FIFA chief asked to intervene to solve Iran and Saudi Arabia fixture dispute

FIFA president Gianni Infantino (Reuters)
Updated 08 February 2018
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FIFA chief asked to intervene to solve Iran and Saudi Arabia fixture dispute

BERLIN: The president of the Iranian FA has reportedly flown to meet with FIFA president Gianni Infantino to urge him to intervene in a politically-charged Asian Champions League game.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran have affected the forthcoming match between Tehran-based Esteghlal and Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal.
The teams are due to meet in the group stages, which start next week, but Iran and Saudi Arabia have had no diplomatic relations since an attack on the Saudi Arabia embassy in Tehran in 2016.
Saudi Arabia has not wanted its teams to play in Iran. Tehran, on the other hand, has opposed playing games in neutral venues.
In the face of political pressure from both sides, the Asian Football Confederation have seemingly wavered, their position complicated by more recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and the UAE on one side and Qatar.
Esteghlal, led by German coach Winfried Schaefer, opted to host their game in Qatar on Feb. 20 with Al-Hilal choosing Kuwait as hosts on April 16.
However, the Iranian team’s choice has been vetoed by Asian football’s governing body AFC, who insist the match be moved from Qatar to Oman with no opportunity to find an alternative venue.
AFP’s German subsidiary SID report that Iranian FA boss Mehdi Taj intends to put the matter to Infantino personally in the hope FIFA will intervene.
The Iranian FA could not be reached for comment.
Esteghlal, who also face Al Rayyan of Qatar and Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates in Group D, boosted their squad with the signing of Senegal striker Mame Baba Thiam, it was announced on Thursday.
— AFP


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 23 May 2018
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.