Juan Mata: People Underestimate Football. It Gives Hope to so Many People

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, center, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against Leicester City at Old Trafford on in September 2016. (AFP)
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, center, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against Leicester City at Old Trafford on in September 2016. (AFP)
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Juan Mata: People Underestimate Football. It Gives Hope to so Many People

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, center, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against Leicester City at Old Trafford on in September 2016. (AFP)
Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata, center, is congratulated by his teammates after scoring against Leicester City at Old Trafford on in September 2016. (AFP)

Ninety minutes with Juan Mata is a time full of space and light. It’s a little like watching him play football, where his intelligence and vision are obvious, but Mata also arrives at a small hotel in Altrincham with a minimum of fuss. He is alone, without an agent or a sponsor, and interested in a detailed conversation rather than a routine interview.

The interview was held before Manchester United’s trip to Anfield to play against Liverpool. Mata has prospered before at Anfield, most notably when scoring both goals, including an acrobatic volley during a 2-1 defeat of Liverpool in 2015. It was a volatile afternoon marked by Steven Gerrard being sent off for a stamp 38 seconds after coming on as a substitute.

Asked what he thinks when the mayhem of a Premier League game bursts open, he replied, “I love it,” with unexpected relish for a slight figure who plays such technical football. “When the game gets crazy, it creates more space. It is a very physical league which is big on set pieces – but that sense of ‘Let’s forget about tactics and just attack’ helps me use that space.

“For me good football is not about how many skills you show or how many players you beat. It’s about making the right decision every time you have the ball. I see players that make 100 percent right decisions – Iniesta and Xavi – but there are also good English examples. Scholes, Lampard and Gerrard made many more right decisions than wrong decisions. You see so many players with physical qualities. They are quick and strong but they don’t make the right decisions. So for me the most important thing is to do what the game asks from you in the moment. You naturally know what is right which is why, even though you have to think about defensive duties and structure, once you’re on the pitch you have to be free in your mind.”

Such free thinking, and a compassionate ability to understand what footballers can also do off the field, underpins Mata’s landmark project Common Goal, which he launched in August. The Spain international, who has won the World Cup, European Championship and the Champions League, will donate 1 percent of his salary to Common Goal so that the money he and others raise can support football charities around the globe. Mata’s grand ambition is to reach a position where 1 percent of football’s entire multi-billion dollar industry is donated to charity.

“This is not about me,” Mata stresses. “Someone had to start and I did. But I hope a lot of us will commit fully to the project. The ultimate goal is that everyone related to football, including the media and fans, can help in different ways. The best way to start is with players because we bring greater attention. We are talking about 1 percent because we need a realistic structure that encourages other people to join. My own 1 percent doesn’t mean so much but if, one day, we reach 1 percent of the whole professional football revenue it will be great. And if people are financially not in a good situation they can join by spreading the word.”

If Mata is driven by a communal vision of football helping to transform society, the roots of his commitment are deeply personal. He remembers how the loss of his grandfather eight months ago sparked a desire to try to improve less fortunate lives. “It was a very sad day,” Mata says of his grandfather’s death. “He used to take me to training and watch all my games. Football was his passion and he was very happy he had a grandson that he could live football through. It meant a lot that he came to see the World Cup final and some Champions League finals. Obviously when I play well and win a trophy I feel happy about myself. But I feel even happier for my family because I know how they suffer when things are not going right. They suffer more than me. And they are probably happier than me when things go well.

“The night before he died we played Saint-Étienne and I made the assist for the Mkhitaryan goal that won the game. It was a Thursday and I was hoping to see him after the Capital One Cup final on the Sunday. But he died on Friday so I went to Spain on Saturday and came back for the final. We spoke one last time after Saint-Étienne. He was very weak but he said I made that nice assist. It’s probably the assist I will remember my whole life. He was very important for me also in thinking about football as a powerful tool to make so many people happy.

“I had been thinking about doing my own foundation to help others. But I was also encouraged by my sister. She has a great personality and lives in Iceland now. She’s a traveler, a free soul and I admire her way of living. So my family gave me the right mentality to think about football in a new way. I then met Jürgen Griesbeck [the founder of streetfootballworld, which now runs Common Goal]. He’s been working in football for 15 years and he started in Colombia after the death of Andrés Escobar [who was murdered] because he scored an own goal in the 1994 World Cup. We clicked and came up with the idea of bringing football together to help others. The idea is that it doesn’t have to be voluntary. We aim to have the 1 percent donation [embedded] within the structure of football.

“It’s not easy to put the idea into reality but Jürgen had the background and I had the belief and the contacts to communicate the message that the power of football is un-matchable. Wherever I go, I see kids playing football. Even if there is no grass and it’s just sweaters for goals you see how people love football.”

So far six other players – Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Serge Gnabry, Dennis Aogo and two US women internationals, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – have joined him in publicly pledging 1 percent of their salaries to Common Goal. Alex Brosque, the Sydney FC captain, has also just been confirmed. Former Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient and current Bournemouth player Charlie Daniels became the first English player to join Common Goal.

“We have more players that will be announced step by step,” Mata says. “We want to make the publicity long-lasting and not just sporadic. We also want to show it’s a global project and we have players from five continents. The response from everyone has been great – journalists, fans, my team-mates and other professionals. Sometimes we football players need a little push but as soon as you explain the project they understand. Our goal is to make it easy, efficient and transparent. So many players contacted me after they’d seen Common Goal and wanted to join straight away. That was such a happy moment. We’ve also had promising conversations with people that make decisions in football. I feel they’re keen to do this with us.”

Even if it takes years, does Mata believe that the aim of football donating 1 percent of its total revenue can be reached? “It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Sooner or later, I think it will be done.”

Mata has not yet spoken to José Mourinho, his manager, about the initiative. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get out of the routine of preparing for matches to think about these things. So maybe it’s a conversation for the off-season. It’s just a matter of finding the right moment to communicate with everyone.”

After their difficulties at Chelsea, where Mata was sidelined by Mourinho, it is striking how much has changed. Mourinho recently said: “I need Mata’s brain” at a resurgent United. “As a team we are playing with more confidence and more solidly than anything at United since I came here [in January 2014],” Mata says. “It was a difficult period after Sir Alex with three managers and 15 new players. But we are close to the consistency we want. We know United fans want exciting football and this season, especially at Old Trafford, we are scoring lots of goals. And, personally, I’m in a very good moment. I’m 29 so this is obviously the second part of my career. But I feel I have many good things to give.”

Having worked with Mourinho, amid completely different experiences, what defines his manager? “His hunger to win,” Mata says appreciatively. “And he has a clear picture of what he wants. People can disagree but he knows how things should be done. He has a strong character but you have to know him to really appreciate him. Since he came to United we are much closer and I know he loves to compete and win big games.”

Mata remembers the ordeal he suffered under Mourinho at Chelsea after he had been the club’s player of the season the two previous years. “He was keen to play a different kind of football and that was fair enough. But it was difficult for me after winning the Champions League, the Europa League and being player of the season. One of our ultimate goals is to feel loved and wanted so it was a psychological challenge. I was not free but, when you’re feeling that kind of blocked moment, just take the ball and play. Let it flow.”

Having lost his flow at Stamford Bridge did he discuss his situation with Mourinho? “No, we didn’t speak about it. We never argued but it became more and more difficult for me. The best option for everyone was me joining Manchester United. Now, it’s nice for me personally to see how we are reunited. So many people suspected personal problems between us but there was nothing like this. Now I’m playing a lot. I’m feeling important to the team and I have a good relationship with José on and off the field.”

At first, Mata’s mood must have dipped when he heard Mourinho was arriving at Old Trafford 16 months ago? “It was another challenge but my desire and my professionalism is not questioned. I know he likes that. I also think my football can add good things for our style. So I believe: ‘OK let’s try again. Let’s give the team what he wants me to give.’”

In Mourinho’s first competitive game as United manager Mata came on as a substitute in last season’s Community Shield – only to be substituted himself. “Yeah,” he says with a grin. “But it didn’t bother me. The only thing that bothered me was that some people tried to make it bigger than it was. You have to know how he thinks. I do. It was a game where he had six substitutes. I went on to the pitch [in the 63rd minute]. We were winning and in the last two minutes he thought: ‘I have one more substitute [Mkhitaryan] so why shouldn’t I use him?’ He put on the taller guy because he was being practical. I didn’t take it personally.”

The Guardian Sport



Saudi Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi Wins Gold at 2024 Para Athletics Championships in Japan

Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
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Saudi Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi Wins Gold at 2024 Para Athletics Championships in Japan

Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA
Al-Qurashi qualified for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games after winning the silver medal at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in the French capital - SPA

Saudi Paralympic champion Abdulrahman Al-Qurashi clinched the gold medal at the Kobe 2024 World Para Athletics Championships, held in the Japanese city of Kobe until May 27, SPA reported.

The Kobe 2024 games, serving as qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Summer Paralympic Games, brought together over 1,000 male and female athletes representing 145 countries.
Al-Qurashi claimed the gold medal in the T53 wheelchair 100m race, crossing the finish line with an impressive time of 14.86 seconds. He was followed by Brazilian athlete Fernandes da Silva, who secured the silver medal with a time of 15.05 seconds, while Tunisian athlete Mohamed Nidhal Khelifi took home the bronze, completing the race in 15.23 seconds.


Driven Barshim Still Spearheading Qatar’s Challenge at Fourth Games 

Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
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Driven Barshim Still Spearheading Qatar’s Challenge at Fourth Games 

Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)
Mutaz Barshim. (AFP)

Mutaz Barshim was at the center of one of most memorable moments of the Tokyo Olympics and the high jumper will again carry a large part of Qatar's hopes of medal success on his slender shoulders in his fourth Summer Games in Paris.

The 32-year-old's shared gold medal was not the only one secured by the Gulf State in Tokyo and Egypt-born weightlifter Fares Ibrahim will also be back to defend the middle-heavyweight title he won three years ago.

Sherif Younes and Ahmed Tejan, the beach volleyball duo who won bronze in Japan, are well on their way to qualification for Paris but it is the athletics competition, and Barshim in particular, that most Qatari eyes will be focused on.

Three-times a world champion and an Olympic silver medalist in London and Rio, Barshim said recently that he does not display his impressive collection of trophies for fear that complacency might blunt his competitive spirit.

"If you come to my house, you will not see any medals. There are no medals, no trophies, nothing," he told Eurosport.

"I hide everything because I don't want to feel that satisfaction that I've done so much. One day, hopefully, when I retire, I take everything back, I'll look at it and enjoy it. But for now, I want to do the most.

"I want to be mentioned as one of the high jump greats. I want my name to be mentioned whenever high jump is mentioned. I want to make it hard and difficult for the person who's coming behind me to break my records."

The biggest prize in Barshim's collection is the gold he won alongside Italy's Gianmarco Tamberi in Tokyo after both cleared 2.37 meters and sensationally agreed with officials that there would be two champions.

"That will never happen again," Barshim said. "It was a moment, and it was, I think, a historical moment, but it's not going to happen again. Now we must go and push the limit."

Barshim has shown no signs of resting on his laurels even a decade on from his jump of 2.43m that remains the second highest leap in history.

He had the second highest mark in the world last year (2.36) and has finished second in both the high jump competitions in the Diamond League this season.

"People are always asking me, 'How are you still going?', given the fact that I won everything," he said.

"For me, I look at the sport like there's not one single goal that I'm looking for. I want to be a world champion, and then it's done. No, I've achieved that. It's good. What can I do more? I want to win it twice, three times. I want to do more."

Qatar sent 15 athletes, including two women, to Tokyo and, with eight athletes already qualified, will be hoping for a similarly sized delegation in Paris.

The other athletes already qualified are shooters Saeed Abu Shareb and Rashid Saleh Al-Athba and track athletes Abu Bakr Haider, Ismail Daoud, Bassem Hemeida and Abdulrahman Samba.


Manager Pochettino’s Departure from Chelsea Shocks Ex-Players 

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
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Manager Pochettino’s Departure from Chelsea Shocks Ex-Players 

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)
Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino watches from the sidelines during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea FC and AFC Bournemouth in London, Britain, 19 May 2024. (EPA)

Chelsea's decision to part ways with manager Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday surprised many former players who believe it could torpedo the club's endeavor to return to the top of the Premier League.

Pochettino joined Chelsea ahead of the 2023-24 campaign after the club finished 12th in the previous season.

The early months of the Argentine's tenure were far from convincing as the expensively assembled squad took time to gel, but a run of five straight wins in their last five league games lifted them to sixth place and secured European football.

Former Chelsea player Craig Burley did not hold back on his assessment of Chelsea's decision, saying it displayed a lack of vision.

"It's all a bit of a mess, honestly," Burley told ESPN.

"He wasn't without fault this year, but they did finish strong. They (Chelsea) just don't have a vision, they're stumbling from one manager to the next... There's not really many managers out there right now."

Ex-Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet said Pochettino's exit was difficult to understand, telling Sky Sports: "Everyone close to Chelsea was expecting a great summer and something important for next year.

"But we don't know the inside. I was shocked, I couldn't believe it. It was kind of impossible."

Ex-Chelsea and France defender Frank Leboeuf said Pochettino's departure had plunged the club's future into uncertainty.

"It's a pity, because they've been exceptional for the past few games, but now we don't know what we're going to face next season," Leboeuf told ESPN.

"We don't know where we'll go with all these young players. I have doubts that it'll be better than it was this season."

Chelsea's Cole Palmer, named the Premier League's young player of the season after a superb campaign, thanked Pochettino in a post on Instagram. "Thank you for everything you have done for me and making my dreams come true. All the best," Palmer said.

According to reports in British media, Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, Sporting Lisbon's Ruben Amorim and ex-Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi are among the leading candidates for the vacant managerial role at Chelsea.


Djokovic Eager to Regain Form Ahead of French Open Defense 

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Djokovic Eager to Regain Form Ahead of French Open Defense 

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic reacts during a press conference on the eve of his first match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tennis tournament, in Geneva, on May 21, 2024. (AFP)

World number one Novak Djokovic is hoping to get a few matches under his belt at this week's Geneva Open ahead of his title defense at Roland Garros, after recovering from a freak injury he suffered this month.

Djokovic has struggled this season and has yet to win a tournament in 2024.

The 24-times Grand Slam champion's preparations for the French Open have been far from ideal, beginning with a loss to Casper Ruud in the Monte Carlo semi-finals.

He then opted to skip the Madrid Open before losing in the third round of the Italian Open, two days after he was hit on the head by a fan's water bottle while signing autographs.

The Serbian, who said he felt out of sorts during his 6-2 6-3 loss to Alejandro Tabilo, told reporters on Tuesday: "The head is good. All is well. I've trained for over a week and I'm feeling fine.

"I've dedicated quite a bit of time with my new fitness coach to build the endurance, to build physical strength and capabilities that I need in order to play a best-of-five Grand Slam on the physically most demanding surface, which is clay.

"So, hopefully, I'm going to get more than one match here in Geneva, that's the goal and then let's see what happens in Paris."

In his first match in Geneva on Wednesday, Djokovic will face German Yannick Hanfmann, who beat three-times Grand Slam champion Andy Murray earlier in the tournament.

"The reason why I chose to come and play is because I feel like, at this moment, there is no better practice for me than match play," Djokovic said.

"I feel like I need more matches, even if it's one match, two matches, three, four hopefully. It's good for me, because that's the way for me to try to find that kind of form that I need for Roland Garros."


Germany and Real Madrid Great Toni Kroos to Retire After Euro 2024 

Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
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Germany and Real Madrid Great Toni Kroos to Retire After Euro 2024 

Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)
Football - Champions League - Real Madrid Press Conference - Ciudad Real Madrid, Valdebebas, Madrid, Spain - May 8, 2023 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos during the press conference. (Reuters)

Toni Kroos will retire from football after trying to give Real Madrid yet another Champions League trophy and lead Germany to the European Championship title at home.

The 34-year-old German midfielder said Tuesday it was a tough decision, but that the timing felt “somehow perfect."

“I always wanted to leave at the peak of my abilities and I know, and from a lot of examples you see, that it isn’t easy, that you can miss that point in time very quickly,” Kroos said on a podcast he hosts with his brother.

“I never wanted to have the feeling at the end that the club, the fans, the people around me would have to tell me, ‘That’s enough,’ or that I’d spend another two or three years sitting on the bench.”

Madrid thanked Kroos and hailed his achievements with the team.

“Real Madrid would like to express its gratitude and affection to Toni Kroos, a player who will go down in Real Madrid history as one of our club and international football’s greatest legends,” the club said.

Kroos was a World Cup champion with Germany in 2014 in Brazil, and had a successful career with Bayern Munich as well, helping it win one Champions League and three German league titles.

Madrid will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on June 1 in London. His European trophies with Madrid came in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022. He won the Champions League with Bayern in 2013.

Kroos has been with Madrid since 2014, helping it win 22 titles, including four European Cups and four Spanish leagues. He made 463 appearances with the club, which called the midfielder “a key player in one of the most successful periods of Real Madrid’s 122-year history.”

“Toni Kroos is one of the great players in Real Madrid history and this club will always be his home,” club president Florentino Pérez said.

Madrid said Kroos will remain forever in the hearts of every fan “thanks to his mastery of the game and the fact he has given his all for our jersey, a steadfast example of the values of Real Madrid.”

Kroos' contract with Madrid was expiring at the end of this season and the club and the player had reportedly been negotiating an extension.

Kroos said in February he agreed to play for Germany at Euro 2024 after a request from coach Julian Nagelsmann. He has not played for the national team in almost three years, since Germany’s loss to England in the second round of the last European Championship.

Kroos was named last week in Germany's preliminary squad for the tournament.

He had said a few months ago that he didn't know what would happen next season.

“I thought it over for a really long time and in the last few days I’ve reached the conclusion that this season, this wonderful season, the 10th season with Real, is also my last season with Real,” Kroos said Tuesday.

“And anyone who has paid attention when listening to me over the last few months or years will have heard the sentence at one time or other that the only option for me was to end my career at Real Madrid. And if you can put one and one together, you know that my last season with Real means it's over this summer. No more Real, no more football.”


Saudi Arabia Gears up for 1st Esports World Cup with Over 2,500 Contestants in July 

Riyadh is set to host the first-ever edition of the Esports World Cup from July 4 to August 25. (Esports World Cup)
Riyadh is set to host the first-ever edition of the Esports World Cup from July 4 to August 25. (Esports World Cup)
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Saudi Arabia Gears up for 1st Esports World Cup with Over 2,500 Contestants in July 

Riyadh is set to host the first-ever edition of the Esports World Cup from July 4 to August 25. (Esports World Cup)
Riyadh is set to host the first-ever edition of the Esports World Cup from July 4 to August 25. (Esports World Cup)

Riyadh is set to host the first-ever edition of the Esports World Cup from July 4 to August 25.

The thrilling competition will bring together more than 2,500 male and female players representing elite teams and clubs at Boulevard Riyadh City. The event features a staggering $60 million prize pool, the largest in esports history.

Powered by the Esports World Cup Foundation (EWCF), the tournament aims to propel the esports industry forward while creating promising opportunities for players and multi-team clubs.

With such an unprecedented prize pool, the cup is poised to become a milestone for the EWCF, which seeks to attract top talent and celebrate the popularity of this exhilarating field.

The Esports World Cup, the largest event in esports history, will unite the global e-gaming community, including players, fans, game producers, and publishers, with a focus on fostering connections and collaborations. Partners, producers, and publishers will have a unique opportunity to engage with a diverse fan base on a global scale.

The event aims to support the efforts of Saudi Arabia and the global community in elevating esports and highlighting its positive impact on societies and lifestyles.

It will also play a vital role in promoting cultural exchange and encouraging brands and companies to invest in the esports world.


Injured Neymar Set to Miss Start of Next Saudi Season 

Neymar. (AP)
Neymar. (AP)
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Injured Neymar Set to Miss Start of Next Saudi Season 

Neymar. (AP)
Neymar. (AP)

Neymar is set to miss the start of the next Saudi Pro League season as he recovers from a serious knee injury, Al Hilal's coach said Tuesday.

The Brazilian attacker suffered the injury in October and missed much of the current campaign, but Al Hilal still won the league for a record-extending 19th time earlier this month.

The Saudi league traditionally starts in August and the former Barcelona and PSG star will also miss next month's Copa America.

"All I know now is that the time given to Neymar to recover and with similar injuries it is approximately from 10 to 11 months," Al Hilal coach Jorge Jesus told reporters in Riyadh.

"If we calculate mathematically, he will not be ready at the beginning of pre-season training," added Jesus, whose champions have two games left in the current league campaign.

The 32-year-old Neymar had surgery in Brazil in November for a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus damage.

He was stretchered off in tears during Brazil's 2-0 loss to Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier in October after colliding with an opponent.

Neymar was ringside to see Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury to win boxing's first undisputed world heavyweight championship in 25 years in Riyadh on Sunday.


Saudi PIF, WTA Sign Multi-Year Partnership to Accelerate Growth of Women’s Tennis Globally 

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and WTA announced a multi-year partnership that will support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game. (PIF)
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and WTA announced a multi-year partnership that will support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game. (PIF)
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Saudi PIF, WTA Sign Multi-Year Partnership to Accelerate Growth of Women’s Tennis Globally 

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and WTA announced a multi-year partnership that will support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game. (PIF)
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and WTA announced a multi-year partnership that will support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game. (PIF)

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and WTA announced on Monday a multi-year partnership that will support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game.

The partnership will also boost and develop initiatives that support players at all levels, said PIF in a statement.

“As a Global Partner of the WTA, PIF will become the first-ever naming partner of the WTA Rankings, the highest official rankings for women’s professional tennis players. The PIF WTA Rankings will track players' journeys, and PIF will work with the WTA to celebrate and support players' progress and their inspirational, unique stories,” it added.

In addition, as part of its commitment to inspire youth, 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.

In February 2024, PIF announced its partnership with the ATP and became the official naming partner of the PIF ATP Rankings. PIF has now become the only global partner across both the WTA and ATP Tours. PIF has also partnered with combined WTA 1000 and ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid, in addition to the Beijing WTA 1000 and ATP 500 events.

The new partnership between the WTA and PIF follows the recent announcement that the season-ending WTA Finals will be hosted in Riyadh for the next three years, starting in 2024, and featuring the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the race to the WTA Finals.

“The WTA partnership adds to PIF’s growing sponsorship portfolio, which focuses on investing in people, initiatives and partnerships; and embraces the brand’s four strategic pillars: inclusivity, sustainability, youth and technology. This partnership aligns with numerous other PIF initiatives that focus on women in sport,” stressed the statement.

Mohamed AlSayyad, Head of Corporate Brand at PIF, said: “Through our partnership with WTA, PIF will continue to be a catalyst for the growth of women’s sport. 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,” he added.

Marina Storti, CEO of WTA Ventures, 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,” she stated.

PIF’s program of sponsorships uncovers new potential, investing in people, initiatives and partnerships that drive positive impact on the global stage. PIF is a catalyst for transformation globally, uplifting and enhancing sport for players, fans, tournaments and stakeholders at every level.


Saudi Sports for All Federation Delegation Meets with Greek Sports Executives

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) concludes visit to Athens, Greece - SPA
The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) concludes visit to Athens, Greece - SPA
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Saudi Sports for All Federation Delegation Meets with Greek Sports Executives

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) concludes visit to Athens, Greece - SPA
The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) concludes visit to Athens, Greece - SPA

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) concluded a visit to Athens, Greece, from May 7 to 10. The visit focused on exchanging expertise, exploring international best practices in community sports, and learning about popular sports facilities and effective techniques for promoting sports participation.oard of Directors, and Executive Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini, met with the Greek Minister of Education, Religious Af
The federation delegation, led by Prince Khalid bin Alwaleed bin Talal, Chairman of the Bfairs, and Sports, Jiannis Frutis, and the Secretary General for Sports Affairs, George Mavrotas.

Discussions covered governance, the role of sports in promoting mental health and quality of life, and the unveiling of the "Kouros" platform, a unique digital tool that tracks sports participation and performance data. This platform aids in data-driven decision-making and talent development across 63 federations. The Greek team also reviewed financial incentives for sports clubs and innovative community sports programs, SPA reported.
The delegation also met with the Mayor of Athens, Haris Doukas, and his team to discuss the importance of community sports policies and initiatives. The Greek side highlighted efforts to reduce car usage and encourage cycling and other means of transportation. Plans for international events, including the "Tour of Hellas," were discussed to activate cycling trails and promote cultural exchanges among community members.
On the last day of the visit, the SFA delegation toured the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the Peace and Friendship Stadium, and the Athens Olympic Museum to explore and transfer international best practices to the Kingdom.


Tickets for Whittaker vs. Chimaev at UFC's First Event in Saudi Arabia Now on Sale

Tickets for Whittaker vs. Chimaev at UFC's First Event in Saudi Arabia Now on Sale
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Tickets for Whittaker vs. Chimaev at UFC's First Event in Saudi Arabia Now on Sale

Tickets for Whittaker vs. Chimaev at UFC's First Event in Saudi Arabia Now on Sale

The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, is set to host the first event for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world's premier mixed martial arts organization, on June 22. The main fight will be between Australian Robert Whittaker and Russian Khamzat Chimaev, SPA reported.
Tickets for the event are available to the public through the webook platform.
Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (26-7-0) is returning to the octagon to continue his winning streak in the highly anticipated matchup at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh against Khamzat Chimaev. Whittaker, a professional mixed martial artist since 2009, has left a significant mark on the sport, becoming the UFC middleweight champion at UFC 213. He most recently defeated Brazil's Paulo Costa at UFC 298.
Chimaev (13-0-0) is looking to maintain his undefeated record and continue his rise in the middleweight rankings as a rising star. He has achieved six wins by knockout, five by submission, and eight wins in the first round.
As part of the UFC's inaugural event in the Kingdom, fans will witness an exhilarating showdown in the octagon as Russia's Sergei Pavlovich (18-2) faces compatriot Alexander Volkov (37-10) in a clash of heavyweight titans.