Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football

Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football
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Fay Al-Qaimi's rapid development has seen her play in men's football matches. (Supplied)
Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football
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Al-Qaimi's during her training spell at Alcorcon. (Supplied)
Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football
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Fay Al-Qaimi's love for football began at the age of three. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 June 2022

Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football

Abu Dhabi-based starlet Fay Al-Qaimi looking to make it big in women’s professional football
  • Born, raised in UAE capital, 17-year-old British-Iraqi previously attracted interest from Spain, Arsenal, Tottenham

RIYADH: It is rare for a young, aspiring footballer in the Middle East to catch the attention of European clubs. And it is almost unheard of if they happen to be a woman.

But then again, few have been as good as Fay Al-Qaimi, the 17-year-old British-Iraqi who was born and raised in the UAE.

From kicking a ball around her Abu Dhabi home as a child, to being invited to train with Arsenal and Tottenham, and playing in men’s teams because she was too good for her female contemporaries, she has always stood out.

Al-Qaimi said: “My earliest memories were kicking the ball at the age of three. My parents would always take me to my older brother’s training sessions, just to kick a football on the side.

“I’d always beg my parents to take me. I think just from a young age, there was always a clear love for the game. Being in a family that loves football definitely helped. But I think my kind of passion for it came naturally, like it was never forced upon me, from my family.”

Her father, Waiel Al-Qaimi, recalled that at one of the sessions his daughter joined her brother and his teammates as they did a jog around the pitch, and long after the boys stopped, she was still going.

“I don’t think I ever ran out of energy. My parents always told me when I was younger, I just wouldn’t stop. I would continuously ask them to take me to my brother’s training or just to the park. I don’t think I stopped running,” she added.

From the age of seven, she started attending her own training sessions, and by 10 she was one of the standout players at The British School Al-Khubairat.

She said: “It was definitely my dad who encouraged me to take football seriously. He was the one who got me into it from the beginning. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today in terms of football without him. I think it was around maybe 13 or 14 years old that I began to realize that football was not just a hobby, or something to do for fun, you know, it was essentially becoming my life.”

Similar to her father, Al-Qaimi quickly became a Manchester United supporter and a huge fan of the game.

“I took interest from it from the beginning, whether that be United games, World Cup games, Champions League, it was always on the TV. I was happy to sit and watch. And even nowadays, I’d say probably my whole schedule revolves either on my football training or watching games. I refuse to miss a United game or a top game,” she added.

Dimitar Berbatov, Cristiano Ronaldo and, more recently, Jadon Sancho, feature among her favorite players, and she is also an admirer of Chelsea women’s forward Fran Kirby and Barcelona captain and female Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas. Al-Qaimi now tries to follow women’s football as much as the ubiquitous men’s game.

A competitive edge was honed at school as Al-Khubairat’s girls’ team very often dominated their competition.

“We were always winning, every competition, every tournament, every league, even when we took part in more international competition, like COBIS Secondary Games.”

Her rapid progress meant she was invariably promoted to older age groups ahead of schedule. She credits those transitions to several coaches: Faissal Chehade, her first and most influential mentor; Firas Khalil, her one-on-one instructor; and current coach Saleck Nejib.

“All of them definitely played a part in my development, they all have their different coaching styles, different pieces of advice, different session styles. Faissal was my coach when I was 13, 14, and he’s currently the director at CD Leganes in Madrid. He’s the one who really helped me realize that this dream of mine can actually come true,” she said.

She noted that whenever she doubted herself, Chehade would be there to raise her spirits and get her back on track.

On Al-Qaimi, he said: “An ambitious girl with a big dream who expresses her love of football every day by her hard work and great attitude toward the beautiful game.”

In 2016, Al-Qaimi took part in Manchester City’s Football Schools program and drew praise from Gary Challinor, girls football coordinator for the UAE.

He said: “Fay is a creative thinker with the technical ability to influence games. Her game understanding has continued to improve, and she can now impact games from a variety of positions as she outlines her tactical awareness during training and games.

“Fay has the ability to take on new ideas quickly and responds well to challenges in a range of roles within the team. She is a very popular member of the group, showing enthusiasm, energy, and excitement in everything she faces. These characteristics make her a joy to coach and support.”

Al-Qaimi’s progress drew attention from Houriya Al-Taheri, the UAE women’s national team coach, and her continued improvement saw her join Regional Sports in 2017. She now plays the majority of her football in men’s teams.

“Ever since COVID-19 (the coronavirus pandemic), almost all of the girls team here in Abu Dhabi disappeared. And I wanted to stay at my club, Regional Sports, and they let me train and eventually compete with their under-18 boys’ team.

“I do prefer to play with the boys because, they made me tougher, they make me want to perform even better, just to prove to them that I can play.

“I know that they all respect me, and they know that I can play football. When you’re placed in an environment where almost all the players are better than you are physically and technically, it just makes me want to work harder to reach that level. I think when I go back to playing with women, I’ll be very interested to see how that’s affected me,” she added.

Al-Qaimi’s journey has not been without disappointment, and having attracted attention from several European clubs, her expectations had to be put on hold after the pandemic.

She said: “In the summer of 2019, I went to trials in Madrid with Alcorcon, and after a week of basically doing pre-season with them, the director asked if I was interested in moving on a permanent basis. But in the end, my family and I decided it was probably better that I finish my education here, and then move on. But I’m still in contact with them.”

Then, in February 2020, she had trials with Arsenal and took part in training sessions with Tottenham. She impressed at both north London clubs.

“Both offered me an open invitation to train with their under-21 team and under-18 teams the next time I was back in the UK, so they could have a better look at me and see where I would fit.

“But then obviously COVID-19 happened, and it was difficult to get back in touch with them after a year or so. The pandemic definitely disrupted things.”

At 17, she is months away from starting university, and not surprisingly, is heading to the UK where she hopes her academic studies will go hand-in-hand with her football ambitions.

“I’m hoping to study Psychology at university, but at the same time, I want to get integrated into the WSL, the women’s premier league. Whether that means me getting into a team that’s at the bottom of the league, or top of the league, honestly, it wouldn’t bother me, everyone needs to start somewhere. Even if I just start off in the university team, because obviously not everything is going to happen straight away,” she added.

Al-Qaimi hopes that she will continue to stand out among her peers, as she has done in the UAE, and maybe provide an example for other players in the region of the levels that can be attained with hard work and perseverance.

She said: “In the UK, there’s scouts everywhere, so it’s going to be a lot easier there than here to get noticed for top teams. So, my ambition, I guess you could say is just to play for one of the best teams in Europe.

“Again, whether that be in England or somewhere like Spain, you see teams like Barcelona, and Lyon dominating in women’s football, but obviously for the next three years, it’d be easier just to be in England.”

Al-Qaimi’s ultimate ambition is to one day represent England.

But first things first, and she is happy to be enrolling at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, often cited among the best institutions in the world for sports programs.

She remains cautious in her quest to become a professional footballer, despite all the praise and encouragement that has come her way in recent years.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a good eye-opener for me to see that level, to see if I actually fit in. Because here, I might be the best player, but then when I go there, I might come to the realization that maybe this isn’t possible.

“But hopefully that isn’t the case. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the level is like out there,” Al-Qaimi added.


‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg
Updated 13 August 2022

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg

‘Game-changer’ Bynoe-Gittens propels Dortmund to comeback win over Freiburg
  • The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus

BERLIN: Eighteen-year-old Englishman Jamie Bynoe-Gittens scored one and created another as Borussia Dortmund came back to defeat Freiburg 3-1 on Friday with all their goals coming in the last 13 minutes of the game.

With the game drifting toward defeat, Dortmund were again able to rely on their young brigade, with Bynoe-Gittens and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko scoring two quick goals to see the visitors pick up a valuable three points in their quest for a sixth Bundesliga title.

Dortmund manager Edin Terzic lauded his side’s depth and praised “game-changer” Bynoe-Gittens.

“With him, it’s pretty simple — he’s got the skills to decide games,” said Terzic.

“He’s a game-changer and (I told him when he came on) I wanted to see that from him.

“We fought back, scored three goals through three substitutes and showed how good the squad is.”

The visitors dominated the early stages, with Anthony Modeste — playing in his first game for Dortmund just days after transferring from FC Cologne — striking up an immediate partnership with captain Marco Reus.

Reus teed up Modeste to run into the left side of the penalty box in the 20th minute, forcing Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken into a save.

Modeste also had a chance right in front in the 32nd minute after superb one touch football from Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro, but the Portuguese’s cross was inches too high.

As if stunned into action, Freiburg then flipped a switch, building pressure on a suddenly shaky Dortmund defense.

Roland Sallai won a free kick on the edge of the box with 33 minutes played.

Dead-ball specialist Vincenzo Grifo stepped up to force a fingertip save from Gregor Kobel in goal.

Freiburg took the lead minutes later, when former Dortmund defender Matthias Ginter found Michael Gregoritsch who deftly drifted a header over Kobel and into the top right corner of the goal.

Terzic turned to youth halfway through the second half, bringing on Bynoe-Gittens and Moukoko to introduce some potency to Dortmund’s attack.

Known more for his dribbling and assists, the Englishman equalized with a stunning strike from outside the box.

While his shot was helped by a poor attempted save from Freiburg keeper Mark Flekken, the goal spurred Bynoe-Gittens and Dortmund into action

The former Manchester City academy player had a chance to put his side in front after 82 minutes, but was unable to control a sharp Marius Wolf pass with the goal begging.

He then set up Dortmund’s second just a minute later when he slalomed past several Freiburg defenders on the edge of the area before delivering a no-look pass to Julian Brandt.

Brandt, who had also been brought on by Terzic in the second half, found Moukoko in the box, with the teenager whipping in from close range.

Wolf, another who was subbed on in the second half, then put the result beyond doubt in the 88th minute, striking powerfully across goalkeeper Flekken and into the bottom left corner of the net.

The game was manager Terzic’s ninth win in a row in charge of Dortmund, breaking a record set by former mentor Juergen Klopp a decade ago.

The loss continues a poor run of home form for Freiburg recently, with the Breisgauer now conceding 16 goals in their last six games at Europa Park Stadium.

Despite the loss, Freiburg manager Christian Streich said he was impressed by his side’s “unlucky” performance.

“We played a good game, I’m satisfied,” he said.

“Ultimately we lost, it’s a shame... but it doesn’t achieve anything to think we were unlucky to lose the game.”


Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees
Updated 13 August 2022

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees

Lionel Messi misses cut for Ballon d’Or list of nominees
  • Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo were all included, as were Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min

PARIS: Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi was omitted from the 30-man list of nominees for the prestigious award on Friday for the first time since 2005.

The Argentina great edged out Poland striker Robert Lewandowski for the Ballon d’Or last year but wasn’t nominated this time after an underwhelming first season at Paris Saint-Germain.

The 35-year-old forward also won the prize in 2019 — it was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Neymar also missed the cut this time.

Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Karim Benzema, Erling Haaland and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo were all included, as were Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mané, Kevin De Bruyne, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

Alexia Putellas, Ada Hegerberg, Sam Kerr and Vivianne Miedema were on the list of 20 female nominees. US players Alex Morgan, Catarina Macario and Trinity Rodman were also named.

The men’s list features six Manchester City players: Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva, and new signing Haaland (formerly Borussia Dortmund).

Liverpool also has six nominees: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luis Diaz, Fabinho, Darwin Nunez, Salah and Virgil van Dijk.

Mane, who helped Senegal win their first African Cup before leaving Liverpool for Bayern Munich, is included, as is Bayern teammate Joshua Kimmich.

Benzema leads a group of six Real Madrid players. The others are Casemiro, Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric, Vinicius Junior and new signing Antonio Rudiger.

The other nominated players are Sebastien Haller (Ajax), Rafael Leao and Mike Maignan (both of AC Milan), Christopher Nkunku (Leipzig), and Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus).

The award will be presented on Oct. 17.

Among changes announced in March, the award is now being awarded based on performances over the course of a regular European season, rather than a calendar year. A reduction in the number of voters was among other changes, with the goal of streamlining the process. Voters also will no longer consider a player’s career accomplishments.

France Football magazine has given out the award to men every year since 1956 and to women each year since 2018 — when Hegerberg became the first female winner — though both were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Putellas became the third winner of the women’s award last year. Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Aitana Bonmati was also nominated.

Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze and Beth Mead — who helped England win the European Championship — were included.

France has four players on the list: Selma Bacha, Kadidiatou Diani, Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Wendie Renard.

The other nominated women are Christiane Endler, Lena Oberdorf, Asizat Oshoala, Alexandra Popp and Fridolina Rolfo.


Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff
Updated 12 August 2022

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff

Hard work for Halep in Toronto WTA win over Gauff
  • The former number one made hard work of her triumph over the rising American teenager
  • Halep needed a second-set tiebreaker to advance into the semi-finals in just under two hours

TORONTO, Canada: Simona Halep served twice for her match against Coco Gauff without success on Friday before finally securing a 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) quarter-final victory at the WTA Toronto Masters.
The former number one, a two-time winner in Canada, made hard work of her triumph over the rising American teenager who just missed a chance at cracking the world ranking top-10 for the first time.
Halep needed a second-set tiebreaker to advance into the semifinals in just under two hours.
Double Grand Slam champion Halep earned her leading 183rd match win at the Masters 1000 level. She now owns 36 victories in 2022.
Gauff fired a backhand into the net on Halep’s first match point to end the encounter and lose her eighth straight set against the 30-year-old Romanian.
On Saturday, Halep will play her 29th Masters semifinal against the winner of a later match between US seventh seed Jessica Pegula or Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.


Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats
Updated 12 August 2022

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats

Willian leaves Corinthians following death threats
  • "Willian asked us for his (contract) termination," said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves
  • "Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn't play well, my family received threats and insults on social media," Willian told the Globo Esporte website

SAO PAULO: Former Chelsea and Arsenal midfielder Willian quit Corinthians on Friday following the Brazilians’ Copa Libertadores elimination against domestic rivals Flamengo, after claiming he and his family received death threats on social media.
“Willian asked us for his (contract) termination. We are sad not to have him anymore and also because it didn’t go the way we expected. But we have to keep those here that are happy,” said club president Duilio Monteiro Alves.
It was only a year ago that the 34-year-old only rejoined the club where he made his professional debut in 2006. Local media have linked him with a move to promoted English Premier League side Fulham.
The return to Corinthians in Sao Paulo quickly turned sour for Willian both on the pitch where he scored one goal in 45 matches, and off it.
“Whenever Corinthians lost and I didn’t play well, my family received threats and insults on social media. My wife, my children, recently they also started attacking my father, my sister,” Willian told the Globo Esporte website.
“I didn’t play as well as I expected but I was never a player who scored 20 or 30 goals a season,” he told ESPN Brasil on Wednesday.
Willian, who also played for Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine and Russians Anzhi Makhachkala, leaves the club three days after they were eliminated from the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals by Flamengo, 3-0 on aggregate.


Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
Updated 12 August 2022

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header

Stage set for Formula E season finale with Seoul E-Prix double-header
  • Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea with rounds 15 and 16 this weekend
  • Four drivers still in contention for the title as Formula E makes its South Korean debut on specially designed track

SEOUL: Season eight of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship will climax in South Korea this weekend with the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix, where the champion driver and team will be crowned and the world’s first all-electric motorsport series will mark 100 races.
Eleven teams and 22 drivers have competed in Formula E’s biggest racing season to date with rounds 15 and 16 to come this Saturday and Sunday, and four drivers still in contention for the title at the top of the standings.
It will be the first time Formula E has raced in South Korea with the E-Prix taking place on a unique track constructed around and even looping through the Jamsil Olympic Stadium, the first world championship sporting event held at the venue since the Olympic Games in 1988.
Stoffel Vandoorne leads the way for Mercedes-EQ in a bid to make it back-to-back wins following their Drivers’ and Teams’ World Championship success last year in season seven.
The Belgian extended his lead to 36 points over nearest rival Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) during the SABIC London E-Prix two weeks ago that saw his closest competitors falter.
While Vandoorne has achieved only one win this season compared with three each for Evans and Edoardo Mortara (ROKiT Venturi Racing) in third place, Vandoorne has the most podium finishes and has scored on 13 occasions, taking the honor from Daniel Abt as the most consistent points finisher in a campaign.
Vandoorne’s last four rounds have all yielded top-four finishes and a pair of podiums: The gauntlet has been thrown by the Mercedes-EQ driver.
Mitch Evans (Jaguar TCS Racing) had worked his way into closest contention of top spot, but a technical problem in London put a huge dent in his chances. The Kiwi was on track to pin Vandoorne back to a 22-point lead, but an inverter problem at the end of round 14 forced him to retire.
In third and fourth, respectively, Edoardo Mortara and DS Techeetah’s Jean-Eric Vergne have it all to do.
Mortara topped the standings at the halfway stage of the season after a run of two wins and two more podiums in Berlin and Jakarta. Since then, the Swiss has managed only two low-scoring points finishes in New York City and a pair of non-scores in London, but he remains just five points back from Evans.
Similarly, Vergne has hit his worst-ever run in Formula E, with four consecutive blanks for the first time in the championship. While it is an uncharacteristic return from the Frenchman, JEV is the only driver in the top four to have won the world championship — twice — and experience could still earn a place on the podium.
In the team championship race, Mercedes-EQ stretched its lead in London, with silverware for both de Vries and Vandoorne.
Back-to-back titles look to be on with a 36-point margin on ROKiT Venturi Racing in second, with DS Techeetah behind the Monegasque outfit by 11 points.
On Sunday, the second race of the 2022 Hana Bank Seoul E-Prix double-header will be Formula E’s 100th E-Prix, also marking the end of the Gen2 era, the second version of Formula E race car.
The centenary E-Prix will mark three major generational leaps in EV technology and industry-leading sustainability achievements ahead of the debut in season nine of the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car built yet, the Gen3.