'Serious problems' between Al-Ahli star striker Omar Al-Somah and coach Sergiy Rebrov

Omar Al-Somah has scored 11 league goals for Al-Ahli this season, but that didn't prevent him from being substituted in the biggest game of the season. (AFP)
Updated 08 April 2018
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'Serious problems' between Al-Ahli star striker Omar Al-Somah and coach Sergiy Rebrov

  • Top-scorer hooked after 70 minutes of big game with Al-Hilal
  • Syrian forward reacts badly to the decision while the crowd boo
JEDDAH: The Al-Ahli future of Omar Al-Somah is in doubt after he reacted angrily to being substituted in the big clash with Al-Hilal on Saturday night.
With the game deadlocked, Al-Ahli coach Sergiy Rebrov decided to withdraw his star striker with 20 minutes remaining and replace him with Saudi Arabia international Muhannad Assiri. The Syrian international looked toward his boss in disbelief when his number was held up and mouthed “Why?.” He reluctantly left the field of play, pointing to his head to make his bemusement with Rebrov’s decision clear, walked past his manager without acknowledging him and went straight down the tunnel. The decision by Rebrov was booed by the majority of the 35,000 crowd.

The game finished goalless and Rebrov failed to appear at the post-match press conference to discuss the incident, while the Syrian forward left the stadium in a private car, rather than on the team bus.
Al-Ahli legend Talal Al-Meshal, who represented the club for a decade and won 60 caps for Saudi Arabia between 1998 and 2006, feels there is an issue between Al-Somah and Rebrov.
“Al-Somah is a well-mannered guy,” Al-Meshal told Saudi Arabia’s UFM Radio. “I believe his reaction there indicates serious problems with the coach, or the club even. The coach was overtly conservative against Al-Hilal. He doesn’t seem to understand the players’ roles and capabilities well.”
The incident on Saturday night is the latest episode in a tense relationship between the pair. The issues started when Rebrov opted to leave Al-Somah out of the team’s roster for the AFC Champions League owing to injury. The Syrian returned to full fitness halfway through the group stage, meaning he could have played in the remaining three group games and been available for the two-legged round of 16 game.
Matters escalated last month when Rebrov withdrew his No. 9 half an hour into the second half of the league game against Al-Raed. Al-Ahli were 3-0 up at the time and Al-Somah appeared disappointed at being denied the chance to increase his goal tally. He has finished as top scorer in the Saudi Pro League for the past three seasons and has 11 this season, two behind league top-scorer Ronnie Fernandez of Al-Fayha.
After the Al-Raed match, Al-Somah said there are “things to be clarified at the end of the season,” fueling speculation that his stay at the club will not extend beyond the summer. He then took to Twitter days later to announce he was remaining at Al-Ahli.
Al-Somah is contracted to the club until 2020 while Rebrov is out of contract this summer.
The incident was the main talking point from an otherwise uneventful draw that means the league title will be decided on the final day of the season. Al-Hilal are one point clear at the top and host Al-Fateh on Thursday while Al-Ahli welcome Ohod.
“We have a few days to prepare for Thursday’s game, where our fate is now in our own hands and at home,” said Al-Hilal goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. “If we could replicate our performance from this match, we will get a win against Al-Fateh. There will be pressure on us, playing in front of a home crowd who are fully expecting the title will be a challenge, but I am confident in our ability to make it. We have been top of the table for most of the season, so we have no intention of letting it slip at the end.”


Afghan refugee Nadia Nadim scales summit of women’s football

Updated 19 March 2019
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Afghan refugee Nadia Nadim scales summit of women’s football

  • Nadim sets sights on women's World Cup glory this summer.
  • Former Afghan refugee plans to become a doctor once she hangs up her boots for good.

PARIS: “I don’t really think about the past and what happened,” says Nadia Nadim, the daughter of an executed Afghan general who spent years playing football in the fields beside her refugee camp before becoming a Denmark international.
“I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can play football and love what I do,” adds Nadim, a 31-year-old forward who recently completed a switch from Manchester City to Paris Saint-Germain.
Her story is a remarkable one. She was barely 10 years old when her father was killed by the Taliban, her family fleeing the war-torn nation and finding a new home in Denmark.
The journey from her home in Herat was a long one, via Pakistan and then on to Italy with the aid of human traffickers in a bid to get to Britain where she had family. Instead they found refuge in Denmark.
“We came to Denmark in 2000 when I was 10 or 11 years old, and we used to be in this camp, and just beside this camp there was these amazing football fields,” Nadim told AFP.
“Every day after school me and other refugee kids used to go and watch these other guys train. One day I asked if I could join in, and the coach was like ‘yeah, of course’,” she explained.
Away from the turmoil of her homeland at that time, her teenage years in Denmark were peaceful and she enjoyed comics, school — and especially sport.
“I feel happy and I feel grateful every day. I am fortunate to be in a situation where I can play football, be the player I want to be and meet new people all the time,” she says.
Nadim, who has embarked on studies to become a surgeon after her football days are over, feels the sport is a wonderful social leveller.
“There were a lot of kids from different areas ... Arabs, Iraqi, Bosnian, Somalian, nobody could speak the language, and no-one spoke English, so the only way we communicated was with the game,” she recalled of her early days in Denmark.
“Everyone was included, nobody would say ‘No’ because you are different ... that is what I still love about the game, everyone can be a part of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Christian or Muslim, it’s a game.”
While women’s equality is relatively advanced in Denmark, Nadim concedes that the situation is far more complicated in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan girls are not supposed to do sports, not supposed to wear shorts,” she says.
“But you can use sports to change points of view ... I have seen this myself.
“When I was younger my Mum would be like don’t play football with the boys because the women, my friends, think that there is something else going on.
“I used to hide myself on the street — we used to play street football — because my Mum was like, if they see you they are going to start talking.
“That was so stupid.”
Nadim went on to become a full Denmark international and played in the European championships final in 2017 where she scored the opening goal but could not prevent her side losing 4-2 to the Netherlands.
However, to her enormous chagrin, Denmark did not qualify for the World Cup, which kicks off in France in June.
“I was so disappointed,” she says.
She is circumspect when asked if she thinks the World Cup is going to be a “turning point” for the growth of women’s football.
“I don’t think there’s one tournament or one point that’s going to change everything,” she said. “I don’t think that’s how it works. It’s going to take time, but we’re on the right path.”
When she hangs up her boots, the woman who was forced to flee conflict herself says she hopes to combine her burgeoning medical career with humanitarian work.
“I think Doctors Without Borders do a great job and I’d love to be there for a couple of years to gain experience, but also be in an area where you probably are the only person who can help these people.”