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

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 photo)
Updated 19 March 2019

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.”

 

 


German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

Updated 16 October 2019

German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

  • Three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media
  • The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France and Albania

BERLIN: At least five German regional football teams face disciplinary action after their players imitated the military salute performed by the Turkish national team during matches last weekend.
Germany has a Turkish population of around 2.5 million people and three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media showed their players made the controversial salute to celebrate goals.
“In one case it was the whole team, in another case, it was five or six players,” Hans-Otto Matthey, the district chairman of the Westphalia Football and Athletics Association (FLVW), told AFP subsidiary SID.
Matthey hopes making the clubs accountable will discourage others in the region, which has a sizeable Turkish community, against repeating the gesture in this weekend’s matches.
“I predict that nobody else will have the nerve to repeat something like this,” he added.
There were also two further cases of teams in Bavaria making the salute. Both clubs are also set to face disciplinary measures.
The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France in Paris on Monday and on Friday against Albania.
The salute is seen as a reference to Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, which has been condemned by both France and Germany.
Turkey’s sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu has described the controversial gesture as a “nice salute,” but European football’s ruling body UEFA is investigating the national team for the “potential provocative political behavior” of its players.
After the isolated incidents of saluting in Germany’s lower leagues, several regional governing bodies have taken a clear stance.
Both the Bavarian (BFV) and North German Football Associations (NFV) have warned players in their areas to expect “heavy penalties” for imitating the military salute, with other the associations in Berlin and Wurttemberg following suit.
“Insults and provocations have no place on or off the pitch and will not be tolerated,” an NFV football official told SID.
The German Football Association (DFB) took a similar stance last weekend.
Germany internationals Emre Can and Ilkay Gundogan, who have Turkish roots, apologized on Sunday after they both clicked ‘Like’ on a picture of the Turkish footballers saluting during Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania, which they later removed.
“We are against all forms of violence and discrimination,” said national team director Oliver Bierhoff.