Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match

Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after the Saudi Pro League win over Shabab, Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 25, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match

  • Critcism of the 39-year-old Portuguese has been swift and media reports say that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has opened an investigation
  • Portuguese star scored a first half penalty, before Brazilian Talisca’s late brace, including a goal four minutes from time, secured the win for Al-Nassr

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo has come under heavy criticism after seemingly making an offensive gesture following Al-Nassr’s 3-2 victory over Al-Shabab in a Saudi Pro League match on Sunday.
The Portuguese star scored a first half penalty, before Brazilian Talisca’s late brace, including a goal four minutes from time, secured the win for Al-Nassr.
After the final whistle, videos posted on social media showed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, seemingly aimed at rival Al-Shabab supporters.
In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard, referring to Ronaldo’s longstanding football rival from Argentina.
While the incident was not captured by television cameras, critcism of the 39-year-old Portuguese has been swift and media reports say that the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) has opened an investigation.
Ronaldo, who completed a lucrative move to the Riyadh-based club in December 2022, has a league-leading 22 goals this season. Al-Nassr trail fellow big-spending rivals Al-Hilal by four points, having played a game more.
Al-Nassr is also in contention for the Asian Champions League — a tournament it has never won — and will play Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinals next month.


Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

Updated 28 May 2024
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Ronaldo sets Saudi Pro League season scoring record while Al-Hilal finishes unbeaten

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: Cristiano Ronaldo finished the Saudi Pro League by setting the season goal-scoring record on Monday.
Ronaldo scored twice in Riyadh as Al-Nassr defeated Al-Ittihad 4-2 and lifted his league tally to 35, one more than the record in 2019 by Abderrazak Hamdallah.
In the final seconds of the first half, Ronaldo, who had already had two goals ruled out for offside, chested down a long pass from Mohammed Al-Fatil and opened the scoring with a low shot from the left side of the area.
With 21 minutes remaining, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner celebrated wildly after heading home a corner from Marcelo Brozovic. He was substituted off the field five minutes later to a standing ovation from the home fans.
It ended an action-packed season for Ronaldo, who scored four hat tricks and collected one red card. He was also suspended for an obscene gesture in February at Al-Shabab fans who had been chanting the name of Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s longstanding soccer rival.
Al-Nassr finished second in the league, 14 points behind local rival Al-Hilal, which won the championship more than two weeks ago and completed the 34-round league unbeaten on Monday.
Al-Hilal was too strong even without Neymar, who joined the club in August from Paris Saint-Germain but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in October.
Aleksandar Mitrovic stepped in and ended the season with a goal in the final seconds to clinch a 2-1 win over Al-Wehda. The Serbian striker, signed from London club Fulham last summer, reached 27 league goals, second only to Ronaldo.
On its way to the title, Al-Hilal went on a 34-game winning streak in all competitions, a new world record for a top tier team.
“This season has been truly exceptional for the team, arguably our best ever,” coach Jorge Jesus said. “The credit goes to the immense talent within the squad and the incredible sense of unity that transcends both on and off-field interactions.”
Al-Ittihad’s defeat at Al-Nassr ended a disappointing season for the defending champion. Karim Benzema, signed from Real Madrid, struggled with injuries and even with N’Golo Kante and Fabinho in midfield, signed from Chelsea and Liverpool respectively, the team from Jeddah could manage only fifth place.
Poor results cost Nuno Santo his job as coach in November, and the Portuguese tactician returned to the English Premier League a month later to take over Nottingham Forest.
Al-Ahli, the fourth of the ‘Big Four’ clubs taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last June, finished third, 17 points behind Al-Nassr. Al-Ahli beat Al-Fayha 1-0 thanks to a late goal — his ninth of the season — from former Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino.
Ronaldo took the headlines, however, and the 39-year-old still had one more chance to end the season with a trophy when Al-Nassr meets Al-Hilal in the King’s Cup final on Friday.


England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

Updated 27 May 2024
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England’s Jacks thankful for Kohli influence ahead of T20 World Cup

  • Jacks goes into third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win on Saturday
  • The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up

LONDON: Will Jacks hopes to put the on-field “coaching” he received from Virat Kohli to good use when England bid to retain their T20 World Cup title next month.
Jacks goes into the third game of England’s warm-up series against Pakistan having helped propel the hosts to a 23-run win at Edgbaston on Saturday.
The Surrey all-rounder struck a quickfire 37 in what proved to be a decisive stand with captain Jos Buttler as England went 1-0 up in the rain-hit four-match series ahead of Tuesday’s game at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens.
It was another example of Jacks’ power hitting after he recently struck an unbeaten century off just 41 balls — including 28 runs from one Rashid Khan over — as Royal Challengers Bengaluru chased down 200 to beat Gujarat Titans in a high-pressure situation, with India star batsman Kohli looking on from the other end.
“The big thing with the IPL is that every game is such an occasion, the crowd, the atmosphere,” Jacks told reporters on Monday, just over a week from England’s World Cup opener against Scotland in Barbados.
“Every game you feel like you’ve got to step up and that’s similar to international cricket.”
As for batting with Kohli, the 25-year-old added: “He’s a very good role model. The way he approaches all the training and every aspect of the game off the field, his intensity, everything he does is a 100 percent attention.
“He’s done it for such a long time and I can appreciate that as a young guy who often doesn’t want to do the hard yards, but you see him doing it and want to copy that.”
Jacks added: “When we were batting together, he was coaching me through there. I learned some valuable things about chasing in that innings and pacing the game, which was really helpful.
“I was really proud of the way I stayed in the partnership, didn’t throw it away.”
Now Jacks, whose England career currently consists of a mere two Tests, seven one-day internationals and 12 T20s, is looking forward to a major global tournament.
“Playing in a World Cup is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid. I’m really excited to do it,” he said. “It’s getting closer now and we’re building in the right direction.”
Jacks labelled his England T20 record of 218 runs at 18.16 a “mixed bag,” although his cause has not been helped by switching between opening the innings and batting at three.
“I’ve probably opened half my games and batted number three in the other half,” he said. “It’s no lie that I’m new to batting at three, I’m learning on the job.”
He added: “I’ve been getting starts every game and it’s about how do I change those into match-winning scores. That’s more of a mindset thing. It doesn’t matter what I’m averaging: if the team’s winning, then it’s good.”


England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan

Updated 27 May 2024
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England captain Buttler set to miss 3rd T20 against Pakistan

  • The 33-year-old struck a match-winning 84 as the hosts took a 1-0 lead in Birmingham on Saturday
  • He is set to miss Wednesday’s third T20 in Cardiff, with vice-captain Moeen Ali in line to lead England

LONDON: Jos Buttler has left the England squad ahead of Tuesday’s Twenty20 international against Pakistan to be with his wife, who is about to give birth to the couple’s third child.
The 33-year-old England captain struck a match-winning 84 as the hosts took a 1-0 lead in the rain-affected four-game series in Birmingham on Saturday.
But he is now set to miss Wednesday’s third T20 in Cardiff, with vice-captain Moeen Ali in line to lead England at Sophia Gardens instead.
This series, which concludes at The Oval in London on Thursday, is serving as a warm-up for the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and the United States, with reigning champions England starting their title defense against Scotland in Barbados on June 4.
England fast bowler Jofra Archer could be rested for the Cardiff match ahead of the Oval finale.
Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
But the 29-year-old marked his long-awaited return to international cricket by taking two wickets as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston following a washout at Leeds.
Archer, on his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with 2-28.


Crafting champions: The artistry behind the ‘Ring of Fire’ trophy belt

Nasser Farsi, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied
Updated 27 May 2024
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Crafting champions: The artistry behind the ‘Ring of Fire’ trophy belt

  • Engraving tools with diamond tips and tungsten carbide tips were used, depending on the function
  • Each stroke of the engraving tool was not just a mark on metal, but also a tribute to the sport’s rich heritage and the warriors who have graced the ring

Riyadh: In the world of boxing, where legends are made and history is written with every punch, there exists a tangible symbol of triumph and glory — the championship belt.

And behind every iconic belt lies a story of craftsmanship and dedication, as exemplified by the artisans at Farsi Jewelry House, entrusted with engraving the trophy belt for the historic “Ring of Fire” fight between Britain’s Tyson Fury and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, Nasser Farsi, provided insights into the meticulous process that went into crafting the emblem of sporting greatness.

“We used engraving tools with diamond tips and tungsten carbide tips, depending on the function,” said the artisan, highlighting the attention to detail and precision required for such a task. From planning and drawing, to engraving and quality checking, every step was executed with the utmost care and precision.

The artisan is seen engraving the champion's name on the belt. supplied

The engraving of the host city and date, along with the champion’s name and the names of the boxing legends preceding them, imbues the belt with a sense of history and reverence. Each stroke of the engraving tool was not just a mark on metal, but also a tribute to the sport’s rich heritage and the warriors who have graced the ring.

Despite their expertise, the artisans faced challenges along the way, particularly with the unexpectedly strong metal used for the belt. “The most challenging part was that the metal used for the belt was much stronger than we expected. It was done in a superb quality metal,” Farsi said. However, the engravers overcame the challenge “by adding an additional step, which is micro hammering with a diamond tip,” ensuring that the final product surpassed expectations in quality and craftsmanship.

For the artisans at Farsi Jewelry House, the opportunity to contribute to such a high-profile event is a source of immense pride and honor. “It was such a privilege and honor for me personally as my work was literally writing down a historical moment,” Farsi said. The sentiment was echoed by his colleague for the task, Samuel Nacario, whose passion for boxing and martial arts made the experience “a dream come true.”

Samuel Nacario, one of the master engravers from Farsi Jewelry House, is seen in action. supplied

While the engraving was done in-house by Farsi’s team, the assistance and artwork of people like Nacario, who Farsi sees as a “teacher,” played a crucial role in bringing the project to life.

Though the cultural significance of Riyadh may not have directly influenced the belt’s design, the event’s hosting in the Saudi capital sent a powerful message to the world. “It was a message that we are way ahead of our plans to reach what was anticipated for Vision 2030,” said Farsi, highlighting the event’s broader significance in the context of the Kingdom’s cultural and economic aspirations.

The artisan hinted at future projects, promising further glimpses of his craftsmanship. While the details remain under wraps, one thing is clear — Farsi Jewelry House is poised to continue leaving its mark on the world of sports and beyond.

In the realm of boxing, where every victory is immortalized and every defeat serves as a stepping stone, the craftsmanship of Nasser Farsi stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of champions.

As the “Ring of Fire” trophy belt changes hands and journeys through the annals of history, one thing remains certain — it is more than just a belt; it is a symbol of excellence, perseverance and the indomitable spirit of the human endeavor.


Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

Updated 27 May 2024
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Three things we learned from the Monaco Grand Prix

MONTE CARLO: Charles Leclerc confirmed his potential as a world championship contender and raised more questions about Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s era of domination with his emotional home triumph on Sunday.
By winning a dull and processional Monaco Grand Prix with a flawless drive from pole position to chequered flag, while Verstappen started and finished sixth, the 26-year-old Monegasque lifted a monkey from his back as the Dutchman bemoaned his fate.
After a troubled weekend for the champion team, which saw second driver Sergio Perez crash out on the opening lap, AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the star-studded spectacle in the Mediterranean principality:
Ferrari team chief Fred Vasseur cut through the emotional aftermath of Leclerc’s victory to identify how important it can be for him in future races. “Firstly, everyone will stop asking him each year what will happen next time, what happens this weekend and blah blah blah.... It’s over now. It’s behind us all.
“He had a kind of weight on his shoulders for years here now. Sometimes, he made a small mistake, sometimes he was unlucky, like with a brake failure, and he was under pressure.
“Now, I think he can make a big step forward, for sure. His self-confidence and approach at other events will change.”
Vasseur spoke before his team began celebrations at Jimmy’z nightclub, but shortly after a tearful Arthur Leclerc, Charles’ younger brother, led widespread tributes by wishing their father Herve had been alive to see him win.
His victory was a realization of a family dream shared with their father Herve, who died in 2017, before Charles entered Formula One.
“I am so happy,” said Arthur, a Ferrari academy driver. “It’s the first time I cried seeing my brother win. It’s just such an incredible feeling and I just wish my father was there as well to see this moment.”
Leclerc is now only 26 points behind Verstappen in the drivers’ title race after eight of this year’s 24 races, while Ferrari are only 24 points behind in the teams’ contest. He may protest that it too soon to judge, but many believe Verstappen faces a fight ahead to keep his crown.
Max Verstappen and his father Jos issued clear signals that Red Bull have been caught by their rivals and now require emergency action if they are to remain the dominant team.
“We’ve had this problem since 2022,” said the three-time champion, referring to his car’s sensitivity to bumps and riding kerbs.
His father Jos Verstappen went further and suggested Red Bull’s era of dominance is over and the team need to reconsider their priorities after a period of controversies surrounding team boss Christian Horner’s alleged inappropriate behavior and the exit of technical chief Adrian Newey.
“The era when Red Bull had the dominant car really seems to be over now,” said Verstappen senior. “Maybe they should start focusing a bit more on racing and mutual communication again, rather than on other things.”
With Ferrari and McLaren winning races and closing in, and Mercedes advancing, Red Bull face a challenge on and off the track.

The future of the calendar’s most glamorous and historic event was the subject of fresh speculation after Sunday’s ‘snooze-fest’ race amid calls for F1 to revise some rules specifically to enliven the Monaco Grand Prix.
“I got myself a yoghurt and an espresso,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “I’ve never done that in 12 years.”
“I should have brought my pillow,” said Verstappen. “How boring was that?“
Mercedes driver George Russell replied: “They need to change something... maybe compulsory pitstops...”
“Or a compulsory nap,” replied Verstappen.