England could host Champions League final due to new Turkey travel curbs

Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
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Updated 08 May 2021

England could host Champions League final due to new Turkey travel curbs

Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season. (AP/File Photo)
  • British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions

LONDON: The all-English Champions League final could be played at home after Turkey was added to England’s “red list” of countries where all but essential travel is banned due to severe coronavirus outbreaks.
Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow around 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European football season.
But the British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions, and said the English Football Association was in talks with Champions League organizer UEFA about staging the game in Britain, instead.
The most logical English venue to move the game to is Wembley with the London stadium staging eight games of the European Championship across June and July, so it has UEFA’s required logistics and broadcasting infrastructure already in place. Wembley was also already due to stage the 2024 Champions League final so it could be moved up three years.
While Villa Park in the central England city of Birmingham has been floated as an option, it is an older stadium that would require significant infrastructure being installed to reach UEFA requirements.
“We are very open to hosting the final but it is ultimately a decision for UEFA,” British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said. “The UK has already got a successful track record of football matches with spectators, so we are well placed to do it.
“Given there are two English clubs in that final, we look forward to what they have to say.”
Turkey is in the second week of a three-week national lockdown and government figures show coronavirus cases are declining but 20,107 new infections were announced on Friday and 278 deaths. The vaccine rollout in Britain meant the country recorded 2,490 cases on Friday and 15 deaths.
People from England should visit only red-list countries “in the most extreme of circumstances,” Shapps said. Anyone returning from them must stay in hotels for 10 days at their own expense, with meals delivered to their door.
Players would also be required to enter quarantine, unless exemptions were granted, which would impact their preparations for the European Championship, which opens on June 11 and is being staged across 10 countries.
If the Champions League final was moved to Wembley, the English Football League would have to accept moving the date of the Championship playoff to determine the final promotion place to the Premier League, which is scheduled to be played at the stadium on May 29.
Wembley in recent weeks has staged the only football games with fans in England in 2021 as part of test events, with the crowd for the FA Cup final on May 15 rising to 21,000 people who have to produce a negative coronavirus test.
At least 22,500 fans will be allowed into the three group-stage Euro 2020 games at Wembley in June, with the 90,000-capacity Wembley set to be half-full for the final on July 11.
The pandemic already prevented Istanbul staging the 2020 Champions League final with the game moved to Lisbon to be played in an empty stadium.


Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
Updated 5 min 35 sec ago

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark

Eriksen’s collapse creates ‘national shock’ in Denmark
  • Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen: Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost
  • Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and is in stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Interest in CPR and defibrillators has been pulling the attention of Danes away from soccer’s European Championship since the collapse of Christian Eriksen.
The tournament, with the national team playing all three of its group games at home in Copenhagen, was supposed to create a two-week party in the capital — with many hoping Denmark would be able to repeat its improbable triumph from the 1992 tournament.
But Eriksen fell face-forward onto the field with cardiac arrest during the team’s opening game against Finland on Saturday. And suddenly a large portion of Denmark’s 6 million people were watching live on TV as one of the country’s best-known athletes was given emergency CPR, his teammates standing around him with tears in their eyes.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called it “a national shock.”
“Rarely has it been less important whether a football match was won or lost,” Frederiksen wrote on Facebook.
Eriksen, widely regarded as Denmark’s best player, was resuscitated with a defibrillator and was in stable condition in a Copenhagen hospital on Monday.
But the national shock hasn’t quite dissipated.
Eriksen’s collapse remains the talk of the nation. Many wonder how it could happen to such a healthy player. And a debate is still raging over whether the game should have been called off. It was suspended for about 90 minutes before resuming, having been stopped near the end of the first half. Finland went on to score in the second half and won 1-0.
The interest among Danes in learning CPR and how to use a defibrillator has skyrocketed. A national organization that puts up defibrillators across the country said more than 640 people have volunteered to learn how to use one since Saturday — compared to 90 the previous weekend.
There also has been widespread anger in Denmark toward European soccer governing body UEFA for only giving the players the option of either finishing the game on Saturday evening or resuming on Sunday at noon instead.
The players themselves on Monday said they didn’t want to resume but thought it was better to finish Saturday than to come back the next day.
“It was not our wish to play,” Denmark forward Martin Braithwaite said. “We had two options and would have liked a third option. But we were told we had to make a decision. ... There were many players who weren’t in a condition to play the match. We were in a completely different place.”
Another much-debated topic has been the impact on young viewers, who watched one of their sporting idols lying unconscious on the ground.
For unprepared children, seeing such pictures equals “a slap in the face,” said Ane Lemche, a psychologist with the Danish chapter of Save the Children.
“And children can also get confused, because he looks quite lifeless and that is uncomfortable for a child,” she told Danish broadcaster DR.
Boerns Vilkaar, a child counselling organization, posted advice for parents on its website, saying many children who watched were “scared, insecure and sad.”
The Danish soccer federation also tweeted a link to the organization’s advice.
“Those kinds of pictures can be hard to get out of your head,” the organization wrote. “Some children may think about it a lot and be affected by it for a long time.”


Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
Updated 14 June 2021

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan

Herve Renard looks to overcome Salem Al-Dawsari’s absence as Kingdom aims to wrap up World Cup progress against Uzbekistan
  • Saudi Arabia will confirm a spot in the final AFC qualifying round as long as it avoids defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday night

Tuesday’s crunch World Cup showdown between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan could hinge on one yellow card received and one escaped last Friday.

Salem Al-Dawsari broke the deadlock against Singapore to claim a vital win but also picked up a second booking to rule him out of the big game, while Al-Nassr star Jaloliddin Masharipov scored the only goal in Uzbekistan’s 1-0 win over Yemen, and despite concerns from his coach, escaped Al-Dawsari’s fate and will be raring to go in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia needs just a draw to be sure of a place in the third round of qualification and are playing at home, but such advantages mean that it has all the pressure too. A misstep could see dreams of a sixth World Cup appearance go up in smoke.

Al-Dawsari has saved Saudi Arabia before and should the Green Falcons go all the way to Qatar, fans will once again be in the debt of the Al-Hilal star. Last Friday, the country sat back and expected a regulation win over Singapore who had just lost 4-0 to Palestine and 5-0 to Uzbekistan, but with five minutes remaining it was 0-0. 

Then up stepped the captain to score and change the mood and send his team on the way to a 3-0 win and three vital points to ensure that avoiding defeat on Tuesday will be enough.

It was a frustrating evening for coach Herve Renard who was relieved with the end result but disappointed that, just before half-time, his main man picked up a second yellow card in qualification and will sit out the big game. 

“My message to Asian referees is to protect the players from rough play,” said the Frenchman. “Al-Dawsari and Abdulelah Al-Maiki got yellow cards because they reacted to that. We will miss them against Uzbekistan.”

Right-back Mohammed Al-Breik went off injured in the second half with a back injury and remains doubtful but there is better news in that Al-Hilal midfielder Abdullah Otayf is available after serving his suspension.

“All matches are difficult,” added Renard, who took Morocco to the 2018 World Cup. “Singapore were difficult and Uzbekistan had a difficult time against Yemen. We got the right result in the end and now we look forward.”

The Frenchman refused to be drawn on how he will approach a game in which he just needs to avoid defeat to go through to the third round of qualification — due to start in September — as one of the eight group winners. Should Saudi Arabia lose, however, it will have to progress as one of the best four runners-up and it is a route that can be complicated. 

It has become more complex in May after the withdrawal of North Korea from qualification, which means that the results against the fifth-placed teams are not counted. If Yemen finish bottom of Group D, this would be good news for Saudi Arabia as it would only lose four of the 17 points collected and a total of 13 would be more than enough. Yet if Yemen defeat Palestine then Singapore would drop into fifth and that would mean a loss of six points and then things really would get messy — much better to leave no room for doubt. 

A draw may be enough for Uzbekistan to finish as one of the four best runners-up, but it may not. The need to win may actually play into their hands. The White Wolves have a reputation for choking when the pressure is on after failing in the past despite being in good positions to qualify for the 2006, 2014 and 2018 tournaments. This time however, the Central Asians are not in pole position and have little room for error.  

“We know what we have to do,” said Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov. “Our objective when qualification restarted was not to lose before we head into the final game and we have done that.” In fact the team has won all three games without conceding a single goal.

Masharipov, loaned out last season by Al-Nassr to Dubai’s Shabab Al-Ahli, has been in sparkling form of late with three goals in the last two games. A sublime attacking performance against Singapore was followed by a more dogged display in the win over Yemen, in which he scored the only goal of the game. Despite picking up a yellow card earlier in qualification, Abramov admitted that he gambled on the 27-year-old not getting another one on Friday. 

“Masharipov was playing below his full potential today,” the coach said. “The caution associated with the yellow card has had its effect on him. I had to keep him on the pitch until the end of the match as things were close, but I knew he was a smart guy and wouldn’t get a yellow card.”

Herve Renard, and all Saudi Arabian fans, will be hoping that Al-Dawsari’s failure to do the same will not come back to haunt them.


Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
Updated 14 June 2021

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market

Al-Hilal management to settle financial matters as club eyes transfer market
  • Reigning Saudi champions have outstanding payments totaling $6.4 million

RIYADH: Al-Hilal’s management team was on Monday expected to settle all outstanding payments from April to secure a financial efficiency certificate allowing the club to take part in the summer transfer window, Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah reported.

The Saudi Ministry of Sports announced through a press statement from the financial efficiency committee for sports clubs, that the club had financial obligations amounting to $6.4 million.

A successful season for Al-Hilal saw the club claim a record-extending 17th Saudi Professional League title, and an historic 62nd trophy, as well as confirm progress to the knockout stages of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

According to Arriyadiyah sources, the outstanding amount covered the salaries of club employees, players of various sporting activities, and the agent of one of the football team’s players, and the cases would be closed once the payments were made.


Bucks tie Nets 2-2 with 107-96 win; Suns sweep Nuggets

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 14 June 2021

Bucks tie Nets 2-2 with 107-96 win; Suns sweep Nuggets

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during Game 4 of the Bucks-Nets second round playoff series on June 13, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP)
  • Nuggets' center Nikola Jokic, the 2021 MVP, was ejected over a flagrant foul against Suns' Cameron Payne i
  • 2018 MVP James Harden still unable to play for Nets due to hamstring injury

MILWAUKEE/DENVER: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 34 points and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 107-96 Game 4 victory Sunday to tie the second-round playoff series with the Brooklyn Nets, who lost Kyrie Irving to a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks erased a 2-0 deficit by winning two straight in Milwaukee. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn’s immediate concern is the health of its superstar trio. Irving was hurt midway through the second quarter and didn’t return. The Nets already are missing nine-time All-Star and 2018 MVP James Harden, who hasn’t played since the opening minute of Game 1 due to right hamstring tightness.
That puts even more pressure on Kevin Durant, who has carried the Nets this series and provided 28 points and 13 rebounds Sunday. The only other player in double figures was Irving, who had 11 points before leaving.
After Irving made a basket in the paint to cut the Bucks’ lead to 44-40 midway through the second quarter, his left leg hit the right leg of Antetokounmpo on his way down and his ankle rolled. Irving landed awkwardly and clutched his right ankle as play briefly continued on the other end of the floor. Coach Steve Nash said after the game that X-rays taken on Irving’s ankle were negative.

Four-game sweep

In Denver, Colorado, the Phoenix Suns roared into the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 11 years with a testy 125-118 victory over Denver that completed a four-game sweep of the Nuggets and included MVP Nikola Jokic’s ejection.
Chris Paul scored 37 points and Devin Booker added 34 in a physical game marred by Jokic’s ejection.
Jokic was tossed with 3:52 left in the third quarter and the Nuggets trailing 83-76 after his hard right-hand windmill swipe sent the basketball flying but also caught Cameron Payne in the face.
Booker took umbrage at the hard foul and got in the big man’s face before teammates and coaches pulled everyone apart.

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic grabs Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker during a confrontation on June 13, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) 

Officials assessed a double technical on Jokic and Booker and ejected the MVP after upping the call to a Flagrant 2. Jokic finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes.
The Nuggets and their fans at Ball Arena were frustrated that they were getting called for ticky-tack fouls yet Jokic wasn’t getting the calls expected of a Most Valuable Player.
With their franchise-record seventh straight playoff victory, the Suns advanced to the conference championship for the first time since 2010 — the last time they even reached the playoffs.
After knocking out LeBron James and the defending champion Lakers in Round 1, the Suns quickly dispatched Denver and made Jokic the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since Magic Johnson in 1989.
Will Barton led Denver, which trailed by 13 heading into the fourth quarter, with 25 points, Michael Porter Jr. added 20 and Monte Morris 19.
The Nuggets survived the loss of star Jamal Murray to a torn ACL on April 12, winning 13 of 18 to close out the regular season and taking care of the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the opening round.
But when second scoring option Porter tweaked his surgically repaired back in the first half of Game 1 against Phoenix, it was one injury too far for the Nuggets to overcome.
Denver coach Michael Malone said before tip-off that the Nuggets couldn’t really rely on their experience from the bubble in overcoming a pair of 3-1 deficits in the playoffs last year. For one thing, Murray’s recovering from knee surgery.
Malone said the Nuggets’ only focus was on sending this series back to Phoenix for a Game 5.
Instead, Jokic became the first MVP to get swept in a playoff series since the Pistons downed Magic Johnson and the Lakers in four in the NBA Finals in 1989.
Jokic’s ejection came 48 hours after an emotional celebration before Game 3 in which the Serbian dedicated his MVP trophy to his teammates, coaches, trainers and the front office.
The only NBA player to play all 72 games this season, Jokic spent the fourth quarter in his locker room as his teammates’ comeback without him fell short.
Despite the sweep and Jokic’s early exit, fans chanted, “MVP! MVP” as they streamed out of the arena.

TIP-INS:
Suns: Booker scored 10 points in the first quarter despite missing six of nine shots. ... Phoenix trailed just once at 2-0 before Booker’s 3-pointer put the Suns up for good.
Nuggets: Murray shot one-footed jumpers before the game and drew a loud ovation when he drained one from halfcourt as he walked off. ... Malone shook up his stagnant starting lineup, sitting Facundo Compazzo and Austin Rivers for Morris and Barton.
 


Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification
Updated 14 June 2021

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

Saudi Arabia’s sports minister congratulates karate champion for olympic qualification

RIYADH: The Saudi Sports Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, congratulated Tariq Hamdi, the Saudi karate champion, for qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In a tweet he wrote on Sunday, Al-Faisal said: “Congratulations to the star of our national karate team, captain Tariq Hamdi, for qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”

Hamdi made history by snatching the Olympic qualification in the above 75 kilograms category on Sunday, during the Karate Olympic Qualification Tournament, which was held in Paris.

Hamdi became one of 80 male and female athletes who made it to the Tokyo games, where karate will be included for the first time.

Hamdi’s qualification came after he led his group and won six consecutive rounds.