Al-Hilal signal serious AFC Champions League intent with Ezequiel Cerutti signing

Argentine Ezequiel Cerutti has made the move from San Lorenzo to Riyadh giants Al-Hilal
Updated 31 January 2018
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Al-Hilal signal serious AFC Champions League intent with Ezequiel Cerutti signing

LONDON: Al-Hilal have signalled their intention to have another serious crack at the AFC Champions League by signing Argentine forward Ezequiel Cerutti.
Cerutti, 26, has joined from San Lorenzo where he has scored six goals in 48 games. No fee was mentioned in the official announcement by the Saudi Arabian giants but transferMarkt.com estimate his current value as £3.5 million ($4.9 million). 
Cerutti can play as a striker but he is likely to be deployed out wide after Salem Al-Dawsari moved to Villarreal as part of the recent deal between the General Sports Authority and the Liga du Futbol that saw Saudi Arabia players loaned out to Spanish clubs. Cerutti was expected to make his debut for Al-Hilal in Tuesday night’s Saudi Professional League clash over bottom club Al-Raed. But the new signing did not take part in the 2-1 win, a result that ended a three-match winless streak and eased the pressure on under-fire coach Ramon Diaz. 
The victory means Al-Hilal are still top of the table, two points clear of Al-Ahli, but their attention will soon turn to the AFC Champions League (ACL), a competition they reached the final of last season before being agonizingly downed over two legs by Japan’s Urawa Reds.
They kick off their ACL campaign on Feb. 13 at home against Al-Ain but Diaz has plenty to ponder before then, not least which of his seven foreign players to select for the competition.
Al-Hilal have the Brazilian Carlos Eduardo, Morocco’s Achraf Bencharki, Gelmin Rivas, of Venezuela, Uruguay’s Nicolás Milesi, Oman’s Ali Al-Habsi, Syria’s Omar Khribin and now Cerutti on their books, but they are only allowed to name four foreign players, including one Asian player. 
Diaz’s job is made slightly easier by the fact that Eduardo is ruled out with a long-term injury while Khribin is certain to be named after scoring ten goals in last season’s competition. It is also hard to imagine Cerutti not being named having only just signed. However, that still leaves Bencharki, Rivas, Milesi and Al-Habsi jostling for the two remaining spots.
Al-Hilal are in Group D along with Al-Rayyan, Esteghlal and Al-Ain. 
The signing also signals the desire of the club to look to foreign stars to bolster their squad as they look to tackle title-tilts on multiple fronts.


NBA fracas, Jose Mourinho's antics prove action needed to prevent rise of violence in sport

Updated 22 October 2018
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NBA fracas, Jose Mourinho's antics prove action needed to prevent rise of violence in sport

  • In LeBron James’ home debut for the Lakers, he ended up playing peacemaker, not play-maker
  • Sport stars are extremely wealthy individuals and the vast majority of fines issued by sporting governing bodies are a drop in the ocean

LONDON: The NBA has become one of the most popular competitions in the world in recent years, with the likes of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James becoming global superstars.
As a product it is slick, glamorous and boasts celebrity fans, from the rap world to Hollywood royalty.
But the glitzy facade was shattered on Saturday when the Lakers-Rockets game descended into chaos, with both teams getting caught up in an ugly melee. Someone claimed to be spat on, punches were thrown, and three players had to be ejected from the game as the unruliness spilled over into the crowd.
In LeBron James’ home debut for the Lakers, he ended up playing peacemaker, not play-maker. Afterwards, no one was talking about his performance or the fact his team lost again. The result seemed almost irrelevant.
That fracas came hours after tension on the touchline in the Chelsea vs. Manchester United Premier League clash saw United boss Jose Mourinho lose his cool and need to be restrained in an ill-tempered scuffle with a Chelsea coach. And earlier this month, the hotly anticipated MMA match-up between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor witnessed disgraceful scenes as both fighters got involved in fights with each other’s coaching teams in the aftermath of the bout.
Unwarranted violence and aggression are becoming commonplace in sport, and yet it seems to be tolerated more and more.
What will happen in these cases?
Likely a short suspension here, a nominal fine there. Certainly less than the repercussions would be if similar behavior occurred on the streets away from sporting arenas.

Sport stars are extremely wealthy individuals and the vast majority of fines issued by sporting governing bodies are a drop in the ocean. Likewise, weeks-long suspensions seem scant punishment for actions that would see most other people fired.

Top-level sportspeople are also role-models to millions of people. What sort of message does it send to young people striving to reach the top of their chosen sport when they see those already there appearing to be given a free rein to behave inappropriately with impunity? Sport has enormous power in society, and means a lot to many people. It should be setting an example.
As such, it is about time sporting authorities started handing out punishments that fit the transgressions: Banning individuals for months and years rather than weeks, or issuing fines to the tune of a whole season’s wage. Firms must pull out of multimillion-dollar sponsorship deals instantly.
Nobody balked at the year-long bans for cricketers Steve Smith and David Warner for ball-tampering earlier this year. It was welcomed.
It may seem an overreaction, but something has to be done to deter the sort of behavior seen at the Staples Center, Stamford Bridge or in Las Vegas for the good of professional sport.