For the love of the game: Saudi women’s football teams ready to return


‘The Kingdom has transformed massively in every way when it comes to female sports in general’
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s female football players are gearing up for a return to the pitch after months of lockdown.

The coronavirus curfew had a massive impact on the sports industry, from gym closures to teams stopped from group training. But the growth project in the Kingdom’s sports sector, women’s football clubs, have found generous support from the Saudi Football Federation that enabled teams to gain more knowledge until they were ready to return to action.
A financial analyst by day and coach and manager by afternoon, Maram Al-Butairi said that football had always been a special sport for women in the Kingdom. The Eastern Flames’ manager helped establish one of the Eastern Province’s top teams and found great interest from many women around her.
“I was surprised to hear my friend’s mother telling a story of how she and her friends and cousins used to play football in one of the fields and having a league,” she told Arab News. “I am not sure when exactly women’s football was established in the Kingdom, but definitely before the 1980s. Not knowing about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
Women’s football clubs began emerging around 2012 and 2013, gaining momentum over time as well as the support of senior members in leadership and society.
“We started inviting teams to our league and tournaments. Before that, we used to only invite footballers from Bahrain because it’s closer to the Eastern Province. In 2012-2013, we decided to invite people from all over the country and we had two teams coming from Riyadh and staying in the province for three days.
“It was the first time seeing that football was becoming something you would travel for, because a normal team would usually have at least 12 players (including the coach), and we had eight teams. It was a huge event. All those women asked their families to go and be part of this tournament. I would say that was the emergence of women’s football for us.”
A growing number of female players have honed their skills, allowing them to not just get better at the game but being able to share their knowledge and more.
2020 was going to be the year for female football players to shine but the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit the Kingdom and, as a precautionary measure, everything was put on hold. But the lockdown did not bring the sport to a standstill.
“The Kingdom has transformed massively in every way when it comes to female sports in general,” Al-Butairi said. “In football, during the lockdown, they realized that it was an opportunity to take advantage of since everyone was at home. They were eager to know more about football and they introduced many courses.”
One of the most highly anticipated virtual courses set to go live this week will be with former German player and Germany’s women’s national team assistant coach, Britta Carlson, who will be giving a lecture on the German methodology of physical fitness and technical preparation for women’s football.
“I’m very excited about Britta Carlson’s course. The US women’s football team is the best — they won the World Cup for years in a row — and Germany, Holland and France come pretty close. It is good to learn from the top teams and apply the knowledge to become like them or even better. Why not?”

• Established in 2006, the Eastern Province’s Eastern Flames was the first Saudi women’s football team and introduced a youth program in 2018.

• 2020 was going to be the year for female football players to shine but the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit the Kingdom and, as a precautionary measure, everything was put on hold.

Another course that was given during the lockdown was by UAE Women’s national team head coach Houriya Taheri.
“She taught us the introduction of coaching. It was a five-day intensive course during Ramadan. We learned all the basics and strategies, and for me, that was amazing because we need to grow the seeds. These are the people that will help women’s football evolve.”
Jeddah Eagle center forward Johara Al-Sudairi viewed the online courses given during lockdown as a “great step forward” as they helped to develop women’s football in the Kingdom.

“There is now more awareness and competition on a higher level,” she told Arab News. “The Jeddah Women’s League has changed things here in Jeddah, and the Women’s Football League will soon change things in the country. Overall things are moving forward in the right direction and the future for female football is bright. I think football was a secret passion for a lot of girls growing up in the past, and those girls paved the way for the next generation to be able to practice the sport we all love. We owe it all to them.”
Jeddah Eagles have resumed physical practice since the lifting of the lockdown and applied all the necessary health precautions, such as checking people’s temperature before they enter the training facility.
Saudi sports journalist Riyan Al-Jidani said the Saudi Football Federation was trying to set a strong foundation for women’s football, just like other Arab countries had done.
“Many people thought that because of the pandemic, everything would stop,” he said. “It was evident that this is wrong because the federation is working hard to develop women’s football despite the difficult circumstances such as COVID-19. These coaching courses are fundamental to develop coaches in the Kingdom. Britta Carlson to teach coaching skills is a wonderful step to establish a strong Saudi women’s teams in the future.
“We want to have uniquely skilled Saudi coaches that even make it abroad. Just like how we use the help of coaches from abroad, we hope to hear that European or American teams, for example, use the help of Saudi coaches in the future. This is
not impossible.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s aid agency provides aid to fire-ravaged camp in Somaliland

Time: 12 July, 2020

  • Youssef Al-Rahma: The project comes in response to the distress calls of the NDRA after a fire broke out in the camp

HARGEISA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), in cooperation with the National Displacement and Refugee Agency (NDRA) in Somaliland, distributed 45 tons of food and shelter aid to the displaced people affected by the fire that broke out in the camp of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The aid has helped 2,280 people.

The assistant director of KSRelief’s branch in Africa, Youssef Al-Rahma, said: “The project comes in response to the distress calls of the NDRA after a fire broke out in the camp. To respond quickly, food and shelter aid have been provided to the affected people.”

“This consisted of 380 food baskets for the affected families, as well as shelter materials comprising mattresses, blankets, mats, plastic sheeting and kitchen tools.”

He added that providing this aid aims to alleviate the suffering of displaced people in the difficult circumstances the world is going through due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Abdulkarim Ahmed Mohammed, head of the NDRA in Somaliland, thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the rapid response, highlighting that KSRelief was the only international organization to respond quickly to the fire disaster.

“Joy once again returned to the lips of the camp’s residents after they had been overwhelmed by the fire in the camp that sheltered them – the fire that destroyed all their possessions,” he added.

Meanwhile, KSRelief, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), inaugurated the solar water pumping unit in the Quda water project in Upper Egypt, Shabwah governorate.

The director general of the General Authority for Rural Water Supply Projects in Shabwah, Nasser Baoum, hailed the role of KSRelief in supporting rural water projects in Shabwah and providing it with solar energy pumping systems, which reduce the financial burden on the citizens and ensure the continuation of providing better services to citizens.

He called on the beneficiaries to pay attention to the solar energy system of the project and maintain it so that it can continue to provide its services to them.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia: Requests from 160 nationalities have been screened to select Hajj pilgrims


Requests from people of 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year. (File/AFP)

Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis and 30 percent will be Saudi citizens
The requests were sorted in accordance with high standards that will ensure the safety and health of pilgrims
RIYADH: Requests from people of 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Sunday.

The requests were sorted in accordance with high standards that will ensure the safety and good health of pilgrims.

The deadline for all applications was July 10 and the main criterion for selection is good health.

Of the pilgrims who will receive approval, 70 percent will be non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom and the remaining 30 percent will be Saudi citizens.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that anyone found to enter the sites of Hajj (Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat) without a permit from Dhul Qadah 28 till the end of Dhu Al-Hijjah 12 will be issued with a fine of SR10,000.

The fine will be doubled if the offence is repeated. It added that security personnel will be posted on roads leading to the holy sites to ensure that anyone who breaks the law will be stopped and fined.

This article was first published in Arab News

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250 Saudi doctors volunteer for scheme offering free medical consultations

Time: 11 July, 2020

At least 250 Saudi doctors and health practitioners have signed up to an ambitious community volunteer program offering free medical consultations to patients throughout the Kingdom. (SPA)
  • Health Ministry records 2,220 critical COVID-19 cases, deaths toll reaches 2,151
  • The scheme’s health volunteers are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year

At least 250 Saudi doctors and health practitioners have signed up to an ambitious community volunteer program offering free medical consultations to patients throughout the Kingdom.

The We Are All Sanad initiative, supervised by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, aims to recruit more than 2,000 medics to offer expert advice and raise awareness on key health issues.
Covering around 30 specialties, the scheme’s health volunteers, 45 percent of whom have so far been women, are hoping to provide 250,000 consultations by the end of the year.
The project is being run in tandem with Saudi government efforts to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The head of the initiative, Dr. Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Hamali, said the volunteer advisers had already provided hundreds of free teleconsultations remotely through the Mawidy (my appointment) platform which had contributed toward achieving sustainable goals, such as improving community service, increasing access to health care, and raising health awareness.
The initiative, launched on March 1, has been designed to help overcome obstacles faced by patients in relation to access to health care.
“These challenges include geographic barriers, a lack of clarity in the appointments available to patients, the high costs of treatment in some private sector facilities, and fear of disease exposure when visiting hospitals and clinics.
“We Are All Sanad provides services to everyone, however, priority has been given to beneficiaries of charities, especially under the unprecedented current conditions and the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens the health and safety of the world,” said Al-Hamali, adding that the program supported more than 15 associations.
The Mawidy app, available in Arabic, English, and sign language, offers telemedicine and appointment booking services, and users will soon be able to make home health care reservations as part of a raft of upcoming additional services.


The total number of coronavirus cases in KSA reached 226,486.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom reached 163,026.

The number of active cases in Saudi Arabia stood at 61,309.

The total number of PCR tests in the Kingdom reached 2,179,448.

Deputy head of the initiative, Dr. Sultan bin Faisal, praised the ministry for its support for health charity staff and beneficiaries through the provision of telemedicine consultations, educational lectures, and scientific seminars.
He said volunteers wishing to join the initiative could register through the Mawidy platform, provided they had a valid license from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, adding that the scheme offered a unique opportunity for health practitioners to exchange experiences.
Faisal pointed out that the team included 30 young volunteers who would receive skills development training through the Ibtikar program, which offered scientific and practical training courses.
Meanwhile, the Kingdom on Friday recorded 51 new COVID-19-related deaths, raising the total to 2,151.
There were 3,159 new cases reported in Saudi Arabia, meaning 226,486 people had now contracted the disease. There were 61,309 active cases, with 2,220 patients in critical condition.
According to the Ministry of Health, 296 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, while 249 were reported in Al-Hofuf, and 209 in Jeddah. In addition, 1,930 more patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 163,026.
Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 2,179,448 tests for COVID-19.
As part of the Kingdom’s strategy to tackle the virus outbreak, several services and products have been rolled out throughout the country.
These have included Takkad (make sure) centers which have conducted more than 480,000 lab tests, 239 Tetamman clinics which have dealt with at least 265,000 patients, the provision of an extra 2,500 intensive care unit beds, the building of four field hospitals, the carrying out of at least 2.1 million lab tests, and the conducting of 3.7 million medical consultations through the ministry’s 937 service center.
Earlier, Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said that we are currently going through a phase of stability and control of the COVID-19 curve in the Kingdom. “This is due to the successful measures taken by authorities, and public awareness, and we should maintain this level of commitment.”
The ministry urges those who have come in contact with an infected person to immediately isolate themselves and call them at 937. They should also stay away from others and self-isolate at home.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Naseef House, residence for King Abdul Aziz in 1925

Time: 11 July, 2020

Photo/Saudi Tourism
  • Today, Naseef House is a cultural center offering exhibitions, lectures and and a variety of visitor attractions

Naseef House is one of Jeddah’s architectural highlights, and a favorite with tourists and visitors.
The restored coral house in the historic Al-Balad district became a royal residence for King Abdul Aziz after he captured the city in 1925. Inside you can see ramps that were installed to allow camels to walk all the way up to the upper terrace.
A beautiful neem tree at the entrance was once believed to be the only tree in Jeddah.
Today, Naseef House is a cultural center offering exhibitions, lectures and and a variety of visitor attractions.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Al Amal Center Continues to Provide Services for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Time: 11 July, 2020

ARSAL, LEBANON:  Al Amal Medical Center in Arsal, Lebanon, continues to provide medical services for Syrian refugees with the support of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) – part of a larger project to enhance health services for Syrian refugees and the host community in Arsal.

On June 2020, 8,063 patients received 13,259 medical, laboratory and pharmacy services free of charge at the center’s various clinics. Health care is now being provided in accordance with all necessary precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Patient visits included: 476 to general health clinics, 734 to the eye clinic, 952 to the ER, and 523 to the dental clinic; 522 children were seen at the pediatric clinics, and vaccinations were provided to 242 people. The ENT clinic received 570 patients, the orthopedic clinic saw 452 patients, 361 patients visited the cardiology clinic, and 671 sought services at the urology clinic. The gastroenterology clinic received 338 patients, the women’s health clinic received 587 women, the diabetes and endocrinology clinics received 84 patients, and the mental health clinic received 294 patients. Community health services received 1,256 patients, 4,012 patients received free prescriptions from the pharmacy, and laboratory services were provided to 1,095 patients.

In light of the fear and anxiety under which Syrian refugees live in the overcrowded Arsal camps, which are a fertile environment for an outbreak of COVID-19, community health teams continue to implement many awareness campaigns for families. The campaigns provide basic information about the virus, including transmission methods and preventive measures. Residents were also provided with personal hygiene kits.

Community health teams have also started touring the Syrian refugee camps to provide public health awareness information, promote preventive health techniques, and educate the community. The teams also track cases of malnutrition among children and pregnant and lactating women.

A community health worker at Al Amal Medical Center, Duha Al Souqi, spoke about current community health activities in the Syrian refugee camps. “The activities,” she said, “included an explanation on how to educate the community, refer patients to health centers and follow up their cases, monitor the status of community health, and provide vitamins for children and pregnant and lactating women.”

The Medical Director of the Project, Dr. Tariq Shandab, thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for providing support which helps to save lives. He stated that the services provided at Al Amal Medical Center benefit more than 8,600 people – a total of 13,259 individual health care services in the areas of health, psychological, social and nutritional support. He added that in addition to a 24-hour emergency department, the center also has an integrated pharmacy providing free medications to all Lebanese and Syrian patients.

The patients expressed their sincere gratitude for the ongoing services being offered at the center to alleviate their suffering during these difficult times.

This article was first published in KSRelief official website

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Dance world supports owner of new Saudi ballet school


The 4-year-old daughter of the proprietor of the ballet school has a passion for the classical art. (Supplied)

Leading figures from the Kingdom’s performing arts sector have rallied to support the mom who set up the controversial training institute in the Eastern Province despite opposition
JEDDAH: The owner of a new Saudi ballet school has received substantial support from the Kingdom’s community of performing artists.

After opposition from some sections, leading artists have rallied to support the enterprising mother who set up an institute for teaching ballet in the Eastern Province.

The story was featured on the state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV channel though without mentioning the name of the ballet school’s owner or any of the instructors working with her.

The proprietor decided to establish the dance center for women and girls after her 4-year-old daughter showed a passion and talent for the classical art. One instructor at the school said she had been inspired to teach dancing to children after following the career of Saudi ballet star Samira Al-Khamis, who earned worldwide fame as a dancer and was featured on the official poster of the first Red Sea International Film Festival, which was this year postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the number of ballet institutes opening in major Saudi cities, such as Riyadh and Jeddah, has been on the rise, some traditionalists still reject the idea of girls learning any form of dance. Some Saudis took to social media to condemn the new school, while others, including men, posted messages of support.

The involvement of Saudi women in sport, culture, and the arts is being encouraged in the Kingdom with authorities removing many of the restrictions that once limited their participation in public life.

Sera McKnass, founder of iBallerina Jeddah, said: “There is a huge demand in the Eastern Province for this classical art (ballet). I really hope with all my heart she brings real technical ballet, not creative commercial training.

“That was one of the main things iBallerina faced for the first four years in terms of educating people about what is real classical ballet and away from the misconceptions and mix-ups with gymnastics or contemporary dance.”

McKnass hoped that the owner of the new ballet institute would find success with her venture. “It will definitely be quite a journey,” she added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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INTERVIEW: Abeer Al-Fouti sees Alwaleed delivering global response to COVID-19 pandemic


Abeer Al-Fouti runs the global side of Alwaleed Philanthropies and is convinced that only a global approach will work in the face of COVID-19, the biggest health challenge for nearly a century. (Illustration: Luis Grañena)

Abeer Al-Fouti explains how the philanthropic world has come together in the COVID-19 era
DUBAI: Charity begins at home, they say, but in the era of the world pandemic such a domestic-focused approach is neither desirable nor effective.

That is why several global philanthropic organisations, and big name donors, have come to the fore in the course of the COVID-19 crisis to offer financial, practical and logistics support to those people in the world whose governments do not have the means to extend assistance to their entire population.

Perhaps the best known is Bill Gates, the American entrepreneur who has pledged to give away his entire multi-billion dollar fortune to beat the virus. Other eminent entrepreneurs have also given billions in the attempt to find an elusive vaccine or effective treatment.

But Saudi Arabia has its own famous philanthropist in the shape of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Kingdom Holding magnate, who has for many years been dispensing charity via his organization Alwaleed Philanthropies.

Abeer Al-Fouti runs the global side of that enterprise and is convinced that only a global approach will work in the face of the biggest health challenge for nearly a century.

“The simple message is that actually COVID-19, despite all the challenges, whether economic, or emotional or health or luck, has one important lesson that we have all learned, or should learn: That we are one world, we are one.

“If you think selfishly, it is going to come back and haunt you anyway. So this is the time when we all need to come together and think we are one. Otherwise, we are all going to go down together,” she told Arab News.

As one of the ambitious young women coming to prominence as part of the Vision 2030 strategy of female empowerment, she obviously takes great pride in her work.

“This year we’re celebrating 40 years of our existence. If I can summarize it in numbers, we’ve been working for four decades in six continents, serving 200 countries with 355 global partners. We’ve finished 1,000 projects and spent over $4 billion, and we reached one billion beneficiaries across the world. That’s our latest update. And it’s all run by 10 Saudi females from Riyadh,” she said.

Alwaleed Philanthropies plays a major role in charitable giving within the Kingdom, supporting organizations and individuals across the spectrum of community development, health, education and empowerment. But Al-Fouti’s responsibilities are more global.

“I believe philanthropy pays a major role in filling the gap, with a regional platform bringing the government and private sector together, and focusing on those who maybe the system does not serve or does not cover. This is why His Royal Highness called us together, to do our research and then to explain who we think we should support,” she said.

“We decided to focus on those that were most vulnerable in the Arab world, in the Middle East and Africa,” she said.

Fighting the pandemic has been the main focus for the organization since the virus broke on the world earlier this year. In April, Alwaleed Philanthropies gave an extra $20 million to provide medical and economic help to poorer countries during the pandemic, bringing its total COVID-19 support to $30 million, on top of its usual budget.

“In these times of unprecedented crisis it is more important now than ever that we pull our resources together in the battle against COVID-19. With many developed nations struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must spare a thought for the developing countries of Africa and the less fortunate countries in the Middle East,” Prince Alwaleed said then.

“I’m sure you know it’s in the DNA of our culture and our religion — giving and charity. Everyone is required to give as part of the culture,’ Al-Fouti added. Alwaleed’s work runs alongside an equally generous program of charitable initiatives funded by the government of Saudi Arabia for projects both within the Kingdom itself and the rest of the world.

Maintaining the international partnerships that have been cultivated over the decades is a vital part of her work. The Gates Foundation, Gavi, the vaccination organisation, the World Health Organization and the United Nations are important allies in the global sphere.

“We have criteria for selection, and mainly we want to work with partners that are credible and share common values, and those which have long-term impact, in addition to other criteria. We have a detailed list of criteria and we tick those which have compatibility, reliability and credibility. We have to ensure that the money we give will reach those in need,” she said.

Another important ally is the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, ISESCO, which has partnered with Alwaleed on many regional projects.

“We support initiatives in 200 countries, regardless of gender, race or religion — as long as they have shared values,” she explained.



Born: Alkhobar, Saudi Arabia

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in health and hospital administration, King Saud University

Career: Various roles in government and private sector in human development, management and public relations

– CEO Al-Khair

– Partner, RVCC property development

– Co-founder, Smile Productions

– Executive manager, Global initiatives, Alwaleed Philanthropies


Those initiatives fall into four main categories. Community development involves work on essential infrastructure — housing projects, employment initiatives and educational opportunities to help achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Second comes empowerment initiatives for women and young people. In partnership with international institutions such as the UN, Alwaleed works to enhance opportunities for underprivileged women across the Middle East and Africa and to advance the interests of the big youthful demographic in the region. “We want people to become self-sufficient and empowered, Al-Fouti said.

For example, Alwaleed was a leading partner in the Turquoise Mountain project in Afghanistan, which sought to revive traditional craft industries in the war-ravaged country, providing employment for thousands of women and young people and helping to restore traditional buildings for use as medical and educational facilities.

Next comes disaster relief, again often in conjunction with UN organizations. Alwaleed played an active role in helping Albania to recover from the recent earthquake there, for example.

Finally, there is what Al-Fouti regards as her “favourite” work — the initiatives to “bridge cultures” through educational and cultural activities in several countries. Alwaleed is involved in projects in the Louvre in Paris and with Berlin Museum to explain Islamic culture to Europeans.

“We believe the best way for people to understand each other is through art and culture. We’re planning to work this year with all our educational centres, and with the Louvre and Berlin, to see how we can revisit this strategy and see how we can have more impactful projects in terms of bringing people together,” she said.


READ MORE: Alwaleed Philanthropies, ICESCO MoU to help 10 African countries

Prince Alwaleed pledges $30m to fight pandemic

How Louvre-Saudi Islamic cultural ties are promoting peace and tolerance


But the reaction to the pandemic has understandably taken up a lot of the organization’s time this year.

“We decide to get in and minimize or control the spread of the virus by strengthening local capabilities, for example through or work with ISESCO. In Africa they asked us to provide them with masks and with alcohol cleaning products. We decided that we were also going to go in and create or scale up factories, get jobs going and make the initiative available and sustainable, and this is what we are doing,” Al-Fouti said.

Through the collaboration with Gavi, Alwaleed has been able to bring medical relief to remote areas in the region. One of the repercussions of the pandemic has been that other essential medical projects, such as polio vaccination or routine immunization for children, have been scaled back drastically, partly because of travel restrictions but also because of the pressure on funds.

“In some places when people were being asked to stay at home, some didn’t have a home to go to. They were asked to wash their hands and they didn’t have water. That’s why we invested in areas where we thought there is a gap,” Al-Fouti explained.

So, those 10 women in Riyadh have the support and back-up of hundreds of partners around the world, with a global perspective in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have partners and embedded collaborative relationships that we consider to be an extension of our team. So we are not alone. There is a saying ‘work smart, not hard.’ But we work hard as well. In fact, we really do work hard,” she said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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