Equestrian Dreams: A Vision of Hope from the Sons and Daughters of Life

Analysis Equestrian Dreams: A Vision of Hope from the Sons and Daughters of Life
The participants, coaches, and trainers taking part in the competition/exhibition on Crete - Crete Riding Academy. (M and K Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2022

Equestrian Dreams: A Vision of Hope from the Sons and Daughters of Life

Equestrian Dreams: A Vision of Hope from the Sons and Daughters of Life

When Khaled Al-Afrangi started his Palestine Equestrian Club, he probably never envisioned flying his students to Europe. Years back, international cooperation would have seemed far off.

Yet, today, as he and a team of his riders fly back home from Crete in Greece, he must recall those early days.

Crete island is not known for its equestrian myths. It is, however, the birthplace of western civilization, a harmonious blend of western and eastern cultures spread thinly across a stunning landscape. The land once known as Keftiu by the ancient world was the most critical trading hub when the Minoans were the world’s first thalassocracy at the dawn of civilizations. It makes an ideal backdrop for the story you are reading. The world still trades and inspires on horseback.

Greece’s biggest island is still a mysterious crossroads of tradition and culture. The land that saw peace for over a thousand years during the Bronze Age is still a welcoming portal that connects ideas, dreams, and potential.

Somehow, the horseman and mentor (murshid) Khaled Al-Afrangi knew this before bringing a team of his best students to Europe for the first time.




Palestine Equestrian Club's Laith Ghozzi negotiating the gates – Crete Riding Academ. (M and K Photo)

And something he told me last week echoes in my mind like a golden bell. “I am looking for a home away from home for me, my school, and my students,” he said. Home - a Crete home.

There it is again, the subtle chiming of the glowing bell.

The Palestine Equestrian Club Knights were exuberant and excited when they arrived at the Crete Riding Academy outside the island’s capital of Heraklion earlier this month. Al-Afrangi had been searching for the right place for his club’s first trip abroad when he came across Marianna Grammatakiki’s equestrian school at Karteros. According to the Palestinian equestrian, the Crete school’s social media prowess and professionalism rang out over many others across Europe. This was his answer to the “why Crete” question, though I believe other forces were at work.

In any event, Crete is world-renowned for its hospitality and beauty. And the fact that Grammatikaki is sending the first Greeks ever to compete in Para-dressage at the FEI World

Equestrian Games in Denmark next month has not gone unnoticed in the horse and rider world. Greece does not yet have a team in this discipline. So, can a pair of Paralympic hopefuls from remote Crete lead the way with their good example? And importantly, will the Palestinian riders continue the international competitive trail toward excellence?

I am sure Michalis Kalarakis and Dimitra-Eleni Pantechaki are perfect archetypes who can lead other para-athletes onto the world stage. The riding academy they’ve trained at since early childhood is an ideal conduit for equestrian sport’s catalytic energy. So, when I saw Palestinian equestrians Siri Al-Saba and Farid Qawasimi winning 1st and 3rd place at the jumping competition the other day, I imagined them at international jumping competitions. And the sport itself is expanded geometrically by dreams like those of Grammatiki and Al-Afrangi.




Renad Mousa also participated in the training and competition in Greece - Crete Riding Academy. (M and K Photo)

The Greek riders began their equestrian journey years ago via something known as “horse therapy,” or Equine Assisted Therapy (EAT), under the direction of Grammatakiki. Talking with Al-Afrangi last week, we learned of his similar program and the extended goal of helping many disabled or in-need people. I suspect this was another reason the Palestinian coach decided on Crete Riding Academy, but his team’s training regime did not permit further discussion.

Ultimately, The Palestine Equestrian Club Knights and Grammatikaki’s equestrians participated in a friendly competition at Karteros. And I must say, after watching the Palestinian riders perform, everyone in attendance was impressed by their skill in every age group. Their collaboration and good sportsmanship with their Greek colleagues is a great story, an excellent example of what’s good in our world. But there’s a more significant epoch at hand—that golden bell, chiming, chiming.

Gateways to cooperation and peace. How can anyone ignore how sorely the world needs cooperation and goodwill? A man from Palestine who burns to show young Palestinians the wide world of possibility, how potent is this? No one reading this story will know how an invisible golden chord connects Crete and Palestine.

We don’t often speak of fate these days, but if we consider that Crete (Caphtor, Keftiu) and ancient Palestine were inextricably linked before 1,500 BC socially, technologically, and even genetically, should we fail to consider unseen forces? (See Origin of Palestinians) Even if sports, culture, and politics in the modern age are wholly independent, does this make natural corridors for cooperation any less vital?

Am I too ambitious in attempting to link equestrian sports stories, world history, and global peace? Or, as once said, am I compelled to do so? To obtain ultimate peace in this world, we must dive deep within the soul of humanity. And like the immortal Greek Alexander, understand and embrace our collective dreams and culture. Our children, we must think of these children riding together here on Crete. If these horse people can show us we are brothers and sisters, the true spirit of the Olympics is burning bright today. I leave you with a favorite quote, something chiming and chiming in my mind all day today: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.” ― Khalil Gibran, The Prophet


Vinicius scores, escapes injury after hard hit in Real Madrid win

Vinicius scores, escapes injury after hard hit in Real Madrid win
Updated 15 sec ago

Vinicius scores, escapes injury after hard hit in Real Madrid win

Vinicius scores, escapes injury after hard hit in Real Madrid win
  • Vinicius scored his goal after a long run on a breakaway in the 54th

MADRID:  Vinicius Junior had more than his goal to celebrate in Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Valencia in the Spanish league on Thursday.

Vinicius also was glad to escape serious injury after a vicious foul by Gabriel Paulista in the second half, which ignited a brawl and earned the Valencia defender a straight red card.

Paulista struck a hard kick at Vinícius’ legs after the Brazil forward got past him with the ball in the 72nd minute, sending the Brazil forward hard to the ground. Vinicius quickly got up and went to confront Paulista, shoving him from behind as other players arrived to join the scuffle.

Madrid defender Éder Militao, who had been taken off earlier in the match, confronted Paulista as he made his way to the tunnel after being sent off.

Vinicius scored his goal after a long run on a breakaway in the 54th, two minutes after Marco Asensio had given the hosts the lead with a shot from outside the area.

Vinícius endured a tumultuous period last week after his effigy was hanged off a bridge in a hate attack before Madrid’s game against city rival Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.

Thursday’s win put Madrid back within five points of league leader Barcelona at the halfway point of the season. The Catalan club won 2-1 at Real Betis on Wednesday.

Both games were postponed from January because of the teams’ participation in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, where Madrid beat Valencia in the semifinals after a penalty shootout before losing to Barcelona in the final.

Madrid, who hadn’t won in two matches in all competitions, lost two of their key players because of injuries — Militão had to be replaced in the first half and Karim Benzema early in the second.

Madrid have one last league game — at Mallorca on Sunday — before traveling to Morocco to play in FIFA’s Club World Cup next week, when it will seek a record-extending eight title.

It was Valencia’s first game without coach Gennaro Gattuso, whose contract was terminated by mutual agreement amid the team’s poor run. It was under the command of Voro Gonzalez, a club director who often acts as an interim manager.

Valencia have won only one of its last 11 league games and is one point from the relegation zone. Its only two wins this year came in the Copa del Rey, though it failed to get past the quarterfinals.

Defender Antonio Rüdiger thought he had put Madrid ahead with a header off a corner kick three minutes into first-half stoppage time, but the goal was disallowed after video review saw a foul by Benzema away from the ball.

Madrid, the defending league champions, are six points in front of third-place Real Sociedad.


Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge
Updated 12 min 44 sec ago

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge

Tennis star Kyrgios to contest Australian assault charge
  • The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend

CANBERRA, Australia: Tennis star Nick Kyrgios was due to appear in an Australian court Friday to apply to have an assault charge stemming from events two years ago dismissed on mental health grounds.
His lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared in a court in Kyrgios’ hometown of Canberra in October and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.
Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Friday, when lawyers for the 27-year-old Australian are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.
Kyrgios, a Wimbledon finalist last year, is set to appear in court in person for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July last year.
His hearing was listed to start at 2:15 p.m. local time (0315 GMT).
The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and if dealing with an allegation in such a way would benefit the community and the defendant.
The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police in December that year.
The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.
Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.
In February last year, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”
“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”
Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the US Open.
After ending Daniil Medvedev’s US Open title defense in September last year to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.
Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for Friday’s hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.
Kyrgios had a career setback last month when he withdrew from the Australian Open because of an injured left knee that required arthroscopic surgery.
He was the runner-up to Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last year in singles and teamed with good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to claim the men’s doubles championship at the 2022 Australian Open.
Kyrgios was considered the host country’s strongest chance to win a title at Melbourne Park last month before he had to pull out of the tournament. Djokovic went on to win the Australian Open singles championship for the 10th time.


Injured Mbappé out for 3 weeks, will miss Bayern 1st leg

Injured Mbappé out for 3 weeks, will miss Bayern 1st leg
Updated 02 February 2023

Injured Mbappé out for 3 weeks, will miss Bayern 1st leg

Injured Mbappé out for 3 weeks, will miss Bayern 1st leg
  • PSG said in a statement Thursday that tests revealed a tear in his left thigh
  • The injury comes at a bad time for PSG as it enters a hectic period this month

PARIS: Kylian Mbappé has been ruled out for three weeks with a left-thigh tear and will miss the first leg of Paris Saint-Germain’s round-of-16 game against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Mbappé sustained the injury in the first half of PSG’s game at Montpellier on Wednesday and limped off the field. TV cameras also showed him rubbing the back of his left thigh as he walked to the dressing room.
PSG said in a statement Thursday that tests revealed a tear in his left thigh.
The injury comes at a bad time for PSG as they enter a hectic period this month. PSG play away at bitter rival Marseille in the French Cup and in the league, either side of the home game against Bayern on Feb. 14. They also have a league game at fourth-place Monaco.
Mbappé faces a race to be fit in time for the league game at second-place Marseille on Feb. 26. The return leg against Bayern is on March 8.
His injury also raises questions about his recent workload. Mbappé played and scored for PSG just 10 days after playing in the World Cup final for France on Dec. 18 — where he became only the second player to score a hat trick in the final.
PSG coach Christophe Galtier selected him to face Strasbourg on Dec. 28 and away to Lens on Jan. 1. The decision was taken in full agreement with Mbappé, who wanted to play in both games.


Ancer flies flag for Mexico on day one of PIF Saudi International

Ancer flies flag for Mexico on day one of PIF Saudi International
Updated 02 February 2023

Ancer flies flag for Mexico on day one of PIF Saudi International

Ancer flies flag for Mexico on day one of PIF Saudi International
  • Abraham Ancer sets the pace with a 7-under 63 to lead by one at Royal Greens
  • Saudi golfers Faisal Salhab and Saud Al-Sharif make professional debuts

JEDDAH: Mexico’s Abraham Ancer made an impressive start to the $5 million PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers on Thursday, shooting a first-round 7-under-par 63 to take the clubhouse lead at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

Colombian Sebastian Munoz returned a 64 to hold second place, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia, South African Louis Oosthuizen and Cameron Young from the US shot 65s to sit in a tie for third in the star-studded opening event of the Asian Tour season, which features 12 Major winners.

Ancer was in imperious form. He started on the 10th and made four birdies on the back nine, including three on the trot from hole 13 along with three additional birdies on his back nine.

Ancer said: “Obviously very happy. I felt like I was in control of the golf ball for the most part. Took advantage at the beginning when there was very little wind.

“On the turn it started pumping pretty good. Once it starts getting that way, you try to hold on, and being able to make a couple of birdies coming in was definitely nice.”

The 31-year-old is looking for his third professional win after success at the 2018 Australian Open and the 2021 WGC-Fedex St. Jude Invitational in 2021. His chances of victory will be helped by the fact he has an impressive track record at Royal Greens, where he has played 15 times before and is 23 under par in total.

Unlike Ancer, it was Munoz’s first time competing in the Saudi International, and the Colombian went in with a blank slate.

“It’s really good,” said Munoz. “Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect. Never been here. Never seen photos of it. It’s beautiful. I liked it. The setup was nice, and the course was good.”

Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, also made the most of the easier conditions in the morning. “It was actually calmer than I thought at the beginning,” he said.

“Then obviously it got windy like it always happens here. I feel like I played well, gave myself a lot of good chances, a lot of good patience because on the front nine, which was 10 to 18 for me, I had some good opportunities that didn’t go in, good putts that didn’t go in. But I kept my patience, and then on the back nine I was able to make a couple of nice putts for birdie and a couple of decent saves. Very happy with the round.”

In the blustery afternoon conditions, Americans Patrick Reed and Jason Kokrak led the way with matching 3-under-par rounds.

After a slow start on the front nine, Reed came home with four birdies and no blemishes on the back nine to sit in a tie for ninth after the first round. The Major champion said after the round: “It was just really windy out there, and early on I didn’t really get that comfortable.

“I just really didn’t make any putts on the front nine. Had two three-putts and turned at 1-over par, and then on the back nine I just kept hitting the ball solid and gave myself more opportunities and made the putts when I needed to.”

It was an important day for golf in Saudi Arabia, with two of the country’s top amateurs playing their first rounds as professionals, marking their transition to the professional ranks at their home tournament and the flagship Asian Tour event.

Faisal Salhab, 2-over-par Thursday, and Saud Al-Sharif, 9-over-par, became the second and third Saudi professionals, joining compatriot and friend Othman Almulla.

Salhab, who has placed himself in a strong position to make the cut tomorrow, said after his round with David Puig and Justin Harding: “Today was a very special day for me. I’m happy with my birdies and I’ll try to replicate that tomorrow, but at the same time make sure to avoid the mistakes I’ve done along the way.”


‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram discusses future of cricket in the Kingdom with Prince Saud

‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram discusses future of cricket in the Kingdom with Prince Saud
Updated 02 February 2023

‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram discusses future of cricket in the Kingdom with Prince Saud

‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram discusses future of cricket in the Kingdom with Prince Saud
  • The chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation presented the legendary Pakistan fast bowler with a custom-made jersey
  • Akram gave some valuable input and expressed excitement about the upcoming Saudi cricket league

RIYADH: Pakistan’s fast-bowling legend Wasim Akram met the chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, Prince Saud bin Mishaal, on Thursday to talk about the future of the sport in the country.

According to a message posted on the federation’s official Twitter account, @cricketsaudi, the prince “hosted international cricket legend @wasimakramlive Wasim Akram in Riyadh, and discussed future development of the sport in the Kingdom.”

Akram, considered one of the best left-arm fast bowlers in the history of the sport and nicknamed the “Sultan of Swing” for his fast-bowling skills, gave some valuable input and expressed excitement about the upcoming Saudi cricket league, sources said.

During the meeting he was presented with a custom-made jersey by the SACF, according to the federation’s CEO, Tariq Sagga.

Akram’s visit follows a recent strengthening of cricket ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Last week for example, after a meeting with Prince Saud in Riyadh, Javed Afridi, owner of Pakistan Super League franchise Peshawar Zalmi, announced that his team is set to play exhibition matches in the Kingdom.

“In future, the Zalmi team will visit and play with the Saudi (national) team,” he said. Afridi also assured Prince Saud that his team will provide its complete support to efforts to promote cricket in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan and the Kingdom have diverse bilateral economic, defense and sporting ties. Last month, Pakistan’s women’s football team took part in a four-nation international tournament in the Kingdom, in which they finished runners-up to the hosts.

Since it was established in 2020, the SACF has launched a series of major initiatives, including a national cricket championship, a corporate cricket tournament, a league for expatriate workers, and social programs in several cities.

It oversees 15 official associations representing the sport in nine regions and has announced plans to establish additional associations in the remaining regions to ensure cricket activities take place across the country.