Nike’s film promotes pioneering spirit of Middle Eastern women

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Middle East's women athletes featured in the Nike inspirational film pose for a group picture. (AN photos)
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Parkour trainer Amal Mourad.
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Boxer Arifa Bseiso
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Pop singer Balques Fathi.
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Ice skater Zahra Lari
Updated 20 February 2017

Nike’s film promotes pioneering spirit of Middle Eastern women

JEDDAH: In a step toward Arab women’s empowerment, Nike launched on Saturday an inspirational film featuring professional and everyday athletes from the Middle East titled “What Will They Say about You?”
The film takes a common phrase — “What will they say about you” — and flips it to reflect a positive message.
Athletes in the region are excelling in sports more than ever. They’re “the first,” “the best” and “the only.” Nike’s campaign is inspired by the idea that trying something for the first time and pushing beyond a personal boundaries and fears can lead to positive change and, in the instance of sport, lead to a healthier lifestyle.
“We wanted to celebrate the pioneering spirit of women in the Middle East, and we wanted to do it in a way that talks to the culture and athletes here from the region,” Nike spokesperson Hind Rasheed told Arab News.
Nike first talked to many female athletes in the Middle East who were not included in the video to understand their connection to sport and what kind of sport they prefer. In the next step, the company selected five different athletes from different countries in the region: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE to appear in the film.
“What will they say about you?” is a question many young Arab females are challenged with at home. Women are met with this phrase from family and friends when they endeavor to try something unexpected or to push boundaries beyond social norms.
Nike’s campaign to empower women in the region sent an inspirational message through the same phrase. “By that way, we wanted to inspire other girls as well,” Rasheed said.
Nike talked to many female athletes for Saudi Arabia, some who are living in the UAE and some living in Saudi Arabia.
‘What will they say about you?’ This phrase, it’s every little girl’s nightmare growing up,” explains Amal Murad, a parkour athlete from the UAE. “We hear this every time we do something that might be met with criticism. There’s a fear to stand out and do something that’s not part of the norm. But I’ve learned that, if you genuinely want to do something amazing, you can’t be afraid of hearing this phrase. Don’t be afraid of your own greatness.”
Nike’s campaign launches with a new film highlighting five remarkable women who have achieved personal success through competitive and amateur sport. Despite concerns or criticism, these women hope that the world will regard them as pioneers, role models and strong voices for their region.
“Through Nike’s work with athletes in the Middle East, we’ve been incredibly inspired by the pioneering spirit that exists here,” Rasheed said. “In the region, it’s possible to achieve global success. These stories are an inspiration to us at Nike, and we wanted to share them with others, hoping they’ll inspire more women to overcome doubt and seek empowerment through sport.”
The film features both professional and amateur athletes from the Arab region, including Parkour Trainer Amal Mourad (UAE); Ice Skater Zahra Lari (UAE); pop singer Balquees Fathi (UAE/Saudi); fencer Inès Boubakri (Tunisia); and boxer Arifa Bseiso (Jordanian). Narration is done by Fatima Al-Banawi, a Saudi social researcher, artist and actress, who is the Saudi representation in this campaign.
After driving Lari to her first figure skating lesson as a young girl, her father was hesitant to allow her to start competing seriously. Today, Lari is working to qualify for the 2018 Winter Games with the full support of her parents and extended family.
She hopes people will say she is unstoppable. “I’ve had a lot of criticism throughout my journey, but I’ve never let that stop me or bring me down,” Lari said. “People should know that Emirati athletes are strong. We’re confident women who know what we want to do, and we work very hard to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.”

Bseiso was not interested in sport until her early 20s. “I didn’t have an athletic role model to inspire me growing up,” Bseiso said.
Today, she hopes people will say she is an inspiration to both men and women in the ring, and she hopes to encourage others to find a sport they are passionate about.
“I want to inspire people to remove the labels they put on themselves,” she said. “I am not flexible,” “I am not strong,” “I don’t have the conditioning.” “Don’t let this stop you. I love that Nike says ‘If you have a body, you are an athlete.’ My message is find YOUR boxing, and let it change you — allow it to transform you for the better.”
At the start of her career, pop-singer, Balqees Fathi faced many doubts from her family. Someday, she hopes people will say she became an icon. “When my parents were worried about how I would be perceived as a singer, I told them “Be patient and watch — I might just actually change what other people say.”
Growing up in an athletic family, Boubakri began fencing at the age of 4. Despite the support of her family, critics did not understand her commitment to the lesser-understood sport. Today, with three gold medals to her name, Boubakri hopes people will say she triumphed. “I hope they’ll say that, despite the odds, I triumphed. From the podium in Rio, I dedicated my medals to all Arab women, and I hope my success can inspire others to surround themselves with positive people who push you to reach your goals and go for it,” she said.
Amal Murad’s parents did not understand her passion for parkour until they saw the positive response to her sport on social media. Today, her family is proud to say that people see her as a light for others. “At first, you may have to prove to your family that you’re capable by believing in yourself,” said Murad. “Not in the sense that you must go against them, just start with small steps — take classes in an all-female gym. There’s so much joy and freedom that fitness can bring to everyone’s life.”
These strong women are helping to create positive change through sport and fitness, and they all hope that sharing their stories will inspire others, and turn the phrase “What will they say about you?” into a positive question with powerful answers.


Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

Updated 03 August 2020

Mind games begin ahead of the return to Saudi football as Hilal boss Lucescu challenges Nassr coach

  • Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining
  • There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play

DUBAI: There may have been no football in Saudi Arabia for five months but the mind games are in full flow as ahead of the crucial top of the table clash in the Saudi Pro League on Wednesday, Al Hilal boss Razvan Lucescu has told Al Nassr coach Rui Vitoria that the pressure is all on him.

In the first game since March when the season was suspended due to coronavirus, Al Nassr in second, six points behind the leaders with eight games to play, can’t afford any slip-ups in the Riyadh Derby if they are to successfully defend the title they won last season.

“We are six points ahead and the opponent is under more pressure as they know they have to reduce the difference,” Lucescu told reporters at the pre-match press conference to the eagerly-awaited Riyadh Derby that will take place with no fans in the King Fahd International Stadium.

That points gap means that the smart money is still on Al Hilal to take league title number 16. Victory in this Riyadh Derby will take the three-time Asian champions nine points clear of Al Nassr with just seven games remaining.

Not only that but Al Hilal have looked to be in better shape than their challengers in recent warm-up games with a 2-2 draw with second tier side Al-Shoalah following a 4-0 win over Al Riyadh.

“We have been looking forward to this game for a long time,”  Lucescu, who took Al Hilal to the AFC Champions League title in 2019, added. “The league suspension has been long and it has not been easy but we have focused on the mental side of things and aim to return strongly.”

The Romanian has been boosted by the return to fitness of Brazilian star Carlos Eduardo who has recovered from last week’s knock. With the league’s leading goalscorer Bafetimbi Gomis signing a contract extension in July, Lucescu is in a positive frame of mind.

“We know the way they play and we know that it will be a tough game …but everyone is affected by the long pause and we all start at the same level. We are just going to take it step by step and stay focused.”

There has been good and bad news for Al Nassr as Brazilian centre-back Maicon Pereira has arrived in Riyadh from Galatasaray and has been cleared to play. The former Porto star will be needed as fellow defenders Omar Hawsawi and Abdullah Madu could miss out through injury.

While Hilal may have the points gap, in terms of the personal battles between the two coaches, Vitoria has the upper hand. The Portuguese boss has yet to lose in three meetings with his Romanian rival in big games in Europe as well as Saudi Arabia.

In a final play-off to reach the group stage of the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League, Vitoria led Benfica to a 5-2 aggregate victory over PAOK, coached by Lucescu. After a 1-1 draw in Lisbon, the Portuguese powerhouse won 4-1 in Greece.

Earlier this season, Al Nassr inflicted Al Hilal’s only loss in the league this season so far with a 2-1 win at Hilal’s King Saud International Stadium in October with Moroccan forward Abderrazak Hamdallah getting both goals.

A similar result at Al Nassr’s home on Wednesday would breathe new life into the title race. Vitoria has stressed that recent friendly games were a chance to try out tactics and give players a run-out. Losses against Al Raed and Al Fateh however have given the Portuguese boss much to think about.

At the other end of the table.  Al Ittihad are just three places of the bottom of this 16-team league and in danger of the drop. The two-time AFC Champions League winners face a game on Tuesday at mid-table Abha where victory would provide the Jeddah giants with some much-needed breathing space.

The race for third and a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League is also a fierce one. Al Wehda are currently in the driving seat and host Al Shabab while Al Ahli in fourth and just two points behind host the struggling Al Hazem. Al Faisaly, Al-Taawon and Al Raed also have an outside chance of booking a place in next year’s continental competition.

All eyes will, however, be on the top of the table clash as Hilal can take a huge step towards the title. “I am happy with how the players have returned from the suspension and I am confident in  their abilities,”said Lucescu. “All we care about is winning the next match and that will help us win the league.”