Myanmar irks rivals with SEA Games picks

Updated 30 January 2013
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Myanmar irks rivals with SEA Games picks

YANGON: Myanmar said Tuesday that it was excluding tennis and gymnastics from this year’s Southeast Asian Games, prompting accusations by rivals of cherry-picking events to help home athletes.
The 2013 SEA Games will be the first major international event to be held in Myanmar since the end of junta rule almost two years ago.
But the events list has angered some regional neighbors who say Olympic disciplines should take precedence over local events such as chinlone, a dance-like sport played with a rattan ball, and bodybuilding — at which the hosts excel.
“There were many requests to add and remove (sports). After discussion, we removed some and also added some,” sports ministry official Htay Aung told AFP, saying hockey, table tennis and badminton were all reinstated after talks Tuesday between officials from the 11 competing countries in Naypyidaw.
“We also should not include some sports which our country cannot win,” he added, apparently confirming suspicions Myanmar had selected some disciplines purely to boost its medal tally.
“Tennis is an Olympic sport which should be in the Games but Myanmar said they don’t have courts (for it),” said Chaiyapak Siriwat, vice president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.
“Personally, I think they don’t have tennis athletes,” he said.
Chris Chan, the secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council, said that it was Myanmar’s right to choose certain sports, but that other countries had pushed to have table tennis and badminton on the list.
“We argued that Southeast Asians were good at certain sports, and they understood that,” he said. “Gymnastics was dropped because it requires a lot of apparatus, and tennis, well, we don’t do that well in that in Southeast Asia.” Host nations are routinely accused of skewing the line-up of disciplines to favor their athletes as they eye medals table glory.
Events such as martial art pencak silat, Vietnamese martial art vovinam and sepak takraw, a cross between football and volleyball, are among the disciplines unfamiliar outside the region that join the regular sporting line-up.
Critics frequently decry their inclusion for diluting the quality of the events and handing host nations medals in their niche sports.
The hosts normally top the SEA Games medals tally.


Essam El-Hadary set to make history as Hector Cuper plays down Egypt criticism

Updated 9 min 39 sec ago
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Essam El-Hadary set to make history as Hector Cuper plays down Egypt criticism

VOLGOGRAD: Essam El-Hadary looks set to become the oldest footballer to play at a World Cup today when his Egypt side face Saudi Arabia in their last match of the tournament. Although coach Hector Cuper refused to reveal his line-up, the selection of El-Hadary to appear alongside him in the pre-match press conference yesterday suggests the goalkeeper is in line to break Faryd Mondragon’s four-year-old record.
“Obviously I would be very happy if I participate in the match, but this is not certain,” said El-Hadary, who is 45 years, five months and 12 days old today.
“This decision, though, remains with the management of the team.”
With both Egypt and Saudi Arabia unable to usurp Uruguay and Russia in Group A for a place in the knockout stages, the match is a dead rubber. That has led to much speculation that Cuper, who had preferred Al-Ahly’s Mohammed El-Shenawy in their opening two defeats, might make a sentimental gesture by selecting Saudi Arabia-based El-Hadary.
If he plays, El-Hadary will comfortably beat the record of Colombia’s Mondragon, who made a substitute appearance in Brazil four years ago aged 43 years and three days.
“Obviously for any player to be involved, especially in a World Cup, is a high achievement. Even if it is a record set by myself, Essam El-Hadary, it will also be an achievement for Egypt,” said the Al-Taawoun goalkeeper, who made his debut for Egypt 22 years ago.
Egypt’s preparation for today’s match with the Green Falcons has been carried under a cloud of speculation after rumors emerged that players — including El-Hadary — had clashed with Cuper. Both coach and keeper dismissed such suggestions, with the Argentine manager insisting that he would not entertain questions unless evidence could be provided. El-Hadary added: “If I was making trouble in the team then I don’t deserve to be in the team.”
The final Group A match against Saudi Arabia offers both teams a chance to finish their respective World Cup campaigns on a positive note. While Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side lost 5-0 on the opening night to the hosts and were narrowly beaten 1-0 by Uruguay, Egypt endured similar defeats in reverse, losing in the last minute to the South Americans
before being made to pay for a period of poor concentration against Russia to lose 3-1.
Egypt, making their first appearance on the world stage since 1990, are chasing a first World Cup win. While Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is expected to be passed fit having featured in the Pharaohs’ last game, Cuper was coy when asked if he would ring the changes. He has used only 14 players across 180 minutes of football so far.
“For us, this is an important match because we want to end this participation in the World Cup with a good result,” he said.
“We’re playing for all the people in Egypt and want to give them joy. We want to end this World Cup with a triumph, even though this might be only a footnote in the future. For Egypt to win a first World Cup match would be something very important. What we want to do, then, is bow out in style in the next match.”
Cuper, who may also be bowing out of his time at the Egypt helm after today’s match, has come in for criticism in recent weeks. The 62-year-old, however, insists he is not listening to the critics and is focused on the job.
“Somebody who’s a critic is a critic, that’s his job,” Cuper said. “It’s very difficult to convince everyone. I want to convince my players, link up with them in a way that brings results.
“Criticism really doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t anger me. We have to see individually what our reality is. You look at it, analyze the situation, then you choose a certain line of action to achieve results. But making everybody happy? It’s impossible.”