‘Saudi Arabia must be Brave,’ says former Green Falcons boss Marcos Paqueta

Marcos Paqueta was in charge of Saudi Arabia the last time they played at the World Cup, in Germany 2006.
Updated 13 June 2018
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‘Saudi Arabia must be Brave,’ says former Green Falcons boss Marcos Paqueta

  • Former boss backs side to make it to knockout stages if they play without fear.
  • Paqueta led Saudi Arabia at their last World Cup, 12 years ago.

MOSCOW: Marcos Paqueta is the last man to lead Saudi Arabia at a World Cup. The Brazilian, who took the reins ahead of the 2006 tournament after guiding Al-Hilal to a second-placed finish in the Saudi Professional League, speaks to Arab News about the challenges of coaching the Green Falcons, the perils of being a coach, and his thoughts on the side’s chances ahead of today’s opener in Russia.

Just like current manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, you were brought in after the team had already qualified for the World Cup. What are your memories of that 2006 tournament?

For me, it was a great accomplishment to have participated in a World Cup. The squad arrived after a very troubled World Cup in 2002 with some big defeats, such as the 8-0 against Germany. There was a very depressed and fearful feeling in the camp, but we took the players to a psychologist, who helped change that. It was cool and actually quite a smooth process because I previously worked at Al-Hilal and that season we had enjoyed some success, so we had around 10 Hilal players in the squad. The way they played was 4-4-2 and the way I played was 4-5-1, so on a tactical level, it was close to a perfect fit too. The only real concern, even from the federation, was psychological.

It is rare for a country to let a coach go after he qualifies for a World Cup, yet Saudi Arabia did it in 2006 with Gabriel Calderon and last year with Bert van Marwijk. What do you make of the pressures on modern-day coaches?

Ahead of the World Cup, we played many strong matches: Against Poland, against Greece, who were European champions, against Portugal. The results were not good, but the experience gained was. The team held their own against these teams, so we got rid of the fear of a thrashing and built confidence. The current Saudi team seem to have tried a similar tactic. Nowadays though, with the Internet, 24-hour news, social media it all heightens the pressure and speeds up the process. And it’s the coach who pays the price. I’ve coached in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Libya, Egypt, Iraq … it happens a lot in the Arab world. Everyone has a voice and if people let themselves get carriedaway, they can be led by others.


What do you make of the current team? You are back in Brazil now, but have you had a chance to watch them at all recently? Who do you think will qualify from Group A?

Yes, I always follow my former teams. We still have a good relationship there in Saudi Arabia. The team is in a difficult group, no doubt; a group that also includes a Red Sea derby. For me, it is the Egypt game that will decide who qualifies. We know that Uruguay and Egypt are very strong with many players playing abroad, which is important, but Russia are hosts and to play at home brings a lot of pressure. Saudi Arabia can benefit. It is a difficult group to predict, but the first phase of a World Cup is when teams take a little more risk. It’s hard to say which team will qualify, but Saudi Arabia must be brave.


Your team in 2006 played against Tunisia, this year Saudi Arabia will play Egypt. Did you feel extra pressure in the match against regional neighbors? Were the players more motivated? 

This type of rivalry will always exist in the Arab countries and the Tunisia game was a very well-fought match — 90 minutes full of soul and emotions. With two minutes to go, we were winning 2-1 and getting our campaign off to a great start. But there was something missing from the maturity of the players and we were unable to secure the positive result. This year, well, Egypt has a very big rivalry with Saudi Arabia and with Mohamed Salah, they have a player who can change a game. He has plenty of experience. It will be a very well-played match though; a very interesting game. For sure, there is no chance I will miss it.


Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah

Dr. Razan Baker, 3rd left standing, with participants at the Third Women’s Bowling Championship 2018, in Jeddah on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 21 October 2018
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Women’s Bowling Championship 2018 wraps up in Jeddah

  • Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds

JEDDAH: The first Women Bowling Championship in Saudi Arabia took place in October in three cities, Riyadh, Alkhobar, and Jeddah, where it finished at Ice Land Bowling Center on Saturday. Gada Nemer, 42, from Riyadh, who came first in the competition, told Arab News: “I participated in all three tournaments, in Riyadh, Alkhobar, and today in Jeddah. I won first place in Alkhobar too. “I am not a professional bowler, but I used to bowl with my kids. Two of them bowl on the national team. I am very glad to have the chance to participate in these tournaments, and look forward to future ones.”
It was the first tournament of its kind in the Kingdom, as the country is rapidly developing sporting facilities for women and increasing women’s involvement in sports by making reforms that have included allowing physical education for schoolgirls and opening female-only gyms. Sixty-three competitors, many of them amateurs, participated in the competition which consisted of four rounds. All competitors took part in the first round, 33 made it into the second round and 16 qualified for the third.
Participants were between 11 and 56 years of age. Nemer received a cash prize of SR5,000 ($1,335) and those in second and third place received SR3,000 and SR2,000 respectively.
The last round had the best three competitors competing for first place with Nemer winning first prize, followed by Meshael Alabdulwahed (second) and Wissam Al-Harbi (third).

Growing interest
Bowling is still a growing sport for women in Saudi Arabia. The first female bowling team officially registered in the Saudi Bowling Federation, and the Eastern Province bowling team is only seven months old, according to Dr. Razan Baker, member of the board of directors and head of media and women’s participation at the federation.
Baker told Arab News: “We were surprised by the excitement of the participants. The numbers were beyond our expectations.
“Many participants would like to become professional bowlers. With this high turnout I expect bowling centers to start supporting new female bowling teams.”
Abeer Abdulmalik, from Al-Qassim, participated in the tournament. Although she is new to bowling, she made it to the third round.
“I never bowled before in my life, and I did not prepare myself for the game. I am surprised and happy with what I scored, although I was hoping to be in the final round,” she told Arab News. “I would like to take part in future championships.”
Aminah Khan, who participated in the tournament with her two sisters, told Arab News: “I came here for fun, and to try my luck before I go to my midterm exam.”
Khan did not make it to the second round, but said she would start working to improve her skills and take bowling more seriously as a sport.
The championship was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, and General Sports Authority, and in partnership with Arab News as the exclusive English media partner for the event.