Rijkaard sacked as Saudi football coach

Updated 30 January 2013
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Rijkaard sacked as Saudi football coach

RIYADH: The Saudi Football Federation fired the national team’s Dutch manager Frank Rijkaard on Wednesday following the kingdom's poor performance in last week's 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations in Bahrain.
Federation chairman Ahmed Eid Al-Harbi said the decision to sack Rijkaard came after a vote by a majority of members of the federation.
Al-Harbi said the federation appointed Saudi-Spanish Union football expert Sergio as the first coach and assigned Salman al-Quraini as a supervisor.
Sports analysts had predicted Rijkaard's sacking after Saudi Arabia failed to reach group stage, losing 2-0 to Iraq and 1-0 to Kuwait. It's sole victory was over Yemen, 2-0.
Saudi Arabia signed a three-year deal in July 2011 with Rijkaard after the national team was eliminated from the Asian Cup, capped by a 5-0 defeat by Japan.
He replaced Nassir al-Johar, who was dismissed after that campaign, described by local media as the lowest point in the kingdom's football history after appearing in four World Cups.
The Saudi team failed to make it to the 2010 World Cup and it fell to 92nd in the FIFA world rankings from a high of 23rd in 2004.
Under Rijkaard's stewardship, however, the kingdom's ranking fell down farther to 126th.
Rijkaard’s contract with Saudi Arabia was reportedly worth $9 million, with a penalty clause of more than $4 million in case of dismissal.
But the head of the kingdom’s sports body, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, who was the head of the football federation when former Barcelona boss Rijkaard was hired in July 2011, has said that he is willing to foot the bill of ending Rijkaard’s three-year contract.
Rijkaard is the second manager to lose his job at the championship after Qatar announced the dismissal of Brazilian coach Paulo Autuori on Tuesday following the team’s elimination in the first round.


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.”