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.”


Australia confident they can win Perth Test to level series against Virat Kohli’s India

Updated 16 December 2018
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Australia confident they can win Perth Test to level series against Virat Kohli’s India

  • Nathan Lyon bullish about the Baggy Greens chances of levelling the series.
  • Another Virat Kohli masterclass not enough to get India on level terms with hosts after the first innings.

PERTH: Australia are confident they can overcome a deteriorating pitch to build a match-winning lead in the second Test in Perth.
At stumps on the third day, Australia were 132 for four, with Usman Khawaja on 41 and Tim Paine on eight, an overall advantage of 175 after leading by 43 runs on the first innings despite a stellar Virat Kohli century.
Although they still had six wickets in hand, opener Aaron Finch was taken to hospital for scans after retiring hurt with an injured right hand on 25.
Australian coach Justin Langer said Finch had been cleared of serious damage, but was uncertain if he would return to the crease.
The cracks in the pitch were starting to become a significant factor, with Finch’s opening partner, Marcus Harris, also struck flush on the helmet by a rising delivery in making 20.
Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who claimed five wickets in the Indian first innings to move into the top 25 of Test wicket-takers, conceded the pitch was getting harder to bat on, and claimed Australia were set to post a total its attack could defend to level the series.
“The wicket is starting to play a few more tricks,” he said.
“We know we have the bowlers to make sure we can defend what we have to.
“Whatever we get to is just going to have to be enough.”
Indian paceman Jasprit Bumrah (one for 25), who was almost unplayable at times, said India’s batsmen would not be deterred by a tough fourth-innings chase.
“We want early wickets tomorrow to reduce the total,” he said.
“I am confident our team is capable of chasing any total but we will try to minimize it as much as possible.
“No one has really got out to the crack, it is just there, but it doesn’t do a lot but it is only in the mindset.”
The Australians found batting extremely challenging in their second innings, playing and missing time and again as they battled to extend their lead.
Shaun Marsh (five) and Peter Handscomb (13) again fell cheaply, doing little to ease the pressure on their pair to retain their spots in the side.
Marsh played a loose shot to a short ball from Mohammed Shami (two for 23) and was caught behind, while Handscomb’s shaky defense was highlighted when he was trapped lbw by Ishant Sharma (one for 33).
The struggles of the Australian batsmen were a far cry from the command of Kohli as he anchored his team’s first innings until a contentious dismissal.
In reply to Australia’s 326 after winning the toss and batting, India were bowled out for 283 despite Kohli’s 123.
In reaching triple figures, Kohli became the second-fastest player to reach 25 Test centuries in terms of innings with 127, behind only Don Bradman (68) and ahead of his countryman Tendulkar (130).
He also joined Tendulkar as the only Indian batsmen to have scored six Test centuries in Australia, and became the first Test centurion at the new venue.
The Indian captain’s innings came to a controversial end when he was caught at second slip by a diving Handscomb from the bowling of Pat Cummins.
Kohli was given out by the on-field umpires but clearly believed it had not carried.
However, the decision stood after it was reviewed by third umpire Nigel Llong.
Bumrah said the Indians were “a little surprised” by the on-field decision, while Lyon said the Australians believed it was a “great catch.”
The Indians lost their last five wickets for just 35 runs to hand Australia a small but valuable lead.