LONDON: The first-ever Premier League mid-season break pleased Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp as it allowed the runaway leaders to rest their aches and pains following the hectic festive period.
The 52-year-old German takes his players to bottom-placed Norwich on Saturday holding a 22 point lead over two-time defending champions Manchester City.
Klopp said the break will have done his squad the world of good as he knew from his own playing experience.
“I was a player myself. When I look back it feels like I played through 80 percent of the time with pain,” he said at his eve of match press conference.
“Nobody appreciated that because I played bad so it didn’t help. Nobody asked then. It is completely normal for a professional football player to play through pain.
“After that long period in December-January, there was no player in the squad who had no pain. Everybody had something.”
Klopp — whose Champions League holders travel to Atletico Madrid next week in their last 16 first leg clash — has also been boosted by the return to fitness from hamstring injuries of Senegal attacker Sadio Mane and veteran James Milner. Sane has missed the last four matches while Milner has been out since January 5.
“Millie (Milner) and Sadio are back. When they are back you consider them immediately,” said Klopp.
“Apart from (Xherdan) Shaqiri, (Nathaniel) Clyne and (Paul) Glatzel, all the players are in training. We have some good options. Hopefully, it stays like this for the rest of the season.”
Klopp says Norwich may be struggling at the bottom — they are 7 points adrift of safety — but he is full of respect for their adventurous style of play.
“I really admire that Norwich stick to their principles. It’s really good football, super coaching,” Klopp said.
“You can see all the patterns on the pitch, all the movements — that’s from the training ground. They’ve caused 95 percent of all teams real problems.
“They’ve lost a lot of these games, that’s why they’re in the situation they are, but for me, on the outside, it looks like a club that really sticks together.”
The first season of the WFL, a nationwide initiative, will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam
League inaugurated by president of Saudi Sports for All Federation
Updated 41 min 35 sec ago
Faris Al-Rushud Ali Khalid
RIYADH/DUBAI: Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh.
It is the latest initiative led by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal to promote grassroots sports activities for budding female and male athletes across Saudi Arabia.
“The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community-level football for women,” Prince Khaled told Arab News.
“This community league is the first activation of many different community-level sports for women, and it will serve as a great model in terms of league infrastructure and inclusion metrics, contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program.”
Fully funded by the SFA, the WFL is a nationwide community-level league for women aged 17 and above.
The WFL “is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability,” said Prince Khaled.
Women’s football is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup raised its profile to unprecedented levels, inspiring greater participation across the globe.
Inspiration for female footballers at the grassroots level has come from closer to home, Prince Khaled said.
“I think a big inspiration for young Saudi women to get involved in community-level football is the Saudi Greens Team,” he said, referring to the all-female team established by the SFA.
“The Saudi Greens placed second in the Global Goals World Cup last year, and this was a huge moment for young female athletes in the Kingdom.”
Prince Khaled sees the WFL as a pivotal initiative of the SFA and a major driver behind the realization of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which strives for a healthier and more active society.
SFA Managing Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini believes that the WFL will significantly improve the visibility of women in sports and prioritize their fitness, health and wellness.
“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” she said.
“The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”
She said this is a qualitative shift in women’s sports in the Kingdom. Spearheaded by Sara Al-Jawini, the SFA’s director of sports development, the federation “studied all aspects of the new league, conducting continuous workshops to ensure the wider WFL infrastructure and lasting impact metrics,” Al-Husseini added.
The SFA has ensured that the football pitches are ready for the start of the WFL in March, with all-female organizational and technical teams in place to manage the various committees working toward delivering the league.
The WFL infrastructure teams will address and complete administrative requirements, refereeing, and technical and medical issues.
Coaching and refereeing courses are planned to further develop the country’s infrastructure for women in sports.
The SFA’s investment in the WFL includes both women’s coaching and women’s refereeing training to fully flesh out the program’s potential and maintenance.
At a later stage, the SFA and WFL will be communicating details on additional leagues and football events, as well as festivals targeting girls aged 16 and below.
These competitions, under the banner “Beyond Football,” will focus on building a strong base for future participation at the community level, beginning with girls aged 5.