UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians
UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians
Arab athletes used to being called “special needs” were surprised and excited this week to see welcome signs with the new label at the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games in Abu Dhabi.
The term, seen everywhere from handicapped accessible boardwalks to the Abu Dhabi exhibition center, is one the UAE hopes will catch on beyond its borders.
Matar Saeed Al-Naimi, president of the health committee for the 2018 MENA competition, says the games also offer a venue to educate local society.
Groups of Emirati elementary school age children were a fixture at the MENA games, brought in with their teachers to attend various sports events.
“They are still young and they are the future, so it is very important for the UAE to teach this generation who are the ‘people of determination’ and what they are capable of doing,” Naimi told AFP.
“The goal is a united society,” he said.
On Tuesday, the final day of competitions, a basketball match between Iraq and Syria ended with tears, cheers and finally a group photograph.
“I’m happy, very happy. I don’t know how to describe it,” said Naim Asmar, a member of the victorious Syrian basketball team.
Asked whether he preferred they be labelled as special needs or as people of determination, the athlete responded unequivocally.
“People of determination,” he said over and over.
“It means we have willpower! We might even have more than regular people,” he said pointedly.
The team coach, Yasser Al-Yassine, was also thrilled.
“This term is like a push for them — they understand what it means. It’s very motivating. It says, ‘I am a person of determination, so let’s go! I will do, I will train, I will play. If I can’t play, I’ll at least participate.
“It’s a wonderful concept,” said Yassine, whose team was participating in an international competition for the first time in six years.
Syria’s team coach said his players — three from Damascus, three from Aleppo and two from Homs — face challenges in society even as the country’s war has wound down in their own cities.
The confidence they gain at regional competitions and local games is hard won — and easily lost.
“There’s society, the school, the neighborhood — the streets. So maybe I have them once, twice or three times a week for an hour and a half. All the confidence we built in an hour and a half can be destroyed in five minutes,” said Yassine.
“They need to have each other’s backs.”
While the men’s teams from Syria and Iraq shook hands, women’s teams from Pakistan and Algeria faced off on the opposite court.
Kamilia Nihad Metidji, a 26-year-old volunteer with the Algerian team, said the “people of determination” label had surprised her.
“I was very happy that they call them this because I find that — with this word — there is no difference between us and them; between the healthy and the handicap-,” she said, stopping short to correct the terminology:
“The people of determination,” she continued. “It gives them self-worth; it’s super. It means they don’t have to feel different.”
Metidji said she volunteered with the special needs athletes because she wanted them to “feel like there’s no difference between us.”
“I want to give them courage: to show them they can accomplish something; they can win games, they can win medals — they can do everything we do.”
Heart and courage needed as Liverpool and Roma prepare for Champions League semifinal
- Both sides shocked more-fancied opposition to reach last four.
- Tremendous atmosphere expected in first leg at Anfield.
If football is about guts and glory, about matches that linger in the mind long after the final whistle has blown, the Champions League fulfils a curious role. On the one hand it is both symbol and agent of much that is wrong in modern football, the corporate culture, the ludicrous inequality of resources that have rendered many domestic leagues processions. But on the other it does offer more chances for those immortal nights than any other competition — and perhaps particularly so when the teams involved are Liverpool and Roma.
Roma have not won Serie A since 2001; Liverpool have not won the English top flight since 1990. These are not sides who will take success for granted. Whatever happens in the remainder of this season, fans of both teams will remember their quarterfinals with fondness: Liverpool for the way their side twice beat the runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, a 20-minute blast in the first-half of the first leg in which they scored three times proving decisive; and Roma for their remarkable comeback from 4-1 down after the first leg to go through on away goals.
Roma again have the second leg at home, where they are yet to concede in the Champions League this season, having shut out sides of the calibre of not only Barcelona but also Chelsea and Atletico Madrid. That is, theoretically, an advantage but equally it is hard to conceive of this Liverpool side failing to score anywhere, which in turn means that Roma probably need a goal at Anfield. Liverpool themselves, for all their reputation for defensive fallibility, have kept clean sheets in each of their last four home Champions League games, and have generally been much improved at the back since the arrival of Virgil van Dijk in January.
That development is part of an overall sense of progress at Liverpool. In that regard, Jurgen Klopp is in a similar position to Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. It is evident that there has been an improvement in each year he has been at the club but there is a growing sense that it would be nice for that to be validated by a trophy. And if that trophy can be the Champions League, so much the better.
Perhaps there are still concerns that the midfield does not offer the central defenders quite the protection it could, particularly when the full-backs are as attacking as they are, but Liverpool now have options in that area — and will probably perm three from Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Georgino Wijnaldum — and have a unit that is quick, powerful and combative.
Given how Juventus wilted in the last 16 against Tottenham’s press, that physical advantage Premier League teams perhaps have over Italian sides, could be a major factor — particularly given the likelihood that Roma will start with the 34-year-old Daniele De Rossi as a fairly static playmaker behind Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan.
Against Barcelona, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a back three for only the second time this season. That was probably a specific ploy to overman Barca’s 4-4-2 in the center. A return to the more familiar 4-3-3 seems likely here but one of the beauties of games at this stage, particularly in cauldrons like Anfield and the Olimpico, is that at least as important as the tactics are more visceral factors, like heart and courage.
MOHAMED SALAH v FEDERICO FAZIO
The first question any opposition manager has to answer when facing Liverpool is how to deal with Mohamed Salah who has scored 41 goals this season, cutting from the right into the space created when Roberto Firmino drops deep. One way to counter him might be to use a right-footed left-back to deal with those incursions inside, much as Rafa Benitez once switched Alvaro Arbeloa to the ‘wrong’ flank to deal with Lionel Messi. More likely here, though, is that the left-sided center-back Federico Fazio will be asked to guard against him, even if that means stepping out from the back-line. That, in turn, increases the defensive responsibility on Daniele De Rossi. There may even be a case for bringing in Juan Jesus, who did such a good job against Messi, either instead of Fazio or at left-back in place of the injury doubt Aleksandar Kolarov.