Saudi Arabia to host 2024 West Asian Federation Women’s Football Championship

The eighth edition of the West Asian Federation Women’s Football Championship is to be held in Saudi Arabia from Feb. 19-29. (AFP/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 06 February 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia to host 2024 West Asian Federation Women’s Football Championship

  • Host nation joined by Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and two guests in Guam and Nepal.

RIYADH: The eighth edition of the West Asian Federation Women’s Football Championship is to be held in Saudi Arabia from Feb. 19-29, it was announced on Monday.

The host nation will be joined by Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, and two guests, Guam and Nepal.

It will be the first women’s 11-a-side tournament to be held in the Kingdom and marks the Saudi women national team’s first participation in a regional championship under the organization of the West Asian Federation.

In a draw made on Monday in Amman, hosts Saudi Arabia, coached by Lluis Cortes, were given a tough group along with Lebanon, Guam, and Jordan.

Group B will see Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Nepal battle it out for a top-two finish and semifinal spot.

Lamia Bahaian, the vice president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be hosting the WAFF Women’s Championship.

“Looking ahead to what promises to be a brilliant tournament, we’re especially excited about the impact this will have in terms of inspiring women and young girls across the Kingdom, while supporting women’s football development nationally and regionally.

“The individual and collective success of our domestic leagues, together with our success in hosting two editions of the SAFF Women’s Friendly Tournament and the 2022 WAFF Futsal Championship, shows that the foundations are in place for us to take the next big step in our journey.

“This means hosting an official 11-a-side competition. We’re excited to welcome members of the wider football ecosystem together for an incredible event, one that’s certain to showcase the full power of football as a force for good and a platform for turning dreams into reality.”

The tournament has been dominated by Arab teams in the past, with Jordan winning five of the previous seven editions and the UAE grabbing the other two.

WAFF’s General Secretary Khalil Al-Salem said: “There is no doubt that this tournament will witness high-level competition and exceptional organization, building on the Saudi Arabian Football Federation’s successful track record in hosting football tournaments at various levels.”


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

Updated 21 May 2024
Follow

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
Follow

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
Follow

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
Follow

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
Follow

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.”