Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham

Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham
West Ham United's Declan Rice holds a shirt in support of Andriy Yarmolenko and Ukraine before their Premier League match against Wolverhampton Wanderers at London Stadium on Sunday. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 01 March 2022

Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham

Ukraine’s Yarmolenko will ‘not be rushed back’, say West Ham
  • The 32-year-old winger was not part of the Hammers' squad for Sunday's 1-0 Premier League win over Wolves
  • "We won't rush him," said the Hammers boss

LONDON: West Ham manager David Moyes said Tuesday he would not rush Andriy Yarmolenko back into action after the club gave the Ukraine international time off following the invasion of his country by Russia.
The 32-year-old winger was not part of the Hammers’ squad for Sunday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Wolves.
Moyes, whose side return to action on Wednesday with an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Southampton, said Yarmolenko had done some light training on Monday.
“We won’t rush him,” said the Hammers boss. “I’ve asked him to come in today and see how he feels. If he feels fine and up to it then he’ll travel with the team. If he doesn’t, then we’ll give him some more days off.
“Things can change very quickly but we’ll give him the chance to go with his own feelings.
“He’s really upset — he’s got lots of family members in Ukraine and friends and he’s worried for everybody and realizes the difficulty that’s going on, and he’s a long way away and can’t do an awful lot about it.”
There was a strong show of support for Yarmolenko and Ukraine before West Ham’s match on Sunday — the players warmed up in T-shirts displaying his name and Declan Rice led the side out carrying Yarmolenko’s number seven shirt.
“We speak to him (Yarmolenko) most days,” said Moyes. “I have to say the players at the club were great with him (on Monday), they tried to get him back in, integrate him and make sure he felt really welcome and that we were thinking about him and his family.
“But there’s very little we can do — we just have to try to support him as best we can.”
Moyes, whose side face Sevilla in the Europa League’s last 16 next week, said he agreed with the suspension of Russian teams from FIFA and UEFA competitions.
“Football is such a powerful tool all around the world,” he said. “I think it’s really important we take action and make sure they (Russia) are isolated completely. I’m not a politician, but that’s how I feel about the football side.”

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight
Updated 03 February 2023

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight

Wydad carrying FIFA Club World Cup hopes of nation basking in football’s spotlight
  • Morocco’s hosting of the intercontinental competition comes less than two months after country’s sensational performances at 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Al-Hilal, the most successful team in Asian history with four continental championships, are approaching the FIFA Club World Cup in high spirits.

The first match, however, is going to be even tougher than usual.

Wydad AC are not only African champions, but are playing in their home nation of Morocco, a country currently flying high in international football. Also high are hopes that passionate local fans can help the Casablanca club overcome the “Real Madrid of Asia” and go as far in this tournament, or even further, than in other recent global competitions. 

Last July, Morocco hosted the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and took it by storm on and off the pitch. No Arab team had ever progressed past the group stage before, but they swept to the final on the back of genuine excitement and delight from the North African nation.

There were full stadiums as the Atlas Lionesses topped their group, beat Botswana in the quarterfinals and then squeezed past Nigeria, winners of 11 of the 13 past tournaments, 5-4 in a semifinal penalty shootout. With such narrow margins in that game, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the fans inside the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium made the difference.

There were messages from King Mohammed VI and other prominent figures, and while South Africa were a little too strong in the final, the host nation and the fans did themselves proud. There will obviously not be as many who make the long trip to New Zealand and Australia in the summer as Morocco become the first Arab representative at the Women’s World Cup, but it will be well-watched at home.

If it goes anywhere near as well as the men’s World Cup then it will be quite a show. Heading into the 2022 tournament, many expected a repeat of 2018 when Morocco were in a tough group, performed well and then went home early. 

Not quite. It started with a goalless draw against 2018 finalists Croatia. Deserved wins over Belgium, ranked second in the world, and then Canada gave the Atlas Lions top spot in their group. Then came a famous second-round victory over 2010 winners Spain. That was followed by an even more famous win over Portugal. It ended with a 2-0 defeat in the semifinal to France and they pushed the defending champions all the way.

While the likes of Sofyan Amrabat, Yassine Bounou and Achraf Hakimi made many headlines, so did the fans. Tens of thousands crammed into stadiums in Qatar and generated incredible atmospheres that could be felt around the world. Many felt they were the best fans at the tournament and it is certainly true that the games against European giants Spain, Portugal and France felt like home games for Morocco.

That is something that Wydad coach Mehdi Nafti hopes can be replicated in the coming week or so, even if the opener against Al-Hilal is not in Casablanca, but Rabat.

“We will not be worse than other teams even if we know that we are not favorites, but we know that we will play at home in front of our fans and this is great for us and a great motivation, and we would like to continue the situation that followed the World Cup with the Moroccan national team,” the 44-year-old said. 

“I know for sure that the rest of the teams will respect us, and this is a great challenge for us. It is very important that we have experienced stars in the team, and with our hearts and our fans we can move mountains.”

Nafti, a former Tunisian international, has been in the job at Wydad for just a month.He succeeded Hussein Ammouta, who was fired in November after a 3-0 defeat to FUS Rabat. Ammouta replaced Walid Regragui, the man who led Wydad to the African title in May with a win over Egyptian giants Al-Ahly (who are also at the Club World Cup and face Seattle Sounders for the right to take on Real Madrid).

The 47-year-old Regragui then left in August to take over the Moroccan national team and led them to World Cup success. 

It is not a surprise then that Nafti has been in contact with Regragui, a former teammate.

“I knew that I would coach the African champions who won the local league last season, and the coach who was here is a friend of mine, so all these things made me accept the task, not only that we will play at the Club World Cup.”

“I still have contact with Regragui,” Nafti added. “We played together in France with Toulouse and in Racing Santander as well. He helped me a lot, especially in the early days, to adapt and learn about Wydad quickly.”

It seems to have worked. Domestic form is good, and Wydad have won four and drawn two of the last six leagues and sit second in the league.

With three members of the World Cup squad — Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Yahya Jabrane and Yahia Attiyat Allah — and star midfielder Aymane Hassouni in good form, and new Cameroon striker Didier Lamkel added to the team, there is hope.

Regragui believes that if Al-Hilal can be defeated then Wydad can go far.

“I expect a balanced game because Al- Hilal are the Real Madrid of Asia, and have exceptional players and supporters, but playing at home is an advantage for Wydad,” Regragui said.

“Wydad have talented players. Aymane Hassouni is a great player and deserves to shine. The team has also been strengthened by new recruits capable of making a difference. The game against Hilal is a tough game. If Wydad manage to win, they can easily reach the final. Everything is possible.”

World’s top riders praise FBMA International Show Jumping Cup in Abu Dhabi

World’s top riders praise FBMA International Show Jumping Cup in Abu Dhabi
Updated 03 February 2023

World’s top riders praise FBMA International Show Jumping Cup in Abu Dhabi

World’s top riders praise FBMA International Show Jumping Cup in Abu Dhabi
  • The 10th annual event saw more than 300 of the best riders from across the region and world take part over four days

ABU DHABI: UAE and international riders have praised the just-completed FBMA International Show Jumping Cup and believe the staging of the tournament every year is helping grow the women’s game and develop local talent.

The annual FBMA International Show Jumping Cup is held under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.

The 10th prestigious event concluded on Sunday evening with more than 330 horses and more than 300 of the world’s best riders — from more than 34 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, the UK, the US and India — across 20 classes competing in six different categories.

Among the riders to compete in the four-day event, which is one of the most respected competitions on the international equestrian circuit, was Chloe Vranken of Belgium, who triumphed in the flagship Longines Grand Prix.

Vranken said: “I have been show jumping for 21 years, and I never got the opportunity to compete in a female-only class. I really like the idea of having only female classes, as it feels empowering and will encourage more women to take part in this sport and allows them to be more competitive since we are all competing equally.

“The FBMA International Cup is great by all means, and they are doing a great job organizing their events in these excellent venues. I believe this tournament will serve a great deal for the success of this sport in the country, as well as encouraging more people to get involved on the local scale.”

Another rider to take part was Omar Abdulaziz Al-Marzooqi, representing the UAE. He said: “The FBMA International Show Jumping Cup was great for me as I won two separate categories on two different days. I really enjoyed participating, especially because my father himself also loved being around horses, and ever since I was a four-year-old I was attached to horses as well. This sport requires a lot of patience and persistence, hence my enjoyment participating in these tournaments.”

For Swedish rider, Antonia Pettersson Haggstrom: “Participating here was extremely enjoyable for me, especially since it was my first time participating in a female-only class. I participated in a warm-up round on the third day and I won it. In the Grand Prix, I witnessed some great performances from the other girls’ and it was great to experience a very competitive class with just women.

“The event is up to par with other bigger contests I have competed in in Europe and abroad, and I was surprised with the skill level of the athletes, especially those from the region, and the Arab riders definitely have a bright future ahead.”

Saudi women’s football reaping benefits of game’s boom in the Kingdom

Saudi women’s football reaping benefits of game’s boom in the Kingdom
Updated 03 February 2023

Saudi women’s football reaping benefits of game’s boom in the Kingdom

Saudi women’s football reaping benefits of game’s boom in the Kingdom
  • The Green Falcons’ performances at Qatar 2022 and Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr should inspire as many female footballers as male ones

Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival at Al-Nassr will inspire a generation of Saudi children to take up the game, which it is hoped will lead to future success on the international stage for the Green Falcons.

After the exploits in Qatar at the end of 2022 and that famous victory over eventual champions Argentina, the sky is the limit and everyone in Saudi Arabia is now dreaming of a bigger and brighter future.

And everyone means everyone, including the female footballers of Saudi Arabia. In fact, especially the female footballers of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation, under the leadership of president, and newly elected FIFA Congress member, Yasser Al-Misehal, have been bullish in their ambitions for the women’s game.

Over the past 12 months a national women’s team has been established, playing a number of international friendlies and tournaments in order to receive official FIFA recognition and ranking. This saw the team recently host and win their first international tournament on home soil.

At his opening press conference, Ronaldo made a point of highlighting his desire to be an inspiration, not just for young boys but also for female footballers in the country.

“I’m grateful that Al-Nassr gave me this opportunity to show and develop not only the football, but also for the generation, the young generation, the woman’s generation as well,” Ronaldo said.

“So for me, it’s a good chance to change (and) to help with my knowledge and my experience, to help to grow many, many important points. Also, many people probably didn’t know, but Al-Nassr they have a woman’s football (team) as well, and I want to give a different vision of the country, of the football, (and) the perspective of everybody.”



Hearing those words meant the world to Sarah Khalid, the young goalkeeper of Al-Nassr’s women’s team, who lead the league by one point with just two games remaining.

“(It) definitely means a lot hearing that coming from, let’s say, a football legend like Cristiano Ronaldo,” she told Arab News from Riyadh.

“His words were really inspirational to us, and let’s say it fuels us to move forward and achieve the league (this season).”

Also inspired was a national team colleague of Khalid’s, Talah Al-Ghamdi, who plays her club football for Al-Ittihad.

“Of course, Cristiano is a legend, so he always inspires me by his motivation, his determination and his hard work,” she told Arab News.

“So when I found that he talked about women’s football and he wants to support women’s football, I was very happy, very motivated, and getting motivated from a legend like him is a very good thing.”

Women’s football in the Kingdom has undertaken a rapid transformation in recent years with significant investment in grassroots development, as well as the national team and league structures.

The introduction this season of the first national league, with powerhouse clubs such as Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad and Al-Hilal getting on board, has been a welcome step forward for the game.

For Al-Ghamdi, getting to play for Al-Ittihad, a club that she and her family have supported their entire lives, is a dream come true.

“I was honored when I found out that I’ll play for Al-Ittihad, I was very happy,” she said.

“Playing for Ittihad is such an honor. I couldn’t describe my feelings when I found out, and of course my family, my dad is very happy. My dad is a big fan of Ittihad, so I grew up with Ittihad everywhere, like in every detail in my life.

“Honestly, I used to live two minutes away from Ittihad Club, so every trophy Ittihad won we used to go to the Ittihad club to celebrate and celebrate on the streets . . . so I have a lot of memories,” Al-Ghammdi said.

For Khalid, whose family are all Ettifaq fans, there is a special feeling that comes from being one of the modern pioneers of the women’s game in Saudi Arabia.

“It is very exciting to see the development of the women’s football in Saudi Arabia,” Khalid said.

“And for me, personally, I’m very honored and proud to be a part of that. I hope to inspire the younger generation to pursue this field to start playing and continue playing so the journey can continue and we accomplish more and more.”

That journey, Khalid and Al-Ghamdi hope, will one day involve playing in the Women’s World Cup. Both were fortunate enough, along with the rest of their national team, to be inside Lusail Stadium when the Green Falcons scored their historic victory over Argentina to open the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While they are just starting on their international journey, and a long way from qualifying for the Women’s World Cup, which this year will be held in Australia and New Zealand, it didn’t stop them from dreaming about their own miracle.

“It was a very special day to witness,” Khalid recalled. “A historical win for Saudi Arabia against Argentina, and that definitely pushes us to chase our dream, which is playing in the Woman’s World Cup . . . and hopefully to win it one day.”

While the World Cup may be a distant dream, the Asian Cup may be just over the horizon with Saudi Arabia officially bidding to host the next edition of the tournament in 2026, which would come with automatic qualification.

While some may question whether that is too soon for a national team very much in its infancy, it follows the natural ambition of Saudi Arabia to turbo-charge its football development at every level.

“The future of women’s football in Saudi Arabia is bright and we are committed to growing the game here and throughout Asia,” Al-Misehal said when they launched their bid late last year.

“More and more young girls are playing football in this country and we want to inspire them further.

“Hosting the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2026 would be a great occasion for our players and would be made memorable by the passion of our fans.”

Monika Staab, the legendary German coach tasked with developing the national team, agreed.

“This is an opportunity to bring the tournament to life, inspire a generation, and turbo-charge the continued growth of women’s football,” she said.

“We see this as a chance to improve technical performance and show the world our homegrown talent.”

James, Davis lead Lakers rally past Pacers; two ejected as Cavs down Grizzlies

James, Davis lead Lakers rally past Pacers; two ejected as Cavs down Grizzlies
Updated 03 February 2023

James, Davis lead Lakers rally past Pacers; two ejected as Cavs down Grizzlies

James, Davis lead Lakers rally past Pacers; two ejected as Cavs down Grizzlies
  • RJ Barrett scored 30 points to lead the Knicks in a 106-104 victory over the Miami Heat

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James continued to close in on the NBA’s all-time scoring record as the Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a thrilling 112-111 victory over Indiana on Thursday.

James, who entered the game needing 89 points to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the league’s all-time leading scorer, put up 26 points.

He now needs 63 to surpass Abdul-Jabbar — who has held the record since before James was born.

The Lakers had trailed all night when James’s three-pointer gave them their first lead of the contest with 2:35 to play. Teammate Anthony Davis put them up 112-111 with 35.3 seconds remaining and followed up with a big block on Tyrese Haliburton as the Lakers escaped with the win.

It wasn’t the only drama on a night that saw Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks ejected after brawling in the third quarter of the Cavaliers’ 128-113 home victory.

In Indianapolis, the Lakers looked headed for another disappointing defeat until a 21-10 run to open the fourth quarter.

Davis led the Lakers with 31 points and 14 rebounds.

Haliburton, back in action after a three-week injury absence, led the Pacers with 26 points and 12 assists.

But his drive to the basket with 16.5 seconds left was thwarted by Davis, who swatted the ball away.

“I just tried to stay on his body and make him shoot over the top,” Davis said. “I saw when he left the ground, he had to shoot it so I just timed it.”

Lakers coach Darvin Ham wasn’t surprised, saying that when Davis is playing pain free he’s “one of the more elite defenders in our league.”

But there’s no doubt the spotlight now is on James. Averaging more than 30 points per game, James is likely to break Abdul-Jabbar’s mark sometime next week. The Lakers close out their road trip Saturday at New Orleans then host Oklahoma City on Tuesday and the Milwaukee Bucks next Thursday.

He said a 63-point game wasn’t out of the question, although he made no promises or predictions for Saturday.

Whenever the record does fall, James is acutely aware of the significance.

“I grew up being a historian of all sports,” James said, adding that while Abdul-Jabbar’s total of 38,387 points hasn’t been a number that stuck in his head “I know it’s been Kareem my whole life.

“It’s pretty cool,” he added of a record he likened in importance to the career home run record in baseball.

“I think it’s one of the greatest records in sports in general,” James said. “It’s one of those records you don’t ever think will be broken.”

Things turned ugly in Cleveland, where All-Star Cavs guard Mitchell was enraged when Grizzlies guard Brooks, sprawled on the court after missing a shot, flung a hand up and hit Mitchell in the groin.

Mitchell threw the ball at Brooks, shoved him and finally wrestled him to the floor before both players were restrained.

Mitchell, who was enduring a tough night in which he connected on two of 11 shots from the floor, was cheered as he departed for the locker room.

Darius Garland picked up the slack, scoring 32 points and handing out 11 assists for Cleveland, who pushed their lead to as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter.

Desmond Bane scored 25 points for Memphis and Ja Morant added 24, but the Grizzlies dropped their seventh decision in eight games.

In New York, RJ Barrett scored 30 points to lead the Knicks in a 106-104 victory over the Miami Heat.

Barrett, who was benched in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ overtime loss to the Lakers on Tuesday, rebounded with a vengeance. He grabbed eight rebounds and handed off four assists and the Knicks secured the needed win when Tyler Herro’s three-point attempt as time expired failed to fall.

Julius Randle scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half for the Knicks, who moved a game behind the Heat for sixth place in the East — the last guaranteed playoff spot.

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge
Updated 03 February 2023

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge

Fernandez set for Chelsea debut, Arsenal renew Premier League title charge
  • Chelsea’s overall spend in their first season under new ownership fronted by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has now surpassed £500 million

MANCHESTER: The clock is ticking for Chelsea manager Graham Potter to turn unprecedented spending into results, starting against Fulham on Friday, as new Everton manager Sean Dyche prepares for a baptism of fire against Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool travel to face struggling Wolves, desperate to pull themselves out of a slump that has left them playing catch-up, while Tottenham host champions Manchester City.

Here are some of the key talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top flight.

British-record signing Enzo Fernandez could make his debut at Stamford Bridge in the west London derby after completing a €121 million ($132 million, £107 million) move from Benfica.

Mykhailo Mudryk is also in line for his first start since joining from Shakhtar Donetsk in a blockbuster January transfer window for the club for a fee that could rise to €100 million.

Chelsea’s overall spend in their first season under new ownership fronted by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly has now surpassed £500 million but the Blues are languishing in 10th in the Premier League table, 10 points off the top four.

Potter admits he has a challenge on his hands to keep all his stars happy as he tries to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around.

“We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other,” Potter said on Thursday. “There’s going to be frustration at times because only 11 can play.

“But we’ve got a lot of important games and we need to improve our results so it’s about playing, supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Marco Silva’s Fulham beat Chelsea for the first time since 2006 when the sides met last month at Craven Cottage and are above their illustrious neighbors in the table.

Another victory for the white half of west London would secure a first-ever league double over Chelsea in a single season.

The contrast in mood between Arsenal and Everton fans could hardly be starker ahead of their meeting at Goodison Park on Saturday.

Arsenal are on course for a first league title since 2003/04 with the luxury of a five-point lead over Manchester City and a game in hand.

The Gunners will be hoping their January business is enough to get them over the line despite missing out on their top two targets — Mudryk and Brighton’s Moises Caicedo.

Jorginho’s arrival from Chelsea this week adds depth and an old head to Mikel Arteta’s young squad while Leandro Trossard boosts his attacking options.

Everton were the only Premier League club not to make a January signing and former Burnley boss Sean Dyche knows he has a mountain to climb.

The Toffees’ 69-year stay in the English top flight is at severe risk and further protests from supporters against the club’s board are planned for after the match.

“There’s a big challenge ahead but one I’m ready for and want to take on,” Dyche told Everton TV. “We want to change the shape of this club going forward, remodel it in our style, but remodel it in a way we can win.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola showed his ruthless streak as Joao Cancelo was allowed to move on loan to Bayern Munich this week.

The Portuguese full-back was an important figure in City’s title wins over the past two seasons but his departure is further evidence that Guardiola is trying to spark a reaction from his squad.

He questioned whether his side had the hunger to hunt down Arsenal despite a dramatic comeback from 2-0 down to beat Tottenham 4-2 last month.

Now Guardiola has gambled, knowing that his daring call on Cancelo leaves him short on full-back options for the rest of the season.

City might be eight points behind the leaders before Sunday’s game against Spurs, who could be without manager Antonio Conte after he underwent surgery to remove his gallbladder, but they have title-winning nous and enviable strength in depth.

Fixtures (all times GMT)


Chelsea vs. Fulham (2000)


Everton vs. Arsenal (1230), Aston Villa vs. Leicester, Brentford vs. Southampton, Brighton vs. Bournemouth, Man Utd vs. Crystal Palace, Wolves vs. Liverpool (all 1500), Newcastle vs. West Ham (1730)


Nottingham Forest vs. Leeds (1400), Tottenham vs. Man City (1630)