Pakistan’s Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

Pakistan's Azhar Ali celebrates reaching his century during a match between England and Pakistant on August 4, 2016. (Reuters file)
Updated 17 July 2018

Pakistan’s Azhar Ali signs for Somerset

  • Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month

LONDON: Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali has joined Somerset for the remainder of their first-class English County Championship fixtures this season, the southwest club said Monday.

The 33-year-old replaces Australia opener Matt Renshaw, who made three hundreds at 51.30 in the opening rounds of the Championship before breaking a finger against Surrey at Guildford last month.

Azhar is set to make his Somerset debut against Worcestershire later this month.

"The standard of first-class cricket in England is very high and I hope that I can make a contribution to Somerset winning matches," Azhar told his new county's website.

"I have heard good things about Somerset and I was impressed by what I saw at Taunton in 2016 (when Pakistan opened their tour of England that year against the county).

"I am looking forward to joining my new team mates and meeting the Somerset supporters soon."

Azhar struggled during Pakistan's three Tests against Ireland and England earlier this season, making 73 runs in six innings although his lone fifty did come during Pakistan's impressive victory over England at Lord's.

"Finding the right fit at short notice can be challenging, however we are delighted to have secured a player of Azhar Ali's character, pedigree and class for the remaining seven Specsavers County Championship matches," said Somerset's director of cricket, Andy Hurry.

"His experience at the top of the order will prove to be hugely valuable at the business end of the season.

"I have spoken to him several times over the last few weeks and he is very keen to share his knowledge of the game with our aspirational players, so the influence he can have within the changing room will also be vital for us as a club."

Nadiya Abdul Hamid punching the way for Arab women in the boxing ring

Updated 22 October 2018

Nadiya Abdul Hamid punching the way for Arab women in the boxing ring

  • Hamid has moved from inside the ring to teaching boys outside it.
  • Egyptian hero has had to deal a right hook to preconceptions about women and boxing.

BUENOS AIRES: When Nadiya Abdul Hamid, a seven-time Egyptian national champion, hung up her boxing gloves almost a decade ago, she turned her talents instead to coaching.
Yet even while she last week became the first Arab female to train athletes at an Olympics, at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, Hamid feels she is still fighting daily for the respect she deserves.
Hamid is a 29-year-old who gives little away, likely the result of a career in which she has been forced to overcome cultural subjugation and sexual discrimination since the day she first entered the ring 15 years ago. A late starter at 14, she quickly learnt the ropes and finished fifth at the 2008 International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Championships, competing as a light-heavyweight.
“At the time, it was something unusual in Egypt,” Hamid told Arab News. “I was the first woman in my country to make a professional career out of boxing. I became Egypt’s first female boxing coach and it was so hard for men to accept this idea of a woman coaching boxing, let alone boys. Some people still say ‘We are in a Muslim country, how can a woman coach the men?’ but with time they are accepting the idea.” 
Since receiving an invitation in 2009 to work alongside a new Cuban coach hired by the Egyptian Boxing Federation, Hamid has slowly negotiated her way through the system, eventually in 2016 earning the role of head coach of her country’s youth team. Two of her fighters won bronze medals at the World Youth Championships in Budapest in August, while at the African qualifying tournament for this month’s Youth Games, her fighters won all three slots available to them.
“Training three boxers simultaneously is nothing new,” she said. “You just have to train everyone separately and give everyone their own time, that’s it. It gets harder when you have a big competition such as the Olympics because you must be focused on everyone and sometimes schedule individual training. But we are used to this.”

Youssef Ali Mousa reacts after the points decision against Britain's Karol Itauma went against him at the Youth Olympics in Argentina.

In Argentina and working alongside coach Said Hassan, Hamid watched from the corner as all three of her fighters reached the semifinals. When Youssef Ali Moussa lost harshly to eventual gold medallist Karol Itauma of Britain, it was she who carried the tearful young man back to the training area. Marwan Madboly and Ahmed El-Sawy Elbaz also lost in their final-four bouts, but Elbaz recovered to beat Canada’s Tethluach Cguol and secure a bronze medal.
“Some people did not accept the idea (of a Muslim woman working with young men) until they saw me coaching,” Hamid said. “Every day, I am still in a fight, but I am winning. Now it is finally being accepted and becoming more popular because many people talk about this woman who became the Egyptian national team coach. For me, you have to show your respect everywhere you go, not only with the people but also in the way you work. You need to show you deserve to be where you are.”
Hamid said one of the most positive developments of the past eight years has been women in the Middle East beginning to make their voices heard, pointing to Sahar Nasar, her government’s investment minister.
“Now (women) have a voice. They said ‘We are here; we are not focusing our minds on war or revolution, but instead on evolving ourselves.’ Arab women only want to show that if you give us a chance, we will surprise you. Now the women in my country and some other Arab countries are getting those chances and taking them.”
Hamid hopes her chance will lead to the fulfilment of a dream she has retained since the first time she donned training mitts. For while people often speak of athletes setting objectives around Olympic Games, coaches are no different.
“Absolutely,” she said. ”It’s been a dream for me for a long time, since I started coaching nine years ago. Always I wanted to go to the Olympic Games, so I am looking to Tokyo 2020. That’s my target.”