Appointment of princess set to spark a change in female sport participation and lead to knock-on effect in society

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Princess Reema bint Bandar, the president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, is hoping to bring about change.
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Saudi girls warm up for football
Updated 22 October 2017
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Appointment of princess set to spark a change in female sport participation and lead to knock-on effect in society

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia’s appointment of its first female head of sports should attract more women into gyms and on to sports pitches in a nation where women are not allowed to exercise with men, female sports organisers said last week.
US-raised Princess Reema bint Bandar last week became the first female president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports that manages sports-related activities for both men and women in the Kingdom, local media reported.
Her appointment came amid a series of changes for women in Saudi Arabia hailed as a new progressive trend including giving women the right to drive and encouraging more women to work.
But a guardianship system, under which a male family member must grant permission for a woman to study, travel and other activities, remains in place.
Lina Al Maeena, who formed Jeddah United, Saudi Arabia’s first private female basketball club, in 2003, said the princess’ appointment was significant.
“It’s going to be changing stereotypes because of her appointment in that role as the head of both genders,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Jeddah.
Female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue in Saudi where women cannot exercise with men and there are no public sports facilities for women as many conservative Muslim clerics consider sport for females as immodest.
Saudi Arabia did not send any women to the Olympic Games until 2012.
Susan Turner, chief executive of NuYu, the kingdom’s first chain of female fitness centres, said bint Bandar’s appointment would bring women’s health to the “forefront”.
“It’s everybody’s right to have access to these facilities and to look after their health ... women are realising that if they are not doing (exercise) already it is just bringing those statistics and facts to light,” said Turner.
According to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, only 13 percent of the Saudi population exercises at least once a week. The plan aims to boost that number to 40 percent.
Bint Bandar — daughter of a former Saudi ambassador to Washington — championed the licensing of female-only gyms and sports clubs in her previous role leading the women’s section of the national General Sports Authority.
Turner said she hoped in addition to getting more women into sports her own business would benefit.
“For us to be able to grow more clubs and that we can get licences and knowing that somebody very confident and very capable is in charge of sports — it just gives us a huge amount of confidence,” Turner said by phone from Riyadh.
Al Maeena, who is also a member of the advisory Shura Council, said having a woman in the role would have a knock-on effect across Saudi society.
“I see a lot of business opportunities, a lot of women empowerment,” she said.


France overpower Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup final

Updated 15 July 2018
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France overpower Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup final

  • France overwhelmed Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium
  • Croatia fought hard for an hour but gradually ran out of steam after playing extra time in their three previous matches

MOSCOW: France overwhelmed Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup final at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on Sunday to lift the trophy for the second time in 20 years.
The French, playing their third World Cup final, were made to sweat initially and were lucky to go ahead when Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic headed an Antoine Griezmann free kick into his own net in the 18th minute, the first own goal in a World Cup final.
Ivan Perisic levelled with a powerful shot 10 minutes later but the Croatia midfielder was then penalized for handball following a VAR review and Griezmann stepped up coolly to convert the 38th-minute penalty and put France 2-1 up.
Croatia fought hard for an hour but gradually ran out of steam after playing extra time in their three previous matches, and goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe gave France a three-goal cushion.
Mandzukic pounced on a mistake by France keeper Hugo Lloris to cut the deficit in the 69th minute, making it the highest-scoring final over 90 minutes in 60 years, but Croatia could not find the net again in their first World Cup final.