Inter’s winning streak ends with loss at Sampdoria

Inter’s winning streak ends with loss at Sampdoria
Sampdoria's Antonio Candreva scores on a penalty his side's first goal during the Serie A soccer match between Sampdoria and Inter Milan at the Luigi Ferraris stadium in Genoa, Italy, Wednesday Jan. 6, 2021. (AP)
Updated 07 January 2021

Inter’s winning streak ends with loss at Sampdoria

Inter’s winning streak ends with loss at Sampdoria
  • Antonio Candreva put Sampdoria ahead with a penalty before Keita Balde Diao finished off a well-worked counterattack before the break

ROME: Inter Milan’s chances of winning their first Serie A title in more than a decade took a hit with a 2-1 loss at Sampdoria on Wednesday as veteran coach Claudio Ranieri’s team got the better of Antonio Conte’s Nerazzurri.

Both of Sampdoria’s goals were scored by former Inter players to end the visitors’ eight-match winning streak.

Antonio Candreva put Sampdoria ahead with a penalty before Keita Balde Diao finished off a well-worked counterattack before the break.

Stefan de Vrij pulled one back for Inter with a header in the 65th but the visitors’ sorely lacked a fully fit Romelu Lukaku, who came on only for the final half hour as he returns from injury. The defeat left Inter trailing Italian leader and city rival AC Milan by one point ahead of the Rossoneri’s showdown with nine-time defending champion Juventus.

Also, third-place Roma moved within three points of Inter with a 3-1 win at last-place Crotone before hosting the Nerazzurri on Sunday.

Borja Mayoral, on loan from Real Madrid, scored twice for Roma and won a penalty that Henrikh Mkhitaryan converted.

Inter’s only other league loss this season came in mid-October, when it was defeated 2-1 in the Milan derby.

The Nerazzurri won the last of their 18 Serie A titles in 2010.

Alexis Sanchez had a penalty saved early on by Sampdoria goalkeeper Emil Audero, after which Ashley Young knocked the rebound off the post.

Sampdoria also hit the woodwork early on, with Lorenzo Tonelli’s long header hitting the crossbar.

The second half was played under hard rain.

Sassuolo beat relegation-threatened Genoa 2-1 with a late header from Gianluca Raspadori to move into fourth, holding on to the final Champions League spot.

Atalanta remained one point further back after defeating Parma 3-0 with goals from Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and Robin Gosens to move level on points with Napoli, which was hosting promoted Spezia later.

Also, Lazio defeated Fiorentina 2-1 with goals from Felipe Caicedo and Ciro Immobile and was two points behind seventh-place Juventus — which has played two games less —  amid a highly competitive table.

Hellas Verona draw 1-1 at Torino; Filippo Inzaghi’s promoted Benevento squad won 2-1 at Cagliari; and Bologna drew 2-2 with Udinese.


Farida Osman inspires a generation of Arab female athletes as she eyes glory at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Farida Osman inspires a generation of Arab female athletes as she eyes glory at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 33 sec ago

Farida Osman inspires a generation of Arab female athletes as she eyes glory at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Farida Osman inspires a generation of Arab female athletes as she eyes glory at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • The 26-year-old Egyptian, who is one of the ambassadors of the competition, has firmly established herself as the fastest female swimmer in Africa and the Arab world
  • From an early age, the 26-year-old realized she was swimming for more than just herself, as she made history for an entire region with every new milestone she hit in the pool

The first time I saw Farida Osman in action, she was 16 years old and was obliterating the field at the 2011 Pan Arab Games in Doha, clinching seven gold medals in the pool and making it look easy in the process.

A decade later, the Egyptian has firmly established herself as the fastest female swimmer in Africa and the Arab world and is the only athlete from her nation to ever make the podium at the FINA World Swimming Championships, snagging bronze in both 2017 and 2019 in the 50m butterfly.

The three-time Olympian holds the African record in the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly in long course, as well as the 50m freestyle and 50m and 100m butterfly in short course.

A trailblazer for women’s sports in the region, Osman arrives in Abu Dhabi next week as one of the faces of the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), set to take place at Etihad Arena from Dec. 16-21.

Inspiring a region

From an early age, the 26-year-old realized she was swimming for more than just herself, as she made history for an entire region with every new milestone she hit in the pool.

“Honestly, I think my main purpose is just to inspire people, especially women at a young age, to pursue not only swimming but sports in general,” Osman told Arab News in a phone interview last week.

“I feel like swimming and sports give you so much more than just medals and achievements. They give you a healthy lifestyle. You learn stuff about yourself like strengths and weaknesses, discipline, and all these things will help you eventually in your life.

“Our region isn’t really big on swimming for females, so I personally want to defy those odds and break the stereotype that says that women, when they reach a certain age, cannot do sports or cannot swim.

“I want to always inspire others to do that and hopefully my journey, with its ups and downs, will show that while it’s not an easy road, it’s worth it.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Farida Osman (@farida_osman)

Whatever it takes

It certainly has not been an easy road for Osman. The Cairene went to great lengths to fulfill her dreams, starting with her move to the US as a teenager to study and swim at the University of California, Berkeley.

Sharing a Cal Bears roster with the likes of five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, Osman thrived during her university years, setting school records, clinching NCAA titles and putting Egypt on the world swimming map along the way.

Her successful college experience, coupled with her history-making performances at global meets, sparked a swimming revolution back home, as scores of swimmers decided to follow suit and accept athletic scholarships for top swimming programs at universities in the US.

“I think just by going there, being myself and showing that I could still be an Egyptian girl even living away from home is what encouraged other Egyptians, men and women, from a young age to go to the US for university because, honestly, it does give you the best of both worlds,” explained Osman.

“In Egypt, when we reach a certain age, unfortunately, we have to choose either sports or academics because it’s so hard to balance both. But the best thing in the US is that everything is on campus, everything is tailored toward you, and you have the resources to help you to perform your best in both swimming and academics.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Farida Osman (@farida_osman)

‘Toughest two years of my life’

After spending five years training at Berkeley, Osman felt like she needed a change and wanted to make the most out of the two-year period in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

With the main goal of improving her 100 fly, Osman moved to Blacksburg, Virginia to train under Spanish coach Sergio Lopez. She was warned it would be a difficult transition, leaving sunny California behind and the relationships she built there in favor of training under Lopez in a relatively remote setting, but Osman was willing to do whatever it took to be ready for the Olympic Games.

“Mentally, I wasn’t really prepared for how bad it was going to be outside of swimming,” admitted Osman, who described her time ahead of Tokyo as the “toughest two years” of her life in swimming.

The Egyptian explained how the postponement of the Games due to the pandemic hit her hard, and the challenge of having no social life in Virginia that would help her recharge between training was not easy to navigate.

Traveling to new places and meeting new people at competitions, which she said was the fun thing about being a professional swimmer, was not possible because of the pandemic, and she was mentally drained by the time the postponed Olympics came along. A glitch during the taper before the Games also did not help.

“The build-up — physical, mental, emotional — means that you’re ready to perform, you’re literally like a machine ready to explode. Up to 2020, everything in my life was on hold and I was just focusing on swimming,” said Osman.

“I personally recharge from being social, going out with my friends, having a nice dinner. Because there was nothing to do during the two years in Virginia, I felt like I was always on low battery. I wasn’t even mentally recharging.

“So, I think that was the hardest part. Instead of mentally preparing to compete then, in 2020, I had to extend it for another year in a location that was really hard to be at in the first place. And with the pandemic, there were no breaks; I was just stuck in one place.”

Returning to her roots

The Tokyo Olympics did not go according to plan, and Osman took a month off upon returning to Cairo in August to recover and reset. It was the longest break she had ever taken from swimming, and it allowed her to reconnect with family and friends.

Instead of returning to the US, Osman decided she needed to stay at home after eight years of living abroad. She has been training solo in Cairo, following practice plans sent over from her coaches in the US and with Egyptian coach Sherif Habib helping her implement that regimen.

“I just wanted to be home, especially after a really hard two years,” said Osman.

Training in Egypt naturally has its pros and cons. Besides being close to family, Osman is benefitting from having practices that are tailored to her needs as opposed to those of a larger group of swimmers. But her current situation can also feel like a lonely experience at times.

“That’s the worst part. If I stay here, I have to be okay with the fact that I’m going to train alone. Sadly, there isn’t anyone I can actually train with here, girls or boys,” she said.

‘I’m really honored’

When she got the call from FINA about being named an ambassador for the World Championships in Abu Dhabi, Osman was reminded of how much she has given the sport and the role she has played in vitalizing swimming in the region.

“I’m really honored. It was really nice, especially given that it came after Tokyo. It reminded me that what happened in Tokyo does not define your whole career,” said Osman.  

“I’ve done so much for this sport and so much for Egypt, Africa, the Middle East, this region, and I feel like being an ambassador was just proof that I’m so much more than what happened in Tokyo.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by FINA (@fina1908)

Reigniting the spark

Osman is approaching these championships “pressure-free” and is on a journey to rediscover her passion for the sport more than a decade after she was crowned a junior world champion in the 50m butterfly in Lima, Peru.

“I’m just doing this for myself. I know I can do so much better than what I did in Tokyo, so I feel like this is a way to prove to myself that it was a mishap and something just went wrong and it’s not like I’m no longer a good swimmer. So, this is something that I’m excited about,” she said.

“I’m taking this year to just focus on myself. I want to just swim for myself. I want to enjoy it again. I want to feel happy that I’m swimming again.”

Osman’s biggest crowning moments were her World Championship medals in Budapest 2017 and Gwangju 2019. On both occasions, she shared the 50 fly podium with Olympic and world champions Sarah Sjostrom and Ranomi Kromowidjojo and proved she belonged among the very best on one of the sport’s grandest stages.

“I feel like 2019 was definitely harder for me. Emotionally, I just felt the pressure of the expectation,” she recalled.

“It was a moment for me just to remember that now I’ve become part of something bigger than myself. It’s not just me swimming for myself; now I feel like there’s a whole world behind me. In 2019, as happy as I was to get the medal again, it was twice as hard.”

Looking ahead, Osman is hoping to get back to swimming personal best times as she builds toward next year’s long course FINA World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. She is not contemplating retirement just yet but feels like she wants to end her career on a high.

“I feel like I haven’t swum best times in a really long time. So, I think just getting there would definitely be an achievement for me. And obviously, when I go a best time, I’m looking at medals and finals and stuff like that. But I think once you focus on your time, the rest just takes care of itself,” she concluded.

Farida Osman will be swimming the 50m and 100m butterfly and freestyle events in Abu Dhabi.


UK’s Johnson announces ‘diplomatic boycott’ of Beijing Olympics

UK’s Johnson announces ‘diplomatic boycott’ of Beijing Olympics
Updated 08 December 2021

UK’s Johnson announces ‘diplomatic boycott’ of Beijing Olympics

UK’s Johnson announces ‘diplomatic boycott’ of Beijing Olympics
  • "There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," Johnson told MPs
  • The UK move follows similar steps by other Western countries

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday the UK would diplomatically boycott the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing in February by not sending any ministers to the global event.
“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing,” Johnson told MPs when asked about the issue in parliament.
Johnson said he typically did not support “sporting boycotts,” but revealed there were no plans for government ministers to attend the games over alleged human rights abuses by China.
“I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible — that remains the policy of the government,” he added.
The UK move follows similar steps by other Western countries, with Australia on Wednesday also announcing it would join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Games.
The allies have a growing discord with China over a slew of issues that has plunged relations into the most serious crisis since the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
They include human rights abuses in Xinjiang and a crackdown on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, a former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.


Saudi Sports for All’s Spartan Race returns to the Kingdom in the New Year

Saudi Sports for All’s Spartan Race returns to the Kingdom in the New Year
Updated 08 December 2021

Saudi Sports for All’s Spartan Race returns to the Kingdom in the New Year

Saudi Sports for All’s Spartan Race returns to the Kingdom in the New Year
  • The race will take place at Dirab Park in Riyadh on Jan. 21, 2022, with obstacle races for all ages and abilities

RIYADH: One of the region’s most formidable fitness challenges returns to Saudi Arabia in January as Riyadh and the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) prepare to host the Spartan Race.

Inspired by the warrior culture of ancient Sparta and featuring dozens of obstacles designed to test strength, stamina, endurance and perseverance, Spartan Races have become popular across the globe since launching in 2010, with more than 2,500 annual events across 42 countries to date.

“We’re excited again to host this incredible event back in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to showcase the country’s role in hosting several local and global sporting events,” said SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al-Saud.

“The Spartan Race is a great way for everybody in our fitness community to test their limits. It’s also a lot of fun, and with races for all ages and experience levels, it’s a great way to enjoy yourself while staying active, fit and healthy.”

Saudi Arabia’s first Spartan Race took place in Riyadh in 2016, with the following race being hosted in the mountains of Al-Soudah during the Asir Season in 2019, where more than 1,500 competitors and spectators took part. The race returns to Riyadh on Jan. 21 at Dirab Park from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Six races will be staged during the day, giving people of all ages, genders and fitness levels an opportunity to take part.

The Spartan Super race is open to both males and females and will take place over a 10km course, with 25 obstacles to overcome, including mud, water, fire and barbed wire. Two Spartan Sprint races will take place – one mixed for males and females, and one for females only. Both will take place over 5km, with 20 obstacles.

Three Spartan Kids races will also take place for different age groups. The 4 to 6-year-old race will take place over 800 meters, with the 7 to 9-year-old race over 1.6km, and the 10 to 14-year-old race over 3.2km. All Spartan Kids races are open to both genders.

“Events like this reinforce the SFA’s role to enhancing the health and wellbeing of the nation, and if the previous editions are anything to go by, we can expect a huge turnout from participants who share in our vision of a fitter, more active Saudi Arabia,” Prince Khaled said.

Supported by the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, the SFA is mandated by Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program to increase the ratio of people in the Kingdom exercising on a regular basis to 40 percent by 2030.


Morocco ominous, Qatar on march: 5 things learned from conclusion of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages

Morocco ominous, Qatar on march: 5 things learned from conclusion of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages
Updated 08 December 2021

Morocco ominous, Qatar on march: 5 things learned from conclusion of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages

Morocco ominous, Qatar on march: 5 things learned from conclusion of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup group stages
  • African nations have excelled in 16-team tournament as it reaches quarter-final stage

RIYADH: The group stage of the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup is over with the quarterfinals starting on Friday.

Saudi Arabia’s young, experimental team has been eliminated, and here are five things we learned from the performances of some of the other teams involved.

1. At half-time it is Africa 1, Asia 0

With the last eight made up of four Asian teams and four from Africa, it may look like continental honors were even in the group stage. That is not quite the case.

Six African teams started the competition and a maximum of five could have progressed (three were drawn in the same group). Four managed to do so, with Mauritania failing.

Asia had 10 representatives, and were guaranteed three places in the last eight, but could have had a maximum of seven. In the end, only four went through. In terms of direct confrontations, it was Africa 7 Asia 3.

Too much can be read into this. Saudi Arabia sent an under-23 team, and the weaker Asian teams had the better of their African counterparts in qualification. However, the likes of Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria often looked to be playing at a higher level and all three progressed without any fuss.

There is still time for Asia to turn the tables and show their African rivals what they are made of.

2. Egypt and Algeria cannot be separated

The record books will show Algeria 1 — Egypt 1 and in the end, only the fact that Algeria collected four yellow cards to Egypt’s three meant that the Pharaohs finished top due to fair play rules. That may be significant as they play Jordan next instead of Morocco.

But to have these two great north African rivals in the same group as Lebanon and Sudan is like putting Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain together with Club Brugge and RB Leipzig. There is talent in the other two teams, but they are just not good enough to challenge the powerhouses.

At least in the Champions League, one of the two meetings between the titans is a competitive and meaningful one, but by the time Algeria and Egypt met, they were both through to the last eight.

No doubt both would have wanted to finish first to avoid Morocco in the last eight but had there been a chance of the loser being eliminated then it would have been a titanic clash. As it is, there are still questions to be answered with both teams resting players. The real tests are about to come.

3. Qatar’s deadly duo strike again

Africa may be on top but the Asian champions, who beat Iraq 3-0 to make it nine points from three games, should be a match for anyone in the knockout stage on home soil and should be able to get past the UAE in a rerun of the 2019 Asian Cup semi-final.

Akram Afif was the standout player in Asia in 2019 as was confirmed by the Asian Football Confederation in that year’s awards. The winger has had his ups and downs since but looks to be returning to his best form for his country and his late cameo in the second half made a big difference.

Even more encouraging is that Almoez Ali also got on the scoresheet. Afif and Ali struck fear into the hearts of Asian defenses in 2019 and also linked up well in the Concacaf Gold Cup in the summer. If Qatar are going to go all the way on home soil, these two need to be at their best not just individually but together. The signs are encouraging.

4. Morocco look ominous

Much has been made of the fact that Morocco have scored nine goals in their three wins so far, ending in that 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia. What has been impressive is that the goals have been spread around the team, coming from all directions.

Yet, despite that offensive threat, it was striking that against Saudi Arabia in the final game, one that Morocco did not have to get anything from as they were already through, the team worked so hard to keep a clean sheet. It worked and has left the goals against column remaining blank.

Nine changes were made from the team that defeated Jordan three days earlier but there was still an organization in the team with the replacements fitting snugly into the system. They were fresh and worked just as hard as the first teamers on and off the ball.

Morocco have the strength in depth, the talent, the team ethic, and the organization to go all the way.

5. Iraq’s woe continues

The 3-0 loss to Qatar looked bad but it was goalless with 10 minutes left. That sums up Iraq’s year.

In the first half of 2021, Iraq were the form team in Asia. The 1-0 win over Hong Kong in June in the previous round of World Cup qualification, made it 19 games unbeaten (including a 2-2 draw with Bahrain in the 2019 Gulf Cup which ended with a penalty shootout defeat).

Then Srecko Katanec left after a salary dispute and the team has not won any of the last nine. Dick Advocaat has come and gone and now his former assistant Zeljko Petrovic looks to be struggling.

The Arab Cup was a chance for a reset, but it did not quite happen. A late equalizer against Oman could have been a springboard for a strong finish but then came the 0-0 draw with Bahrain, a game that Iraq had to win as Qatar came next.

The Asian champions were always going to be tough but had Yaser Kasim’s lovely first-half shot not hit the inside of the post and had Mohammed Qasim’s strike not hit the outside of the post with 11 minutes remaining when the scoreline was still goalless, then it could have been an Iraq win instead of a 3-0 loss.


Defending champion Novak Djokovic on entry list for Australian Open

Defending champion Novak Djokovic on entry list for Australian Open
Updated 08 December 2021

Defending champion Novak Djokovic on entry list for Australian Open

Defending champion Novak Djokovic on entry list for Australian Open
  • But tennis great Serena Williams, who was expected to play, is missing from entries

MELBOURNE: World number one Novak Djokovic was among the entries for the Australian Open on Wednesday but women’s great Serena Williams was missing.
The Serbian had cast doubt on whether he would defend his Melbourne Park title next month, refusing to reveal whether he was inoculated against coronavirus.
Williams, who is frustratingly marooned on 23 Grand Slam titles – one short of the all-time record held by Margaret Court – had been expected to play, but her name was not listed.