Asian football goes from joy to despair in a short week

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Updated 24 November 2017
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Asian football goes from joy to despair in a short week

LONDON: Just last week, Asian football was celebrating the fact it had five successful World Cup qualifiers for the first time ever. This week, with the draw for the 2018 tournament imminent, two of the quintet are without a coach. For a continent desperate to redeem itself after the misery of Brazil 2014, it neither reflects nor bodes well.
Maybe Nov. 22, 2017 will be known as “Black Wednesday.” It started on a Sydney morning as an emotional Ange Postecoglou sat at a press conference and announced that he was stepping down as Australia head coach. The reasons remain unclear.
Just a few hours later, and thousands of kilometers away in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) announced that Edgardo Bauza had been given his marching orders. It was a shock but not a surprise given the federation’s history of chopping and changing coaches and speculation just a week earlier that Bauza’s days — limited though they had been — were numbered.
Unlike Postecoglou, who had been in place for four years and had delivered the 2015 Asian Cup, Bauza arrived in Riyadh only in September. The Argentine now has the unfortunate distinction of leaving three national team jobs one year.
Fired by his homeland in April after eight months in charge, released by the United Arab Emirates in September to go to Saudi Arabia, Bauza has clearly had better years.
Bauza’s sacking mirrors what happened the last time the Green Falcons made it to the World Cup. In 2005, another Argentine, Gabriel Calderon led the side through qualification in an impressive fashion. Soon after he was fired as the big bosses reportedly did not like his preparation plan.
In came Marcos Paqueta. The Brazilian was not a big name but had been with Riyadh giants Al-Hilal. Just one point from the 2006 World Cup shows that the gamble did not work.
This is another one. Five friendly games was all Bauza had. For a new coach, three defeats against good opposition should not be a major factor at the start of preparation for the World Cup. But if there was a quick realization that the Argentine was not the right man then it was the right — if ruthless — move.
It’s one that was the result of letting Bert van Marwijk leave in September. The Dutchman, who took his native Netherlands to the 2010 final, had been the Green Falcons coach for two years and delivered a first qualification since 2006. He knew the players and vice-versa.
Talking to the Dutch media shortly after Bauza’s dismissal, Van Marwijk said he’d already been offered his old job. He refused due to the issues that led to his exit, enforced changes to his coaching staff the biggest, still existing.
If true, SAFF going back to offer him his old job back bodes well in terms of how they are approaching the task of replacing Bauza.
What the sacking has done is overshadow the great achievement of Saudi Arabia making it to the showpiece in Russia next year ­— the side’s first trip to a World Cup since Germany 2006.
All football fans aross the Kingdom will doubtless be hoping the SAFF make the right appointment now to boost the hopes of the side’s and Asia’s World Cup hopes.


Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah

Dr. Razan Baker, 3rd left standing, with participants at the Third Women’s Bowling Championship 2018, in Jeddah on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 21 October 2018
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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).

Growing interest
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.