Formula 3 driver Reema Juffali on the road to becoming an icon for all Saudi women

For Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Formula racer, Reema Juffali, the high-velocity, adrenaline-packed action has become a way of life. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
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For Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Formula racer, Reema Juffali, the high-velocity, adrenaline-packed action has become a way of life. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)
Formula 3 driver Reema Juffali on the road to becoming an icon for all Saudi women
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For Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Formula racer, Reema Juffali, the high-velocity, adrenaline-packed action has become a way of life. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 March 2021

Formula 3 driver Reema Juffali on the road to becoming an icon for all Saudi women

As a child, Reema Juffali defied gender stereotypes and social norms in Saudi Arabia, preferring sports while other girls chose ballet. (Supplied)
  • For Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Formula racer, the high-velocity, adrenaline-packed action has become a way of life
  • Ahead of the Formula E double-header last weekend at Diriyah, Juffali announced that she will be making the move from Formula 4 to Douglas Motorsport in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship this year

RIYADH: Within moments of meeting Reema Juffali, you will get the feeling she was always meant for a career in motorsports. Watch her drive, and those feeling are immediately confirmed.

For Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Formula racer, the high-velocity, adrenaline-packed action has become a way of life.

“It’s a privilege to be able to do what I’m doing, racing, and racing under the Saudi flag,” the Jeddah-born motorist said. “It’s a humbling experience representing my country by being the first, and alhamdulillah (praise God), I’m pursuing my passion and doing what I love.”

It has been a momentous couple of weeks for Juffali.

Ahead of the Formula E double-header last weekend at Diriyah, Juffali announced that she will be making the move from Formula 4 to Douglas Motorsport in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship this year.

“It’s going to be a big step for me driving a faster car, a better car, so that’s really exciting,” she told Arab News. “In terms of the future, I’m open to any opportunity that comes my way. I definitely want to race at the top level of motorsports, whether it’s in a Le Mans race or Formula E — it’s all on the cards.”

Douglas Motorsport has been taking part in the series since 2016, with 14 wins and over 60 podiums to its name. This is a major step up for Juffali, but surpassing expectations is what she does.




As a child, Reema Juffali defied gender stereotypes and social norms in Saudi Arabia, preferring sports while other girls chose ballet. (Supplied)

As a child, Juffali defied gender stereotypes and social norms in Saudi Arabia, preferring sports while other girls chose ballet. Her passion for cars came early, and she could name different car manufacturers from a young age. After moving to Boston to study, she began driving — still illegal at the time in Saudi Arabia — and she fell in love with Formula 1.

When it became legal for women to drive in the Kingdom in 2018, she would be the first one out there on the circuit.

“I got approval from the federation to get my license in the UK, and it turned out to be a very simple process,” she told Arab News. “One only needed to receive a medical check-up, to understand the safety regulations and what the flags and signals meant, as well as to pass a one to two-lap test demonstrating this knowledge.

“It felt like I had just graduated from university,” she added. And when the time came, she converted that license into a Saudi one to race under the Kingdom’s banner.

Juffali stressed the importance of her family’s support in pursuing her dreams, despite their initial concerns for her safety.

“My mother and father both really supported me and encouraged me. In a sport like this, there’s quite a lot happening; you really do need a good support system,” she said.

“In the beginning, my friends and family were a bit apprehensive. ‘Is this safe?’ they asked. And I explained that I had done my research, that I had received as much experience as I could before getting into the car and that it was my passion, my dream. I think that was important for them to hear,” she added.

Whatever early doubts there may have been, Juffali pressed ahead with what she believed was her true calling — a professional career in motorsports.

“It’s amazing to be able to compete in a sport where the gender barriers are still evident, but when you’re on track it doesn’t really matter,” she said.

“And for me, at the end of the day, it’s all the same: Whether I’m racing against a male or a female, I just want to get ahead of them, and I want to win.”

A pivotal moment in Juffali’s career was meeting Susie Wolff, former professional racing driver and current Team Principal of Venturi Racing, while attending the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Scottish driver would become a mentor for the young Saudi.

“I saw it as a sign that I needed to start. I needed to go after my dream,” Juffali said. “When I did, I reached out to her again and told her ‘I’m racing, I did it,’ and she honestly was super happy for me.”

Prior to Juffali’s first race, she had only trained for six weeks with her coach in England. She said it was like being “thrown into the deep end.”

Juffali ignored the noise around her and focused on improving herself by getting out on the track as much as possible and putting herself in different scenarios, such as racing under different weather conditions, particularly the rain, and driving different cars.

She quickly learned from her mistakes and became the proficient driver she is today.

Juffali fondly recalled achieving her first purple, or quickest, lap.

“I was like, ‘Really? Are you sure? Is it me?’,” she said excitedly. It was one of the first moments she believed she was the real deal.

Juffali admitted that in the early days she would suffer from overdriving, in which a rookie driver will often depend on what they are learning rather than what they are feeling.

“I still battle with that sometimes, when a scenario appears that I haven’t been in before,” she said. “I do sometimes overthink and overdrive and when that happens, you make mistakes. I’m now more exposed to these scenarios and I have more experience, so I think less and I just do more. I feel more, let’s say. I go with my instinct and gut rather than what I think I need to do.”

Juffali said the most important aspects of racing are consistency, precision and keeping a calm head. Those qualities quickly led to success on the track.

The now 29-year-old driver was in complete disbelief after her first win at the TRD 86 Cup in Dubai.

“A high point was definitely my first win,” she said. “That came as a shock to me because of the way the race was set up. It was a two-part race, and I didn’t realize that I was first. I finished the race thinking ‘Am I actually first?’ and I kept asking people: ‘Is it real? Is it happening?’”

On top of racing, Juffali sees the track as a form of therapy and encourages people to take their stresses and anxieties out on the tarmac, where one is permitted to put the pedal to the metal. “I get that all out on the track, so when I’m in the car on normal roads I’m quite relaxed,” she said.

Juffali stressed the importance of adhering to traffic laws and road safety, explaining that the best way to do so was to be mindful of those around you.

“Think about each other,” she said. “When you’re on the road, it’s not just yourself; you’re putting other people in harm’s way if you’re driving recklessly.”

For those wishing to follow in her footsteps, Juffali broke down the differences in the varying single-seater Formula categories.   

“Formula 4 is the introductory level. It’s the one that has the least power. It’s the slowest and least aerodynamic,” she said. “With Formula 3, you get more power and become more aerodynamic, which means the downforce increases, so it becomes physically harder to drive. Formula 2 is closest to Formula 1. At this level, there is more power and the cars are bigger. Formula 1 is a completely different ballgame.”

The societal changes that have empowered women in the Kingdom over recent years have paved the road for Juffali to achieve her dreams. And she has a word of advice for others looking to do the same.

“I think the most important thing, and the thing that I would’ve liked to hear myself, is that it doesn’t hurt to try, to put yourself in different situations, to experience different things, to try everything,” she said. “That’s how you’re going to find your passion. That’s how you’re going to find your calling.”


Mo Salah announced as new Egypt captain

Mo Salah announced as new Egypt captain
Updated 19 April 2021

Mo Salah announced as new Egypt captain

Mo Salah announced as new Egypt captain
  • National team head coach Hossam El-Badry has named Mohamed Salah the new captain of Egypt
  • El-Badry said it was vital to introduce more stability to the national team squad, including on the leadership side

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has been announced as the new captain of Egypt’s national team by head coach Hossam El-Badry.

The news was posted in a statement on the Egyptian Football Association (EFA) Facebook page. Senior players in the Egypt squad were asked about the decision and gave their full support.

El-Badry said that it was “vital to introduce more stability” to the national team, including on the leadership side.

He added that the main goal for EFA technical teams in the coming months is to ensure that Egypt qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Salah has been one of Liverpool’s most succesful players since joining in summer 2017. He helped the club secure a sixth Champions League title by scoring the opening goal in the final against Tottenham in 2019.

A year later, he played a key role in the team that won Liverpool’s first English Premier League title in 30 years.

The 28-year-old forward, who has also represented Arab Contractors, Basel, Chelsea, Fiorentina and Roma, helped Egypt qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the country’s first appearance in the competition since 1990.

An infamous shoulder injury in the 2018 Champions League Final against Real Madrid, however, meant that he only played a peripheral role when the World Cup began in Russia. Despite lacking fitness and form, he managed to score Egypt’s only two goals in a disappointing tournament for the African nation.


Mahdi Ali praises Al-Hilal after his injury-hit Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai team suffered AFC Champions League loss

Mahdi Ali praises Al-Hilal after his injury-hit Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai team suffered AFC Champions League loss
Updated 19 April 2021

Mahdi Ali praises Al-Hilal after his injury-hit Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai team suffered AFC Champions League loss

Mahdi Ali praises Al-Hilal after his injury-hit Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai team suffered AFC Champions League loss
  • The Emirati club now finds itself at the bottom of Group A after two rounds of matches

DUBAI: Shabab Al-Ahli coach Mahdi Ali has blamed his team’s long list of absentees for the 3-1 defeat to Al-Hilal, at the same time giving credit to the Saudi team and promising that he and his players will be doing their best to turn around their fortunes in the remaining AFC Champions League group stage matches.

Having drawn 0-0 in the opening match against Istiklol of Tajikistan, Shabab Al-Ahli was comfortably beaten by the Saudi champions at Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh and now finds itself bottom of Group A.

"I congratulate Al-Hilal, who played a good match and deserved to win,” Mahdi Ali said.

“For us, we were missing a number of players due to injuries, and we also suffered from a lot of intercepted passes, which made things more difficult for us."

“This is football and we hope that we will make up for that in the next match,” he added.

“We had the desire to compensate and we continued to try until the final minutes, when we wasted two chances. We suffered physically because the team has played a large number of domestic matches over the last month, as we are competing in many competitions, and we were also affected by the circumstances of the month of Ramadan.”

“We must put this match behind us and start thinking about the next one, as our chances (of qualification to the next round) are still alive with four matches remaining for the team, but we must work to avoid the mistakes that happened in the match.”

The third round of group stage matches will be played on Wednesday, when the Shabab Al-Ahli will meet with AGMK of Uzbekistan, while Al-Hilal will take on Istiklol.

On Thursday, the first round had seen Al-Hilal draw 2-2 with AGMK while Istiklol played out a stalemate with Shabab Al-Ahli.

Only the top team from each group is guaranteed progress to the knock-out stages, with the six second-placed teams with the best records joining them.


Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho

Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho
Updated 19 April 2021

Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho

Tottenham fires manager Jose Mourinho
  • Mourinho took over in November 2019
  • His firing comes with seventh-place Tottenham outside the Champions League places but with a League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday

LONDON: Tottenham has fired manager Jose Mourinho, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Monday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been made public by Tottenham.
Mourinho took over in November 2019. His firing comes with seventh-place Tottenham outside the Champions League places but with a League Cup final against Manchester City on Sunday.


5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage
Updated 19 April 2021

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage

5 talking points from Saudi clubs’ return to form in AFC Champions League group stage
  • Second round of matches sees wins for Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr while Al-Ahli recover from mauling to claim first point

RIYADH: Two down and four to go. The group stage of the AFC Champions League is starting to take shape and already there are teams that have an awful lot to do if they are to maintain their presence in the tournament going into the knockout stage.

Some are looking good and the feeling around the Al-Nassr camp has improved massively after a 3-1 win over Al-Sadd, one of the favorites for the competition. Al-Hilal collected three points with a comfortable 2-0 win over Shabab Al-Ahli while Al-Ahli bounced back from their opening game mauling to take a 1-1 draw with Al-Duhail.

Here are five things we learned from the second round of matches.

1. Menezes gives Xavi a coaching lesson

Al-Sadd had not lost for 24 games heading into the clash with Al-Nassr. They won the Qatar Stars League without losing a game and with a goal difference of plus 63, which is incredible enough, but when the season is just 22 games long it really is something special. Yet Al-Nassr fully deserved to win.

Abderrazak Hamdallah scored the opening goal from the spot, but after Santi Cazorla equalized on the hour, the Saudi team’s players kept their nerve, their shape, and their discipline and hit the erratic Qatari team on the counter thanks to the intelligent movement and hard work of their forward line.

With the help of two well-timed substitutions, it was a strategy that bore fruit and two goals followed that put the hosts in with a great chance of the second round.

Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes has not had much time to work with the players but on this performance, there should be more to come even if fans should not get carried away by being the first team to defeat Al-Sadd this year.

2. Al-Breik stars for clinical Al-Hilal

After a somewhat disappointing opening game, Al-Hilal stepped it up a level against Shabab Al-Ahli.

Star foreign players Bafetimbi Gomis and Andre Carrillo grabbed the headlines with their very well-taken goals in the first half but Mohammed Al-Breik deserves plenty of credit. The Saudi international created both in a perfect example of how a right-back should get forward in the modern game.

The first was a delicious cross that was whipped in behind the Dubai team’s defense with Gomis on hand to sweep home from close range. The second came from deeper but found Carrillo in space just inside the area and the Peruvian international made no mistake with a fine swivel and shot. Both goals were easy on the eye and the defender played a huge part.

3. Al-Owais, Al-Somah give Al-Ahli hope

After seven straight defeats, a 1-1 draw will lift some of the gloom surrounding the Jeddah club. It was snatched in the final minutes against Al-Duhail who had largely dominated proceedings.

The Qataris struggled however to find a way past Mohammed Al-Owais. The goalkeeper dealt with everything that was thrown at him to keep the score line down to a minimum. Shot after shot came in and there he was tipping deflections over the bar and getting down well to push headers around the foot of the post.

It was due to such heroics that Omar Al-Somah’s last-gasp goal, which came after an overhead kick assist from defender Motaz Hawsawi, earned a much-needed point to break that dismal losing streak.

4. Strikers come to the fore

It may well be that none of the Saudi teams are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but it will be pleasing to fans that their star strikers have all scored already.

If Al-Hilal are going to go all the way and get a record fourth title, then they are going to need the goals of Gomis, and the French forward is looking hungry and dangerous.

Hamdallah was one of the stars of the 2020 tournament and while the Moroccan has not looked as lethal this year, to get on the scoresheet will be an immense relief for both player and coach. Al-Nassr need him if they are to get out of a difficult group.

And then there is Al-Somah. There has been a lot written about the Syrian striker this season but whatever has happened behind the scenes, three goals in two games speaks for itself. If one of the best strikers in Asia continues to score, then Al-Ahli have a chance.

5. Next comes the crunch

The next two games can make or break a team’s chances as they come against the same opposition. Al-Nassr are level on four points with Foolad of Iran. If the Riyadh giants can come out on top over these back-to-back clashes, then they really can start to think about the next stage.

Al-Hilal take on Tajikistan powerhouse Istiklol who are going to make things very tough. The new boys in the competition have also managed four points from the opening two games thanks to some solid defending. Al-Hilal have the firepower however and can take control of the group.

And as for Al-Ahli, there are twin games with Al-Shorta of Iraq. These will not be easy, even if Al-Shorta are regarded as the weakest team in the group, but they do offer a perfect chance to pick up a win and start challenging at the top of the table.


European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League
Updated 19 April 2021

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League

European soccer split as 12 clubs launch breakaway Super League
  • Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the founding chairman of the Super League
  • UEFA has threatened to bar from any competition clubs who join the breakaway league

LONDON: A group of 12 elite English, Spanish and Italian clubs dramatically split European soccer on Sunday by announcing the formation of a largely-closed Super League. They are leaving the existing UEFA-run Champions League structure despite warnings they could be kicked out of their domestic competitions and face legal action.
The seismic move to shake up the world’s biggest sport is partly engineered by the American owners of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United who also run US franchises in closed leagues — a model they are trying to replicate in Europe.
The power-play came after the rebel clubs reneged on a promise on Friday to back the plan by UEFA — European football’s governing body — to expand the Champions League beginning in 2024. The deal was designed to appease their wishes for more games, seemingly because they couldn’t control the sale of rights to the existing competition.
The Super League plan was first leaked in January but re-emerged this weekend.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez would be the founding chairman of the SL, which said it “intended to commence as soon as practicable” as a 20-team competition playing in midweek like the current Champions League and Europa League.
“We will help football at every level and take it to its rightful place in the world,” Perez said in a statement. “Football is the only global sport in the world with more than four billion fans and our responsibility as big clubs is to respond to their desires.”
No evidence was presented that supporters want a Super League. Fan groups across Europe last week criticized even the current Champions League expansion plan as a “power grab.”
Only 12 clubs have signed up for now — with none from France or Germany — but the SL hopes for three more as permanent members. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the other founding members, along with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. Five slots would be left open to be determined each year based on the previous season’s results.
UEFA warned clubs that joining the “cynical project” based on self-interest would see them banned from playing in any other competition — domestic, European or global. It said their players could be denied the opportunity to represent their national teams.
The statement was issued jointly with the leagues and national governing bodies from England, Spain and Italy.
England has the most clubs with the six including Chelsea and Manchester City, who are due to contest a Champions League semifinals this month. Also included is Tottenham, which is outside of the Premier League’s top four to qualify for the Champions League next season,
“By bringing together the world’s greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid,” said Joel Glazer, co-owner of Manchester United and SL vice chairman.
Another vice chairman of the new competition would be Andrea Agenlli who on Sunday night quit his role as chairman of the European Club Association, which was working with UEFA on enlarging the Champions League to 36 teams. Agenlli also resigned as a member of the executive committee of UEFA — rupturing his previously-close friendship with the governing body’s president, Aleksander Ceferin.
The UEFA leader has been determined not to grant more control of the sale of television and commercial rights to the clubs.
“We have come together at this critical moment,” Agnelli said, “enabling European competition to be transformed, putting the game we love on a sustainable footing for the long-term future, substantially increasing solidarity, and giving fans and amateur players a regular flow of headline fixtures.”
The rebel clubs are all members of the ECA which has a working agreement with UEFA, signed in 2019, which commits all its members to take part in and respect the Champions League and other European competitions through the 2023-24 season.
While FIFA issued a statement in January warning that players in a Super League could be banned from the World Cup, the world governing body has not denied that its president, Gianni Infantino, has been involved in the breakaway talks with officials, including Real Madrid’s Perez.
“FIFA can only express its disapproval to a ‘closed European breakaway league’ outside of the international football structures,” the world body said in a statement on Sunday while not answering questions about any role by Infantino.
The Premier League said the Super League would “undermine the appeal of the whole game” by going against the principles of open competition. There was even an intervention by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who warned that a Super League would be “very damaging.”
The Super League confirmed on Sunday that each of the 15 founding members would get a share of at least 3.5 billion euros ($4.2 billion) in initial infrastructure grants.
The AP previously reported that this money would be split among four tiers of clubs, with the top six each getting 350 million euros ($420 million). The competition would begin with two groups of 10 teams, with the top three from each group advancing to the quarterfinals. The teams finishing fourth and fifth would be involved in a playoff to complete the last-eight lineup. The knockout phase would still feature two-legged quarterfinals and semifinals before a single fixture final.
The previously-reported Super League proposal hoped to generate 4 billion euros ($4.86 billion) annually from broadcasters.
In comparison, UEFA said the total commercial revenue was 3.25 billion euros ($3.9 billion) for each of the past three seasons from selling the rights to the Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup.
For the 2021-24 sales cycle, UEFA is expected to sell around $14 billion in broadcast and sponsor deals for its club competitions, which includes the new third-tier Europa Conference League.
Those sales were completed worldwide on the legal commitment of top clubs to play according to the UEFA-ECA accord. Any breach of the cooperation deal would likely lead to legal threats and suits.
“We will consider all measures available to us, at all levels, both judicial and sporting in order to prevent this happening,” UEFA said of the Super League. “Football is based on open competitions and sporting merit; it cannot be any other way.”