 after impressing in his first managerial role at AZ Alkmaar.
He led the Dutch giants to the inaugural Europa Conference League final at the end of his first season. They narrowly lost 1-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
Slot then delivered just a second league title in 24 years to De Kuip last season before penning a new three-year deal.
“You can see people are genuinely sorry you are leaving,” he said on Friday.
“You can say that with words, but when you see it in people’s faces, it affects me quite a lot.”
Feyenoord have enjoyed a strong season, winning the Dutch Cup and coming second to an all-conquering PSV Eindhoven side.
Liverpool captain and fellow Dutchman Virgil van Dijk has hailed Slot’s attacking mindset, saying it would suit the philosophy at Anfield.
Initially, Bayer Leverkusen boss and former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso was the favorite to succeed Klopp at Anfield.
However, Alonso has committed to staying at Leverkusen after leading them to a first-ever Bundesliga title.
Liverpool won the League Cup in Klopp’s final season in charge and finished third in the Premier League, qualifying for next season’s Champions League.


Saudi Arabian Football Federation hosts women’s coaching workshop

Updated 20 May 2024
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Saudi Arabian Football Federation hosts women’s coaching workshop

  • Topics included data analytics, injury prevention and team-building
  • Event attended by 32 coaches from Kingdom, Africa

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation held a five-day educational workshop on women’s football aimed at empowering coaches from the Kingdom and Africa.

The event in Riyadh, held in partnership with the Confederation of African Football, ran from May 14-18 and was attended by 32 coaches — 16 from CAF member associations and 16 from local sports clubs, regional training centers as well as the Saudi Arabian women’s national teams.

Lluis Cortes, head coach of the Saudi Arabia women’s national team, led the workshop, which also featured Aalia Al-Rasheed, head of the Women’s Football Department at SAFF, as well as elite international women’s football experts and prominent CAF officials.

“The success of this event demonstrates our commitment to fostering the growth and development of women’s football both in Saudi Arabia and across Africa,” Lamia Bahaian, vice president of the SAFF, said in a statement.

“Through these collaborative efforts, we aim to create a strong network of coaches who can share their experiences, support one another, and contribute to the global advancement of women’s football. The enthusiasm and dedication shown by the participants has been truly inspiring, and we are confident that their influence will be felt on and off the field.”

Aimed at improving coaching capabilities and expertise, the SAFF-CAF workshop included a variety of panel discussions, practical lessons and theoretical sessions.

Key football-related topics covered in the workshop included data analytics, female health and injury prevention, leadership and communication, and team-building.

The CAF member associations represented in Riyadh included Botswana, Burundi, Eswatini, Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.


Maradona’s 1986 World Cup Golden Ball up for auction, a reminder of Argentine’s genius

Updated 20 May 2024
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Maradona’s 1986 World Cup Golden Ball up for auction, a reminder of Argentine’s genius

  • FIFA award for devastating displays in Mexico will be up for auction on June 6 at the world famous Aguttes International Auction House in Paris

Diego Maradona played once in Saudi Arabia, incredibly wearing the shirt of Jeddah powerhouse Al-Ahli in 1987, for a friendly game against Brondby of Denmark.

Yet it was the year before when he really made football history.

Many think Maradona is the best to have ever played the game, but all would surely agree that he was the star of the 1986 World Cup, and dragged Argentina to the title in heroic fashion. FIFA certainly thought so, and awarded the legend the Adidas Golden Ball trophy after it all finished, the prize given to the tournament’s best player.

Now, a piece of World Cup history is up for grabs, as the award is set to go up for auction on June 6 at the world famous Aguttes International Auction House in Paris. Serious interest is expected.

“At that 1986 World Cup, Diego shone like never before or since in his career; it was his monument,” Jorge Burruchaga, Argentina teammate of Maradona and scorer of the winning goal in the 1986 World Cup final as the South Americans defeated West Germany 3-2, said. “We knew we had the best player in the world, there was no doubt about it, we knew it for a fact.”

As dramatic as that final was, it is the 2-1 quarterfinal win against England in Mexico City that everyone remembers. Maradona’s first goal was the “Hand of God” goal, when he punched the ball into the net. It remains one of the most famous goals ever scored, matched only, perhaps, by the second he scored that day. Maradona picked the ball up from inside his own half, ran past half the England team, and the rest is history.

“My favorite recollection of this World Cup is the second goal he scored against England, which remains the most beautiful in history for me, because you must consider the state of the pitch, the altitude, the context between the two countries, and what he managed to do,” said Burruchaga.

“He breezed past six players ... It was divine. On that day, he created a lasting legacy for all Argentinian sportsmen and women, not just footballers, showing just how much you have to fight to be worthy of wearing the Argentine jersey.”

That shirt was handed by the man himself to England midfielder Steve Hodge at the final whistle. In 2022, it was sold at auction by Hodge for a figure reported to be around $7 million.

The golden ball, which was fittingly awarded to Maradona in Paris 38 years ago, is another piece of football history according to Francois Thierry, sports expert for Aguttes Auction House.

“Used far too often wrongly, the word ‘legend’ fits Diego Maradona perfectly,” Thierry said. “He is to football what Muhammad Ali is to boxing or Michael Jordan to basketball — an icon who goes far beyond the boundaries of his sport. He is certainly one of the most human athletes we have ever known, with his strengths and weaknesses. The golden kid, ‘El Pibe de Oro,’ is a special case … The history of football with a capital H is closely linked to that of Maradona.”