‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. (Brave)
Updated 15 October 2018
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‘Pride of Palestine’ Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady ready to kick and punch his way into record books at Brave 18 in Bahrain

  • 23-year-old set to make history as he battles it out with Lucas Martins for the Brave lightweight belt.
  • Fight to take place in Bahrain on Nov.16.

LONDON: History will be made in Bahrain next month when Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady becomes the first Palestinian to fight for a mixed martial arts championship title. The 23-year-old has been announced as the challenger to face interim lightweight champion Lucas Martins of Brazil in Brave 18’s main event on Nov. 16.
Al-Selwady has won nine of his 10 professional fights and remains undefeated since joining Brave Combat Federation in 2016. While his shot at the title was expected, the identity of his opponent was not. Ottman Azaitar was Brave’s last lightweight champion, but the Moroccan was stripped of the belt after refusing to face Al-Selwady. Martins then claimed the interim belt with victory at Brave 14 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, last April. 
“It is an honor and privilege to compete for the championship in Bahrain,” said Al-Selwady, who made his professional fight debut aged just 17 in Jordan. “I am humbled by the opportunity to represent Palestine as an athlete in the main event of the largest combat sports event ever hosted in Asia. I will (put on) the best fight in my career and will make the world that stood alongside me during all these years of struggle proud.”
While Brave 18 will almost certainly not outsell the 21,000 that filled the Saitama Super Arena in Japan for UFC 144 in February 2012, the chance to witness a Palestinian crowned champion in Manama will undoubtedly help sell tickets for the fight night at Khalifa Sports City Stadium. 
“The guy is the future of lightweight,” Brave CEO Mohammed Shahid said only last month. “I’ve never seen anybody that dedicated in his training; that talented and hard working. He is a complete athlete. One of the guys I tend to compare him to is Georges St-Pierre (because) every time I see him, it reminds me of a guy who is a perfectionist.”
Al-Selwady, known as the “Pride of Palestine,” fights out of Amman but is currently training in Texas ahead of next month’s bout. He entered the ring for his last fight against Britain’s Charlie Leary in March draped in a Palestine-Jordan hybrid flag and while the fight was taken to the judges’ scorecards for only the second time in his career, he won by unanimous decision.
“Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady is featured not because he is a Palestinian icon, but for being the athlete with highest number of wins in the division,” Shahid added. “This is indeed a matter of pride for Palestine. And to recognize, support and to nurture such an athlete is indeed an achievement for Brave Combat Federation.”
Brave was founded in Bahrain by Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa — the son of King Hamad — and is considered one of the fastest-growing sports promotions companies in the world. Over a little more than two years, it has held 16 events across 11 countries with four more events scheduled before the end of the year, including debuts in Pakistan and South Africa and a year-ending fight night in Saudi Arabia in December.
MMA’s reputation has come in for widespread criticism recently following the ugly scenes that took place at UFC 453 following Khabib Nurmagomedov’s championship victory against Conor McGregor in Las Vegas last weekend. Khabib submitted McGregor in the fourth round before leaping over the cage and attacking members of the Irish fighter’s corner. Simultaneously, McGregor threw a punch at one of the Russian’s staff inside the octagon.
Shahid said it is important athletes remember they are held up as role models by some fans and should act accordingly, adding that Brave tries to steer clear of trash-talking, and focuses on the positive impact of sport.
“Sport can make a difference in society,” he told Arab News. “Athletes have a strong influence over their fans and society at large. Our athletes have honored martial arts as a sport that showcases discipline, respect and commitment. We have successfully featured our open workout programs to motivate and support the upcoming generation. Our athletes have wholeheartedly supported such initiatives, setting aside their differences and treating their rivalry in a healthy way.”


England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.