Irfan Pathan Recalled to Indian Cricket Team

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

2011-12-07T111431Z_428416175_GM1E7C71HP401_RTRMADP_3_CRICKET-WINDIESIrfan Pathan, who was once hailed as India’s solution for its all-rounder woes, has been thrown a lifeline with a recall into the Indian team for the last two One Day Internationals (ODI) against West Indies after being ignored for nearly three years.

It speaks volumes of this fine left-hander’s determination that despite the snub from selectors, he kept knocking at the doors of Indian cricket with hope. Pathan’s rise and fall is a tragic tale. He was a victim of Indian cricket’s foolhardy acts. Any other cricketer would have hung up his boots or at least blasted those who destroyed him.

Pathan instead decided to let his performance do the talking for him. During his visit to Dubai last year, The Gulf News asked him about his disappointment at being left out of the Indian team and whether he felt anyone was responsible for his downfall. He could only say: “I am not lucky but I will keep working hard to get back into the Indian team.”

Many feel Pathan was a victim of former Indian coach Greg Chappell’s strange “experiments” which almost destroyed the Indian team. At a time when Pathan was bowling at his best, he was strangely promoted up the batting order to the crucial No 3 slot — forcing him to focus on his batting. He was even told to reduce his speed as a bowler, making him lose sting.

Pathan, who looked capable of emerging as a genuine all-rounder after the great Kapil Dev, thus crashed out of the team and so did Chappell as the coach. Imran Khan, during an interview with this newspaper, had once said that Pathan has the talent to become another Wasim Akram.

A series of injuries too followed and Pathan had to bear the sight of many others taking his slot while his elder brother Yousuf Pathan too went on to become a permanent member of the Indian team. “I am younger to Yousuf, but I got selected into the Indian team first. Everyone then talked about him only as my brother, but today it is different. He has made his own name and got his own individuality. I am proud to be known as his younger brother,” he said during his visit here.

For the record, Pathan played his last ODI on February 8, 2009 while his last Test match was in April the same year. He has, meanwhile, strengthened his bowling and tried to regain his bite as a bowler through tips from former Indian pacer-turned-coach T.A. Sekar. Fortunately, age is still with him. He is only 27 years old and has many years of cricket still left in him. All that he needs is a good spell that can lift his confidence. Surely, the Baroda boy deserves a longer run for all the harm done to his career through mindless experiments.

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The Other Muslim Soccer Star in Kansas City

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Compiled by Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Reporters_wcup_nigeria14Senegalese soccer player Birahim Diop welcomed a new Muslim teammate to Sporting Kansas this season with the arrival of heralded striker Soony Saad. But Diop himself has been in Major League Soccer (MLS) for three seasons now. He originally began his career in Senegal with US Rail de Thiès. In one year at the club he appeared in 25 matches scoring 15 goals. He then went on to ASC Jeanne d’Arc and scored 12 goals and added 7 assists in his one year at the club.

In 2001 Diop moved to the United States and joined the New York/New Jersey MetroStars reserve squad. He then impressed the coaching brass to move up to the senior squad appearing in 4 league matches in 2002. Following his stay in New York, Diop moved to Colombian side Deportivo Pereira, before being re-united once again with his former coach in New York Octavio Zambrano at CS Tiligul-Tiras Tiraspol in Moldova. In his first season with CS Tiligul-Tiras Tiraspol Diop appeared in 15 league matches and scored 3 goals playing as a holding midfielder. In 2008 Diop returned to the U.S. and played for FDR United in New York City’s amateur leagues, scoring 19 goals in 25 matches.

On March 17, 2010, Diop joined the Kansas City Wizards, as an addition to their midfield. Diop was reunited with coach Octavio Zambrano once again, as he was now an assistant coach for Kansas City. Diop scored his first two MLS goals on August 21, 2010 in a 4-1 victory over the New England Revolution. Diop than recorded the first hat trick of his career on October 23, 2010 in a 4-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. Diop enjoyed his best year in Major League soccer in 2010 with the Kansas City Wizards appearing in 14 league matches and scoring 5 goals.

This season, the 22 year old midfielder has yet to score a goal in 18 games played with Kansas City. He has, however, started eight games, and has recorded an assist. At 6’3” and 175 pounds, Diop is an imposing figure in the Sporting Kansas City midfield. And as a result of his size he often plays as a striker. But with Soony Saad part of the strikeforce nowadays, he and Diop could have the makings of quite a scoring pair moving forward.

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Nazem Kadri Begins Training Camp

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Kadri_2010Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson doesn’t anticipate much roster juggling this year as the National Hockey League team begins its training camp for the new season. And, unfortunately this means limited opportunities for Lebanese-Canadian forward Nazem Kadri on the 2010-2011 roster.

For now, the Leafs coach has his first three lines set, with the possible exception of one spot on the third unit. The trio of Joffrey Lupul-Tim Connolly-Phil Kessel will get things started followed by Nikolai Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong-Tyler Bozak-Nazem Kadri.

But both Wilson and general manager Brian Burke said one spot on that third unit could be up for grabs between Kadri, Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin and Philippe Dupuis. “That would be what I would see the first three lines right now,” Wilson told the Toronto Sun. “But it will be the same as last year: If someone plays better than (Kadri), he’ll start in the minors. I’m hoping the year of experience both in the American League and with us is only going to make him better.”

Kadri was the seventh overall selection by the Maple Leafs in the 2009 NHL draft. He has spent the past two seasons shuttling between the parent club and their American Hockey League affiliate the Toronto Marlies. The Leafs begin their regular season on October 6th, hosting the Montreal Canadians. That day will ironically be Nazem’s 21st birthday, and I’m sure that he could not think of a better way to celebrate his birthday than on the ice with the Maple Leafs.

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Mohamed Sanu Ready to Ascend

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Sanu103806432The Rutgers University football team may have a new offensive coordinator, but they still have the same prized offensive weapon: wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Sanu will be making one change, however. He has been shifting between the wide receiver, running back, and even quarterback positions during his Rutgers career so far. This year, he will concentrate only on the wide receiver position.

“If football can be played with only one person on the field, he (Sanu) can probably play every position that is out there,” Rutgers wide receivers coach P.J. Fleck told NewBrunswick.com. “We really can do anything with him. He can play any position for us. He kind of already has (laughs).”

“It’s my job as offensive coordinator to put our playmakers in the best position to make plays,” Rutgers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti said. “We want to create the best matchups. (Sanu) is a wide receiver.”

“It’s a blessing to be able to do many things,” Sanu told NewBrunswick.com. “Right now, I’m pretty happy to be able to just focus on doing one thing. I get to see how good I can be at one thing.” His versatility helped him become well-rounded, but focusing only on receiving should preserve his health. “Being just a wide receiver should also help him health-wise,” Fleck said. “As a halfback, he got hit about twenty more times a game than he would as a receiver.”

Sanu’s football honors thus far have included Honorable Mention Freshman All-America by CollegeFootballNews.com and a Third Team All-Big East selection by Phil Steele.Sanu stands at an impressive 6’ 2” and 215 pounds. And, blessed with smarts, speed, and strength, he is rated as a possible first round draft pick in next spring’s NFL Draft by a number of scouting services. And while his experiences as a running back, quarterback, kick returner, and even punter have added to his skillset, it will be his specialization that should propel him to future National Football League success.
“We really can do anything with him,” Fleck noted. “From a selfish standpoint as the wide receivers coach, I’m glad I have him the whole time. There were times when we were working on things when he had to go be the quarterback or do the run game.”

“I think he’ll be even better this year,” Fleck said. “You have to rep technique. You have to do it over and over and over. He can take all of the mental capacity he has and focus it on being a receiver, with the routes and the concepts. I think he’ll be able to respond quicker, think faster.”

“First of all, he’s bigger than most receivers,” Rutgers sophomore quarterback Chas Dodd told NewBrunswick.com. “He’s very strong. He’s very fast. He’s able to catch the ball and make plays with it. His yards after the catch is one thing that really elevates his game. He catches the ball well and is a big target for me. I love throwing to a guy like that. The more reps we get, the more comfortable we’ll feel in the timing of the routes.”

“At this point, I can’t say anything is set,” Cignetti said. “As an offense, you always want to do what is best for us to represent problems for the defense we’re playing.

“If coach decides to go in that direction, we know we have him,” Fleck added. “He gives us the ability to create mismatches across the board.” “I never really thought of myself as being this or that position,” said Sanu, who spent his early childhood in Sierra Leone. “I’m a football player.”

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Shaquille O’Neal Retires from Basketball

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

2011-06-03T184142Z_283175512_GM1E76407ON01_RTRMADP_3_NBA-SHAQUILLE

Shaquille O’Neal laughs while telling a story during his announcement of his retirement from the National Basketball Association (NBA) at a news conference at his home in Windermere, Florida June 3, 2011.

REUTERS/Scott Audette

Basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, 39, made his retirement official this past week. Saying those words made his pro career full-circle, because it all ended at his home in a suburb of Orlando, the city where his pro days began when the Magic made him the No. 1 pick in 1992. “Never thought this day would come,” O’Neal said. “Father Time has finally caught up with Shaquille O’Neal.”

He indicated that not only will he not return, but he will not coach anyone but his three sons. His career ends with 28,596 points, 13,099 rebounds, 15 All-Star selections, four championships and three NBA Finals MVP awards. He had a $1.4 million option to return to the Boston Celtics next season, but he said he did not want to hold up the team’s plans several months if he needs Achilles surgery.”I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal was so moved by Hurricane Katrina that not only did he arrange for tractor-trailers to bring supplies to storm-ravaged New Orleans, he personally went to oversee distribution efforts. And after that, Shaq considered signing with the New Orleans Hornets, thinking his mere presence in the city would help recovery efforts even more, but the deal simply fell through. “This just didn’t happen,” his college coach Dale Brown said. “The other thing that’s very obvious to me is that this should be a beacon, a beacon light for all young people watching this.”

He was grateful for the Los Angeles Lakers for planning to retire his number 34. “I would like to thank the Laker organization for thinking of me,” O’Neal said on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” adding he spoke Thursday with Lakers owner Jerry Buss and vice president Jeannie Buss. O’Neal also said on Stephen A. Smith’s radio show that, if elected, he would prefer to enter the Hall of Fame as a Laker.

In the interview, he stated that he believes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the best to ever play the center position. And, excluding himself from the conversation, he considers Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson to be among the top five centers of all time. “Just to have my name mentioned next to those guys is a blessing,” O’Neal said.

His immediate future is uncertain. He’ll likely work in television, but his health comes first. Injuries derailed him mightily this season with the Celtics, and if his injured Achilles’ doesn’t improve soon, surgery may be an option. “I’ve got to get that right,” O’Neal said Friday before the throng of media at his home, “before I go into the next chapter.”

O’Neal said he leaves with some regrets, foremost among them not being able to reach 30,000 points. And while everyone knew what he would say on Friday, he was anxious, something his mother gently chided him for afterward. He was asked toward the end of the ceremony what advice he would give to players today. “Be leaders,” O’Neal said, “and not followers.”

“It’s time for what’s next,” O’Neal said. Perhaps Hajj is next for Shaquille, as he expressed in an interview with Turkish television last year. O’Neal’s mother is a Baptist and stepfather a Muslim. However, in 2002, the Los Angeles Times identified O’Neal as being Muslim and quoted him as saying, “It’s a Muslim thing,” with regard to the greetings he exchanged with opposing player Hedo Turkoglu before each game of that year’s Western Conference Finals series. The newspaper also quoted Turkoglu as saying that he was not surprised at the gesture from O’Neal “because Muslim people support each other.” Best of luck in whatever you do, Shaquille.

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Muhammad Wilkerson First Round Pick of the Jets

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

800-Jets_Draft_Football.sff.standalone.prod_affiliate.4Temple University defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson reacted with emotion amongst friends and family in his hometown in New Jersey last week, as he learned that he was selected by the New York Jets with the 30th pick of the first round of the 2011 National Football League draft. Wilkerson was in tears, flanked by his mother in hijab and his father in a prayer cap, amongst a group of 80-90 friends and family members at a restaurant in his hometown of Linden, New Jersey. The 6 foot 4, 305 pound Wilkerson is expected to play defensive end in the Jets’ 3-4 defense, periodically moving inside to the 3 technique defensive tackle position in four-man fronts. “I think I can come in and help the defense be more destructive than it is,” he stated in a conference call with reporters the night of the draft.

And in addition to being versatile from a position standpoint, Wiikerson is also versatile from a skill-set standpoint, as he is proficient as both a pass-rusher and as a run-stopper. Known not only for his athleticism and strength but also for his work ethic, Wilkerson left college early after his junior year to pursue his dreams of a professional football career. Now that he has been selected in the lucrative first round of the NFL Draft, it appears that his dreams of pro football are about to become a reality. Jets coach Rex Ryan stated that he felt that Muhammad would fit in quite nicely. “I think Muhammad really fits what we want to do defensively,” Ryan told the Bergen (N.J.) Record. “He was an excellent player in college, but we think he’s got more to give. We’re going to push him and push him and coach him up to play the way that we play, play like a Jet.”

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Will Kareem be Head Coach? He Has Faith — and Maybe That’s an Issue

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gregg Doyel

CBSSports.com National Columnist

kajheadshot The tragedy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar isn’t that he’ll die some day. We’ll all die some day. The tragedy is that he’ll die without spending even an hour as a head coach in the NBA.

He’s not going to die any time soon, certainly not from the rare form of leukemia that he recently disclosed he has been fighting for nearly a year. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, almost 90 percent of the chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients with the best possible medicine are still alive after five years. That’s terrific.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has the best possible medicine, so five years from now I expect he will be 67 years old. But five years from now I’m positive he still won’t be an NBA coach. And that’s terrible.

I’m wondering if bigotry is at work here, and by “wondering,” a lot of you will say I’m “accusing.” And I’m not. I’m not accusing the almost entirely white NBA ownership — which last season employed a 77 percent black roster base, not to mention 11 black coaches and five black team presidents — of bigotry in the usual sense.

But I’m wondering — just wondering, people, just wondering — if Abdul-Jabbar’s religion has worked against him. Here we have the leading scorer in NBA history. Ever. And he’s not just an athletic savant put on this earth to play one sport better than almost anyone ever has. (Which is what I think of when I think of Joe Montana.) No, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the smartest people ever to play in the NBA, and I do mean ever. He has written books that go far beyond basketball. The guy’s a borderline genius, and if I’ve just written a word that doesn’t belong in this story, fine. Take out the word borderline.

And he wants to coach. He has wanted to coach for years. He has coached in the United States Basketball League in Oklahoma and at the Fort Apache Indian reservation in Arizona. He has served as a scout and as a low-ranking assistant in the NBA. At this moment he is a special assistant for the Lakers, working primarily with young center Andrew Bynum. But Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach in the NBA.

And nobody in the NBA will hire him.

I can’t make sense of it, so I’m grasping for possible reasons. And one possible reason — a possibility, people — is that religious bigotry is at work. If an NBA owner has ever hired a Muslim as his team’s head coach, I’m not aware of it. There certainly has never been a head coach in the NBA who was so devoutly Muslim at any time in his life that he took on a Muslim name. Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t seem that devout now, by the way. He has done a commercial for Coors and has been investigated twice for marijuana possession, and the Muslim faith frowns on such hedonistic pursuits.

Maybe his faith has nothing to do with his inability to get a head coaching job. Seriously, it could be irrelevant. There is another factor here, and to ignore it would be intentionally misleading, and I won’t do that. So I’ll acknowledge that Abdul-Jabbar has been known for his prickly personality over the years. He has been reluctant to talk to the media, and dismissive at times when he has talked to the media, though he was more than accommodating the one time I approached him.

Abdul-Jabbar knows his demeanor has hurt him. In 2006, he told the Los Angeles Times, “I always saw it like [reporters] were trying to pry. I was way too suspicious, and I paid a price for it.”

He could be paying that price to this day. Owners typically don’t want to hire a surly, public-relations disaster as a head coach, though it happens. Bill Belichick rules the NFL. Isiah Thomas landed coach and GM jobs in the NBA. Former NBA coach Bill Russell was prickly. Current Bucks coach Scott Skiles is prickly. But they got their chance. Skiles in particular is on his third team.

Abdul-Jabbar? He’s still waiting for his first chance. And he’s not waiting quietly, either. When a story on ESPN.com in August ruminated on the possible heir to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, Abdul-Jabbar used his Twitter feed — which has a million followers — to lobby for the job:

• “I just read the ESPN story on who will replace Phil and I c that a lot of u think I would be a good choice. I would have to agree with my fans.”

• “If people want to find out what I am sitting on in terms of basketball knowledge maybe I’ll get a shot at a head coaching position.”

• “I have not been given an opportunity as a head coach so maybe a groundswell of support from my fans could open a door for me!”

Clearly Abdul-Jabbar wants to be a head coach, but the NBA is too busy recycling Scott Skiles and Don Nelson and proven losers like Alvin Gentry and Mike Dunleavy and Lionel Hollins and Eddie Jordan. This is a league in need of a new idea, and I have it: His name is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

He’s the all-time NBA scoring leader, he’s brilliant, and he’s dying to be a head coach.

What’s the problem here?

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