Russia issues security guarantee to Arsenal fans

Arsenal's Granit Xhaka celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates (Reuters)
Updated 17 March 2018
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Russia issues security guarantee to Arsenal fans

MOSCOW: Russia has issued a security guarantee to Arsenal fans who will visit Moscow for a Europa League clash in the heat of a diplomatic crisis over an ex-double agent’s poisoning.
Moscow on Saturday announced the expulsion of 23 British diplomats in a tit-for-tar response to London’s “provocative” measures over the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
Britain issued a travel warning to people in or planning to travel to Russia after expelling the same number of Moscow diplomats on Wednesday.
And Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Friday said it was “overwhelmingly likely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the attack.
The Kremlin called his comments “shocking and unforgivable.”
All of which has left Arsenal fans alarmed about the prospects of playing CSKA in Moscow on April 12 for the second leg of their Europe League quarter-final.
One Arsenal supporters’ group called it “a hot potato of a draw in view of the political stand-off.”
The club itself reposted on its website a Foreign Office travel advisory warning of possible “anti-British sentiment or harassment.”
Russia’s World Cup organizing committee chief Alexei Sorokin expressed disappointment about the tensions and said Arsenal fans have nothing to fear.
“It is a shame that the games will be played in such circumstance,” said Sorokin, who is also a senior member of the Russian Football Union.
“We will ensure security in equal measures to all — from dignitaries to fans,” Sorokin told TASS.
But he also expressed a hint of annoyance at Arsenal’s decision to put up the Foreign Office travel advisory after Friday’s Europa League draw.
“To us, there is no difference which country people come from or what our diplomatic relations with them are,” he said.
“There are absolutely no grounds for such warnings.”
Sorokin has been fighting an uphill battle to clean up Russia’s image ahead of its first World Cup at home.
The June 14 to July 15 tournament has been associated closely with Vladimir Putin ever since the Russian strongman wrested the hosting rights away from England in 2010.
Organizers are keen to resolve all the controversies and the poisoning case does not help.
Preparations have already been shadowed by concerns ranging from racism to hooliganism and doping that saw Russia perform at the Pyeongchang Winter Games under a neutral Olympic flag.
British Prime Minister Theresa May decided to give the World Cup itself a snub by announcing that royals and ministers would not be attending.
A boycott by the England team is thought unlikely despite wide-ranging speculations about it in the media and support from some British MPs.


Al-Nassr ready to challenge for title after signing Brazilian Giuliano

Updated 21 August 2018
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Al-Nassr ready to challenge for title after signing Brazilian Giuliano

  • Riyadh club have not won the title since 2015 and have set their stall out to win it for the ninth time.
  • Brazilian Giuliano is the latest star to sign for Al-Nassr, joining Nigeria international Ahmed Musa.

LONDON: Al-Nassr are ready to challenge for the Saudi Pro League title after a busy summer in the transfer market and elsewhere. That is the message from the Riyadh club who have their sights set on reclaiming the title they last won in 2015.
The side finished third last season but under the energetic leadership of new president Saud Al-Suwailem, the eight time champions ended the transfer window on Monday by confirming the signing of former 
Brazilian international Giuliano from 
Fenerbahce for a fee of €10 million ($11.5 million).
It is the second biggest deal that Al-Nassr have done since the end of last season after the Ahmed Musa transfer, the Nigerian international arriving in early August from Leicester City Premier League. And having seen the 28-year-old attacking midfielder score 14 goals in the Turkish league last season, the club feel Giuliano is a great addition to their expanding squad.
Not only that, the club has brought in former Liverpool and Feyenoord goalkeeper Brad Jones, former Watford star and Morocco international Nordin Amrabat, Peru international defender Christian Ramos and also welcome back Saudi star Yahya Al-Shehri from his loan in Spain.
“We are very happy with the squad going into the new season,” an Al-Nassr official told Arab News.
“It was already a good one but we have strengthened in every area and especially have added some very exciting attacking players. If the coach can get the new signings to settle quickly then we could have a good season.”
There is no automatic demand for the title but an improvement on last season when Al-Nassr finished 12 points behind champions and Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal is required.
“We know that it won’t be easy as the top teams all look to be stronger after spending on some good talent from overseas,” added the official.
“We want to be challenging for the title, that is where we should be. It helps that we also have a coach that has done it before.”
For Al-Nassr, the return of Jose Daniel Carreno could be a game-changer. The Uruguayan tactician had a successful spell with the club and lifted the 2013 league title and the Crown Prince Cup in the same year. He returned to the club in March and his knowledge of Al-Nassr and the league is seen as vital.
“I think the changes to the team have been of great benefit,” Carreno said after last week’s 2-1 win at UAE side Al-Jazira in the Arab Champions Cup. “We have more firepower going forward and we will look to be aggressive and put teams on the backfoot, and press higher up the pitch than before.
“There is still work to do but we are moving to where we want to be. The league is going to be tough this time with Al-Hilal looking strong and signing players, and Al-Ittihad will not have the kind of season they had last time but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
There have been developments off the pitch too. President Al-Suwailem was appointed in April and has been working hard to improve standards at the club and increase revenues.
Earlier this month, the president went to the UAE to sign a four year sponsorship deal with Etihad Airlines that is reportedly worth SR50 million ($13.34 million) a year.
“There is more energy at all levels of the club,” said the official.
“Of course, it depends on what happens when the season starts but we can’t wait for the season to start.”