‘Phenomenal’ Kane can be England record scorer: Southgate

‘Phenomenal’ Kane can be England record scorer: Southgate
England's manager Gareth Southgate. (AP)
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Updated 14 November 2020

‘Phenomenal’ Kane can be England record scorer: Southgate

‘Phenomenal’ Kane can be England record scorer: Southgate
  • Southgate believes the 27-year-old should be setting his sights on passing Rooney

LONDON: Gareth Southgate says “phenomenal” Harry Kane is capable of becoming England’s record goal-scorer as the Tottenham striker prepares to win his 50th cap against Belgium on Sunday.

England captain Kane is sixth on his country’s all-time scoring chart with 32 international goals, 21 behind record holder Wayne Rooney.

Southgate believes the 27-year-old should be setting his sights on passing Rooney.

Kane has scored 13 times for Tottenham already this season, but drew a blank in each of his four appearances for England this term.

Ahead of his side’s Nations League visit to Belgium, England boss Southgate outlined the case for Kane to chase football immortality.

“In terms of what is possible, the goalscoring record is the really interesting one because his strike rate for us is phenomenal and he has time on his side to chase Wayne Rooney’s record which would be a remarkable feat,” Southgate told a press conference.

“I know from his perspective, while the personal achievement is something he is driven toward, it is the team achievement.

“He is so focused on the team having success and he would want to look back over the next few years at the team achieving.”

Kane has enjoyed a host of memorable moments since winning his first England cap four years ago, including finishing as top scorer at the 2018 World Cup.

Asked about his favorite memory of Kane in his first 49 caps, Southgate picked out the striker’s first international goal.

Southgate was England Under-21 manager at the time and had worked with Kane at that level before he was given a debut by Roy Hodgson in March 2016 against Lithuania.

“I think his first goal for England with Roy because we were with the Under-21s and whenever one of your players get called up, you always want them to do well,” Southgate said.

“I remember hearing he had scored and that was a brilliant moment for all of us because you want your boys to progress and do well.

“His goal at Hampden (against Scotland) as well and of course his goals at the World Cup. To win the golden boot is an incredible personal achievement.”

England and West Ham midfielder Declan Rice has been as impressed by Kane’s leadership qualities as by his predatory finishing.

“With ‘H’, you feel his presence all the time. If you look at the other night, he was involved but beforehand he is in the changing room, getting everyone ready and talking to the lads individually,” Rice said.

“For a youngster like me, who is aspiring to be a future captain, you have to look at what he does.

“He might not be the loudest on the pitch, but the way he takes the ball under pressure and gets defenses scared, he is a real leader.”

While Kane was preparing for the Belgium match, it emerged that his £100,000 ($131,000) Range Rover was stolen from outside his house on October 25.

Kane is reported to have CCTV footage showing a car driving past his luxury vehicle on multiple occasions, leading to fears he was targeted by a gang.

After Jack Grealish’s eye-catching display in Thursday’s 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland, it has been widely suggested the Aston Villa winger deserves a sustained run in Southgate’s team.

Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount has been perceived as a rival for Grealish’s place, despite playing against Ireland in a more central position.

But Rice, a lifelong friend of Mount, launched a staunch defense of his team-mate after criticism of his performances on social media.

“We don’t speak about it but it is very harsh,” Rice said of Mount’s doubters.

“I know what his mentality is like. I know how driven he is. It is no surprise that Gareth picks him, Frank (Lampard) picks him and if you gave every Premier League manager the chance, they would pick him as well.”


Barcelona closing in on Xavi to rescue falling giants

Barcelona closing in on Xavi to rescue falling giants
Updated 59 min 11 sec ago

Barcelona closing in on Xavi to rescue falling giants

Barcelona closing in on Xavi to rescue falling giants
  • Barca president Joan Laporta was reportedly in talks with Xavi about the vacant position on Thursday morning
  • Xavi is currently coach of Al Sadd but prising him away from the Qatari club is not expected to be a problem, with the Spaniard eager to complete a sensational returnBarcelona

MADRID: Barcelona are close to finalizing Xavi Hernandez’s long-anticipated return as coach, according to various reports in the Catalan press on Thursday.
Yet the club’s former superstar remained reluctant to discuss his likely coronation as successor to the sacked Ronald Koeman.
Barca president Joan Laporta was reportedly in talks with Xavi about the vacant position on Thursday morning.
Xavi is currently coach of Al Sadd but prising him away from the Qatari club is not expected to be a problem, with the Spaniard eager to complete a sensational return.
The 41-year-old left Barcelona in 2015 on the back of winning the treble, which took his career tally to eight titles in La Liga and four in the Champions League.
He is widely considered one of the club’s greatest ever players and there is huge excitement about his potential as a coach, after his influence on the iconic Barca team managed by Pep Guardiola.
However, Xavi insisted that he was thinking only of his current job.
“I am currently focused on my work with Al Sadd, and I cannot talk about anything else,” Xavi told a press conference ahead Saturday’s match with Al Ahli in the Qatar Stars League.
Barcelona’s scheduled morning training session on Thursday was put back to 5pm (1500GMT) and was taken by B team coach Sergi Barjuan who will be in charge for the game at home to Alaves on Saturday.
Barca have three games to negotiate before the international break, against Alaves and Celta Vigo in La Liga, as well as a crucial Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev in between.
Barca had won only two of their last seven league games under Koeman, a run that included losing to Real Madrid in Sunday’s Clasico at Camp Nou.
A poor start to the season has raised the possibility of the team even failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League, which would have enormous consequences for the club’s already dire financial situation.
Koeman spent six years at Barcelona as a player and is considered a club legend after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final against Sampdoria.
He was appointed coach by Barca’s previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020 and enjoyed some success in his first season, winning the Copa del Rey and bringing a disillusioned Lionel Messi back onside.
But a disappointing finish in La Liga and a heavy defeat by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 cast doubt over Koeman’s ability to navigate the biggest games, a criticism that was aimed at him again last weekend following the loss to Real Madrid.
Laporta was re-elected as president in March and while he allowed Koeman to continue as coach, there was never much trust between the pair.
Laporta told Koeman in the summer he wanted two weeks to look for a replacement for the Dutchman while Koeman reacted badly last month to Laporta suggesting coaches do not have all the power.
“He spoke too much,” Koeman said.
No replacement was found or could be persuaded to take over, perhaps in part because of Barcelona’s perilous financial problems.
The club is 1.35 billion euros in debt and had to watch Messi join PSG in August after failing to renew the Argentine’s contract.
Other key players like Antoine Griezmann also departed without being adequately replaced as Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay both arrived on free transfers and Luuk de Jong came from Sevilla on loan.
“In recent years other clubs have strengthened every season and we haven’t,” said Koeman after his last game in charge against Rayo.
Youngsters like Pedri, Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Sergino Dest and Ronald Araujo have all benefited from Koeman’s faith, but more established players have suffered a drop in form.
Koeman’s honest approach was largely accepted and even appreciated last season, but his downbeat assessment of his squad this term was seen by many as counter-productive and not befitting of a Barcelona coach.
There was criticism of Koeman’s style of play, which became increasingly direct, while the board were reportedly irritated by his straying from the club’s traditions of playing 4-3-3.
But results were the key factor, as consecutive 3-0 defeats by Bayern Munich and Benfica in the Champions League were followed by losses against Atletico and Real Madrid in the league.
Laporta said before the international break that Koeman “deserved the benefit of the doubt,” moving to end speculation that he would lose his job after the defeat by Atletico earlier this month.
But faced with an early exit in the Champions League and the possibility of failing to make the top four in La Liga, Laporta decided to act.


Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah head for world rally title showdown in Abu Dhabi

Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah head for world rally title showdown in Abu Dhabi

Yazeed Al-Rajhi won on his last visit to the UAE. (Supplied/Total Communications)
  • Al-Attiyah leads the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies championship standings from Al-Rajhi, with Argentinian Lucio Alvarez and Russian Denis Krotov also in the hunt

ABU DHABI: The battle for the drivers’ title in the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies reaches a critical point in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, with the top four contenders heading for a showdown in the penultimate round of the series.

Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, on 61 points, leads the championship standings from Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi (44 points), with Argentinian Lucio Alvarez (42 points) and Russian Denis Krotov (37.5 points) also in the hunt and contesting the 30th anniversary event in the UAE from Nov. 6-11.

Partnered by Mathieu Baumel in a Toyota Hilux, Al-Attiyah knows that a third Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge career victory following his win in last month’s Rally of Morocco could be enough to clinch the crown.

Al-Rajhi and Irish co-driver Michael Orr, in a Toyota Hilux Overdrive, have other ideas, and will take confidence from the fact that their last visit to the UAE in February produced victory in the Dubai International Baja.

A World Cup first round win in Kazakhstan, meanwhile, underlined the credentials of Alvarez and Spanish navigator Armand Monleón in another Toyota Hilux, and a big performance among the Al-Dhafra dunes could boost their title hopes, with the final event to follow in Saudi next month.

Driving a MINI John Cooper Works Rally, Krotov certainly cannot be discounted, particularly as he is co-driven by compatriot Konstantin Zhiltsov, who has twice guided Vladimir Vasilyev to wins in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

As the cars, buggies, bikes and quads sweep across the Al-Dhafra dunes, Abu Dhabi Aviation helicopters will provide potentially life-saving aerial search and rescue support for the medical crews on permanent standby to be taken to the aid of competitors in trouble.

Nader Ahmed Al-Hammadi, chairman of Abu Dhabi Aviation, said: “Abu Dhabi Aviation seeks to secure elements of strength and safety for the success of this year’s Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge by providing air support for the global event (with) three advanced helicopters (Bell 412 and 212) used for logistical support and air ambulance purposes, in addition to search and rescue operations.

“This makes the participation of the Abu Dhabi Aviation’s aircraft vital in giving contestants and observers a sense of safety,” he added. “Our presence is considered a key element of the rally’s success given the harsh environmental conditions represented by the desert, especially (as) the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is the longest desert rally in the Middle East,”

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, president of the EMSO and FIA vice president for sport, said: “We’re indebted to Abu Dhabi Aviation for the vital role they play, year after year, in ensuring the safety of competitors in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. This is a major factor behind the event’s long running success.”

Taking place under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the ruler’s representative in Al-Dhafra region, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is also the final round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.

The rally is supported by the ruler’s representative, the UAE Armed Forces, Abu Dhabi Aviation, Abu Dhabi Police, ADNOC, Yas Island, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi Municipality, Al-Dhafra Region Municipality, Al-Ain Water and Tadweer.


The evolution of the international cricket coach in the modern game

The evolution of the international cricket coach in the modern game
Updated 28 October 2021

The evolution of the international cricket coach in the modern game

The evolution of the international cricket coach in the modern game
  • For long captains were in charge of tactics and they remain important today, but the importance of the coach has skyrocketed in recent decades

In soccer, managers and coaches are a high-profile part of the game. This is less the case in cricket. Traditionally, an overseas touring party had a manager appointed to oversee the logistics of the tour and to be its public face. An assistant manager sometimes doubled up as a coach, with the team captain also taking on coaching responsibilities.

In both Australia and England coaches were not selected on a long-term basis until 1986. India had started earlier down this route in 1971, although a feeling of “Indian-ness” had been instilled in the 1960s by the princely captain Tiger Pataudi.

Less international cricket was played at that time and players had more opportunities to work on technical errors that might have entered their game. In the professional (and amateur) domestic game, captains, or their delegates, ran matters, both on and off the field.

However, first-class cricket was entering a new era as commercial sponsorship placed greater emphasis on winning. One aspect of this was increased attention given to diet, fitness and nutrition, although this may have been difficult for the bon viveurs on the professional circuit to embrace enthusiastically. The management of all these developing trends became too much for one person, the captain, to cope with and the role of coach/team manager emerged at both domestic and international levels.

In the latter arena, countries tended to have a panel of selectors, whose chair was a powerful figure. This dynamic has changed with the arrival of a full-time manager/head coach. In England, the power was removed completely when, in April 2021, responsibility for selection was given to the head coach, although the views of the captain are brokered. It is too early to know if this power concentration is for the best.

Over the past four decades a group of elite head coaches has emerged in international cricket. Generally, but not exclusively, they had represented their country at cricket and graduated to become the coach of their national team through a learning stage of coaching regional teams both at home and abroad. As their reputation grew, they attracted the attention of boards of other countries looking to improve their national team’s performance.

England appointed its first overseas coach in 1999, India its first in 2000, but it took until 2011 for Australia to appoint one. A South African famously coached India to World Cup victory in 2011, and an Australian coached England to 2019 World Cup victory.

Each of these coaches has had a different approach to their roles. One approach is to be hands-off, giving space to the players, especially the captain, so that they can express themselves in a relaxed environment. The coach manages emotions, knowing when to be formal or informal with the players, providing a sounding board for concerns that an individual player may wish to discuss privately.

Another approach is to be more technical and theoretical, driven by the statistics and analysis of performance, seeking improvements in technique through practice. The amount of data available to coaching staff is now substantial and is used to inform strategy and game plans.

It can lead to overcomplicating simple aspects of the game and runs the risk of players stopping to think for themselves and communicating with each other. Some elite players have been known to be dismissive of the data-driven approach.

A third approach is that of being a hard taskmaster. Several who tried being this have mellowed with experience. Recently, the Australian head coach has been subject to leaked complaints about his micromanagement, draining intensity and unpredictable mood swings. This has led to a resetting of the relationship between him and the players.

Essentially, cricket is an individualistic team sport. A coach must set a strategy and game plans that act as a driving force for the team and which can be executed by both the captain and the players. In setting out to achieve this, the relationship between the head coach and the captain must be, at the very least, in tandem. The manager/coach is seeking to blend private individuals and team players, givers and takers, established performers and newcomers, trying to create an environment in which, ideally, they can all flourish and improve both as players and individuals, helping each one to maximise their potential.

High skills are required to coach an international team across three formats – 20 overs, 50 overs and Test cricket. It has become standard practice to have specialist batting, bowling and fielding coaches in order for the head coach to concentrate on keeping the team focused, functioning and united, taking pressure off the captain. The coach can fine-tune.

A good example of this occurred in respect of an Australian bowler on his first tour to England. In the opening Test match his performance was below par. The coach took him to the nets, placed two cones either side of the pitch at a certain distance from the stumps and told him to bowl until he could consistently land the ball between the two cones, since that was the length to bowl in England. In the next match the bowler claimed eight wickets out of 10 and a stellar career followed.

The demand for top-class coaches is increasing, especially with the expansion of the IPL, women’s and emerging nations cricket. In the 2021 IPL, where the relationship between the coach and the franchise owners is an added dimension, only one head coach was Indian. Out of the 16 head coaches in the T20 World Cup this year, seven are nationals and, remarkably, of the other nine, six are South Africans.

A coach’s task is all-consuming, carrying a relatively short span per contract, requiring cricketing credibility, high-quality person-management skills and the ability to create a nurturing environment for the team. At the top end of the scale, their value is reflected in salaries around the $1 million mark. Cricket coaches now play a vital and significant role in contributing to a team’s success or failure in the professional game.


Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse set for world’s most valuable racing weekend with showpiece Saudi Cup worth $20 million

Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse set for world’s most valuable racing weekend with showpiece Saudi Cup worth $20 million
Updated 28 October 2021

Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse set for world’s most valuable racing weekend with showpiece Saudi Cup worth $20 million

Riyadh’s King Abdulaziz Racecourse set for world’s most valuable racing weekend with showpiece Saudi Cup worth $20 million
  • Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, highlights rapid progression of the sport as newly promoted Group 1 Saudi Cup headlines $35.1 million two-day meeting in February

The Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia has announced that total prize money for the two-day Saudi Cup meeting on Friday, Feb. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, will increase to $35.1 million, making it the most valuable fixture in global racing.

The Saudi Cup, which will be run as a Group 1 event for the first time, remains the world’s most valuable horse race at $20 million, while five thoroughbred races on the Saturday card have been awarded Group 3 status.

Prize money for both the Group 3 Neom Turf Cup and Group 3 1351 Turf Sprint has increased by $500,000 to $1.5 million. The Obaiya Arabian Classic, a $1 million contest for purebred Arabian horses, was this week promoted to a Group 2 race by the IFAHR.

At a series of press events held via video link from King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh, Prince Bandar Bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, spoke of the rapid progression of racing in the region.

“We could never have imagined the immediate impact the Saudi Cup would have on the international racing landscape, or indeed on our domestic racing product,” Prince Bandar said.

“In 2020 we launched our first ever international meeting and less than three years later we enter our first racing season as a Part II racing nation, having been promoted by the IFHA earlier this month. We are now looking forward to hosting the world’s most valuable race, the Saudi Cup, as a Group 1 for the first time, as well as five Group 3 races on the undercard.

“None of this would have been possible without the buy-in and support of the international racing community and, on behalf of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, I would like to thank everyone within the industry for the way they have embraced the Saudi Cup,” he said.

“As the Saudi Cup makes advances, so does our domestic racing offering,” Prince Bandar added. “We continue to focus not only the international aspects of this sport but also understand that building strong foundations upon which a sustainable industry can be built is a vital element to securing the future of this incredible and unique sport for generations to come, both in Saudi Arabia and overseas.”

The highlight on the opening day of the meeting, the STC International Jockeys Challenge, won last year by Ireland’s Shane Foley, will incorporate a turf contest into its four-race format, while a new international turf race, the Listed Al Mneefah Cup, worth $1 million for purebred Arabians, is also being added.

“Despite the global challenges, the 2021 Saudi Cup was a huge success, attracting a truly international field,” said Tom Ryan, the JCSA’s director of strategy and international racing. “We had a brilliant winner in Mishriff who is the perfect example of the high-class horse the race can attract, and his victory showed how well-placed the race is in the calendar.

“Following his subsequent two Group 1 wins, he has proved to be one of the best horses in the world,” he added. “We then had Saudi Cup fourth Knicks Go land the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga in August, while 11th-placed Max Player was also successful at Saratoga last month in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup.”

Ryan said that one of the things the JCSA is most proud of is the versatility of the racing surface at King Abdulaziz Racetrack, with the 2021 Saudi Cup proving conclusively that turf horses can perform on the dirt track and that their form on dirt translates back to turf.

“Mishriff had only run once on dirt before in last year’s Saudi Derby, while this year’s Saudi Derby winner, Pink Kamehameha, had previously only raced on turf in his native Japan,” he said. “We hope this shows owners and trainers all over the world that they can come to Saudi and compete in both our dirt and turf races.”


UAE golfers get shot at big time in Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with place at Masters, Open up for grabs

UAE golfers get shot at big time in Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with place at Masters, Open up for grabs
Updated 28 October 2021

UAE golfers get shot at big time in Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with place at Masters, Open up for grabs

UAE golfers get shot at big time in Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship with place at Masters, Open up for grabs
  • Local players will hope course knowledge of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club can secure passage to 2 Majors in 2022

DUBAI: Five leading UAE-based amateur golfers have a chance of claiming a once-in-a-lifetime place at both the Masters and the 150th Open championship, at St. Andrews next year, as they line up for a winner-takes-all four days at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship on Nov. 3-6, 2021 at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.

The AAC was created in 2009 by the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A to further develop amateur golf across Asia, and the 2021 championship will mark the first edition held in the UAE, one of the APGC’s 42 member countries.

To mark the latest golfing first for the UAE, five of the country’s leading amateurs have been invited to take their place alongside Asia’s finest in the four-round shootout.

The UAE’s No. 1 Ahmad Skaik has secured a spot along with compatriots Khalid Yousuf, Khalifa Al-Masaood and Rashid Al-Emadi. Arkesh Bhatia, another big name on the UAE scene, will be representing India.

“The Dubai Creek championship course is a world-class venue befitting of this prestigious tournament, and the event offers a wonderful opportunity to the top-ranked amateur golfers from across Asia, including some of our top UAE talent,” said Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, chairman of the Emirates Golf Foundation, the sport’s governing body in the country.

“The course provides players with a true test, the home players know it well, so we are set for an intriguing four days of golf and a potentially life-changing opportunity that is sure to bring the best out of the leading UAE players on home soil.”

The UAE players will be hoping that course knowledge will give them an advantage as the AAC champion will receive an invitation to compete in the Masters Tournament at Augusta in April 2022 and The Open, two of the four Majors on the global golfing calendar, with the runner-up gaining a place in final qualifying for The Open.

Winning the four-day event will be tough ask, however, as the field includes China’s defending champion Yuxin Lin, who is aiming for an unprecedented third AAC title, and in-form Japanese world No. 1 amateur Keita Nakajima, who has secured two victories in his last three starts.

Over the AAC’s 12-year history, the championship has served as a springboard for some of the world’s top players today, including current Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, Australia’s Cameron Smith, Korean Kim Si-woo, Thailand’s Jazz Janewattanond and Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics this year.