Women wrestlers grappling their way to recognition in Jordan

Women wrestlers grappling their way to recognition in Jordan
Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, but female wrestling, now one of the fastest-growing sports in many parts of the world, is relatively new. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 February 2024
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Women wrestlers grappling their way to recognition in Jordan

Women wrestlers grappling their way to recognition in Jordan
  • Amman to host first Arab Women’s Wrestling Championship in May, followed by Asian championships in June
  • There are now 21 clubs and 19 referees in the country, says federation president

AMMAN: Jordan, the Middle East and Asia are in for a major treat early this summer. The first Arab Women’s Wrestling Championship will be held in May followed by the Asian Wrestling Championship in June — all in the capital Amman.

Wrestling is one of the world’s oldest sports, but female wrestling, now among the fastest-growing athletic pursuits in many parts of the planet, is relatively new. Women’s wrestling became an Olympic sport a little over two decades ago when it was approved for the 2000 Games in Japan.

In Jordan, women’s wrestling began just two years ago and has already made huge progress, according to Iran-born world medalist Afsoon Johnston, who was gushing in praise for the nation’s female athletes during her visit to the country in February. “I was pleasantly surprised that in such a short time how much progress has been made. I am excited about the future of girls and women’s wrestling in Jordan,” she told Arab News.

Johnston hopes this will be the first of many visits, calling Jordan a “beautiful and hospitable country.” She, along with several other world-class women wrestlers, held wrestling clinics and met the country’s top sports leaders as Jordan prepares to host the two big regional female events.

Rana Al-Saeed, secretary-general of the Jordan Olympic Committee, told Arab News that the Jordan Wrestling Federation began to revive female wrestling by forming national teams. “They contributed to shedding more light on this sport and encouraging girls in Jordan to learn about this sport first and then motivate them to practice it,” she told Arab News. Al-Saeed said that the Jordan Olympic Committee supports the wrestling federation’s bid to develop the sport for men and women.




Al Saeed said that the Jordanian Olympic Committee supports the Jordanian Wrestling Federation’s directions in this regard and its constant efforts to raise the status of Jordanian wrestling, both at the men’s and women’s levels.” (Supplied)

The responsibility for the success of the sport falls on the shoulders of Mohammed Al-Awamleh, president of the Jordan Wrestling Federation. His vision and perseverance have already created significant momentum. “We have more than tripled the number of Jordanian clubs participating in wrestling from six to 21, and the number of certified women wrestling referees has nearly doubled from nine to 19,” he said.

Dan Russell, a former wrestler who has made Amman his home for the past five years, has assisted in developing the sport in the country and the region. “As the ambassador for Wrestling for Peace in Jordan, I am proud of the hard work and intentional grassroots efforts to grow opportunities for boys and girls to participate in the sport of Olympic wrestling. I am committed to helping the Jordan Olympic Committee and the Jordan Wrestling Federation accomplish their outstanding efforts. It was my honor to introduce the Jordan Wrestling Federation to some of the best global leaders in the sport of wrestling.” 

Russell, who is also board secretary of the US Wrestling Foundation, says that the idea of getting women in the Middle East to wrestle professionally is a goal of the NGO he runs. “This Wrestling for Peace initiative included outstanding delegates from Titan Mercury Wrestling Club, Hoomanities, and Wrestle Like a Girl, bringing their expertise to support the growth and development of Olympic wrestling in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Al-Awamleh and Russell are not the only ones working for women’s wrestling. Jordanians in leadership positions are also supportive. Sally Roberts, CEO of Wrestle Like a Girl and two-time women’s wrestling world medalist, was excited to fulfill an invitation by her former board member to visit Jordan and meet some of them.




Sally was full of praise for the drive and pursuit toward gender equality in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, calling it “an exemplary example of the promise and possibilities for the girls and women in the region and worldwide". (Supplied)

In Amman, Prince Ali Ben Hussein, the chair of the Jordanian Football Federation and brother of King Abdullah, invited Roberts and the entire group of world-famous wrestlers to dinner the same day Jordan’s football team returned from gaining the silver medal in the Asia Cup in Qatar. Roberts praised the development of the sport in Jordan, calling it “an exemplary example of the promise and possibilities for the girls and women in the region and worldwide. From the wrestling mat to the boardroom, women’s leadership is on the rise, and we look forward to working with all communities to make the hopes and dreams of everyone a reality.”

But despite Jordan’s upbeat attitude regarding the big championships they will be hosting, it is clear that many women will not be able to participate in the sport. Dress codes, set by the Swiss-based United World Wrestling Association make it difficult for devout Muslim women to participate. The traditional Islamic headcover, the hijab, is forbidden, as are uniforms with long sleeves. Al-Awamleh, however, is not overly concerned. “I know that these are difficult requirements that will mean we will not be able to include many good athletic women on our rooster, but we are confident that we can eventually reverse this rule.”

Al-Awamleh’s confidence comes from the fact that Prince Ali had successfully reversed a similar dress code by FIFA for women’s football players. “One of the things we are hoping that the UWW leadership will realize when we host the championship is the importance of this sport and the need for it to be inclusive to all athletes and not to discriminate against some for their religious attire.” Asian countries like Iran have always done well in men’s wrestling championships, but as Afsoon says in a book distributed in Jordan about her life, it will take some time before we see Iranian women on the mat.

One person who may help sway the UWW board is US wrestling celebrity, Hooman D. Tavakolian, also of Iranian origin and part of the visiting delegation to Jordan. Tavakolian is an accomplished wrestler, businessperson, and member of the UWW board. Founder of the Hoomanities NGO, and board member of the Mercury Titan Wrestling Club, Hooman explains the attitudes he witnessed during his visit to Jordan which he says left “indelible marks” on his heart.

“The spirit, fortitude, and vision of the Jordanian Wrestling Federation to grow the opportunities for women in wrestling at all levels and welcoming all women in Jordan to the wrestling mat is an example for the rest of the region and world to emulate. The warmth and generosity of the people of Jordan are incredible and I am honored to have been welcomed. I am so excited for the future of women’s wrestling in Jordan and for the inclusion of all Jordanian and Arab women who wish to participate in this sport that builds resilience, character, and confidence.”

At the end of the visit to Jordan, the American wrestling-related NGOs signed agreements with the Jordan Wrestling Federation, aimed at strengthening cooperation. They will exchange experts — coaches, wrestlers and referees — and participate in the camps, conferences and championships in Jordan and the US. Wrestle Like a Girl will support a coach from the US for six to 12 months in Jordan and will provide scholarships from a recognized university in the US for the athletes. Critically, all US-based NGOs have committed to support the project of allowing female athletes with hijab to participate in international tournaments.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the visit Roberts said wrestling was more than just a sport. “Win or lose, for many women wrestling is an important step in building confidence, self-esteem, and knowing that she can always defend herself in any circumstance.”


Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad

Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad
Updated 24 May 2024
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Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad

Pakistan retains pacer Haris Rauf in T20 World Cup squad
  • The tournament will run from June 1 to June 29 and be jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies
  • Pakistan’s Group A includes arch rivals India, and the team will face the United States in their first match

KARACHI: Pakistan retained fast bowler Haris Rauf when announcing on Friday their 15-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup, despite doubts over his fitness and lack of match practice.

The 30-year-old injured his shoulder during Pakistan Super League in February and is expected to play in the second Twenty20 international in Birmingham on Saturday – his first outing since recovery.

Pakistan Cricket Board’s selection committee said Rauf is fit and raring to go.

“Rauf is full fit and bowling well in the nets,” said a PCB release. “It would have been nice if he had gotten an outing in the first match at Headingley but we remain confident that he will continue to maintain an upward trajectory in the coming matches.”

The Headingley match between Pakistan and England was abandoned due to rain.

Pakistan is the 20th and the last team to announce the squad as they continued to search for combination since their 2-2 series draw at home against New Zealand last month.

Babar Azam will lead the squad in the World Cup, his third T20 World Cup as skipper.

The tournament will run from June 1 to June 29 and be jointly hosted by the United States and West Indies.

Teams are divided in four groups of five with the top two teams qualifying for the Super Eight Stage in which all matches will be played in the West Indies.

Pakistan’s Group A includes arch rivals India as well as Canada and Ireland.

Pakistan will face United States in their first match in Dallas on June 6.

Fast bowler Hasan Ali, as well as batters Agha Salman and Muhammad Irfan Khan were left off the squad.

Fast bowler Mohammad Amir – the only survivor of Pakistan’s 2009 Twenty20 World Cup triumph – is meanwhile staging a comeback after coming out of retirement two months ago.

He is part of a strong pace attack spearheaded by Shaheen Shah Afridi, Rauf, Naseem Shah and Abbas Afridi.

Pakistan lost in the semifinal of the 2021 Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and in the final in Australia in 2022.

Squad: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Saim Ayub, Fakhar Zaman, Usman Khan, Azam Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Abbas Afridi, Haris Rauf, Abrar Ahmed.


Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports

Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports
Updated 24 May 2024
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Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports

Man Utd to sack Ten Hag even if they win FA Cup: reports
  • Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said the Premier League club had decided to take the ruthless step after a dismal season
  • Van Gaal was fired just two days after United’s FA Cup final victory against Crystal Palace in 2016

LONDON: Manchester United will sack embattled manager Erik ten Hag after the FA Cup final against Manchester City regardless of the result at Wembley, it was reported on Friday.
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said the Premier League club had decided to take the ruthless step after a dismal season.
If Ten Hag’s two-year reign does end following the City clash, his exit would provoke memories of fellow Dutchman Louis van Gaal’s Old Trafford departure.
Van Gaal was fired just two days after United’s FA Cup final victory against Crystal Palace in 2016.
United finished an embarrassing eighth in the Premier League this season — their lowest final position since 1990 — and crashed out of the Champions League in the group stage.
Ten Hag has been the subject of intense speculation over his future, months after British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe took a minority stake in the club and assumed control of football operations.
United insist no decision has been made on the Dutchman’s future and say a full review will take place after Saturday’s showpiece against the Premier League champions, who are chasing their second straight league and FA Cup double.
The club have been linked with a list of names including Thomas Tuchel, Mauricio Pochettino, England’s Gareth Southgate and Ipswich boss Kieran McKenna, who has previously coached at Old Trafford.
Speaking before the latest report emerged, United goalkeeper Andre Onana said the final was “extra motivation” after an injury-hit season in which many of their star players flopped.
“We lost twice against City already (in the Premier League),” he said. “We know how good they are. Best team at the moment — all of our respect — but we go there to win. A final.”
Onana, who also played under Ten Hag at Ajax, stood up for his manager, describing him as a “good guy, a good coach.”
“Tactically he’s very good and he showed it last season,” said the Cameroon international. “I was not here last season and they got top four.
“This season a lot of things happened. I’m not here to back him. He is big enough to back himself. But he is a really good guy, he is a positive coach and tactically he’s good.
“If he had all his squad it would probably be different. This season is difficult for him, for us, for the club, for the fans.”
Saturday’s match offers United a shot at silverware against their bitter rivals and a route to Europa League qualification.
“It would make things look better,” said Onana, who has had an inconsistent first season at Old Trafford.
“It’s important to end well and winning this game would mean we’re in the Europa League.”


‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev
Updated 24 May 2024
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‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

‘Happy I’m not playing Nadal,’ says Medvedev

PARIS: Daniil Medvedev said he was “happy” not to have been drawn to face 14-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open first round as the great Spaniard prepares to bid an emotional farewell to the tournament.
Nadal, who has only lost three times in 115 matches at Roland Garros since his title-winning debut in 2005, is playing the French Open for the last time.
In a blockbuster first match, unseeded Nadal will face fourth-ranked Alexander Zverev and world number five Medvedev could not be more delighted.
“I’m not shy to say I’m happy it’s not me playing against him first round,” admitted Medvedev on Friday, a day after practicing with Nadal.
Former world number one and 22-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, whose ranking has slumped to 276 after featuring in just four tournaments since January last year, will turn 38 on June 3.
However, Medvedev warned Zverev that Nadal is far from a fading force.
“There’s a lot of hard work, a lot of mental effort. Sometimes people forget he has a lot of talent in his hands also,” said the Russian.
“We were warming up serves and then he did three in a row, volley, dropshots, banana ones, with backspin, and it was funny.
“We were saying, ‘Yeah, no talent, just hard work!’“
Nadal holds a 7-3 winning head-to-head record against Zverev with five of those victories coming on clay.
The last time they met was in the 2022 semifinals in Paris when the German was forced to retire after suffering a serious ankle injury.
“It’s tough to play Rafa,” added Medvedev.
“He has the capability to spin the ball not like other players, get these high balls especially on clay, is not easy.
“Then we go to where he fights for every point, he brings intensity to every point. You know you’re going to be tired, you know it’s going to be tough. It’s not easy.”


Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season

Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season
Updated 24 May 2024
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Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season

Barcelona say Xavi will not return as coach next season
  • The club said Laporta “has informed Xavi Hernández that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season”
  • His departure comes a month after Xavi had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer

BARCELONA: Barcelona say coach Xavi Hernandez is leaving the club at the end of the season.
The Spanish club made the announcement Friday after a meeting between club president Joan Laporta, Xavi and several other senior figures at the team’s training ground.
The club said Laporta “has informed Xavi Hernández that he will not be continuing as first team coach in the 2024-25 season.”
Xavi’s last game in charge will be Sunday’s away game against Sevilla on the final day of the league season.
His departure comes a month after Xavi had reversed a previous decision made in January to leave the club this summer. In April, the 44-year-old Xavi said that he had changed his mind after his players showed him that they believed in the team’s potential and had improved their performances.
But Laporta had reportedly been displeased by Xavi’s recent comments in a news conference that Barcelona’s poor financial situation would make it nearly impossible to compete against Real Madrid and Europe’s other top clubs.
The former midfielder led Barcelona to the Spanish league title last year, but the team are eight points behind already crowned champion Madrid going into the last round.
As a player, Xavi left Barcelona in 2015 after helping the club win 25 titles, including four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues in 17 seasons while forming a formidable trio with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. He was also key to Spain’s streak of titles when they won the 2010 World Cup and European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
Laporta brought Xavi back from his only prior coaching job in Qatar in November 2021 to lead his rebuilding project of a club that had just lost Messi amid a financial crisis.
The following summer the club sold off future television revenues and other club assets, which Laporta dubbed financial “levers,” to sign Robert Lewandowski and other players. Xavi was able to win the club’s first titles since Messi’s departure and the future looked bright.
This season, however, Barcelona lost all three ‘clasico’ matches against Madrid and were thumped twice by upstart Catalan rival Girona, losing both of their league matchups 4-2. They also lost in the quarterfinals of both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.


Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map

Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map
Updated 24 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map

Saudi Arabia spending big for a place on the gaming map
  • The kingdom has already been spending heavily with a $38-billion push into gaming

TOKYO: Saudi Arabia is moving aggressively with its investments in more gaming companies, the Canadian industry veteran steering the kingdom’s push to become a global hub for the sector told AFP Friday.
The kingdom has already been spending heavily with a $38-billion push into gaming under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 program, part of a plan to diversify the economy away from oil.
“We don’t pause. We don’t do neutral,” Savvy Games CEO Brian Ward said in a joint interview in Japan with Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, chair of the Saudi eSports Federation.
“It’s a good time to be in the market, looking for good teams in studios,” said Ward, a former executive at “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Microsoft.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has bought stakes in “Resident Evil” maker Capcom and Japanese giant Nintendo, as well as in Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts.
Savvy, a PIF subsidiary, in 2022 bought a $1.1-billion stake in Sweden’s Embracer in 2022 and bought Scopely, the US mobile games company behind “Monopoly Go!,” for $4.9 billion last year.
“There’s a lot we want to do to get it done and to reach our targets at 2030,” said Prince Faisal, who is also Savvy vice-chairman.
“But we also want to make sure that we are taking the time to study things, to look at things. And make sure we’re making the right steps and not just throwing cash out there to see what hits,” he said.
ESports World Cup
In eSports, Savvy also bought tournament organizer ESL Gaming and the platform FaceIt. Riyadh will also host the eSports World Cup in July and August, when 2,500 gamers will battle for $60 million in prize money.
Prince Faisal, who credits video games for giving him insights into real-life history, said the tournament would help put Saudi Arabia on the global gaming map.
“A gaming industry is something you can start now and you’ll see the results in five to 10 years. And so to start momentum going, to start a conversation, esports is a great entry point,” he said.
Saudi Arabia aims to create 250 gaming companies and studios on its soil, 39,000 game-related jobs, be in the top three of professional gamers per capita and to produce a blockbuster “AAA” game by 2030.
The objective at the same time is for gaming to account for one percent of gross domestic product, something which Prince Faisal admits “keeps me up most at night.”
“One of the amazing things is we have a long history of storytelling in our region. It’s typical Bedouin culture is sitting around a fire telling the story,” he said.
“The tools are there... I think we can come up with not just the next great game, but the next great story.”
Saudi Arabia’s gaming drive
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about Saudi and who we are as Saudis,” Prince Faisal said.
“And the best way that I can say to answer that is to come and see and what you’ll see on the ground is very different than the conception that’s out there.”
Ward said he had been assured that Saudi Arabia’s gaming drive would be “consistent with the values and culture of our industry.”
“We have been given carte blanche to operate like a true games company. We don’t do anything different at Savvy being based in Riyadh than we would if we were in New York, Los Angeles, or Berlin.”