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Saturday, December 07, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Women barred from seeing T&T in Saudi Arabia
T&T’s senior footballers did not have the privilege of showing off their skills in front of women at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh earlier this month. This is after the Saudi Football Federation (SAFF) failed to raise a ban that prevents women from entering stadiums to view football matches in the Kingdom.
In the few days leading up to the OSN Cup at which T&T played the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, there were appeals for women to be allowed entrance into the stadium and reports that the Football Federation would have lifted the ban but this was denied by the SAFF.
“SAFF confirms that there has been no official announcement to allow families to enter King Fahd Stadium in the capital Riyadh to attend matches at the friendly OSN Cup. There is no truth to reports circulated over the past hours that families will be allowed to attend matches,” a statement issued by the SAFF read.
The denial from SAFF came after Sulaiman al-Yousef, manager of King Fahad Stadium, told online news site Sabq that while the ban on Saudi women at stadiums remains in place, foreign women and children will be allowed to attend the games.
President of SAFF Ahmed Eid said it was not up to him to allow women to attend football matches in Saudi Arabia, adding that this decision must come from higher authorities in the kingdom.
“A decision like this is a sovereign decision. Only the political leadership in this country can make that decision,” Eid said.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that applies a strict interpretation of Islam with many restrictions on women. But the country sent two women to the Olympic Games for the first time last year in London in a step that was described by the former president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Jacques Rogge as a “major boost for gender equality”.
Despite repeated denial by Saudi officials, including Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, president of Youth Welfare, it appears that some Saudi women did attend the match against New Zealand. Al Arabiya posted a photo late on Thursday showing a woman in niqab and two girls sitting next to her in the blue seats of King Fahd Stadium for the match between Saudi Arabia and New Zealand.
At a visit to the Kingdom Mall in Riyahd on the off day, some Saudi ladies, took a risk and seemed to be breaking the rules as they posed for photos with some of the T&T team members while other passersby looked on in a bit of shock.
Promising start to the season “Something right must be happening.”
Those were the words from a fan at a T&T Football Association (TTFA) Super League encounter on the weekend as he chatted with friends about the evident increase in interest in local football over the past couple weeks.
It appears that a few promising performances by the flagship team— the men’s senior national team—has encourage strong attempts by the TTFA to steer the “football ship” the right way and a display of desire and determination in Saudi Arabia has left supporters keen on the future of the local game.
The hundreds of fans who showed up on the opening evening of the T&T Pro League last week at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva was a welcomed sight and sets the stage for what should turnout to be exciting derbies among the likes of Point Fortin Civic FC, W Connection and Central FC not to mention the return of Jabloteh and the improving North East Stars.
The Secondary Schools League can hopefully piggyback off the others and create the kind of stir of yesteryear, not to mention the encouraging signs of community interest at the TTFA Super League games. This could be a real September to December to remember. Stay tuned to see what’s in store for the “Soca Warriors” on the international stage before the end of the year.
T&T holds on to World Cup record
For yet another four years or more, T&T will hold on the record of being the smallest nation to ever qualify for a FIFA World Cup Finals. This after Cape Verde Islands was suspended from the final round of qualification in Africa for fielding an ineligible player against Tunisia in a qualifier.
Cape Verde – an archipelago of 10 islands in the central Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles off the coast of western Africa – defeated Tunisia 2-0 in Rades on Saturday to win the group. They would have entered the 10-team playoffs that decides Africa's five representatives in Brazil next year but FIFA said its disciplinary committee decided that Fernando Varela should have been serving a suspension and Cape Verde were subsequently thrown out of the playoffs and replaced by Tunisia.
Cape Verde has a population of 500,000 and seemed to be in with a fighting chance of qualifying for Brazil. Had they done so, they would have erased T&T’s record. As it stands now, none of the qualified nations nor any of those still in the running, has a smaller population than T&T.
The Leo Beenhakker coached-team created history by defeating Bahrain 1-0 on November 15, 2005, to achieve the feat of being the smallest country to qualify and then play in a World Cup Finals.
Shaun Fuentes is the director of communications for the TTFA – [email protected]
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