Saudi female footballers excited about the upcoming league

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Hala Mansouri says she has been playing football since childhood. (Supplied)
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Hala Mansouri says she has been playing football since childhood. (Supplied)
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Hala Mansouri
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Hala Mansouri
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Amal Gimie
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Updated 13 October 2020

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.”


Rays rally with walkoff stunner to level World Series against Dodgers

Updated 26 October 2020

Rays rally with walkoff stunner to level World Series against Dodgers

ARLINGTON, United States: Brett Phillips’s single scored two runs and the Tampa Bay Rays walked off with a stunning 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday that knotted the World Series at two games apiece.
The Rays became the first team in post-season history to homer in four straight innings, but they trailed 7-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
With two out and two on, Phillips — who entered the game in the eighth as a pinch runner — was down to his last strike in the ninth when he singled to right center field off Dodgers closing pitcher Kenley Jansen and Kevin Kiermaier scored from second base.
Randy Arozarena racing from first, rounded third after the ball bounced off the glove of Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor.
Arozarena tripped between third and home and looked done for, but Dodgers catcher Will Smith bobbled the throw to the plate and Arozarena was able to scramble forward and throw himself headfirst across the plate in time.
“Golly, what a special moment,” said Phillips, who last got a hit in the Rays’ 58th game of the regular season on September 25.
“I am having a hard time putting my emotions into words,” Phillips said. “Baseball is fun.”
Kiermaier called the ending — which sent the Rays into a frenzy of celebration on Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, “truly incredible.”
Arozarena notched a record-breaking ninth home run of the post-season. Kiermaier, Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Lowe also homered for the Rays, who are seeking the first World Series title in franchise history.
The Dodgers, back in the World Series for a third time in four years after disappointments in 2017 and 2018, are seeking their seventh title — but a first since 1988.
“This is certainly a tough one,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “They were the best team all year in the American League.
“They are not going to give anything away. We’ve got to regroup and get ready for tomorrow.”
The spectacular ending, capped a tense back-and-forth battle with a World Series record eight straight half-innings with a run scored.
Justin Turner and Corey Seager homered for the Dodgers. Seager’s was his eighth of the playoffs, temporarily tying the single post-season record until Arozarena notched his ninth in the fourth frame.
For the second game in a row Turner got things rolling with a solo homer in the first inning.
Seager added a solo shot in the top of the third that put the Dodgers up 2-0, but Arozarena pulled back a run in the bottom of the fourth with a lead-off blast to right centerfield off a 95 mph fastball from Julio Urias.
Los Angeles stretched the lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Seager singled off Rays relief pitcher Pete Fairbanks and reached second on a wild pitch. With two outs in the inning Max Muncy reached first on a sharp line drive to right field that scored Seager.
The Rays responded with a home run from Renfroe to cut the margin to one run in the bottom of the fifth.
The Dodgers pushed the lead back to two in the top of the sixth when Enrique Hernandez fired a double down the left field line that scored two.
But Lowe — the two-homer hero of the Rays’ game-two victory — put the Rays in front for the first time with a three-run blast off Dodgers reliever Pedro Baez in the bottom of the sixth.
In the seventh, Dodgers pinch-hitter Joc Pederson came up with the bases loaded and two out and delivered a two-run single that put Los Angeles back in front.
All seven Dodgers runs came with two outs — continuing a trend for them this series.
The Rays however, wouldn’t be denied, Kiermaier’s homer off Baez knotting the score at 6-6.
“We have no quit,” Kiermaier said. “We have been doing that all year. We’ve been the comeback kids. To do it on the big stage makes it that much sweeter.”