Female footballers from remote Chitral bring their game to Pakistani capital

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Chitral Women’s Sports Club football team train at Islamabad Sports Complex. (Supplied)
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Chitral Women’s Sports Club football team train at Islamabad Sports Complex. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Female footballers from remote Chitral bring their game to Pakistani capital

  • Chitral Women’s Sports Club founder Karishma Ali has organized a week-long training camp for female athletes in Islamabad
  • Club, founded two years ago with 60 girls, now has over 150 members

RAWALPINDI: Forty young football enthusiasts in matching black tracksuits jogged down the cement bleachers framing the expansive football pitch of the Islamabad Sports Complex on Tuesday, egging one another on and cheering as they embarked on a new day of sports and fun.

While athletes of all stripes could be seen on the many fields and tracks of the complex, what made this particular sight unique was that all of the athletes were young girls from Pakistan’s northernmost, long-neglected region of Chitral. The girls were brought to the capital by the Chitral Women’s Sports Club, the brainchild of national football star Karishma Ali.

Running a football club for girls from poor families in a remote, mountainous area of Pakistan is not easy during a pandemic, but Ali has not let the challenging circumstances stop her from pursuing her dream of helping girls in her native Chitral region.

“Usually when we do our activities, it’s kept secret and done far from their villages for security reasons,” Ali, 23, told Arab News on Tuesday, at the Islamabad Sports Complex. “This is why I brought them here, to give them a more comfortable environment. You can already see the change in their confidence, how they are playing out in the open versus at home.”

Ali started her club two years ago with 60 girls between the ages of 8 and 16. Now the club has over 150 members who ski and play volleyball, cricket and football.

Ali hopes the club will help the girls overcome both sexual discrimination and poverty in a country where boys’ education and sports are prioritized. Her dream is to help her girls win sports scholarships in professional colleges in Pakistan and beyond.

“These girls have talent,” said Ali, who has represented her country at international football tournaments. “If we get requisite support, we can have 1,000 female footballers from Chitral.”

In Islamabad, the footballers are attending a week-long camp from Jan. 23-29 under Coach Jose Alonso who runs a Spanish Football Academy in the capital. The camp has also given them the opportunity to interact and play with other female football stars.

“I am excited and happy because I see the girls smiling every day,” said Ali. “I haven’t seen a single upset face. They are getting the chance not only to play the way other athletes get to play and practice out in the open, but also to have fun.”

Indeed, for many of the girls, aged between 12 and 16, this is their first time away from home and in the capital.

“We do not get opportunities like this back home. Just having the chance to come and play every day has been really fun,” Zakira Nida, 14, said. “That’s what we lack the most: opportunities.”

“Boys get a lot of chances to play in our region,” said Mehek Sultan, 15. “But our society does not just consist of boys. We are here, too. We should also get to play because participating in sports is good for everyone.”

The Pakistani women’s football team, which faced a FIFA ban due to inactivity in 2013, remained dormant even after the ban was lifted in 2017. Last year in October 2020, the Pakistan Football Federation began work to revive the sport by organizing football camps.

Ali’s own passion for football began when she was nine years old and watched the 2006 FIFA World Cup with her father.

“I just knew this is the game for me,” she had said in media interviews last year.

But it was not easy. When the community discovered Ali’s football career, some were deeply hostile, and she received messages threatening to kill her if she continued.

“It was seen as inappropriate culturally because I would wear shorts, thereby baring my skin,” she told reporters.

The situation eased in 2019 when Ali was selected for Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 Asia list of rising stars and the community began to recognize her achievements.

Now, Ali says it is high time people in Pakistani sports management begin to believe in women.

“Women’s teams are becoming famous all over the world,” she said. “In the US, they are winning the fight to be paid equally and we are still fighting for our right to play.”


Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

Updated 27 February 2021

Mourinho says pressure at Spurs ‘like oxygen’

LONDON: Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho said on Friday that being under pressure was “like oxygen” for him as he seeks to turn around the club’s terrible Premier League form.
Mourinho’s job has come under scrutiny after a run of five Premier League defeats in six games left them ninth in the table — nine points outside the top four.
But the Portuguese, whose team topped the table in December, said it was just part of the job.
“The problem is if you don’t have pressure,” he said. “I felt in trouble when I was at home and did not have pressure for a few months.
“That’s the problem. It comes like oxygen, it is our life; I don’t think there is any coach in the world without objectives or any kind of pressure.
“You just get used to it and also used to the way the press is at the time, you just have to adapt to it.”
Mourinho said earlier this week that he was confident he would be remembered for the right reasons at Spurs despite overseeing a collapse in their form during his first full season in charge.
The poor run in the league is unprecedented for the 58-year-old in a long and mostly successful managerial career at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
However, Tottenham’s season could still be saved by success in cup competitions.
Spurs will meet Dinamo Zagreb in the last 16 of the Europa League after completing an 8-1 aggregate win over Austrian side Wolfsberg this week.
Mourinho’s men also face Premier League leaders Manchester City in the League Cup final in April — looking to win their first silverware
in 13 years.
 


Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

Updated 27 February 2021

Solskjaer wary of Chelsea challenge in battle for top four

LONDON: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes the race for the Premier League top four will go down to the wire as Manchester United prepare to face Thomas Tuchel’s revitalized Chelsea on Sunday.
United were knocked off top spot by Manchester City on Jan. 26 and a run of just two wins in six top-flight matches means they are now 10 points behind their rivals.
Second-placed United head to the Etihad Stadium for a Manchester derby clash on March 7 but before then they have back-to-back fixtures away to London clubs, with Sunday’s match against Chelsea followed by Wednesday’s game with Crystal Palace.
“We’ve got Chelsea just behind us, we’ve got City away in front of us,” said Solskjaer.
“Of course we can’t let them run further away if we have ambitions of catching them and we can’t give Chelsea too much hope to catch us either.”
Solskjaer believes United are over their recent wobble ahead of the match at Stamford Bridge, where Tuchel has made an impressive impact since succeeding Frank Lampard last month.
The Blues have yet to lose under the German and can halve the six-point gap to United on Sunday as the race for Champions League qualification spots heats up.
“You can see the results, you can see the stats, the possession they’ve had, they keep teams away from their own goal, keep the possession,” Solskjaer said.
“He’s (Tuchel) done really well ... It’s never easy coming into a season halfway through so he must be pleased as well. Hopefully we can stop that run. That’s my job now.”
The Norwegian predicted a tense battle for Champions League places with a third of the season still to go.
City, United, Leicester and West Ham are currently in the top four but a clutch of teams, including Chelsea and champions Liverpool, harbor ambitions of dislodging them.
“I don’t think the positions will be decided early,” said former United striker Solskjaer.
“With this season as well, it’s unpredictable. We’ve seen teams going through bad phases then a run and then who knows what’s going to happen with injuries, with how players react to the circumstances.”
Solskjaer’s remarks came as Manchester United and AC Milan prepare to meet in the round of 16 of the Europa League, putting 39-year-old forward Zlatan Ibrahimović up against his former English club.
Ibrahimovic played for United for two years, including in the 2016-17 season when United won its only Europa League title.
Milan, a seven-time European Cup champion, has never won the Europa League or its predecessor the UEFA Cup — the only continental title it is missing.
“It’s one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game,” Solskjaer said on Friday.
United dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in its Champions League group. Milan last played in the top-tier competition in 2014.
Both teams are on track to qualify for the next Champions League, in second place in their domestic leagues trailing crosstown rivals Manchester City and Inter Milan, respectively.
“They’re on the up and have done really well this season,” Solskjaer said of Milan, who are scheduled to visit Old Trafford for the first leg on March 11.
The return leg at San Siro is one week later.
Arsenal will face Olympiakos and go back to Piraeus for its second straight game in the competition.
The London team used Olympiakos’ stadium as a neutral venue on Thursday and beat Benfica 3-2 in the “home” leg in the round of 32.
Arsenal and Olympiakos will be meeting in a European competition for the sixth time in the past 12 seasons. Olympiakos won in the last 32 a year ago.
Two-time UEFA Cup champion Tottenham will face Dinamo Zagreb and play the first leg in Croatia, while 1992 champion Ajax is at home first against Swiss club Young Boys.
 


Peshawar Zalmi cricket team launches Pashto language anthem 

Updated 26 February 2021

Peshawar Zalmi cricket team launches Pashto language anthem 

  • Zalmi’s main anthem Kingdom was a runaway success, loved both by the team’s fans and supporters of opponents
  • ’Dedicate it to passionate Zalmi fans who always enjoy Pashto language anthems,’ Zalmi owner Javed Afridi says 

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi, one of the teams competing in the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) cricket tournament, on Thursday released a Pashto language anthem called ‘Shamla,’ an ode to the culture and traditions of the ethnically Pashtun-dominant Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that the Zalmi team represents.
Shamla, which means turban in Pahsto, is written by Laiqzada Laiq, sung by Pashto folk singer Gul Panra and composed by the famous music band Khumariyaan.


“Before every PSL we release two anthems,” chairman of the Peshawar Zalmi team, Javed Afridi, told Arab News. “We always try to present something different and special… We dedicate it [Shamla] to our passionate Zalmi fans who always enjoy the anthem in traditional folk and Pashto language.”
Zalmi’s title anthem, Kingdom, released last week, was sung by Abdullah Siddiqui and Atlamash, and features Zalmi ambassadors Mahira Khan, Hania Aamir and Ali Rehman, three Pakistani actors, as well as Turkish star Esra Bilgiç, who played Halime Sultan in the popular series Diriliş: Ertuğrul.
Kingdom track was a runaway success, praised equally by both Zalmi fans and supporters of opponent teams.
Arab News Pakistan is an international media parter of the Peshawar Zalmi team for a second year in a row.


Sports court reduces ban on Pakistan's Akmal with $27,000 fine 

Updated 26 February 2021

Sports court reduces ban on Pakistan's Akmal with $27,000 fine 

  • Akmal was suspended in Feb 2020 for failing to report corrupt approaches made to him just before fifth Pakistan Super League
  • PCB’s disciplinary panel last April found Akmal guilty on two charges of separate breaches and handed him a three-year suspension 

ISLAMABAD: The Court of Arbitration for Sports has reduced the ban on international cricketer Umar Akmal to 12 months and fined him 4.25 million rupees ($27,000) for breaching the Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti-corruption code.
Akmal was suspended in February 2020 for failing to report details of corrupt approaches made to him just before the start of the fifth Pakistan Super League.
The PCB’s disciplinary panel last April found Akmal guilty on two charges of separate breaches and handed him a three-year suspension — with the periods of ineligibility to run concurrently.
That ban was halved after Akmal appealed to an independent adjudicator, before both Akmal and the PCB took the matter to the CAS.
The PCB on Friday said the 30-year-old Akmal is now eligible to reintegrate into competitive cricket, subject to paying the fine, and also has to go through the rehabilitation program under the cricket board’s anti-corruption code.
Akmal has represented Pakistan in more than 200 international cricket matches, including 16 tests.
“The PCB once again urges and reminds all participants to abide by their duty and promptly report any approaches to the anti-corruption officers and help themselves as well as the anti-corruption unit's effort to eliminate the anathema of fixing,” the PCB said in the statement.


Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

Updated 26 February 2021

Diriyah E-Prix night race will be ‘historic’ occasion: Prince Khalid

  • 2020-21 Formula E season opening double-header to run on Feb. 26-27

DIRIYAH, Riyadh: It is all systems go for the 2020-21 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship season as the first of the Diriyah E-Prix double-header of races on Friday prepares to get under starter’s orders in Riyadh.

History will once again be made when the single-seater series, given championship status by the FIA for the first time, takes place at night over the weekend.

“Formula E is back to Diriyah as the opening race of season seven, and to mark a world first, as the first ever night race in the history of Formula E,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, chairman of the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, told a virtual press conference.

“On Feb. 26 and 27, the whole world will yet again watch the Kingdom host a global sporting spectacle, under the guidance and support of our government, one that followed every detail and offered all the leadership and support needed to ensure all logistical and health measures are applied at the highest global standards, despite the ongoing challenge that the world is facing due to (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19, and its huge impact on the sport industry,” he said.

Diriyah, the ancient UNESCO heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh, was the first seat of power for Saudi kings, and today has quickly become home to several records in the world of motorsports.

In 2018, the site hosted the first all-electric race in the Middle East and welcomed international sports tourists for the first time.

In 2019, Diriyah once again captured headlines as the iconic venue hosting the opening weekend of season six, featuring a double-header of back-to-back races for the first time. And now season seven is poised for another first under the bright lights and in the spotlight of global sporting attention.

“Hosting the race at night and utilizing the best available technology to ensure its success is a clear evidence that our leadership gives sport the utmost priority and shows the close connection between sports and the sustainable future which will be headlined by clean renewable energy. It will be a historic race,” added Prince Khalid.

Lighting the track with the latest low-consumption LED technology will reduce energy usage by up to 50 percent compared to non-LED technologies. The remaining energy needed to power the floodlighting will be fully renewable provided by high-performing low-carbon certified hydrogenated vegetable oil made from sustainable materials.

Formula E CEO, Jamie Reigle, said: “We are looking forward to the start of season seven, and what a way to start with the first ever night race.

“We had our priorities set on ensuring a safe race with all COVID-19 guidelines in place, but also focused on how we can make this year’s races even better with the high bar that the previous Diriyah E-Prix races have set.

“Of course, our utmost priority is always about sustainability and ensuring that the future of car racing is environmentally friendly. The sustainable night lights will ensure breathtaking scenes to everyone watching at home and a new, exciting experience to the teams and drivers,” he added.

Reigle described Formula E’s partnership with the Ministry of Sport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation as “brilliant,” and he thanked them for their support in helping to make the race become a reality.

Meanwhile, Carlo Boutagy, founder and CEO of CBX, the official race promoter, said that organizing the first night races had been an “amazing experience,” and promised memorable television viewing.

“Diriyah looks beautiful as always, the night lights are in place, the safety measures are all set and working. We can’t wait to go green in Diriyah this Friday to organize a spectacle unlike any other.

“We will surely miss the fans, but their safety comes first, so we made sure they enjoy an unmissable experience while watching the races live on KSA Sports this weekend,” Boutagy added.

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