Al-Hilal’s Eduardo looking to lead from the front
Al-Hilal’s Eduardo looking to lead from the front
It was his hat-trick in the second leg of the quarter final against Al-Ain that propelled Al-Hilal deep into tournament, and having swept past Iranian side Persepolis 6-2 on aggregate in the last four, they come into the final as the favorites against Japan’s Urawa Reds.
But Eduardo insists that favoritism, and the hunger Al-Hilal have to win the title, adds no pressure on to the players as they prepare for their biggest clash of the year.
“No pressure,” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview. “We have to enjoy the moment, you don’t have the chance to win a AFC Champions League all the time, so we only have to enjoy and feel no pressure at all.”
With seven goals this season, Eduardo is equal second on the scoring charts behind Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk and his teammate at Al-Hilal, Syrian striker Omar Khrbin.
That partnership with Khrbin has been Al-Hilal’s biggest strength this season, combining for 16 of their 23 goals in this campaign. But Eduardo was quick to deflect the praise from himself and on to his teammates.
“Helping Al-Hilal qualify was the most important part of scoring the three goals,” the 28-year-old said.
“With the goals, I helped my team to advance, but it was the team’s victory. Without my teammates I wouldn’t have been able to achieve it.”
Eduardo, who signed for the Riyadh club in 2015 having had previous spells with FC Porto in Portugal and OGC Nice in France, almost helped them to the final of the AFC Champions League two years ago.
Trailing Dubai’s Al-Ahli 0-2 at half-time in the UAE, Al-Hilal staged a second-half comeback and a pile driver from 30 meters out from Eduardo just after the hour mark pulled them level at 2-2, which would have been enough for Al-Hilal to advance on away goals.
But a 95th-minute winner from Al-Ahli’s South Korean defender Kwon Kyung-won broke Saudi Arabian hearts just a year after their tough loss to Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2014 final.
Having not been at the club for that match against Western Sydney, Eduardo, who once scored five goals in a single match for OGC Nice, says the two legs against Urawa Reds will be the biggest of his career.
“It is the most important match in all aspects,” he said.
“That’s why I said I want to enjoy this moment I am living, also because in football you have more bad moments than good ones, so I have to enjoy this good moment.
Against Urawa Reds they will come up against a side with the most potent attack in this year’s competition, scoring 28 goals in their 12 matches so far and with the likes of Rafael Silva, Shinzo Koroki and Yosuke Kashiwagi in their side, they will pose a constant threat.
Somewhat bizarrely, the Japanese outfit have lost four matches in this year’s competition but have still managed to plot their way through to the final, with two miraculous second-leg comebacks against Jeju United in the Round of 16 and Kawasaki Frontale in the last eight helping their cause along the way.
In a good omen for the Reds, and a bad one for Al-Hilal, the only team to lose four matches and make the final was Western Sydney Wanderers in 2014 — the year they beat Al-Hilal in the final.
In better news for Eduardo and Co., they come into the showdown as the tournament’s form team having gone through undefeated with seven wins and five draws from their 12 matches.
It is that statistic that gives the Brazilian so much confidence heading into tomorrow’s first leg at the King Fahd International Stadium, but despite feeling confident about their chances, Eduardo insisted they would show Urawa the utmost respect.
“We know Urawa Reds is a great Japanese team and has good quality players,” he said.
“We are going to respect them as we respected all our opponents until now, but it’s a final and both teams want to win.
“I am feeling good physically, I am feeling very confident, as all the other players are. We’re ready for this final and we want to give our best to become the champions.
“More than ever, we need this title.”
Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah
- Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds
JEDDAH: The first Women Bowling Championship in Saudi Arabia took place in October in three cities, Riyadh, Alkhobar, and Jeddah, where it finished at Ice Land Bowling Center on Saturday. Gada Nemer, 42, from Riyadh, who came first in the competition, told Arab News: “I participated in all three tournaments, in Riyadh, Alkhobar, and today in Jeddah. I won first place in Alkhobar too. “I am not a professional bowler, but I used to bowl with my kids. Two of them bowl on the national team. I am very glad to have the chance to participate in these tournaments, and look forward to future ones.”
It was the first tournament of its kind in the Kingdom, as the country is rapidly developing sporting facilities for women and increasing women’s involvement in sports by making reforms that have included allowing physical education for schoolgirls and opening female-only gyms. Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds. All competitors took part in the first round, 33 made it into the second round and 16 qualified for the third.
Participants were between 11 and 56 years of age. Nemer received a cash prize of SR5,000 ($1,335) and those in second and third place received SR3,000 and SR2,000 respectively.
The last round had the best three competitors competing for first place with Nemer winning first prize, followed by Meshael Alabdulwahed (second) and Wissam Al-Harbi (third).
Bowling is still a growing sport for women in Saudi Arabia. The first female bowling team officially registered in the Saudi Bowling Federation, and the Eastern Province bowling team is only seven months old, according to Dr. Razan Baker, member of the board of directors and head of media and women’s participation at the federation.
Baker told Arab News: “We were surprised by the excitement of the participants. The numbers were beyond our expectations.
“Many participants would like to become professional bowlers. With this high turnout I expect bowling centers to start supporting new female bowling teams.”
Abeer Abdulmalik, from Al-Qassim, participated in the tournament. Although she is new to bowling, she made it to the third round.
“I never bowled before in my life, and I did not prepare myself for the game. I am surprised and happy with what I scored, although I was hoping to be in the final round,” she told Arab News. “I would like to take part in future championships.”
Aminah Khan, who participated in the tournament with her two sisters, told Arab News: “I came here for fun, and to try my luck before I go to my midterm exam.”
Khan did not make it to the second round, but said she would start working to improve her skills and take bowling more seriously as a sport.
The championship was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, and General Sports Authority, and in partnership with Arab News as the exclusive English media partner for the event.