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Saudi Arabia should bid for women’s World Cup, says former coach

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Saudi Arabia women may be a long way away from qualifying for the women’s World Cup, but a more realistic aim would be to host the tournament in the future, the country’s technical director of the women’s game Monika Staab told Reuters.

Staab, who had stints as a player in her native Germany, France and England, was the first coach of the newly set up Saudi Arabia women’s football team in 2021 before moving to her current role in February.

The team played their first games in February 2022 and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) board member Lamia bin Bahian stated the goal was for the side to be a participant at the World Cup within 10 years.

Staab, 64, said that may take longer but that a quicker route could be to play in the tournament as the host nation.

“I told them that something takes time. It’s like a little baby, it needs to stand up, it needs to learn how to walk… So we’re talking about at least 10 years development and they’re going at a very fast speed,” the German told Reuters at the International Sports Convention in London.

“I’m not sure now anymore if it will really happen in 10 years, I told them 2035 could be a realistic aim, because we started in 2021… I think that for me it is more realistic to maybe host the Women’s World Cup in Saudi Arabia.”

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The hosts for the women’s World Cup usually get a short amount of time to prepare, with the 2027 host nation set to be appointed by FIFA in May next year.

Saudi Arabia are already bidding to host the 2026 Women’s Asian Cup which is due to be decided this month.

It is part of a wider strategy of the Gulf nation to host huge sporting events. Saudi Arabia will host the men’s Club World Cup later this year, having already hosted the men’s Spanish Super Cup and events in Formula One and boxing.

EQUALITY ISSUES

A bid for the men’s World Cup in 2030 is expected to come through. However, critics have accused Saudi Arabia of using sport to cover up its poor record on human rights and equality issues in a country where men still retain a tight grip on power.

That was part of the backlash to a possible Visit Saudi sponsorship of this year’s women’s World Cup, to be held in Australia and New Zealand from July 20-Aug. 20. World soccer governing body FIFA announced in March that the Saudi tourism board would not sponsor the tournament. read more

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Staab, who has worked as a coach in Bahrain and Qatar, said she was not best placed to comment on the sponsorship issue but that it was important for FIFA to look at ways to help women’s football in countries that were early in their development.

“I’ve been in 88 countries in the last 15 years to develop women’s football, especially in Africa where the financial resources are very, very, very weak,” she said.

“No fields are available, no equipment. So FIFA have been doing great jobs in India helping women football to grow and especially in countries where the money is not so easy to access for women’s football.

“So I think it’s always good when FIFA is having the opportunity to help this development countries to get better and to rich one day like the USA, Germany or England.”

It would help, she added, if more women were in leadership positions. Currently, it is understood nine of FIFA’s 211 member associations are led by women.

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“It’s important to get more women in this football male dominated world. Because we have a different view, we have different ideas, which we contribute to have the game for everyone. And that’s what we stand for. I think all men should also be thinking in that way,” Staab said.

-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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International Football

Two Moroccan football players lost at sea, says club official

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Abdellatif Akhrif, IRT player reported missing off the coast of M'diq this Saturday, July 6, 2024. © COPYRIGHT: IRT

Two Moroccan players from top-flight soccer side Ittihad Tanger have been missing at sea since Saturday after strong currents drifted their small yacht, a club official said on Sunday.

They were in a group of five players from the club who went cruising off the northern city of Tangier when strong currents and heavy winds drifted their yacht away as they were swimming in deep waters, club deputy president Anass Mrabet told Reuters.

“Three players have already been rescued on Saturday, while research is still ongoing for the missing Salman Harraq and Abdellatif Akhrif,” he said.

The players did not have buoys on them when they jumped from the small yacht to swim, he said citing recounts by rescued players.

While Akhrif, 24, is already a full member of the squad, Harraq, 18, was about to move up to the senior team this year, Mrabet added.

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Ittihad Tanger have been in the Moroccan top flight since 2015 and won the league title for the first and only time in their history in the 2017-18 season. However, they have struggled in the lower half of the standings in recent years.

-Reuters

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International Football

FIFA launches ‘Football Manager’ World Cup with $100,000 in prize money

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FIFA's Chief of Global Football Development and former soccer manager Arsene Wenger speaks during the 74th FIFA Congress at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 17, 2024. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo

FIFA will host its first ever FIFAe World Cup of Football Manager this year to crown the best virtual manager on the highly-popular video game, world soccer’s governing body said on Thursday.

FIFA is partnering with Sports Interactive, the developers of the game that has sold millions of copies and has also been used by several football clubs to scout players and opponents thanks to its extensive database.

Players will compete for $100,000 in prize money in the final event from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.

“This competition requires participants to demonstrate a profound understanding of football strategy and tactics,” said former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is the ambassador for the esports event.

“Success demands not only mastery of game mechanics but also in-depth football knowledge, making this format a fascinating blend.”

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FIFA said in the inaugural year of the event, selected member associations will be invited to be represented at the final event.

Member associations from all six confederations are expected to be invited while players can sign up on FIFA’s website.

-Reuters

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio robbed at gunpoint

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Former Italy international Roberto Baggio was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint at his home in northern Italy while watching his country’s match against Spain in the Euro 2024 tournament on Thursday, local police said.

Burglars broke into Baggio’s house near Vicenza, hit him on the head with a gun butt and locked him and his family in a room while they stole jewellery, watches and cash, daily Il Corriere della Sera reported. It said he suffered a deep wound.

“Luckily, the violence I suffered only resulted in a few stitches, bruises and a lot of fear. Now it is to overcome the fear,” Baggio was quoted as saying by Italian news agency ANSA.

Baggio, 57, played for clubs including Juventus (JUVE.MI), opens new tab, AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also played 56 times for Italy, scoring 27 goals, and is widely seen as one of his country’s all-time greats.

After the robbery, Baggio, widely known as the “divine ponytail”, was treated at a local hospital where he received stitches for the head wound, Italian media reported.

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Italy lost to Spain 1-0 on Thursday and now must avoid defeat by Croatia to guarantee progression in the tournament.

-Reuters

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