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Women’s World Cup: Why France 2019 will go down as Megan Rapinoe’s tournament

USA co-captain Megan Rapinoe won the Golden Ball, the Golden Boot and the World Cup trophy in France”Equal pay! Equal pay!”The chorus of defiant chanting from fans at the sold-out Stade de Lyon confirmed everyone’s suspicions: this was Megan Rapinoe’s World Cup.The USA co-captain took home the trophy for the second tournament in a row.…

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Women’s World Cup: Why France 2019 will go down as Megan Rapinoe’s tournament

USA co-captain Megan Rapinoe won the Golden Ball, the Golden Boot and the World Cup trophy in France”Equal pay! Equal pay!”The chorus of defiant chanting from fans at the sold-out Stade de Lyon confirmed everyone’s suspicions: this was Megan Rapinoe’s World Cup.The USA co-captain took home the trophy for the second tournament in a row. She scored the opener in the final, won the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball and was the official Fifa player of the match in Lyon. Beyond the pitch, she’s defied the world’s most powerful leader, told football’s governing body they lack respect for the women’s game and voiced her LGBTQ+ allegiance with two simple words during Pride month: “Go gays!”Film stars are considering dying their hair purple as a tribute; her showman-like open-arm celebration became a meme. “Megan was built for these moments,” said victorious coach Jill Ellis after the USA’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands in Sunday’s final.”The bigger the spotlight, the bigger she shines.”USA beat Netherlands to win World CupRapinoe wins Golden Ball and Golden Boot

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Women’s World Cup: USA 2-0 Netherlands highlights

At 34, Rapinoe is far from a new face or name in women’s football. She has played for seven different clubs across three continents, winning the NWSL Shield with Reign FC on two occasions, as well as the French top division with Lyon. For her country, she is an Olympic gold medallist and now two-time World Cup winner.If you look back at her showreel, she has always been an entertainer. At the 2011 World Cup, when the Americans finished as runners-up to Japan, she scored against Colombia and celebrated by grabbing a stadium microphone and singing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”. But with the women’s game more visible and more popular than ever before, it feels as if Rapinoe – and what she stands for – is now centre stage. During the group stages, when the USA came through with three wins from three games, she was filmed saying she would not go to the White House – or words to that effect – if she was invited by President Trump. Cue a Twitter response from the US leader, which included the line: “Megan should win first, before she talks.”She was then shown on television screens worldwide staying silent during the national anthem, a move she has made in support of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick.The interest in the forward swelled, just in time for her to score the opener in the USA’s quarter-final win over hosts France.The Californian held court in the build-up to Sunday’s final, with journalists hanging on to her every word as she questioned Fifa’s unequal approach to prize money in the women’s and men’s game.”I feel invincible,” she said after lifting the trophy. “We’ve put on the most incredible show that anyone could have asked for. We can’t be better ambassadors. A little public shame never hurt anyone, right?”Of course, 158-cap Rapinoe isn’t the only star of the USA’s side – far from it, in fact.Alex Morgan has long been established as the commercial face of the national team, with extra-curricular activities including modelling, acting and writing. Morgan’s five goals in the USA’s 13-0 win over Thailand, plus another against England which prompted the famous tea-sipping celebration, put her in line to be top scorer before Rapinoe stepped up and equalled her tally against the Netherlands – taking the Golden Boot because she had scored six in fewer minutes. Washington Spirit midfielder Rose Lavelle was also impressive throughout, scoring three goals – including the second in Sunday’s final – and earning the Bronze Ball trophy for the tournament’s third-best player.But there was still only one name on everyone’s lips.”Megan’s a player who uses her platform and her voice in the right way and that’s needed – she stands up for things,” said BBC pundit and former England defender Alex Scott.”I’m not sure how long she’ll be around for but if she does stop she’ll be going out on top,” added goalkeeper Hope Solo, her former US team-mate. True to form, Rapinoe made a dramatic entrance as she came to talk to the media after the USA’s victory parade.She bounded in late, following a regulation doping test, and interrupted coach Ellis in mid-flow. “I’ve got a party to get to, y’all,” she quipped, before assuming her position in front of the microphone.”I think everyone is ready for this conversation to move to the next level,” she said when asked about the “equal pay” chanting at the final whistle, which was prompted by the arrival on the pitch of Fifa president Gianni Infantino.

Megan Rapinoe was presented with the Golden Boot by Fifa president Gianni Infantino”I think we are done with the questions like ‘are we worth it?’, ‘should we have equal pay?’ Everyone’s done with that. Let’s get to the next point of ‘what’s next?’ How do we support women around the world? How can Fifa do that?”While her country’s leader tweeted again, this time to offer his congratulations to the team, coach Ellis summed up Rapinoe’s influence on women’s football – and the global stage – in one sentence. “For some people the spotlight can burn – but for Megan, it highlights who she is.”BBC Sport has launched #ChangeTheGame this summer to showcase female athletes in a way they never have been before. Through more live women’s sport available to watch across the BBC this summer, complemented by our journalism, we are aiming to turn up the volume on women’s sport and alter perceptions. Find out more here.

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday. The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th…

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday.

The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th minute to help the Japanese side consolidate their position at the top of their group with two wins from as many matches.

They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings and assured of a spot in the knockout phase after the group was reduced to three teams following Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim’s withdrawal from the tournament.

In another match on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors pipped Sydney FC 1-0 in Group H with Na Sung-eun scoring in the 44th minute.

It was the Australian side’s third defeat in four matches while Jeonbuk revived their hopes with their first victory.

Iniesta, who was declared MVP of the match, had been an influential presence for Vissel Kobe throughout the encounter with his quick thinking and crisp passing, and that reflected in their first goal in the 44th minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The Spanish veteran dashed his way up on the left flank to control a long diagonal pass and after advancing further turned around near the goalline to tap the ball onto the path of the advancing Kyogo Furuhashi who struck with a clean, low shot from close range.

Furuhashi’s personal joy at scoring lasted only 10 minutes as the forward first conceded a corner and then watched in horror as his attempted clearance from the resultant kick found his own net to give Guangzhou the equalizer.

Cannavaro made three substitutions in a desperate bid for victory after having drawn their opening game against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. But although the two-time champions enjoyed a couple of brief purple patches during which they had the Kobe defence under pressure, the goal they were looking for never materialized.

Vissel Kobe regained the lead in the 74th minute when Douglas, who had just come in five minutes prior, took advantage of a great back-heel from Daigo Nishi and blasted the ball home.

Brazil-born Elekson, now known as Ai Kesen, had a goal disallowed for off-side on eight minutes and when Iniesta struck two minutes later, it extended Cannavaro’s misery in Doha.

“The result is bad. We tried but I know that something in my team is not clear. I don’t know if they are afraid to play or they are not confident anymore,” the Italian complained after the match.

“I need to try and do my best to give them the confidence to play. This is my job. I know they are very good players, and we can do much, much, much better.”

Vissel Kobe had landed in Doha after a string of disappointing results back home, conceding a whopping 58 goals in 33 league matches and losing five games in a row.

But their coach Atsuhiro Miura was basking in joy on Wednesday, saying he was ready with a game plan against a side packed with several Brazilians.

“Guangzhou is a very strong side, they have several good Brazilian players but we analysed how they play and how to prevent them from playing to their strengths,” said Miura.

“We did everything well and everything went how we wanted it to. That’s why we got this result.”

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament. The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize. The…

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament.

The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize.

The Kingdom opened its stadiums to women football supporters in January, 2018, but this is the first time they will have been allowed to compete in a tournament.

The competition has been lauded as an important step for the Saudi sports world, with many in the game throwing their support behind the event.

Calling the competition a “positive step,” Abdullah Alyami, Saudi football coach and sports reporter, said he expects many more women to participate in future tournaments.

“This is a very happy day for all athletes, be they male or female. And based on what we’ve seen, and how beloved the sport of football is all over the Kingdom, I believe we will see many more of our sisters getting involved in professional sports,” he said.
عبدالله اليامي: انطلاق #الدوري_النسائي في #السعودية خطوة إيجابية.. وأتوقع إقبالا كبيرا على المشاركة في فرق كرة القدم النسائية#تواصل #قناة_الرسالة@m3sss3 pic.twitter.com/UxRa8pZSWo
— قناة الرسالة (@alresalahnet) November 17, 2020
Saudi sports reporter Riyan Al-Jidani tweeted his support.

“To all my dear sisters participating the Women’s Football League, your success in the tournament is a step in the right direction towards our dream of universality and representing our homeland to the outside world. Raising the flag on the field is a glory and pride,” he said.

The tournament was due to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.

But for some that just presented the opportunity to up their game.

“We started preparations early, and the delay due to the pandemic actually worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach at Dammam-based Eastern Flames FC.

Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, previously told Arab News that she had been playing the beautiful game since she was eight.

“There was a match every weekend. The boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” said Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate. She joined her first female football team, Challenge, in Riyadh in 2014.

She said: “It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time I felt as though it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league), I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything.”

The matches won’t be broadcast, but Saudi’s army of football fans remain excited by the tournament.

Wejdan Al-Shammary, who grew up playing sports in school, said she would have tried for a team “in a heartbeat” if she had been just a few years younger.

“I played both basketball and football on my high school teams. I was a complete sports nut, but it makes me happy to know that even if it’s too late for me to achieve those dreams, there’s a chance now for young Saudi girls that I never had,” she said.

Najla Ahmed, a 16-year-old from Riyadh who plays on her school’s football team, said she would try for a local team in 2021.

“I’ll be 17, and therefore eligible, and I would love to see anyone try and stop me,” she said.

Both women said they hoped this was just the start and that more sports would be opened up to women.

“Football is just the beginning. I would love to see more focus on other sports, as well. Basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming,” said Al-Shammary. “I’m sure we have so many potential Olympians among us who just need their talents nurtured.”

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
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