World Cup goal scorer Ibtissam Jraidi describes historic win as ‘victory for Morocco, Arabs’

Analysis World Cup goal scorer Ibtissam Jraidi describes historic win as ‘victory for Morocco, Arabs’
Morocco's forward #09 Ibtissam Jraidi controls the ball before shooting on goal during the Australia and New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup Group H football match between South Korea and Morocco at Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide
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Updated 31 July 2023
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World Cup goal scorer Ibtissam Jraidi describes historic win as ‘victory for Morocco, Arabs’

World Cup goal scorer Ibtissam Jraidi describes historic win as ‘victory for Morocco, Arabs’
  • 30-year-old Al-Ahli player nets only goal in Moroccan women’s 1-0 defeat of South Korea

Adelaide: Moroccan footballer Ibtissam Jraidi’s name will forever be etched into the record books after the 30-year-old became the first Arab woman to score at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Al-Ahli forward helped the Lionesses of Atlas to a 1-0 win over South Korea to keep their World Cup hopes alive heading into the final match against Colombia.

After the ignominy of their 6-0 loss to Germany in their opening encounter, Morocco arrived in Adelaide on Sunday keen to avoid a similar fate against a side ranked 55 places higher in the official FIFA rankings.

Morocco had the majority of the support among the 12,886 fans inside the intimate confines of Hindmarsh Stadium — the smallest ground in use at this year’s Women’s World Cup.

As the sun momentarily shone on Hindmarsh Stadium on a crisp, and occasionally wet, winter’s day in the South Australian capital, Jraidi got low down to glance on an inch-perfect cross from Hanane Ait El-Haj past the outstretched arms of Korean stopper Kim Jung-mi to give her side a sixth-minute lead against their more fancied opponents.

The ecstasy was etched on the faces of everyone involved in the Moroccan team as the entire bench of substitutes emptied onto the field of play and ran over to mob Jraidi in a moment of sheer joy.

And it was a lead they would not surrender, holding on to record their first ever victory at the Women’s World Cup, sparking wild celebrations both on the pitch and in the stands.

Even the small collection of Moroccan media got in on the act, celebrating with the players with hugs, high-fives, and selfies in the post-match mixed zone.

Jraidi said: “We are just so pleased our efforts have paid off. This victory is for Morocco and Arabs, it’s the fruit of our hard work.”

In a match that also saw Nouhaila Benzina make her first appearance of the tournament to become the first hijabi player to appear at the Women’s World Cup, it was 90 minutes that carried plenty of significance for the future of women’s football.

In scoring what was to be the only goal of the game, Jraidi created a further slice of history by becoming the first player from a Saudi Women’s Premier League team to score in the cup competition.

While Saudi Arabia’s national team remains some way off being able to compete at the Women’s World Cup, Jraidi’s exploits in Adelaide highlighted the way forward.

She joined Jeddah-based Al-Ahli for the debut season of the SWPL after more than a decade playing domestically in Morocco with perennial champions ASFAR, who have won the past eight Moroccan league titles.

She was a standout for ASFAR on their run to claiming the 2022 CAF Women’s Champions League, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, including a hattrick in the final against defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns from South Africa.

Unsurprisingly, she flourished with Al-Ahli. Despite arriving on a two-year deal only midway through the 14-game season, she ended the season with 17 goals to finish second in the Golden Boot standings behind Shokhan Salihi.

Jraidi started with six goals in a 9-1 win over relegated Sama in December, before finishing the season with a run of 11 goals in four matches, a streak that included three hattricks.

Now as a Women’s World Cup goal scorer, she will be one of the poster signings of the SWPL as it looks to establish a stronger foothold within the country and throughout the region over the coming years.


Saudi Arabia to host first Esports Olympics in 2025: IOC

Updated 15 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia to host first Esports Olympics in 2025: IOC

Saudi Arabia to host first Esports Olympics in 2025: IOC
Lausanne: Saudi Arabia will host the inaugural Esports Olympics in 2025 the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today announced that it has partnered with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Saudi Arabia to host the inaugural Olympic Esports Games 2025 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the body said.
“The duration of the partnership between the IOC and the Saudi NOC will be 12 years, with Olympic Esports Games held regularly.”

Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives

Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives
Updated 38 min 41 sec ago
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Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives

Etihad Arena to host global basketball stars, legends, coaches and senior executives
  • ‘Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase’ on July 16
  • Men’s teams from US, Australia, Serbia to play games in UAE capital

ABU DHABI: Sports enthusiasts are in for a treat as Etihad Arena will host a “Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase” on July 16 in Abu Dhabi featuring some of the sport’s top players and personalities.

This is in conjunction with the “2024 USA Basketball Showcase Games” in the UAE capital from July 15 to 17.

The games feature the world No. 1 US basketball men’s national team, Australian Boomers and Serbia, ranked at five and four respectively, that are all preparing for the Paris Olympic Games.

The “Courtside Conversations and USA Basketball Showcase” will be an evening of discussions with participants including basketball players, legends, and senior executives.

The forum will kick off with a “Global Growth of the Game” panel discussion highlighting the importance of investing in young people, women, and minorities.

It will also explore how programs beyond the court can mentor leaders in every community.

Speakers include Miami Heat legend Alonzo Mourning, the Las Vegas Aces’ Chief Business Development Officer Jennifer Azzi, and USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley.

The second panel, “The Road to Paris,” will have the panelists discuss how to build a championship-caliber team and the value of teamwork. The participants include NBA legend and US Men’s National Team MD Grant Hill and former NBA player Steve Smith.

Attendees will have the chance to ask questions, which have to be submitted in advance.

Select fans will be able to meet basketball legends Smith and Mourning, which includes on-court photo opportunities following the Australia-Serbia game.


Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup

Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup
Updated 12 July 2024
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Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup

Stars of ‘Free Fire,’ ‘Dota2 Riyadh Masters’ and ‘Mobile Legends: Bang Bang’ battle it out at Esports World Cup
  • World’s largest gaming competition runs until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City

RIYADH: Action at the Esports World Cup is hotting up across three of the most high-profile conceptions — “Free Fire,” the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters” and “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.”

Running until Aug. 25 at Boulevard Riyadh City, the eight-week Esports World Cup has seen strong showings in “Free Fire” from All Glory Gaming, Team Solid, and Twisted Minds.

At the “Dota2 Riyadh Masters,” HEROIC, Team Spirit, Tundra Esports, and WBG.XG were among the teams to impress.

Meanwhile, “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang” has reached the quarterfinal stage.

The Esports World Cup features a unique cross-game structure pitting the world’s top clubs and players against one another across 22 global competitions in 21 leading games.

More than 1,500 players from 60 countries are battling it out for a share of the $60 million prize pool — the largest in the history of esports.


T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh

T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh
Updated 12 July 2024
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T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh

T1 star Faker hails ‘Cristiano Ronaldo-esque’ reception from fans at Esports World Cup in Riyadh
  • The ‘Michael Jordan of esports’ helped South Korean side overcome Top Esports of China 3-1 at Boulevard Riyadh City in Esports World Cup’s ‘League of Legends’ final

RIYADH: Faker, the T1 star known as the “Michael Jordan of esports,” believes his Esports World Cup reception from fans in Saudi Arabia has been “Cristiano Ronaldo-esque” — but that is mostly because they love “League of Legends,” not just him.

The 28-year-old South Korean professional, whose real name is Lee Sang-hyeok, is a hero across the world for his gaming exploits and has 1.5 million followers on Instagram.

Starred in the Esports World Cup’s “League of Legends” competition as South Korea’s T1 overcame Top Esports of China 3-1 in Sunday’s all-Asian final in front of a capacity crowd at the SEF Arena at Boulevard Riyadh City.

The win secured vital Esports World Cup Club Championship points for T1 and the $400,000 first prize.

Faker described the love he received from fans in Saudi Arabia as akin to that of five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Al-Nassr hero Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I think it’s because I’ve been putting in a lot of effort all these years and the fans really like that. But mostly I think it’s the love of ‘League of Legends’ itself from the fans. All I can do is just keep being better and keep it up all these years.”

Adored by millions worldwide, “League of Legends” is a strategy game where two teams of five powerful champions face off with the objective of destroying the opposition’s base.

The final on Sunday at the Esports World Cup was decided in a best-of-five format.

Faker — who competes alongside Zeus, Oner, Gumayusi and Keria in T1’s five-star lineup — said the world cup “symbolizes the growth of esports worldwide.

“There are so many athletes from so many countries competing here and this reflects the recent growth of our industry. It’s popular everywhere right now. I hope the Esports World Cup attracts even more athletes, clubs, games, and fans in the future.”

The Esports World Cup began on July 3 and ends on Aug. 25 with 22 tournaments across 21 titles.


Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA

Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA
Updated 12 July 2024
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Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA

Saudi’s Hattan Alsaif fights for women’s place in Mideast MMA
  • At PFL MENA 2 on Friday night, the 22-year-old will take on Egypt’s Iman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls
  • Alsaif made a winning debut in the Professional Fighters League against Egypt’s Nada Faheem in May

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Hattan Alsaif is fighting to prove that women deserve their place in the world of combat sports.

The 22-year-old Muay Thai striker recently made history by becoming the first female from the Kingdom to be recruited by a major mixed martial arts organization when she joined the Professional Fighters League.

In May, Alsaif made her highly-anticipated debut during the inaugural season of PFL MENA. She knocked out Egypt’s Nada Faheem by head kick in the second round, much to the delight of fans in Riyadh.

Alsaif hopes to inspire other Saudi Arabia women to take up the sport.

“Combat sports isn’t exclusive to men anymore,” Alsaif said. “It’s open to both sexes.”

Alsaif has some big names in her corner, namely fellow Saudi Arabian fighter Abdullah Al-Qahtani, who is currently the Kingdom’s biggest MMA star.

“He supports me, he helps me develop my game, and he gave me a lot of motivation after my first PFL win,” Alsaif said of Al-Qahtani.

Alsaif said she does not feel pressure when fighting, but rather a determination to succeed.

“Winning my last fight wasn’t pressure, it was validation,” she explained. At PFL MENA 2 this weekend, she steps back into the cage to take on another Egyptian fighter.

“It showed my preparation was perfect, and now I’m even more confident facing Iman Baraka,” she said.

Alsaif said she enjoyed fighting in her hometown. “The energy of the Saudi fans after my first win was incredible. It fueled my training and showed me I was on the right track.”

“I saw the love and support from the fans after my victory, and it made me even hungrier to win again. I’m ready to step into the cage and prove myself,” she added.

“The last fight was a great victory, but now my focus is on Iman Baraka. I’m not dwelling on the past, I’m training for the challenge ahead.”