Sports academy in Egypt gives Syrian children hope

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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (R) watches as Adel Bazmawi (L) teaches martial arts to a youth at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Adel Bazmawi, the cofounder of the Syrian Sports Academy, teaches students at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (R) watches as Adel Bazmawi (L) teaches martial arts to youth at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Adel Bazmawi (R) and Amir al-Awad (C), the cofounders of the Syrian Sports Academy, teach students at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (R) watches as Adel Bazmawi (C) teaches martial arts to youth at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (R) watches as Adel Bazmawi (L) teaches martial arts to a youth at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (white), the cofounder of the Syrian Sports Academy, watches as students train at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Adel Bazmawi, 21, a co-founder and coach of the Syrian Sports Academy, teaches students at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian refugee Amir al-Awad (white) and Adel Bazmawi, the founders of the Syrian Sports Academy, train at the academy in Egypt's second city of Alexandria on January 4, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Sports academy in Egypt gives Syrian children hope

ALEXANDRIA: When Amir Al-Awad fled Syria for Egypt, he intended to cross the Mediterranean for a European country.
But instead, the boyhood Syrian wrestling champion opted against the risky sea journey and found work at a restaurant in Alexandria, where he was introduced to the city’s Syrian community.
Together they established the Syrian Sports Academy, and he replaced his dream of an Olympic medal with a goal to “create champions from the young refugees” from his country, says Awad.
This was “so that one day they will be able to raise their flag as we have in the past after they return to Syria,” says the 34-year-old.
The academy is squeezed into just 30 square meters (320 square feet), in a modestly equipped hall at the bottom of a residential building in the Alexandria neighborhood of Khaled bin Al-Waleed.
Inside, Syrian children aged of seven to 10 dressed in T-shirts and jeans form a line after arriving at the end of a school day.
“Let’s go, guys, so you have enough time to study,” Awad yells in encouragement, as he moves on to coaching them wrestling.
With a small administrative office, and the lone training hall, Syrian youngsters practice martial arts, aerobics, ballet, and gymnastics.
In addition, the academy organizes football tournaments, especially for Arab and African refugees in the city.
On its aging walls hang pictures of international martial arts and weightlifting champions.
The academy’s founders began the project in 2016 with just 3,000 Egyptian pounds (about $430 at the time).
The financing came from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which provided 25 percent used to buy equipment, and the rest from the Caritas humanitarian group.
“We prepared the training hall step by step, including paint and design,” says Awad.
The academy’s growing reputation in the neighborhood drove Egyptian parents to also enrol their children there.
“We’re keen to teach the children sports ethics: to learn how to win and how to lose, which helps them in their life, instead of giving in to a bad lifestyle,” he says.
Karima Amer, an Egyptian mother from Khaled bin Al-Waleed neighborhood, cited “discipline” as the reason she takes her son and daughter to the academy.
She praised “Captain Amir” and how he “talks with the children about everything: their problems, food, and ethics.”
Adel Bazmawi, 21, a co-founder and coach, says he transitioned from a professional wrestling to coaching martial arts after coming to Egypt from Idlib in 2013.
“In Egypt I’m not recognized as a wrestler who can participate in international competitions” given he does not carry the Egyptian nationality, says Bazmawi, who was Syria’s freestyle wrestling champion for his age in 2006 and 2008.
Now “the most I can do is to fight in local clubs,” he says.
On the other hand, in addition to Alexandria, he says he has become known in other cities, including the Nile Delta provincial capitals of Tanta and Kafr el-Sheikh.
Still, he says “I miss international competitions.”
Even after receiving invitations to tournaments in Canada and Germany in 2015, he was unable to go because “Syrian nationality has become an obstacle to obtaining visas to European countries.”
There are more than 126,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees in Egypt, but the real figure is thought to be much higher.
Bazmawi, who did not complete his studies in sports education because of the devastating seven-year war in his homeland, helps his family to prepare Syrian shawarma at a restaurant close to the academy.
Those who train the youths go unpaid, something that is unavoidable given that 75 percent of the children are exempt from fees.
“The academy’s goal is to be developmental, and not to make a profit,” says Awad.
But older youths pay a “token” fee, up to 100 pounds a month, which the academy uses to pay electricity bills and rent, he says.
As busy as they are, Awad says his team “aren’t able to compete in various tournaments because of their Syrian nationality,” while to participate they need to officially register the academy.
On several occasions, they even had to cancel some activities on police orders, and they lack the licenses for gatherings, he says.
But for Karim Jalal Al-Deen, 10, the academy is a place to nurture his dream of going back to Syria one day after perfecting kickboxing.
“I want to go back to Syria as a champion, and beat Captain Adel, and I might even be a kickboxing coach myself.”


Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

Updated 19 May 2019
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Green triple-double fuels Warriors’ comeback win

  • The Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland
  • The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter

LOS ANGELES: Draymond Green exploded for a seventh career playoff triple-double Saturday as the Golden State Warriors rallied for a 110-99 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland and a 3-0 lead in the NBA Western Conference finals.
The two-time defending champion Warriors trailed by as many as 18 in the second quarter, but with Green driving them they produced another dominant third period to seize control of the contest and the series.
No team has come back from an 0-3 deficit to win an NBA playoff series. The Trail Blazers will try to fend off elimination when they host game four on Monday.
Green scored 20 points with 13 rebounds and 12 assists, keeping the Warriors afloat in the first half before superstar Stephen Curry came alive with 21 of his 36 points after the interval.
“There aren’t many guys in the game that can (affect both ends of the floor),” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green beforehand. “Draymond can do both.”
His intensity was on display on both ends of the court, and on the sidelines as he exhorted teammates to keep pushing.
Klay Thompson added 19 points for the Warriors, who were again without injured star Kevin Durant.
“All my teammates, my coaches have been telling me, ‘Draymond, get to the hole, be aggressive,’” Green said of his mindset.
“We’ve got guys out there, Steph, Klay and those guys who draw a lot of attention, so it’s on me to do my job and come through for those guys.”
CJ McCollum led Portland with 23 points. Damian Lillard, relentlessly double-teamed by the Warriors, added 19 points.
Center Meyers Leonard, making just his third start of the season, finished with 16 points.
Leonard made the most of his opportunity early, connecting on five of seven shots from the field in the first half on the way to 13 points.
The Trail Blazers, energized in front of a rowdy home crowd at the Moda Center, quickly built a 10-point lead before the Warriors trimmed it to two — 29-27 — at the end of the first quarter.
But the Blazers kept the pressure on, stretching the lead to 18 in the second quarter.
A steal by Lillard produced a thunderous dunk from Leonard, then Portland’s Seth Curry stole the ball from his superstar brother Stephen and raced for a three-pointer that made it 60-42 with 2:28 remaining in the first half.
Portland took a 66-53 lead into the locker room, but the Warriors responded with a monster third quarter, using a 22-6 scoring run to take their first lead of the game, 77-76 on a layup by Kevin Looney — assisted by Green.
Golden State out-scored Portland 29-13 in the quarter to lead by three heading into the final frame.
The Warriors pushed the lead to 11 with 4:51 remaining and the Trail Blazers wouldn’t get the deficit below eight from there.