Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

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In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs in the Saudi Women's Squash Masters, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily, pictured. (AP)
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Nicol David, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and PSA Chairman and Saudi Squash Federation President, Ziad Al-Turki. (Twitter)
Updated 07 January 2018

Female squash professionals including KSA player “making history” at Saudi tournament

LONDON: The Saudi Arabia Squash Federation President says the world’s top female players “are making history” by competing in the first professional women’s squash tournament to ever take place in the Kingdom.
The world’s leading female players are in Riyadh for the first World Series event of 2018 — the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters — which got underway today and runs until Friday.
The tournament, held at Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, features 32 international players, including Nada Abo Al-Naja, Saudi’s wildcard player. She plays world No. 3 and No. 2 seed Camille Serme tomorrow.
Following recent initiatives from the General Authority of Sports in Saudi Arabia to increase sporting participation and awareness across the country, the $165,000 tournament will play a crucial role in inspiring a new generation of Saudis to become active within sport.
“Things are changing in Saudi, and they are changing fast,” said Ziad Al-Turk, who is also the Chairman of the PSA, at the official tournament dinner. “Win or lose, you [the players] are making history.”
Eight-time world champion Nicol David tweeted: “Truly honored to be part of this historical moment in Saudi Arabia.”
The tournament was scheduled to take place in November but was postponed due to “logistical challenges.”
“Bringing professional squash back to Saudi Arabia for the first time since 2010 has been an ambition of mine and I am grateful for the support of the Women’s Department of the Saudi General Authority for Sport to see this come to fruition,” said Al-Turk. “Not only is squash one of the healthiest sports it is the perfect sport for the Saudi climate. I’m hoping that this tournament will increase local participation in Saudi Arabia, and I look forward to working with all parties involved throughout the next six months, ensuring continued success for years to come.”
The staging of the tournament comes hot on the heels of the Saudi General Sports Authority approving three football stadiums to allow women to attend Saudi Professional League matches for the first time
“We look forward to growing the female participation of the sport of squash,” said Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports. “It is a dynamic game that involves fast thinking and fast reaction times, skills that are well reflected in the women of Saudi Arabia.”
With no qualifying rounds featured at the tournament, 32 of the world’s top players — comprised of 12 nationalities — go straight into the main draw, with stars such as world champion Raneem El-Welily, world No. 3 Camille Serme, world No. 5 Nouran Gohar and Nicol David joining the battle for the prize purse.
Egypt’s World No.1 and tournament top seed Nour El-Sherbini will get her tournament under way against France’s world No. 30 Coline Aumard and is seeded to meet compatriot and world No. 5 Nouran Gohar — who starts her tournament against Australia’s former world champion Rachael Grinham — in the last four.
The Egyptian two-time world champion is also predicted to face off against world No. 3 Camille Serme in the final should they both play to their seeding. Serme is scheduled to meet eight-time world champion Nicol David in the quarter-finals.
The pair have met 17 times on the PSA World Tour — with the Frenchwoman only winning one of those encounters against the Malaysian icon in the quarter-finals of the recent Hong Kong Open this season. David will start her tournament in Riyadh against Egypt’s World No.31 Mayar Hany.
Meanwhile, newly crowned world champion El Welily — who triumphed over El Sherbini in December to win squash’s biggest tournament — will start her tournament against Belgium’s world No. 27 and Open International de Squash de Nantes runner-up Nele Gilis as she seeks to keep her strong run of form going in her first tournament since lifting the PSA World Championship crown in Manchester.
Other big names in the draw include US Open winner Nour El-Tayeb, who comes up against Hong Kong’s world No. 36 Liu Tsz-Ling in round one of the World Series tournament, and English pair Alison Waters and Sarah-Jane Perry, who take on Egypt’s Heba El-Torky and Hong Kong’s Joey Chan, respectively, in the opening round of the historic event.
In addition to the lucrative $165,000 prize fund up for grabs, the players will also be battling it out for points on the PSA World Series Standings — which are currently headed up by Egypt’s El-Welily — as players aim for a top eight finish, which will guarantee their participation at June’s PSA World Series Finals.

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”