Verstappen Takes Pole Position for Season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Verstappen Takes Pole Position for Season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
The three-time F1 champion's 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren's Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You've just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren's Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I'm very happy with that lap because I didn't expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It's a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors' championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday's race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. According to The Associated Press, the seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.



Son Apologizes for Bust-up with South Korea Team-Mate Lee 

A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with a picture of Son Heung-min (L) and Lee Kang-in (R), at a railway station in Seoul on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with a picture of Son Heung-min (L) and Lee Kang-in (R), at a railway station in Seoul on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Son Apologizes for Bust-up with South Korea Team-Mate Lee 

A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with a picture of Son Heung-min (L) and Lee Kang-in (R), at a railway station in Seoul on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast with a picture of Son Heung-min (L) and Lee Kang-in (R), at a railway station in Seoul on February 21, 2024. (AFP)

Son Heung-min apologized on Wednesday for his role in a bust-up with South Korea team-mate Lee Kang-in at the Asian Cup and urged fans to forgive the Paris Saint-Germain player.

South Korea were beaten 2-0 by Jordan at the tournament earlier this month and it later emerged that skipper Son had dislocated a finger in an altercation with Lee on the eve of the semi-final.

Both players released social media statements on Wednesday, with Tottenham's Son posting a picture of the pair together, smiling and with arms around each other's shoulders.

The 23-year-old attacking midfielder Lee, who has been blamed by fans for the fracas and dumped by advertisers, said that he had travelled to London to apologize to Son in person.

Addressing the controversy publicly for the first time, Son wrote in a statement on Instagram: "I am sincerely sorry for causing trouble and will work harder to make the national team grow further."

The incident at the Asian Cup reportedly happened after some younger players in the national squad, including rising star Lee, rushed through their meal so they could leave early to play table tennis.

This displeased Son and some of the older players because meals on the eve of big games are traditionally seen as a time for bonding.

As tension grew Lee tried to punch Son, local media reported. Lee's representatives denied a punch was thrown.

The altercation was cited as a factor in the dismissal last week of coach Jurgen Klinsmann after 12 months in the post.

"I think my actions could be criticized," Son wrote.

But he added: "I would do it again for the team if the same situation arrived because it's one of the captain's duties."

Lee has become public enemy number one since details of the flashpoint emerged, but Son said it was time to move on.

"Kang-in has been going through a very difficult time after the incident," Son wrote.

"Please forgive him with an open mind.

"Kang-in is sincerely reflecting on his actions and has apologized to me as well as every national team member."

Last week, Lee apologized and did so again on Wednesday.

"My short-sighted thoughts and improper behavior have let down Son, the national team and football fans," Lee said in an Instagram post published around the same time as Son's.

"Through a long conversation I came to understand the heavy responsibility that weighs on Son as captain and reflect on myself."


Christian Horner with Red Bull Team at Start of F1 Testing in Bahrain Despite Ongoing Investigation 

Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner crosses the pit lane during the first day of the Formula One pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner crosses the pit lane during the first day of the Formula One pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Christian Horner with Red Bull Team at Start of F1 Testing in Bahrain Despite Ongoing Investigation 

Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner crosses the pit lane during the first day of the Formula One pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on February 21, 2024. (AFP)
Red Bull Racing's team principal Christian Horner crosses the pit lane during the first day of the Formula One pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on February 21, 2024. (AFP)

Team principal Christian Horner was with Red Bull as Formula 1 preseason testing began Wednesday even as he faces an ongoing investigation by the team's parent company into an alleged claim of misconduct.

Horner was alongside the team's chief technology officer, car designer Adrian Newey, as Max Verstappen drove the team's new car at the start of Wednesday's morning session. It is the start of the Dutch driver's campaign for a fourth consecutive world title.

The Red Bull parent company said Feb. 5 it was investigating allegations of misconduct toward a team employee. Horner denies any wrongdoing and has continued in his role as team principal during the investigation.

There are three days of preseason testing from Wednesday through Friday ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at the same venue next week.

Each day is split into two sessions, and teams can only have one driver on track in each. That meant Lewis Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the year to join Ferrari, was sitting out the first day as his teammate George Russell drove.

McLaren driver Lando Norris said he would wear a helmet with the design used by 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran, who died in December. De Ferran was McLaren's sporting director when Norris first raced in F1 in 2019 and had more recently been an adviser to the team.

“We lost someone really special to us at the end of last year, he was a dear friend of mine and he’d been with me pretty much since I came into Formula 1. Someone who I not only had many laughs and great times with, but someone who helped me out on and off the track whenever I needed it,” Norris posted on social media.

“This is the design he won the Indy 500 with, and I’ll be wearing it today as my little way to say thank you for everything and to let him know we’re thinking of him and he’s still very much part of McLaren. I hope you like it. This one is for you Gil.”


Bayern to Part Ways with Coach Thomas Tuchel at Season End 

Bayern Munich's head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures before the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, Germany, 17 December 2023 (re-issued 21 February 2024). (EPA)
Bayern Munich's head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures before the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, Germany, 17 December 2023 (re-issued 21 February 2024). (EPA)
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Bayern to Part Ways with Coach Thomas Tuchel at Season End 

Bayern Munich's head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures before the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, Germany, 17 December 2023 (re-issued 21 February 2024). (EPA)
Bayern Munich's head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures before the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart in Munich, Germany, 17 December 2023 (re-issued 21 February 2024). (EPA)

Bayern Munich have decided to end their collaboration with coach Thomas Tuchel at the end of the current season despite a contract to 2025, the club said on Wednesday. 

Bayern lost their last three games in all competitions, including a 3-0 defeat to league leaders Bayer Leverkusen and have now dropped eight points behind them in the Bundesliga. 

They were also beaten 1-0 by Lazio in last week's Champions League last first leg. 

Tuchel had taken over in March 2023 from Julian Nagelsmann, but despite leading them to the Bundesliga title last season on the final matchday, they have not shown the form this season that saw them dominate German football for the past decade. 

Bayern CEO Jan-Christian Dreesen said there would be a "new direction" next season with a new coach. 

"In a good, open discussion, we came to the decision to end our working relationship by mutual agreement in the summer," Dreesen said. "Our goal is to pursue a new footballing direction with a new head coach for the 2024/25 season." 

"Until then, every individual at the club is expressly called upon to achieve the maximum possible in the Champions League and Bundesliga. I also explicitly hold the team accountable in this regard." 

The coach, who in the past had been in charge at Borussia Dortmund, Paris St Germain and also won a Champions League title with Chelsea in 2021, said his remaining time in Munich would be focused on the remaining goals in the Bundelsiga and the Champions League. 

His first full season at Bayern had been hit by a string of injuries to key players and by what he had said was a relatively thin squad at the start of the campaign despite the arrival of Bundesliga record signing Harry Kane. 

"We have agreed that we will end our working relationship at the end of this season," Tuchel said. "Until then, I will of course continue to do everything I can with my coaching staff to achieve maximum success." 

Bayern host RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga on Saturday. 


Alcaraz Retires Hurt from Rio Open Match Due to Ankle Injury 

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz (R) and Brazil's Carlos Monteiro (L) greet after Alcaraz abandoned the ATP 500 Rio Open tennis match due to an injury, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 20, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz (R) and Brazil's Carlos Monteiro (L) greet after Alcaraz abandoned the ATP 500 Rio Open tennis match due to an injury, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 20, 2024. (AFP)
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Alcaraz Retires Hurt from Rio Open Match Due to Ankle Injury 

Spain's Carlos Alcaraz (R) and Brazil's Carlos Monteiro (L) greet after Alcaraz abandoned the ATP 500 Rio Open tennis match due to an injury, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 20, 2024. (AFP)
Spain's Carlos Alcaraz (R) and Brazil's Carlos Monteiro (L) greet after Alcaraz abandoned the ATP 500 Rio Open tennis match due to an injury, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 20, 2024. (AFP)

Two-time major winner Carlos Alcaraz retired hurt from the Rio Open on Tuesday after two games due to a right ankle injury.

The retirement at 1-1 meant Brazil's Thiago Monteiro advanced to the second round. He will face his compatriot Felipe Meligeni Alves for a place in the quarterfinals.

Alcaraz twisted his ankle in the first game after only two points. He received medical attention, broke Monteiro's serve, but after the Brazilian pulled level he shook his rival's hand and left the court walking as his coach Juan Carlos Ferrero looked concerned.

The Spanish player said his doctors said the injury was not serious.

“These things happen, even more so on clay,” Alcaraz said, “It was not a problem of the court, I got injured as I switched direction. That happens in this kind of surface.”

Alcaraz said he does feel pain when he walks and that he will have medical scans on Wednesday.

“I came back to the game to see whether I could carry on or not. I spoke to the physio on the court and we decided together I should continue to see if this would get better. It didn't happen, so we chose to be careful and abandon due to precaution," he said.

Monteiro said it was strange to go through after playing so little time against Alcaraz.

“On the court it didn't look so serious, but then I saw it in the big screen and it was a bad twist. Now I can only cheer for him to recover, he is a star, a dominant one in the new generation,” the Brazilian said.

Alcaraz was the runner-up at the clay court tournament in Rio de Janeiro last year, and its winner in 2022.

The injury adds to Alcaraz's below-par performances at the Argentina Open last week. The 20-year-old, who won the title in 2023, was eliminated by Chile's Nicolás Jarry in the semifinals in Buenos Aires.

Earlier, three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka was beaten 7-5, 6-4 in the first round by Argentina's Facundo Díaz Acosta. The 23-year-old Díaz Acosta beat Jarry in the final to win his first title on Sunday at the Argentina Open.

Tuesday's match was delayed for almost two hours due to rain in Rio de Janeiro. Diaz Acosta's next opponent will be his compatriot Sebastián Báez.

The 38-year-old Wawrinka won the 2014 Australian Open, 2015 French Open and 2016 US Open, where he defeated the world No. 1 player in the final on all three occasions.

Díaz Acosta played in Argentina as a wild-card entry with a career-high ranking of 87. He rose to No. 59 on Monday.

“I had to have a lot of patience because of the rain,” Díaz Acosta said. “Stan is a legend, it was amazing to play against him.”


Jota Out for Months, Says Klopp, as Liverpool’s Injury Crisis Deepens

Football - Premier League - Brentford v Liverpool - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - February 17, 2024 Liverpool's Diogo Jota touches hands with Brentford's Sergio Reguilon as he is stretchered off after sustaining an injury. (Action Images via Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Brentford v Liverpool - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - February 17, 2024 Liverpool's Diogo Jota touches hands with Brentford's Sergio Reguilon as he is stretchered off after sustaining an injury. (Action Images via Reuters)
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Jota Out for Months, Says Klopp, as Liverpool’s Injury Crisis Deepens

Football - Premier League - Brentford v Liverpool - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - February 17, 2024 Liverpool's Diogo Jota touches hands with Brentford's Sergio Reguilon as he is stretchered off after sustaining an injury. (Action Images via Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Brentford v Liverpool - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - February 17, 2024 Liverpool's Diogo Jota touches hands with Brentford's Sergio Reguilon as he is stretchered off after sustaining an injury. (Action Images via Reuters)

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota will be missing for months because of injury, manager Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday.

The Portugal international hurt his right knee in the first half of Liverpool's 4-1 win at Brentford in the English Premier League on Saturday.

“We have Diogo with a knee issue ruled out — it will obviously take months,” Klopp said ahead of Liverpool's home match against Luton on Wednesday.

The injury potentially threatens Jota's involvement in the European Championship in Germany starting in June.

Liverpool’s injury crisis has deepened, with nine senior players unavailable heading into a key period of the season that includes the English League Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday.

Klopp didn't give a return date for injured pair Curtis Jones or Alisson Becker and he described Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai as “longer term” problems. Striker Darwin Nunez was replaced at halftime against Brentford as a precaution.


Germany World Cup Winner Andreas Brehme Dead at 63

(FILES) Argentina's Diego Maradona (R) fights for the ball with German Andreas Brehme (C) and his teammate Thomas Berthold during the final match of the 1986 Football World Cup Federal Republic of Germany vs. Argentina on June 29, 1986 at Mexico City.  (Photo by AFP)
(FILES) Argentina's Diego Maradona (R) fights for the ball with German Andreas Brehme (C) and his teammate Thomas Berthold during the final match of the 1986 Football World Cup Federal Republic of Germany vs. Argentina on June 29, 1986 at Mexico City. (Photo by AFP)
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Germany World Cup Winner Andreas Brehme Dead at 63

(FILES) Argentina's Diego Maradona (R) fights for the ball with German Andreas Brehme (C) and his teammate Thomas Berthold during the final match of the 1986 Football World Cup Federal Republic of Germany vs. Argentina on June 29, 1986 at Mexico City.  (Photo by AFP)
(FILES) Argentina's Diego Maradona (R) fights for the ball with German Andreas Brehme (C) and his teammate Thomas Berthold during the final match of the 1986 Football World Cup Federal Republic of Germany vs. Argentina on June 29, 1986 at Mexico City. (Photo by AFP)

World Cup winner Andreas Brehme, whose late penalty in the 1990 final against Argentina in Italy handed Germany their third world title, has died at the age of 63, his family said.
The attacking full back and dead-ball specialist became an instant Germany football great when his spot kick earned them a 1-0 victory over Diego Maradona's Argentina in the World Cup final in Rome.
Tributes and condolences poured in from clubs across the Bundesliga and Europe.
"A magnificent player, a great Inter fan. Ciao Andy, forever legend," former club Inter Milan said on social media.
Brehme also played for Bayern Munich and Real Zaragoza among others before retiring in 1998 following his return to Kaiserslautern and lifting the Bundesliga title with them.
He also won the German league title with Bayern Munich while also lifting the Serie A trophy and a UEFA Cup with Inter.
"FCK mourns the passing of Andreas Brehme," Reuters quoted Kaiserslautern as saying. "He wore the Red Devils' shirt for a total of 10 years and became German champion and German Cup winner with FCK."
"In 1990 he fired the German national team to the World Cup title with his penalty and became a football legend. The FCK family is in deep mourning and our thoughts are with Andi's family and friends."
Brehme won 86 caps for Germany, scoring eight goals, including the one he is best remembered for.
"Andreas Brehme will forever be in our hearts, as a World Cup winner and, more importantly, as a very special person. He will forever be part of the FC Bayern family," Bayern Munich said.


Messi Denies Political Snub Was Behind Hong Kong No-show

Lionel Messi stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami's 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4 - AFP
Lionel Messi stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami's 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4 - AFP
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Messi Denies Political Snub Was Behind Hong Kong No-show

Lionel Messi stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami's 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4 - AFP
Lionel Messi stayed on the bench throughout Inter Miami's 4-1 win against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4 - AFP

Lionel Messi denied his absence from a match in Hong Kong two weeks ago that angered China was a political snub, but was caused by an injury.

The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner is idolized by fans in China but stayed on the bench during Inter Miami's 4-1 win in a pre-season tour match against a Hong Kong select XI on February 4.

A near 40,000 sellout crowd, who had paid upwards of 1,000 Hong Kong dollars ($125) to see the 36-year-old superstar in action, chanted "Refund!", gave thumbs-down signs and booed Messi and the team's co-owner David Beckham after the final whistle.

Some nationalist politicians interpreted Messi's absence as a snub to China after the Argentina great was fit enough to take the field for 30 minutes in a friendly a few days later in Japan.

In a video posted on China's Weibo social media platform late on Monday, the World Cup-winning captain rejected claims that his no-show was "for political reasons".

If that had been the case, he said, he "would not have travelled" to Hong Kong in the first place.

"As everyone knows, I always want to play and be in every game," he said, AFP reported.

Messi spoke in his video of a "very nice and very close" relationship with China, a country with which he said he had "done a lot of things".

His reason for not playing was due to injury, he said, specifically "inflammation of an adductor" muscle.

Fans on Weibo reacted quickly to the video, some in support of Messi.

"I believe the player I have always loved would never look at his fans with any kind of prejudice," wrote one user, adding, "he always values every fan."

"I still can't understand how such a supreme footballer, the greatest of all time, can be pilloried online to the extent that he is considered not to love China just for missing a friendly match," another fan wrote.

Not everyone was appeased.

"Turns out it's still hard to say sorry after all," read one Weibo comment.

"Give it a rest," said another.

Messi starred last June when Argentina beat Australia in Beijing in a friendly, scoring in the opening minutes in front of an adoring crowd.

But next month's Argentina friendlies against Nigeria in Hangzhou and Africa champions Ivory Coast in Beijing were cancelled after Messi failed to play in Hong Kong.


Saudi Arabia Wins Gold in Sharjah International Paragliding Championship

The championship was organized by the Emirates Aerosports Federation (EAF) in collaboration with the Sharjah Sports Council in the UAE
The championship was organized by the Emirates Aerosports Federation (EAF) in collaboration with the Sharjah Sports Council in the UAE
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Saudi Arabia Wins Gold in Sharjah International Paragliding Championship

The championship was organized by the Emirates Aerosports Federation (EAF) in collaboration with the Sharjah Sports Council in the UAE
The championship was organized by the Emirates Aerosports Federation (EAF) in collaboration with the Sharjah Sports Council in the UAE

Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad bin Ali Al-Asiri has won the gold medal in the 2024 Sharjah International Paragliding Championship, which concluded on Monday.

The championship was organized by the Emirates Aerosports Federation (EAF) in collaboration with the Sharjah Sports Council in the UAE.

Al-Asiri managed to accumulate a total of 28 points, surpassing all participants by a significant margin, further solidifying his championship record.
He had secured silver and bronze medals in the World Cup Championship in Kazakhstan, in addition to a bronze medal in the European Cup Championship in Slovenia.


Saudi Arabia to Host SnowBlast KSA Cup

The SnowBlast KSA Cup will feature the participation of 30 competitors, including top international figures in skiing and snowboarding
The SnowBlast KSA Cup will feature the participation of 30 competitors, including top international figures in skiing and snowboarding
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Saudi Arabia to Host SnowBlast KSA Cup

The SnowBlast KSA Cup will feature the participation of 30 competitors, including top international figures in skiing and snowboarding
The SnowBlast KSA Cup will feature the participation of 30 competitors, including top international figures in skiing and snowboarding

Riyadh is scheduled to host end of February the SnowBlast KSA Cup, a snow skiing show and competition that blends artistry, creativity, and outdoor skill performance as part of the Riyadh Season events.

The SnowBlast KSA Cup, held for the first time in the region, represents a unique global event. It marks the inaugural hosting of snow skiing sports in Riyadh, taking place from February 26 to 29.

The event will feature a range of distinctive winter experiences for visitors, aiming to promote the sport and create local and international skiing competitions.

The global event features skiing and snowboarding performances, along with the participation of 30 world and Olympic champions in skiing sports.

The event is set on over 500 tons of snow, with a slope length of 150 meters, a height of 30 meters, and a width of approximately 20 meters.

During the SnowBlast KSA Cup competitions, each contestant will perform three jumps, with the total of their best two jumps being calculated. The results and points of the contestants are displayed on large screens, while the audience enjoys live commentary in both Arabic and English.

There will also be various winter activities and artistic performances for families and children, starting at 4:00 PM. These include snowball battles, building snowmen, simulated snowfall, and roaming winter activities featuring artistic and musical performances.

The SnowBlast KSA Cup will feature the participation of 30 competitors, including top international figures in skiing and snowboarding, such as X Games champions, Olympic medalists, and national heroes.

Additionally, there will be an international judging panel for freestyle skiing events.


Depleted Milan Miss Chance to Go Second with 4-2 Loss at Monza 

AC Milan's French forward #09 Olivier Giroud reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between AC Monza and AC Milan at the Brianteo stadium in Monza, Italy on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
AC Milan's French forward #09 Olivier Giroud reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between AC Monza and AC Milan at the Brianteo stadium in Monza, Italy on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
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Depleted Milan Miss Chance to Go Second with 4-2 Loss at Monza 

AC Milan's French forward #09 Olivier Giroud reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between AC Monza and AC Milan at the Brianteo stadium in Monza, Italy on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
AC Milan's French forward #09 Olivier Giroud reacts at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between AC Monza and AC Milan at the Brianteo stadium in Monza, Italy on February 18, 2024. (AFP)

AC Milan missed out on the chance to move into second in the Serie A standings when they lost 4-2 at mid-table Monza on Sunday after being reduced to 10 men early in the second half.

Milan remained third in the standings on 52 points, two adrift of second-placed Juventus and 11 behind leaders Inter Milan, who have a game in hand.

The Rossoneri, who beat Stade Rennais 3-0 at home in the Europa League in midweek and travel to France for the second leg on Thursday, suffered their first league loss in more than two months to end their unbeaten run of nine games.

Matteo Pessina and Dany Mota put Monza ahead in the first half before substitutes Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic pulled Milan level in the second. Warren Bondo and Lorenzo Colombo secured the hosts all three points with a goal apiece in the dying minutes.

Milan went down to 10 men in the 52nd minute when Luka Jovic was sent off for violent conduct against Monza captain Pessina, with the referee overturning his original decision to just book the Serbia striker after consulting the VAR screen.

"We made mistakes that ruined the match. When you concede four goals it feels wrong to say our first half-hour was good, but that is true," Milan coach Stefano Pioli told DAZN.

"Going a man down made it even more difficult. After equalizing we should've been sharper to defend better. The team felt confident and wanted to go on to win."

With Giroud, Pulisic and Rafael Leao starting on the bench, Milan had early chances through Jovic and Theo Hernandez before a shot by Samuel Chukwueze was denied by Monza goalkeeper Michele Di Gregorio.

Pessina gave Monza the lead from the spot just before the break, sending Milan keeper Mike Maignan the wrong way after the penalty was awarded for a foul by Malick Thiaw, and Mota doubled the advantage for the hosts in first-half stoppage time.

Di Gregorio had to be substituted late in the first half after a clash of heads with defender Andrea Carboni.

Pulisic, Leao and Tijjani Reijnders all took to the field following halftime and Giroud joined minutes later but things got worse for Milan when they had Jovic sent off.

Giroud eventually pulled a goal back for the visitors with a shot from close range, netting a Pulisic headed pass in the 64th minute, and the American equalized in the 88th with a curled shot inside the far post.

But feisty Monza did not settle for a draw, with Bondo and Colombo sealing their historic first win and points over Milan in Serie A.

"These are serious errors; we all should've done better. It is a painful defeat but one that we must learn from," the Italian manager added.

"We stopped after a long unbeaten run in Serie A, third place is not solid yet and second place is also not far away."