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Michael Schumacher admitted to Paris hospital for ‘secret treatment’

CAIRO: Almost everybody has heard about the Pyramids, those triangular rock edifices jutting out of the desert sands in Egypt and which are thousands of years old. The Pyramids are one of the original Seven Wonders of the World and as such, one of the world’s most spectacular man-made structures. But there is another kind…

Michael Schumacher admitted to Paris hospital for ‘secret treatment’

CAIRO: Almost everybody has heard about the Pyramids, those triangular rock edifices jutting out of the desert sands in Egypt and which are thousands of years old. The Pyramids are one of the original Seven Wonders of the World and as such, one of the world’s most spectacular man-made structures.

But there is another kind of Pyramids that even though does not enjoy the same worldwide fame, has nevertheless carved a niche for itself and in record time. This latest wonder would be Pyramids FC, the Egyptian football club which in only their first year of existence reached the final of a major competition, in this case the Egypt Cup.

The joy did not last long for Pyramids who were thrashed 3-0 on Sunday night by Zamalek, the defending champions who have now won six of the last seven cups.

Zamalek’s victory was so comprehensive that one would be hard pressed to justify to their 20,000 supporters who were in Borg Al-Arab Stadium to watch the demolition that Pyramids are the team of the future.

BACKGROUND

Pyramids are a revolutionary undertaking in Egyptian football, the only Egyptian soccer club owned by a non-Egyptian since the league was founded in 1948.

Pyramids came out of this season empty-handed. Zamalek won the Egypt Cup and the African Confederation Cup in May while the other established Egyptian powerhouse Ahly retained the league crown.

So where do Pyramids stand in between these two Egyptian giants?

Following Sunday’s drubbing, Pyramids do not evince much confidence in their ability to win crowns but this is a team that can go places and should not be written off.

Pyramids are a revolutionary undertaking in Egyptian football, the only Egyptian soccer club owned by a non-Egyptian since the league was founded in 1948.

This radical approach has ramifications not just for Egyptian football but for the entire African continent.

The intriguing story of Pyramids FC began in 2008. They were then known as Al-Assiouty Sport, a team in the ancient town of Assiut on the banks of the Nile some 400 kilometers south of Cairo. In 2014 the club, owned by businessman Mahmoud Al-Assiouty, was promoted to the Egyptian Premier League for the first time in its history. Then came 2018 when Al-Assiouty morphed beyond recognition. That summer the then chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority Turki Al-Sheikh bought the club. It hasn’t looked back since.

The team’s name was changed from Al-Assiouty Sport to Pyramids FC. Al-Sheikh installed former coach of league champions Ahly, Hossam El-Badry, as chairman of the club. Ahmed Hassan, the most capped international footballer in history, became spokesman and football team supervisor while former Ahly midfield star Hady Khashaba was named football director. 

Former Botafogo coach Alberto Valentim, a former right-back who played for Udinese and Siena in Italy, was picked the new manager.

Al-Sheikh signed four players from Brazil for $20 million, most notably winger Keno from Palmeiras. He also brought in local lights, including Egypt internationals Abdullah Said, Ali Gabr and Omar Gaber, all of whom previously played for the country’s two traditional powerhouses Ahly and Zamalek. Smart move by Al-Sheikh if his goal was to break the monopoly Ahly and Zamalek have over the Egyptian league and cup. The two teams have such a hammerlock on Egyptian football that the last club to win the Egyptian league not named Ahly or Zamalek was Ismaili in 2002.

Altogether, Al-Sheikh roped in 18 new players in what was a complete overhaul of the squad. The results are there for all to see. Pyramids finished a very respectable third place this season, with 70 points, 10 points behind eventual winners Ahly and just two less than second-place Zamalek. To put it in context, Masri, who finished in fourth place, garnered just 52 points, a whopping 18 less than Pyramids. Pyramids lost only twice. In a 34-game season and a league of 18 teams, it was a remarkable achievement. 

They also scored 61 goals, five more than champions Ahly.

In fact, in one fell swoop Pyramids beat Ahly three times this season, twice in the league and knocking them out of the cup in the relative early round of 16.

Granted, the Egyptian league is not the Premier League or La Liga or Serie A but it is nonetheless considered in the African and Arab world decent enough.

In July 2019, the Emirati businessman Salem Al-Shamsi, who was previously Pyramid’s vice president, took over from Al-Sheikh, acquiring full ownership of the club. Al-Shamsi quickly rolled up his sleeves to corral French coach Sebastien Desabre whose impact was felt immediately. Desabre, who guided lowly Uganda to the round of 16 at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, took Pyramids to the final of the Egypt Cup. Under his helm, Pyramids also destroyed Etoile du Congo 5-1 aggregate in the first round of the African Confederation Cup. And Al-Shamsi roped in the ever dangerous Burkinabe winger Eric Traore.

Because the owners of Pyramids FC past and present have pockets deeper than any other club in Egypt, the squad is already a force to reckon with. Their spending sprees have allowed them to challenge Cairo giants Ahly and Zamalek. And who knows? Unhesitant owners with cash to splash around could take Pyramids FC to the top of Egyptian and African football in the not too distant future.

To be sure, no team can seriously challenge for major titles when it goes through five coaches in one season, as Pyramids have. There can be no sense of stability on a team that changes coaches as fast as people change their socks. The soccer schools that these coaches come from — Brazil, Argentina, Egypt and France — are also so diverse as to cause confusion among the players.

The pasting inflicted by Zamalek on Pyramids was severe but writing a Pyramids obituary would be premature. In such a short time, Pyramids have come such a long way. The sale of modest Al-Assiouty Sport has reshaped an Egyptian team in a way never seen before.

It is not quite clear why Al-Sheikh and Al-Shamsi are so interested in Egyptian football but there is no doubt that we are witnessing the birth of a new Egyptian super club that has shaken up the established order.

Pyramids might have lost the Egypt Cup but they have won the respect of football fans who know a good thing when they see it. The club made history by reaching the final of the cup on their very first try. The belief is that there is plenty more where that came from.

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Top Saudi duo leads staggering entry for Rally Qassim 2019

BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship. There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country…

Top Saudi duo leads staggering entry for Rally Qassim 2019

BURAIDAH: A staggering entry of 63 cars, 1 truck, 18 motorcycles and 8 quads will tackle this weekend’s Rally Qassim 2019, the second round of the exciting new Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship.

There is strength in depth throughout the entire car field and the three T1, T2 and T3 categories, with Saudi Arabia’s leading cross-country star Yazeed Al-Rajhi topping the entry after finishing fifth overall at last week’s Rally of Morocco.

Fellow Saudi Yasir Seaidan wheels out his MINI All4 Racing, as the two leading Saudi stars go head-to-head across home terrain. Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi is also on hand to challenge for overall honors in a Peugeot 3008 DXR.

There is a strong Saudi influence in the upper reaches of the top 10 with the likes of Essa Al-Dossari, Ahmed Al-Shegawi and Mutair Al-Shammeri, but there is an international flavor to the entry as well, with several drivers keen to test before the Dakar Rally crosses the country for the first time in January 2020.

Czech driver Miroslav Zapletal wheels out his Ford F-150 Evo, Egyptian Yara Shalaby has entered a Nissan and there are entries for Kuwait’s Mohammed Al-Dhafiri and Emirati Abdullah Al-Heraiz.

Saleh Al-Saif tops a strong lineup in the T3 category at the helm of his Can-Am Maverick X3 and faces 12 Saudi rivals – three in Yamahas, one in a Polaris and eight in Can-Ams.

Ibrahim Al-Muhanna won the Hail International Rally back in 2014 with Emirati navigator Ali Hassan Obaid and he drives the sole T4 Mercedes truck, with Osama Al-Sanad and Raed Abo Theeb alongside.

 Using the event as a perfect opportunity to shake down his KTM 450 Rally after the recent Jordan Baja win is the Emirati racer Mohammed Al-Balooshi. 

He leads  an 18-strong motorcycle field that includes other riders from the host country, New Zealand and the UK.

Philip Wilson represents New Zealand, Anthony King is the sole UK entrant, while Emirati Abdullah bin Dakhan rides a Yamaha against a field that includes 14 Saudi riders.

Multiple Hail International Rally winner Abdulmajeed Al-Khulaifi tops the quad category on his Yamaha. 

The Saudi has won the Kingdom’s premier off-road rally’s quad section for the last six successive seasons — three times on a Kawasaki and three times on a Yamaha – but faces some of his strongest ever competition in Buraidah.

He lines up against the likes of the experienced Sultan Al-Masoud, Abdulsalam Hamam and Yousef Al-Namasi.

The event is  organized by the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, under the chairmanship of   Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Abdullah Al-Faisal, and takes place from Thursday  to Saturday.

It is the second of five rounds of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship with three further rallies still to run this year on Nov.  4-9, Nov. 27-30 and Dec. 12-14 . 

Action at Rally Qassim 2019 gets underway with a short super special stage of 3.55km from 16:10hrs at Wahtan in Buraidah on Thursday afternoon. There will be 347.80km timed against the clock in a compact route of 548.80km.

The event runs with the support of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, the General Sports Authority, Abdul Latif Jameel Motors (Toyota), the MBC Group and Al-Arabia.

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Spain looking for a partner for Ramos in defense

MADRID: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were the pillar of Spain’s defense for years and were crucial to the team’s success over the last decade. The central defenders formed an uncontested duo that helped “La Roja” dominate world football, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012. But since Piqué retired from…

Spain looking for a partner for Ramos in defense

MADRID: Sergio Ramos and Gerard Piqué were the pillar of Spain’s defense for years and were crucial to the team’s success over the last decade.

The central defenders formed an uncontested duo that helped “La Roja” dominate world football, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship in 2012.

But since Piqué retired from the national team after last year’s World Cup, Spain have struggled to find a reliable partner for Ramos in defense.

The 33-year-old Ramos has been with the national team since 2005 and set a record for most appearances with Spain on Saturday, in the team’s 1-1 draw at Norway in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship. He surpassed Iker Casillas’ mark by playing in his 168th match with thenational team.

Ramos has been surrounded mostly by newcomers since Piqué decided to focus on his time with Barcelona, and none has taken over as an indisputable replacement.

One of the most experienced defenders who made it to Spain’s squad recently is 34-year-old Raúl Albiol, who has little more than 50 appearances with the national team.

Against Norway, it was only the second time Albiol partnered with Ramos. Despite a decent performance by the Villarreal defender, Spain could not hold on to a late lead, conceding an equalizer in stoppage time to postpone Spain’s qualification for Euro 2020.

Iñigo Martínez was another central defender who played against Norway, replacing leftback Juan Bernat in the final minutes to try to aid the defense near the end.

“La Roja” will get another chance to qualify on Tuesday when they visit Sweden, when coach Robert Moreno will have an even greater challenge to overcome as Ramos will not be available because of suspension.

Other recent partners for Ramos include Nacho Fernández, Mario Hermoso and Diego Llorente. Also called up after Pique’s departure were Unai Nuñez and Pau Torres, the 22-year-old Villarreal defender touted as a future star but who is yet to make an appearance with the national team.

“When I was younger I looked up to defenders like Gerard and Sergio,” Torres said. “For me it’s a privilege to be able to share the changing room with Sergio Ramos and to learn from him and from the other defenders on the team.”

Ramos, Spain’s longtime captain, recently also surpassed Casillas’ record for most wins with the Spanish national team. He hasn’t talked much about his own retirement, although some rumors surfaced when he recently admitted to the possibility of joining Spain’s Under-23 squad to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Moreno said he sees the possible attempt by Ramos as a way for him to stay motivated and add to his already successful career.

“It would be unfair to keep players in the national team only because of their names,” Moreno said. “They would be the first to say that they don’t want to keep playing if they are not at a high level.

“But I’m certain that Sergio will keep practicing hard day after day and I’m certain that he will keep playing at this level.”

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Warm welcome for Saudi football team in Ramallah

‘Biggest fight on the planet’ – Tickets go on sale for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Saudi Arabia RIYADH: Tickets for the biggest boxing bout on the planet – the Clash on the Dunes – between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, go on sale on Sunday night. The two are…

Warm welcome for Saudi football team in Ramallah

‘Biggest fight on the planet’ – Tickets go on sale for ‘Clash on the Dunes’ in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Tickets for the biggest boxing bout on the planet – the Clash on the Dunes – between Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, go on sale on Sunday night.

The two are set to clash on Dec. 7 in the Diriyah Arena, a purpose-built arena for 15,000 fans, as Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua attempts to recapture the belts taken from him by Andy ‘Destroyer’ Ruiz Jr earlier in the year.

Boxing fans from across the region and around the globe from Sunday onwards can get their tickets to the fight, which includes new super-fast tourist visas recently launched the Kingdom.

Boxing fans in #SaudiArabia and around the world – get ready…
Tickets for the “biggest fight on the planet” – #ClashOnTheDunes between @anthonyfjoshua and @Andy_destroyer1 in Diriyah – go on sale tonight…
More details here: https://t.co/CuzyjPA1uf pic.twitter.com/IDf4hbI1w2
— Arab News (@arabnews) October 13, 2019

It will be the first world heavyweight title fight ever to be staged in the Middle East and forms part of the month-long Diriyah Season, a spectacular season of world-class sport, global entertainment, and culture, launched last week at a glittering ceremony in the ancient city, the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Due to the unique venue, being staged outside of the UK or the US, the fight has already seen parallels drawn in the media to some of the most iconic fights in history, such as Muhammad Ali’s fights against George Foreman – “the Rumble in the Jungle” – and Joe Frazier – the “Thrilla in Manila.”

The launch followed the recent announcement that travelers from 49 countries across the world can now secure tourist visas online in just seven minutes to attend the festival and its events.

HRH Prince Khaled bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of Skill Challenge Entertainment (SCEE), said: “This is a historic moment for Saudi Arabia welcoming the first world heavyweight championship, as a nation we have started to pave the way for becoming a global player in the sports and entertainment industry and we have witnessed a real appetite for the boxing sport.

“This is the biggest fight that has taken place in the region to date and we are bringing it to Saudi Arabia on December 7 – the world is watching us and we promise to deliver an unparalleled experience. SCEE are a proud partner of the GSA bringing Clash on the Dunes to Diriyah Season, 2019.”

Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who is also Anthony Joshua’s manager, said: “This is the biggest boxing match on the planet, and it will be taking place in one of the most unique venues ever.

“We already know there is a great passion for boxing in the Kingdom, but AJ and Andy will want their fans to come and support them, from across the region and from the UK and the US and Mexico.

“It’s great news that these tourism visas have been launched, that’s a big step forward for the country and it means that boxing fans wherever they are can come witness an unmissable night. This fight will go down in history as one of the greats.”

Tickets go on sale at 9pm KSA time (10pm UAE, 7pm UK and 2pm US) and are available at www.diriyahseason.sa.

Prices below:

Category 1: SAR3,995Category 2: SAR2,995Category 3: SAR1,995Category 4: SAR995Category 5: SAR495

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