Palestinian athletes will ‘represent a country, a history, a cause’ at the Paris Olympics

Nearly six months into a deadly war that has ravaged Gaza, the Palestine Olympic Committee is battling against formidable odds to ensure its athletes take part in the Paris Games this summer. Its technical director Nader Jayousi tells FRANCE 24 his country’s delegation will bring a “message of peace” to the world and inspire Palestinian children “whose dreams have been shattered by bombs”.  

Palestinian athletes have taken part in every Summer Olympics since they were first admitted to the Atlanta Games in 1996. Each participation has carried a special significance for residents of the Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian diaspora, giving the stateless people a venue in which to compete with the rest of the world.  

Taking part in Paris will be all the more significant in the context of the war that has devastated most of the Gaza Strip and killed at least 33,000 people, according to health officials in the Hamas-held enclave, including some of the athletes who had set their sights on the Olympic Games this summer.   

“Between athletes, coaches and club staff, the Palestinian sports scene has lost at least 170 people,” said Jayousi, speaking from the headquarters of the Palestine Olympic Committee near Jerusalem. Victims included Olympic football team coach Hani Al-Masdar and volleyball star Ibrahim Qusaya, both of them killed by Israeli bombs in Gaza. 

“To these tragedies must be added the destruction of infrastructure: the Yarmouk stadium, the Olympic Committee’s offices in Gaza, and several other stadiums,” he added. “If the war ended today, at least 70% of the Gazan population would be homeless, let alone practising a sport.” 

Jayousi said the war had forced the Palestinian committee to scale back its ambitions, putting an abrupt end to a pioneering programme aimed at boosting the number of athletes who qualify for the Olympics. Despite the huge setback, Palestinian hopes got a major boost last month when Omar Ismail secured a first ticket for the Games in men’s taekwondo – a feat Jayousi hopes other athletes will match in the coming weeks.  

The Palestinian delegation fielded a record five athletes at the last Games in Tokyo. Jayousi said the aim was to “top that number”. He remains confident that wild cards will help his country present its largest delegation yet in the history of the Olympics. 

What were your aims for the Paris Olympics and how has the outbreak of war impacted your preparation? 

You have to understand that the sports scene in Palestine has been on complete stoppage since October 7. When these events started, we were with our delegation at the Asian Games in China, securing a historical achievement with Palestine’s first ever bronze medal for Hala Alqadi, in karate. Since then, we have spent our time trying to ensure the safety of our athletes, some of whom are from Gaza. 

We had been running a pilot programme, focusing for the first time on a group of elite athletes to try to secure their qualification for the Olympics. But the stoppage came at the worst possible time, in the final stretch of preparations, the most important time in the Olympic cycle. It’s devastating for the athletes. 

We tried to adapt by shortening the list of athletes, sending them to train in friendly countries. We pushed ahead and we succeeded in accomplishing our goal: we have qualified for the Paris Games, in taekwondo. It’s historic. 

Have you been able to train at all over the past six months? 

It took us 40 days to get our weightlifting champion, Muhammad Hamada, out of Gaza, with his brother, who is also his coach. He is a former junior world champion and was very close to securing qualification for the Olympics. Unfortunately, when this tragedy began he was in northern Gaza, one of the first areas to be invaded. 

Mentally, he is extremely strong. He actually kept up the training in the first months of the war. We have footage of him training in his house and you can hear the military planes and the drones. But then the famine started and he lost about 15-17 kilos, which is extremely damaging if you’re a weightlifter.  

Read moreIn northern Gaza, ‘people have nothing left to eat’

Right now he is in Thailand, for the Olympic qualifiers, trying his very best. If he doesn’t make it, hopefully we can get him a wild card for Paris. It’s just one example. We are here for all our athletes, at their service, to give them a chance to compete.  

How do the athletes keep their focus on the sport when there’s so much suffering at home? 

It’s the mental base we have built our athletes on. They have enough awareness and maturity to understand that this is not just an individual dream. They don’t represent only themselves; they represent a country, a history, a cause.  

This is the way our athletes stay focused and keep their heads. We have been going through this for 75 years. If we let it mess with our heads we will be beaten in two days. We have to be mentally very strong. We can get over it, we have got over it. We will be at the Olympics. 

What kind of support have you received from other countries or the IOC? 

We have good support from our brotherly Arab countries, who have hosted training camps for our teams. Our national football team secured a historic achievement by reaching the round of 16 at the Asian Cup in January. They trained in Saudi Arabia, in Doha (Qatar), in Kuwait. We have massive support from countries around the world who believe in the Palestinians’ aspirations to succeed in sports.  

Regarding the IOC, we are always in touch with them, and (IOC President) Thomas Bach himself said they will be trying their best to secure Palestine’s participation in the Paris Olympics. They consider it very important to give Palestine the chance, like any other country, to be at the Games. And we have just renewed our 100% commitment to the Olympic Charter and IOC regulations.  

So I think we’re doing good in terms of support from friendly countries, including Western countries, for sure.  

Palestinian Hala Alqadi (right) won a historic bronze medal at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. © William West, AFP

The IOC has ruled out sanctions for the Israeli delegation over the war in Gaza, rejecting comparisons with the sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Do you agree with this decision?

As members of an Olympic Committee, we avoid talking about political issues. Our field is sports. I don’t have any comment regarding Russia and Ukraine. And Israel’s presence at the Olympics is not a matter we discuss. If our leadership has something to say on this subject, you will hear it in the media.  

I can answer any technical question regarding our athletes, that’s the scope of our work. We don’t intervene in politics in any way, not even our own. 

The Games could see Palestinian and Israeli athletes go face to face. Is this something you discuss with your team? 

Do you think it rattles Palestinians when they encounter Israelis? We encounter Israelis every day, in our cities, our streets, our schools. And we usually encounter them with their guns. So the idea of encountering them at the Olympics, it’s not something we are concerned about.  

We will go to the Olympics to compete and represent our country in the best way possible. We are not worried about encountering anybody.  

What will it mean to see the Palestinian flag carried by your delegation during the opening ceremony on July 26? 

In the middle of all these atrocities and all these tragedies, people will see athletes who insist on making their dream come true, on representing a country and a cause. 

I think it represents a great message of peace, showing the world what Palestinians are aspiring to. It is also a message to future generations, to our children whose dreams have been shattered by bombs and rockets. These kids will see role models and will aim to be just like our athletes who competed at the Olympic Games in Paris.  

There is a big message we need to get across, which is that we are not surrendering, we are not quitting. We will preserve the Palestinian identity, through sports, and show we are a peaceful people full of pride and respect for other nations.  

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Queer Sporting Alliance boosting gender diversity in sport

In March this year, the Queer Sporting Alliance (QSA) took out the Outstanding Contribution to Sport Award at the Victorian Pride Awards.

The QSA is Australia and New Zealand’s largest LGBTIQA+ sporting club, and the award recognises its ongoing efforts to provide queer-friendly sporting environments and events.

They have included Australia’s first and largest queer basketball tournament, which featured more than 180 players from around Australia and took place on Wurundjeri Country in the northern suburbs of Naarm/Melbourne in January 2024.

The QSA’s focus is on participation and creating a space for those who have previously been excluded from sport.

The QSA focuses on creating safe spaces for those who have previously been excluded from sport. (Supplied: Kirsty Marshall)

Some participants had not played basketball in many years before the tournament, and for some it was their first time stepping onto a court.

The tournament, and all QSA programs, welcome queer folk as well as straight allies.

“It was like Mardi Gras but for gays who love sport,” participant Jethro Athlas said.

“It was my dream come true.”

QSA president Stella Lesic said the tournament was significant because it ensured players of any gender identity could participate.

Queer Sporting Alliance President Stella Lesic defends the basketball

Queer Sporting Alliance president Stella Lesic said the tournament did not require players to out themselves.(Supplied: Monique Clarke)

“The tournament didn’t require any player to out themselves [unless they wanted to] or have a referee assume their gender for the purpose of applying mixed/gendered basketball rules,” they said.

“Particularly for players taking steps to gender affirmation or who have experienced transphobia in sport, our tournament and the QLeague are game-changing.

“For the first time in basketball’s history, players could just play.”

Associate professor Ada Cheung is a clinician, scientist and endocrinologist specialising in the treatment of transgender individuals and sees the benefits the QSA brings to the community.

“What QSA does is beneficial, not just for queer people, but for everybody,” she says.

“[At] the grassroots level, there needs to be much more of a focus on participation [for gender diverse people].”

Woman with short hair wearing a red shirt and black jacket, sitting in an office.

Ada Cheung says there should be more focus on the participation of gender diverse people in sport. (ABC News)

Bringing queer people back to basketball

Athlas started basketball at 11 years old and played until they came out as non-binary at 23.

“I felt I couldn’t show up as me with the binary rules of a regular competition and I didn’t have many other queer friends at the time to make a team that felt safe,” they said.

Fellow tournament participant Leigh Seelie had a similar story of dropping out of sport after coming out as trans.

“I played on and off during my adulthood and stopped around four years ago as I started to transition,” she said.

“I did not feel that the captain of my team would accept me as they had made a number of transphobic posts on Facebook.

“I did not find a new team as I was concerned about how people would react to me playing and I did not want to be spotlighted.

“When the [QSA] tournament came up, I was very excited to play … It felt like a great opportunity to play a sport I loved again.”

The referee awards a four point shot in the QSA basketball tournament

Many QSA tournament participants have similar stories of dropping out of mainstream sport. (Supplied: Kirsty Marshall)

While at first Seelie felt “overwhelmed” about playing in the tournament after time away from the game, she said her team made her feel very welcome.

“I felt a huge amount of joy just being able to be me and play a game I loved,” she said.

With more than 1,000 members registered around Australia, the QSA has also seen an influx of straight, cisgender men and women joining the club.

“QLeague is a joy,” QSA regular and ally Greg Craske said.

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For 2024 Paris Olympics, Colombes’ historic stadium regains its former lustre

One of France’s most historic sporting venues, the Colombes stadium northwest of the French capital was the principal venue when Paris hosted the Olympic Games in 1924. After undergoing thorough renovations, the site will recover some of its former glory by again playing host to Olympic sport this summer.

The refurbished Yves-du-Manoir stadium in Colombes was inaugurated this week in great style, in the presence of Paris Olympics organising head Tony Estanguet, French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra and other dignitaries.

“It’s a wonderful nod to history, to France‘s sporting heritage,” said three-time Olympic medallist Estanguet at the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday. The Colombes stadium will be the only Paris 2024 venue to host Olympic events for a second time: at this year’s Games, the stadium will be the site of the field hockey matches.

A part of the renovated Yves-du-Manoir stadium in Colombes, near Paris, on March 19, 2024. © Miguel Medina, AFP

In the run-up to the Games, the century-old stadium underwent 22 months of renovation. Two synthetic field hockey pitches were built, one with seating for 1,000 spectators. The 6,000-spectator stands on the main pitch, a vestige of the original stadium, were refitted and will be supplemented by temporary stands installed for the Games.

The nerve centre of the 1924 Olympic Games

A century ago, the Colombes stadium was the epicentre of the Paris Games, and it was even the site of the opening ceremony on July 5, 1924.  Today, it’s hard to imagine “the 20,000 spectators squeezed into the standing room” for the opening, says historian Michaël Delépine.

“It was the nerve centre of the Games. Just behind it was the first Olympic village. It was a bit spartan, with little wooden huts,” says Delépine, author of the book Le Bel Endormi: Histoire du stade de Colombes (“Sleeping beauty: History of the Colombes stadium”).

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games at the Colombes stadium, July 5, 1924.
The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games at the Colombes stadium, July 5, 1924. © Gallica, BNF

The eighth Olympiad of the modern era, in 1924, featured 3,089 athletes, 135 of whom were women, representing 44 nations and competing in 17 sports. The Colombes stadium hosted football, equestrian events, rugby, gymnastics and, above all, track and field.

At the time, it was the “Flying Finns” who dominated the middle- and long-distance races. Paavo Nurmi and his compatriot Ville Ritola performed heroically, winning nine gold medals between them.

Members of the Finnish athletics team at the 1924 Olympic Games, including Ville Ritola and Paavo Nurmi.
Members of the Finnish athletics team at the 1924 Olympic Games, including Ville Ritola and Paavo Nurmi. © Carte postale ancienne

An homage to ‘Flying Scotsman’ Eric Liddell

Perhaps the best-known rivalry from the 1924 Games was between British sprinters Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, whose story features in the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire”.

A plaque in honour of Liddell was unveiled at the Colombes stadium this week. The French consul general in Scotland, Stéphane Pailler, who organised the ceremony, noted that “Eric Liddell left his mark on the Olympic Games because he gave up running on Sundays for religious reasons. Knowing that he would not be able to compete in the 100-meter event, for which he was one of the favourites, he decided to compete in another event, the 400 meters. Not only did he win the gold medal in this event, he also broke the world record for the discipline.”

Scottish athlete Eric Liddell after his victory in the 400-meter race at the 1924 Olympic Games.
Scottish athlete Eric Liddell after his victory in the 400-meter race at the 1924 Olympic Games. © Wikimedia

Born in China to Scottish missionary parents, Liddell himself became a minister and returned to China, where he died in a Japanese prison camp in 1945. Stephen Shin’s 2016 film “On Wings of Eagles” recounts his tragic end. “His sporting and human legacy remains a symbol of friendship between France, Scotland and the UK. A legend. A legacy. A source of inspiration,” the new memorial at Colombes reads.

Following the success of the 1924 Games, the Colombes site – officially named the Yves-du-Manoir Olympic Stadium from 1928 in honour of a Racing Club de France rugby player who died in a plane crash – became a key venue for French sport. “Colombes attracted the greatest sportsmen and sportswomen and the most celebrated spectators,” says Delépine.

The stadium was the scene of 17 world records between 1924 and 1980, 42 French Cup finals between 1924 and 1971, and 79 matches of the French national football team. It also hosted Italy’s victory over Hungary in the 1938 football World Cup final;  the French national rugby  team’s first victory over New Zealand’s All Blacks in 1954; Pelé‘s only match on French soil with Brazil’s Seleçao in 1963; the European Cup quarter-final between Johan Cruyff’s Ajax and Benfica on March 5, 1969, with a record 63,638 spectators; and, not least, the world middle-weight boxing title match between Frenchman Jean-Claude Bouttier and Argentina’s Carlos Monzon in 1972, with 40,000 spectators in attendance.

Brazilian footballer Pelé, centre, is surrounded by three French players on April 28, 1963 at Colombes.  Pele scored all 3 goals for his team as Brazil beat France 3-2.
Brazilian footballer Pelé, centre, is surrounded by three French players on April 28, 1963 at Colombes. Pelé scored all 3 goals for his team as Brazil beat France 3-2. © AFP

A stadium reborn

Colombes fell from favour with the opening of the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris in 1972, but was given a second lease on life at the turn of the 2000s when Racing Club de France sold it to the local authorities, who promoted it as a venue for amateur sports.

The Colombes stadium will regain its Olympic lustre by hosting field hockey matches from July 27 to August 9. “It’s obviously moving to see this venue host another Olympiad. This stadium, which is sometimes labelled as a stadium of the past and hasn’t hosted a major event for several decades, is proving that we can write a new page, one of the finest in its history, 100 years on,” Delépine says.

After the Games, the 18-hectare site, which also includes football and rugby pitches and a running track, will also welcome the headquarters of the French field hockey federation. The new stadium is intended to benefit “local residents, with sports activities open to associations, schools and perhaps even universities”, Oudéa-Castéra said at the inauguration.

For Delépine, the story of Colombes’ Stade Yves-du-Manoir is just beginning: “We can imagine that in decades to come, there will still be sport in Colombes, and hopefully both at the elite and the amateur level.”

This is a translation of the original in French.

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As Victoria’s second-biggest city has reversed its fortunes, this historical stadium has been given new life

In the 70s and 80s, Geelong kids would gather empty beer cans from the feet of adults at Kardinia Park.

Back then, the cans were strong and could hold a young child’s weight if they were stacked just right.

Standing on top, a young footy fan could get a clear view of the field, where their heroes donned the blue and white hoops of one of the oldest football teams in the world.

A boy from nearby Winchelsea named Denis Napthine was one of those beer-can architects.

“I barracked for the Cats from day dot,” Dr Napthine says.

Former Victorian premier Denis Napthine watched his beloved Geelong Cats at Kardinia Park from a young age.(ABC News: Harrison Tippet)

“[Some of my] earliest memories are the thrill of being able to come down to Kardinia Park and see my heroes play. And coming down with dad and the family and being in the outer.

“And you’re only a little fella at that stage, I was only 11 and 12, and by the time the game was on you barely could see, so what you had to do is collect a whole heap of beer cans.”

This was about 60 years ago, but he still reels off the names of young Denis’s favourite Cats.

“To see Polly Farmer play, to see Billy Goggins’s stab passes, and Doug Wade, and the tough fellas in the backline, John Devine and Geoff Rosenow. And the drop kicks of Paul Vinar, and the skills of John Sharrock,” he says, with youthful fervour.

Little did young Denis know, as he studied his heroes from atop his beer can watchtower, that he would later return to Kardinia Park as Victoria’s premier to pledge a $26 million portion of what would eventually be a $340 million, 20-year redevelopment of Geelong’s stadium precinct.

The exterior of a stadium at dusk, with the flood lights on and Geelong Cats branding on the side.

Kardinia Park has undergone a five-stage upgrade over 20 years.(ABC News: Cameron Best)

Aim to make Kardinia Park Australia’s best regional stadium

The state government and Kardinia Park Stadium Trust (KPST) will officially announce the completion of the new 14,000-seat Joel Selwood grandstand this week, just in time for the Cats to play in the centre of the new 40,000-capacity stadium on Saturday night.

The finishing touches are still being put on remainder of the $142-million stage of the redevelopment, including a new indoor cricket hub, sports museum and entry plaza, but this week effectively marks the blare of the final siren on the stadium’s upgrade.

A photo of a stand in construction

The new Joel Selwood stand in the late stages of construction.(Supplied: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust)

It comes almost three-and-a-half years after the state government announced it would fully fund the fifth stage of “the MCG of regional Australia”.

“With new and improved facilities and a bigger capacity, the stadium will continue to attract A-grade sport and entertainment to Geelong and ensure that the city’s name is known around the globe,” then-sports minister Martin Pakula said.

KPST, the body assigned to govern the state asset, will wait for this week’s official opening to make their own statements, but it’s almost certain they’ll point out that the stadium is far more than a footy oval.

It attracts top-flight cricket, soccer and rugby matches, numerous community sports and activities – and even one of the biggest rock bands in the world, the Foo Fighters.

A crowd of Geelong Cats fans in a stadium grandstand, wearing blue and white, holding banners and shaking oversized pom poms.

Kardinia Park is predominantly the Geelong Football Club’s home, but also hosts a range of sporting and entertainment events.(AAP: Julian Smith)

They’ll likely also note they have already won the title of Australia’s Best Regional Stadium in last year’s fan-voted AusStadiums awards.

“It’s a real feather in the cap of all the hard work of the people here to get this award, and it’s vindication of what we’re aiming to be, which is exactly that – Australia’s best regional stadium,” KPST CEO Gerard Griffen said at the time.

Five stages of funding over two decades

The overhaul of Geelong’s stadium began as an idea of the club’s leaders in the late 90s.

Over the next couple of decades, the club would continue to push all levels of government for funding pledges.

Politicians would steadily stream down the Princes Freeway to make their announcements at Kardinia Park.

There was $26 million for stage one, then $25 million for the next, and $48 million for the third stage.

The final two stages have been the big ones.

An aerial colour photo of a large sports stadium

Kardinia Park in 1990 before the redevelopment began.(Supplied: Geelong Advertiser, Bob Gartland Collection)

It cost $90 million to build the Brownlow Stand, new football department and stadium entry, opened in 2017.

And then the current $142-million final stage, with the state government picking up the entire tab.

While the federal government, local council, AFL and Cats themselves have all kicked in parts of the $340 million total overhaul of the stadium, the State is responsible for the majority of it — at about $260 million.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, with the completion of the final stage delayed almost a year by defects discovered in imported steel, and a 2010 miscalculation finding the stage three project $12 million short, prompting cutbacks to planned works.

Two men standing on a sports field while talking to one another

Former Geelong Football Club captain Joel Selwood with Kardinia Park Trust CEO Gerard Griffin after the stand was named in the footballer’s honour.(Supplied: Kardinia Park Stadium Trust)

The regular flow of taxpayer funds for the precinct has earned it the unofficial nickname “Pork Barrel Park” — a tag Dr Napthine disputes.

“I can very strongly say this investment in Kardinia Park, investment in the redevelopment of the ground, has been a really regional development investment that really has helped transform Geelong… investing in Kardinia Park, is an investment in the future of Geelong, and the future of Victoria as well,” he says.

Stadium precinct’s fortunes mirror those of Geelong

There’s a Geelong cliché that when the footy club is winning, the city is too.

The same could be said of Kardinia Park — the stadium’s complete overhaul is symbolic of both the Cats’ and the city’s reinvigoration.

By the end of the 90s the footy club was virtually on its knees – broke, $6 million in debt and having not won a premiership since 1963 while losing four grand finals between 1989 and 1995.

The city too, was doing it tough.

An aerial black and white photo of a large sports stadium

Kardinia Park in 1980.(Supplied: Geelong Advertiser, Bob Gartland Collection)

The 1990 collapse of “Geelong’s Bank” the Pyramid Building Society wiped out life savings for many in the region, as jobs also started to dry up in the manufacturing town, continuing well into the new century.

But alongside the redevelopment of Kardinia Park has been a revival of the city’s fortunes.

The Cats have the best win-loss record in the league since 2000 including four premierships, while the city itself is one of the fastest growing regional centres in Australia having established new employment opportunities.

Geelong historian and former Cats vice president Bob Gartland has the largest private collection of Cats artefacts in existence, and a thorough understanding of the club’s importance to his hometown.

A man smiling at the camera surrounded by dozens of Geelong cats jumpers on the walls

Geelong historian Bob Gartland says the expansion of Kardinia Park has reflected the growth of Geelong.(ABC News: Harrison Tippet)

“The development of the stadium sort of runs parallel with the development of the city, I think,” he says, flanked by game-worn jumpers of Cats legends.

“As Geelong grows the stadium has grown.”

“Those good fortunes and successes that [the Cats] had were mirrored in society, in the community, in business around Geelong. So, the football club in many ways has actually been central to the success of the region.

“I think the people are the heart of Geelong, buildings and the fabric of buildings are great, but it’s the people who represent for me anyway the heart of Geelong and the heart of the Geelong spirit.

“I think the stadium precinct is probably the glue that holds us all together.”

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Do combat sports really measure up when it comes to women’s self-defen

“Developing self-defence skills means reclaiming autonomy, thus regaining control over one’s environment. We are no longer at the mercy of someone,” according to psychotraumatology psychologist, Julie Francols. But are combat sports effective when it comes to fending off an unexpected attack?


More and more women are venturing into the world of self-defence and combat sports, a trend strongly supported by recent data. A report from the French government highlights an 11% rise in martial arts licences and a 51% surge in combat sports licences among women between 2012 and 2017. Despite these fields being male-dominated in 2017, with martial arts and combat sports having a female participation of 32% and 31% respectively, by 2022, a notable shift was observed. According to the French National Institute of Youth and Popular Education, in France in that year, the majority of Martial Arts licences were owned by women, accounting for 62% compared to 38% for men.

In Lyon, France, the organisation Renouveau Boxe helps women who have been the victims of domestic violence, by offering boxing training.

A participant of the class, who didn’t wish to be named, added: “This training allows us to regain self-confidence and to see ourselves as people. What it shows us is that we’re not alone in this situation. And actually, we’re not ashamed. Because, very often we feel responsible for what’s happening and ashamed of it. But being with others who have lived through the same thing means we understand each other and speak the same language.”

Samir Hamzaoui, an instructor and former high-level boxer, shared his inspiration: “I know what it is to take hits and to put myself in the shoes of someone who can’t defend themselves. That’s what led me to start this project.”

Delving deeper, what spurs some women’s interest in combat sports?

Julie Francols, a Psychotraumatology Psychologist, shed some light on this. “Experiencing an assault makes you feel robbed of something. The assailant unjustly takes control over you. However, developing self-defence skills means reclaiming autonomy and the ability to defend oneself, thus regaining control over one’s environment. We are no longer at the mercy of someone.” She further observed, “You can see it in people from the time they start the training to when they finish; their bodies express the change: they now exist in the world differently.”

How effective are these disciplines when it comes to preventing violence?

Christy Martin, a former boxing champion and survivor of domestic violence, weighed in on the issue. “Even though I was a boxing champion, I was physically and mentally abused by a man… He had threatened to kill me for 20 years, so I would push, but you only push so hard. It was not a match. Even though he was 20 years older, he was still stronger than me. So, physically, I was never going to be able to fight him and win. I mean, any time that he hit me, even if I pushed physically back, I just got hit harder. So, I was never going to win that physical altercation. And the truth is, I never won the emotional altercations, either.” On 23 November, 2010, Christy Marty was stabbed and shot by her husband. At the time, she was 42 years old and the welterweight champion credited with putting women’s boxing on the map.

Julie Francols told us it’s not simply a matter of knowing how to defend oneself: “When we are attacked, the first response, which is an automatic reflex by our autonomic nervous system, uses either attack, flight or freezing up. At that moment, the victim is paralysed”.

“To implement these self-defence techniques, there needs to be a few brief seconds that allow the person to regain control of the situation. It requires a lot of training for self-defence techniques to become automatic. However, at first there will always be these automatic, involuntary responses.”

Navigating trauma and expectations

Addressing a critical aspect of recovery, Julie Junquet, a consultant on issues of sexual and sexist violence and discrimination in sports, highlighted the challenges faced by survivors of violence: “I don’t see self-defence as a solution in the fight against sexual violence, and I find there’s even a message that can be guilt-inducing for these women who take classes, who tell themselves, ‘now I know how to defend myself’, if they face an assault in the future and unfortunately can’t reproduce the techniques they’ve learned. I find that can be somewhat guilt-inducing.”

Junquet also highlighted additional misconceptions about these training programs. “The societal messages are problematic. Don’t dress like that, don’t walk alone at night, learn to defend yourself; it’s always problematic. No, we don’t want to learn to defend ourselves; we just want not to be assaulted!

“We know that placing oneself in conditions of struggle, combat, or potential assault can trigger flashbacks of the real assault, trigger revivals, and there, it can trigger in the brain certain mechanisms that are quite dangerous. Placing oneself in a situation of assault is not trivial.”

Christy Martin cautioned against creating a false sense of invincibility: “You have to be careful with teaching self-defence, so that we don’t put a false belief out there, thinking ‘OK, I’m going to do this self-defence class, and then I’m always going to be able to fight off anybody that attacks me.’ That is not the case.”

So, how can this kind of training reach its fullest potential?

Christy Martin believes it’s not merely about the physical aspect but the self-belief the training instills. “It’s really not about the skills that you’re learning; it’s not about throwing a right hand, throwing a left hook. It’s about the confidence that learning those skills gives you, and that confidence helps you be stronger to stand up for yourself.”

She credits her boxing career for helping her survive the attack she was a victim of. “I think my boxing career gave me mental strength. Much more than it gave me physical strength. Mentally, it made me a fighter. And when I was laying on the floor after being shot and stabbed, I believed in me. I mentally thought ‘with the help of God, I can get up and get out’.”

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Matildas qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics with 10-nil thrashing of Uzbekistan

The ruthless Matildas have thrashed Uzbekistan 10-0 to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in style, with Michelle Heyman scoring four goals to put her hand up for a ticket to Paris.

Australia led the tie 3-0 after Saturday’s first leg in Tashkent but blew Uzbekistan out of the water to win 13-0 on aggregate, with Caitlin Foord, Kaitlyn Torpey, Mary Fowler, Hayley Raso and Amy Sayer also scoring.

Temperatures hit 36C in Melbourne earlier on Wednesday, but it didn’t deter a crowd of 54,120, which included Olympic greats Cathy Freeman and Anna Meares.

The Matildas took the lead inside 34 seconds at Marvel Stadium and never looked back, with Fowler at her spellbinding best in an eight-goal first-half rout.

Heyman, 35, who also scored in Tashkent, replaced Emily van Egmond for her first international start since March 2018.

The striker’s movement and guile proved far too hot for Uzbekistan to handle as she snared a hat-trick inside the first 16 minutes.

Second-gamer Torpey, 23, had a hand in three goals and scored her first international goal in her own compelling audition for the 18-player Olympics squad.

Australia took the lead when Torpey’s squaring ball deflected off Uzbek defender Dilrabo Asadova for an own goal.

Three minutes later, Fowler launched a diagonal ball from the left and Torpey brilliantly stuck out her right leg to cut the ball across goal.

Clare Hunt fluffed her shot but Heyman was on hand to tuck it away.

For the third, in the eighth minute, Steph Catley lofted a ball in from the left that dipped for Heyman to nod home.

Heyman sealed her hat-trick when Fowler threaded a great ball behind the Uzbek defence for the striker to put away.

Torpey scored the fifth in the 22nd minute when Uzbekistan failed to clear a corner and she rifled a close-range strike into the roof of the net.

Rarely troubled, Mackenzie Arnold made a strong save to deny Uzbekistan captain Lyudmila Karachik in the 28th minute.

Six minutes later, Katrina Gorry picked out Fowler with a wonderful inside pass and the playmaker rifled home.

In the 38th minute, Uzbekistan failed to deal with a Kyra Cooney-Cross free kick and Foord pounced for Australia’s seventh.

On the stroke of half-time, Uzbekistan cleared a corner off the line but Torpey squared it for Heyman to stoop and head home her fourth.

Heyman, Foord, Gorry and Ellie Carpenter came off at half-time, for Sayer, Tameka Yallop, van Egmond and Raso, while Charli Grant replaced Catley in the 65th minute.

Raso rifled home in the 68th while Sayer’s first international goal in the fourth minute of injury time put an exclamation mark on the victory.

Check out how the game unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Well, what a way to qualify for your third Olympic Games in a row!

An absolute masterclass from the Matildas saw them sweep aside the underdog Uzbeks, taking out the two-legged tie 13-0 on aggregate.

The first half was particularly brutal, with the tone set within the first 45 seconds by Kaitlyn Torpey’s torpedo cross that was spun into the net by an Uzbekistan defender.

The goals came thick and fast after that, with Michelle Heyman scoring four in the first 45 minutes alone.

Torpey, Mary Fowler, Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, and Amy Sayer all added to the scoreboard, and while a host of rotations made the second half a little less thrilling, there is very little to complain about from this completely dominant display by Australia’s fave sports team.

The players are about to be congratulated with a special presentation on the field: a giant “QUALIFIED” sign has been set up on half-way, with a giant novelty plane ticket being presented to them by Olympic legend Anna Meares.

It’s been a long road through qualifying, but finally the Matildas can prepare properly for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

And you bet your butts I’ll be back here on the blog when they do, as well as for a friendly they’ve got set up against Mexico on April 10.

Until then, take it easy!

Your reactions!

What a game! I’d hoped we’d win, but I never expected this!

– Mickey from Canberra

Love it

– Julian

Thanks for another great live blog, Sam! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo

Uzbekistan have been much better this half both defensively and in terms of capitalising on chances they get but ultimately you do have to feel for them having lost their keeper to injury and losing by a large margin for the first time since their Asian Games semi and third-place matches against North Korea and China.

– Adam

All this time we’ve been looking for another striker and she has been hiding in plain sight at Canberra…

– Mike

Ms Sayer! Relief written large on a young face. I suspect this second half, like the first half a few days ago, has made Tony’s squad selection decision making a little easier. All solid, a well oiled machine he’s built, complete with sub parts, and a couple of high profile busted elements. Finally he has the depth and breadth they’ve all worked for. It’s a joy to experience. Thanks Sam!

– Big Ben


To: the blog. From: the Matildas.

Will I ever get my ten goals 😂

– Julian

C’mon ladies, let’s make it a nice round 10!

– C

Full-time: Australia 10 – 0 Uzbekistan


Aaaaaand that’s 10!

It’s Amy Sayer’s turn to get on the scoreboard after a nice series of one-two passes between Tameka Yallop and Mary Fowler slice right through Uzbekistan’s midfield, before the ball is fed down the left wing for the onrushing Charlie Grant.

The left-back then clips a dangerous ball back across the six-yard area, spinning chaotically through a bunch of legs, before falling to Sayer at the back post, who swings her left foot through it and finally finds the back of the net.


90′ Five minutes of added time

Uzbekistan, to their full credit, haven’t stopped trying.

They’ve had a handful of moves that have ended in the Matildas’ penalty box, including one just now as a handful of players try to build some triangles through the middle before Karachik Lyudmila chips the ball over the top to nobody except Mackenzie Arnold.

They’ve kept Australia to just one goal in this whole half, which is something.

Get ’em out, I say

What’s with the rolled up sleeves? Kennedy, Raso and now Grant.

– Ronan

What, you’re saying you wouldn’t roll up your sleeves if you had the incredible athletic arms of these players?

I don’t think I’d ever wear sleeves again, personally.

Anyone else keen for a Matildas sleeveless guernsey?


Maybe “Mystical Mary” is a more apt alliteration

It’s interesting you mention Fowler appearing to operate in a different dimension – I think she might be a shape-shifter. There are times she takes the ball into congested traffic and somehow effortlessly appears on the other side still with the ball, or approach in-possession opposition players from behind, pass through them and continue on with the ball…

– Mike


Loving the meme posted about Japan v N. Korea. I literally only eat popcorn in for dinner in Matilda’s nights!

– Lulu

Japan lead North Korea 1-0 just after the hour-mark.

It’s been a pretty even affair once again, though: Japan have had 8 shots to 9 (including 2 on target v 4), 58% possession to 42%, and zero corners to 1.

The DPRK could very well claw a goal back and push this second Olympic qualifier all the way to the edge.

You love to see it

I’m in the crowd and there is definitely a growing minority cheering on Uzbekistan… only to be drowned by the manic roar when the Tillies scored that ninth goal!

– Tess

There’s definitely a small Uzbek community here in Australia, and what a joy it must be for them to see their women’s national team playing here in a stadium like this. Love that they’re still cheering for their team, even though they’re 9-0 down.


54,120 !!! Wow, a stark contrast to the 2,000 locals at Milliy stadium 5 days ago. It was still amazing to there. 29 other Aussies and myself.

– I Was in Tashkent

I was there in Tashkent 5 days ago. There was 30 Australians in attendance and about 2,000 locals. It was free entry to the match. It was amazing to see them inperson and up close.

– Travelling with Russell

Shout-out to the small group of die-hard Matildas fans who travelled all the way to Tashkent for the first leg, then flew back here to Melbourne for the second.

What an awesome experience!

79′ Uzbekistan substitution

The substitute goalkeeper seems to have had her foot trodden on by her own player during a challenge that involved Amy Sayer, but has stayed in the grass, so the Matildas take the opportunity to grab a quick drink on the sidelines.

There doesn’t seem to be much tactical chat happening. They’re just chilling out until the game ends, really. Mackenzie Arnold, Alanna Kennedy, and Clare Hunt are still on the field, talking amongst themselves. Raso and Torpey are on the far side doing the same.

76′ Shot after shot after shot

It’s honestly been hard to blog this match because the number of chances the Matildas have had is… stratospheric.

Just as I finish describing the build-up to one shot, they’ve found a way to create and let off another. So you just have to imagine the way things have gone based on the below:

Australia have registered 37 shots in total so far, including 17 on target.

70% possession, 85% pass accuracy, and 1 corners.

They’ve been completely, utterly, dominant. That’s the story of the game.

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Matildas triumph 3-0 over Uzbekistan in first Olympic qualifier

Michelle Heyman has scored her first international goal in almost eight years to inspire a 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan and drag the Matildas one step closer to a place at the Paris Olympics.

In their first match since superstar skipper Sam Kerr tore her ACL in January, Australia understandably missed one of the world’s best strikers at the Milliy Stadium in Tashkent.

The Matildas were scratchy and lacked cohesion, while Emily van Egmond had a horror night up forward, missing one sitter and failing to convert two other chances she would normally bury.

Coach Tony Gustavsson turned to Canberra United star Heyman, 35, to replace van Egmond off the bench in the 65th minute, and the veteran delivered just eight minutes later.

In her first appearance since 2018, Heyman headed home her 21st goal for Australia and her first since netting twice against Zimbabwe at the Rio Olympics on August 9, 2016.

Mary Fowler, who was wonderful in the second half, scored a sublime individual goal in the 84th minute, and Caitlin Foord headed home in the 86th to seal victory.

It means Australia will head into Wednesday’s second leg at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium with a crucial 3-0 lead in the tie.

Debutant Kaitlyn Torpey started on the wing, wearing Kerr’s number 20 but was hooked for Foord, who was having her game time managed, at half-time.

Australia had 75 per cent of possession in the first half but just four shots and one on target, but they finished with 26 (eight on target).

They should have taken the lead in the 21st minute when Torpey tried to square for van Egmond instead of shooting.

Hayley Raso dragged a first-time strike wide on the half-hour mark, and shortly afterwards van Egmond hooked over the bar.

Just before half-time, van Egmond failed to get a header on target from point-blank range.

In the 54th minute, Fowler curled a wonderful ball behind the Uzbekistan defence and van Egmond inexplicably failed to tap home.

Heyman headed over the bar a minute after coming on, then delivered the lead when she nodded a corner onto the bar before following up with a second header.

Fowler then intercepted a clearance with a wonderful first touch, weaved between defenders and ripped a fantastic long-range strike inside the near post.

Foord found space and turned home a Steph Catley cross to wrap up proceedings.

Check out how all the action unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

 First of all: whew.

That first half was pretty rusty, as expected, but Tony Gustavsson’s substitutes gave the Matildas exactly the energy and dynamism they needed to unlock what had been, until then, a very solid Uzbekistan defence.

Michelle Heyman will be absolutely buzzing, scoring her first goal since 2016 upon her return to the national team after a four-year retirement, while Mary Fowler and the excellent Caitlin Foord added goals two and three.

You’d have to think the Canberra striker is a lock to start in the second leg in Melbourne on Wednesday: she provided Australia with a target player, height, power, and important movement to bring other players into the game around her.

Now that they’ve made it through this chilly first game, the Matildas return home with wind in their sails and a 3-0 advantage, which is exactly what they would have wanted.

Thanks so much for joining me on the blog for tonight’s game, and I can’t wait to be back here on Wednesday as we see whether the gals can qualify for their third Olympic Games in a row!

See you then!

Full-time: Uzbekistan 0 – 3 Australia

Crowd numbers

Robbie Thompson has said the crowd in Tashkent is just under 2,500 people.

As of today, almost the entirety of Marvel Stadium is sold out for Wednesday’s second leg.

The Uzbekistan players won’t be ready for noise like that, I reckon.


What happens if Tillies win tonight and Uzbekistan wins Wednesday night? Who goes to Paris?

– EveWintergreen

It depends on how much Uzbekistan hypothetically win by.

If Australia finish this game 3-0 winners, Uzbekistan would need to win at least 4-0 in Melbourne on Wednesday to qualify for Paris.

90′ Three minutes of time added on

Same, honestly

UZB’s goalie kicking the ball back in the net after the third goal is so real. I would be so frustrated

– Em for Matildas

89′ Australia substitution

Ellie Carpenter comes off for Charlie Grant.


The song we sing here, Hey hey Heyman ooohh ahhh, I wanna know if you’ll kick that goal!

– Canberra is cool


And again ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️
Mary Fowler

– Vic in Vic

HaHAAAAAA! Heyman + Fowler

– Big Ben

Mary Mary Mary you beaute

– Em for Matildas

Just my luck. I step out to put stuff in the fridge, and the Tillies score a goal. Belated Hooray, anyway!

– SeonaBath

Floodgates open. Thanks Caitlin! ⚽️💚💛

– Leo


Caitlin Foord makes it three!

The Matildas have been trying this move all night: a winger chipping a pass in behind Uzbekistan’s defenders to find the head of an attacking player, and this time Caitlin Foord is there, all alone, to nod home a perfectly-weighted cross from Steph Catley.


Hail Mary!

Mary Fowler you superstar! 😍⚽️💚💛

– Leo



The midfielder has been chipping away at Uzbekistan’s defenders all night, and this time she just goes route one: picking up the ball in deep midfield and dancing past three players all by herself.

She skates towards the top of the box and steadies herself, unleashing her lethal right foot through the rubber to send a shot low and hard across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner of the net.


82′ Australia substitutions

Aivi Luik replaces Alanna Kennedy, while Tameka Yallop comes on for Hayley Raso.

80′ Chance Australia!

Goodness me, that was almost a bizarre second goal for the Matildas.

A long, dipping cross from Mary Fowler far out on the left wing is falling perfectly into the Zone Of Hesitation between Caitlin Foord and Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper, with both of them thinking the other was going to touch it, only for neither of them to get it at all.

Instead, the ball bounces past all of them and a gasp goes around the ground as it almost nestles into the far corner of the net, but bounces just wide instead.

77′ Matildas want a second

They’ve been attacking Uzbekistan in waves for the past five minutes, coming in at all angles and trying to keep the tempo and pressure up on their opponents.

Catley’s corners have been on-point all night, and are looking like Australia’s best attacking weapon at the moment. Alanna Kennedy could have nodded home the Matildas’ second goal a few minutes ago, but she mistimed her jump. Clare Hunt did the same just now.

You’d think they’ll be working a bit more on finishing their headers in the interim before the second leg of this series on Wednesday night, but wouldn’t it be great to snag one or two more goals here so that the pressure is off in Melbourne?

I sure would love that.



– Natty

Finally ⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ Michelle Hayman

– Vic in Vic

Oh Michelle! I’m in tears! ⚽️💚💛😍

– Leo


– Em for Matildas

Finally! Tillies score off a corner in how long? Thank you Ms Heyman and welcome back.

– Big Ben



A brilliant corner from Steph Catley angles in towards the front post, bobbling off Heyman’s shoulder and clanging off the crossbar.

It could have deflected anywhere, but it fell straight back to her, and she nodded it over the scrambling Uzbekistan defender on the line and into the net.


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Champions League: Napoli draw with Barca, Porto beat Arsenal

Victor Osimhen was described as “a huge player” after marking his return for Napoli with a goal that gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona and hope that a dreadful season might have reached a turning point.

Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, in his first match since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 25-year-old equalised Robert Lewandowski’s 60th-minute opener, which seemed likely to be the decisive goal as Barca were for long periods the better team, with Napoli’s first and only shot on target.

“He’s a huge player for us,” said Napoli skipper Giovanni Di Lorenzo to Amazon Prime Video.

“He’s come back with the right attitude. We knew he would though as he’s a great player and professional. He’ll give us a hand in the matches to come.”

Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.

His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona, their league title defence up in flames.

Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance of progressing despite a disjointed performance by his team.

Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that with Osimhen in the team there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.

“It’s a good starting point,” added Di Lorenzo.

“We know that we need to do more but we’ve taken a step forward and now we have a chance in the return leg. It’s all to play for.”

Osimhen saves Napoli

For Barca meanwhile it was the latest misstep of a complicated campaign at the end of which coach Xavi will leave, assuming president Joan Laporta doesn’t sack the coach before then.

The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.

“We’re a little disappointed with the result because we could have come out with a win,” said Ronald Araujo to Movistar.

“Napoli had a lot of the ball in the last 15 minutes but they barely created a chance. The Champions League is like that.”

Barca showed why they were pre-match favourites in the opening exchanges, dominating the ball and creating shooting opportunities which dulled an initially raucous crowd.

Teen sensation Lamine Yamal come close to becoming the Champions League’s youngest ever scorer when his ninth-minute effort was well-saved by Alex Meret.

In the 23rd minute, the away side twice went close to taking the lead, Lewandowski’s flicked finish kept out by Meret who then tipped away Ilkay Gundogan’s long-range rocket.

From that point on Napoli’s presence in the game grew, but the hosts failed to let off a single effort on goal before the break despite pushing their opponents on back.

Gundogan forced another smart save from Meret shortly after the restart after being put through by Yamal before blasting over another presentable chance.

Barca had the lead their performance deserved on the hour when Lewandowski collected Pedri’s pass and drilled a perfect low finish past Meret.

With the away side looking like they would push home their advantage, Osimhen pounced as Inigo Martinez slipped on the edge of the area to level the scores and transform the atmosphere in the stadium.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone both had efforts off target with the home side’s tails up, but it was Barca who went inches away from snatching a late win.

Gundogan’s frustrating night in front of goal continued deep into stoppage time as his low effort flew just wide.

Galeno stuns timid Arsenal with late Porto winner

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta bemoaned his team’s lack of cutting edge as Galeno’s sublime stoppage-time goal earned Porto a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.

Appearing in a first knockout match in Europe’s premier club competition for seven years, Arsenal struggled to break down an organised Porto defence before Galeno’s stroke of brilliance in the 94th minute.

The defeat ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run against Portuguese opposition and the Gunners with plenty of work to do in the return leg in London on March 12.

“We lacked threat. We lacked aggression, especially when we had the ball in the final third,” Arteta told TNT Sports. “So we will tweak a few things to attack better. We can do better.”

Arsenal last made it to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010, when they beat Porto in the last 16, but it is the Portuguese club who now have the upper hand. 

“I think it’s a team that’s very well-organised defensively and they break your rhythm all the time,” said Arteta.

“We want to be in the quarter-finals, you have to beat your opponent and this is what we have to do at the Emirates.”

Arsenal failed to register a single shot on target as their recent goal spree came to a shuddering halt.

“When it’s 0-0, you look up at the clock and it’s 93 minutes gone, if you aren’t going to win the game then don’t lose it,” said Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice.

“It’s a real kick in the teeth because we’ve conceded late but we know what to do. We’re not going to let our heads drop.”

Arteta stuck with the same starting line-up for the third game in succession following his team’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley at the weekend.

Porto defender Pepe, who turns 41 next week and is the oldest outfield player in Champions League history, made his 119th appearance in the competition. 

By comparison, Arsenal’s starters had combined for a total of 104 before kick-off at the Estadio do Dragao.

While short on Champions League experience, Arteta has said his squad have the belief they can mix it with Europe’s best.

Flee-flowing attack stalls 

The Gunners have started 2024 with five successive wins in the Premier League, scoring 21 goals in those games, and are firmly in the race for a first title in two decades. 

As well as reigning supreme in England for the first time since 2004, the north Londoners are convinced they can also conquer Europe, spurred on further by the prospect of a Wembley final.

Arsenal have never won the Champions League — losing their only final appearance against Barcelona in 2006.

Porto, European champions in 1987 and 2004, are a disappointing third in Portugal this term, but frustrated Arsenal throughout. 

They were happy to cede possession and allow Arsenal to dictate the tempo in the first half, but it was the hosts who created the best chance. 

Francisco Conceicao darted in from the right and slid over a cross that looped off a sliding Gabriel, with Galeno rifling against the far post and then steering the rebound wide after the ball came right back to him.

William Saliba and Kai Havertz headed wide at corners either side of a Nico Gonzalez drive that sailed over in a physical opening 45 minutes.

Leandro Trossard, deployed again as the leader of the attack alongside Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, lashed over on the volley from Rice’s driven corner early in the second half.

Arteta made his lone change with a quarter of an hour left, replacing Trossard with Jorginho, but Arsenal’s lack of a prolific striker was exposed and they were ultimately undone by a moment of magic from Galeno.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Michelle Heyman’s Matildas recall highlights Australian football’s striker problem

When news broke in January that Matildas captain Sam Kerr had torn her ACL, keeping her on the sidelines of the sport for the better part of the next year, a question that had been simmering in the background of Australian women’s football for the past few years suddenly reached boiling-point.

How can the country’s greatest ever goal-scorer be replaced? Which player is ready to step into the 30-year-old’s golden shoes? Who is next in the production-line of Australian strikers?

This question was being asked even when Kerr was fit and healthy. Since the 2019 Women’s World Cup, doubts were festering that the Matildas had become too reliant on the Chelsea forward, and that the team struggled to find the back of the net without her.

Sam Kerr’s ACL injury has put a spotlight on Australian football’s ongoing struggle to develop strikers.(AAP Image: Richard Wainwright)

The 2022 Women’s Asian Cup quarterfinal against South Korea was a case in point: Kerr started that game and had a handful of open-net chances which, for some reason, she failed to finish. The Matildas lost 1-0 and exited the competition at the earliest point in their history.

The question was the subtext to Kerr’s calf injury on the eve of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, too: how on earth would the team perform without their star player? Who else do we have waiting in the wings to take over?

While head coach Tony Gustavsson was able to rapidly shuffle the team’s structure and rely more on other players like Caitlin Foord, Hayley Raso, Mary Fowler and Emily Van Egmond to step up in her place, Kerr’s memorable goal against England in the semifinal — the only bright spark in an otherwise fatigued performance from the rest of the team — left many wondering how much further the Matildas could have gone had she been available the whole time.

But there is no day-by-day countdown clock on Kerr’s return now, as there was last July. Today, we have certainty that she won’t make a miraculously speedy recovery to be fully fit for the Olympic qualifying play-off against Uzbekistan in about two weeks, nor for the Olympic Games in Paris in just five months’ time. The question has now come into full and urgent focus.

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Socceroos lose to South Korea in extra time of quarterfinal to be eliminated from Asian Cup

The Socceroos have crashed out of the Asian Cup in heartbreaking fashion, suffering a dramatic 2-1 extra-time loss to South Korea after throwing away a 1-0 lead in Qatar.

Craig Goodwin gave Australia the lead when he volleyed home in the 42nd minute in front of 39,632 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium.

Australia then spurned multiple chances to double their lead before a nightmare stint off the bench from right-back Lewis Miller, and two big moments from Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min turned the game in South Korea’s favour.

With Graham Arnold’s charges up 1-0 deep into stoppage time, Miller needlessly dived in late on South Korea’s superstar captain Son, giving away a penalty.

Hwang Hee-chan coolly slammed the spot-kick into the top corner in the seventh minute of injury time to take the game to extra-time.

In the 104th minute, Miller then brought down Hwang on the edge of the area, only for Spurs’ Son to lift a wonderful free kick into the top corner to put South Korea in front.

Australia’s hopes of a comeback were then made all but impossible minutes after the goal when they were reduced to 10 men.

Aiden O’Neill lunged in to attempt to win the ball and caught Hwang with his studs, with his initial yellow card upgraded to a straight red after a VAR referral.

South Korea comfortably saw out the game from there to send Australia packing and tee up a semi-final against Jordan, who beat Tajikistan 1-0 earlier on Friday local time.

For the Koreans, the result partly avenged their 2-1 extra-time loss to the Socceroos in the 2015 Asian Cup final in Sydney. 

Check out how the match unfolded in our live blog below.

Key events

Final thoughts

Thanks Sam. A disappointing, but not unexpected result. The Socceroos gave all that they had.

Will you be blogging the Tillies v Uzbekistan Olympic qualifier?

– Mark

Football can be a cruel game, and this is one of the cruellest Socceroos games I can remember.

They were literally a minute away from a heroic 1-0 win over South Korea, only for Lewis Miller’s panicked slide tackle in the box handing their opponents a comeback on a platter.

Hwang Hee-Chan’s penalty took the wind out of Australia’s sails, as did the straight red card to Aiden O’Neill after a dangerous tackle on Hee-Chan in the first stanza of extra-time, taking the Socceroos down to ten.

From there, the team faded and faded. Overall, South Korea were good for this win, but Australia will know that this is an enormous opportunity missed, and will linger in the heads and their hearts for a while.

South Korea now progress to the Asian Cup semi-final against Jordan, while the Socceroos will debrief and then go back to their clubs.

There will be plenty of conversation in the coming days about this game and this tournament, but all I’ll say for now is that I am really proud of how the Socceroos played tonight: they did what they do best, showing us the grit and the fight that captured the whole country in 2022.

Like then, it was a joy to bring you their journey here. I’ll be back on the ABC Sport liveblog later this month to cover the Matildas’ Olympic qualifying games against Uzbekistan, which I hope you’ll join me for.

Until then!


Full time: Australia 1 – 2 South Korea

119′ Chance Korea!

Son Heung-min picks up the ball on half-way and just… jogs forward towards Australia’s defence, with no yellow shirts flooding back with urgency.

He has so much time to choose what to do here as three team-mates flood around. He opts left, sending a perfectly-weighted pass angled left into the box, and his team-mate rockets a shot towards the far post… only for Mat Ryan to throw two big hands at it and palm it away.

The ball rolls out to the other Korean winger, who tries to fire it over Ryan who’s still splayed out in the grass, but somehow it spins out for a goal kick.

Incredible keeping.

116′ Long bombs

Both teams are just pinging the ball over the top of each other’s defences now, hoping one of their fresh-legged forwards can speed in behind the slowing centre-backs and nick a goal.

It’s pretty rudimentary stuff, though. A ball floats in, and is headed away by a centreback. It’s hoofed up-field, only for the opposing centre-back to head it away. It’s been like this for a few minutes as both teams try to figure out what on earth else they can do.

114′ Referee error!

A lovely cross-field pass out to the left for the charging Aziz Behich sees the full-back bring it down beautifully before turning and aiming for a through-ball, but the referee whistles the game dead and points for a free kick to… Korea.

What? The referee gestures for a handball on Behich, but the replay shows the ball was nowhere near either of his arms.

That was such a shame: the Socceroos could’ve carved a rare opening with that run down the wing, but the ref has decided otherwise.

111′ Mat Ryan still flyin’

The Socceroos captain is still on his toes, even if most of his team-mates aren’t anymore.

Australia’s players are making more and more mistakes as they fatigue and lose concentration, but lucky for them Ryan is still wide-awake.

He snapped a shot out of the air a minute ago, and just came sprinting out of his box to calmly collect a through-ball with his foot before passing neatly to a team-mate.

Son Heung-min found too much space a moment later, opening up his body as a sliding Behich came across, but he hooked his shot just wide as Ryan was ready for it to come at him.

So at least we’ve got that.

108′ Behich is down

He’s run a marathon in this game, has Aziz.

Somehow he’s found himself up near Korea’s box, throwing himself around, trying anything to get a foot on the ball and send a cross in.

He tries to work with Bruno Fornaroli, but the ball just doesn’t settle. It’s hoofed into his stomach, and he tries his best to loft the deflection over the Korean defenders and towards the six-yard box, but it floats harmlessly into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Behich then leans down into the grass and clutches at his stomach. Winded, maybe? He gets up and jogs gingerly away a moment later after the Koreans had lumped the ball out so he could receive attention.

He looks cooked.

106′ Big Man Up Top

Harry Souttar is a centre-forward now.

If you were wondering what Graham Arnold’s “break glass in case of emergency” plan was.

Second half of extra time kick off!

105′ South Korea substitutions

Park Yong-Woo is replaced by Park Jin-seop.

Hwang Hee-Chan, who’s been epic in this match, comes off for Oh Hyeon-gyu.

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