New era as Women’s U20 ‘Green Falcons’ get their wings

New era as Women’s U20 ‘Green Falcons’ get their wings
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The Women’s U20 National Team squad assembles in Riyadh. (SAFF)
New era as Women’s U20 ‘Green Falcons’ get their wings
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Women’s U20 National Team players go through their paces in Riyadh. (SAFF)
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Updated 08 December 2023
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New era as Women’s U20 ‘Green Falcons’ get their wings

New era as Women’s U20 ‘Green Falcons’ get their wings
  • SAFF has officially announced the formation of the Women’s U20 National Team
  • Scotland’s Pauline Hamill appointed as head coach, bringing over 30 years of experience

RIYADH: A new era in Saudi Arabian football begins with the formation of the Women’s U20 National Team, which is expected to play a crucial role in the development of young footballers in the Kingdom.

This initiative is part of the SAFF’s broader strategy to create sustainable and clear career paths for aspiring women footballers, reflecting a commitment to the growth of the sport at all levels.

The team, comprising talented players from the senior national team and those advancing from the U17 squad, is already engaged in their first training camp. The training camp is currently taking place in Riyadh from 5-11 December 2023. 

“A new chapter in Saudi women’s football begins today with the launch of the U20 National Team. This team is a beacon of hope and opportunity for our young athletes, illuminating the path to international success,”  said Head of the Women’s Football Department at the SAFF Aalia AlRasheed.

“We are confident that under the expert guidance of Pauline Hamill, these young women will not only grow as players but also become role models for future generations. Their journey represents our unwavering commitment to elevating women’s football in Saudi Arabia and on the global stage,” added AlRasheed.

Pauline Hamill, the newly appointed head coach of the U20 team, brings a wealth of experience to the role. Her distinguished career includes playing for the Scotland National team, earning 141 caps over 18 years, and coaching various youth teams within the Scottish FA, including the U15s, U16s, U17s, and the Scotland Women’s U19s National team.

Hamill’s appointment is a significant boost to the team’s prospects and reflects the SAFF’s ambition to compete at the highest levels in future regional and international competitions.

The team is eagerly preparing for its first friendly match in March 2024, a key milestone in their preparation for future competitions.


PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund

PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund
Updated 13 sec ago
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PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund

PSV rue chances as old boy Malen earns Champions League draw for Dortmund
  • PSV haven’t lost at home all season and started the second half on the front foot

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands: PSV Eindhoven coach Peter Bosz was left ruing missed chances after his side squandered several opportunities in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last-16 first-leg tie on Tuesday.
“In the second half, we had loads of chances. It was a shame that we didn’t score a second,” Bosz told reporters after the game at the Philips Stadion.
Donyell Malen snatched a vital goal to earn the Bundesliga giants the away draw at his old club but wasteful PSV were left to wonder what could have been.
The big question pre-match was which Borussia Dortmund would show up: the team that topped the Champions League ‘Group of Death’ or the outfit struggling for consistency in the Bundesliga?
And it was a cagey opening in an intimidating atmosphere in Eindhoven, the home fans letting off a volley of fireworks at kick-off.
“We started very nervously, I think both sides were nervous in the first minutes,” said Dortmund coach Edin Terzic.
When the smoke cleared, the hosts had the better of the opening exchanges, Mexico international winger Hirving Lozano causing the Dortmund defense headaches down the left.
PSV midfielder Malik Tillman fluffed two gilt-edged chances in front of goal, once firing wide after a clever through-ball from veteran Dutch striker Luuk de Jong.
And the visitors punished PSV’s profligacy, taking the lead against the run of play in the 24th minute when Malen squeezed a deflected shot into the top corner.
Malen had been prolific for the Dutch giants, scoring 55 goals in all competitions in just 43 games, and chose not to celebrate in front of PSV’s hardcore fans.
The misfiring Tillman somehow then contrived to miss another goal that looked easier to score, this time with a header right in front of goal.
Then it was Belgian international winger Johan Bakayoko’s turn to scuff a shot wide, with the home fans starting to wonder if it was going to be one of those nights as they went into the break 1-0 down.
PSV haven’t lost at home all season and started the second half on the front foot.
They were soon level.
Tillman redeemed his earlier errors by winning a penalty in the 56th minute, which De Jong slotted calmly past Alexander Meyer.
Dortmund defenders were incensed at the penalty award, insisting veteran central defender Mats Hummels had nicked the ball before bringing down Tillman.
Terzic described it as a “hard decision” and even Bosz acknowledged: “You could see from the reaction of the Dortmund players they didn’t agree with it.”
“Zero percent a penalty. Zero,” Hummels himself told Prime Video after the game.
“Tillman was laughing all over the place. Bakayoko was laughing himself to death. They were all grinning for minutes later.”
The controversial equalizer opened the game up, with chances at both ends, a flick by Dortmund’s Marius Wolf forcing a sharp save from Walter Benitez in the PSV goal.
With 15 minutes to go, Bakayoko danced through the Dortmund defense but failed to get any purchase on his shot — summing up the night for PSV.
PSV midfielder Joey Veerman said: “I think that we had the second half completely under control and in the first half we had big chances.”
“When you look at the whole game, we had better chances than Dortmund,” he said, adding “I think that 1-1 is not all that bad a position” to take back to Dortmund.
Hummels admitted his team let the “charged atmosphere get to us too much” but was confident of advancing into the quarter-finals when the two sides meet again in three weeks.
“I saw a very beatable Eindhoven today. In our home game, the second leg, we simply need to play better with the ball. Then, I am very confident that we will progress,” said Hummels.
“We know we still have the second leg to play. Then, there will be 80,000 people on a Champions League night. We are unbeatable there,” added Dortmund defender Nico Schlotterbeck.


Multan defeats Islamabad through pace for back-to-back wins in PSL

Multan defeats Islamabad through pace for back-to-back wins in PSL
Updated 21 February 2024
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Multan defeats Islamabad through pace for back-to-back wins in PSL

Multan defeats Islamabad through pace for back-to-back wins in PSL
  • Mohammad Ali grabbed 3-19 as he swung the new ball well and delivered some eye-catching yorkers in the death overs to bowl out Islamabad for 144
  • Reeza Hendricks then followed his unbeaten 79 in Multan’s win over Karachi Kings with 58 off 46 balls to lead last year’s finalists to 145-5

MULTAN, Pakistan: Multan Sultans limited the batting power of Islamabad United through pace and notched their second straight win in the Pakistan Super League on Tuesday.
Fast bowler Mohammad Ali grabbed 3-19 as he swung the new ball well and delivered some eye-catching yorkers in the death overs to bowl out Islamabad for 144.
Reeza Hendricks then followed his unbeaten 79 in Multan’s win over Karachi Kings with 58 off 46 balls to lead last year’s finalists to 145-5 for a five-wicket win in the last over.
Islamabad was let down by some sloppy fielding as Imad Wasim dropped first Hendricks and then Mohammad Rizwan, who went on to score 43 off 33 balls and shared a 71-run stand with Hendricks.
Naseem Shah, returning from a shoulder injury, bowled an eventful first over when he clean bowled Dawid Malan for zero as the fast bowler looked to get into rhythm with figures of 2-29 off his four overs.
Islamabad lost the wickets of Alex Hales and Colin Munro cheaply inside the batting powerplay after Rizwan won the toss and elected to field.
Ali shattered the stumps of Munro with a sharp delivery that darted into the lefthander from around the wicket and Hales was caught at deep square leg while attempting a big shot against David Willey.
Salman Ali Agha (52) and Jordan Cox (41) both capitalized on dropped catches by Khushdil Shah and raised a 68-run stand. Leg-spinner Usama Mir (2-29) chipped in with quick wickets of Cox and power-hitter Azam Khan (13) that pushed back Islamabad.
Skipper Shadab Khan, who scored a prolific half-century in Islamabad’s opening win over Lahore Qalandars, added 35 with Agha, but Abbas Afridi (3-33) and Ali struck with regular intervals in the death overs before Islamabad innings folded.
Afridi varied his pace intelligently and had Shadab clean bowled off a length ball and then Khushdil made amends of his two early fielding lapses by having Agha caught in the deep off Afridi’s leg-cutter.
Ali wrapped up the tail by grabbing two wickets in the last over before running out Naseem off the last ball.
Multan joined Quetta Gladiators atop the table with four points from two wins while Islamabad has two points from two games.


English cricket authorities accused of lacking ‘moral backbone’ for failing to call out Ian Botham for comments on racism report

English cricket authorities accused of lacking ‘moral backbone’ for failing to call out Ian Botham for comments on racism report
Updated 21 February 2024
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English cricket authorities accused of lacking ‘moral backbone’ for failing to call out Ian Botham for comments on racism report

English cricket authorities accused of lacking ‘moral backbone’ for failing to call out Ian Botham for comments on racism report
  • Former England all-rounder Botham said he had not been asked to contribute to the 300-page Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket

LONDON: The England and Wales Cricket Board has been accused of “lacking moral backbone” for not criticizing the “untruths” of former player Ian Botham, who described a report into discrimination in the sport as “nonsense.”

The report was commissioned when English cricket was hit by a racism scandal in 2020 after former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq said he had been a victim of racial harassment and bullying during two spells at Yorkshire County Cricket Club from 2008-18.

Former England all-rounder Botham, who is considered one of the game’s icons, said he had not been asked to contribute to the 300-page Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket, which was published last June. The report concluded that cricket in England had major problems with racism, sexism and elitism.

“No one’s interviewed me, no one asked me for my thoughts on it,” Durham CCC Chairman Botham said last year. “I don’t know of anyone that was asked and interviewed before this report was put together.”

Botham also said that upon reading the report he disagreed so strongly that he threw his copy on the floor.

At a UK Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on Tuesday, the ICEC Chairwoman Cindi Butts said she was disappointed with the ECB for not distancing itself from Botham’s remarks, and refuted his claims that he had not been invited to contribute to its findings.

“I was disappointed the ECB didn’t call out Lord Botham,” Butts said.  “As chair of a first-class county, his words carry weight. The ECB didn’t see fit to come out and actually say ‘This is wrong.’

“I think that not only did they stay quiet, they resisted calls from stakeholders and people who were concerned about Lord Botham’s comments and they chose to stay silent. They should have had a moral backbone on this issue.

“We did invite Lord Botham to give evidence to us. He didn’t respond. The county which he chairs, Durham, contributed to our call for written evidence and we thank them for that.

“He said he didn’t know anybody who had contributed to our report when, in fact, a number of well-known named cricketers such as Heather Knight, the England women’s captain, responded and gave evidence to us. So, there are a number of untruths that he spoke about the report.”

Butts also said Botham’s comments were particularly disappointing considering his friendship with Black sporting icon and West Indies legend Viv Richards.

She added: “I was personally disappointed, not least because (Botham is) a sporting hero of mine. In fact, I would say the impact that Lord Botham had on me as a young working-class woman growing up in Shepherd’s Bush was really quite profound, to see his blossoming relationship with his arch-rival Vivian Richards.

“Richards (was) fiercely Black and consciously Black; (Botham) was the archetypal working-class white man and able to bridge those divides. To me, that spoke to the power of sport and the power of cricket, so I was personally disappointed at (Botham’s comments).”

Also on Tuesday, Yorkshire CCC Chairman Colin Graves, whose previous tenure from 2012 to 2015 covered the period when Rafiq was racially abused, admitted he had not apologized to the former player for his ordeal at the club.

Graves, who “personally and unreservedly” apologized to victims of the scandal in a statement issued last month, said he “didn’t think it was appropriate” to apologize personally to Rafiq and that he “just had plenty of things going on.”


Trainer Marco Botti looking forward to his first-ever runner at a Saudi race meet

Trainer Marco Botti looking forward to his first-ever runner at a Saudi race meet
Updated 20 February 2024
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Trainer Marco Botti looking forward to his first-ever runner at a Saudi race meet

Trainer Marco Botti looking forward to his first-ever runner at a Saudi race meet
  • Last year’s Yorkshire Cup Stakes winner, Giavellotto, will line up in the Red Sea Turf Handicap at the Saudi Cup meeting on Saturday
  • ‘He looks stronger and has been training so well. We are actually delighted. He looks fit and ready to go,’ Botti said of the horse

LONDON: Trainer Marco Botti said he is excited to see his first runner compete in a race in the Kingdom, at the Saudi Cup meet this weekend, and added that his charge, last year’s Group 2 Yorkshire Cup Stakes winner Giavellotto, is “ready to go.”

Giavellotto is due to line up on Saturday, Saudi Cup night, in the Group 3 Red Sea Turf Handicap, the field for which includes two other representatives of Team British Racing. Enemy, who finished second in the same race last year, will be aiming to go one better this time for trainer Ian Williams, while Roberto Escobarr, winner of the Italian St. Leger, will turn out for Mick Appleby’s yard.

Botti moved to Britain from Italy in 2006 to set up his training operation and has since won races at the highest level in eight countries.

“Giavellotto has done great,” he told Great British Racing International. “We were able to give him a nice break. I think he’s done really well over the winter. He looks stronger and has been training so well. We are actually delighted. He looks fit and ready to go.”

Botti has trained winners of Stakes races for owners from around the world, including prominent Italian owner-breeders the Franchini family, who own Giavellotto and race their horses under the Scuderia La Tesa banner.

“Mr. Franchini and his daughter, Francesca, bred the horse; Giavellotto has been the best horse they’ve had,” said Botto. “Francesca follows the horse everywhere he goes and of course she will be in Saudi (Arabia).

“They are based north of Italy, not far from Milan. They have about six horses with us in England and have been a great supporter, and lucky owners as well.”

Asked about traveling to compete at international meets, Botti said: “It’s fantastic to be able to travel with horses. We had success in Dubai, we had winners in America, and in Saudi (Arabia) he is actually the first runner for us and we are really looking forward to it.

“It’s important, and those are the kind of meetings I suppose our owners enjoy, just to be there and be part of it.”


Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens

Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens
Updated 20 February 2024
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Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens

Jota out for months, says Klopp, as Liverpool’s injury crisis deepens
  • “It will obviously take months,” Klopp said
  • The injury potentially threatens Jota’s involvement in the European Championship in Germany

LIVERPOOL, England: Liverpool forward Diogo Jota will be missing for months because of injury, manager Jurgen Klopp said on Tuesday.
The Portugal international hurt his right knee in the first half of Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Brentford in the English Premier League on Saturday.
“We have Diogo with a knee issue ruled out — it will obviously take months,” Klopp said ahead of Liverpool’s home match against Luton on Wednesday.
The injury potentially threatens Jota’s involvement in the European Championship in Germany starting in June.
Liverpool’s injury crisis have deepened, with nine senior players unavailable heading into a key period of the season that includes the English League Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday.
Klopp didn’t give a return date for injured pair Curtis Jones or Alisson Becker, and he described Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dominik Szoboszlai as “longer term” problems.
Striker Darwin Nunez was replaced at halftime against Brentford as a precaution.