Al-Nassr to feature in historic first edition of AFC Women’s Champions League in 2024/25

Al-Nassr won the 2023/24 Women’s Premier League to qualify for the new tournament. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 June 2024

Al-Nassr to feature in historic first edition of AFC Women’s Champions League in 2024/25

  • The Riyadh-based club become first Saudi Arabian female team to compete in the region’s top women’s club competition
  • Al-Nassr among 22 sides to feature in new-look competition, kicks off with preliminary group stage in August

RIYADH: The Asian Football Confederation has announced that Al-Nassr FC are set to represent Saudi Arabia in the inaugural edition of the AFC Women’s Champions League in the forthcoming 2024/25 season. 

Al-Nassr won the 2023/24 Women’s Premier League to qualify for the new tournament, with the draw for the preliminary rounds to take place at the AFC House in July. The draw will determine the groups for the opening matches, which are set to take place from Aug. 25-31.

Al-Nassr are the first Saudi women’s side to compete in the region’s top club competition, which boasts 22 teams from AFC’s top-ranked nations, including Japan, Australia, North Korea, and China. 

The team’s qualification showcases the remarkable growth of women’s football in the Kingdom in recent years. It follows the formation of the first women’s national team in 2021 and the first professional women’s league in 2022.

The AFC also confirmed that Saudi Arabia would host one group in the preliminary stages of the competition, marking the second occasion that the Kingdom has hosted a professional women’s football event following the successful West Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship.

This is the icing on the cake for women’s football in the Kingdom, following the conclusion of the second season of the Women’s Premier League.

Hosting the opening rounds will add to Saudi Arabia’s legacy as a global hub for international sporting events, with over 25 major football showcases held in the Kingdom in recent years. 

Yasser Al-Misehal, president of the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, said: “The fact that Al-Nassr will be competing in the first edition of the AFC Women’s Champions League is a proud moment for Saudi Arabian football, as we achieve another important football milestone in our transformational journey.

“We hope that this will keep inspiring a new generation of girls to engage with the sport.”

SAFF’s Vice President Lamia Bahaian said: “The speed of the journey to reach the pinnacle of women’s club football in Asia is breathtaking.

“Women’s football in the Kingdom is supported at every level but is only possible thanks to the skill, commitment and determination of all the players and coaches in the league.

“We all share in the excitement of this moment. For Saudi Arabia, this is more than just competing. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect, host and learn from the very best in the continent and we will welcome that with open arms. Our journey continues.”

Sara Khalid, the goalkeeper for the Saudi Arabian national women’s team and Al-Nassr, said: “It’s an incredible feeling to have qualified for the first edition of the AFC Women’s Champions League. This moment is a testament to not only the work of everyone at Al-Nassr to support us in our recent successful season, but from everyone within the Kingdom to help us grow the game in our country to this level.”

Women’s football in Saudi Arabia has seen an 86 percent increase in participation within the sport since 2021, with more than 70,000 girls of school age now playing football across the Kingdom.

Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

Updated 22 July 2024

Diogo Jota says Riyadh Esports World Cup ‘a truly amazing experience’

  • Liverpool and Portugal star, an avid gamer and investor, watched all the ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Counter-Strike 2’ action, and met esports players

RIYADH: Diogo Jota, the Liverpool and Portugal footballer, who attended the Esports World Cup in Riyadh on Sunday, has declared the globe’s largest gaming festival “a truly amazing experience.”

Jota, an avid gamer and investor in multinational esports organization Galaxy Racer, watched all the action at Boulevard Riyadh City as teams contested the finals of the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Counter-Strike 2” competitions.

The eight-week Esports World Cup features a unique cross-game structure pitting the top clubs and players against one another across 22 competitions in 21 leading games.

Held within the 8,000-capacity Saudi Esports Federation Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City, it runs until Aug. 25 and has a tournament prize pool of $60 million, the largest in the history of the sport.

The attacker, who has 42 caps and played for Portugal at the UEFA Euro 2024 this summer, met participating stars, including from Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons, and happily swapped gaming and esports stories.

Jota said: “Being here at the inaugural Esports World Cup is a truly amazing experience. The organization and scale behind this event are truly impressive, even more than I anticipated.

“I’ve always believed in the potential of esports, even before starting my own team, and EWC is proof that this scene is evolving rapidly. This level of investment and infrastructure is exactly what esports needs to grow and reach a wider audience.

“I’m excited to see how EWC continues to evolve and push the boundaries of competitive gaming.”

Jota, who wears the No. 20 for Liverpool, was ranked world No. 1 in FIFA 21’s Champions Leaderboard. A regular streamer on Twitch, he also won an invitational series of FIFA matches, run by the Premier League, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then a Wolverhampton Wanderers player, Jota defeated future Liverpool team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final.

Last year, Jota’s own esports organization, Diogo Jota Esports, was rebranded to Luna Galaxy — coming under the Galaxy Racer umbrella.

Prior to this, Diogo Jota Esports participated in the FIFAe Finals at Gamers8, organized by the Saudi Esports Federation, at Boulevard Riyadh City last summer, with Daniel “DFernandes” Fernandes finishing in the top 16.

More than 1,500 players, of over 60 nationalities, are battling it out at the inaugural Esports World Cup. Week three of the competition features action in the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters,” “Counter Strike 2,” and “PUBG Mobile” contests.

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

Updated 15 July 2024

SPL unveils exciting 2024-25 RSL fixtures list

  • Opening round of games takes place from Aug. 22, with champions Al-Hilal starting title defence at Al-Okhdood
  • New ‘Magic Rounds’ will feature derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah and the Eastern Province in weeks 9 and 26

Riyadh: The Saudi Pro League’s competitions department has officially announced the fixtures for the upcoming 2024-25 Roshn Saudi League season, which is set to kick off from Aug. 22-24.

The opening weekend will see reigning champions Al-Hilal beginning their title defense away against Al-Okhdood.

This season will feature 306 matches, meticulously scheduled to accommodate international breaks, continental competitions, and Saudi Arabian Football Federation tournaments. Notably, no fixtures will be held during the last 10 days of Ramadan, ensuring respect for the holy month.

The league has also prioritized player welfare by ensuring a minimum two-day rest between matches.

One of the highlights of this season is the introduction of “Magic Rounds.” Scheduled for Matchweeks 9 and 26, these special weekends will host thrilling derbies across Riyadh, Jeddah, and the Eastern Province, showcasing rivalries such as Al-Ahli versus Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal against Al-Nassr.

The league’s fixture list is designed to ensure a balanced competition. Each team will play nine home matches and eight away matches in the first half, mirroring the same structure in the second half. Teams will avoid playing more than two consecutive matches at home or away, with a maximum of two such occurrences permitted per half of the season.

Clubs from the same city will be paired to guarantee that when one team is at home, the other is away, promoting exciting local derbies. Additionally, the season’s start and end are synchronized; a team playing at home in Matchweek 1 will play away in Matchweek 34, and vice versa. The final four rounds will feature each team playing two home and two away matches, ensuring an electrifying conclusion to the season.

The season opens with a series of compelling matchups.

Al-Shabab will host Al-Ettifaq, while 2023-24 runners-up Al-Nassr will face Al-Raed at home. Newly promoted Al-Orobah will travel to Jeddah to challenge Al-Ahli, and Al-Taawoun will welcome Al-Fayha. In Ar Rass, Al-Ittihad will take on newcomers Al-Kholood. The 2023-24 First Division League champions, Al-Qadsiah, will host Al-Fateh, and Damac will begin their campaign at home against Al-Khaleej, with Al-Riyadh traveling to Makkah to meet Al-Wehda.

The Roshn Saudi League fixtures list. photo credit: @SPL_EN

The SPL will announce match dates and kick-off times in a phased manner:
July 18: breakdown for Matchweeks 1 and 2.
Aug. 18: (Subject to AFC draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 3 to 8.
Sept. 30: (Subject to King’s Cup Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 9 to 13.
Oct. 31: (Subject to King’s Cup quarter-final draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 14 to 22.
Feb. 22: (Subject to AFC Round of 16 draw date) breakdown for Matchweeks 23 to 34.

These announcements will depend on confirmation from the AFC and SAFF regarding their respective competition draw dates.

As the league prepares for another thrilling season, fans can look forward to a calendar packed with drama, excitement, and unforgettable moments in Saudi football.

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Updated 13 July 2024

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

  • Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan wins for second time in row
  • Zedan participated in the US Polo Assn team, which was led by Prince William

LONDON: The US Polo Assn team, led by the Prince of Wales, Prince William, and with the participation of the Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan, have won the Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024.
It was Zedan’s second triumph in a row in the competition, which was held at the Guards Polo Club fields in Windsor, London, with the Japanese company Out-Sourcing Inc sponsoring the tournament.
The US Polo Assn team were crowned after drawing with the Malaysian team BP 4-4 and surpassing them on goal difference in the championship rounds.
Alongside Prince William and Zedan in the attack were Ayawat Srivaddhanaprabha, the CEO of King Power, representing Thailand, and Mark Tomlinson, representing the UK. Khaled Al-Ajmi, a board member of the SPF, and Faisal bin Dwaid, the federation’s CEO, were also present.
Zedan’s participation helped in furthering the SPF’s role in local and international social responsibility, while helping it toward its goals through participation and support in social events.
British media reports said that Prince William had taken part in the polo match to help raise more than $1.5 million for his charities. According to the UK’s royal family website, the funds raised by the match will be distributed across 11 charities and causes supported by Prince William and the Princess of Wales.

Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA, continues winning start

Updated 12 July 2024

Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA, continues winning start

  • At PFL MENA 2 on Friday night, 22-year-old beat Egypt’s Iman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls
  • Alsaif made winning debut in the Professional Fighters League against Egypt’s Nada Faheem in May

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Alsaif is fighting to prove that women deserve their place in the world of combat sports.

The 22-year-old Muay Thai striker recently made history by becoming the first female from the Kingdom to be recruited by a major mixed martial arts organization when she joined the Professional Fighters League.

In May, Alsaif made her highly-anticipated debut during the inaugural season of PFL MENA. She knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem by head kick in the second round, much to the delight of fans in Riyadh.

On Friday, she continued her winning start to her MMA career by beating Egypt’s Iman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls.

Alsaif hopes to inspire other Saudi Arabia women to take up the sport.

“Combat sports isn’t exclusive to men anymore,” Alsaif said. “It’s open to both sexes.”

Alsaif has some big names in her corner, namely fellow Saudi Arabian fighter Abdullah Al-Qahtani, who is currently the Kingdom’s biggest MMA star.

“He supports me, he helps me develop my game, and he gave me a lot of motivation after my first PFL win,” Alsaif said of Al-Qahtani.

Alsaif said she does not feel pressure when fighting, but rather a determination to succeed.

“Winning my last fight wasn’t pressure, it was validation,” she explained. At PFL MENA 2 this weekend, she steps back into the cage to take on another Egyptian fighter.

“It showed my preparation was perfect, and now I’m even more confident facing Iman Baraka,” she said.

Alsaif said she enjoyed fighting in her hometown. “The energy of the Saudi fans after my first win was incredible. It fueled my training and showed me I was on the right track.”

“I saw the love and support from the fans after my victory, and it made me even hungrier to win again. I’m ready to step into the cage and prove myself,” she added.

“The last fight was a great victory, but now my focus is on Iman Baraka. I’m not dwelling on the past, I’m training for the challenge ahead.”

Team Falcons soar to victory, claim Call of Duty crown at Esports World Cup

Saudi Team Falcons crowned at Esports World Cup's week 1. supplied
Updated 07 July 2024

Team Falcons soar to victory, claim Call of Duty crown at Esports World Cup

  • Their triumph marked the inaugural win of the tournament, setting a high bar for the competition
  • The Esports World Cup, running from July 3-Aug. 25, features 22 tournaments across 21 game titles

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons soared to victory in a historic moment for the nation’s esports scene, claiming the Call of Duty: Warzone championship at the Esports World Cup held in Boulevard Riyadh City.

The local favorites, comprising Shifty, Soka and Biffle, clinched the grand final with a commanding performance, securing a prize of $200,000. Their triumph marked the inaugural win of the tournament, setting a high bar for the competition.

The SEF Arena witnessed intense battles among 10 top-tier teams, culminating in Team Falcons’ decisive victory. Reflecting on their victory, Soka expressed gratitude to the passionate Saudi fans whose unwavering support fueled their success. The electrifying atmosphere and vocal encouragement from the crowd played a pivotal role, boosting the team’s morale throughout the competition.

Biffle echoed these sentiments, highlighting the energy of the home crowd that propelled them to greatness. The team’s dominance was evident from the early stages, having swept through the group stages with flawless victories.

Their success was a culmination of rigorous preparation and strong team chemistry, as acknowledged by Shifty. He stressed their commitment to excellence and the unparalleled bond among the trio, attributing their confidence and resilience to the fervent support of Saudi fans.

The Esports World Cup, running from July 3-Aug. 25, features 22 tournaments across 21 game titles. As the first week concludes with thrilling matchups in Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, League of Legends and Dota 2, Team Falcons’ triumph stands as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s growing influence in the global esports arena.