‘Juve can go all the way,’ says Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo had every reason to jump for joy after yet another Champions League masterclass. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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‘Juve can go all the way,’ says Ronaldo

  • The Portuguese star was at his brilliant best as the Turin giants came back from a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Atletico Madrid to win at home 3-0 and go through to the last eight
  • The Champions League has been his favorite stage throughout his stunning career, and he scored his eighth hat-trick in the competition to sink Atletico hearts

LONDON: Cristiano Ronaldo sent a message to Real Madrid fans and an ominous warning to the rest of Europe after his brilliant hat-trick sent Juventus storming into the Champions League quarterfinals.
The Portuguese star was at his brilliant best as the Turin giants came back from a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Atletico Madrid to win at home 3-0 and go through to the last eight.
It was always going to take something special to beat the Spanish side — they had never lost when up 2-0 from the first leg, and the side is one of, if not the most defensively disciplined in Europe. With Diego Simeone at the helm, it was, everyone assumed, mission impossible for Juve.
But those predictions reckoned without another jaw-dropping Ronaldo display. The Champions League has been his favorite stage throughout his stunning career, and he scored his eighth hat-trick in the competition to sink Atletico hearts.
No sooner had he once again done the “impossible” than he told their last-eight rivals that more was to come.
“This was why Juventus brought me here, to help do things that they have never done before, to help them in games like this. I do my job and I’m very happy. It was a magical evening,” the 34-year-old said. “It was always going to be a special night and it was — not only for the goals but for the team. This is the mentality you need to win in the Champions League. We enjoyed a magical night.
Atletico were a difficult team but we were strong too. We will see what will happen.”
The first-leg had been a tough one for Ronaldo. The former Real Madrid star was back in the Spanish capital but at the home of Real’s city rivals. The fans let him know it and the Portuguese was not at his best. But having turned the tie around three weeks later, he was able to get his own back.
“I send a hug to all Real Madrid fans,” he said with a wink after his masterclass.
When a player usually says something along the lines of “that’s why they bought me,” there is an understandable temptation to dismiss a statement as being egotistical nonsense. But with Ronaldo, never one to shy away from reminding you how good he is, there is a huge sense that he was spot on.
Despite dominating Serie A, Juve are without a Champions League win since 1996, and an appearance in the final since 2015. Desperate for European glory, they spent over €100 million ($113 million) on the then-33-year-old, for some too much on a player that age. Now it is looking like good business; he was, as he said, brought for nights like these.
For defeated coach Simeone, there was no bitterness as he claimed there is no better player than the Portuguese hero, saying: “Cristiano Ronaldo is the best in the world. He can put in these performances on big nights.”


KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 19 March 2019
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KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”