Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league

Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
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Hala Mansouri says she has been playing football since childhood. (Supplied)
Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
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Hala Mansouri says she has been playing football since childhood. (Supplied)
Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
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Hala Mansouri
Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
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Hala Mansouri
Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
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Amal Gimie
Short Url
Updated 13 October 2020

Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league

Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league
  • Players of other nationalities may not be participating but that has not dampened their enthusiasm

JEDDAH: As women across the Kingdom pursue their athletic dreams, including football, the No.1 sport in the country, anticipation for the Saudi Women’s Football League (WFL) is building.

The Saudi Sports Federation first announced the launch of the WFL in February, but it was postponed with the onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The wait has been long, but Saudi footballers have been training throughout the lockdown period.
Coach Bireen Sadagah told Arab News: “Jeddah Eagles (one of teams selected to play in the WFL) have been practicing very hard in preparation for the league on and off the field, in terms of enhancing our fitness and strengthening our football mentally.”
She added: “The lockdown did not stop us from wanting to improve ourselves. We continued training in our homes as best as we could with the space and equipment available. Workouts and football drills were sent to us. Then as soon as it was acceptable, regular training was resumed three times a week, as well as individual work for recovery and strengthening.”
Hala Mansouri, a 22-year-old Saudi senior advertising student, has been playing football since she was 6, while living in West Virginia in the US, where she joined the World Alliance of the YMCA and fell in love with the game.
Returning to the Kingdom years later, she played on and off but always knew she had a knack for it, and joined Jeddah Eagles as a goalkeeper as soon as the lockdown was lifted.
“I used to play soccer and basketball when I was living in the US, depending on the season, but I just loved playing soccer more when I moved back to Jeddah,” she told Arab News.
Explaining what makes being a goalkeeper different, she said it was not as hard as playing other positions, but the difference was that goalkeepers see the whole field, must keep a close eye on the ball, and concentrate while keeping their cool.

“We can speak to our teammates so they can know where to go but the difference is we have different training; they run more than us goalies. I use my whole body to block a ball and strikers are more terrified if they missed or not. As a goalie, my only worry is if the ball passed the goal line,” Mansouri added.
Although goalkeepers are sometimes the under-loved players, she said, training was still rigorous, long and essential. “Goalies are the last line of defense in football.”
The young athlete said that football provided her with a liberating feeling away from everyday distractions. “While in a game, I don’t think of anything; everything is muted and it’s just a break for a while. It’s the best feeling.
“I’m honestly very proud that women found a lot of support in pursuing their dreams in sports and our families can be proud of us for doing so,” she said. “It’s a good feeling, even though we’re a bit later than other countries, but at least we got to where we are now for women and I couldn’t be more proud.”
So far, only Saudi citizens will be allowed to play, but that has not dampened enthusiasm from other female footballers in the Kingdom.
Yemeni-Saudi 24-year-old marketer, Shahad Saif, who plays for Jeddah’s Miraas FC as left-back, said she had played the game with her family in Jeddah since she was 10.
“I have been playing football since I was a kid with my family and brothers. I didn’t get the opportunity to play with an all-women’s group. So when I grew up, I used to rent a field and play football with random girls who love the sport and play without coaches and no specific requirements to play or prepare anything,” she told Arab News.
Football has always been an important part of her life, and it influenced all her habits and decisions. “Finding a community for this was very important, the only thing we could do back then was go to the gym.”




Shahad Said plays for Jeddah’s Miraas FC. (Supplied)

Miraas was established in Jeddah a year ago, and the left-back was one of the founders. “We provided everything that’s needed for girls to play soccer.”
Sharing the same sentiment, Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, has been playing soccer since she was eight years old. Although she will not be participating either, that will not stop her from pursuing her passion and bettering her skills.
“There was a match every weekend, the boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate, told Arab News. She joined her first female football team “Challenge” in Riyadh in 2014.
“It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time, I felt like it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league) I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything,” she added.
The midfielder said the rules of football have influenced her character.
 “I’m someone who needs passion to live. I can’t live without having a goal. Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a soccer player,” she said. “There has always been a drive to pursue and achieve something. Soccer has changed my personality in determination, and to learn and this was a dream that I wasn’t sure it would ever come true but I had the determination to continue. And socially, I learned a lot about teamwork and how to maintain relationships with people.” Kings United coach Elham Al-Amri told Arab News that women, both athletes and coaches and anyone interested in the game, had finally been given the opportunity to show their love for the game.
“What’s even more exciting is the participation of Kings United players to represent the Saudi League,” she said. “We at Kings United offered our players the right set of techniques and teachings to increase their chances of participating in the league.”


Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm
Updated 32 min 43 sec ago

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm
  • The tie-up puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Rugby confirmed a deal Wednesday for petrochemical giant Ineos to sponsor the All Blacks, in an agreement slammed by environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
Ineos has signed a six-year deal which will put its logo on the shorts of the 15- and seven-a-side men’s and women’s All Blacks teams as well as the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand under-20 side.
The tie-up, reported in local media to be worth NZ$8.0 million ($5.6 million), puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team, Grenadiers cycling team and Team UK sailing, as well as the Nice and Lausanne-Sport football clubs.
However, Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said it was “gutting” to see New Zealand Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with the oil and gas conglomerate.
“Many of our rugby players are of Maori and Pacific descent, and come from communities which are on the frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events, and they shouldn’t be expected to wear the brand of a climate polluter like Ineos,” she said.
“We also want to see our people living their dreams donning the black jersey, but now they will carry the Ineos brand, and Ineos is one of the world’s worst oil and plastic polluters.”
Announcing the deal, New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson had said: “We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with Ineos Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world.
“Ineos will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement.”
The 2015 Paris climate accord aims to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and try to limit them to 1.5C.
All Blacks Captain Sam Whitelock said he welcomed being involved in the Ineos high-performance sport group.
“The All Blacks are looking forward to being part of this performance partnership and learning from some of their incredible sporting partnerships as well,” he said.


‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

‘Pride and glory’ as Filipina brings home country’s first Olympic gold

Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” in the Philippines after snatching the country’s elusive first Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. (Supplied)
  • Hidilyn Diaz won in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought since entering the Olympics in 1924

MANILA: Airwoman Sgt. Hidilyn Diaz was hailed as a “national treasure” on Tuesday, a day after securing a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, a first for the Philippines after nearly a century of waiting.

On Monday night, Filipinos took to social media to celebrate their “pride and glory” after Diaz snatched the elusive Olympic gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category, ending the Philippines’ 97-year drought in the arena since entering the Olympics in 1924.

Malacañang Palace, government, defense and military officials, lawmakers, and fellow athletes also sent congratulatory messages to Diaz, who is set to receive a “hero’s welcome” after coronavirus disease (COVID-19) checks from the Philippine Sports Commission.

“The Palace congratulates Hidilyn Diaz for bringing pride and glory to the Philippines for winning the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal,” Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Twitter post.

“Congratulations, Hidilyn. The entire Filipino nation is proud of you. Laban, Pilipinas (Fight, Philippines)!” he added.

Another Malacañang official, Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communication Communications Office, said that Diaz’s win “showcased Filipinos’ talent as world-class athletes.”  

Diaz will return to the Philippines on Wednesday, following which she, along with her team, will be hotel quarantined for seven days. All athletes, coaches, and officials are required to leave Japan within 48 hours of completing their set events or tasks.

“Hidilyn wants to be with her family, who she hasn’t seen for more than one and a half years now,” Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham Tolentino said.

Diaz is set to receive a cash windfall of over 35 million pesos, a house and many other rewards from the government, private sector and well-wishers for her “epic Olympic performance.”

It is a sentiment echoed by the Department of National Defense and ranking military officials who lauded Diaz for bringing “glory” and “pride” to the country, while Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that Diaz’s success was a “testament to the unwavering spirit of the Filipino to rise above all odds.

“Your One Defense Team is proud of you, Sergeant Diaz!” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

Diaz, who hails from Zamboanga, joined the Philippines Air Force (PAF) in 2013 and is currently working with the Civil-Military Operations Group.

“The men and women of the PAF join the country in celebrating this historic event ... Congratulations and Mabuhay, Sgt Diaz!” said the PAF’s commander, Lt. Gen. Allen Paredes, while Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana added that the military is “now more than ever inspired by her exceptional hard work, perseverance, and dedication.”

On Tuesday, Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsoring Senate resolution no. 805 commending Diaz, said that “a ticket to the Olympics is very rare, but the Olympic gold is reserved only for the best.

“I’d like to believe that when she took her first step and was on the Olympic stage in 2008, at the tender age of 17, that gold was already hung around her neck. Because we do not see all the preparation, the discipline, the perseverance, the daily struggles that go on every day, and that went on in the first few years leading to her first Olympics,” Cayetano said.

“She persevered … And (as) we all know, (with) very limited support. To believe in herself, and for the few people who believed in her, we need to honor them as well because she could not have done this alone.”

The lawmaker said Diaz’s win was commendable amid the pandemic and considering “her main competitor, whom she beat, is from China.

“Unlike in the Philippines, China’s been pretty much back to normal with its residents living a fairly normal life, being able to go out and move around. And this is what this woman has been able to achieve in the year 2021, in the time of COVID-19 … It takes a lot to do that,” Cayetano said, adding Diaz had also broken the glass ceiling for other female athletes.

“She never made excuses for her sex, despite being in a sport that is dominated by men. I can just imagine the kind of discriminatory remarks that she has had to endure as a female athlete … Hidilyn, you break the glass for all the young girls that follow.”

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Diaz deserved to be commissioned as an officer of the AFP.

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, I would strongly recommend to the AFP leadership that she be given a rank as a commissioned officer of the PAF. It’s the least the service can give her,” Lacson said during a TV interview.

“Such a commission — either as a reserve or regular officer — is not just in recognition of her extraordinary feat, but also in recognition of her great potential to provide a good example to her fellow soldiers both as an athlete and as a leader,” he added.

Lacson said Diaz’s win gave 110 million Filipinos a significant reason to celebrate amid the “problems they now face” due to the pandemic.

“She makes us Filipinos very, very proud,” he said, saying Diaz’s saluting the Philippine flag and singing the national anthem at the Olympics “was the most touching moment that will be relived in our memories for a long, long time.”


Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
Updated 27 July 2021

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane
  • Varane will undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions
  • British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons

LONDON: Manchester United have agreed a deal with Real Madrid to sign France center-back Raphael Varane, the Premier League giants announced Tuesday.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce the club has reached agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of French international defender and World Cup winner, Raphael Varane, subject to a medical and to player terms being finalized,” said a club statement.
It is not expected, however, that Varane will be able to undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions.
No fee has been disclosed but British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons.
The 28-year-old Varane, a 2018 World Cup winner, has one season left on his contact at the Santiago Bernabeu.
He moved from French club Lens to Madrid in 2011 and has since made 360 appearances across all competitions for Madrid, winning 18 major honors — including four Champions League titles.
In a statement, Real — confirming they had agreed a fee with United — acknowledged Varane’s time in the Spanish capital by saying: “Our club thanks the player for his professionalism and exemplary conduct throughout his ten seasons representing our colors, during which time he has won 18 titles: 4 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 LaLiga titles, 1 Copa del Rey and 3 Spanish Super Cups.
“Real Madrid would like to express their gratitude to Raphaël Varane and his family and wish him the best of luck in this new stage of his career.”
Should his move to Old Trafford be completed, Varane would find himself vying for a place in the center of United’s defense with club captain Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
United finished second in last season’s Premier League but were a huge 12 points adrift of title-winners and local rivals Manchester City in the race to be crowned champions of England.
The Red Devils have not won a major trophy since the 2017 Europa League, with United’s last Premier League title success coming in celebrated manager Alex Ferguson’s final season before retirement eight years ago.


Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
Updated 27 July 2021

Sudanese judoka sent home from Olympics for not facing Israeli athlete

Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics 73-kilogram division. (Reuters)
  • The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete

TOKYO: A second judo athlete has dropped out of the Olympics before facing Israel’s Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram division.

Olympic officials say Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool didn’t show up to face Butbul in their round of 32 bout Monday despite weighing in for the bout earlier.

The International Judo Foundation didn’t immediately announce a reason why Abdalrasool didn’t compete, and the governing body didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Sudanese Olympic officials also didn’t immediately comment.

Algeria’s Fethi Nourine was sent home from the Tokyo Games and suspended by the IJF on Saturday after he withdrew to avoid a potential round of 32 matchup with Butbul. Nourine was supposed to face Abdalrasool for the right to meet Butbul.

Nourine later said his actions were a protest against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Abdalrasool is the world’s 469th-ranked judoka in his weight class, while the accomplished Butbul is seventh.

Nourine also quit the World Judo Championships in 2019 right before he was scheduled to face Butbul.


Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics
Updated 27 July 2021

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics
  • The 23-year-old had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health

TOKYO: Japanese star Naomi Osaka crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics tennis competition on Tuesday as Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and America’s Carissa Moore claimed the first-ever gold medals in surfing.
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony, lost 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova after an error-strewn performance, ending her cherished dream of winning on home soil.
The 23-year-old — one of the faces of the Tokyo Games — had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.
The second seed will be bitterly disappointed at missing out on a chance of Olympic gold, especially after the early exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.
“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.
Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”