Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad

Tala Al-Ghamdi joined Jeddah Eagles at the age of 19 and won the inaugural Saudi Women's Football League with the club in November 2020. (Supplied)
Tala Al-Ghamdi joined Jeddah Eagles at the age of 19 and won the inaugural Saudi Women's Football League with the club in November 2020. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad

Jeddah Eagles’ Tala Al-Ghamdi dreams of a future with Saudi squad
  • The 21-year-old has already won the inaugural Women’s Football League with her club in November 2020

JEDDAH: Tala Al-Ghamdi is making up for lost time. Not only for herself, but for all Saudi female footballers.

The launch of the Women’s Football League (WFL) in November 2020 brought together 600 players from 24 teams in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, finally giving Saudi female players the opportunities and recognition they deserve on a national level.

In a short period of time, Al-Ghamdi, who plays for Jeddah Eagles, the winners of the inaugural WFL, has become one of the game’s most promising talents.

Her passion for football and her determination to see women’s football advance in Saudi Arabia began when she first kicked a ball at the age of six.

“I was always into sports, it was a part of my family as well,” said Al-Ghamdi. “We watched various local and international sports tournaments in the country. But, specifically, it was football that I enjoyed the most when I was playing with my relatives, even though girls were not encouraged to be involved with sports. When I was younger, I played with my cousins and the boys in the neighborhood.”

Determined to pursue a career in the sport she joined Jeddah Eagles at the age of 19, where she was given the opportunity to play in the Jeddah Women’s League. Today, three years after joining the team, Al-Ghamdi is competing in the first WFL.

“In my childhood, when we played with the boys they used to put the girls in the position of goalkeeper, but I trusted my abilities and skills, which I believed were good enough for me to be part of the team,” she said.

Al-Ghamd admits that without the support of her parents, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

“When I was young, I just imagined playing football. I continued playing until academies and women’s football competitions started being organised in Jeddah.”

Today, while Al-Ghamdi is thankful that the wider society has changed to the extent that it accepts women’s football, she feels that there is room for more support.

“There’s a lot to be done, honestly,” she said. “The grassroots and younger teams are going in the right direction. Mainly, we need to first accept women’s football culturally. We have all the facilities, the government allows us to play the game and the leadership is supportive, providing all the facilities. But it would make a world of difference if the whole country got behind the game.”

Her ambition is to eventually represent her country at regional and international tournaments. While the Saudi Arabia Football Federation has yet to set up a women’s senior national team, she says she would continue to contribute to the growth of the game and make sure she reaches her personal best.

“For me, the dream would be to play for the Saudi national team,” she said. “But realistically, I really wish to see Saudi women’s football get to the level it deserves. We are on the right path and, if we continue working hard, we will get there.”

Al-Ghamdi has called for the support of women’s football to match the ambitions of Saudi female players who are currently playing in the WFL.

The future is certainly looking brighter on that front with recent developments at continental level that should have a positive impact on the game inside the kingdom.

The latest AFC Women’s Club Licensing criteria are part of the AFC Club Licensing Regulations (Edition 2021), which were ratified by the confederation’s executive committee in January and are expected to have a similar game-changing impact to that on the men’s game, with a focus on sporting, infrastructure, personnel, administrative, legal and financial requirements.

This opens up the possibility of Al-Ghamdi and other Saudi female footballers participating in the newly announced AFC Women’s Champions League, set to kick off in 2023, and which promises to become Asia’s premier women’s club tournament.

“This is very encouraging news and I hope to represent my favorite club, which is Al-Ittihad,” she said.

The 21-year-old right-back also revealed the local and international players she looks up to.

“My role model in world football is Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Liverpool player, for being the modern right-back, and my favorite local player is the rising star Saud Abdel Hamid from Al-Ittihad football club, as he also plays in the position in which I play.”

For now, Al-Ghamdi’s vision for the future of the game remains simple and inclusive.

“My dream is that any girl in Saudi Arabia should have the opportunity to enjoy sport to the maximum and to see the Saudi national team in international tournaments.”


Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful
Updated 17 June 2021

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful

Eriksen defibrillator aims to cheat death — but football doubtful
  • Eriksen’s heart stopped in the middle of a Euro match on Saturday, casting a dark shadow over his career
  • "In my opinion, it's over," cardiologist Jeremy Descoux said

PARIS: Danish footballer Christian Eriksen is to be fitted with a type of miniature defibrillator to detect and correct heart rhythm disorders to prevent the repeat of a near-fatal heart attack.
The Inter Milan player had to be revived after his heart stopped in the middle of a Euro match on Saturday, casting a dark shadow over his career.
It is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD. Like its better-known cousin, the pacemaker, an ICD is made up of one or more leads and a small housing placed under the skin. The leads can be inserted through a blood vessel directly into the heart or placed under the skin, in contact with the chest wall.
Via the lead, the device detects heart rhythm disorders and corrects them if necessary. If the heart is beating too slowly, the ICD can send weak electrical impulses to speed it up. In this case, it works like a pacemaker. But unlike a pacemaker, the ICD can also prevent the heart from beating too fast.
“The idea is to prevent sudden death,” cardiologist Jeremy Descoux told AFP.
The device can determine whether the increased heart rate (tachycardia) is normal, worrying or even very dangerous. Based on this, it can trigger several responses.
“The therapy of last resort is an electric shock,” Descoux says.
This works as a miniaturised version of the defibrillators installed in public places in case of emergency.
The device can also send a series of rapid pulses to regain control of the heart’s rhythm.
“It can help you get over the hump without delivering an electric shock, which can be a bit traumatic,” Descoux says.
“In my opinion, it’s over,” Descoux says.
“Unless we find a pathology that caused (the accident) without any link to sport.”
Since Eriksen’s accident, the parallel has been drawn with Dutchman Daley Blind, who resumed his career after having a heart device fitted.
But Blind was diagnosed with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) in 2019 after suffering dizziness in the middle of a match. In 2020, he again collapsed during a match after his device failed. He left the field conscious and under his own power.
In Eriksen’s case, “the problem is that you have a player who has suddenly died... ‘Do I expose my patient to do again what was a problem the first time?’“


Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute
Updated 17 June 2021

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute

Belgium beats Denmark 2-1 in game marked by Eriksen tribute
  • It was Denmark’s first game since Eriksen’s collapse
  • 25,000 fans rose for a minute of thunderous applause in tribute to Eriksen

COPENHAGEN: Substitute Kevin de Bruyne set up one goal and scored the winner himself to give Belgium a 2-1 victory over Denmark in a European Championship.
The game was marked by an emotional tribute to Christian Eriksen in the first half.
De Bruyne came on after halftime for his first appearance since sustaining a facial fracture in the Champions League final and squared the ball for Thorgan Hazard to equalize in the 55th minute. He then scored in the 71st with a low shot from outside the area.
It was Denmark’s first game since Eriksen’s collapse, and the hosts started at a furious pace at a raucous Parken Stadium. Yussuf Poulsen scored with a low shot inside the far post in only the second minute.
Players from both teams then halted play after 10 minutes as the 25,000 fans rose for a minute of thunderous applause in tribute to Eriksen, who wears the No. 10 shirt for Denmark’s national team.
The players joined the applause as well, as did referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Eriksen remains in a nearby hospital after suffering cardiac arrest in the team’s opening game against Finland.
The victory give Belgium a spot in the round of 16. Denmark can still advance with a win over Russia on Monday if the Belgians beat Finland.
It had all started so well for Denmark.
Carried forward by the largest crowd in Denmark since the government eased pandemic restrictions, the hosts kept pushing forward in wave after wave after the early goal.
Play resumed at a more normal pace after the tribute to Eriksen, but Denmark still had the better chances in the first half.
Things changed completely when De Bruyne came on after the break.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand had said the team’s strategy for keeping Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku quiet was to make sure he didn’t get the ball in the first place. And Denmark largely succeeded until the 55th, when Lukaku burst forward down the right flank before passing to De Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder went around a defender inside the area before teeing up Hazard, who slotted it past a scrambling Kasper Schmeichel.
Eden Hazard, Thorgan’s brother, then came on and set up De Bruyne for the second goal. De Bruyne ran toward the Belgium fans but didn’t celebrate the goal, pushing in hands down in a calming motion out of respect for Eriksen.
Martin Braithwaite had Denmark’s best chances for an equalizer, but his shot was saved by Thibaut Courtois in the 75th and his header glanced against the crossbar in the 87th.


First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
Updated 17 June 2021

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats

First cricket World Test Championship puts new spin on game’s established formats
  • In the second of his regular columns for Arab News, Jon Pike explains cricket’s different formats and how each can have its own world’s best

Cricket can be impenetrable for those who are new to it and seeking to understand its rules and conventions.

The scoring system, the idiosyncratic names given to positions in the field, strange signals made by umpires, the use of a literacy known only to cricket, outbreaks of applause for no apparent reason, and matches ending with no outright winner after days of play, all combine to create an arcane environment.

This is exacerbated by a variety of formats under which the game is played. Until the early 1970s, international cricket consisted of (generally) five-day Test matches, a term used to describe the contests in the very first visit by an England team to Australia in 1862-63.

After 1971, when Australia and England played a limited, 40 overs match because the Test at Melbourne had been washed out, one-day cricket gained momentum, with the first Cricket World Cup contested by eight teams in England in June 1975, based on a format of 60 overs per side in each match.

The popularity of the format, reduced to 50 overs in 1987, has been enduring, with the dramatic final between England and New Zealand at Lord’s in July 2019 set to last long in the memory. At the end of the 100 overs, the scores were tied, and the outcome was decided when England scored the most runs in one extra over of six balls per side.

Such gripping finales are rare, and cricket’s administrators have been concerned for decades about the game’s lack of attraction to younger people, fearing the universal appeal of football to them. This has been very much the case in the UK.

In 2003, the governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board, introduced a new format called Twenty20 (T20), in which each side was limited to 20 overs, having developed a format which was first trialed in New Zealand in the 1990s.

T20 cricket has attracted new audiences, no more so than in India, where the spectacular Indian Premier League (IPL) that began in 2007 has captured global attention and made rich men of many of the world’s leading cricketers.

The introduction in England in July of a new, even shorter competition called the Hundred will add further complexity to the game’s playing architecture, especially as each over will comprise of the delivery of 10 balls rather than the customary six.

It is the policy of cricket’s governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), to have one pinnacle tournament for each of the three formats over a four-year period. World Cup tournaments have been in place for 50-over cricket since 1975 and for T20 since 2007, but not for Test match cricket.

It is usually clear which is the dominant team of the time in Test match cricket – for example, the West Indies in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by Australia until the late 2000s. Currently, it is arguable that it is India, a debate that is about to be tested between June 18 and 23 in Southampton, England, when India and New Zealand compete to be crowned champions in the first ever World Test Championship (WTC) final.

The two countries have earned the right to joust for the honor through a rankings system. These were introduced, through private endeavor, for Test cricket in 1987, with one-day international rankings being added in 1998. In 2005, the rankings were acquired by the ICC, who added them for women’s international cricket in 2008 and for T20 cricket in 2011.

The nature of Test cricket, in that it is played at differing times of the year in quite varying conditions, makes it difficult to compare performance on a common basis.

The ratings are based on matches played by 10 teams within a four-year cycle. The inputs into the calculations include points that reflect each team’s performance, the relative strengths of the two teams playing in each series of Tests and matches that have been played most recently.

Ultimately, the ranking is based on an average of the matches played and the points earned.

Annual updates are made every May, with the oldest of the results in the four-year cycle being replaced every calendar year. This system gave rise to a situation whereby the identities of the two finalists were not determined until early March, when it became clear that India had defeated England in a four-match series in India.

As a result, the final ratings in the four-year cycle saw India, with 121 points, just pip New Zealand on 120, followed by England with 109, and Australia with 108. The short lead by which India topped the rankings suggests that the match will be close run, especially in English conditions, with which New Zealand are more familiar, even more so as they have comprehensively outplayed England in a two-match series which ended on June 13 in Birmingham.

The build up to the WTC has not been receiving much coverage or attention, at least not in England, a factor not helped by the fact that it will be competing for space with the delayed Euro 2020 football tournament.

It remains to be seen if this inaugural event, designed to establish an outright champion Test playing team, will capture long-term interest.


Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020
Updated 17 June 2021

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020

Ukraine gets 1st win, beats North Macedonia 2-1 at Euro 2020
  • Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk score again to give Ukraine a 2-1 victory over North Macedonia at Euro 2020
  • Goals were separated by 5 minutes meanwhile against the Dutch they scored only 4 minutes apart

BUCHAREST: Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk both scored again, and this time it was enough.
The pair of forward netted a goal each in the first half Thursday to give Ukraine a 2-1 victory over North Macedonia at the European Championship.
The same two players also scored in the team’s opening match at Euro 2020 on Sunday, but that ended up being a 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.
Yarmolenko netted from close range in 29th minute after Oleksandr Karavaev’s flick from a corner. He then released Yaremchuk on the right flank in the 34th to double the lead with a low shot past onrushing goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski.
The goals were separated by five minutes. Against the Dutch, they scored only four minutes apart.
“I’m pleased with the three points we have earned,” Yarmolenko said, thanking his coaches for trusting him after spending most of the season on the bench at West Ham. “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be preparing for the next game.”
The pair equaled coach Andriy Shevchenko’s record of scoring two goals at the European Championship. Shevchenko netted his in a 2-1 victory over Sweden when the country co-hosted Euro 2012, Ukraine’s only previous victory at the continental tournament.
“Today, we as the team played well in the attack,” Shevchenko said. “It was a pleasure to watch. During the game we had a lot of chances to score more.”
Ezgjan Alioski got the only goal for North Macedonia in the 57th minute when he scored on a rebound after goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan blocked his penalty shot.
The penalty was awarded after Karavaev brought down North Macedonia striker Goran Pandev, who was aiming for a rebound after Bushchan pushed a shot from Aleksandar Trajkovski onto the woodwork.
“Maybe we should have attacked more, but we found ourselves two goals behind, and when that happens, it’s difficult to turn the match around,” Alioski said.
Ruslan Malinovskyi later had a penalty saved by Dimitrievski on the other end. It was awarded for a handball following a free kick after a video review.
Ukraine now has three points in Group C while North Macedonia has zero and is facing elimination from the tournament.
Ukraine is appearing in its third European Championship and has never progressed out of the group stage. The team will remain in Bucharest for its final group match against Austria while North Macedonia will travel Amsterdam to face the Netherlands.
North Macedonia is playing at its first major tournament. The team lost to Austria 3-1 in its opening game.
“We played a match of two very different halves,” North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski said. “In the second half we showed why we are at the European Championship.”
Referee Andres Rapallini of Argentina was in charge of the game at the National Arena with linesmen Juan Pablo Belatti and Diego Bonfa assisting. They were taking part in the European tournament amid an exchange with South American soccer body CONMEBOL.
A Spanish refereeing crew will take charge of a Copa America match between Chile and Bolivia on Friday.


Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to provide $1.33m a year to Arab Football Associations

Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
Updated 17 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince to provide $1.33m a year to Arab Football Associations

Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal chaired the 26th Arab General Assembly of the Arab Football Federation. (Twitter/@UAFAAC)
  • The meeting voted Prince Abdul Aziz as president of the union for a new term between 2021-2025

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will provide SR5 million ($1.33 million) a year in support of the Union of Arab Football Associations (UAFA).
Minister of Sport Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who is also UAFA president, told a UAFA annual meeting in Jeddah that the union has received SR5 million from the crown prince for this year in support of the union and its programs.
The meeting voted Prince Abdul Aziz as president of the union for a new term between 2021-2025.