Boy who survived Syria earthquake has dream of meeting Ronaldo fulfilled

Boy who survived Syria earthquake has dream of meeting Ronaldo fulfilled
Screengrab shows Al-Nassr’s Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo with earthquake-survivor Rabea Shaheen, 10-year-old Syrian boy, whose dream was to meet and watch the football legend, taken from a video posted by GEA’s chairman Turki Al-Sheikh. (Twitter/ @Turki_alalshikh)
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Updated 05 March 2023
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Boy who survived Syria earthquake has dream of meeting Ronaldo fulfilled

Boy who survived Syria earthquake has dream of meeting Ronaldo fulfilled
  • GEA Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh steps in to help 10-year-old Rabea Shaheen meet Ronaldo and see star in action for Al-Nassr
  • ‘I love Ronaldo because he knows how to play football, and I wish one day to play like him and train with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr Club,’ Shaheen says in video viewed by 6m

DUBAI: A Syrian boy who survived last month’s earthquake has not only had his dream of meeting football legend Cristiano Ronaldo fulfilled, but also watched his hero in action for Riyadh club Al-Nassr on Friday.
Rabea Shaheen, 10, caught the public’s attention in an interview shortly after the disaster when he said that he dreamt of meeting Ronaldo.
The video went viral with over 2.3 million views.

On Friday, Shaheen’s hopes of coming face to face with the Portuguese superstar were finally realized.
“Today my dream has come true,” Shaheen can be heard as saying in a 34-second video that Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the Kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority, tweeted.
“I love Ronaldo because he knows how to play football and I wish one day to play like him and train with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr Club,” the 10-year-old added.
In the video that was viewed over 6.1 million times, the overjoyed 10-year-old can be seen walking quickly toward Ronaldo, shaking hands with him and then hugging him, while saying “I love you.”
The Portuguese smiles and replies: “You are OK.”
“I wish Al-Nassr wins,” Shaheen says near the end of the video. Al-Sheikh tweeted: “Your joy is my joy. God bless the King, the inspiring leader, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, the Saudi people and thanks to the great international star.”

Ronaldo replied to Al-Sheikh’s tweet with “amen” and heart emojis.
Shaheen later watched and cheered as Ronaldo helped Al-Nassr defeat Al-Batin 3-1, a victory that came with three goals in stoppage time.
In another video tweeted by Al-Sheikh, the Syrian boy is seen smiling while wearing the club’s blue-and-yellow scarf and holding their flag.

Shaheen can also be seen clapping and cheering during the seven-second video, which had over 647,000 views.

The GEA chairman, who was moved by Shaheen’s dramatic experience, invited the boy and his mother to Riyadh to make his dream come true.

The initial video in which Shaheen expressed his wish to meet Ronaldo was posted by Emirati journalist Monther Al-Muzaki Al-Shamsi, who went to Syria to cover the disaster.

Al-Shamsi posted the video to his Twitter account on Feb. 16.

In comments published previously by Arab News, the Emirati journalist told Shaheen: “One day, your dream will come true. You will get to go to the stadium and take the people you love with you, where you will see Ronaldo, and perhaps he will give you one of Al-Nassr’s club T-shirts,” to which Shaheen replied: “Ameen.”

Ronaldo also fulfilled the dream of a paraplegic five-year-old Saudi boy, Ibrahim Al-Anzi, and met him before the match on Friday.

Al-Anzi had appealed to Al-Sheikh for help meeting his idol, which the GEA chairman responded to in a matter of hours.

After the match, Al-Anzi posted a video thanking Al-Sheikh for fulfilling his wishes, saying:  “Thank you Baba Turki for making my dream of visiting (Al Nassr’s) Marsoul Park Stadium come true.”




Saudi boy, Ibrahim Al-Anzi, with his idol Cristiano Ronaldo on Friday. (Screenshot)

 


PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
Updated 29 February 2024
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PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season

PSG coach Luis Enrique promises ‘much better team’ next season
  • “If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said
  • “I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically”

POISSY, France: Paris Saint-Germain coach Luis Enrique on Thursday promised that the French giants will have a stronger team next season despite the impending departure of Kylian Mbappe when the superstar forward’s contract expires.
“If everything goes well I am convinced we will have a much better team than this year,” the Spaniard said after refusing to name specific targets when asked if AC Milan forward Rafael Leao was on the club’s shopping list.
“I am convinced, as much in defense as in attack, in the midfield, tactically, physically,” added the former Barcelona and Spain coach.
His comments came after he took Mbappe off with PSG trailing in last week’s 1-1 draw against Rennes.
Luis Enrique later said the Ligue 1 leaders needed to become accustomed to life without Mbappe, who recently informed PSG of his decision to leave at the end of the current campaign.
“Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian,” he said after that game.
PSG are 11 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 before going to Mbappe’s former club Monaco on Friday, when they will be without captain Marquinhos due to a calf injury.
They then travel to Spain to face Real Sociedad in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next Tuesday, defending a 2-0 lead from the first meeting.
“Obviously we are entering into a difficult period. The players really want to win things and this is the key point in the season, the best time,” Luis Enrique said.
“It is all or nothing, and that is a nice feeling.”


‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS
Updated 29 February 2024
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‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS

‘Heartbroken’ Pogba to appeal four-year doping ban at CAS
  • “I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said
  • “As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport"

ROME: Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba’s career hung in the balance on Thursday after he was handed a four-year doping ban but the France international said he would try to clear his name by appealing the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Pogba was provisionally suspended by a tribunal of Italy’s national anti-doping organization (NADO Italia) in September after testing positive for testosterone — a banned substance and hormone that increases athletes’ endurance.
Juventus did not comment on the ban, but a source confirmed the club was notified about the decision and would assess the next steps.
The 30-year-old Pogba, who has a contract at Juve until June 2026, said he had been informed of the decision but denied any wrongdoing and believed the verdict to be incorrect.
“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said in a statement.
“As a professional athlete I would never do anything to enhance my performance by using banned substances and have never disrespected or cheated fellow athletes and supporters of any of the teams I have played for, or against.
“As a consequence of the decision announced today I will appeal this before the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” he added, referring to sport’s highest court.
Italy’s national anti-doping organization (NADO Italia) declined to comment on Pogba’s case citing privacy rules.
The doping test, performed after Juve’s 3-0 Serie A season-opening victory at Udinese on Aug. 20, detected testosterone, with the tribunal saying the results were consistent with an ‘exogenous’ (external) origin of the substance.
Pogba was an unused substitute in that game but he later made two appearances off the bench against Bologna and Empoli before he was handed a provisional suspension.
Pogba’s positive doping test was also confirmed in a counter-analysis on a second sample in October.
The ban could effectively end Pogba’s career at the highest level.
The Frenchman was among the sport’s highest-earning players at his peak after he completed a then-world record transfer of over 100 million euros ($108.42 million) in 2016 to Premier League giants Manchester United.

MINIMUM WAGE
According to a source, Juve are currently paying Pogba a minimum wage of 2,000 euros ($2,169.80) per month.
If the ban is upheld by CAS, Pogba’s contract could be terminated while he will not be able to return to action until September 2027 — when he will be 34.
“When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations,” Pogba added.
Pogba has had a torrid second spell with Juve due to injuries since he returned to the Turin-based club following his departure from United on a free transfer in 2022.
The 2018 World Cup winner barely featured last season due to knee and hamstring injuries as well as knee surgery, which prevented him playing for France at the World Cup in Qatar.


First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1
Updated 29 February 2024
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First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1
  • The U-14 tournament, hosted at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, will feature 8 La Liga and 4 international teams

MADRID: La Liga FC Futures U-14, a flagship tournament featuring the youth academies of top-tier Spanish clubs, and being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time, kicks off on March 1.

The matches, to be played at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, has been organized in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports. For the first time, the players making up the competing sides will be in the under-14 category and will play 11-a-side matches.

The tournament will feature 12 clubs, eight EA Sports La Liga teams, plus AS Roma (Italy), SL Benfica (Portugal), Olympique de Marseille (France) and Mahd Academy (Saudi Arabia).

La Liga’s leadership chose Saudi Arabia as the host because of the country’s emergence as a hub for sporting and cultural activities in recent years. The most popular sport in the Kingdom is football, with the highest level of participation among those under the age of 30.

For the past 15 years, La Liga matches have been followed by millions of football fans across the Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia now has six official supporter clubs.

The 12 teams will be divided into three groups: Mahd Academy, FC Barcelona, AS Roma and Cadiz CF (Group A); Atletico de Madrid, Olympique de Marseille, Sevilla FC and Villarreal CF (Group B); and Real Betis, Valencia CF, SL Benfica and CA Osasuna (Group C).

Matches will kick off on March 1 at 9:30 a.m. (Saudi Arabia time) and March 2 at 10 a.m., with the quarterfinals being played on Saturday at 5 p.m. The semifinals will kick off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the final at 5 p.m.


World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final
Updated 29 February 2024
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World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final
  • Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts
  • Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June

SEVILLE, Spain: Spain have not lost momentum since winning their first World Cup title, defeating France 2-0 on Wednesday to also win the inaugural edition of the Women’s Nations League.

Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey scored a goal each for Spain in front of 32,657 fans at La Cartuja Stadium in southern Spain. It was a record crowd for Spain’s women’s team in the country.

Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June.

“We have a very good present and a very good future,” women’s team coach Montse Tome said. “I have a group with very experienced players and with new young players coming up. It’s a very positive mix. They have a winning mentality. France haven’t had a shot on goal and that’s also a credit to all of the players.”

Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts.

“Happy to win another title,” Bonmati said. “It may seem that what we have achieved is easy, that we have an obligation to win everything, but this is not something easy. And here we are lifting another trophy.”

It was Spain’s first victory over France.

“They’ll be the team to beat at the Olympics, it won’t be easy,” France coach Herve Renard said. “We are going to have to keep improving, learn lessons and keep moving forward. Let’s say we have taken one step but we haven’t taken the second. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Spain had their breakthrough tournament at the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, winning the title in their third appearance.

The celebrations were marred by one of the country’s worst crises, though, as the then-president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony to spark an outrage in soccer and Spanish society in general. Rubiales eventually resigned, and prosecutors later accused him of sexual assault.

“Today we get to celebrate again. We deserve it,” Hermoso said. “We try to enjoy ourselves but we also have the responsibility that there are so many people behind us who want to follow in our footsteps. We are so proud that there are so many girls who want to be champions in the future.”

Spain defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in last week’s semifinal, a result that also secured the team a place in the Paris Olympics.

France were already qualified for the Olympics as the host country.

“We didn’t play a good game against a team that are world champions and flying high in women’s football,” Renard said. “You have to be aggressive and keep the ball when you get it, but we lost it again straight away.”

Spain scored a competition-high 28 goals, seven more than any other team. It also had the most total attempts at 131.

Alexia Putellas, the former Ballon d’Or winner, did not enter the match for Spain. She hasn’t played for club or country since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee last year.


Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool

Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool
Updated 29 February 2024
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Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool

Man United and Chelsea grab late winners in FA Cup. Youngsters deliver again for Liverpool
  • Casemiro stooped to head in an 89th-minute goal to seal United a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest and a last-eight meeting with great rival Liverpool
  • Wolverhampton beat Brighton 1-0 in an all-Premier League matchup and will be at home to Championship team Coventry in the quarterfinals

LONDON: Manchester United and Chelsea kept alive their hopes of silverware this season by scoring late winners in the FA Cup on Wednesday.

Liverpool also advanced to the quarterfinals, with their youngsters coming through big again for Jurgen Klopp.

Casemiro stooped to head in an 89th-minute goal to seal United a 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest and a last-eight meeting with great rival Liverpool, whose youthful team beat second-tier Southampton 3-0 thanks to goals by 18-year-olds Lewis Koumas and Jayden Danns.

Chelsea — fresh off a loss to Liverpool in the English League Cup final — left it even later than United to secure their progress, with Conor Gallagher coming off the bench to score in the 90th minute for a 3-2 victory over Leeds. Chelsea will play another second-tier team, Leicester, in the last eight.

Wolverhampton beat Brighton 1-0 in an all-Premier League matchup and will be at home to Championship team Coventry in the quarterfinals.

PRESSURE OFF

Winning the FA Cup could salvage disappointing seasons for United and Chelsea. Who knows, it could also keep their under-pressure managers in their jobs.

Neither team put in a convincing display in the fifth round, but they are still alive in the famous old competition and have home draws to look forward to after late winners from midfielders.

Casemiro got between two defenders and stuck out his head to divert a low free kick that had been whipped in from the left wing by Bruno Fernandes. The Brazil international got a kick in the face for his efforts — blood was seen pouring down his cheek afterward — but, more importantly, a crucial goal.

After a morale-sapping loss to Fulham in the league on Saturday, another defeat would have left United in a mess heading into Sunday’s Manchester derby against City. Instead, United manager Erik ten Hag was quick to point out that his team has now won seven of its nine games in all competitions in 2024.

“This team, what they showed today, they have to show it every game,” Ten Hag said. “We found a way to win.”

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has come under renewed pressure in the wake of his expensively assembled team’s loss in the League Cup final. Now he is one game away from a return to Wembley Stadium, this time for the FA Cup semifinals.

Gallagher ran onto Enzo Fernandez’s pass, span his marker and converted a rising shot to put out a spirited effort from a Leeds team whose priority this season is securing an immediate return to the Premier League.

Despite fielding a weakened starting team, Leeds took the lead in the eighth minute at Stamford Bridge through Mateo Joseph, who also equalized to make it 2-2 after goals for Chelsea by Nicolas Jackson and Mykhailo Mudryk.

“In the context of the week, I am happy,” Pochettino said. “It is about building our confidence again.”

KLOPP’S KIDS

Jurgen Klopp’s kids have done it again.

Amid an injury crisis, the Liverpool manager turned to a bunch of academy products to help beat Chelsea in the League Cup final and he kept faith in them for the match against Southampton three days later at Anfield.

The average age of Liverpool’s team on Wednesday was 23 years, 128 days after Klopp made six changes to the lineup, including giving a debut to Koumas and starting 19-year-old midfielders James McConnell and Bobby Clark after their starring roles off the bench at Wembley. There were six players aged 21 or younger in the team.

Koumas squeezed home a shot in the 44th minute to mark the biggest game of his fledging professional career and make it 1-0. Danns came off the bench, like he did in the League Cup final, and scored in the 73rd and 88th minutes for his first senior goals.

Liverpool, who lead the Premier League and are into the round of 16 in the Europa League, stayed on course for a quadruple of trophies in Klopp’s final season.