Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes

Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes
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Members of the Iraqi national cycling women's team take part in a training camp on August 14, 2018, in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region, ahead of the "Arab Cycling Champions in Algeria". (AFP)
Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes
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The country’s toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region. (AFP)
Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes
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The country’s toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region. (AFP)
Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes
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The country’s toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2018

Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes

Kurdish women pedal, dunk, spike as Iraq’s top athletes
  • Three medals were won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at a tournament in Algeria
  • Decades ago, all of Iraq’s 18 provinces had thriving female athletic scenes, with active clubs in different sports

IRBIL, Iraq: When Iraq’s female cycling team snatched bronze and silver medals at a landmark pan-Arab race, it was thanks to athletes from the autonomous Kurdish region.
The country’s toughest female competitors, its best-equipped facilities and most experienced coaches are not in the capital Baghdad, but in the Kurdish-majority northern region.
And the three medals won by the Iraqi female cyclists in September at the tournament in Algeria were seen as proof of this sporting prowess in a region that has governed itself since 1991.
The team earned a bronze in the relay race, where three of its four cyclists were Kurdish, and also scooped a bronze and a silver in individual events.
The silver-winning athlete, Mazda Rafiq, hails from the Kurdish region’s second city, Sulaimaniyah.
“Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to represent Iraq in a cycling race, and today I was able to do that,” said the 20-year-old.
Rafiq, who trains in the region’s capital, Irbil, credits her victory to “the support of society and our parents.”
Decades ago, all of Iraq’s 18 provinces had thriving female athletic scenes, with active clubs in different sports.
But the 1980s saw a string of violent conflicts begin, followed by an international embargo that brought development projects to a screeching halt and the rise of militias.
Those factors, combined with growing conservatism in parts of Iraqi society, all chipped away at sports culture for women.
However in the north, relatively insulated from these trends, Kurdish women have enjoyed an athletic awakening — one that Iraq’s clubs and national teams are making use of now.
A female cycling team in the southern conservative city of Diwaniyah regularly poaches two Kurdish athletes from Sulaimaniyah — more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) to the north — for national and regional competitions.
“They are better, and the club knows they’ll help them get a better score,” said Sajed Salim, of Iraq’s Cycling Federation.
One reason for the success of Kurdish female athletes may be the relatively lax social norms in the autonomous region, said Iraq volleyball champion and club coach Randy Metti.
“Kurdistan is more open to women’s sports than the provinces of the south,” he said, where traditions and tribal customs restrict how much women and girls can do outside the home.
Metti coaches the Akad Ainkawa women’s volleyball team in Irbil three times per week, all year long.
Player Mirna Najeeb brings her seven-month-old daughter to every training session.
“I was advised not to exercise six months after giving birth but I told the whole world that I would start again,” she said.
Najeeb and fellow Akad players are regularly called up to Iraq’s national team to compete internationally.
“A player has everything here — modern training facilities, interested clubs, and great coaches,” she told AFP.
The clubs also enjoy widespread public support and are popular meeting places.
“The fact that they have restaurants and recreational spaces encourages families to come support the female athletes,” said Khaled Bashir, a member of Iraq’s Volleyball Federation.
That popularity often translates into material support for local clubs, allowing them to pursue more training and keep improving.
Elsewhere in Iraq, teams rely on funds from the ministry of youth and sports, which barely cover basic expenses.
“There are talented athletes everywhere, but they do not emerge in the other provinces because the structures are not the same as those in Kurdistan,” said Bashir.
The numbers speak for themselves.
This year’s national volleyball championship brought together “11 female Kurdish teams against four other female teams from the rest of Iraq — all of them from Baghdad,” he said.
Women’s basketball, too, has become a hit sport in Iraq thanks to Kurdish athletes — including all-girl teams in Dohuk, Halabja and Irbil.
The relative calm enjoyed by the region has contributed to their advancement, said the head of Iraq’s Basketball Federation, Hussein Al-Omeidi.
“That stability in the region’s towns when it comes to daily life and to security is vital to the athletic excellence of our female teams,” Omeidi told AFP.
Out of Iraq’s seven female basketball clubs, three of them are from the Kurdish region — a source of pride for female basketball federation member Wassen Hanoun.
“It’s an important proportion that really shows how much female Kurdish sports dominate,” she said.


Germany brush aside holders Portugal to resurrect Euro 2020 hopes

Germany brush aside holders Portugal to resurrect Euro 2020 hopes
Updated 19 June 2021

Germany brush aside holders Portugal to resurrect Euro 2020 hopes

Germany brush aside holders Portugal to resurrect Euro 2020 hopes
  • Ronaldo scores first but Germans romp back to put away 4 goals

MUNICH: Germany got their Euro 2020 campaign back on track — and blew Group F wide open — with a 4-2 romp against Portugal in Munich on Saturday.
France’s 1-1 draw with Hungary earlier in Budapest and Germany’s win mean there is all to play for in Wednesday’s final group games when the Germans host Hungary and the French meet holders Portugal.
“Overall, it was a great performance: great attitude and great morale,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
“We rightly won by that amount and created many chances.”
After Cristiano Ronaldo claimed his 107th international goal, leaving him two short of Ali Daei’s all-time record, to give Portugal an early lead, the Germans roared back with four unanswered goals.
German pressure forced own goals by Ruben Dias and Raphael Guerreiro to put the hosts 2-1 up at half-time.
A Kai Havertz goal underlined Germany’s dominance before left-back Robin Gosens capped his man-of-the-match display by heading in Germany’s fourth to add to his two assists.
Portugal hit back when Diogo Jota tapped in Ronaldo’s hooked volley to make it 4-2 with 23 minutes left.
Germany continued their domination of Portugal, who they have now beaten five consecutive times at World Cup or European Championship finals since Euro 2000.
“Germany were the better team and I take responsibility for this (defeat), but whether we progress now is up to us and how we respond,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
Germany created a huge amount of chances compared to Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by France, while Portugal lacked the composure of their 3-0 win over Hungary the same day.
The match began at a frantic pace amid sweltering conditions in the Bavarian capital.
The Germans had a goal disallowed after five minutes when VAR spotted Serge Gnabry was offside as Gosens hit a spectacular volley.
However, sloppy Germany defending saw Portugal take the lead.
With only Gosens and Havertz defending at a German corner, Bernardo Silva started a counter-attack, then picked out Jota in the area with a world-class pass.
The Liverpool forward squared to Ronaldo, who sprinted into the box to slot the ball past Germany captain Manuel Neuer with less than 15 minutes gone.
It was Ronaldo’s first goal against Germany to extend his record tally to 12 goals at five European Championship finals.
However, two own goals inside four minutes turned the game.
Germany drew level when another Gosens volley was flicked toward the net by Havertz, with Dias getting the final touch as the ball flew past Rui Patricio on 35 minutes.
The second goal soon followed when Guerreiro turned Kimmich’s cross into his own net while trying to stop the ball reaching the on-rushing German forward.
Gosens caused Portugal problems all afternoon on the left flank.
His low cross was tapped in by Havertz six minutes after the break.
The Atalanta player then capped a superb display by powering in a close-range header from Kimmich’s cross on the hour mark.
German fans sang their approval, with “Oh, wie ist das schoen” (oh, is that beautiful) echoing around the Allianz Arena.
Gosens was substituted soon after with his name being chanted.
Portugal pulled a goal back when Guerreiro’s free-kick was hooked back by Ronaldo and turned in by Jota.
Germany nearly claimed a late fifth goal when Havertz’s replacement Leon Goretzka fired over after another surging attack by the hosts.
This is the first time Portugal have conceded four goals since losing 4-0 to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.


Griezmann rescues draw for France against Hungary

Griezmann rescues draw for France against Hungary
Updated 19 June 2021

Griezmann rescues draw for France against Hungary

Griezmann rescues draw for France against Hungary
  • World champions miss the chance to clinch a place in Euro 2020 last 16

BUDAPEST: Antoine Griezmann salvaged a 1-1 draw for France against Hungary in Budapest as the world champions missed the chance to clinch a place in the Euro 2020 last 16 on Saturday.

Hungary threatened to blow Group F wide open when Attila Fiola gave the hosts a shock lead in first-half stoppage time after catching out the France defense.

But Griezmann, the Golden Boot winner at Euro 2016, equalized on 66 minutes as an unconvincing France avoided a first competitive defeat since June 2019.

“It’s a point, it’s not what we were hoping for, but given the context we’ll take it all the same,” France coach Didier Deschamps said

“After a first half in which we should have led, we found ourselves trailing after their only chance.

“Obviously playing in front of their fans and that support, it gave them strength.”

Deschamps’ side top the section with four points. 

Hungary earned their first point and the Germans are bottom after losing to France in their opener.

“This is one of the best days of my life, even the best,” said Fiola.

“We got a great result, I am proud of the team, and the fans who created an amazing atmosphere today, we showed that we could play braver, more attacking football than versus Portugal, it’s been an incredible day.”

France stay in Budapest for their final game against Portugal, while Hungary travel to Munich to take on Germany, still hoping to qualify for the knockout phase for a second straight tournament.

Contending with stifling temperatures in excess of 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and a crowd approaching 60,000 at the Puskas Arena, the only Euro 2020 venue without capacity restrictions due to COVID-19, France controlled much of the first half.

Having lived up to their billing as tournament favorites in a 1-0 win over Germany, France dominated Hungary early on, creating numerous chances against a side that held out for 84 minutes before losing 3-0 to Portugal.

Peter Gulacsi clawed away Karim Benzema’s low drive, reacting sharply to keep out Griezmann’s follow-up, despite the Barcelona star being flagged for offside.

Lucas Digne, brought into the side for Lucas Hernandez as the only change made by France coach Deschamps, then picked out an unmarked Kylian Mbappe whose glancing header flashed narrowly wide.

Hungary lost captain Adam Szalai to injury midway through the first half, and the hosts were living dangerously as Benzema sliced badly from a superb flick by Mbappe before the Paris Saint-Germain forward dragged
wide himself.

France captain Hugo Lloris had warned of over confidence against a team expected to finish bottom of the group, and Les Bleus were punished for a brief lapse just before half time. Fiola collected Adam Nagy’s crossfield ball and played a one-two with Roland Sallai, outpacing Benjamin Pavard and holding off Raphael Varane to side-foot beyond Lloris at his near post.

Deschamps had waited until the 89th minute before making a substitute in the opener against Germany, but the introduction of Ousmane Dembele for Adrien Rabiot on the hour nearly brought an immediate equalizer as the Barcelona forward rattled the post.

France pulled level when a long kick upfield by Lloris sailed over the head of Nagy, with Mbappe latching onto it ahead of Hungary’s Paris-born Loic Nego.

His ball across goal was deflected into Griezmann’s path by Willi Orban as he attempted to clear, allowing the forward to slam in his seventh European Championship goal.

Gulacsi produced a fine save to turn away a fierce shot from Mbappe as France pressed for a victory that would have sent them through to the knockout phase. Instead, they must wait until Wednesday’s clash with Portugal.


Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix
Updated 19 June 2021

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix

Verstappen edges Hamilton for pole at French Grand Prix
  • Verstappen leads Hamilton by just four points in the Formula One world championship ahead of the seventh race of the season

LE CASTELLET: Max Verstappen claimed pole on Saturday for the French Grand Prix with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes alongside the Red Bull driver on the front row to lay the foundations for another gripping installment in this season’s delicately poised title battle.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes starts on the second row with Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by just four points in the Formula One world championship ahead of the seventh race of the season at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday.

Hamilton won from pole the last two races staged at Le Castellet in 2018 and 2019, but Verstappen had approached qualifying as the man to beat after dominating the final two practice sessions.

Verstappen, claiming his first pole since the season-opener in Bahrain, is anxious to translate pole into a win after a shredded tire robbed him of almost certain victory in Baku last time out.

“So far it’s been a really positive weekend, on a track that is normally difficult for us. To get pole position was really nice.

“Great day for us but we have to finish it off tomorrow and get 25 points — which we lost in Baku. Great promise from our side.”

After struggling to keep tabs with his Red Bull rival in practice Hamilton was relieved to narrow the gap between them to 0.258s.

“We’ll keep pushing, keep fighting and giving it everything. Their long-run pace is a tenth or two quicker than us, but the car’s in a much different place now,” said the seven-time world champion.

“We’re going to fight for a chance into turn one and there could be some interesting strategy tomorrow, and I think there could be some rain, so a chance to see a rain master,” he added.

Carlos Sainz for Ferrari posted the fifth quickest time in qualifying to seal a third row spot with Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri joining him.

Then came Sainz’s teammate Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Lando Norris with Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) completing the top 10.

With qualifying watched by a 15,000-strong crowd allowed in after the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Q1 was only four minutes old when it was red-flagged after Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda lost control of his Alpha Tauri coming out of turn one, his car pirouetting gracefully into the safety barrier.

This was the fourth time out of seven Tsunoda has failed to progress to Q2.

With 22 seconds left of Q1 Mick Schumacher’s Haas crashed into a barrier, cruel luck for the German after making it into Q2 for the very first time in his fledgling F1 career but unable to take part with his car requiring repairs.

Verstappen topped Q1 with Hamilton, Perez and Bottas closest.

The Mercedes duo rose to the top of the times in Q2, with Bottas edging Hamilton who was much punchier than he had been in practice. Perez and Verstappen were next, setting up an intriguing Q3 skirmish for the Provencal pole.

After the first throw of the Q3 dice it was Verstappen on provisional pole with Hamilton alongside him, and that is how it ended after the final flurry of flying laps.

Hamilton and Mercedes were thankful to return to a traditional circuit after disastrous performances on the streets of Monaco and Baku.

But on the evidence of this qualifying the two teams’ cars are pretty equally matched.

One man relishing the compelling contest is Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff who said: “I think it’s fantastic what has been thrown at us (this season). No year is easy but this year? It’s awesome.”


Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
Updated 19 June 2021

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
  • As the PSL's top scorer with 2,000 runs, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal with 1,763 runs
  • Azam on Saturday also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam became the first player to cross the 2,000-run mark in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) during a Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators faceoff in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
During the same match, Azam also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL, as he scored 23 off 25 against Quetta Gladiators, taking his PSL6 tally to 501.
"#King #BabarAzam the 1st batsman in the history of #HBLPSL to score 2000 runs," Karachi Kings celebrated its batsman in a tweet.

 

 

The sixth edition of Pakistan’s flagship cricket super league tournament resumed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on June 9. It was postponed in March after a string of positive coronavirus cases among players and officials.
As the PSL's top scorer, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal who has scored 1,763 runs.
Born in Lahore, the 26-year-old right-hand, top-order batsman was 12 when he already played serious tape-ball cricket. At age 15, he was declared Pakistan's best Under-15 batsman and made his List A debut.  
By 16, he was a first-class cricketer for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) cricket team. By the time he received his first ODI cap, he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
In September 2018, Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
In April, he ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings.


Clippers rally to oust top seeded Jazz, Sixers set stage for game 7

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives against Clint Capela #15 and John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AF)
Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives against Clint Capela #15 and John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AF)
Updated 19 June 2021

Clippers rally to oust top seeded Jazz, Sixers set stage for game 7

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives against Clint Capela #15 and John Collins #20 of the Atlanta Hawks. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AF)
  • Los Angeles Clippers advanced to their first NBA semifinals in franchise history
  • Playoff series begins Sunday with Phoenix Suns, who eliminated the Denver Nuggets

LOS ANGELES: Terance Mann poured in a career-high 39 points as the Los Angeles Clippers advanced to their first NBA semifinals in franchise history, rallying to beat the top seeded Utah Jazz 131-119 on Friday.
The fourth seeded Clippers won their four straight match after losing the first two in Salt Lake City to take the Eastern Conference series in six games.
They stormed back in the second half on Friday after being down by 25 points in the third quarter to reach the league’s final four, ending years of playoff frustration including a string of NBA quarter-final exits.
The 24-year-old Mann was electric in just his second career playoff start, shooting 15-of-21 from the field and draining seven of 10 three pointers in front of a crowd of 17,100 at Staples Center arena in downtown Los Angeles.
“I just trust my work,” said Mann. “Everybody was telling me to shoot the ball and that is what I did.”
They next face the Phoenix Suns in game one of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.
Second year player Mann got plenty of help from the veterans on the team. Paul George scored 28 points and added nine rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers, who won despite missing their top player Kawhi Leonard.
“It feels great,” said George. “They wrote us off when Kawhi went down.
“He is one of the best young players I have been around,” George said of Mann, whose previous regular season high was 25 points. “He reminds me a lot of myself.”
The Clippers made history without star Leonard, who missed his second straight game with a sprained right knee.
Reggie Jackson added 27 points and 10 assists. Nicolas Batum contributed 16 points and Patrick Beverley had 12 points in the win.
The Jazz got star guard Mike Conley back on Friday but it wasn’t enough to salvage their series. Conley finished with five points in 26 minutes of playing time.
Donovan Mitchell, who was playing with a sore ankle, scored a team high 39 points, dished out nine assists and had nine rebounds for the Jazz.
“At the beginning of the third we started turning the ball over and that got them going,” said Jazz coach Quin Snyder. “We were late on our rotations and they took advantage of that.”

'Fight and grit'
In Atlanta, Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers played with more urgency, using a collective offensive effort to come from behind and force a game seven in their second-round NBA playoff series.
Tobias Harris and Seth Curry each scored 24 points and Embiid tallied 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Sixers overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to beat the upstart Atlanta Hawks 104-99. Curry also had six threes.
“You saw the fight and grit of a whole group,” said Harris.
Game seven will be Sunday at the home arena of the top-seeded 76ers.
Philadelphia’s win means both Eastern Conference semifinal series will go to a game seven after the Milwaukee Bucks won game six against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
The 76ers pushed the best-of-seven series to the limit after the heartbreak of letting two potential wins in games four and five slip through their fingers.
“It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun,” Curry said. “You’ve just got to weather the storm and come back at them at the other end.”
Tyrese Maxey added 16 points and seven rebounds off the bench for the 76ers, who rebounded after blowing a 26-point lead at home in game five.
Trae Young finished with 34 points and 12 assists for Atlanta, who are seeking to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in six years.
Philadelphia led 80-76 at the end of the third quarter.