Maguire calls on Man United to ‘stand up and be counted’

Manchester United’s defender Harry Maguire heads the ball during a recent match. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 28 January 2021

Maguire calls on Man United to ‘stand up and be counted’

Maguire calls on Man United  to ‘stand up and be counted’
  • Sheffield Utd boss coy on survival hopes after shocking 2-1 victory over Solskjaer’s side

LONDON: Harry Maguire has called on Manchester United to “stand up and be counted” after their shock 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United hurt their Premier League title chances.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side blew their chance to leapfrog Manchester City at the top of the table against opponents who had won just a single league match all season.

If Pep Guardiola’s team win their game in hand, they will be four points clear of United, who have not won the Premier League since 2013.

Maguire canceled out Kean Bryan’s opener with a powerful header in the second half but Oliver Burke scored the winner for the visitors after United failed to clear.

The United captain said the club must react quickly.

“The boys are devastated, if I’m honest,” he told club media.

“It’s a really quiet dressing room.

“The boys are so disappointed. We didn’t expect it, we came into the game confident. We’ve got to pick ourselves up.”

United’s defeat ended a 13-match unbeaten run in the league since they lost to Arsenal at Old Trafford on Nov. 1.

Mikel Arteta’s improved side are their next opponents, this weekend.

“It’s all good and easy when you’re winning football matches and you’re playing well, but now it’s time to stand up and be counted,” said Maguire.

“When you get kicked down, it’s how quickly you bounce back and Saturday’s a big one and we’ve got to get three points.”

Chris Wilder is wary of claiming “an incredible escape is on” after he became the first Sheffield United manager to taste victory at Manchester United for 48 years.

The victory put a huge dent in United’s hopes of winning their first Premier League title since 2013 and gave them a huge morale boost in their battle to avoid relegation.

But Wilder’s side are still 10 points away from safety after securing just their second win in 20 league matches this season.

Solskjaer will hope the Blades can make it three when they visit table-topping Manchester City on Saturday.

City, chasing their third Premier League title in four seasons, lead United by a point and have a game in hand.

“It’s a long time to wait for a win at Old Trafford and it’s a special result, and a special performance,” said Wilder.

“I’m not saying an incredible escape is on but I want to show what we are about.”

The Sheffield United board have remained faithful to Wilder, who took them back to the Premier League in 2018/19 and led an impressive campaign last term.

The boyhood Sheffield United fan, who had two spells at the club as a player, admits their desperate plight has been partly self-inflicted.

“I think I’m always a proud man being involved in this football club of ours,” he said.

“I’ve just been told about (1973), TC (Tony Currie) scored the winner.

“It’s great for the players because it’s been a real difficult season — some stuff that we’ve not got right, some stuff that we could have controlled and a lot of stuff that was out of (our) control.”

The 53-year-old Englishman could only name six substitutes, including a reserve goalkeeper, for the game at Old Trafford but he praised the spirit in his camp.

“You look at the team tonight, you look at Max Lowe and Lys Mousset (on the bench), possibly could only do 10 minutes, so we only had three subs,” he said.

“So it’s that type of attitude and identity that makes me proud and delights me. We had to show all those qualities.”


How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar
Updated 59 min 31 sec ago

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar

How the Indian Premier League has come to shape the cricket calendar
  • The turbulence in cricket, as shown by cancelled test between England and India, shows no sign of abating, as players and structures buckle under the pressure of playing through the pandemic

Resumption of the Indian Premier League (IPL) took place last Sunday in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, having been suspended on May 4 in India.

Almost half of its scheduled matches had been completed when Covid-19 tests on a number of players and support staff proved positive. This, coupled with rising cases amongst the general population, led the authorities to bow to the inevitable.

Now in its 14th year, the tournament is the biggest revenue generator in cricket’s history and has propelled India to a pre-eminent position in the game’s geo-politics. It is against this backdrop that the cancelled Test match between England and India at Manchester on Sept. 2 needs to be assessed.

It is clear that the repercussions are manifold, but that the outcomes from this stunning occurrence are much less clear. The result of the match and the series is not yet known. No official reason for the cancellation has been agreed. Reports suggest that Covid-impacted cancellation is not covered by insurance for this match.

Lancashire County Cricket Club, the host of the match, has suffered financially and psychologically, not for any fault of its own and is unable to carry the losses without support. According to various reports, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is set to lose upwards of £20m, much of it in broadcasting revenues. Spectators will receive ticket refunds, but their travel and related costs will be lost.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall back in May, once the IPL was suspended. At that time, it was clear that another window was sought into which it could be rescheduled. The opportunities were limited.

The Indian team would be in England between June 3 and September 7. It is rumoured that one option being explored by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in mid-May was to ask the ECB to consider starting the five-match series one week earlier in the last week of June. This would provide a larger buffer between the end of final Test at Manchester and the start of the IPL, when bubble to bubble transfer was envisaged. There is no record of a formal approach having been made, although rumours abound that the ECB was not keen.

Apart from its tragic effect and consequences, Covid-19 has introduced uncertainty into all of our lives, not just those of professional cricketers. It was with some apprehension that many of us in England entered the new era created by the relaxation of social controls on July 19. Capacity crowds flocked to the Test matches and, as the Indian coach said, when he and other members of his party were criticised for attending the launch of his book in London, “England was open”. Subsequently, he tested Covid-positive, being followed in this respect by other members of the backroom team.

Crucially, it was a positive test for the assistant physio on the day before the Manchester Test was due to start that acted as a trigger point. Despite all of them testing negative, the Indian players appeared to be spooked. A number of them were travelling with young families and were fearful that the virus might spread amongst them. Training was cancelled the day before the match, an ominous sign. The ECB’s CEO admitted to through-the-night discussions with his Indian counterparts, but it seemed that the Indian players were adamant.

Once it was announced that the match was not going to take place, it was termed a forfeiture on news lines, but this was quickly retracted, being replaced by cancellation. The tone of public statement by the ECB was that this was regrettable, had nothing to do with the imminency of the IPL and could be explained by mental health issues that had built up to bursting point after almost four months of touring.

Recognition of mental health issues has increased in cricket, particularly during the bio-bubble existence under which the game has operated in an increasingly packed global schedule. Nevertheless, surprise was expressed in some quarters as there was no obvious sign of such problems when the India team joyously celebrated its victory at the Oval four days earlier.

By general consensus, India played the better cricket and deserved to be 2-1 up in the series, but who could predict how the final Test would play out? The ECB is keen for the match to be rescheduled, the BCCI not so keen, at least not as one that completes the series.

Discussions are on-going in attempts to find a solution that would fit into India’s schedule when they tour England in early July 2022 to play two white-ball cricket series.

Whatever the outcome, it is unlikely to please everyone. Some find it a bit rich that India had a 20-strong squad in England, enough to field a team in Manchester. By all accounts, the players chose not to play, preferring to keep themselves free and fit to fly to the UAE for the quarantine period prior to the recommencement of the IPL.

England has good reason to feel aggrieved, yet its own record is not unblemished, having cancelled its tour of South Africa in late 2020. The ECB does not seem to want to fall out with the BCCI. Indeed, both boards have been at pains to say what good relations they enjoy.

If they cannot agree a solution, the International Cricket Council will be in the unenviable position of having to rule on the outcome of the series.

The turbulence in cricket shows no sign of abating, as its players and structures buckle under the pressure of playing through the pandemic.

Last Monday, citing mental and physical well-being issues, the ECB cancelled England’s four-day tour in mid-October to Pakistan, leaving the latter enraged. By coincidence, this allows English players who were on the tour and in the IPL to participate in its play-off stage. The IPL’s influence seems to be all conquering.


Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show
Updated 23 September 2021

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show

Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match to be held at Tokyo Game Show
  • A second round of the contest will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2022

TOKYO: A Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports competition will be held over two days next month during the Tokyo Game Show 2021, Asia’s largest gaming fair, the Japan eSports Union has announced.

The Japan-Saudi Arabia eSports match, taking place on Oct. 2 to 3, was announced in August 2018 by the JESU at the invitation of Prince Faisal bin Bandar Al-Saud, president of the Saudi Arabia Federation of International eSports and the Arab eSports Federation.

Among the games that will be contested between Team Japan and Team Saudi Arabia are Football, Gran Turismo, Tekken and Street Fighter.

The competition will be held on home and away match basis, featuring a Japan Round and Saudi Arabia Round. The Saudi Arabia Round was originally scheduled to be held in July this year but is being rescheduled for 2022.

The event is part of the “Japan-Saudi Vision 2030 2.0,” for which the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has developed a strategic economic partnership between the Kingdom and Japan.

This story originally appeared in Arab News Japan.


Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
Updated 23 September 2021

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets

Indian Premier League: Delhi Capitals beat coronavirus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets
  • Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game
DUBAI: Delhi Capitals notched their seventh win in the Indian Premier League with a thumping eight-wicket victory over virus-hit Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Hyderabad fast bowler Thangarasu Natarajan tested positive for COVID-19 and was put in isolation hours before the game. The team was also without all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who also went into isolation after being identified as a close contact of Natarajan.
Without two key players, Hyderabad was limited to 134-9 by Delhi’s seamers and spinners.
Shreyas Iyer (47 not out) and captain Rishabh Pant (35 not out) led the run-chase with a clinical unbroken 67-run stand as Delhi went atop the leaderboard with 14 points by reaching 139-2 in 17.5 overs.
“Our bowlers did a pretty good job to restrict them,” Pant said. “We have one of the quickest bowlers in the world (and) pretty happy as the skipper.”
Shreyas raised the victory by hammering West Indies fast bowler Jason Holder to long-on boundary for six to hand Hyderabad its seventh loss in the tournament.
Shikhar Dhawan, who was left out by India for next month’s Twenty20 World Cup, continued his rich form in this season’s IPL by scoring 42 off 37 balls before Shreyas and Pant combined in a 42-ball stand and led the chase.
Earlier, Hyderabad struggled to put up partnerships after it won the toss and opted to bat. David Warner fell to Anrich Nortje (2-12) in the first over without scoring as the South African paceman didn’t allow the top order to score freely off his four overs.
Captain Kane Williamson (18) couldn’t capitalize on two dropped catches before finally holing out in the deep halfway into the innings off left-arm spinner Axar Patel (2-21).
Kagiso Rabada (3-37), who earlier had removed Wriddhiman Saha inside the batting powerplay, restricted Hyderabad to a below-par total with the wickets of Manish Pandey (17) and Abdul Samad (28).
“Didn’t get off to the start we would have liked,” Williamson said. “They put us under pressure and that is what you expect … for us, it is focusing on our cricket and trying to improve.”

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
Updated 23 September 2021

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal

Al-Shabab looking to break seven-year SPL jinx against champions Al-Hilal
  • Club’s Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca feeling the heat after inconsistent start to season

Al-Shabab will be looking to break one of Saudi Arabian football’s longest jinxes when they attempt to beat league champions Al-Hilal for the first time in seven years at King Fahd International Stadium on Thursday night.

The club’s last league win over Al-Hilal in the Saudi Pro League was way back on Oct. 17, 2014 — a 1-0 triumph thanks to a stoppage-time goal by South Korean player Park Chu-young.

The results since then highlight Al-Hilal’s dominance, with nine wins from the 13 league matches between the two clubs, with the other four ending in draws.

Al-Shabab go into the match sitting in 11th place in the SPL with five points from one win, two draws and two losses, while Al-Hilal are in second spot with 10 points from four matches, having had their match against Al-Fayha postponed.

Brazilian coach Pericles Chamusca took over at Al-Shabab at the start of the season but he is already feeling the heat after the inconsistent start, especially as the club finished second last season. A match against the champions might not be the fairest way to judge his team, but many predict that he could follow compatriot Mano Menezes — sacked by Al-Nassr earlier this week — out of the door if there is no immediate improvement.

There is some good news for Al-Shabab, however, with the return to fitness of several players. Chamusca will be able to call on Argentine playmaker Ever Banega, Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo, Senegalese defensive midfielder Alfred N’Diaye and Saudi keeper Fawaz Al-Qarni for the match against Al-Hilal.

Al-Hilal, meanwhile, will welcome back Salman Al-Faraj after his recent injury.


DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
Updated 23 September 2021

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers

DP World Tour Championship place up for grabs for ‘lucky’ Dubai amateur golfers
  • Winner of The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition will join professionals at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Nov. 16

DUBAI: The Luckiest Ball on Earth series is set to tee off with golfers throughout the UAE vying for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play alongside some of the game’s biggest names in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai Pro-Am.

The annual competition, which has proven a big hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was launched in 2011, is open to all players who hold an official club handicap recognized by the Emirates Golf Federation (maximum 28 for men and juniors, and 36 for women).

Qualifying tournaments will be held at 20 UAE golf clubs from Sept. 24 to Oct. 22, with the triumphant players booking their spot in the grand final at Jumeirah Golf Estates on Oct. 29.

Prizes worth more than 300,000 UAE dirhams ($82,000) are up for grabs including premium hospitality tickets and merchandise for the DP World Tour Championship. The overall male, female, and junior winner will receive a coveted place in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am taking place on Nov. 16.

Tom Phillips, European Tour head of Middle East, said: “We are thrilled to announce the return of the Luckiest Ball on Earth competition, offering UAE golfers a unique opportunity to mix with some of the world’s best players.

“We are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of the Emirates Golf Federation and the 20 qualifying clubs, which makes this wonderful local golf initiative possible. We urge golfers across the region to get down to their local qualifier, you never know when it might be your day.”

The DP World Tour Championship will see the top 50 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai compete for a prize fund of $9 million. This year’s tournament will take place from Nov. 18 to 21 on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates.