For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
Mohamed Al-Najjar, founder and captain of Iraq’s national football team for amputees, shoots the ball during a training session at Al-Shaab stadium of the “National Center for Nurturing Sports Talent” in Baghdad on May 10, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2022

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal
  • Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players
  • The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022

BAGHDAD: As a seven-year-old boy in Baghdad, Mohamed Ali dreamt of becoming a goalkeeper — until a car bomb in the central Tahrir Square ripped away his left arm.
The child had become another casualty of the sectarian blood-letting that raged in Iraq in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“I was deprived of playing football,” he said, recalling the traumatic event of 2007 that also ended his time with the junior football team of the Air Force Club in Baghdad.
Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players who lost arms or legs in Iraq’s many years of war and turmoil.
“The creation of this team brought me back to life,” he said. “It helped me regain my self-confidence.”
The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022.
Its founder Mohamed Al-Najjar was studying in England when he discovered a Portsmouth amputee team and decided to replicate the experience.
Back in Iraq, he posted an announcement on social networks.
“Applications started pouring in and we formed the team in August 2021,” recalls the 38-year-old lawyer.
Najjar’s right leg was amputated after he was wounded in 2016 “while taking part in the fight against the Daesh group.”
At the time Najjar, like several of his teammates, was fighting with the pro-Iranian Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that has since been integrated into Iraq’s regular forces.
Three times a week, he now meets up with the group to train on one of the fields of the brand new Al-Chaab complex in Baghdad.
Using crutches, one-legged players warm up by sprinting in the green jersey of the national team, then practice penalty kicks.
The goalkeeper, his left arm amputated, intercepts the ball by blocking it with his stomach.
Before they found the camaraderie of the team, Najjar said, “most of the players were suffering from severe depression.”
“Some even had thought of suicide because they had lost a limb and they had been professional players before.
“But we overcame these psychological problems,” he said, adding that it pleased him to now see his players “posting their pictures with the team on social networks.”
In the official competition, matches are played in teams of seven on fields measuring 60 by 40 meters (about 200 by 130 feet).
The goals are two meters high and five meters wide — smaller than the 2.4 by 7.3 meter goals used in traditional football.
The Iraqi state offers financial aid to victims of attacks and of battles against jihadists. The players receive monthly allowances of between $400 and $700.
Most make ends meet by working as day laborers in the markets, said Najjar.
But a major obstacle for the team is a lack of official recognition, and therefore funding, from Iraqi sports bodies.
The Poland-based International Amputee Football Federation is not part of the International Paralympic Committee.
The Iraqi team therefore receives no state subsidies, said Aqil Hamid, the head of the parliamentary committee on disability sports.
For equipment and transport, the team depends on donations from associations, said Najjar. There is also occasional help from some Hashed bodies.
“They helped us with a trip to Iran, they paid for the plane tickets,” said Najjar, adding that he hoped for “wider support.”
Another team member, Ali Kazim, lost his left leg to a Baghdad car bomb in 2006, which abruptly ended his professional football career with the Air Force Club.
“I couldn’t pursue my ambitions, I stayed at home,” said the 38-year-old.
Today, his four children are his biggest supporters.
“They are the ones who pack my sports bag,” he said. “They tell me: ‘Daddy, go train’. My morale has totally changed.”


Actor Anne Heche legally dead after crash

In this file photo taken on February 26, 2011 actress Anne Heche arrives at the Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on February 26, 2011 actress Anne Heche arrives at the Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California. (AFP)
Updated 13 August 2022

Actor Anne Heche legally dead after crash

In this file photo taken on February 26, 2011 actress Anne Heche arrives at the Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California. (AFP)
  • “Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood actor Anne Heche has been declared legally dead, one week after she crashed her car into a Los Angeles building, a spokeswoman said Friday.
Heche, 53, had been comatose in hospital with a severe brain injury since the fiery collision on August 5.
Having lost all brain function, she is “legally dead according to California law,” though her heart is still beating as her family keeps her body on life support while exploring organ donations, spokeswoman Holly Baird told AFP.
“Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend,” the family said in a joint statement.
“Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy.
“Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”
Heche, best known for 1990s movies “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days, Seven Nights” as well as a high-profile relationship with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, crashed her car into a two-story house in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The violent collision resulted in “structural compromise and... heavy fire” at the scene, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
The ensuing blaze took 59 firefighters more than an hour to contain and fully extinguish, the department said.
Local media reported Thursday that preliminary tests of Heche’s blood had come back positive for narcotics, though more were needed to ensure the drugs had not been administered in the course of her treatment.
Celebrity gossip outlet TMZ, citing unnamed police sources, said Heche had tested positive for cocaine and fentanyl, with the latter sometimes used for pain relief in clinical settings.
Heche rose to fame with her role on the soap opera “Another World,” for which she won a Daytime Emmy in 1991.
She was nominated for a Tony award for her appearance in “Twentieth Century” on Broadway in 2004.
“My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom,” Heche’s son Homer Laffoon said in a separate statement.
“Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom,” he wrote.


Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral
Updated 11 August 2022

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral

Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan meets delivery rider after act of goodness goes viral
  • Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed earlier posted viral video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider

DUBAI: Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum has met with delivery rider who went viral on social media after removing two concrete blocks from a busy intersection while on duty.
Abdul Ghafoor Abdul Hakeem gained widespread admiration on social media after a video captured the delivery rider waiting for trucks and vehicles to pass before rushing to remove two concrete blocks dangerously laying in middle of the road.
“An honor to meet you Abdul Ghafoor, a true example to be followed,” tweeted Sheikh Hamdan.


Sheikh Hamdan had earlier posted the video as an Instagram story, inviting the public to help him identify the rider.
“An act of goodness in Dubai to be praised. Can someone point me to this man?” he captioned his story.


Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
Updated 11 August 2022

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue

Beluga whale lost in French river euthanized during rescue
  • A team of 80 people tried to save the animal’s life by transporting the cetaceous into a refrigerated truck to the port in Ouistreham, in Normandy region.

PARIS: A beluga whale that became a French celebrity after a wrong turn took it up the Seine River had to be euthanized Wednesday after experiencing health complications during an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.
The sparkling white marine mammal appeared deep inside France last week, having accidentally veered off the normal ocean migration route that takes belugas to and from Arctic waters.
Fearing the malnourished creature would not survive in the Seine much longer, a wildlife conservation group and veterinarians planned to move the lost whale to a saltwater port in Normandy, from where they hoped to return it to the open sea.
A team of 80 people assembled to try to save the animal’s life, and it was successfully moved Tuesday night from a river lock in Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne, west of Paris, into a refrigerated truck for the 60-kilometer (99-mile) journey to the port in Ouistreham.
But during the drive, the 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) whale started to breath with difficulty, according to Florence Ollivet Courtois, a French veterinarian who worked on the rescue operation.
“During the journey, the veterinarians confirmed a worsening of its state, notably in its respiratory activities, and at the same time noticed the animal was in pain, not breathing enough,” Courtois said.
“The suffering was obvious for the animal, so it was important to release its tension, and so we had to proceed to euthanize it,” she added.
Environmentalists had acknowledged the plan to move the beluga risked fatally stressing the mammal. But marine conservation group Sea Shepherd said that it couldn’t have survived much longer in the Seine’s fresh water.
The group and veterinarians noted the whale had responded to a cocktail of antibiotics and vitamins over the last few days, making them hopeful it would recover once it was back in a saltwater environment.
A necropsy is planned on the whale, which weighed about about 800 kilograms (1,764 pounds).
Rescuers had hoped to spare the whale the fate of an orca that strayed into the Seine and died in May. In 2006, a bottlenose whale — nicknamed “Willy” — swam up the Thames River as far as London and died during a its attempted rescue.
Another complicating factor during the beluga’s rescue attempt was the extreme heat gripping France. Authorities tried to keep it cool and wet with soaked towels and moved it at nightfall when temperatures are at their lowest.
The sad end to a saga that gripped France in recent days came after experts determined the whale “was too weakened to be put back into water,” Guillaume Lericolais, the sub-prefect of France’s Calvados region, said.
Rescuers tried to feed the whale fish without success since Friday. Sea Shepherd France said veterinary exams after the beluga’s removal from the river showed it has no digestive activity.


Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine
Updated 10 August 2022

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine

Iraqi actress Enas Taleb, fat-shamed by The Economist, set to sue British magazine
  • In July, the British publication used an image of the actress for an article titled ‘Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world’

LONDON: Iraqi actress and TV host Enas Taleb is suing The Economist for using her image in an article about the epidemic of obesity among women in the Arab world, according to Newlines Magazine.

In July, The Economist ran a feature titled “Why women are fatter than men in the Arab world,” in which it pointed blame at socioeconomics — on the grounds that the cheapest local foods are usually the unhealthiest — and pervasive social conservatism in the Arab region.

The British magazine chose an image of Taleb performing at Iraq’s annual Babylon Festival to go with the piece, portraying the actress as an example of such obesity, with a line in the last paragraph stating “Iraqis often cite Enas Taleb, an actress with ample curves (pictured), as the ideal of beauty.”

In an interview with Newlines Magazine, Taleb said she was preparing to sue the English publication.

“I have decided to take legal action against The Economist for their cover story. I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me. My legal team and I are arranging the next steps,” Taleb told Rasha Al-Aqeedi of Newslines Magazine.

“Audiences have loved me for many years. It was disappointing to see an international outlet label me as if all my accomplishments mean nothing. I am healthy and happy with the way I look, and to me that is all that matters,” she added.

The Economist did not respond to questions from Arab News.

The feature sparked outrage among Arab and non-Arab readers with some accusing the publication of double standards.

“In reaction to the piece in The Economist, some readers voiced their incredulity at what they described as a double standard in the conversation about women’s bodies in the West versus in ‘other” cultures,’” Al-Aqeedi wrote in her piece.

“Plus-size artists such as Lizzo and models like Ashley Graham are celebrated for their role in making the body-positive movement mainstream. It is difficult to find an example of an internationally respected publication that has held up a photo of a ‘fat’ Western woman as a means of shaming her,” she added.

The article was widely criticized across the Arab world for falling short in examining the factors that contribute to the obesity issue, where women in particular are affected.

Even though there seems to be a general consensus about the issue, the reality is more complex.

An outdated vision of Arab women being “mere sedentary housewives,” the rise of globalization, which brought significant lifestyle changes and rapid urbanization across the Arab region, and a general predilection for staying up late at night, are all considered contributing factors to the epidemic in the region, which The Economist failed to address.

Despite the magazine’s backhanded compliment to the Iraqi star, Taleb claims The Economist’s piece was an insult not just to her, but to all Arab women.


Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?
Updated 10 August 2022

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?

Was pineapple a topping too far for Domino’s in Italy?
  • The US restaurant chain has decided to take a bight of humble pie and withdraw from the birthplace of pizza

DUBAI: Mamma Mia! Did Domino’s go a topping too far when it started selling pineapple pizza pies in Italy?

Whatever the reason, the US restaurant chain has decided to take a bite of humble pie and withdraw from the birthplace of pizza.

The world’s largest pizza chain called it quits in Italy after closing the last of its 29 stores, only seven years since struggling – but failing – to win over the hearts and stomachs of locals with the American versions of the pie.

With an ambitious plan of distinguishing itself from local restaurants by providing a structured national delivery service, plus a promise to use purely Italian ingredients including “100% tomato sauce and mozzarella,” Domino’s strategy appears to have failed to satisfy the palates of Italians overly protective of their cherished national dish.

But notwithstanding the pineapple pizza, Domino’s pizza varieties suchas Mexican, cheeseburger, kickers BBQ and BBQ chicken failed to impress Italians who profess for their unending love for simple and traditional pizzas like margherita and marinara.

The American chain’s exit from Italy was met with derision on social media for even attempting to establish a foothold in the birthplace of pizza.

“Trying to open Dominos Pizza in Italy is like trying to sell snow in the North Pole,” one Twitter user said.

Domino’s ambitious expansion gameplan was seriously unhinged at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which practically shut dine-out businesses in all of Italy, and the scaling up of home deliveries by traditional pizza makers through third party services such as Deliveroo, Just Eat Takeaway.com or Glovo.

“We attribute the issue to the significantly increased level of competition in the food delivery market with both organized chains and ‘mom & pop’ (independent) restaurants delivering food, to service and restaurants reopening post pandemic and consumers out and about with revenge spending,” the company reported in its fourth-quarter 2021 results.

Franchise holder EPizza was earlier granted protection from its creditors for 90 days as part of its bankruptcy process it filed in April, but that protection ended last month.

The company had $10.8 million of debt at the end of 2020, according to the latest audited annual reports.