MENA Sports Wrap: Saudi Arabia hosts international women's football tournament

MENA Sports Wrap: Saudi Arabia hosts international women's football tournament
Ronaldo has helped Al-Nassr through to the next round of the Asian Champions League, as Saudi Arabia hosts the West Asian Women's Football Championship.
4 min read
23 February, 2024
Saudi Arabia is hosting a pan-Asian women's football tournament this week [Getty]

Arab teams are competing in the West Asian Women's Football Championship in Saudi Arabia, as the kingdom looks to promote the women's sport at home with three Arab countries - Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan - through to the semi-finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo also secured a place in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League for Al-Nassr, while Celtic fans' pro-Palestinian stance could see the club win a world-class player.

Al-Nassr book Asian Champions League quarter-finals spot

Al-Nassr secured their Asian Champions League quarter-finals spot on Wednesday after beating fellow Saudi side Al-Fayha with a 3-0 aggregate win.

The Riyadh side went into the clash at the capital's Al-Awwal Park Stadium 1-0 up from the first leg, thanks to a goal by captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

The home side wasted no time in the second leg, with Abdullah Al-Khaibari assisting a header from Otavio which landed at the back of the net after 17 minutes.

Ronaldo would also add his name on the score sheet after a couple of false starts. 

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The Portuguese star found the end of a Marcelo Brozovic free-kick, only to head the ball onto the crossbar. In the second half, a shot fired home by the Al-Nassr captain was ruled offside.

Ronaldo sealed the deal for his side with a strike in the dying minutes of the game, 

"We worked hard and we knew what we had to do," Al-Nassr coach Luis Castro said after the game. "It was a tough game and we are so happy to go through to the next round and then think about what happens next."

Al-Nassr will now play the UAE's Al-Ain in the quarter-finals over two legs on 4 and 11 March.

The other Riyadh side, Al-Hilal, beat Iranian side Sepahan 6-2 and will face Jeddah's Al-Ittihad in an all-Saudi QF clash.

Women's football championship held in Saudi Arabia

Hosts Saudi Arabia lost their opening two games in the West Asian Women's Football Championship this week, to exit the tournament prematurely.

The Green Falcons lost 3-1 to Jordan in their opening game, then suffered a narrow defeat to Lebanon 3-2 in their next game, who both qualify for the next round. 

The Saudi women's team only played their first international game in 2022 and have been looking to promote women's football at home, in conjunction with a drive with the Saudi Pro League.

The Green Falcons have had mixed results so far but appear to be finding their feet against more established women's teams such as Jordan.

They have also managed to beat Syria twice in friendlies before the tournament.

Palestine have also had a good run in the West Asian Women's Football Championship with wins over Iraq and Syria and go through to the next round along with Nepal.

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Anwar El-Ghazi claims he'll play for Celtic for free over fans' support for Palestinians

Ex-Aston Villa star Anwar El Ghazi has said he would be ready to play for Celtic for free due to their fans’ support for the Palestinian cause.

The Dutch forward made the offer on social media while reacting to the latest show of support from the Green Brigade for Gaza during Saturday’s Scottish Premiership match with Kilmarnock.

The Celtic ultras organised a pre-match sing-along of the popular Irish republican ballad ‘Grace’, while they unfurled a banner borrowing lyrics from the song, reading: "Think about the past few months. Oh will they say we've failed. 30,000+ dead - 12,000+ children. End the Genocide. End Zionism."

El Ghazi, who is of Moroccan descent, then took to social media after seeing the display, writing: "Celtic FC I would play for you guys for free!!."

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The former Ajax and PSV man is currently a free agent after having his contract with German club Mainz cancelled in November, after he wrote a now removed post on X containing the slogan "From the rive to the sea, Palestine will be free".

El Ghazi clarified in subsequent posts that his use of the slogan was intended to mean equality and freedom for all people in Palestine and Israel regardless of ethnicity.

Celtic fans, particularly the Green Brigade, have shown consistent public support and solidarity for the Palestinian cause and Gazans during the Israeli war on the enclave.

The club was fined £15,200 by UEFA in November of last year after fans waved thousands of Palestinian flags during a Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Celtic Park.