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Omar Bugiel: ‘Playing for Lebanon is great and is in our blood’

LONDON: Being born in Germany, moving to England aged 16 before playing park football and finally making it as a professional with the little-known Forest Green Rovers may not sound like a route to becoming a Lebanese international, but then the Cedars are not like most international teams.The Middle East country has a population of…

Omar Bugiel: ‘Playing for Lebanon is great and is in our blood’

LONDON: Being born in Germany, moving to England aged 16 before playing park football and finally making it as a professional with the little-known Forest Green Rovers may not sound like a route to becoming a Lebanese international, but then the Cedars are not like most international teams.The Middle East country has a population of just over six million people but an estimated eight to 14 million of Lebanese origin living abroad. That potential pool of players has sent the country’s coach Miodrag Radulovic (below), like his predecessors, scouring the globe looking for talent.Thanks to having a Lebanese father, Omar Bugiel was brought to the coach’s attention on one of his forays abroad, and for the Bromley striker it came as something of a shock.“I was minding my own business when I got this call. It was from an unknown number and I thought it was a missed call or something,” the 24-year-old told Arab News.“It was the national team manager, Radulovic. I am not really sure how he got my number to be honest, but he asked me if I would be interested in playing for the national team and that was that. It was completely out of the blue.”That unexpected call took place two years ago and since then Bugiel has been a key member of a Lebanon team breaking new ground on the international scene, while also now playing for Bromley in the fifth tier of English football. His entry into the national team set-up coincided with the Cedars’ rapid rise up the FIFA rankings and an unbeaten stretch of 16 matches, which ended last October with a 1-0 defeat to Kuwait.To go from club player with the unheralded Forest Green Rovers to international football was “a big thing” but Bugiel’s path to professional football was, like his journey to international football, far from typical.Having been rejected by 1860 Munich aged 16 he decided to leave Germany and try his luck in England. He had spells at five clubs before getting the move to Forest Green Rovers, where he scored 48 goals in 124 appearances. That route has seemingly made him ready for anything, including playing international football for a country he admits he had “only been to a few times before.”“I flew out to Beirut about a week after the call and got my passport sorted so I could play for them in the Asia Cup qualifying game,” Bugiel said. “Next thing I knew I was traveling for my first match against Malaysia. I didn’t get on the pitch, I couldn’t expect to get in ahead of the players who had been playing for two to three years.

 

“I was patient, traveling with the squad for the North Korea match and then made my debut against Singapore.“That was a big thing for me, I only played about 45 minutes but to have played Sunday League football and then seven or so years later to be playing for your country is massive.”Like Bugiel, a lot of the Lebanon team is drawn from far and wide. As many as nine of the recent Asian Cup squad were born abroad, but rather than create divisions in the camp Bugiel claims the diversity is a unifying factor and that they all are proud to play for the Cedars.“There are Lebanese around the world and whenever I play for the team I want to do well. We have done really well these past few years, it’s a massive thing for everyone, for the players born there and the rest of the squad. For me and Hilal El-Helwe, (who is also German-born) every time we go there we cannot wait to get to play for the national team because it’s in our blood.“Everyone is going to be different, and yes the language it is a difficult thing, my Arabic isn’t the best but I get along with every single player, there are no separate groups.”That having such a diverse range of players has not hindered Lebanon’s results can easily be seen in the results they have enjoyed. The unbeaten run and leap from 178th eight years ago to 77th in the FIFA rankings last year allowed the side to qualify for a major international tournament for the first time and bring the feel-good factor to Lebanese football.Having scored his debut goal against Jordan last September — “when I came on I decided just to have a strike and lucky enough it went in, it was an amazing experience” — Bugiel suffered a hamstring injury during the friendly against Australia two months later and was not able to be a part of the Asian Cup side.While they did not make it to the second round the Cedars certainly did not disgrace themselves, losing to the eventual winners Qatar and powerhouse Saudi Arabia before winning their first ever match at an international tournament, a 4-1 thrashing of North Korea.“I am still gutted at not being part of the Asian Cup if I am being honest,” Bugiel admitted.“But we had a great team spirit, I was speaking to the boys and wishing them all the best. We did well but unfortunately the results we had weren’t enough to get to the knockout stages.“I was just gutted for the boys after all the work they had put in. To get so far and to have a few decisions that didn’t go our way and to just miss out was tough.”Now the Asian Cup adventure is over Bugiel can look forward to what he hopes is a future full of more goals for both Lebanon and Bromley. The initial aim on the international stage is for the Cedars to try to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Given the lack of resources compared to other Asian nations, Lebanon are always going to be up against it when trying to make it to the biggest tournament in football.But Bugiel said the atmosphere in the camp is positive and they will go into qualifying, starting in September, backing themselves to create another shock.“We cannot wait to get together again and play,” he said. “The team is young, you’ve also got (captain) Hassan Maatouk who can still play and we have got to try and keep that nucleus together and add in the promising young players.”“You never know what can happen, we’d love to go on another unbeaten 16-game run, which would be great. You just have to take it game by game to get to the World Cup.”Coming back from injury, Bugiel’s first thought is to get back to full fitness and do well for Bromley to get back into the squad.“Wearing the national team shirt is like nothing I’ve experienced before, I am very proud of it, and representing my country is a big part of me now.”

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Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away…

Warriors beat Trail Blazers in overtime to reach NBA Finals

BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”
“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles any more.”Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

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F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70

BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away…

F1 champion and aviation entrepreneur Niki Lauda dies at 70

BERLIN: Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”
“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles any more.”Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

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Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Philippines clinches top two spots in Saudi Arabian women’s bowling competition ALKHOBAR: The Philippines claimed the top two spots in a bowling championship in Saudi Arabia. Kryztine Cruz and Irene Pua emerged as champion and runner-up at the Women’s Bowling Championship, which was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation and held on Saturday at the…

Leonard stars as Raptors claw back with win over Bucks

Philippines clinches top two spots in Saudi Arabian women’s bowling competition

ALKHOBAR: The Philippines claimed the top two spots in a bowling championship in Saudi Arabia.

Kryztine Cruz and Irene Pua emerged as champion and runner-up at the Women’s Bowling Championship, which was organized by the Saudi Bowling Federation and held on Saturday at the Al-Gosaibi Bowling Center in Alkhobar. Saudi Arabia’s Nahla Adas finished third.

Competitors from Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Philippines, the US, India and the Kingdom entered the tournament. The field was cut by half to 26 after the preliminary round. The top 13 in the first round advanced to the semifinals where the top three qualified for the stepladder finals.

In the first match of the stepladder, Cruz beat Adas 212-158 to earn a shot at No. 1 qualifier Pua. The Eastern Province-based and second-seeded Cruz brought down Pua 243-189 in the title match.

Adas has participated in local championships in addition to competing in the Arab Championship held in Egypt earlier this year. She said she had found “true pleasure” in bowling and that the competition was very vigorous at Al-Gosaibi. 

“I am proud of the presence of Gulf women and the increased awareness and acceptance of winning and losing in the spirit of the game,” said Adas.

“The atmosphere was different and, for the first time, we hosted a bowling championship in our homeland with this number of skilful players of several nationalities. The presence of the first Saudi bowling team by my side in every shot has played a big role in crucial rounds. I’m also grateful for Kuwaiti and Bahraini support until the very end. Jeddah players were also present for the first time … which means that the competition will become more vigorous in upcoming tournaments with the presence of three Saudi women’s teams.”

The Arab Bowling Championship was won by the hosts Egypt, with Oman claiming silver and Bahrain the bronze. The Saudi women’s team of four finished in seventh place in the team event, but were hopeful that the experience could prove to be a springboard to future success and greater participation of Saudi women in the sport.

Razan Baker, a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Bowling Federation, said after the event that she was “honored” to supervise the team during its first tournament outside the Kingdom. 

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