Olympic blow for Tunisia as Saudi triumphs

Saudi Arabia’s Donia Abu Talib has qualified for the Paris Olympics in Taekwondo [Getty]

There was more Olympics action in the Arab world as Donia Abu Talib carves out a path for Saudi women in taekwondo, while Ahmed Hafnaoui has doubts about defending his swimming title due to injury.

Meanwhile, former Kuwaiti Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad faces a 15-year IOC ban for forgery.

In Ireland, Bohemian FC women’s team are set to make history by playing a charity match with the Palestine women’s national football team to commemorate Nakba Day, with all proceeds from the match going to charity to aid civilians affected by Israel’s war on Gaza. 

Donia Abu Talib to make a mark for Saudi women at Paris Olympics

Donia Abu Talib took an historic step for Saudi women by earning direct qualification for the taekwondo competition at the Paris Olympics, and she is determined to take another huge stride in France later this year.

The 27-year-old secured her spot at the Games during the Asian qualifiers in March, an achievement celebrated by Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the minister of sport and head of the Saudi Olympic Committee.

Saudi officialdom was not always so enamoured of women’s sport, with the country sending its first two women athletes to London 2012 only after the threat of exclusion from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Donia overcame significant barriers on her path to the Olympics, having been forced to train at home from the age of 13 after being banned from the boys’ club where she had competed for five years.

“I’m obsessed with my dream,” she said in a recent video posted on social media.

“I mean, I fall asleep, I wake up all I think about is Paris.”

Tunisian Olympic champion Hafnaoui raises doubts about title defence over injury

Olympic 400m freestyle champion Ahmed Hafnaoui expressed uncertainty about his fitness to defend his title in Paris.

“I’m currently suffering from an injury, and I don’t know whether or not I will participate in the Olympics,” the 21-year-old Tunisian swimmer told AFP, without giving details of the injury.

After winning gold in Tokyo in 2021 at age 18, Hafnaoui secured the 800m and 1500m freestyle titles at last year’s World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

If he competes in Paris this summer, he could match Tunisia’s top Olympic swimmer Oussama Mellouli, who earned two golds and a bronze across the 2008 and 2012 Games.

The country’s most decorated Olympic medalist is long-distance runner Mohammed Gammoudi, who won four medals, including a gold in the 5,000m at the 1968 Games, during a career spanning from 1964 to 1972.

IOC imposes 15-year ban on former Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended former Olympic power broker Sheikh Ahmad of Kuwait for 15 years following his conviction for forgery, citing a betrayal of trust and damage to the IOC’s reputation.

The suspension takes effect from the date of his previous three-year ban for unethical conduct during an Olympic Council of Asia election, which was imposed on 27 July of the previous year.

The sheikh, who turns 61 on the day after the Paris Games close in August, will be 74 when the latest punishment expires. 

Sheikh Ahmad, a longtime ally of IOC president Thomas Bach, faces consequences stemming from his involvement in orchestrating a sham arbitration case and presenting false evidence alleging a coup in Kuwait.

“The IOC Ethics Commission notes that during this period of suspension, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Sabah will not fulfill the necessary ethical criteria to be proposed for re-election at the end of his current term,” the published ruling noted, effectively signaling the end of his IOC career.

Sheikh Ahmad led the Olympic Council of Asia, which was founded by his father in Kuwait, before he joined the IOC in 1992. He has been a longtime close ally of the current IOC President Thomas Bach, for whose election in 2013 he actively campaigned.

Irish club to host Palestine’s women for Nakba Day commemoration

The Irish women’s football club Bohemian FC will host the Palestinian women’s national team this week for a symbolic match in commemoration of Nakba Day, which is observed annually on 15 May.

This match will be the first time the Palestinian women’s team participates in a game in Ireland, a country that has long advocated for the Palestinian cause.

The 15th of May marks the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe. In 1948, Palestinian Arabs were subject to forced displacement, ethnic cleansing, mass murder and dispossession to make way for the creation of the State of Israel.

These atrocities are described as foundational to Palestinian national identity, with the day commemorated across the Palestinian territories, within the 1948 borders, and by the diaspora.

“I am very proud to welcome our women’s football team that will be playing in Ireland for the first time in its history. I am thrilled to work with Bohemian FC who facilitated this match for the first time in Europe,” said Jilan Wahba Abdalmajid, the Palestinian Ambassador to Ireland.

“There is no better way to commemorate the Nakba than by having our national team come to one of the few countries in Europe that is constant and consistent in its solidarity with our just cause. Thank you, Ireland, thank you to the Irish people, and thank you Bohemian FC.”

Proceeds from tickets for the game will cover the visit of the Palestinian team and delegation, with the remainder divided between charity partners Palestine Sport for Life, Medical Aid for Palestinians and Aclai Palestine.

Those unable to attend will have the opportunity to make a donation or purchase a non-attendance ticket, with proceedings going towards the above organisations.

Matt Devaney, the club’s president, said that they are “looking forward to welcoming the Palestinian team” and “hope the Irish public get behind this occasion”.

“[We hope] our efforts to raise a substantial sum to assist and highlight the plight of people in a truly dire situation.”

The match will be played in Dublin’s Dalymount Park Stadium.

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