Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo

Al-Ittihad’s Ahmed Hegazi joins Egypt’s Olympic squad as Mohamed Salah looks set to miss out on Tokyo
  • Liverpool unlikely to sanction Salah’s release in July as he is set to participate in the African Nations Cup for Egypt’s senior team January

LONDON: Ahmed Hegazi provided good news for fans in Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week after signing a permanent deal with Al-Ittihad and also agreeing to join up with his country’s team at the Olympics in July.

The initial benefactor is Egypt. Coach of the U-23 team Shawky Gharieb has been facing  up to the prospect of heading to Japan without star forward Mohamed Salah, but now has at least some consolation as he will be able to take the in-form defender Hegazi to Tokyo, where the team will face Spain, Argentina and Australia starting on July 22.

The tournament is reserved for players 24 and under — with the age limit rising by one year due to the Olympics being delayed because of the pandemic —  but each country is allowed to call three “overage” stars.

Whether Salah’s release would be sanctioned by Liverpool has been a major discussion in Egyptian football ever since the team qualified last November by defeating Ivory Coast in the final of Africa’s U-23 Championships. The six-time European champions are reluctant to release the forward, especially as he is also due to participate in the African Nations Cup for the senior side in January and February along with Sadio Mane and Naby Keita. 

“I do not want to say that it is impossible for Salah to participate in the Olympics, but it is difficult,” Egyptian FA President Ahmed Megahed said on Tuesday. “Salah agreed to lead the Olympic team during the last camp of the Egyptian team.”

“We contacted Liverpool to allow Salah to join the Olympic team,” the president continued. “They said they were waiting for the approval of the technical staff, but in the end, Liverpool refused the request because they do not want to lose the player at the beginning of the season, as well as next January with the Africa Cup of Nations, which will keep him from participating in the English Premier League matches.”

It has been widely reported that the player is keen to go to Japan to take part in the Olympics and is trying to persuade the club to let him go. All should be finalized by the end of the week.

“We spoke with Salah again, and he told us that he will make a new attempt with the technical staff of his team, to resolve the matter, and within the next two days he will find a way,” added Megahed, though reports in England suggest that Salah has an impossible task.

It is not just Salah who is set to miss the plane to Tokyo, with Turkish team Galatasaray also set to refuse a call-up for Mostafa Mohamed. The Istanbul giants want the 23-year-old forward for their UEFA Champions League playoff against PSV Eindhoven in July. 

“Mustafa Mohamed wants to play in the Olympics, but he is certainly not the decision-maker,” Mostafa’s agent Ahmed Yehia said.

“If his club agrees, he will play with the Egyptian national team, but he will not enter into a conflict with his club in order to participate. The last information I have is that Mostafa Mohamed will not participate in the Olympics,” he said, adding that there was still a little hope for Egypt as officials at the club have changed and there is a chance a new decision could follow.

If Salah and Mohamed are, as expected, officially ruled out of the games, it remains to be seen who Gahrieb plumps for as his other two overage players. He released a shortlist of eight, which contains goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shennawy and midfielder Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal. 

While Al-Ittihad are likely to miss Hegazi for the opening couple of weeks of the next league season, fans will be delighted that the 30 year-old is going to stay for two more years. His arrival in Jeddah from the now-relegated English Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in October sparked a turnaround in the Tigers’ fortunes and, inspired by the defender, the team that was in a relegation battle started to climb the table and finished in an impressive third place. It was his goal in the penultimate match of the season that clinched a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League. 

For many observers, Hegazi, who played 28 games and scored three goals in all competitions, was the most impressive performer in the league over the season as a whole.

There has been more good news for fans as Brazilian coach Fabio Carille has signed a one-year extension to his contract and will be in charge of the club next season.

Saudi Arabia will also be in Tokyo and take on Brazil, Ivory Coast and Germany with Al-Hilal trio Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari and Yasser Al-Shahrani going to Japan as the overage players.


Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts
Updated 30 July 2021

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts

Novak Djokovic fails in Olympic ‘Golden Slam’ quest as US-Russia doping row erupts
  • The Serb collapsed from a set and a break ahead as German fourth seed Zverev won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1

TOKYO: World number one Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday and a defeated American swimmer launched doping accusations against a Russian rival.
As the athletics events began in a stadium deprived of spectators by anti-coronavirus measures, Jamaican sprint queen Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce made an impressive entrance.
Djokovic's bid for a calendar Golden Grand Slam -- all four Grand Slam tournaments plus the Olympics -- was dramatically ended by Alexander Zverev.
The Serb collapsed from a set and a break ahead as German fourth seed Zverev won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a final against Russian Karen Khachanov.
In a bitter row at the pool, American swimmer Ryan Murphy accused Evgeny Rylov of doping after he was beaten by the Russian in the 200m backstroke.
Murphy said he had been "swimming in a race that's probably not clean".
Rylov said he was "surprised" by Murphy's "strange" suggestion.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) hit back on Twitter, saying "the broken record is once again playing the song about Russia doping and someone is diligently pressing the button on the English-language propaganda".
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency said Rylov had been tested three times this year and that he was "prepared and clean".
Russia are banned from Tokyo 2020 after being found guilty of state-sponsored doping, meaning their athletes cannot use the Russian flag and anthem.
But more than 330 Russian athletes have been allowed to compete under the ROC moniker, and they had won 10 golds by Friday evening to lie fourth in the medals table.
As competition began in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium, Fraser-Pryce successfully launched her bid to become the first woman to win an individual Olympic athletics event three times.
The Jamaican, 100 metres champion in 2008 and 2012, shut down with 20 metres remaining and strode over the line for a comfortable first-round victory in 10.84sec.
One of her rivals, the Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou, blasted to an African record-equalling 10.78sec and reigning champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica recorded 10.82sec on what appears to be a fast track.
"If you notice the heats, there's some really quick running. It's good for female sprinting. It's long overdue," Fraser-Pryce said.
The semi-finals and final of that event take place on Saturday evening.
World record-holder Karsten Warholm of Norway strolled to victory in his heat of the 400m hurdles heat, an event that could be one of the highlights.
"It was nice to get out on the track again," said Warholm. "I've been here for two weeks already, I'm starting to get bored so it was very nice to get around."
Qatar's Abderrahman Samba eased through but said he felt the absence of spectators: "It was really, really difficult. I really missed the crowd."
In the pool, South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker was overjoyed after becoming the first South African woman to win an Olympic swimming gold for 25 years as she obliterated the eight-year-old world record in the 200m breaststroke, timing 2min 18.95sec.
Australia's Emma McKeon claimed her fourth medal in Tokyo as she blazed to the women's 100m freestyle title in a new Olympic record of 51.96sec.
Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey -- one of the surprises of the swimming events -- earned another silver medal to add to that from the 200m freestyle.
French judo superstar Teddy Riner came up short in his bid to win a historic third consecutive heavyweight title, losing to Russia's world number one Tamerlan Bashaev in the quarter-final. Riner had to settle for bronze.
The shadow of coronavirus hung over the start of the athletics with the Australian team saying three of its members would remain isolated from the rest of the squad "as a precautionary measure" after a scare.
The three are classed as close contacts of US pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has been ruled out of the Games after testing positive for Covid-19.
Ian Chesterman, the chef de mission of the Australian Olympic Committee, told a press conference: "They all tested negative which is good. They also confirmed the daily test results which have also been negative and confirmed their test results before they left Australia."
Coronavirus cases are surging in Japan a week into the Games.
On Friday, Tokyo 2020 organisers reported 27 new cases related to the event -- the highest daily figure yet -- although they insist there is nothing to suggest a link between the Games and rising infections in Japan.


Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020
Updated 30 July 2021

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020

Husein Alireza’s Olympic rowing adventure ends after injury hampered Tokyo 2020
  • 27-year-old carried Saudi Arabia’s flag alongside sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh at Olympics opening ceremony

RIYADH: Saudi rower Husein Alireza’s Tokyo 2020 journey at the Sea Forest Waterway has come to an end after an injury plagued Olympics.

He bowed out of the competition coming 24th in a field of 32 after finishing sixth in the men’s single sculls final D on Friday.

It was the fifth race in just over a week at the Olympics for Alireza, who has been competing with a lung injury that significantly affected his performances in the heat and humidity of the Japanese capital.

His first race took place on July 23, the same day he became one of the Kingdom’s two flagbearers at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, alongside 100 meters sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh.

Alireza had suffered a punctured lung during an Olympic qualification regatta on May 5, which left him unable to train until June 22, just one month before the start of the tournament. The 27-year-old had been advised to give the Olympics a miss with the injury initially expected to heal in no less than three months without any physical exertions.

The handicap clearly affected his form, with his technical team devising a strategy that would see Alireza navigate the best path toward improving his ranking, with medal hopes not seen as realistic in any way.

He started rowing while studying for a master’s degree at Cambridge University in 2017, and it soon became clear he had the talent to go far in the sport. After graduation, he won two Saudi Indoor Rowing Championship golds as well as posting a first-place finish at the US Indoor Rowing Championships.

Alireza had a successful 2019 with wins at the Molesey Regatta in London and the Head of the River Fours, a bronze at the Asian Indoor Rowing Championships in Thailand, and participation at the Asian Rowing Championship in South Korea.

Earlier this year he won gold at the Asian Continental Qualifiers for the 2021 World Indoor Rowing Championships.


Saudi sprinter’s memorable month ends with elimination from Olympics 100m

Yasmine Al-Dabbagh during Heat 2 of the Women's 100 Preliminary Round at Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Friday morning. (Supplied/Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
Yasmine Al-Dabbagh during Heat 2 of the Women's 100 Preliminary Round at Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Friday morning. (Supplied/Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi sprinter’s memorable month ends with elimination from Olympics 100m

Yasmine Al-Dabbagh during Heat 2 of the Women's 100 Preliminary Round at Tokyo Olympic Stadium on Friday morning. (Supplied/Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee)
  • Yasmine Al-Dabbagh, 23, was Kingdom’s flagbearer with rower Husein Alireza at opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020

RIYADH: Saudi sprinter Yasmine Al-Dabbagh has been eliminated from the 100 meters competition at Tokyo 2020 after finishing with a time of 13.34 seconds in the preliminary round heat 2 at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.

It was the first ever Olympic participation for the 23-year-old, who despite finishing last in her race can still look back on a memorable month with some pride.

Al-Dabbagh only confirmed her qualification for the Games through a universality place on July 2 and three weeks later she was one of Saudi Arabia’s two flagbearers at the Olympics opening ceremony, the other being rower Husein Alireza.

Speaking recently to Arab News, Al-Dabbagh expressed her pride at wearing Saudi colors in Japan and the sporting progress in the Kingdom that has allowed her to achieve her dream of racing at the Olympics.

She said: “It means the world to me, especially being part of a diverse and expansive team representing so many different activities. Everything from judo, to table tennis, rowing, karate, archery, weightlifting, swimming, shooting, and football.

“The sports sector in Saudi Arabia has witnessed unprecedented growth and investment, thanks to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030.

“As Saudi athletes, we are all proud of the important role sports plays in the country’s transformation. We have a great sporting ecosystem that allows us to perform at the highest level and I can’t wait to go out on the track, to repay that faith by performing to the best of my ability,” she added.

As a schoolgirl Al-Dabbagh was skilled at many sports including swimming, gymnastics, horse riding, and ice skating. Running, however, proved to be her calling.

While studying at Columbia University in New York she trained to be a short-distance sprinter and after graduation continued to be backed by the Saudi Athletics Federation. She was eventually trained by British Olympic gold medal winner in the 100m, Linford Christie.

In her first 100m race in the Kingdom she broke the existing Saudi record ahead of her progress toward qualification for Tokyo 2020.


Saudi Arabia’s Tahani Al-Qahtani departs Tokyo 2020 Women’s Judo competition after loss to Raz Hershko of Israel

Saudi Arabia’s Tahani Al-Qahtani departs Tokyo 2020 Women’s Judo competition after loss to Raz Hershko of Israel
Updated 44 min 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s Tahani Al-Qahtani departs Tokyo 2020 Women’s Judo competition after loss to Raz Hershko of Israel

Saudi Arabia’s Tahani Al-Qahtani departs Tokyo 2020 Women’s Judo competition after loss to Raz Hershko of Israel
  • The 21-year-old was the last of the 33-athlete Saudi delegation to book her place at the Olympics

A high-profile week for Saudi athlete Tahani Al-Qahtani came to an end on Friday morning when she departed Tokyo 2020 after losing to Raz Hershko of Israel in the Judo Women’s +78 kg Round of 32 at Nippon Budokan arena.

Al-Qahtani had been the subject of intense media attention as she had, unlike several other Arab athletes, decided to not withdraw in protest from her contest against an Israeli athlete at Tokyo 2020.

The 21-year-old Saudi lost 11-0 to her opponent, who ended the contest with an ippon, the highest score that can be posted from a judo move.

Before taking to the mat, Al-Qahtani was given words of encouragement by Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal.

Her’s decision to participate received almost unanimous support in Saudi Arabia, with sports fans and high profile figures taking to social media to praise her for not giving up on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

She had became the last of the 33-athlete Saudi delegation to confirm her spot at Tokyo 2020 thanks to an invitation by the International Judo Federation on July 13, just 10 days before the start of the tournament.

It was while studying at King Saud University in Riyadh that Tahani Al-Qahtani took the first steps towards becoming a judoka.

Despite participating in several other sports, it was judo that proved to be her calling.

She won silver at the Saudi Women's Championship 2019 and gold a year later. In 2020 Al-Qahtani joined the Saudi Judo Training Centre at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in Riyadh and then gained valuable experience by setting up camp in Tashkent where she mixed with world champions, the Uzbekistan women’s judo team and other athletes from the World Judo Tour.

In June, Al-Qahtani took part in the World Judo Championships Hungary 2021 in the Kingdom’s colours.


Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears

Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears
Updated 29 July 2021

Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears

Manchester United call off Preston friendly over coronavirus fears
  • United were due to make the short trip to Deepdale at the weekend as part of their build-up to the new Premier League season
  • Routine lateral flow testing on Thursday saw some possible positive cases returned

LONDON: Manchester United have canceled their pre-season friendly at Preston on Saturday after a number of suspected Covid-19 cases within the camp of the English football giants.
United were due to make the short trip to Deepdale, fellow northwest club Preston’s home ground, at the weekend as part of their build-up to the new Premier League season.
But routine lateral flow testing on Thursday saw some possible positive cases returned.
Those concerned are now isolating, pending further PCR tests.
In a statement, United said: “Maintaining Covid security is a priority for us. Following routine testing of the first-team training group today, we have identified a small number of suspected positive cases. This has led to those people isolating, pending further tests.
“As a precautionary measure based on Covid protocols, we have taken the difficult decision that we will not now be able to play the friendly match against Preston North End this Saturday.”
The statement added: “We regret the disruption to Preston and disappointment caused to fans. Any Manchester United fans who have purchased tickets for the game will be automatically refunded.
“At this stage, we do not expect further disruption around our forthcoming matches, but we will continue to follow Premier League protocols in this regard.”
United are due to finish their pre-season program with a game against top-flight rivals Everton at Old Trafford on August 7.