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A Saudi success story: It all starts from home, one kick at a time

Mustafa Ali relives WrestleMania dream ahead of WWE’s showpiece event this weekend DUBAI: Mustafa Ali knows the buzz of performing in front of a WrestleMania crowd all too well. It’s a feeling that he has been chasing ever since he experienced it for the first time in 2018. But when WWE’s showpiece event returns next…

Mustafa Ali relives WrestleMania dream ahead of WWE’s showpiece event this weekend

DUBAI: Mustafa Ali knows the buzz of performing in front of a WrestleMania crowd all too well.

It’s a feeling that he has been chasing ever since he experienced it for the first time in 2018.

But when WWE’s showpiece event returns next weekend, it looks like Ali – just like the homebound crowds – will be watching from his family home’s sofa – and he’s completely at ease with it.

“WrestleMania has been something that turned into an obsession and it has its ebbs and flows for me,” the American wrestler, born to a Pakistani father and an Indian mother, said.

“Relatively early in my WWE career I had this amazing opportunity, although it was on the pre-show, it was still a WrestleMania-featured match for Cruiserweight Championship against one of my closest friends, Cedric Alexander, and we absolutely tore the house down.”

Ali, real name Adeel Alam, lost the fight to Alexander but he had lived out a dream he’d had ever since he was a kid growing up in Chicago with a room-full of, then still, WWF action figures and walls covered with pictures of Kane, Jeff Hardy, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper and many more.

“John Cena was reacting to our match and we got millions of viewers, I remember all the media and the press, and even though we were on pre-show, you felt the pressure of performing on WrestleMania,” said the 35-year-old.

“I’ll never forget walking down that ramp and looking up and seeing my name and the video packages and all the hype. That was one of the coolest moments of my life, and I’ve never quite achieved that level of success again going into WrestleMania.”

Ali who is signed up to WWE’s Raw brand, says he worked tirelessly towards getting into WrestleMania 37 in Tampa, Florida, on April 10-11, and he has a much healthier outlook about missing out than he did last year.

“I was aggressively trying to get on [WrestleMania], and when I found out I wasn’t on the show, I was blaming everybody but me,” he said.

“This year, I looked in the mirror and said I can get upset again, I can get mad at everybody else, but at the end of the day I’ve got to look at myself and realize I have to do something as a performer where they don’t have a choice but to put me on the card.”

Though Ali has missed the visceral reaction of the fans in recent times, he says the introduction of WWE ThunderDome, the virtual videoconferencing crowd system and arena, has been a game-changer.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’re in the ring and there are millions of viewers and there is another man or woman who you’re competing with and they’re trying to take your head off,” he said.

“So the adrenaline is still there, the prep is still there, but I genuinely miss that live feel, there’s nothing in the world like it.”

Ali has particular fond memories of 2019’s Crown Jewel at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, when he was part of Team Hogan that took on Team Flair in a five-on-five tag team match.

“My favorite thing on my most recent trip to Saudi Arabia, as we’re making our way to the arena, you see these kids running alongside the bus and they’re giving each other RKOs and I was just blown away. And for me specifically, when they announced my name and it popped up on the giant screen, the audiences, despite the fact I’m not from Saudi, I’m not Arab, I’m not Middle Eastern, they see my name and there’s a connection there.”

Ali sensed the crowd identify with him, in the same way they identify with local hero Mansoor.

“It was a cool moment,” he said.

“Because I was that kid in the audience and I would look up and I would never see someone that looked like me performing at such a high level. So I think it’s cool for them to look up and see someone like Mansoor, someone like Mustafa Ali, and they say, ‘oh those guys look like me and they made it’.”

Ali, however, stops short of calling himself a role model, saying that as man a man with many “imperfections” he doesn’t want to let anyone down.

Whenever Ali misses the feeling of being in the ring, he falls back on one of his quirks from when he was traveling the world for the WWE SmackDown live tours, where he would tweet out the schedules of the performances.

“In one weekend I did Manila, Shanghai and Honolulu,” he said.

“These are three places people save their entire lives to go see, and I did that in one weekend. And then I flew back to the US and I did TV, so there is a sense of almost a badge of honor, I’ve earned my stripes. Sometimes I go back and look at these tweets and think I’ve done more, and forgotten more, than I’ll remember and that’s cool.”

Ali says that when the call comes to get back in the ring, he will be more than ready, but acknowledges that the lone bright spot during a very difficult year has been the time spent with his young family.

“I have a three-year-old son and now he actually knows who his dad is. I have a seven-year-old daughter and we get to hang out almost every day, I get to help her with her homework,” Ali said.

“I get to teach them how to ride bikes and play sports. I have beautiful wife that does everything for me, I get to be at home. I’m out there busting my butt, making this money, and now I get to be here with them while they enjoy it. That’s a blessing.”

“They call me baba, ‘baba’s home’. That’s awesome.”

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Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced. The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will…

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.

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UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway ‘European Super League’

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday. A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup…

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup final, where they face Tottenham, and the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea were good value for another impressive win under Thomas Tuchel and will be favorites for the German’s first silverware in English football when they face Leicester or Southampton May 15.

Tuchel could land an even bigger prize in the Champions League just months after replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

His side showed they can get the better of City in what could be a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final should the English clubs see off PSG and Real Madrid in the last four.

The physical demands of City’s bid for a clean sweep of trophies was shown as Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek with goalscorers Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez among those rotated.

Tuchel made just three changes and Chelsea looked the far less disjointed side in a bright start.

Timo Werner’s cross was swept home by Ziyech after just six minutes, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the German international.

That proved to be the only shot on target of a cagey first 45 minutes that did little to whet the appetite of a potential reunion in Istanbul for European club football’s greatest prize on May 29.

Despite the number of changes, the ease with which Chelsea were able to spring quick counter-attacks will be of concern to Guardiola with the fearsome duo of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to come.

From one slick break, Chelsea’s wing backs combined but Ben Chilwell could only slice Reece James’s cross wide.

City got to half-time without any damage on the score line, but suffered a potentially huge blow to their hopes of still clinching a treble of trophies early in the second half.

Just 11 days before the first leg of the PSG tie, De Bruyne appeared to roll his ankle in a challenge with N’Golo Kante and was replaced by Foden.

City were still reeling from the loss of the Belgium attacker when they were finally caught out by the Chelsea counterattack.

Guardiola’s decision to retain Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man’s land when Werner raced in behind and once again squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net.

Steffen made some measure of amends moments later to deny Ziyech a second when the Moroccan was clean through.

City took until the final 20 minutes to get going, but their best chance of sending the game to extra time came from a corner as Ruben Dias headed over from close range.

Instead, it was Chelsea who found the net again through Christian Pulisic in stoppage time only for the offside flag to again come to City’s rescue.

But there was no saving a bid for history for Guardiola’s men as they cannot now better Manchester United’s treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup from 1998/99.

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Gaza man winning hearts by donating traditional food to the poor

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches. Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during…

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 

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