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Ada Hegerberg, football’s golden girl from Norway

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OSLO: She first took to the pitch as a pesky little girl who followed her big sister everywhere. Today she is the top female footballer in the world, crowned with the first women’s Ballon d’Or.

Ada Hegerberg has captivated the football world, a “serial scorer” averaging almost 1.3 goals per match with her French team Olympique Lyonnais.

Hegerberg comes from a footballing family and used to watch her older sister and brother.

“Ada was the type to sabotage Andrine and their brother Silas’s trainings until she was maybe seven or eight years old,” recalls their mother, Gerd Stolsmo, in the family flat in the east of Oslo.

“Then she went to a tournament. And there … she was passed the ball, turned around, made a beeline for the goal, and scored. Again and again and again. Match after match. That was when it became so obvious,” Gerd says.

At the time the football obsessed Hegerbergs were living in Sunndalsora, a sparsely populated town at the end of a fjord on the west coast of Norway.

– Focus on football –

The Hegerberg sisters were such talented players that they allowed to join the local boys’ teams.

In addition to team practices, the family would happily hold extra training sessions together. Nothing was ever left to chance.

On top of that, without her parents’ knowledge, the two girls would rise early in the mornings to run in the wooded hills before school.

Ada’s father Stein Erik Hegerberg is obsessed with details believing even a hair out of place can cost a player precious hundredths of a second on the field

“Once you start, you have to be sure that everything is all set,” he said. “The balls are properly inflated, shoes are polished with the laces well knotted and the hair tied back.”

To allow the children to focus on football, the Hegerbergs moved closer to Oslo.

Like Andrine, Ada joined Kolbotn, one of the top women’s clubs. She stood out.

“She was furious as a 15-year-old when she didn’t play a full match,” recalls her coach at the time, Dan Eggen. “Based on the mentality and the skills at that time you were certain that this was a very good talent”.

 

 

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Ahead of women’s World Cup, female fans struggle in Middle East

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DUBAI: Two weeks ahead of a potentially game-changing women’s World Cup, football remains completely male-dominated in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where female fans are still battling for a level playing field.

Women fans face obstacles in many parts of the region where rival powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have traditionally enforced rules banning women from entering stadiums.

No countries from the region will be among the 24 teams taking part in the tournament in France from June 7, but at least there are signs of flexibility in the region toward a sport igniting more and more female interest across the globe.

In Iran, rules have been relaxed since the 1979 Islamic revolution and women are selectively allowed to attend some matches.

But the fact that a ban has yet to be officially lifted indicates there is still disagreement over the issue among senior figures in the Islamic republic.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia allowed women into a football stadium for the first time in January 2018 for a regular domestic football league match.

The move was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that included allowing women to drive and take part in other sporting and artistic events.

 

 

 

 

 

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Zidane the boss as Bale set for final game at Real Madrid

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MADRID: Zinedine Zidane hinted on Saturday that Gareth Bale could make his last appearance for Real Madrid on Sunday after saying he would make changes this summer ahead of the final match of their miserable La Liga season.

Bale fell out with Zidane towards the end of the Frenchman’s first spell in charge and their relationship has quickly soured again, with the Wales attacker starting just five times since the coach’s return in March and left out completely for Real’s last two matches against Villarreal and Real Sociedad.

Zidane said Bale would be in the squad against Real Betis on Sunday but, asked by reporters if it would be his last game for Madrid, he said: “I don’t know, I can’t tell you. It’s the season finale and next year there are going to be changes. But I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Madrid face Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu in their final match of a campaign that will see them finish third, behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and trophyless after being knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Barca and the Champions League by Ajax.

Zidane has pledged to make changes once the campaign is over, with several players including Bale expected to be sold, and defended his right to make the big calls.

“It’s my decision,” Zidane told reporters. “That is clear as water. I’m the coach and I will always do what I want to do. If not, I’ll leave.

“For signings and those sorts of things we have people who work on them but we work together.”

Zidane took charge with Madrid’s season all-but over and their performances have fizzled out in recent weeks.

Their defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend means they have lost two of their last three matches and won only three of their last eight.

“The message is clear, it is the last game and we want to say goodbye to the fans with a good game and a victory,” said Zidane.

“It has been a complicated year and I want to convey that we are looking ahead to next season and to show the fans that we will return with enthusiasm to make them proud of the team again.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History made as women to referee men’s AFC Cup clash

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Asian Football Confederation announced Tuesday that for the first time an all-female referee team will take charge of a men’s continental club cup clash.

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi will officiate the AFC Cup match between Myanmar’s Yangon United and Cambodia’s Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on Wednesday.

“This will be the first time three female referees preside in the Asian Football Confederation’s club competitions, marking a new milestone in Asian refereeing,” the AFC said in a statement.

The AFC Cup is the second-string Asian club competition, a rung below the AFC Champions League.

Women officials have only previously been employed as assistant referees in AFC Cup matches, with Australians Sarah Ho and Alysson Flynn becoming the first in 2014.

“This is one of my dreams,” said the experienced Yamashita, who officiated in the 2016 and 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and 2018 Women’s Asian Cup.

“We’ve worked very hard and this is the result.”

Assistant referee Teshirogi said her appointment will inspire female referees in Asia while Bozono said the experience will help in her preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, where the trio will be among 12 officials from the AFC.

“It is exciting to work with Yoshimi and Naomi. They are very experienced and have been very supportive. I will learn a lot from them,” Bozono said.

 

 

 

 

 

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