Scotland to play Israel behind closed doors

Oleksandr Usyk was crowned undisputed heavyweight champion in Riyadh on Saturday [Getty/TNA]

The Scottish national women’s football team will play a Euro qualifier against Israel behind closed doors at Hampden next week amid fears of “planned disruptions” to the game amid Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza. 

Saudi Arabia’s PIF has announced a major new partnership with the Women’s Tennis Association, which will see them sponsor the WTA tour and offer record price money for the tour finals, which well be played in Riyadh. 

In the world of boxing, Oleksandr Usyk defeated Tyson Fury in Riyadh to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in over two decades, but the rematch, which could open this year’s Riyadh Season, is already being planned. 

Meanwhile it’s a new era at Liverpool FC this season with Jurgen Klopp leaving, but what has happened to Mo Salah’s hair? 

Saudi Arabia’s PIF strike multi-year deal with women’s tennis

The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have struck a multi-year partnership, the latest in the wealth fund’s series of investments in the world of sports.

The new partnership means that the PIF will become the first-ever naming partner of the WTA’s rankings.

The PIF will sponsor the WTA’s rankings, and Riyadh will host the WTA finals for the next three years, according to reports, with the Saudi Tennis Federation offering record prize money of $15.25 million this year.

The wealth fund is said to be doing so in a bid to “support their shared ambition to grow women’s professional tennis and inspire more women and girls around the world to take up the game”.

Earlier this year, the PIF signed a similar multi-year deal with the WTA’s male counterpart, the ATP.

“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,” WTA Ventures CEO Marina Storti said in a statement.

Mohamed AlSayyad, head of corporate brand at PIF, said the organisation would “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,” he said in a statement.

Tunisian tennis sensation Ons Jabeur welcomed the move, though former greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have criticised their move due to the country’s human rights and women’s right records.

The announcement marks the latest move in a dramatic shift by the women’s tour, which was previously reluctant to embrace Saudi partnership.

Outgoing CEO Steve Simon said last year that Saudi Arabia posed big issues” as a host for women’s tennis events.

The latest move comes amid Saudi Arabia’s ventures into multiple sports, namely football, Formula 1 and boxing, amid criticisms of “sports-washing” given Riyadh’s human right record.

Scotland’s ladies to play Euro qualifiers against Israel behind closed doors 

Scotland Women’s two qualifying games against Israel for the 2025 Euro Championships will be played behind closed doors with no fans in attendance, the Scottish FA confirmed earlier this week.

The decision comes after intelligence said “planned disruptions” were going ahead, against the backdrop of Israel’s deadly war in Gaza, and protests against it.

The matches are at Hampden Park in Glasgow on May 31, with the “away” fixture due to be played in Hungary on June 4.

“Due to updated intelligence and following extensive security consultations with all key parties, the Scottish FA regrets to confirm that the forthcoming qualifier between Scotland and Israel at Hampden Park on May 31 will now be played behind closed doors,” said a statement from the Scottish Football Association.

“The stadium operations team were alerted to the potential for planned disruptions to the match and as a consequence we have no option but to play the match without supporters in attendance.”

Usyk triumphs over Fury in undisputed showdown in Riyadh, with rematch set for October

Oleksandr Usyk became the first undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in 25 years and confirmed his place in the pantheon of boxing greats as he defeated Tyson Fury by split decision in a historic night in Riyadh on Saturday.

The event, dubbed Ring of Fire, was by far the biggest event Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA), led by Turki Alalshikh, has so far put on.

The fight did not fail to live up to its billing, with both boxers involved in a thrilling high-level bout that many within the industry say could already be in contention for Fight of the Year.

Most boxing experts and fans say the right man won in Usyk, with the Ukrainian out-landing Fury and the British fighter getting a controversial standing eight count in a hair-raising ninth round.

At the time, Fury was beginning to take over the fight, picking Usyk off at range, with the 6’9″ so-called Gypsy King using his superior range well. At one point in rounds six and seven, it even looked like Fury could stop the Ukrainian.

However, Usyk, a mercurial southpaw known for his ability to tire opponents with his exceptional footwork and his exceptional engine, caught a tiring Fury with his trademark looping left hook.

A seriously hurt Fury then somehow managed to stay on his feet, withstanding a volley of hard blows from the Ukrainian before collapsing into the ropes, prompting the referee to jump in and give Fury a count. Many believe the referee should’ve stopped the fight, with some arguing he denied Usyk a decisive KO or TKO victory. 

With many believing Fury was finished, the Morecambe fighter somehow managed to recover and even win the last of the 12 rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards.

However, it was not enough, with Usyk winning by 115–112 and 114–113 on two judges’ scorecards, with the third judge giving it to Fury 114-113, giving Fury his first professional loss.  

The closeness and quality of the fight, however, will have been music to the ears of Alalshikh, setting the stage for an even more lucrative rematch.

On Wednesday, Fury’s promoter Frank Warren announced that they had triggered the rematch clause, with the second bout set to take place at the opening of Riyadh Season 2024 in October.

Mo Salah shows off shocking new look as he says goodbye to Liverpool’s Klopp era

Egypt and Liverpool fans have been left shocked as Mo Salah took to his social media channels on Friday to show off a surprising new look.

The Egyptian winger is known for his distinctive curled afro-style haircut and fairly thick beard, but now the 31-year-old has shaved his head and trimmed his beard into svelte shape.

Salah showed off his new look with pictures on X and Instagram, posing for a mirror selfie wearing matching beige shirt and shorts, accompanied by a grinning face emoji.

But it was his hair that caught the attention of fans.

One Liverpool fan outlet on X joked that Salah’s new hairstyle was “in solidarity” with incoming Liverpool manager Arne Slot, who is bald.

Another added that his look would make the Egyptian “more aerodynamic” and the “extra speed” generated by his lack of hair could make the difference in Liverpool’s bid to win next year’s English Premier League (EPL).

Salah will now take a break before rejoining Liverpool later this summer. Liverpool’s world-famous number 11 has one year left on his contract, which is set to expire in 2025.

There has been much speculation of the player, dubbed the ‘Egyptian King’, moving to the Saudi Pro League, but this has so far failed to materialise. 

This will be Salah’s first season at Liverpool without Jurgen Klopp, who departed the club last weekend after nine years in charge. The German brought Salah to Merseyside and combined him with Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to make up one of the most prolific front threes in world football, helping the Reds win the EPL and Champions League. 

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