Thursday, February 02, 2023 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Sahan Bidappa
Sahan Bidappa
Sahan Bidappa is a sports writer with Gulf Times. He joined Gulf Times after having worked for more than 10 years with leading newspapers in India. Sahan misses covering cricket in Qatar but has adeptly channelized his talents towards tennis, football and Olympic sports.
Saeed al-Sulaiti trains at the at the go-karting track of the Losail Circuit and Sports Club.
Time away from track motivates Saeed al-Sulati to keep racing

Saeed al-Sulaiti displayed a childlike enthusiasm as he took to the track after a three-month break from training. The three-time QSTK 600 champion, along with other leading Qatar riders like Abdullah al-Qubaisi and Mishaal al-Naimi, were able to put on their riding suits at a training camp organised by the Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation at the go-karting track of the Losail Circuit and Sports Club (LCSC). The camp has come at the right time, particularly for al-Sulaiti. The 35-year-old, who finished runner-up to his protégé al-Qubaisi last season, is in the twilight of his career and was considering the option of giving up competing and going into full-time coaching.  But the coronavirus pandemic – which put a halt to track activities – gave some time for al-Sulaiti to ponder over his future.  “Before the coronavirus I was thinking of maybe it’s time to rest and just coach the young riders. But after this break I realised that I can’t stay without the bike. It has given me the motivation to keep going for some more time. I know it’s a difficult time for everybody. But for me, it has given me an opportunity to clear up a lot of things in my head and I see myself racing in the future,” said al-Sulaiti, even as sweat dripped down his face after a long training session. Now that he has continued to carry on racing, al-Sulaiti is excited to be back on bike, even though the hot weather has made it slightly unpleasant for all the riders. “It’s amazing to be back. I don’t remember ever training at this time of the year. It’s extremely hot. We have been wanting to ride for a long time. For us riders it’s just a mental thing, we just wanted to put our suits on and start riding. It’s good to be back and we are looking forward to more. I hope the weather gets better, which I doubt, but we’ll keep riding,” he said. Al-Sulaiti said he kept himself busy during the hiatus by following a fitness regime. “I have been working out at home to stay fit. Let me tell you this, whoever wants to be fit, he can do it in the gym or without the gym. It’s all about the mental thing. If you want to do it, you will do it. I have been working out whenever I get a chance,” he said.  In the past, QMMF sent its top riders to Spain for training but with the threat of Covid-19 still existing, any future exposure trip from the federation is uncertain. However, al-Sulaiti was keen to train for a month in Spain in his personal capacity, if travel opens up. “Personally, I already have a bike in Spain. I am just waiting for them to open the port there and just do a month of training there. I am really looking forward to going there and getting ready for the championship here,” he revealed. “There is no plan to race in Spain. It’s obviously very difficult. But there is a plan to go and train there. The weather is great there now. To go and just try the bike on a different circuit is even better than racing here on one circuit. So, it’s very important to go and train there and I will try my best to do it. Maybe by October or November. That’s a personal plan. I don’t know anything about QMMF’s plan to train abroad for the riders. But for me personally a few months ago I decided that I will go to Spain whenever everything opens up there, refresh my mind and just train,” he added. Last year, al-Sulaiti was asked by the QMMF to groom a bunch of young riders for the future with particular focus on al-Qubaisi and Hamad al-Sahouti. And al-Sulaiti was happy to pitch in.  “Last year as a coach, I was delighted to see Abdullah (al-Qubaisi) winning QSTK600 and also Hamad winning 300cc. As a coach, I won both the championships. There are some upcoming new riders in the academy, but lately I have been away from the academy. They have Spanish coaches to take care of them. I always keep supporting the young guys. Right now, I am only focusing on Abdullah and Hamad,” he said. Al-Sulaiti was also on fire during the online championship organised by the QMMF during the lockdown, as he left the young riders in his wake with some impressive PlayStation skills. “For me personally I loved it. I have been training in simulation for the last five years. So, when QMMF conducted the online championship, I thought the young guys would be very good at the PlayStation. Obviously they have been practising more than me. “But like I said before, when I was in the world championship in 2016, it was a big help to learn the tracks from the simulators. It was very easy to catch up for me with the fastest riders in the world,” he said.

SC Secretary-General Hassan al-Thawadi.
Schedule release important milestone, says al-Thawadi as four games a day confirmed

The release of the match schedule for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is an important milestone, said Hassan al-Thawadi, the Secretary-General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) yesterday. Eight stadiums will host 64 matches, with Al Bayt Stadium holding the opening match of the tournament, which will feature the Qatar national team. The final will be played at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium on December 18. “It is extremely important because before the Supreme Committee used to talk about future developments and infrastructure. Now, with almost everything in place it is great to announce the official schedule for the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” al-Thawadi said. The SC Secretary-General said Qatar was well ahead in terms of preparation for the football extravaganza, which will be held for the first time in the Middle East. “Over the last 10 years we have always been talking about preparation. I’m very proud to say we’re very well advanced in terms of preparation. Most of the infrastructure projects are finalised, stadiums are coming into the pipeline gradually by the end of next year as well. So I think announcing the match schedule is a great milestone when it comes to operational preparedness for the tournament,” he said. With four group matches scheduled every day for the first eight days of the World Cup – kick-off timings being 13:00, 16:00, 19:00 and 22:00 – it also opens up the possibility of supporters attending more than one game per day as all venues lie within a 75-km radius. Kick-off times for the final rounds of group games – which kick-off simultaneously – and knock-out matches will be at 3pm and 7pm. All eight stadiums will host at least one knockout match, with Al Rayyan Stadium, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium not scheduled to host games after the last 16. Education City Stadium, Lusail Stadium, Al Thumama Stadium and Al Bayt Stadium will host the quarter-finals, with Al Bayt Stadium and Lusail Stadium also semi-final venues. Al-Thawadi called the compact nature of the World Cup – the tournament being four days shorter than the last two World Cups – as special. “First, fans can watch more than one match in a day. It is special because stadiums are so close to each other. That is a great opportunity for fans to watch two games in a day – something that was not possible in other tournaments,” he said. “Second, fans do not need to travel to follow their team. As soon as they reach Qatar, they can stay in one hotel and all they have to think about is the football matches. Third, this is the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted by a Middle Eastern Arab country. It is an opportunity to bring cultures together and for people from different backgrounds and nationalities to come together,” he added. Scheduling four matches a day is going to be quite unique: CEO al-Khater Meanwhile, Nasser al-Khater, Chief Executive Officer of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said hosting four matches per day will pose an operational challenge to the organisers but was confident it would be implemented perfectly. “The World Cup in Qatar will uniquely have four matches played per day. Being a compact country, scheduling four matches a day is going to be quite unique, it’s going to give people the opportunity to attend more than one match per day. It does come with its challenges, which means we need to make sure that operationally we plan it right,” he said. “We schedule matches depending on the locations of the stadiums, however a lot of the benefits are people who aren’t attending the World Cup get to watch the World Cup at very convenient times, just by the fact of Qatar’s location, in the region or in the world means that 3.5 billion people get to watch the World Cup at very convenient times,” al-Khater added. The Qatar 2022 CEO revealed that 85 percent of work on the stadiums had been completed, while 90% of road and infrastructure projects have been met with. “We’re excited; I mean the whole team is excited with two years to go. Obviously there’s still a lot of work to be done. The past 10 years we were really focusing on infrastructure, whether they are the stadiums, the training sites, the road networks, the metro. All of that is coming nicely into place right now, with more than 90 percent of the work finished on the roads and in the infrastructure. When we talk about stadiums more than 85 percent of the work has been complete, and now the last two years we’re focusing on our operational readiness and making sure we get the fan experience plans in place,” he said. Talking about the Al Bayt Stadium, the venue for the opening match of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, al-Khater said: “The opening match for the World Cup in Qatar 2022 will take place in Al Bayt Stadium, which is the northernmost stadium in Qatar and for this World Cup, it has a capacity of 60,000 spectators. It is a true symbol and reflection of our hospitality, of our culture here in Qatar and in the region. It resembles a tent which we call Bayt Al Shah ar, it’s a very impressive structure and we look forward to welcoming fans in 2022.”

Education City Stadium will officially be opened on June 15.
QSL to restart with first match at Education City Stadium

The QNB Stars League will resume on July 24 at the newly-completed Education City Stadium with Qatar Sports Club taking on Al Rayyan in the Round 18 fixture. Education City Stadium, one of the venues for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, will play host to remaining five rounds of QNB Stars League along with two other arenas – Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium and Al Janoub Stadium. All three stadiums possess the cooling technology, which will help the players cope with the searing temperatures. The kick-off times for the matches would be 4:45pm and 7pm. The QNB Stars League was brought to a halt after 17 rounds due to the Covid-19 pandemic with Al Duhail at the top of the table, four points clear of Rayyan. According to the schedule released yesterday, the remaining rounds are set to be completed by August 22 – with 30 matches to be played in just under a month’s time. Two other matches will be played on the first day of restart of the league. Al Gharafa will take on Al Arabi at the Al Janoub Stadium, while Al Sadd meet Al Khor at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium, with both games kicking off at 7.00pm. Duhail, meanwhile, will be in action on July 25. The league leaders resume their campaign with a match against Umm Salal at the Education City Stadium. Bottom-placed Al Shahaniya then take on Al Ahli at Al Janoub, while Al Wakrah clash with Al Sailiya at Jassim bin Hamad. The marquee clash between Duhail and reigning champions Al Sadd is slated for August 8 at the latter’s home ground. Al Sadd’s chances of regaining the title are slim as Xavi Hernandez’s side are 10 points behind Duhail. The first step towards the resumption of football will be held today and tomorrow, where players and officials from 12 teams will undergo Covid-19 tests under the supervision of Ministry of Public Health at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Stadium in Al Sadd. The players and team officials who test negative will then check into a team hotel on Wednesday. The first phase of the training will be held from Wednesday, June 10-24, with teams taking precautionary measures and maintaining social distancing. The second round of Covid-19 tests is scheduled for June 24 and 25, from when the teams will train in small groups until the restart of the league. The protocol developed by the QSL is to reduce and control the risk of virus spreading between team members and players, as they return to training and action. It follows all preventive and precautionary measures, and a workshop was organised for all technical staff involved to explain the procedures for training during the first phase.

Al Arabiu2019s Pierre Lasogga (third from right) celebrates his goal with teammates during the Amir Cup quarter-final against Al Ahli yesterday. PICTURES: Noushad Thekkayil
Lasogga brace fires Arabi past Ahli to Amir Cup semis

Pierre Lasogga struck a brace as Al Arabi became the first side to book a place in the Amir Cup semi-finals with a 3-0 win over Al Ahli yesterday. The quarter-final encounter at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium was a lopsided affair as Arabi completely dominated an Al Ahli side, which struggled for full 90 minutes. The scoreline could have got much worse for Ahli, but for some poor finishing by Arabi players. Ahli’s defence was shambolic on the night, as they were beaten for pace repeatedly by forwards Lasogga and Hamdi Harbaoui. Arabi, who are unbeaten in four matches in QNB Stars League, had defeated Ahli twice in the league this season and the Heimer Hallgrimsson’s men maintained the stronghold on their rivals. Arabi went 1-0 up in the sixth minute after Ahli’s Mohamed Abdulnaser al-Abbasi gave the ball away in the midfield which was latched on to by Ahmed Fathi Abdulla. The Arabi skipper then found Lasogga, who beat goalkeeper Ivanildo Rodrigues in one-on-one with a cool finish. Arabi’s lead increased in the 22nd minute with Abdulla and Lasogga involved in the action again. Abdulla charged from the right hand side and struck fiercely, which brushed past Rodrigues and hit the post. The rebound, however, fell into the lap of Lasogga, who tapped into the empty net. With momentum in their side, and Ahli midfield and defence totally disorganised, Arabi went for the kill but Harbaoui wasted couple of easy chances. The second half played out in a similar manner, with Arabi enjoying most of the possession. In the 58th minute, Harbaoui spurned a golden opportunity but with just Rodrigues to beat the Tunisian forward’s heavy touch sailed into the stands. Ahli had a rare chance to score in the 60th minute as captain Nabil El-Zhar found himself in the Arabi box, but took one too many touches before shooting wide. Arabi sealed the game in the 69th minute, with substitute Khalaf Saad Khalifa finding the net after a deflection off a defender. Lasogga had a chance for hat-trick in the 72nd minute but the German forward’s strike came off the post. “I think we started very well and we deserved to get in front. We should have ideally scored a lot more as we had lots of chances. We played very well and are happy to be in the semifinals,” said Lasogga.   The former VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen striker said Arabi will take it one game at a time as they seek to reach their first Amir Cup final in 26 years. In the semis, they will take on winners of the second quarter-final between Al Markhiya and Al Rayyan, which will be played today. “I think in a Cup anything is possible. We want to take one game at a time and we will give our best. I think we have been playing well in QSL, so we just have to continue doing well,” Lasogga added. Ahli have shown improvement after Nebojsa Jovovic took over the reins in December and are eighth in the league, but yesterday they were well below-par, which defender Shane Long acknowledged. “We are disappointed. We went 2-0 down quickly and made ourselves with so much to do. We came back much better in the second half but overall we didn’t deserve to win today,” Long said. “We just got to move on to the league now. We have a quality side but this was just a one-off poor game. Today, Arabi were far better, we just have to shrug it off and focus on the league now,” added the Australian.

Germanyu2019s Daniel Deusser astride 10-year-old Mare Killer Queen VDM celebrates after winning the Longines Grand Prix during the Global Champions Tour at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab yesterday.
German ace Deusser claims Longines Grand Prix in style

Daniel Deusser capped a terrific last 10 days in Qatar as the German World No 3 clinched the Longines Grand Prix at the Global Champions Tour yesterday. At the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab, Deusser astride 10-year-old Mare Killer Queen VDM conquered the 1.60m class – the marquee event of the opening leg of the tour. It was the second biggest win for the pair in a week, with Deusser having led Killer Queen VDM to victory in the Grand Prix at the CHI Al Shaqab. Deusser, who had topped the time sheets after the first round, was the last to go in jump-off, which had seven combinations. And the German rider showed his class and mastery of the course as he galloped to victory with Killer Queen VDM in 42.54 seconds. Belgian rider Nicola Philippaerts finished second with Katanga vh Dingeshof, while Jerome Guery was third on Quel Homme de Hus. Deusseur was ecstatic after becoming the first rider to book a place in the LGCT Super Grand Prix at the GC Prague Playoffs in November. “I am still speechless to be honest. She is still quite young at 10 years old and I think she has just shown everyone that she is one of the best horses in the world right now. The winner of each Grand Prix qualifies for the season-ending Super GP. So being able to qualify for that in the first event of the season really takes a lot of pressure off me going forward. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win again,” the 38-year-old said. “I haven’t decided which events to take part in next, but I want to be competitive and win more Grand Prix events this season ,” added Deusseur, who took home €123,750 in prize money. Max Kuhner was the first to go in the jump-off with nine-year-old Elektric Blue P but a four-second penalty spoiled his chances. Marcus Ehning was faster with 15-year-old Funky Fred after they came home in 42.79 seconds, but had one rail down. Guery, who was fifth to go, was the first one to go clear as he crossed the line with Quel Homme de Hus in 46.27 seconds. Philippaerts and Katanga vh Dingeshof followed next and were two seconds faster but Deusser and Killer Queen VDM produced a super fast round to ease to a comfortable win.   Philippaerts twins seal London Knights’ victory Meanwhile, London Knights stamped their authority on the first leg of the Global Champions League team series after a last-minute drama crushed the hopes of their closest rivals St Tropez Pirates. Twin brothers Nicola and Olivier Philippaerts emerged triumphant in the opening GCL competition of the new season with an impressive clean scoresheet and an unbeatable time. Paris Panthers, featuring Gregory Wathelet and new signing Penelope Leprevost, were the only other team to produce a full set of clear rounds giving them a well-deserved second place. “The pressure is on. We have won the last two years, but we started off with a win so that gives great motivation for the next few shows. The season is still very long but we choose our best horses for the events and we hope to do well again in the Super Cup, all the teams work towards it,” said Olivier Philippaerts. Nicola added: “It’s really cool to win with my brother for the first time. We’re very happy, both horses jumped very well. It’s very nice to have a kick off here and win straight away in Doha.” Berlin Eagles, also with a strong new signing in German rider Philipp Weishaupt, finished third on four faults. After the first round, St Tropez Pirates were in pole position but Pieter Devos dramatically put them out of contention when his mare Claire Z refused at the narrow white wall leaving new teammate Deusser to deliver a necessary clear round to keep them in the top tier finishers.

German rider Daniel Deusser gallops to victory with 10-year-old bay mare Kiana van het Herdershof in the CSI5* 1.55m class during the second day of the Global Champions Tour at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab yesterday. At bottom, Qataru2019s Khalifa Abdulla al-Khaldi who won the Small Tour class in the Hathab series.
Deusser shows his class

Daniel Deusser was a class apart yesterday as the German rider won the feature event on the second day of the Longines Global Champions Tour.   Barely a week after his stunning Grand Prix win at the CHI Al Shaqab, Deusser was back at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab and the German World No 3 produced another masterclass as he led 10-year-old bay mare Kiana van het Herdershof to a phenomenal victory.  Deusser and Kiana van het Herdershof were the only pair in the seven-combination jump-off to produce a double clear round in the tricky CSI5* 1.55m course and they were rewarded for their clinical show. Their 40.54-second in jump-off wasn’t the fastest of the night, but it was enough for Deusser to take home €37,125 in prize money as his rivals fumbled.  Belgium’s Pieter Devos on Espoir and Britan’s Scott Brash with Hello Shelby were faster than Deusser, but a fault each meant they had to be content with second and third place respectively.  “In the first round it was difficult to get a clear round, the triple combinations were  very tricky,” Deusser said. “It was a little funny ride as we had only seven riders in the jump off. There were not many clears, so yes I am happy. Kiana van het Herdershof is a careful horse. She is impressed with the Al Shaqab Arena, that’s why  she respects the pole so much. We (in the Global Champions League) started really well yesterday. I did well today and I hope it continues tomorrow also,” he added.  The marquee event of the opening leg of the LGCT will be held today, with riders battling it out for the CSI 5*Grand Prix of Doha 1.60m, which carries a whopping €375.000 in prize money.   Meanwhile, in yesterday’s 1.50m speed class, Belgium’s Jerome Guery took the top honours with his mount Eras Ste Hermelle. The pair cut all the corners to pull off an incredible fast clear round in 71.59 secs to clinch a narrow win.  Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden astride 12-year-old gelding Best Boy came tantalisingly close to victory but missed out on Guery’s time by a mere 0.04 second. Eckermann was the first rider to attempt a difficult inside turn, and while it paid off, he had to frustratingly settle for second spot.   Frenchman Roger Yves Bost took another third spot as the veteran rider had a sensational run and covered the ground rapidly on Castleforbes Talitha to finish in 71.79 seconds.  The 1.50m speed class had 34 starters, and riders really had to keep their foot to the floor and ensure pinpoint accuracy to make their mark in this competitive class.  There were only seven clear rounds over 1.50m course featuring a testing double of tall uprights. Switzerland’s Jane Richard Philips and Kenia van ‘T Laerhof produced the fastest round of the day on the clock but an unlucky pole at fence 10 put them out of contention for the win.     Sobirjonov scoops Hathab  Medium Tour title   In the Hathab National series, which is being held along with LGCT, Abdushukur Sobirjonov of Uzbekistan clinched the Medium Tour title. Sobirjonov astride 12-year-old stallion Demilion was in fine form as the pair clinched the 1.30m class one second clear, after coming home in 51.60 secs.  Qatar riders took the other two podium spots. Khalid Mohamed al-Emadi finished second with Eglantine du Castelet, while Ghanim Nasser al-Qadi was third on Numero Uno – T.  The Small Tour title was won by Qatar’s Khalifa Abdulla al-Khaldi, who put on a flawless round with 17-year-old bay Dusty in 52.15 secs.  Qatar’s Hamad Nasser al-Qadi came second with Hugo Z, while Uzbekistan’s Abdushukur Sobirjonov finished third with Kapitel.    Results  Table A, FEI Art. 238.2.2 - CSI5* with jump-off (1.55m)  1. Daniel Deusser (GER); Horse: Kiana van het Herdershof; First round time: 76.15 secs; jump-off time: 40.54 secs; Prize money: €37,125   2. Pieter Devos (BEL); Espoir; 75.46 and 37.90 secs; €29,700  3. Scott Brash (GBR); Hello Shelby; 75.09 and 39.67 secs; €22.275    Table A, FEI Art. 238.2.1 - CSI5* against the clock (1.50m)  1. Jerome Guery (BEL); Horse: Eras Ste Hermelle; 71.59 secs; Prize money: € 12,775  2. Henrik von Eckermann (SWE); Best Boy; 71.63 secs; €10.220,00 EUR  3. Roger Yves Bost (FRA) Castleforbes Talitha; 71.79 secs; €7,665      National Hathab Series -- accumulator Medium Tour (1.20/1.30m)  1. Abdushukur Sobirjonov (UZB); Horse: Demilion; 51.60 secs; Prize money: QR5,000   2. Khalid Mohammed al-Emadi (QAT); Eglantine du Castelet; 51.71 secs; QR4,000   3. Ghanim Nasser al-Qadi (QAT)

Franceu2019s Kevin Staut (centre) celebrates after winning the feature event on the opening day of the Longines Global Champions Tour at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab yesterday. Britainu2019s Scott Brash (left) finished second, while Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost was third.
Staut wins LGCT’s opening feature in style at Al Shaqab

Kevin Staut won the feature event on the opening day of the Longines Global Champions Tour after the Frenchman topped the CSI5* 1.55m speed class with his 11-year-old bay Visconti du Telman yesterday.  In a thriller at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab, Staut and Visconti du Telman managed to beat Scott Brash and his 11-year-old gelding Hello Shelby by a mere 0.11 seconds. Staut took victory with his massive striding Visconti du Telman as the pair cruised home in 63.55secs.  Brash and Hello Shelby just fell short after timing 63.66secs and settled for the second spot. Veteran Roger Yves Bost finished third with the Frenchman leading 13-year-old mare Castleforbes Talitha home in 64.18secs.  Yesterday’s 1.55m class was also the first round for the Global Champions League team competition, with St Tropez Pirates taking the lead going into tomorrow’s showdown — the second round.  Eight out of the 16 teams jumped double clears with Pieter Devos and Daniel Deusser combining to put St Tropez Pirates in front with a total time of 136.29secs. The pair were just a second faster than Scandinavian Vikings, who had Evelina Tovek and Henrik von Eckermann in the saddle. In third place was London Knights, with Philippaerts twins Nicoal and Olivier tallying a total time of 141.88secs.  Earlier, the championship kicked-off with Johan-Sebastian Gulliksen of Norway bagging his first LGCT win with his experienced gelding Chaloubet. The pair timed 38.80secs to top the 1.45m class.  Gulliksen and Chaloubet were the last to go in the 45-combination field, and the pair set the course ablaze by setting some serious pace as they flew over the finish line. A delighted Johan said: “I was last to go so I had to try. My horse jumped fantastic and hopefully, I can bring this good feeling with me tomorrow and Saturday.”  Belgium riders took the second and third position. Jos Verlooy and Varoune finished just behind Gulliksen and Chaloubet with a time of 39.91secs, while Wilm Vermeir and King Kong d’Avifauna came home in 40.50secs.  Frenchman Roger Yves Bost and Castleforbes Talitha had taken the early lead in a time of 40.94 seconds. Last week’s CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix winner Daniel Deusser looked good to beat that time but couldn’t quite match the pace, and finished in sixth.  Young gun Verlooy stormed into the lead on his massive striding bay gelding Varoune. The pair cruised home in 39.91 seconds shaving over a second off Bost.  Vermeir then took the challenge set by his countryman with King Kong d’Avifauna, but the duo was over half a second slower than Verlooy. In the end, Gulliksen spoiled the Belgian party as he produced a stunning round with Chaloubet. Meanwhile, Qatar’s Rashid Towaim Ali al-Marri also jumped clear on Flaire, but the pair couldn’t quite match the pace set by the leaders and finished 15th.  Two top-level competition will be held, before the second round of the GCL competition and LGCT Grand Prix of Doha scheduled for tomorrow.    Results  CSI5* 1.45m Two Phases: A + A, 2nd Phase Against the Clock. Total prize money: €25,400  1. Johan-Sebastian Gulliksen (Norway); Horse: Chaloubet; Time: 38.80secs; Prize money: €6,350  2. Jos Verlooy (Belgium); Varoune; 39.91 secs; €5,080  3. Wilm Vermeir (Belgium); King Kong d’Avifauna; 40.50secs; €3,810    CSI5* 1.50/1.55m — GCL Team Competition Round 1; Table A: Against the Clock. Total prize money: €55,000  1. Kevin Staut (France); Horse: Visconti du Telman; Time: 63.55secs; Prize money: €13,750  2. Scott Brash (Britain); Hello Shelby; 63.66secs; €11,000  3. Roger-Yves Bost (France); Castleforbes Talitha; 64.18secs; €8,250    Global Champions League team results – first round  1. St Tropez Pirates: Pieter Devos (Espoir) 68.50secs, Daniel Deusser (Killer Queen VDM) 67.79secs; Team total: 136.29secs.  2. Scandinavia Vikings: Evelina Tovek (Dalila de la Pomme) 70.56secs; Henrik von Eckermann (Best Boy) 65.95secs; Team total: 136.51secs  3. London Knights: Olivier Philippaerts (Zayado) 74.43secs; Nicola Philippaerts (Katanga v.h Dingeshof) 67.45secs; Team total: 141.88secs    Today’s schedule  9am: Hathab National Series 1.00/1.15m (QR10,000)  1pm: Hathab National Series Against-the-clock 1.20/1.30m (QR20,000 individual & QR20,000 teams)  3:45pm: CSI 5* Against-the-clock 1.50m (€51,100)  7:30pm: CSI 5* Against-the-clock with jump-off 1.50/1.55m (€148,500)

Nicola Philippaerts will be riding H&M Chilli Willi and Katanga v. H Dingeshof at the Longines Global Champions Tour.
Like father, like son — Philippaerts eyes Olympics

Born into a family with a strong connection to horses, Nicola Philippaerts was destined to be a rider. Used to seeing horses run around his father Ludo’s property in Gruitrode, Belgium, it was not long before Nicola and his twin brother Olivier fell in love with them. But yet nothing was forced upon them by Ludo, who competed for Belgium at four Olympic Games between 1992 and 2004. Nicola did try his hand at football, tennis and swimming, but by age six, it was clear the horse-riding bug had bitten him. After having enrolled into Landelijke Rijverenigingen (LRV), the national horse riding association, Nicola set the course on fire, winning pony trials at competitions. He excelled at junior level as well, winning the Junior European bronze in 2010 and Young Rider European Gold in the team and Individual event in 2011. He also went on to win gold at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore as part of the European team.  Now 26, the lanky and strong Nicola is one of the best riders on the circuit with a promising future ahead of him. The Belgian along with his brother, Olivier, are the ones to watch out for at the Longines Global Champions Tour, the opening round of which will be held at Al Shaqab from today. Nicola will be riding H&M Chilli Willi and Katanga v. H Dingeshof, who jumped consistently well in last week’s CHI Al Shaqab, placing fifth in the Grand Prix. While Nicola is looking forward to doing well at Shaqab this weekend, his ambition is to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.  “I think this year is an Olympic year so it is an important year,” said Nicola. “Everything is possible. I can be in the Belgium team to go there (Tokyo). That’s the first goal for this year. For next year, I need to develop myself, be in good health, get better horses and get to ride better and be on top of the sport for many years. I have big stables at home,” he added. Nicola is aware that having a family which is into the sport has given him a leg up into the world of equestrianism, but added he had a lot to learn.  “I am still very young. I am only 26. I can be very proud of the things I have achieved so far. I have had many good horses in the past, that’s also very important to my successes. Hopefully, I still have a long career in front of me. I still have a lot to learn, but so far I am doing very well. I have been in showjumping for many years now. I can learn so much for so many years. But there are so many places now because if you are young and talented, you can do well and if you have big stables and learn the same things. The sport is getting so big,” he said.  He added that his parents never forced him to take riding. “My parents never pushed me into this sport. They only gave me a couple of very good ponies (smiles). At a young age, I started well and started winning. I had nice ponies. My father gave me the exposure but I tried many things — I played football, tennis, I went swimming and came back to the horses. I liked horses. I grew into the sport.” After the CHI Al Shaqab, the Belgian rider held a training session with the riders at the Al Shaqab’s academy and was impressed with what he saw, saying the facilities for horses, riders, grooms, owners and spectators are unparalleled. “At Shaqab, they have everything they need right here. If you see the infrastructure, the trainers, the teachers, everything is so great. They have invested so much in this sport that Qatar has become one of the main countries of our sport. Hopefully they would want to do this for many years,” Nicola said.  Nicola said it’s important to start young if one wants to excel in the sport. “It takes time to develop a good rider. If you start at 10 years of age, you can do well. By 25 or 30, you can do really well. It also depends on the horses. It’s important to find a good balance with a good horse and good rider. If you see top riders getting younger and younger, it is because they have good horses. That’s what makes our sport special,” he added.

Germanyu2019s Daniel Deusser astride 10-year-old bay Killer Queen Vdm gallops to victory in the Grand Prix 1.60m class at the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab yesterday.
Deusser shines on final day at CHI Al Shaqab

Daniel Deusser had a quiet weekend coming into the final day of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines, but the German World No 3 rose to the occasion when it mattered. On the final night of the prestigious championship, Deusser saved his best for last as he clinched the Grand Prix 1.60m class at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab yesterday. Deusser astride 10-year-old bay Killer Queen Vdm was the fastest combination in the jump-off with 38.90-second scorching run under the floodlights. Austrian Max Kuhner and the nine-year-old Electric Blue P came second in 39.39 secs, with Frenchman Roger Yves Bost taking third spot with 14-year-old Sangria du Coty in 39.68 secs. “It feels great to have won this event. Killer Queen has long strides and she runs tight lines,” Deusser said after getting richer by €135,300. “I had never won this Grand Prix. It was pretty tough today, but my horse did great. I’m really happy. This ring with long lines is very nice for her. She won with her big canter today,” the 38-year-old added. Eighteen combinations advanced to the second round of the quality 41-rider field, which was followed by a jump-off for the double clear combinations. Kuhner set the pace with his lightning bay Electric Blue P, while Bost had to balance Sangria du Coty just too often and was about 0.29 seconds slower than the Austrian.  Deusser remained neck-and-neck with Kuhner until halfway through the jump-off course, but flew past him on the final line with Killer Queen Vdm and finished half a second faster. Julien Epaillard – who had won thrice in the past two days – looked good to beat Deusser’s time but the Frenchman got a bar on the second-to-last obstacle with Alibi de la Roque and had to settle for seventh spot. “It’s difficult to say what was the hardest in the final run. A lot of riders had gone fast. I had to do as fast as possible. My horse has a huge stride and having long lines helped. In smaller arenas, it was the biggest difficulty for me, but here, it was not as much a problem,” Deusser said. Omar al-Mannai, the Event Director of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines, was pleased with the turnout for the championship and was looking forward to next weekend’s Longines Global Champions Tour opener. “We spent three great days of high performance sport. We had fun around the venue at the festival area. The atmosphere was incredible. It was nice for everyone who came here. I hope everyone enjoyed their time. Lots of things to do for next weekend as well,” al-Mannai said. Earlier, Patrik Kittel made it two victories in a row with 14-year-old gelding Delaunay Old to win the Dressage CDI5* Grand Prix Freestyle, with the pair having also won on Friday. Kittel and Delaunay Old scored 79.290 percent to top the field as the Swedish rider took home €27,173 in prize money. “I came here with the goal of being among the top three and we really succeeded. I’m really happy. You can’t be more than happy when you win. I had a much better feeling today. Delaunay came more into the program and relaxed in a different way,” said Kittel. Morgan Barbançon and Sir Donnerhall II Old, France’s leading combination, scored 76.450 percent to place second, as the duo did in the Grand Prix on Friday. Spain’s Juan Matute Guimon and Quantico were third on 76.400 percent. Meanwhile, Ireland’s Kate Dwyer on Snowdon Faberge took the Grand Prix Special on a personal best score of 70.043 percent. Dwyer was in tears as the judges read out the score as she became the first Irish rider to win at Grand Prix Special at five-star level. Last to go in the six-horse class and riding her 14-year-old gelding Snowdon Faberge, Dwyer beat Belarus’ Hann Karasiova into second place. “I am a little bit in shock but so happy. I just felt today I really had him with me in that ride, he was taking me every step of the way. When I came up that last centre line I was like ‘oh my goodness, this is what it feels like’. I am delighted with his performance and I know this is only the tip of the iceberg of what he can give me,” a delighted Dwyer said. Following a 10th place finish in Friday’s Grand Prix, Dwyer said her aim was to break the 70 percent mark and was overjoyed to have done that. “I finally hit the 70 percent. There were tears in my eyes. It is so lovely to hear it, and it’s not that often you hear it, so I am delighted and really proud. When I looked back and saw my mark I just couldn’t stop the tears, I just couldn’t believe it,” Dwyer said. RESULTS Showjumping — Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix presented by Longines 1. Daniel Deusser (GER); Horse: Killer Queen Vdm; Jump-off time: 38.90 secs; Prize money: €135,300     2. Max Kuhner (AUT); Elektric Blue P; 39.39 secs; €82000     3. Roger Yves Bost (FRA); Sangria du Coty; 39.68 secs; €43,050       Showjumping - CSI5* Table C (239) 1.45m 1. Annika Axelsson (SWE); Horse: Haloubet Hitchcock; Time: 59.44 secs; Prize money: €6350     2. Jur Vrieling (NED); Fiumicino van de Kalevallei; 60.75 secs; €5080 3. Titouan Schumacher (FRA); Eliot Brimbelles Z; 60.81 secs; €3810   Dressage — CDI5* GP FS - Grand Prix Freestyle to Music 1. Patrik Kittel (SWE); Horse: Delaunay Old; Percentage: 79.290; Prize money: €27,173 2. Morgan Barbançon (FRA); Sir Donnerhall II Old; 76.450; €21,739      3. Juan Matute Guimon (ESP); Quantico; 76.400; €16,304        CDI5* GPS - Grand Prix Special 1. Kate Dwyer (IRL); Horse: Snowdon Faberge; Percentage: 70.043%; Prize money: €5882.35     2. Hanna Karasiova (BLR); Zodiak; 69.106%; €4705.88     3. Jill de Ridder (GER); Whitney 341; 69.085%; €3529.41   Para Dressage CPEDI3* Freestyle IV (IV FS) 1. Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA); Horse: Don Frederic 3. Percentage: 76.875%; Prize money: €1200 2. Lotte Krijnsen (NED); Rosenstolz; 75.458%; €1000 3. Philippa Mary Johnson (RSA); Lord Louis; 73.875%; €800   CPEDI3* Freestyle V (V FS) 1. Ciska Vermeulen (BEL); Horse: Rohmeo; Percentage: 75.792%; Prize money: €1200 2. Valentina Strobl (AUT); Bequia Simba; 72.708%; €1000 3. Ulricke Dekeyzer (BEL); Cleverboy Van d’Abelendreef; 71.333%;  €800   CPEDI3* Freestyle I (I FS) 1. Jens Lasse Dokkan (NOR); Horse: Aladdin. Percentage: 77.278%; Prize money: €1320 2. Magdalena Cycak (POL); Sybilla; 64.445%; €1000   CPEDI3* Freestyle II (II FS) 1. Pepo Puch (AUT); Horse: Fuerst Chili; Percentage: 79.111%; Prize money: €1320 2. Martina Benzinger (GER); Fritzzantino; 71.222%; €1000 3. Annemarieke Nobel (NED); Highlight; 69.723%; €800   CPEDI3* Freestyle III (III FS) 1. Rixt van der Horst (NED); Horse: Findsley N.O.P.; Percentage: 77.167%; Prize money: €1320 2. Barbara Minneci (BEL); Stuart; 73.333%; €1000

Hussein Ali al-Abdulla (right), EGM & Chief Marketing Officer of Commercial Bank, presents the trophy to Julien Epaillard, after the Frenchman won the  CSI5* 1.55m class aboard Virtuose Champeix on the second day of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines.
Epaillard’s dominant run at CHI Al Shaqab continues

Julien Epaillard’s winning juggernaut continued at the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines Friday, with the Frenchman clinching the feature class on the second day of the championship.  Epaillard, who had won both the showjumping events on the opening day, did not put a foot wrong Friday at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab as he combined with 11-year-old stallion Virtuose Champeix to claim the CSI5* 1.55m class.  The 41-year-old had also won the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix Doha title last year, and there seems to be no stopping him at Al Shaqab. Going by his current form, Epaillard will now be a heavy favourite for Saturday’s Grand Prix 1.60m — the big money event of the championship.  “Yes, it was an amazing show. My horse is in top form,” gushed Epaillard after another terrific win, “I did not have the best control in the jump-off. But I am very happy. I wish I could get the Grand Prix trophy tomorrow. I would like that. My horse is only 10 years old. Not so much experience for the moment. But we will try and do the best tomorrow,” he added.  Twelve riders made it to the jump-off in the speed class and it looked like Scott Brash would walk away with the victory, after the British rider completed the round in 34.11 seconds with Hello Shelby.  But Epaillard, who was second but last rider at the start, beat Brash’s time hands down, coming home in 33.41 seconds aboard Virtuose Champeix. Austria’s Max Kuhner gave some anxious moments to Epaillard, when he scorched the course with Elektric Blue P but had to settle for second spot after timing 33.81 secs. Brash took the last podium spot with Hello Shelby – the pair having finished second on Thursday.  Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, shared the fourth place aboard Seringat and Best Boy Z respectively, after timing an identical 34.84.   Earlier, in the 1.50m CSI5* class, Switzerland’s Jane Richard Philips eased to victory aboard her 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood-mare, Kenia Van ‘T Laerhof. The pair stopped the clock in 59.72 seconds. France’s Roger Yves Bost with Castleforbes Talitha came second, while Filippo Marco Bologni of Italy finished third with Diplomat.  Meanwhile, Sweden’s Patrik Kittel rode Delaunay Old to victory in the Dressage CDI5* Grand Prix. Kittel and the 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding scored 74.413 percent. The pair was on Sweden’s team at the 2017 European Championships and competed in last year’s World Cup Final.  Morgan Barbancon and Sir Donnerhall II OLD, France’s leading combination, were second on 72.326 percent. The duo that competed at the Europeans last September may also have earned a start at the Las Vegas World Cup Final that would be their third straight annual championship.  Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath and 12-year-old stallion Foundation posted a personal best 72.034 percent for third place.    RESULTS  CSI5* Table A (238.2.2) 1.55m  1. Julien Epaillard (FRA); Horse: Virtuose Champeix; First round time: 75.55 secs; Jump-off time: 33.41 secs; Prize money: €48939      2. Max Kuhner (AUT); Elektric Blue P.  78.44 and 33.81 secs; €29660      3. Scott Brash (GBR); Hello Shelby; 78.56 and 34.11 secs; €22,245    CSI5* Table A (238.2.1) 1.50m  1. Jane Richard Philips (SUI); Horse: Kenia Van ‘T Laerhof; Time: 59.72 seconds; Prize money: €12,775  2. Roger Yves Bost (FRA); Castleforbes Talitha; 61.21 seconds; €10,220  3. Filippo Marco Bologni (ITA); Diplomat; 61.23 seconds; €7,665     Dressage -- CDI5* GP - Grand Prix (GP)  1. Patrik Kittel (SWE) Horse: Delaunay Old; Points: 74.413%; Prize money: €7500  2. Morgan Barbançon (FRA) Sir Donnerhall II Old; 72.326%; €6000  3. Matthias Alexander Rath (GER) Foundation 2; 72.304%, €4500     Para Dressage  CPEDI3* Individual III (III Ch Ind)  1. Rixt van der Horst (NED); Horse: Findsley N.O.P; Total points. 70.980; Prize money: €660  2. Barbara Minneci (BEL); Stuart; 69.069; €500     CPEDI3* Individual II (II Ch Ind)  1. Pepo Puch (AUT); Horse: Fuerst Chili; Points: 75.539%; Prize money: €660  2. Martina Benzinger (GER) Fritzzantino; 70.147%; €500  3. Annemarieke Nobel (NED) Highlight; 66.667%; €400     CPEDI3* Individual I (I Ch Ind)  1. Jens Lasse Dokkan (NOR) Horse: Aladdin; Points: 75.238%; Prize money: €660  2. Magdalena Cycak (POL); Sybilla; 63.036%; €500     CPEDI3* Individual V (V Ch Ind)  1. Ciska Vermeulen (BEL); Horse: Rohmeo; Points: 71.667%; Prize money: €600  2. Valentina Strobl (AUT); Bequia Simba; 69.286%; €500  3. Ulricke Dekeyzer (BEL); Cleverboy Van d’Abelendreef; 69.048%; €400     CPEDI3* Individual IV (IV Ch Ind)  1. Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA); Horse: Don Frederic; Points: 74.959%; Prize money: €600  2. Philippa Mary Johnson (RSA); Lord Louis; 71.179%; €500  3. Lotte Krijnsen (NED); Rosenstolz; 71.098%; €400    Saturday’s schedule   8.30am-9.15am: Dressage Grand Prix Special Test (CDI5*): Indoor Arena  10.25am-12.15am: Longines Hathab Open Class 1.15/1.25m: Outdoor Arena  10am-1.30pm: Para Dressage Freestyle Test (CPED13*): Indoor Arena  1.30pm-2.45pm: Longines Hathab Big Tour 1.30/1.45m: Outdoor Arena  2.15pm-4.45pm: Dressage Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Freestyle Presented by Longines: Indoor Arena  3.30pm-4.30pm: Showjumping Table C 1.45m (CSI5*): Outdoor Arena  5.10pm-5.25pm: Arabian Horse Show: Outdoor Arena  5.30-8pm: Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Grand Prix presented by Longines 1.60m: Outdoor Arena

Asian and Qatar Equestrian Federation President and member of the Supreme Organising Committee of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines Hamad Abdurahman al-Attiyah (right) poses with the the Para Dressage winners.
Epaillard double on first day of CHI Al Shaqab

There is no stopping Julien Epaillard at the Longines Arena at Al Shaqab. The Frenchman, who had won the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix Doha title last year, continued his love affair with the magnificent arena as he clinched both the showjumping classes on the opening day of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines yesterday.   The 42-year-old was in a class of his own as he first won the CSI5* Two Phases 1.45m with 10-year-old chestnut gelding Alibi de La Roque, before bagging the main event of the day — CSI5* 1.50m — with 11-year-old stallion Virtuose Champeix. Incidentally, Epaillard and Virtuose Champeix had also combined to win the opening day event at the last year’s CHI Al Shaqab.   “I’m very happy with both my wins today. The feature class was a very fast race, but the horse performed fantastically. It’s always a pleasure to come back to the Al Shaqab arena and win here. Al Shaqab has one of the best facilities for horses and riders and I enjoy competing here,” said Epaillard, who bagged a combined purse of €30,075.   Epaillard has been in red-hot form recently having won many events in Europe and is considered as one of the fastest riders at the moment. Yesterday, he lived up to the billing in the 1.50m class. In a close contest with Britain’s Scott Brash, Epaillard crossed the finish line in 64.09 seconds with Virtuose Champeix blazing the course with mix of speed and precision. Brash was just .16 seconds behind on his trusted 11-year-old bay Hello Shelby, while the Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten took the final podium spot with Dana Blue in 65.87 seconds. “Even though we finished second, I’m not disappointed. It was a good round and I’m looking forward to the next few events,” said Brash.   In afternoon’s two phases 1.45m class, Epaillard had taken the top spot with Alibi de La Roque after timing 32.74 and 25.10 seconds in two rounds. Van der Vleuten was second this time with Edinburgh (32.99 and 26.18 secs), while Italian Emanuele Gaudiano was third on Kingston van het Eikenhof (31.23 and 26.27 secs) . Earlier, the opening day of the championship began with the para-dressage competition at Al Shaqab’s indoor arena. Allowing a fair competition and to create the opportunity for riders of all skills to achieve their goals in equestrian sport, the competition was conducted in grades depending on the disability, according to FEI (International Equestrian Federation) standards.   Norway’s Jens Lass Dokkan topped the first competition, the Grade 1 with his 12-year-old gelding Aladdin. The 58-year-old, who is aiming to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, tallied 73.988 points. If selected for the Tokyo Games, Dokkan will be the only rider on the start list to have competed at every Games since the sport made its debut in Atlanta 1996.   Dokkan has picked up a trio of bronze medals in Sydney in 2000, and a silver in Beijing in 2008. There have been few silvers and bronzes at European and World level too and he continued to show his skills at Al Shaqab yesterday. Dokkan, who is a grade I rider, with the highest level of impairment, started riding at four years old, before taking a break from it between the ages of eight and 15 and slowly developing his dressage skill.   The other para-dressage competitions were won by Pepo Puch of Austria on Fuerst Chili; Rixt van der Horst of the Netherlands astride Findsley NOP; Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla on  Don Frederic and Belgium’s Ciska Vermeulen on Rohmeo.   RESULTS   CSI5* Table A (238.2.1) 1.50m   1. Julien Epaillard (FRA); Horse: Virtuose Champeix; Time: 64.09 seconds; Prize money: €23,725       2. Scott Brash (GBR); Hello Shelby; 64.25 seconds; €18,980       3. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) Dana Blue; 65.87 seconds; €14,235       CSI5* Two Phases (274.2.5) 1.45m   1. Julien Epaillard (FRA) Horse: Alibi de La Roque; Time: 32.74 and 25.10 secs. Prize money: €6,350   2. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED); Edinburgh; 32.99 and 26.18 secs, €5,080       3. Emanuele Gaudiano (ITA); Kingston van het Eikenhof; 31.23 and 26.27 secs. €3,810   Para Dressage   CPEDI3* Team I (I Team)   1. Jens Lasse Dokkan (NOR) Horse: Aladdin; Total: 73.88 points; Prize money: €330       2. Magdalena Cycak (POL); Sybilla; 62.679 points; €250   CPEDI3* Team II (II Team)   1. Pepo Puch (AUT); Horse: Fuerst Chili; Total: 74.293 points; Prize money: €330   2. Martina Benzinger (GER); Fritzzantino; 71.363 points; €250   3. Annemarieke Nobel (NED) Highlight; 66.263 points;  €200       CPEDI3* Team III (III Team)   1. Rixt van der Horst (NED); Horse: Findsley NOP; Total: 72.500 points; Prize money: €330   2. Barbara Minneci (BEL) Stuart; 64.804 points; Prize money: €250       CPEDI3* Team IV (IV Team)   1. Rodolpho Riskalla (BRA); Horse: Don Frederic; Total: 74.500 points; Prize money: €300   2. Lotte Krijnsen (NED); Rosenstolz; 71.000 points; €250   3. Philippa Mary Johnson (RSA); Lord Louis; 70.500 points; €200     CPEDI3* Team V (V Team)   1. Ciska Vermeulen (BEL); Horse: Rohmeo; Total: 72.132 points; €300   2. Valentina Strobl (AUT); Bequia Simba; 69.690 points; €250       3. Kevin van Ham (BEL) Eros Van Ons Heem; 67.287 points; €200   Longines Qatar Equestrian Tour Hathab   Dressage Level 1   1. Ali Mohamed al-Marri (QAT); Horse: Fernhill Friendly Touch. 69.828 points.   2. Jessica Waldon (GBR) Lusso Del Castegno; 69.655 points   3.Saeed Hamad al-Rashdi (GBR) Graffiti De Lully Ch    Dressage Level 2 1. Mohamed Nasser al-Qadi (QAT); Horse: Gin Tonic van de Kranenburg. 69.286 points 2. Abdulaziz Ghanim al-Nuaimi (QAT); Bandito; 68.571 points 3. Ali Mohammed al-Qadi (QAT); Guiness; 68.214 points  TODAY’S SCHEDULE   9am-11am: Longines Hathab Small Tour 1-1.15m: Outdoor Arena   9.45am-12.45pm: Para Dressage Individual Test (CPED13*): Indoor Arena   1pm-3pm: Longines Hathab Medium Tour 1.20-1.30m: Outdoor Arena   3pm-6pm: Dressage Grand Prix Test (CDI5*): Indoor Arena   3.45pm-5.15pm: Showjumping Against the Clock 1.50m (CSI5*): Outdoor Arena   6pm-6.45pm: Al Shaqab Competition for Children 1.00m: Outdoor Arena   7.30pm-9.30pm: Showjumping with Jump-Off (CSI5*) 1.60m: Outdoor Arena

The victorious Qatar team celebrate with the Asian Cup trophy last year.
The joy of winning for Qatar

It’s been 1,000 days since a senseless blockade on Qatar was initiated by Saudi Arabia and its allies. While many thought it would have a negative impact on Qatari sport, it has turned out to be the exact opposite.  The best example of it came when the Qatar football team defied the odds to clinch their maiden Asian Cup title last year, overcoming hostile environment in the United Arab Emirates, where the tournament was played. While the local spectators hurled shoes and other objects onto the field in frustration at their own team’s failure as the Al Annabi were cruising past the hosts in the semi-finals, Qatar’s players and officials steered clear of distracting controversies as they adhered to their policy of not mixing politics with sport. In the end, it turned out to be Qatar’s watershed moment in the sporting world, while their regional rivals were left to reflect on what went wrong for their teams. Qatar’s 4-0 victory over the UAE in the semi-finals and then the crowning glory when they beat Japan in the final have few parallels as far as Asia’s sporting history is concerned. The victory had meant so much to Qatar and it’s people that the football team were given a royal welcome, with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani receiving them at airport.  The Al Annabi came back to euphoric crowds, eager to catch a glimpse of the players that have captured the country’s imagination. The players, support staff and Qatar Football Associations were given a red carpet reception as the His Highness the Amir hugged each one of them before placing garlands of roses around the players’ necks. Many of the players and officials, clearly overcome by the occasion, wept tears of joy while singing the national anthem.  The architect of Qatar’s victory, head coach Felix Sanchez, later revealed that the dirty politics the Qatar players were subjected to in the UAE had served as a motivation for the players. “I think the situation gave us extra motivation, there were things which were not fair and equal for everyone and I think the players this gave the players extra motivation,” Sanchez had said, when asked about the impact of playing the tournament in the UAE. On the mental pressure of the players heading into the semi-final against hosts UAE, Sanchez had said: “The game against the UAE and the reaction to that showed that the players were very focused on their work and at the end of the day they showed professional behaviour. They focused on the field and not on what was happening around.”  National team media officer Ali Salat too said the ‘circumstances’ had inspired the Qatar team. “I didn’t think we would progress that far. Being in the semi-final would have been an achievement with this young team. With the circumstances we went to the Emirates, we just wanted to show we are a good team who can compete,” Ali Salat said.  Even now for captain Hassan al-Haydos it all still feels surreal. “It was one of the greatest moments of my life, especially with the Amir waiting for you at the airport, along with the fans on the Corniche. I was really, really proud. Believe me, I am still thinking about these moments, it’s a dream for me. I am really proud of what we as a team and as a country achieved,” the Al Sadd midfielder says. Qatar players also achieve major individual honours at the Asian level. Al Sadd defender Abdelkarim Hassan was declared the AFC Player of the Year in 2018, with his teammate and star forward Akram Afif scooping the prestigious award last year.  Before the Asian Cup triumph was achieved, Qatar’s sporting icon Nasser al-Attiyah recorded his third triumph in the Dakar Rally. And al-Attiyah dedicated his latest title to the nation, saying the victory tastes extra special as it came in the midst of a blockade by its neighbours. “It’s a special victory because Qatar is currently facing blockade by its neighbours. We have always shown we are strong and His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim has always given us everything to be strong in sports, this why this victory is very special. Yes I felt more pressure this time because it was a difficult place to race. This was by no means easy so I am quite pleased to win after getting all the support from the country,” al-Attiyah, who had earlier won the world’s most gruelling endurance race in 2011 and 2015, said.

Pieter Devos astride Claire Z on a practice run on the eve of the Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab presented by Longines yesterday. PICTURES: Stefano Grasso / Al Shaqab
CHI Al Shaqab equestrian extravaganza from today

The Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines will begin from today with the world’s leading riders and horses set to enthral the crowd at the magnificent Longines Arena at Al Shaqab. In its’ seventh year, the current edition of the CHI Al Shaqab will lead a stellar cast led by German showjumper Daniel Deusser, who is currently third on the Longines global rankings.  The impressive entry list also includes Sweden’s double Olympic silver medallist Peder Fredrickon (ranked number five), Belgium’s Pieter Devos (No 6 and winner of last year’s CSI5* Grand Prix in Doha), Olympians Edwina Tops-Alexander (Australia), and Scott Brash (Great Britain). CHI (Concours Hippique International – International Equestrian Competition) is the official title awarded by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) to international equestrian competitions with three or more equestrian disciplines. CHI Al Shaqab is one of only five CHI competitions worldwide and the first and only equestrian event of its kind in the Middle East and Asia (Mena) region. The three-day world-class international equestrian competition will see riders compete in the Olympic disciplines of showjumping, dressage, and para dressage. A total of 88 riders from 23 countries have arrived in Doha, with some edge-of-the-seat action set unfold over three days. There will be plenty of Qatari flavour too as three home riders also will be in action. Leading the home challenge is Bassem Mohammed, who competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and won the 2017 LGCT Doha leg Grand Prix at Al Shaqab. Faleh Suwead al-Ajami, Salman Sultan al-Marri and Rashid Towaim Ali al-Marri are the other home hopefuls. The Longines Hathab National series will also form part of the three-day show including Small Tour, Open and Big Tour class. There will also be a competition for children and an Arabian Horse Show on the final day, Saturday. Also featuring during the championship will be a competition for riders at the International Youth Camp from all over the world. “The competition is bigger and better than ever before, with riders from five continents taking part. The world’s top 51 athletes in show jumping, 19 in dressage and 17 in para dressage will make the event more appealing to the fans,” said Omar al-Mannai, Commercial Manager, Al Shaqab, and Event Director, Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines. Al-Mannai said this year’s competition will be important one for the riders as they look to seal their sport at the Tokyo Olympic Games later this year with individual Olympic ranking points at stake. “Since CHI is for Olympic events of equestrian, it gives our riders the chance to compete and excel alongside the world’s best and gain experience and learning. We have some of our top riders from Qatar participating and we wish them the very best and hope that they would be successful. We also have riders from Kuwait and wish them all the success too,” he added. On the preparation front, al-Mannai said: “We have ensured all needed arrangements. As a former rider I have looked at what needs to be catered to a rider’s needs. From the turf of competition to accommodation, the knowledge and experience has been put to use to ensure the championship runs smoothly and efficiently. We also have great support from Qatar Foundation. This year we are also using facilities of Qatar Foundation for accommodation.”  Al-Mannai also spoke about the international youth camp, which kicked off last week and will continue until the completion of the Global Champions Tour on March 7. “We first launched the global youth camp last year. This year’s camp, which started a few days ago, has more than 50 children, from 11 European nations as well as Brazil, Palestine and Qatar, in it. It’s designed to help young riders polish their skills. Not only will they watch international show jumpers from close quarters, but they’ll also attend interactive sessions with them,” said the official. Al-Mannai said the high quality event will once again provide valuable experience to the Qatari riders. “A lot more Qatari riders will be taking part in the eighth round of the Longines Hathab – Qatar Equestrian Tour, which will be held alongside CHI Al Shaqab. It’ll be a great opportunity for our athletes to see and learn from some of the best in the business,” said the former rider. Alejandro Berdegue, Sport Coordinator, Commercial Bank CHI Al Shaqab Presented by Longines, informed that moving horses from overseas to Qatar has been a huge operation. “We had three different cargos on three flights within six hours of difference of Qatar Airways to transport the horses and it was all smooth and safe. The organisers here have a great team and vets for the horses. The venue of Al Shaqab is also the very best.” A large turn-out of people is expected on the three days of competition and various provisions have been made including free shuttle service at ten-minute intervals from Al Shaqab Metro Station to Longines Arena Al Shaqab for all fans and families. “The entire championship will also have family-oriented entertainment including cultural shows and performances. Cafes and restaurants around the periphery of the competition arena have also been put up. Our reliance on a large area for spectators will encourage them to come and enjoy. There will be raffle draws, prizes, coupons and in kind gifts from Al Shaqab,” informed al-Mannai.

Amiru2019s Sword winner Salman Mohamed al-Emadi (third from left) celebrates with Medium Tour top three finishers during the His Highness The Amiru2019s Sword Showjumping Championship at the Qatar Equestrian Federationu2019s outdoor arena yesterday.
Salman clinches Amir’s Sword after Big Tour win

Salman Mohamed al-Emadi won the feature event at the His Highness The Amir’s Sword Showjumping Championship yesterday. The Qatari rider piloted his 15-year-old gelding The Toymaker to victory in the Big Tour and received the Amir’s Sword from His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the Qatar Equestrian Federation’s outdoor arena. Al-Emadi’s victory also rewarded him with a Lexus car. The Big Tour class was held over two rounds. Al-Emadi, who was placed sixth after the first round on Friday, put on a clinical show with The Toymaker in the second as the duo galloped the course in 60.12 seconds to trump the 145cm class. Mubarak Yousuf al-Rumaihi finished runner-up with Casal Des Forets after clocking a time of 44.81 secs, while last year’s winner Faleh Suwead al-Ajami led Carport to third place in 46.38 secs. Both al-Rumaihi and al-Ajami registered quicker timings than al-Emadi but were undone by eight penalties they accumulated. On the other hand, al-Emadi reaped benefits for making just one mistake. The Qatari rider said this was his most important accomplishment of his career. “My joy is indescribable. After years of attempts, I am finally able to gain the great honour of winning the sword of His Highness the Amir. This is my biggest achievement, even though I have won various championships, including at the Asian Games,” al-Emadi said. “I was determined to win the precious sword. The competition was stronger than last year. There were many riders with the new horses so it wasn’t easy out there. I had to be at my best today and I could win only because I did conceded fewer penalties than others. In the end it was just a matter of small margins,” he added. Al-Emadi also paid credit to his participation in the annual Longines Hathab series, which is held over 12 legs, for his improvements. “Hathab is a very rewarding series. Not just me, it has benefited all the riders as it’s held over 12 legs. This victory will only make me perform better in the future Hathab legs,” he said.  Meanwhile, al-Rumaihi wasn’t too disappointed with runner-up finish as he was riding an inexperienced eight-year-old gelding Casal Des Forets. “I didn’t expect to win honestly as my horse is still very young and was competing in his first major championship. I was lying in seventh position after the first round, so to finish second overall is a great effort,” he added. Defending champion al-Ajami was also happy with his third-place finish, after coming into the second round in eighth place. “It was a tough competition as there were many strong performances from the elite riders. I have been doing well on the circuit and I hope I can make it to the Qatar’s Olympic team,” he said Results Big Tour | Table A, Two rounds against the clock, Art. | 135/145cm | 1. Salman Mohamed al-Emadi. Horse: The Toymaker, Rd I: Faults: 0; 0; Time:79.70secs; Rd II: Faults: 1; Time: 60.12 Prize: Lexus Car 2. Mubarak Yousuf al-Rumaihi. Casal Des Forets, Rd I: Faults: 4;0; Time: 74.40secs; Rd II: Faults: 4; Time: 44.81secs; QR11,200 3. Faleh Suwead al-Ajami. Carport, Rd I: Faults: 4; 0; Time: 77.04secs; rd II: Faults: 4; Time: 46.38secs; QR9,000. Future Riders | Table A, One round against the clock, Art. 238.2.1 | 85/100cm 1. Majed Abdulrahman al-Awadh. Horse: Ubor; Faults: 0; Time: 41.05secs 2. Lolwa Ali Atat. Animo’s Boy Van De Dennehoeve Tat; 0; 43.57secs 3. Mohammed Ibrahim al Hor. Zaragossa; 0; 43.58secs. Future Riders | Table A, One round against the clock, Art. 238.2.1 |70/85cm 1. Jassim Adel al-Saegh. Joly’s Arno; 0; 40.59secs 2. Fahad Abdulkarim Abed. Leslie Ann 2; 0; 41.27secs 3. Haya Khalid al-Hitmi. SITA; 0; 44.91secs

Zamalek players pose with the CAF Super Cup trophy after their win over Tunisiau2019s Esperance in Doha yesterday. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil
Zamalek claim CAF Super Cup with 3-1 win

Zamalek clinched their fourth CAF Super Cup in an impressive fashion after a 3-1 win over Esperance Sportive de Tunis at the Al Gharafa stadium yesterday. The Egyptians giants were playing their first Super Cup match — which pits the winners of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup — since 2003, and they put on a relentless display in front of a packed crowd to take home the title.  Youssef Obama opened the scoring for Zamalek in just the second minute. Abdelraouf Benguit made it 1-1 by converting a penalty in the 54th minute but Zamalek were back in front just four minutes later thanks to Achraf Bencharki’s cool finish, and the forward once again struck in the injury time to cap a memorable night for the Cairo-based side.  For Esperance, it was another bitter pill to swallow as they lost a second consecutive Super Cup title clash, after having gone down to Moroccan side Raja Casablanca at the same venue 12 months ago. And it was Patrice Carteron, who came back to haunt them again. The French coach had led Casablanca to victory last year and he once again plotted Esperance’s downfall on the night.  The Tunisians – back-to-back winners of the CAF Champions League – have now gone without a Super Cup title since 1995, the only time they have won the title in five appearances. Zamalek’s Confederation Cup victory was their first continental silverware since winning the CAF Champions League 18 years ago, and looked like they are keen to make up for the lost time.  Carteron’s men were right on the money from the whistle, as Obama put Zamalek ahead in the second minute, the midfielder heading in a lovely cross from Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, with Esperance goalkeeper Ben Cherifia unable to do much.  It was a dream start for Zamalek as they were all over the Esperance side in the first ten minutes. The Tunisians had got first look at the rival goal in the 12th minute when Ilyes Chetti struck a fierce shot but Abdul Shafi was alert to the danger.  Four minutes later, however, Moustafa Mohamed went close to doubling Zamalek’s lead, but the forward’s dipping shot from close range went over the bar. Mohamed was in the thick of action again with a rasping curling attempt flying narrowly over the top of Cherifa’s goal.  Zamalek had another golden opportunity in the 39th minute with Zizo having acres of space at the back post to control and shoot – but Chetti got his body in the way to make a spectacular save.  While Zamalek were constant a threat on the counter-attack, Esperance found it difficult to break their opponents’ defence. Zamalek came to Qatar with a 12-match unbeaten streak, a run that stretched back to mid-December and included eight clean sheets.  But Esperance were let back into the game three minutes into the second half after Mahmoud Hamdi handled the ball in the box. Referee Victor Gomes initially waved to play on but changed his decision after a lengthy VAR review, where he went to the pitchside monitor to have a look.  Benguit thumped his spot-kick into the top corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. But their joy lasted barely four minutes. With the Esperance defence wide open, Bencharki had an easy run to the box, and the forward curled a low shot across Cherifia and into the bottom corner.  Esperance introduced striker Yassine Khenissi four minutes thereafter in place of Ghanaian Kwame Bonsu in pursuit of a comeback. But Mooine Chaabani’s could not get past the Egyptian team’s defence. Bencharki then completed his brace in added time with another cool finish to send Zamalek fans into raptures.

Sir Geoff Hurst speaks during an exclusive interview with Gulf Times during his visit to Qatar. PICTURE: Ram Chand
Sir Geoff: Qatar will host a great World Cup in 2022

Sir Geoff Hurst is a bundle of energy. The scorer of the only hat-trick in a World Cup final, which helped England win the tournament in 1966 with a 4-2 victory over West Germany, his enthusiasm for the game is infectious.  The former England striker – who also won FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals with West Ham in his illustrious career – was in Qatar for a short visit. Hurst was part of the National Sport Day celebrations yesterday as he refereed a tournament for international property and construction consultancy Gleeds. Hurst is 78, but looks much younger and can dazzle the room with his witty anecdotes. In a wide-ranging interview with Gulf Times, the English legend spoke about Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup, memories of his magical night at Wembley and much more. Excerpts:    Q. You have been coming to Qatar since 2005, what are your impressions of the country?  A: It’s my third visit to Qatar. Last year I came here and my first was in 2005.  I enjoyed my visit last year. It’s very different from what it was in 2005. I have been to one or two Arab countries before; it’s a different culture and I enjoy being here. I spent two years coaching in Kuwait from 1982-84. It’s nice going to different countries and cultures.   Qatar has changed dramatically over the years. I can see many changes in a short time since my visit last year. I can see so much construction going on. It’s just enormous and amazing. You are going to need that when hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world come to Qatar for the World Cup. I think that was an issue they spoke about. Like when the fans come, where they going to stay? Someone was speaking about housing fans on cruise ships here. I think that is fascinating and that will be fun.     Q:  Qatar will make history in 2022, when it will become the first Arab country to host the FIFA World Cup. How important is it to host the tournament in new countries and regions? A: I think every country is different. And of course, every country is different when it comes to hosting the World Cup. It’s very different and unusual and because of that it makes interesting for a different culture to host the World Cup. I firmly believe every country should have an opportunity to host the World Cup. It’s fantastic what they are doing here and I am convinced it will be a successful World Cup.   There will always be negatives. When any World Cup comes around there has always been negativity – Russia was a good example. But after the World Cup in Russia every single English person I spoke to said the tournament and hospitality of the Russians was fantastic. I don’t go around with negativity. As a person I am positive, as a player I was very positive. It’s going to be a great World Cup in Qatar.     Q: Qatar’s World Cup will be played in November and December. Do you thinking holding the tournament in the middle of the traditional European season will have any negative impact? A: I think the Premier League and other leagues will adjust for one year.  I don’t think that is an issue. They have had plenty of time to plan for it. That cannot be a problem. It’s great that they have moved the World Cup to winter. When it was first announced, they said it will be held in summer and naturally there was some criticism because it was going to be too hot for the players.  I have experienced that. I have played In Mexico World Cup in 1970 and we played there in the summer there and it was hot. We played in a city called Guadalajara which is at 5,000 feet, so we were playing at an altitude. There were a couple of games in which I played and I was getting a dizzy spell and had to rest more than I would normally do.   Now they have quite rightly decided to move the Qatar World Cup to winter. If it’s that hot, not only it’s not good for the players but also for the fans, who will be walking around. That would spoil their enjoyment.    Q: What advice would you give to the Qatari players before the World Cup?  A: My advice for them is to be 100% focused and dedicated on their performance and fitness. One important thing to be successful is for the team spirit to be good. I think it’s a fundamental requirement for a successful national team. The manager needs his players to commit that. Alf Ramsey (England’s 1966 World Cup winning coach) for me was good in a way, because when a player didn’t want to be part of the team, then it was a goodbye. Ramsey was left with a very good bunch of players and hard-nosed, dedicated players and that for me has always been a fundamental reason for success. I have talked to other international players who have won the World Cup and they say they were successful because the team they played in had great team spirit.      Q:  Do you think England can be strong contenders for the 2022 World Cup?  A: I think they will. I am very positive about the England team at the moment. I think under Gareth Southgate we have improved and done well. The English fans prior to Southgate’s tenure were getting very disappointed and disillusioned with the English team. We were not having a full house at Wembley. But since Southgate has taken over, we have seen 80-9000 people packed at the stadium. At the Brazil World Cup in 2014, we played two group games and we were out. That’s the World Cup and in the Euros we lost against Iceland. That was the worst game I have seen. The fans want their team to play well so there was a bit of disillusionment during that period. But now the situation has changed dramatically. Now there is lot more interest back home.      Q: Do you think that Southgate can lead England to Euro Championships success this summer?  A: I do fancy England’s chances of winning the Euros. The last 16, semis and final will be played in London, which I see as a big advantage for the home team. I can certainly see us winning. We are a young side. It’s different now to my times, because there is a smaller percentage of English players playing the league. Southgate now is selecting players very unusually, for, they have hardly played for their clubs.  I think Callum Hudson-Odoi for example was picked for England having hardly played a game for Chelsea. In my time that was unthinkable. I had to play for three years, my club West Ham was doing very well and I was scoring goals. Still it was three years before I was picked for England. I made the West Ham first team in the 1962-63 season. Nowadays it’s different. Having said that, Southgate is harnessing raw talent who are without experience into a good unit. Overall, Southgate’s managerial style and what he’s doing, and the way they’re playing, is just fantastic. There is a team spirit and camaraderie, which I think was missing for a long time.    Q: Is the memory of scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany at Wembley still fresh in your mind? A: The memories are still fresh and it’s also fresh in fans’ mind. I still get people of my generation talk about the memories of that final, where they were and what they were doing at that time. That’s one of the most enjoyable things when you win the World Cup in your country. Those memories last forever for people and I always enjoy when people talk about it.      Q: Do u think your feat of scoring a hat-trick in the final of a World Cup will ever be matched?  A: No! I sometimes say yes because nothing is impossible in football. You can never tell. Who would have thought Liverpool will win the championship this year so easily? They are 22 points ahead at the moment. And also, who would have thought Liverpool, one of the greatest clubs, will take 30 years to win another title? Manchester United under Alex Ferguson achieved so much, but currently they are languishing in seventh spot. So anything can happen in football and that’s the beauty of sport. It’s very unpredictable. What is true is scoring has become lot harder. Teams that are winning the World Cup are not some of them who are scoring many goals. We scored 11 goals when we won. In 1956, Jules Fonte scored 13 on his own. It’s statically a lot tougher, so on that basis you can say it’s a lot harder to equal my record. Q:  According to you who will be favourites for the title in Qatar?    A: I would say usual suspects are not far away. France are a very good team at the moment. The Germans have not done quite as well in recent years but they have been dominant for a long time. I think England is still in the mix, and in another two years if the players continue to develop we have a chance. Brazil and Argentina are always around. Portugal has a good young team, and I think they will do very well in Euros this year and if they can do then they can be a force at the World Cup. Having said that, you can sit and predict here of who will in Qatar in three years’ time but you can never be sure of what is going to happen.     Q: Your former team West Ham is languishing in 18th spot in the Premier League. What according to you is the reason for their decline?  A: We are in a very difficult position, in bottom three. It’s going to be a hard battle between now and the end of the season to get out of trouble. I think (manager) David Moyes has been a good acquisition. I was surprised that, when he got us out of trouble for the first time we didn’t keep him.  He is a very experienced manager who did well at Everton.  I think he is a good choice, but he has taken over at a very difficult time and now it’s a tough battle. And we have very difficult fixtures ahead, with most of the matches against top teams. The last game was very disappointing, because were 3-1 up against Brighton and we drew the game. We lost two points and that makes a huge difference at this time of the season.     Q: Who according to you is the best player – Messi or Ronaldo?  A: I lean towards Messi. Both are great players, even if they had played in any other era.  I just favour Messi a little bit. I have always felt that Ronaldo and Messi playing at two great clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain was great. Them playing in attacking teams meant they scored lots of goals.  But what’s good about Ronaldo going to Juventus is – even though they are a dominant club – he is still doing very well there at his age. I think his attitude is very good and he keeps himself fit. But I always felt Messi is the best player and it’s nice to choose between two of them.

HE Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad al-Thani gives the Golden Ball award to Liverpool's Mohamed Salah as FIFA president Gianni Infantino looks on.
Firmino puts Liverpool on top of the world

Liverpool are finally the champions of the world and the Reds owe it to Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian forward struck another crucial winner to break the hearts of his countrymen as Liverpool edged past South American champions Flamengo 1-0 in the final to clinch the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar at the Khalifa International Stadium Saturday. Firmino, who had come in as substitute to stroke home a stoppage time winner in the semi-finals against Monterrey on Wednesday, was the hero for Liverpool again. With the game ending goalless after 90 minutes and going into extra time, Firmino broke the deadlock in the 99th minute after a classic Liverpool counter set it up for the forward. Captain Jordan Henderson found Sadio Mane with a long ball, with the Senegalese then drawing the Flamengo goalkeeper Diego Alves forward before slipping the ball to Firmino, who then cleverly slowed things down and smashed into the net. Liverpool's Alisson lifts the trophy as they celebrate after winning the Club World Cup   Liverpool's Jordan Henderson and teammates celebrate Liverpool's Naby Keita celebrates with the trophy and teammates  Flamengo did get a couple of chances to take the final to penalties, with Lincoln getting the best one of the night in the final seconds. But the substitute blazed it over as the Liverpool defence stood firm to seal a historic maiden title. This was after high drama in the stoppage time of regulation time, when Liverpool were awarded a penalty by Qatari referee Abdulrahman al-Jassim for a foul on Mane by Flamengo full-back Rafinha. Flamengo players protested furiously with al-Jassim, who then had a long look at the pitch-side monitor in a VAR review before overturning his decision. The replays showed Rafinha had clipped Mane just outside the box as the Liverpool midfielder was poised to shoot. Flamengo and Rafinha heaved a sigh of relief, with the defender’s yellow card also rescinded by the referee. Flamengo, however, ran out of legs in the extra time as Liverpool dug deep to come out triumphant. Liverpool's Roberto Firmino celebrates scoring their goal Liverpool's Joe Gomez in action with Flamengo's Bruno Henrique Flamengo's Pablo Mari in action with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold in action with Flamengo's Bruno Henrique It was also sweet revenge for Liverpool, who had lost to Flamengo in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final, a precursor to the current tournament. Liverpool had also gone down to another Brazilian side, Sao Paulo, 0-1 in the final in 2005 in Yokohama, Japan. Victory in Doha meant Jurgen Klopp’s men became the second English side after Manchester United in 2008 to win the global club competition. Captain Henderson, who lifted the trophy as Jamie Webster’s Allez Allez Allez rang out at the Khalifa, said the mental strength of the side pulled them the through. "It was an interesting game. I am sure it was interesting to watch but we kept going, good performance and mentality shined through. We could have scored a couple more. Overall delighted with the result and performance in difficult conditions,” Henderson said. "We have found a way for a long time now. Some late goals, we just want to keep going, keep improving. Keep working hard and putting in performances like that," he added While Liverpool were clearly the better side on the night, they lacked the killer punch, wasting plenty of scoring opportunities. But that has been the story of Klopp and his men this season, who have made a habit of winning from difficult situations. However, it had looked like Liverpool won’t take it till the end when they started with a frenetic pace in the first ten minutes. Forty seconds into the game, Liverpool almost had a dream start. With Flamengo still seemingly in their warm ups, Firmino was sent through but the Brazilian’s shot just looped over the bar. Liverpool were all over Flamengo with crowd favourite Mohamed Salah setting up a great chance for Naby Keita, who could only strike it over. Trent Alexander-Arnold too had a pop at the goal as the Reds looked well in control before Flamengo settled into the game. Flamengo came back strongly though, with coach Jorge Jesus’ tactic to stop his full-backs getting out of the midfield stopping Liverpool. In fact the Copa Libertadores champions dominated possession as Bruno Henrique and Gabrie Barbosa made life difficult for the Liverpool defence, who welcomed back Virgil van Dijk. Joe Gomez had to make a brilliant slide-in tackle to deny Pablo Mari, who was played in by Henrique, for the Brazilians’ best chance of the first half. With Klopp visibly frustrated on the touchline, Liverpool upped the ante in the second half. But it played similarly to the first half as the Reds missed couple of glorious chances. Firmino though was unlucky to have seen his one-bounce shot in the 47th minute ricochet off the post and go out of play. Two minutes later, Trent Alexander-Arnold cut a ball back to Mohamed Salah, but the Egyptian shot it wide of the post. At the other end, Barbosa fired at the Liverpool goal with Alisson doing well to make a save Meanwhile, Firmino had another chance but the unmarked Brazilian failed to control the ball as Alves claimed it easily. By then it was an end-to-end contest as Barbosa scuffed a left footer after played through by Henrique. Salah, who walked away with Golden Ball award for best player of tournament, thought he had put Liverpool one-nil up when he buried the ball into the net in the 76th minute, but the off side flag was already up. Flamengo also survived another scare when Henderson’s shot from outside the box was tipped over by Alves. The penalty drama in the end added another twist to the final, before Firmino made sure Liverpool kept their date with destiny.

Liverpool's German manager Jurgen Klopp attends a press conference at the Khalifa International Stadium ahead of his team's FIFA Club World Cup final against Brazil's Flamengo.
Stage set for thrilling Club World Cup final

Liverpool and Flamengo will clash in the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar final at the Khalifa International Stadium Saturday, with both the clubs carrying different weight of expectations. The competition is seen as a showpiece event in Brazil, with many Flamengo fans having made a long journey to Doha in the hope of watching their team winning the title. The match begins at 8.30pm. For Liverpool, the opportunity to win a Club World Cup title has come in the middle of a dream season. They won the Champions League earlier this year – which sealed their ticket to Qatar – and are now on course for a first English Premier League title since 1989-90, having taken a 10-point lead at the top. Hence, the Anfield faithful hasn’t taken kindly to a Liverpool team making a week-long trip for a competition they see as less important. Saturday’s final against Flamengo will be their ninth game of a packed December schedule for the Reds, with them also having to field a team of teenagers in their heavy 0-5 defeat to Aston Villa last Tuesday – for which they had to face criticism back home. For Jurgen Klopp and his men though, the Club World Cup is a chance to prove they are the best club in the world, a tag which has been bestowed by them by many in recent times. There is also the small matter of revenge for Liverpool, as they had suffered a 0-3 loss to Flamengo when the last time the two clubs faced each other in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup final, a precursor to the current tournament. They will also be gunning for their first world title, having lost to Brazilian side Sao Paulo 0-1 in the final in 2005 in Yokohama, Japan. There is a lot riding for Liverpool and Flamengo; while Klopp admitted the ‘situation is different’ for both the clubs, he hopes he can chance the perception of European clubs, including his own, towards the tournament. “Look, it is not an advantage or a disadvantage or whatever, but this situation is different for Flamengo and for us. Flamengo got sent here from their continent with a clear order to win it and to come back as heroes. We got told, 'Stay at home and play the League Cup'. That's a massive difference. We cannot change that,” the German manager said Friday. “But we are here and we want to win the competition, even when we know it is very difficult because the other team is really, really good, but that's how it is with the big competitions. I think the view on it in Europe is completely different to the view in the rest of the world. But I like pretty much to change that view a little bit in the moment, it changed for me since we are here. Will that change the view of people in Europe? Probably not,” Klopp added. For Liverpool, to walk away with their maiden world title Saturday, they will have to put on a much better performance than they did against Monterrey in the semi-finals on Wednesday. The European champions needed Roberto Firmino to score a dramatic injury-time winner to beat the Mexican side. While Klopp fielded a starting XI made up of bench strength – with the exception of Egyptian star Mohamed Salah – against Monterrey, he is mostly likely to go in with regular starters against Flamengo. That means Sadio Mane, Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold are set to return, while Klopp also raised hopes of influential defender Virgil van Dijk and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum coming back to the team. Van Dijk was forced to sit out of the semi-final due to illness, while Wijnaldum was sidelined with the muscle injury. Klopp said he knows what to expect of Flamengo, who themselves are enjoying their best season. Last month, the Brazilian club secured a dramatic Copa Libertadores victory over rivals River Plate and came from behind to beat Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal 3-1 in Tuesday’s semis. "I know what we have to expect," Klopp said. “Flamengo will be intense, organised, (coach) Jorge Jesus has changed their fortunes and most of their things. They have different ways of playing and they have real quality in the centre of the park, they are cheeky on the wings and they can shoot from distance - just like a successful team should be. This is the first time that I have faced a Brazilian team but this is also the first time Flamengo have played a team like Liverpool," he added. Meanwhile, Flamengo's coach Jorge Jesus was confident his side can bridge the financial gulf between the two clubs. "We cannot compare between two good teams easily. Yes, Liverpool has a distinct history in recent years: they have won many titles and they are one of the best clubs in the world," the Portuguese said. "Jurgen Klopp has been with the team for many years and accomplished a lot with them, not only in the English League but Champions League. Liverpool have left their mark on world football. We know Flamengo are enjoying an excellent season, so there are similarities. We can say Liverpool and Flamengo may be at the best levels in their history.” Qatari referees for final FIFA announced Friday that the Club World Cup final between Flamengo and Liverpool at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha will be officiated by Qatari referees. Abdulrahman al-Jassim will be in charge, assisted by Taleb Salem and Saoud Ahmed. Algeria's Moustafa Gharbal will be the fourth referee. Liverpool reached the final after edging past Mexico's Monterrey 2-1, while Flamengo defeated Asian champions Al Hilal 3-1 on their way to meet Liverpool.