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 31 May 2021

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

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, 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.”


Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi
Updated 27 October 2021

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi

Polish power meets Brazilian grit as Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira face off at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi
  • UFC returns to Abu Dhabi with a title double-header in front of an expected capacity crowd at Etihad Arena on Yas Island 
  • Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya, while Teixeira is after a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on

LOS ANGELES: UFC is back in Abu Dhabi, and this time it’s with a double-header of title fights in front of a capacity crowd at Etihad Arena for the very first time.

The newly launched venue hosted UFC 257 in January, with Dustin Poirier win over Conor McGregor in the second part of their trilogy of fights topping the bill.

Only 2,000 people were in the audience that night. On Saturday night, 18,000 people are expected to see Jan Blachowicz of Poland defend his Light Heavyweight title defense against Glover Texiera of Brazil at UFC 267.

Blachowicz is coming off an upset victory over the formerly undefeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 259 in March, and the big-punching Pole had been in sensational form before that with knockouts in three of his previous four fights.

Adesanya, however, presented a unique striking challenge for the 38-year-old Blachowicz, who seemed hesitant to throw and was biting on Adesanya's faints. Although his striking prowess was not on full display that night, he exhibited an ability to adapt and find a path to victory.

Meanwhile, Teixeira is coming off a huge win over Thiago Santos having been hurt early on, which is becoming something of a habit for the Brazilian. Although the 41-year-old Texiera often gets hurt early and comes on later, Blachowiz is not someone you want to hit you clean. Texiera's grappling is amongst the best in the division, with his vicious ground and pound opening his opponents up for submissions.

Prior to that, the first of the night’s two title bouts pits Cory Sandhagen of the US against Petr Yan of Russia for the interim Bantamweight title, a fight that was put together at short notice after Aljamain Sterling was not medically cleared due to a neck injury sustained in his fight against the latter.

Both Yan and Sandhagen will be looking to make up for controversial losses in their last fights.

Yan was picking Sterling apart and looked to be breezing to a dominant decision victory until an illegal knee saw him disqualified in round four. He has looked phenomenal in his last three fights against Urijah Faber, Jose Aldo and Sterling, with none having an answer for his Muay Thai style.

While Yan has looked impressive, the argument can be made that Sandhagen has looked even better. Excluding a slip-up against Sterling  at UFC 250 last year, and a contentious split decision against TJ Dillashaw in July, Sandhagen has looked like a world-beater.

His spin kick in the TKO win over Marlon Moraes in Abu Dhabi last October was spectacular, only to be topped months later by his flying knee against Frankie Edgar.

The 29-year-old American lives and dies by his unorthodox and loose style of fighting. In his last fight against Dillashaw, Sandhagen showed susceptibility to opening his back up to his opponents when throwing his spinning attacks. Dillashaw was able to exploit this and control clinch positions for minutes on end.

Yan displayed a similar ability to gain control of the back against Sterling when he threw spinning strikes. Both fighters will face challenges they have not faced before, and the winner would, in the eyes of many, be the best Bantamweight in the world. Sandhagen is the one with most to lose, as a defeat against Yan would put him at 0-3 against the three highest-ranked Bantamweight fighters, while Yan would likely be placed into another number 1 contender fight due to the way he lost the belt.

In the biggest of the non-title fights, the Kiwi Dan Hooker, after his decision victory of the German Nasrat Haqparast at UFC 266 in September, is stepping in on one month's notice to face Islam Makhachev - the most avoided fighter in the promotion and the heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

In his last bout, Hooker exhibited wrestling and control on the ground, skills that will be tested to the limit against Makhachev in their Lightweight matchup. The 31-year-old’s knees are another tool that will be employed to prevent the eventual takedown.

Since his loss in his UFC debut, Makhachev has looked almost unbeatable, with his wrestling exuding strength, speed, and tenacity.

His grappling was put to test in his first main event against Thiago Moises, who presented a submission threat Makhachev hadn't faced up until that point. He passed the test with flying colors, dominating the Brazilians from start to finish to win with a fourth round submission.

This bout has major title implications for the winner, while the loser will likely have to take a high-risk, low-reward fight with Rafael Fiziev or Gregor Gillespie.

Alexander Volkov takes on Marcin Tybura in Heavyweight bout that was added late to the main card, and before that is one of the most anticipated fights of the night which sees the return of Khamzat Chimaev against the "Leech" Li Jingliang in the Welterweight division.

The Russian-born Swede is coming off a year’s layoff due to lingering effects of COVID-19 that ruled him out of multiple bouts with Leon Edwards.

Chimaev burst onto the scene last year, winning two fights within 10 days at Fight Island 1 in Abu Dhabi. In those bouts, the 27-year-old displayed powerful wrestling and smooth grappling that rendered his opponents powerless to his never-ending barrage of ground strikes and submission attempts.

In his most recent appearance in the Octagon, he flattened Gerald Meerschaert in only 10 seconds with a single right hand. Although Chimaev seemed open to fighting at both Welterweight and middleweight, declining main event bouts with Luke Rockhold show he is more interested in fighting at welterweight.

Up against him will be Jingliang, who knocked Santiago Ponzinibbio out in the first round last January. The Leech utilizes a unique striking style, employing an abundance of hooks from unorthodox angles, although  the 33-year-old from China showed a susceptibility to be controlled in his bout against Neil Magny in 2020.

This fight will come down to who controls where it takes place, with Chimaev being more comfortable on the ground while Jingliang preferring a striking affair. The winner of the bout is sure to see a steep challenge in their next fight, with fighters like Wonderboy, Belal Muhammad and Geoff Neal, without signed fights, waiting for their chance.

The main card opens with an intriguing matchup between ranked Light Heavyweights Magomed Ankalaev of Russia and Volkan Oezdemir of Switzerland.

The 22 -year-old Oezdemir’s defeat to Jiri Prochazka at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi has aged well, with  Czech fighter solidifying himself as the next man in line for a title shot.

Short bouts have become synonymous with Oezdemir fights, with the Swiss fighter's kill or be killed style leading to swift finishes. But in Ankaleav, he will up against man many believe to be the future champion of the division. Ankaleav has been perfect in his career outside of a last-second submission defeat to Paul Craig back in 2018.

Ankaleav possesses masterful striking and employs a variety of techniques. While his power and striking are impressive, Ankalaev has also displayed sound wrestling in his last victory against Nikita Krylov in February.

This bout has significant implications for the trajectory of both fighters' careers, as a win for Ankalaev puts him in the title picture, while a win for Oezdemir keeps him relevant at the peak of the division. A loss for either fighter increases their distance to the title substantially in the shark-infested waters of the light heavyweight division.


Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany
Updated 26 October 2021

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany

Bayern star Kimmich sparks vaccination debate in Germany
  • On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the 'We Kick Corona" charity last year
  • Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich "still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination.

BERLIN: Joshua Kimmich will be under the spotlight for Bayern Munich at rivals Moenchengladbach on Wednesday amid a fiery debate in Germany since the footballer revealed he opted not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The 26-year-old is set to play for Bayern in a German Cup second-round tie, but off the pitch, his decision not to get vaccinated has even drawn comment from the government in Berlin.
On Saturday, Kimmich revealed he decided against being vaccinated, despite having founded the ‘We Kick Corona” charity last year.
“It’s not that I’m a denier of the coronavirus or an opponent of vaccination,” said Kimmich, who based his decision on “personal concerns.”
The footballer’s stance drew comment from Caretaker Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who hopes the footballer will inform himself and “let all available information about the vaccines approved in the EU sink in.”
Siebert urged Kimmich to get vaccinated because the Bayern star is “someone who is looked up to by millions” as a role model.
Kimmich appears to be in the minority among Germany’s top flight footballers.
Christian Seifert, managing director of the German Football League (DFL), has said around 94 percent of Bundesliga players are vaccinated.
Of Germany’s population of 83 million, around 66 percent are fully vaccinated, but Europe’s biggest economy is currently in the fourth wave with 10,000 new cases of the coronavirus reported Tuesday.
Since testing positive for Covid-19 last week, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann has been giving training and matchday instructions from home where he is quarantined.
Kimmich says he may get vaccinated in the future and team-mate Thomas Mueller hopes it will be sooner rather than later.
“As a friend, it’s an absolutely acceptable decision,” said Mueller.
“As a teammate, and if you also look a little at what might be better for everyone... my opinion is perhaps that the vaccination would be better.”
On Monday, Bayern president Herbert Hainer said he would be happy if Kimmich “still gets vaccinated, but there is no compulsory vaccination. One has to respect the decision.”
Kimmich has drawn plenty of criticism from medical experts.
“Joshua Kimmich is certainly a proven expert in matters of football, but not an expert in matters of vaccination and vaccines,” Thomas Mertens, chairman of Germany’s Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko), told German media.
“It is the personal decision of Kimmich and it should have stayed that way.”
There is also some support.
In a statement, Carsten Ramelow, vice president of the footballers’ union VDV, said it must be “accepted if individual players have concerns about side effects of the vaccination and therefore hold a different opinion.”
The chair of the German Ethics Council also stressed the importance of respecting Kimmich’s “private decision.”
However, the council’s chairwoman Alena Buyx told Sky “I think it’s a pity. It would be great if he would have used his platform to get better advice in order to be a role model.”
Buyx is concerned skeptics could use his statements to “cast doubt over vaccinations.”


Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum
Updated 26 October 2021

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum

Football icon Mohamed Salah to be part of Egypt’s national curriculum
  • Students will learn about his sporting success, philanthropy, family-oriented Muslim lifestyle
  • Textbook: ‘He is a role model to millions of Egyptians’

LONDON: The story of Egyptian footballing icon Mohamed Salah will be added to the Egyptian national curriculum to teach children what it takes to become a hero on and off the pitch.

Liverpool striker and Egyptian national Mohamad Salah, 29, is undeniably one of the world’s best footballers, and his life story will now be taught to Egyptian children in the hopes that it will spur students on to success in life.

His career, consistent goal-scoring at the top echelons of international football, and philanthropic activities will be taught in English-language textbooks to primary- and secondary-school students across Egypt.

The much-loved Egyptian has brought joy to the Arab country through his football prowess, earning him the nickname “the happiness maker.”

Salah often appears on-screen alongside his hijabi wife and young daughter, who is named Makka after the holy city in Saudi Arabia.

His quiet lifestyle — in which he is visibly Muslim, including praying on-pitch after goals — and massive donations to Egypt’s poor have earned him national and international admiration.

In his own birthplace, the poor farming community of Nagrig in the Nile Delta, Salah has poured money into charitable works.

He has funded a new girls’ school, a water treatment center, an ambulance center, and a charity for orphans and the vulnerable.

Primary-school children will mainly be taught of his footballing success, while secondary-school textbooks will focus now on his philanthropic activities and will pose questions prompting students to examine what it means to be a hero.

“Salah’s desire to help others is because he wants to give young people a chance to succeed,” the secondary-school book says. “He is a role model to millions of Egyptians who give him the nickname ‘the happiness maker’.”

Salah will now sit alongside other Egyptian heroes featured in textbooks, such as Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz and UK-based cardiologist Sir Magdi Yacoub.


Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom
Updated 26 October 2021

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom

Golf Saudi and Atlas Turf Arabia to provide advanced greens for courses across the Kingdom
  • Joint venture will deliver Platinum TE Paspalum, with both Bermudagrass and Zoysia to follow in due course
  • Several of the leading golf and landscaping projects in Saudi Arabia have secured their grass supply from Atlas Turf Arabia and the turf farm will harvest the first order of turf in Q4 2021

RIYADH: Atlas Turf Arabia, in partnership with Golf Saudi, is set to develop and distribute some of the world’s most climatically-adapted turf species throughout Saudi Arabia, starting with Platinum TE Paspalum, with both Bermudagrass and Zoysia to follow in due course.

The joint venture, which was initially agreed in 2019 to develop the region’s first internationally licensed golf and sports turf farm in Saudi Arabia, has now received its foreign investment license from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Investment, and commercial registration from the Ministry of Commerce.

“Atlas Turf Arabia will serve as a vital link in the supply chain framework in Saudi Arabia, fulfilling the objectives of Vision 2030, by providing access to turf grass solutions for Saudi-based organizations who require it,” said Majed-Al Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi.

“Golf Saudi is committed to not only securing the very best turf solutions for its own needs but to also do so by the most socially and environmentally conscious means possible,” he said. “By owning and operating our very own state-of-the-art turf farm, via Atlas Turf Arabia, we are able to not only source product sustainably but also create new job opportunities for Saudi nationals to operate the site locally, which is a key objective of Golf Saudi’s Social Agenda.”

The Social Agenda is Golf Saudi’s initiative to create additional educational and employment opportunities within the Kingdom. By also offering sustainable turf solutions to projects outside of golf, including other sports federations and organizations, as well as infrastructure and landscaping projects, Atlas Turf Arabia will continue to add further employees to its overall headcount in the months and years ahead. Several of the leading golf and landscaping projects in Saudi Arabia have secured their grass supply from Atlas Turf Arabia and the turf farm will harvest the first order of turf in Q4 2021.

Atlas Turf Arabia will also work closely with GEO Foundation, the international non-profit that for the last 15 years has been entirely dedicated to accelerating sustainability and climate action across golf.

“The establishment of Atlas Turf Arabia and the opening of our first turf farm in Saudi Arabia is the culmination of our mission to provide high quality, sustainable solutions for turfgrass projects worldwide,” John Holmes, president of Atlas Turf International, said.

“We are incredibly proud to play our part in not only working with new customers and supplying unique projects across the Middle East, but to also creating a positive and long-lasting legacy through the creation of new jobs and training opportunities for Saudi citizens,” he added. 

“This is just the first step in Atlas Turf Arabia’s journey to create a regional team capable of achieving its long-term and sustainable vision for the future of turfgrasses, not just in golf but other unique projects too.”


Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 October 2021

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi

Tunisia’s Olympic gold medal hero Ahmed Hafnaoui to race at FINA World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi
  • Teenager will take part in short-distance tournament at Etihad Arena from Dec. 16-21

ABU DHABI: Tunisian Olympic gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui will compete in the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in the UAE.

The tournament is set to take place at the Etihad Arena from Dec. 16 to 21, event organizer Abu Dhabi Sports Council has announced.

Hafnaoui, 18, won gold after an outstanding performance in the 400-meter freestyle at Tokyo 2020 with a record time of three minutes and 43 seconds.

The teenage swimmer will race against some of the sport’s elite at this year’s championships, with further athlete announcements due in November, before the full field is confirmed in December.

More than 1,000 athletes from 180 countries are expected to descend on the UAE capital to compete in 44 world championship title events over six days for a total $2.8 million prize pool.

Hafnaoui will be joined by fellow Arab representatives including Emirati swimmers Layla Al-Khatib, and Youssef Al-Matrooshi, who represented the UAE in the 100-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Games.