This game bowled me over



There are good matches, there are great matches and then, once in a blue moon, there are sporting fairytales. To qualify for fairytale status, a number of key elements must be satisfied. The match itself must be meaningful and it must be won by the underdogs, who must start out badly but eventually claw back victory through a combination of dogged willpower and some unorthodox thinking by an inspirational leader. Ideally - and now we are really getting into Mighty Ducks territory - the victory must have some wider significance than sport alone.

Super Bowl XLIV ticked all those boxes. Of course the Super Bowl is a meaningful event - one in three Americans cannot be wrong, unless it comes to spelling, President(s) Bush or country music. New Orleans Saints were certainly the underdogs. The Aints, as this perennially under-achieving franchise was dubbed by long-suffering fans, had never before reached a Super Bowl and were widely tipped to get bucked by the Indiana Colts. This seemed even more likely as they trailed 10-0 after the first quarter.

But then the fairy dust kicked in. Sean Payton, their inspirational coach, seized the advantage with the unorthodox call to kick onside and retain possession, and the Saints went on to perform a live, televised magic act: they won. For the wider significance of this victory, you only need to recall the damage caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. To a city still struggling to find its feet, the economic and morale-raising boom of a Super Bowl victory is priceless.

This was genuine fairytale material which managed to warm even my cynical heart. All of the minor irritations of American Football were swept away. Never mind the treacle-laden schlock of not one but two patriotic anthems, one of them by a lady who would not have looked out of place as a Colts blocker. Never mind the obsession with mind-numbing stats ("that's the fourth year running the AFC team has won the toss!"). Never mind the sheer camp-ness of the sport's rituals - that combination of tight pants and tossing a red flag on to a field makes me think of an 18th century French dandy looking for a date.

Never mind all of that, because this was my first ever Super Bowl experience and the fairytale had won me over. And then reality bit. The final piece of any sporting fairytale is for the captain to lift the silverware. Instead, this being America, the first man to hold aloft the Lombardi Trophy was the franchise owner, Tom Benson. He hogged the limelight for several minutes until Payton managed to prise it away and make a speech in which he regretted there was not enough room on the platform for the players. True, but there would have been room for a few more without Benson and Co.

This may sound like nitpicking, but I believe the guys who have been risking brain damage for the last three hours should be the ones to revel in the glory. Sadly, American sport is so in thrall to the money men and the corporate dollar that even the finest fairytale is tainted. When Drew Brees, the quarterback, eventually got his hands on the trophy, he made a speech thanking the franchise owners, the general manager, Payton and, finally, the team. In my fairytale, that order would have been reversed.

The Moral Majority is having a post-prandial snooze this week after devouring a pound of John Terry's flesh. However, it will soon awake, hungry for something else to get upset about. So, may I suggest the issue of footballers' behaviour on the field, where the red and yellow card system has been debased. These alleged punishments are supposed to hinder the offending team yet often the opposite is true. How many times have you seen a plodding side sparked into furious ambition by a flash of yellow? How many times have you seen 11 lambs miraculously transformed into 10 lions following a red? This was certainly the case in Saturday's Merseyside derby, when Liverpool gained the advantage only after the dismissal of Sotirios Kyrgiakos. And Jamie Carragher's foul on Steven Pienaar was so blatant that his only intention must have been to get booked - which he did. The commentators may tut, but Carra knows what it takes to become a fans' favourite.

So how do you punish foul play by sportsmen who seem to thrive on the heat of a booking or the siege mentality of a dismissal? I was pondering this when the answer struck me like a faulty Japanese car: bowing. The president of Toyota cars made a 45 degree bow last week to apologise for the faulty pedal issue. Japanese etiquette dictates the lower you bow, the sorrier you are. What a great idea for punishing errant footballers. The referee could simply stop play after a foul and refuse to re-start the game until the player performs a solemn and appropriate bow to his victim. Let's say 25 degrees for shirt-pulling, 45 for a trip, 90 for going in studs-up, and the full forehead-on-the-ground treatment if you hear anything snap. It could work - and the Moral Majority will love it. Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan. sports@thenational.ae

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).


Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).


Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Stars: Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff

Rating: 4/5 

The Specs

Price, base Dh379,000
Engine 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6
Gearbox eight-speed automatic
Power 503bhp
Torque 443Nm
On sale now

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Emirates exiles

Will Wilson is not the first player to have attained high-class representative honours after first learning to play rugby on the playing fields of UAE.

Jonny Macdonald
Abu Dhabi-born and raised, the current Jebel Ali Dragons assistant coach was selected to play for Scotland at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2011.

Jordan Onojaife
Having started rugby by chance when the Jumeirah College team were short of players, he later won the World Under 20 Championship with England.

Devante Onojaife
Followed older brother Jordan into England age-group rugby, as well as the pro game at Northampton Saints, but recently switched allegiance to Scotland.

WHAT IS A BLACK HOLE?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

EMERGENCY PHONE NUMBERS

Estijaba – 8001717 –  number to call to request coronavirus testing

Ministry of Health and Prevention – 80011111

Dubai Health Authority – 800342 – The number to book a free video or voice consultation with a doctor or connect to a local health centre

Emirates airline – 600555555

Etihad Airways – 600555666

Ambulance – 998

Knowledge and Human Development Authority – 8005432 ext. 4 for Covid-19 queries

The bio

Favourite book: Peter Rabbit. I used to read it to my three children and still read it myself. If I am feeling down it brings back good memories.

Best thing about your job: Getting to help people. My mum always told me never to pass up an opportunity to do a good deed.

Best part of life in the UAE: The weather. The constant sunshine is amazing and there is always something to do, you have so many options when it comes to how to spend your day.

Favourite holiday destination: Malaysia. I went there for my honeymoon and ended up volunteering to teach local children for a few hours each day. It is such a special place and I plan to retire there one day.

RECORD BREAKER

Youngest debutant for Barcelona: 15 years and 290 days v Real Betis
Youngest La Liga starter in the 21st century: 16 years and 38 days v Cadiz
Youngest player to register an assist in La Liga in the 21st century: 16 years and 45 days v Villarreal
Youngest debutant for Spain: 16 years and 57 days v Georgia
Youngest goalscorer for Spain: 16 years and 57 days
Youngest player to score in a Euro qualifier: 16 years and 57 days

Three ways to get a gratitude glow

By committing to at least one of these daily, you can bring more gratitude into your life, says Ong.

  • During your morning skincare routine, name five things you are thankful for about yourself.
  • As you finish your skincare routine, look yourself in the eye and speak an affirmation, such as: “I am grateful for every part of me, including my ability to take care of my skin.”
  • In the evening, take some deep breaths, notice how your skin feels, and listen for what your skin is grateful for.
TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

What is cystic fibrosis?
  • Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects the lungs, pancreas and other organs.
  • It causes the production of thick, sticky mucus that can clog the airways and lead to severe respiratory and digestive problems.
  • Patients with the condition are prone to lung infections and often suffer from chronic coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
  • Life expectancy for sufferers of cystic fibrosis is now around 50 years.
Red Joan

Director: Trevor Nunn

Starring: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson, Tereza Srbova

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Book of Collateral Damage

Sinan Antoon

(Yale University Press)

STAY, DAUGHTER

Author: Yasmin Azad

Publisher: Swift Press

Available: Now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

LOVE AGAIN

Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

What is a black hole?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

If you go

The flights

Emirates flies from Dubai to Seattle from Dh5,555 return, including taxes. Portland is a 260 km drive from Seattle and Emirates offers codeshare flights to Portland with its partner Alaska Airlines.

The car

Hertz (www.hertz.ae) offers compact car rental from about $300 per week, including taxes. Emirates Skywards members can earn points on their car hire through Hertz.

Parks and accommodation

For information on Crater Lake National Park, visit www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm . Because of the altitude, large parts of the park are closed in winter due to snow. While the park’s summer season is May 22-October 31, typically, the full loop of the Rim Drive is only possible from late July until the end of October. Entry costs $25 per car for a day. For accommodation, see www.travelcraterlake.com. For information on Umpqua Hot Springs, see www.fs.usda.gov and https://soakoregon.com/umpqua-hot-springs/. For Bend, see https://www.visitbend.com/.

Captain Marvel

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Jude Law,  Ben Mendelsohn

4/5 stars

Asia Cup Qualifier

Final
UAE v Hong Kong

TV:
Live on OSN Cricket HD. Coverage starts at 5.30am

Teams

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shanwari, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Mark Chapman, Lockie Ferguson, Colin de Grandhomme, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Ajaz Patel, Glenn Phillips, Seth Rance, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

Honeymoonish

Director: Elie El Samaan

Starring: Nour Al Ghandour, Mahmoud Boushahri

Rating: 3/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Co Chocolat

Started: 2017

Founders: Iman and Luchie Suguitan

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Food

Funding: $1 million-plus

Investors: Fahad bin Juma, self-funding, family and friends

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Consoles: PC, PlayStation
Rating: 2/5

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi

While you're here
Scoreline

Liverpool 3
Mane (7'), Salah (69'), Firmino (90')

Bournemouth 0

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000


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