The troubled tour that ended Edgardo Bauza’s reign as Saudi Arabia's head coach

1 / 2
2 / 2
Updated 24 November 2017
0

The troubled tour that ended Edgardo Bauza’s reign as Saudi Arabia's head coach

LONDON: As the only English-language journalist at this month’s ill-fated World Cup preparation camp in Portugal, I was able to witness firsthand Edgardo Bauza’s dying days as coach of Saudi Arabia. It is difficult to say the signs were there given the camp was supposed to essentially be a first chance to implement some of his ideas and philosophies. There were clues, however, that the two parties were not a perfect match.
In an industry where patience is as rare, the Argentine paid the price for lackluster results in matches where results were meant to be irrelevant. Defeats to Portugal and Bulgaria were not ideal, but he was unruffled. These were friendlies and the 59-year-old had decided to experiment with formations and personnel. He told me repeatedly he had “eight months to prepare,” adding “we are calm; we have time.”
He was wrong. The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) were unconvinced. There are bottles of laban that have lasted longer than Bauza’s 69-day reign and he will surely feel hard done by, yet like a man who has smoked all his life being told he has cancer, while Bauza may have been surprised, he cannot have been shocked.
Since the Green Falcons finished bottom of their group at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the national team has gone through 12 coaches in 11 years. In September, Bert van Marwijk led the Gulf side to a first World Cup in more than a decade, yet celebrated not by signing a new contract, but rather by seeing his deal expire without extension.
Bauza, once named the third-best coach in the world but more recently labelled a failure with Argentina, was not the first choice and when he was offered the job, he had little say given his employer, the UAE FA, had already struck a deal with SAFF. In hindsight, it appeared a marriage of convenience rather than suitability.
The 59-year-old told me in Portugal his switch to Riyadh eight weeks earlier was practically taken out of his hands. In what proved to be his final interview with an English-language publication, he explained: “It was not a difficult decision. The president of SAFF called the president of the UAE FA because they no longer had a coach.They made an agreement in which I could work and then they called me on the phone and I was asked if I agreed to work in Saudi Arabia.”
Bauza did not seem to be particularly well informed of goings-on behind closed doors. He was unaware that Oliver Kahn had been tasked to train the national team’s shot-stoppers and appeared oblivious to a SAFF proposal to send the country’s best players to Europe this winter on loan. He appeared content, but struggled with an apparent lack of professionalism, grimacing at the mention of his players visiting McDonalds and getting angry when our interview was interrupted by a SAFF delegate asking if he wanted his laundry washed.
He highlighted the shallow depth of the pool of players he had to select from, the questionable quality of the Saudi Pro League and his lack of a game-changer, such as Lionel Messi or Omar Abdulrahman. He also confirmed his family remained in Dubai, where he continued to visit most weeks. Crucially, despite a spell with Al-Nassr in 2009, he also relied entirely on a translator to communicate with his players.
The language problem was laid bare on the sidelines of his team’s 1-0 defeat to a poor Bulgaria side as he repeatedly struggled to convey his tactical ideas. He urged his wingers to attack the opposition full-backs only to see them turn and pass backwards. He spun on his size 13s and stared — furious and frustrated — at his bench for assistance and was met only with silence and blank stares.
Eight days later, the silence was broken: Bauza was gone. The news made me think of his final words as he passed me on the way out of the Estádio do Fontelo when I asked him about future friendlies. “There is a long way to go, but we have plenty time,” he said. “Ask me again in Moscow.”
His flight to Russia for next week’s World Cup draw has since been canceled.
 


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
0

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.