Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild in tri-nation clash

Sri Lankan cricketer Upul Tharanga, right, and his teammates take part in a religious observance before leaving for Bangladesh, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Sri Lanka will participate in the tri-nation limited overs cricket series with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe starting Jan. 15. (AP)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild in tri-nation clash

DHAKA: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe all have a point to prove when they battle each other in a tri-nation one-day tournament in Dhaka from Monday.
The home nation, without a coach, are licking their wounds from a disastrous tour of South Africa. Sri Lanka have just had their worst year in international cricket. And Zimbabwe are on edge after a thrashing by the Proteas that blunted their run-up to a crucial World Cup qualifying tournament in March.
The event, staged at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, is Bangladesh’s first home engagement in more than a year, and follows three heavy ODI defeats in South Africa in October.
Bangladesh have become a strong one-day team in recent times, notably reaching the Champions Trophy semifinals last year. But they were brutally exposed by the Proteas, as defeats by 10 wickets, 104 runs and 200 runs highlighted how much further they have to go.
“This tri-nation tournament is really important for us. Everyone is upset after the South Africa tour. Now, if we can win this tournament, everything can be changed,” said skipper Mashrafe Mortaza.
The task has been made more difficult by the resignation of coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who chose to return to his native Sri Lanka. Hathurusingha makes his debut as Sri Lanka’s coach in this tournament.
The 49-year-old former batsman resigned in the middle of the South Africa tour, though the decision was only made public in December.
Former national captain Khaled Mahmud is in interim charge as team director, and the Bangladesh Cricket Board has yet to indicate when a permanent replacement will be named.
Hathurusingha travels to Bangladesh with his own problems, as his new team come out of a demoralizing year.
Former World Cup winners Sri Lanka won only five of 29 one-day internationals in 2017.
The country’s cricket authorities changed captain twice in six months after influential all-rounder Angelo Mathews stepped down in July, highlighting the turmoil in the national game.
Mathews has been re-appointed as Sri Lanka’s limited over captain ahead of 2019 World Cup, for which they were the final team to qualify.
Meanwhile underdogs Zimbabwe, who face Bangladesh in the first game of the tri-nation competition Monday, are looking for a lift ahead of hosting a World Cup 2019 qualifying tournament in March.
Last month they lost a Test in South Africa by an innings and 120 runs inside two days of what was intended to be a historic four-day day-night Test. The match lasted just 907 balls.
Zimbabwe will be boosted by the return of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, who have not played one-day internationals since 2015 and 2013 respectively.
Coach Heath Streak has indicated that Zimbabwe will devote more energy to one-day games, due to limited Test opportunities.
The three teams will play each other twice in the two-week tournament, which ends with a final on January 27.


Riz Rehman is the man with a plan to ensure Premier League passion is Muslim-friendly

Updated 22 September 2018
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Riz Rehman is the man with a plan to ensure Premier League passion is Muslim-friendly

  • Mohamed Salah's record-breaking season has focused attention on the Premier League's Muslim players and fans.
  • Past three players to win Player of the Year have all been Muslim.

LONDON: The face of English football has changed unimaginably since the start of the Premier League in 1992 — not least in terms of the number of Muslim footballers plying their trade in the most popular league in the world.
Twenty-six years ago, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Nayim was the league’s only practicing Muslim. Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 40 Muslim players gracing England’s top flight — many of them global stars such as Mohamed Salah, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. 
This is a hugely welcome development for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) and its education adviser, Riz Rehman, who is himself a Muslim. 
Rehman’s role involves him supporting players of different backgrounds — including Muslims — and aiming to boost their participation in football. Little wonder, then, that he is delighted that the past three winners of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award were all Muslim — Salah, Kante and Riyad Mahrez. 
“It’s great for the Muslim community — young people, players, aspiring players and coaches — that three Muslims have won this award and that two of them (Salah and Mahrez) are Arabs,” Rehman told Arab News. 
“It’s very important because it’s created more awareness about Muslims being good at the game and sport in general. It’s important we highlight this.” 
Leading Muslim footballers’ soaring success and stardom have coincided with rising Islamaphobic attacks in Britain following the Brexit vote in 2016. Regressive attitudes toward race, religion and immigration have raged in some parts of the country, as Rehman acknowledged. 
“The biggest misconceptions are that Muslims are all terrorists or that they are all Asian and have long beards,” he said. “Isolated incidents are giving Muslims a bad name.” 
Mercifully for Rehman and the PFA, the likes of Salah and Kante are portraying Muslims in a far more positive — and realistic — light on and off the pitch. 
During his sublime 2017-18 season, Liverpool star Salah topped the Premier League goal-scoring charts with 32 goals and reached the Champions League final. His unstinting brilliance led to him being serenaded with his own song by Liverpool fans, which includes the line: “If he scores another few, then I’ll be a Muslim too.” 

Mohamed Salah has created a positive image of Muslims during his record-breaking year in the Premier League. 


Many social media posts and videos showing young supporters copying the Egyptian maestro’s overtly religious goal celebration have also been posted many times. This involves him performing sujood, the Islamic art of prostration. 
“Things like that are really helping to bring down barriers in the game,” Rehman said. 
Likewise, he cites the fact that Salah and his Liverpool teammate, Sadio Mane, visit a mosque every week after training for Jumu’ah, the Friday prayer. 
Meanwhile, only last Saturday the humbleness of Chelsea’s irrepressible midfielder Kante — who has two Premier League winners’ medals and one FA Cup success to his name — was widely hailed. 
After missing his Eurostar train to Paris, Kante — who achieved World Cup glory with France in July — was invited home for dinner by Arsenal fan Badlur Rahman Jalil after meeting him while praying at a London mosque. Remarkably, Kante duly obliged and spent the evening watching Match of the Day and playing the FIFA video game with Jalil and his friends. 
“People are more aware that we have Muslim players in the game,” Rehman said. “Players are not afraid to come out and embrace the fact that they are Muslims and showing the world that they’re good people.” 
But are the PFA — and clubs in the Premier League and England in general — doing enough to increase Muslim representation in English football? 
“I think things are better than ever. A lot of clubs are working hard on all-inclusive programs,” replied Rehman, who was a promising youth-team player at Brentford before injury cut short his career at the age of 17 in 2000. 
“We deliver workshops aimed at club staff to educate them about better engaging Muslim communities. We get staff and coaches together and tell them more about Islam, what it involves and discuss Ramadan and how it might affect performance and participation at all levels. 
“On the back of that, hopefully clubs will deliver programs around the needs of the community. There are clubs like Crystal Palace who are looking to deliver Asian-specific programs to get more Asian kids playing football, more Asian coaches and look at the Muslim community as well.” 
Rehman himself helped organized an Iftar event at League One outfit Portsmouth earlier this year, which “went really well.” 
“We also had players come along to support the day. Clubs such as Crystal Palace, Leicester City and a few others are showing an interest in holding similar events next season. 
“Leicester City are a club with a massive Asian community and we are supporting them with trying to set up some programs.” 
Also high on Rehman’s agenda is encouraging more BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) coaches into the game. As well as sitting on the advisory group for the Premier Leagues Elite Coach Apprenticeship Scheme, one key program he is involved in is “Sidelined-to-Sidelines.”

N'Golo Kante has been one of the best players in England's top-flight since he moved to the Premier League three years ago. 


This was established by the Zesh Rehman Foundation — which was set up by his brother, a former Fulham defender — to address a shortage of qualified South Asian coaches. 
“We are setting up sessions to try and recruit young coaches at clubs like Crystal Palace, QPR and Chelsea,” Rehman revealed. “Coaches wearing those club badges become role models and are able to influence their own communities and encourage more kids (from under-represented ethnicities) to take up the game.” 
Rehman is keen to recruit more Muslim “ambassadors” at clubs “up and down the country” to emulate the likes of the inspirational Salah. 
“We want them to work with the community, local groups, mosques, and get players to actually go into those communities and build links with the clubs. It’s a two-way thing.” 
Progress has also been made in attracting more Muslim supporters to Premier League matches, Rehman added. Liverpool and Brighton and Hove Albion are among the clubs that have multi-faith prayer rooms to cater for their increasingly diverse fanbases, he said. 
“Some clubs sell halal food, too, so there’s something for everyone.
“It’s a worldwide game now. Mo Salah has reached out to a lot of people. I think Muslim communities themselves have to make an effort to go to matches. 
“It’s not an overnight success, but you do see different communities represented on match days, week in and week out.”