Iraq summons Algerian envoy over pro-Saddam football chants

Spectators shouted the chants at an Arab Club Champions Cup game on Sunday between USM Alger and Iraq’s Air Force Athletic Club. (Reuters)
Updated 10 September 2018
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Iraq summons Algerian envoy over pro-Saddam football chants

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s foreign ministry said on Monday that it had summoned Algeria’s ambassador after the North African nation’s football supporters sang slogans glorifying former dictator Saddam Hussein during a game in Algiers.
In a statement, ministry spokesman Ahmed Mahjub voiced “the indignation of the government and the Iraqi people (at) the horrible glorification of the regime of murderous dictator Saddam Hussein.”
Saddam was deposed in 2003 by a US-led military intervention.
Spectators shouted the chants at an Arab Club Champions Cup game on Sunday between USM Alger and Iraq’s Air Force Athletic Club.
Videos filmed inside the stadium and posted online show Algerian supporters chanting “Allahu akbar (God is greatest)! Saddam Hussein!“
After 75 minutes of play, the Iraqi team left the pitch in protest.
Iraq’s football federation threatened to pull its teams out of the remainder of the competition and said it “opposed all extremist and sectarian slogans.”
“If the Arab Football Federation does not take a decision to restore... respect for Iraqi football, the Iraqi federation will withdraw its clubs,” Iraqi football federation president Abdel Khaleq Massud said in a statement.
Air Force Athletic Club coach Bassem Qassem accused the spectators of having “backward and extremist ideas.”
“We can’t accept the crowd insulting our country and our team,” he said in a video broadcast by Iraqi football officials.
“Why would we play in front of a sectarian crowd?“


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”