Everest conqueror says end of Saudi Arabia stadium ban can inspire a generation

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REMARKABLE RAHA: The first Saudi woman to climb Everest is excited about the future of women’s sport in KSA. (Arab News)
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Wojdan Shaherkani made history at the London Olympics. (Reuters)
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Saudi Arabian female athletes lapping up the atmosphere at the London Games. (Reuters)
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Sarah Attar became a national hero and inspiration to millions around the world with her London Olympics run. (AP)
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Updated 10 November 2017
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Everest conqueror says end of Saudi Arabia stadium ban can inspire a generation

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s decision to grant women access to sports stadiums for the first time will go down as a watershed moment in the history of the Kingdom. That’s according to Raha Moharrak, who in 2013 became the youngest Arab and first Saudi woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Moharrak hopes the end of the stadium ban will inspire girls across the Kingdom.
The decision to allow women into stadiums across the country was made last month, meaning that from early 2018 women will be allowed into arenas in major cities, according to the General Sport Authority, the country’s governing body for sports.
Coming on the back of plans to increase female participation in sport throughout Saudi Arabia, optimism is building that this will not just represent a small pinprick in the dam of division, but signal an emphatic opening of the Saudi sporting floodgates.
And for Moharrak the news is just what is needed to get women across Saudi Arabia into sport and more active.
“I get goosebumps when I see a live sporting event and it’s something I have always wished my fellow countrywomen could get to experience,” Moharrak told Arab News, fittingly at the International Conference of Sports for Women (ICSW) in Abu Dhabi.  
 “I’m so happy that they will be able to taste the magic that is in the air when you see sport live for the first time. There is that vibe you get, that feeling — it touches you and it can often be what inspires you to be an athlete.
“The fact that girls could never previously go and watch sports meant they lost that connection, they lost that first moment of inspiration.”
Social media came alive in Saudi Arabia and beyond when the stadium ruling was announced, with female supporters looking excitedly ahead to the start of 2018 when they will finally be able to attend matches and events in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.
The path toward sporting parity arguably began in 2012 when, after pressure from the International Olympic Committee, Saudi Arabia sent its first ever athletes to the Olympics.
Judo player Wojdan Shaherkani and 800m runner Sarah Attar competed in London with Attar’s appearance, in particular, capturing the imagination of the watching world. Despite finishing a distant last place in her heat, she received a standing ovation from everyone inside the Olympic Stadium.
 Attar returned four years later to take part in the marathon in Rio de Janeiro and though she finished 52 minutes behind Kenyan winner Jemima Sumgong she had again made Olympic history for her country, alongside 100m runner Kariman Abuljadayel and fencer Lubna Al-Omair.
 While these athletes unquestionably played a role in breaking down barriers, Moharrak has become one of the most recognizable pioneers for female empowerment in Saudi Arabia, and beyond.
Since taking on Everest the Jeddah-born climber has traveled the world to tell enraptured audiences her story, and believes every positive change should be cherished.
Interestingly her achievements, like the abolition of the stadium ban, can be traced back to Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan.
Named the first female president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports in October, Princess Reema has been a driving force behind the equality evolution, and Moharrak certainly feels a personal debt of gratitude to the royal.
“Princess Reema took me and nine other Saudi girls to Everest base camp and it was then that I knew I wanted to climb the mountain. Her passion and charisma inspired me. Appointing her to this important position in sport is a huge step in the right direction because we have one of us there. She is a doer and a woman of her word who genuinely loves sports. I know she is pushing hard for all of us.”
 Moharrak had to fight for her opportunities, defying her father to pursue a passion for climbing. Now he is her biggest fan and she believes that it is only a matter of time before other men also recognize that the playing field deserves to be leveled.
 “I was furious to be judged by my gender, my passport and my religion but getting over those obstacles made the success even sweeter. I am constantly inspired by every single girl who goes to the gym, who rides a bike, who picks up a ball, who swims.
 “Every female in the Arab world who was born in circumstances that did not make it easy for her to be athletic but who still embraced sport anyway — these people are my inspiration. Some of them have medals, some of them have nothing. But they have all shown tremendous bravery to go after the love of sport.”
 Thanks to Moharrak, Princess Reema and Saudi Arabia’s other female sporting trailblazers, there is now hope of a brighter future. They have scratched the glass ceiling; now a new generation has the opportunity to smash through it.


UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

Updated 21 September 2018
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UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

  • Emirate Cricket Board backs plan to help UAE national side find more talent.
  • Second T10 League to increase to eight teams with star-name players returning.

DUBAI: The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has backed the UAE-based T10 league’s Talent Hunt program designed to unearth stars for the national side.
ECB board member Zayed Abbas welcomed the league’s announcement that is hoped will only enhance the ECB’s own initiatives aimed at finding and developing both Emirati and expatriate players who can go on to represent the country.
Any talented players that emerge from the T10 programme will feed into the UAE’s four cricketing councils.
Abbas told Arab News: “Any talent hunt that takes place here that can feed into the national team is welcome. Once it takes place then our national development programme management and team will be involved with them to set the criteria and the activities and plans going forward.
“At the end of the day, the T10 League is an approved league in the UAE. Their activities and the league are approved by the ECB and ICC so any talent hunt programme of theirs is definitely part of the UAE cricket board’s agenda.”
Casting the net farther for fresh faces in the UAE national team has been an ongoing pursuit for the ECB and is even more necessary following the disappointment of Dougie Brown’s men failing to qualify for this year’s Asia Cup, taking place on home soil, which offered the potential to showcase the UAE team to the country’s enormous cricketing community.
Hong Kong qualified at their expense, and considering the similarities between Hong Kong and the UAE as expatriate dominated countries with a local population waiting to be engaged, it is a case of what might have been. The impact could have been significant had the packed crowds of Dubai been able to witness captain Rohan Mustafa and Co. go up against the likes of MS Dhoni.
The ECB’s support — sought well in advance of the announcement and following discussions that have been ongoing since the culmination of the inaugural edition last year — will come as a major boost to the chairman and founder of the T10 league, Shaji Ul-Mulk.
It is also the latest in a series of expansions to the second edition of the T10 League, due to take place from Nov. 23-2 Dec. Two new teams have already been added, taking the number of franchises to eight and the tournament will be played across 10 days rather than the four of last year in Sharjah.
England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan will return to lead the Kerala Kings in the defence of their title and he will be joined by a star-studded cast in Rashid Khan, Shahid Afridi, Sunil Narine, Shoaib Malik, Brendon McCullum, Daren Sammy and Shane Watson.
They will be joined once again by two UAE players in each squad — and one in each matchday XI, a further reminder of the T10 League’s investment in UAE cricket.
“The global talent hunt is designed to unearth the unsung heroes from the cricketing world, especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh,” Ul-Mulk said.
“This programme will help the talent not only to get a job in the UAE and be able to display their cricketing skills at international level. The ECB is part of this programme and the good top-class cricketers will have a chance to play for the UAE national team.”
Mohammad Azharuddin and Wasim Akram have been announced as Talent Hunt directors and will oversee the searches in India and Pakistan respectively.
Abbas hopes that these ex-players-turned-scouts will add even greater gravitas to the T10’s plans to enrich the sport in the UAE and that the ECB’s own aim to grow the game among Emiratis is supported in everything T10 does.
“These players are considered legends of cricket so the more names you have at this level the better your product can get and the more successful you can get,” said Abbas of Azharuddin and Akram.
“These programmes are open for all, but the more effort (T10 organizers) put into the Emiratis (the) better for us because that will make a huge difference in the country’s national agenda and the sport’s agenda. 
“If you develop your own players there is nothing like it.”