KARACHI: When Sahiba Sardil returned from playing the first women’s football tournament in Saudi Arabia last week, an experience she says has motivated her to strive for more, she received a hero’s welcome at home.
Sardil, a defender of the Pakistani team, was in the Kingdom for a four-nation friendly tournament held from Jan. 11 to 19 featuring Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Comoros and Mauritius. The South Asian country finished the competition as a runner-up, with the host coming out as champion.
When she arrived home in Mauripur, a small fishing town near the seaside metropolis Karachi, she was greeted with much fanfare. People from the community gathered and adorned her with garlands, while others played drums and waved the Pakistani flag as they marched alongside the football player.
“It was a great experience. I will always remember those 10 days,” Sardil told Arab News on Sunday.
“Saudi Arabia and the welcome I have received here at home have motivated me to work harder and go further.”
Sardil said she faced many difficulties before making it to the national team.
The 21-year-old had started her football journey playing with male cousins in a dusty space, where there was only one goalpost and another one had to be marked with stones placed on the ground.
She also grew up in a conservative area, where it was common for young girls to stay within the confines of their homes. Her father initially had “strict rules” for the women in their household but eventually gave in and allowed Sardil to join a football academy three years ago.
“I didn’t reach the national team and this position so easily…I had to bear so much,” she said.
Sardil’s father, a fisherman who would often be away for months at a time, is now her biggest supporter.
“The respect that I have received today, the support I have received, is because of my father,” she said.
Now that she is home after her first international competition, Sardil recalls the games in the Kingdom with fondness and said she had adored the Saudi team the most.
“To go to Saudi Arabia, to play outside of Pakistan was a huge honor for me,” Sardil said. “We felt really good playing against them. It felt as if we were playing football properly.”
Roshn Saudi League stars square off in international arena
Portuguese legend and Al-Nassr striker Cristiano Ronaldo will face Al-Wehda and Luxembourg striker Gerson Rodriguez
Morocco’s Abdelrazzaq Hamdallah and Mounir Al-Mohammadi will face Peru’s Andre Carrillo and Christopher Gonzalez
Updated 22 March 2023
RIYADH: Six foreign stars of the Roshn Saudi League are expected to line out against each other in two international matches at the end of March.
Portugal play Luxembourg on March 26 in the first round of qualifiers for Euro 2024, bringing together Portuguese legend and Al-Nassr striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Al-Wehda striker Gerson Rodriguez, who will line out in the colors of Luxembourg.
Four foreign players from the Roshn Saudi League will play in a friendly match between Morocco and Peru on March 29.
Abdelrazzaq Hamdallah of Al-Ittihad and Mounir Al-Mohammadi of Al-Wehda will line out for Morocco, while Andre Carrillo of Al-Hilal and Christopher Gonzalez from Al-Adalah will face them in the colours of Peru.
Former Germany midfielder Mesut Özil retires at 34
Özil said injuries played a role in his decision
His immediate retirement brings an early end to his season with Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir
Updated 22 March 2023
ISTANBUL: Former Germany midfielder Mesut Özil, who won the World Cup in 2014, retired from soccer Wednesday at the age of 34.
Özil said injuries played a role in his decision.
“I’ve had the privilege to be a professional football player for almost 17 years now and I feel incredibly thankful for the opportunity,” Özil wrote on social media. “But in recent weeks and months, having also suffered some injuries, it’s become more and more clear that it’s time to leave the big stage of football.”
His immediate retirement brings an early end to his season with Turkish club Istanbul Basaksehir, where he made only seven appearances for the team.
Özil won the Spanish league title with Real Madrid in 2012 and the FA Cup four times with Arsenal. His international career ended abruptly in 2018 when he quit the Germany squad citing “racism and disrespect.”
That followed anti-Turkish comments from German politicians and abuse from some fans toward Özil, who has Turkish heritage, amid criticism of his decision to pose for a picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup.
Özil started his career in Germany with hometown club Schalke before a good spell at Werder Bremen earned him a spot on the German national team. Standout performances for Germany at the 2010 World Cup were followed by a move to Madrid. He then had an eight-year stint with Arsenal.
Özil moved to Turkish club Fenerbahce in 2021 after his relationship with Arsenal broke down. He was left out of the Arsenal squad for months before his departure following a rift with manager Mikel Arteta. The club also distanced itself from Özil for posting his support for Muslims in the Xinjiang province of China, comments which led to an Arsenal game being pulled from Chinese television.
Argentina must retain competitive edge after World Cup win says Scaloni
“We are world champions, but that doesn’t mean we have the right for more, just because we win we can’t do whatever we want,” he told a news conference
Updated 22 March 2023
BUENOS AIRES: Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said his players need to maintain their high competitive level after beating France on penalties to win the country’s third World Cup in Qatar last year.
Ahead of Thursday’s friendly against Panama, Scaloni spoke about the squad that will feature captain Lionel Messi and the rest of the players who were crowned champions on Dec. 18.
“We are world champions, but that doesn’t mean we have the right for more, just because we win we can’t do whatever we want, that’s what they (the players) have to understand,” he told a news conference.
The coach said his main objective at this stage, after winning the Copa America, ‘Finalissima’ and World Cup, is for the players to understand that they must remain competitive.
“The message is that a new process is beginning: the pitch is what rules; from there on those who are world champions have no advantage, we will have to keep working,” he said.
“The Argentina shirt doesn’t allow you not to give your best, that’s clear to us. Afterwards, it’s good to celebrate, but we have to do our job on the pitch.”
Regarding the lineup for Thursday’s game, Scaloni said that those players who took the field in the World Cup final will start. “I’d like for people to watch their players,” he added.
Manchester United winger Alejandro Garnacho and Sevilla forward Alejandro ‘Papu’ Gomez, who was unable to travel to Argentina on the instructions of the Spanish club, are the two notable absentees from the squad due to injury.
Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Scaloni, named FIFA men’s coach of the year in February, said the debate over whether he manages the best Argentina team in history is pointless.
“We all play for Argentina, we are world champions, who cares who is the best or the worst,” he added.
Argentina also won the World Cup in 1978 on home soil and in 1986 in Mexico led by captain Diego Maradona.
The first match for the “Scaloneta” team since the World Cup triumph will be played in a party atmosphere after celebrations with the players planned for last year could not take place as millions of fans congregated in downtown Buenos Aires.
The crowd congestion led to the squad abandoning their open-top bus parade and flying over the crowd by helicopter.
Adidas launches all-new Saudi Arabian Football Federation home, away jerseys
Green home jersey inspired by palm tree featured in national emblem
Women’s national team kit features unique design variation in week they receive first ever FIFA world ranking
Updated 22 March 2023
Riyadh: Adidas has kicked off its partnership with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation with the official launch of the national team’s home and away jerseys.
Inspired by the palm tree featured in the national emblem, the home jersey embodies the country’s growth, vitality, and prosperity with a touch of gold-like accents, adding elegance and a premium feel that will standout both on and off the field.
The women’s national team will be wearing a slightly different jersey to the men’s, with the home kit featuring a unique variation of the same palm tree-inspired design.
It coincides with the women’s team achieving another major milestone by becoming an official FIFA-ranked nation for the first time in their history, further showcasing the federation’s commitment to the growth and development of women’s football in the Kingdom.
The white away jersey features dark green sleeves inspired by the country’s flag, with the iconic adidas three stripes in gold. Both jerseys celebrate Saudi Arabia’s relationship between culture and football.
Working together toward a common goal and vision, adidas cements the launch of the new kits with its Weaved as One campaign, which pays homage to the fabric of Saudi culture while simultaneously highlighting themes of unity within football communities and beyond.
The campaign film follows men’s national team players Mohammed Al-Owais, Hassan Tambakti, Hattan Bahebri, and Abdulelah Al-Amri and women’s national team players Farah Jefry, Al-Bandari Mubarak, and Dalia Adel as they journey through Riyadh to present the official jersey to members of diverse communities that make up the DNA of Saudi heritage and sports culture.
From the camel herding community of northern Riyadh who have dedicated their lives to one of the oldest sports in the nation, to the women making waves at the forefront of the motorsports and rally racing industry, and finally the city’s passionate gaming and e-sports enthusiasts – each community was presented with the opportunity to be among the first to wear the jersey as a symbol of togetherness.
The kit launch is the first in a four-year partnership between adidas and the SAFF at a time when football continues to grow at all levels throughout the country.
The men’s team performed on the world’s biggest stage with their 2-1 win over Argentina at the FIFA World Cup, while the under-23 team won the 2022 Asian Cup while conceding zero goals.
Last year also saw the establishment of three new age groups (U-16, U-18, and U-19) as part of the Kingdom’s investment in establishing a clear player pathway to the first team.
In addition to the women’s team being a FIFA-ranked nation for the first time, the growth of women’s football will be further enhanced through the introduction of a U-17 team.
Both the home and away kits feature sweat-wicking, moisture-absorbent technology, and specially placed breathable mesh inserts. The range is also made using 100 percent recycled materials.
Bilal Faris, adidas general manager for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, said: “Inspired from the Kingdom’s national emblem, the palm tree, we have ensured that the design of the jerseys embody the country’s goals and growth.
“Through our partnership, we strive to support the federation’s strategy to enhance access to sports for the country and support emerging talents.
“As we celebrate the intrinsic relationship between Saudi culture and football, it’s a collection that I’m hoping players and fans can wear with huge pride, on and off the pitch,” Faris added.
On the arrival of the new Green Falcons kit, SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal, said: “We’re extremely proud to usher in this new era for Saudi football with the famous three stripes of adidas emblazoned upon our men’s and women’s national team kits.
“They are a symbol of unity and inspiration, and to see our men, women, boys and girls players, and fans wearing it as one – side to side, shoulder to shoulder – is exactly how football should be.
“In adidas, we have a partner that places equal importance to the women’s national team, which reflects how we operate at the federation. Together we are excited to continue building on the strong momentum of Saudi football across both the men’s and women’s game, while inspiring millions of young footballers along the way,” Al-Misehal added.
The home and away jerseys will be available on adidas.com and at select adidas retailers from March 23.
Yas Heat Racing Academy begins search for future karting stars
Yas Marina Circuit-based racing academy will host 3 open days on Yas KartZone track from March 25
Promising talent will earn spots on the grid at the Yas Heat Racing Championship later this year
Updated 22 March 2023
ABU DHABI: Yas Heat Racing Academy has announced its first official Yas Heat Racing Karting Open Day on March 25 as part of the team’s search for the fastest young talent to join the karting team in 2023.
Based at the Yas Marina Circuit track on Yas Island, the academy was formed in November 2022 ahead of the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and is led by rookie drivers Matteo Quintarelli and Keanu Al-Azhari — who both scored podium finishes on the team’s debut racing weekend.
After an impressive first season competing in the F4 UAE Championship in early 2023, the academy is hosting three official open days in the hope of finding future stars of racing to join the first Yas Heat Karting team this year.
Following the first open day on March 18, karters aged eight to 12 can register for upcoming official open days, with the fastest drivers around the Yas Kartzone track being selected to compete in the Yas Heat Racing Karting Championship.
Matthew Norman, team manager of the Yas Heat Racing Academy, said: “After such a promising start to the year with the academy’s debut season in the F4 UAE Championship, we are delighted to announce the first official Yas Heat Karting Racing Open Days as we continue to search for the brightest and best young drivers across the UAE.
“It’s no secret that the world’s most elite superstars, including those we see each weekend lining up on the Formula One grid, all started their racing journeys through karting, and we hope to find some exciting new talent to join our academy following the new Yas Heat Racing Karting Championship coming later in 2023. We look forward to welcoming the new era of young drivers joining us at the circuit this weekend.”
With the goal to produce homegrown drivers at Yas Marina Circuit and provide young talented drivers with a clear and defined career pathway — from grassroots all the way up to the world stage of motorsport — the Yas Heat Racing Academy aims to inspire the next generation of local UAE racing stars to pursue their dreams, from karting through to FIA-accredited competitions.
The next official Yas Heat Karting Open Day will take place on Saturday, March 25 from 10 a.m. at Yas Kartzone, with further Open Days to come from Saturday, April 1.