Paulinho: ‘Everyone Said: “ His Career Is Over.” Now I’m at Barça. That’s Football’

 Paulinho has established himself in Barcelona’s starting XI since his €40m move from Guangzhou Evergrande. Photograph: Manel Chico
Paulinho has established himself in Barcelona’s starting XI since his €40m move from Guangzhou Evergrande. Photograph: Manel Chico
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Paulinho: ‘Everyone Said: “ His Career Is Over.” Now I’m at Barça. That’s Football’

 Paulinho has established himself in Barcelona’s starting XI since his €40m move from Guangzhou Evergrande. Photograph: Manel Chico
Paulinho has established himself in Barcelona’s starting XI since his €40m move from Guangzhou Evergrande. Photograph: Manel Chico

“I told him I didn’t want to play any more. He was phoning and phoning but I said: ‘I’m not going to play.’” The calls came, the president on the line, but José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior – better known as Paulinho, hardly known at all then – had made up his mind. He had headed home to São Paulo, yet rather than returning to his boyhood club he was giving up on the game. He had had enough, aged 19. “In Lithuania they had racially abused me, in Poland they hadn’t paid me, and I thought: ‘I don’t need this,’” he says. “I said to my family: ‘I’m not playing football again.’”

Which was when his then-wife intervened, telling him to think about his parents – a council worker and a supermarket manager who had supported him since he started playing at the age of five. Ditching it all would, she said, show a lack of respect to them. Paulinho and his wife had just had a baby daughter too and, besides, she asked: ‘What else can you do?’ It is a good question. What would he have done? Paulinho smiles. “I really don’t know,” he says. “She said: ‘The only thing you know how to do is play football.’” And so that is what he did.

About a month later, Paulinho rejoined Pão de Açúcar in the fourth division, effectively an amateur. Almost a decade on, he is preparing for the world’s biggest club game, a starter for Barcelona in Saturday’s clásico. The highest-scoring midfielder in Spain, his team are six points clear at the top and 11 ahead of their rivals, and this summer he will be in the heart of the Brazil team who are favourites in Russia. “If someone had said then that I would be preparing to play in the World Cup and at Barcelona, I would have said: ‘Never!’” he grins. “Never, ever.”

However the “then” Paulinho is talking about is not 2008, it is 2015. It is not that he gave up once a long time ago; it is that others routinely gave up on him. He tells his story steadily, dating every decision. “It’s been a rollercoaster,” he says. He has played in six countries in three continents, been a Copa Libertadores champion and relegated too, suffered the greatest humiliation in Brazil’s history and been abused, unpaid, written off. And now look.

Paulinho’s professional career began when, aged 16, he left home for Lithuania; it ended aged 26 when he left London for China. Or at least it was supposed to, Guangzhou his particular graveyard. “When I went, everyone said that was it: my career was over,” Paulinho says. The question is simple: why go? The answer is simple, stark too: there was a prospect worse – staying at Tottenham.

After a year at Vilnius, Paulinho left for Lodz, returning to Brazil in the summer of 2008. He won promotion with Pão de Açúcar before joining Bragantino in the second division. From there he headed to Corinthians, where he won the Brazilian title, the Libertadores and the Club World Cup. Having turned down Internazionale, he joined Tottenham the following year for a club-record £17m. The Premier League should have suited him, he admits, but within two years he was desperate to go. “I wouldn’t say it was a relief to leave Spurs but it was clear I had to,” he says. “It was a difficult time.

“[André] Villas-Boas bought me in July 2013 and in December Villas-Boas goes. He’d wanted me, we’d spoken a lot, and then six months later Tim Sherwood was in charge. There was no problem with him – he was very young, a good coach – but the team wasn’t doing well and he came under pressure to change things. He did things a little differently but I still played the last eight or nine games that season. Then came the change from Sherwood to Mauricio Pochettino.”

Something else came too. As Paulinho sets the scene, Belo Horizonte comes into view. He was brought on at half-time in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup with the hosts 5-0 down to Germany and, as he discusses his return to Spurs afterwards, it is clear how much of an impact Brazil’s 7-1 defeat had. “The problem was that this came after the World Cup, with me trying to get back to some normality. I was the last back and to have gone out of the World Cup that way with Brazil at home …” he says pausing, his train of thought lost a little.

“I’ve never talked much about that game: maybe once or twice, that’s it. There’s no point. You can lose a game by two or three and say: ‘Oh we made this mistake, we made that mistake, we lost.’ But if you lose 7-1 what can you say? It is something that can’t happen. But it happened. And after that, I had to go back to my club. You have a full season ahead of you when [you hope] you can recover from losing a World Cup semi-final 7-1 at home.”

It did not work out that way. Paulinho had started 28 league games in his first season in north London; in his second it was three. “My first game [under Pochettino] is in my position but after that I played in every position apart from my own,” Paulinho says, marking out roles with his fingers. “If we play in a three, I’m here. If we play in a two, I’m here. “He had a different system, and if you’re not in your position in a football as competitive as England it’s difficult.

“I was playing on the left wing: the míster put me there and I had to play there, because I wanted to play. I had no problem with Pochettino. I told him: ‘This position is not mine but if you want I can play there.’ But in the long term you’re not going to be at your best and over the last six months I wasn’t playing regularly.

“I thought the moment had come to leave. Where? I didn’t know. But I wanted to leave. The coach wasn’t trusting in me so there’s no reason to stay. It was April, May 2015, a month left. I’d spoken to the president [chairman Daniel Levy] and asked him if he could help. He was a buenísimo person and he said: ‘Let’s wait and see if you have anything.’”

What he had was China. And that was pretty much that. “There were two more offers in Europe but they were loans and I didn’t want that,” Paulinho says. Luiz Felipe Scolari wanted him at Guangzhou so he left London behind, not returning until the international friendly at Wembley last month. He says he went without bitterness. “I’m not going to say bad things about England just because I had a bad time; it was a pleasure to play the Spurs players recently. I speak to Kyle Walker sometimes and it was nice to see Danny Rose and Eric Dier.”

Going to China is where the story is supposed to end. Although Paulinho insists he has not got a bad word for Guangzhou, a city of more than 13 million people that he describes as “perfect”, he knew there was a risk, as if his career no longer counted. Was the football there too easy? Did the players actually care? It is tempting to see players as complicit in their own demise but his case contradicts that. China turned out to be a restart.

“It’s not the same,” he concedes. “The level didn’t compare with Spain, Italy, England, Germany; it’s totally different. But in 2016 more players arrived: Gervinho, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi, Jackson Martínez – then Oscar and Hulk arrived and the league grew. There are new laws making it more difficult to buy players and another one obliging teams to have three under-23s, so I imagine it will drop again a little, but the standard rose after 2015.

“It’s not top, top, top but there are games that are very physical and teams like Guangzhou and Shanghai who have very good Chinese players and foreign signings. We had eight or nine Chinese national team players. And as a player, the motivation is the same because it comes from [within] you, whether you’re in front of 4,000, 5,000 or 100,000. I also had the national team to play for.”

Six titles followed, including the Asian Champions League. Tite, the national coach, managed him at Corinthians and believed in him but still: he was in China. And yet Brazil did call – and so, unexpectedly, did Barcelona. Paulinho was preparing to take a free-kick when Brazil were facing Argentina and Lionel Messi sidled up. “Are you coming to Barcelona?” he asked. “If you’re taking me, I’m going,” Paulinho replied before telling Willian to take the free kick: his head had gone.

“My representative called. My attitude was: ‘When you have something concrete, let’s sit down and decide, [but] I don’t need anything crazy in my career right now.’ I had three or four years’ contract left. I was clear: either I go to Barcelona, or I stay, nothing else. We were in the knockout phase of the Asian Champions League and Scolari wanted to keep me but he knew it was a unique opportunity. I’m 29, it’s Barcelona. I kept saying that to him: ‘This is Barcelona. We’re not talking about any club here: this one, that one, the other. No, we’re talking about Barcelona.’”

Guangzhou resisted and Barcelona had to pay his full buyout clause on the final day of the Chinese market. Supporters were furious – not so much in Guangzhou as in Catalonia. In the wake of Neymar’s departure, Barcelona were in the midst of a crisis, the catalogue of mistakes and problems growing, and some saw Paulinho’s signing as the culmination – definitive ‘proof’ the club was adrift and the board incompetent.

Few came to his presentation and much was made of a miscontrol as he performed the obligatory kick-ups. It was as if he symbolised everything that was wrong. €40m. For a 29-year-old. From China. Who failed at Spurs. And who did not fit the Barcelona model.

That, though, was part of the point, while he also admits that he has talked often with team-mates about the way Barcelona play – especially with Messi, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suárez. “We didn’t have a player of his profile,” the coach, Ernesto Valverde, said. “He has important technical and physical qualities. He arrives in the area from deep; we needed someone who breaks through lines.” Paulinho says: “I’ve always been this kind of player: since youth level I’ve been a midfielder who can arrive and finish. I’ve almost never played in Busquets’ position. My way of playing is similar to Lampard.”

Under Valverde, Barcelona remain unbeaten in 24 matches across all competitions and Paulinho has played his part. After his first start, in which he scored one and provided an assist, the Brazilian Football Federation joked: “Is he bad?”; Dani Alves suggested Paulinho would end up proving “cheap”. He has six goals and two assists in the league. His name has been chanted at the Camp Nou. “I’m happy I’m playing well and helping,” he says. “I didn’t expect things to go so well.

“I’ve heard it said that I’m silencing the critics so many times but it’s not that: I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. I don’t play for the critics, I play for my team-mates. For three, four years I haven’t listened to anything,” he says, sounding rather like he might have done. “People always talk and always will. ‘He’s good now because he’s at Barça’, ‘He was only good then because he was in China’, blah, blah, blah. When I was at Bragantino and I went to Corinthians it was the same; it was the same at Tottenham and in China. I’ve had that since the beginning.”

Paulinho once again reflects on the beginning of his career. “It was hard leaving everything behind at only 17 but I went. And then after the problems with racism, having to fight to be paid, I didn’t want to carry on. I was fighting for things that should have been my right. I wasn’t asking for a lot, for something I wanted – just to be respected and paid.

“My family didn’t have a lot but we were OK, we could live, so I thought: ‘I don’t need this.’ It wasn’t that I didn’t like football but I didn’t want to play any more. After a while they persuaded me. We laugh about it now: ‘You see! Imagine if you’d stopped back then.’ I’ve had a lot of experiences and I wouldn’t change a thing. I went from there to Spurs and from Spurs to China, because I wanted to play. 2014 was a very difficult year; 2015 was hard too, with everyone talking: ‘Bah, Paulinho’s career is over.’ Everyone said that was it; they said the level was no good, but I won six trophies and within a year I was back in the Brazil team. Now this. That’s football. It was a rollercoaster; no one gave me a chance, but here I am.”

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.