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.


Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory
Updated 27 September 2021

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory

Choi wins at Pebble Beach for 1st PGA Tour Champions victory
  • Bernhard Langer, who has 41 PGA Tour Champions wins, had an uneven final round of 4-under 68 that included seven birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey

PEBBLE BEACH, California: K.J. Choi shot a closing 4-under 68 Sunday for a two-shot victory over Bernhard Langer and Alex Cejka at the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach for his first PGA Tour Champions win.
The 51-year-old Choi reeled off four consecutive birdies from Nos. 5-8 and played the front nine in 5 under. The South Korean had eight pars and a bogey on the back nine for a 13-under 203 total in his first victory since 2011, at The Players Championship.
“So very special ... my dream is winning,” Choi said.
The 64-year-old Langer, who has 41 PGA Tour Champions wins, had an uneven final round of 4-under 68 that included seven birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey.
The 50-year-old Cejka, who has two victories on the over-50 tour, started quickly, opening with three straight birdies, and four in the first five holes. He went on to bogey Nos. 6 and 8 and played the back nine in 2 under for a 68.
Choi, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, had a previous best finish on the senior circuit of tie for second at the 2020 Sanford International, where he lost in three-man playoff.
Ending the long winless run made this victory more special for Choi.
“The first win is exciting,” he said. “It’s a not easy still.”
With his second-place finish, Langer, the event’s 2017 champion, moved past Jim Furyk and Jerry Kelly into first place atop the Charles Schwab Cup standings as the season winds down.
“It’s fun,” said Langer, who last won at the Cologuard Classic in March 2020. “It’s fun to be in contention for the Schwab Cup once more. That’s what really everybody wants to be at here, I think. And especially we didn’t have one last year. If we had, I would have won that one, maybe. But we didn’t.”
“So it’s a very tight race, considering we’re having a two-year season, and there’s like eight guys in the running, or seven, or whatever. That’s pretty unusual. So it will be interesting the next few weeks and see who’s going to end up on top.”
Scott Dunlap finished fourth at 10 under after a final round of 6-under 66. Steven Alker (67) and Paul Stankowski (68) tied for fifth another stroke back.

 


UK PM urged to come to aid of Afghan girls’ football team

UK PM urged to come to aid of Afghan girls’ football team
Updated 26 September 2021

UK PM urged to come to aid of Afghan girls’ football team

UK PM urged to come to aid of Afghan girls’ football team
  • Team, some as young as 12, currently stranded in Lahore on temporary visas
  • Chairman of Premier League side Leeds United offers assistance, housing, education, training

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to help resettle Afghanistan’s junior women’s football team in Britain.
The 35-strong team plus 101 other associated people, including coaches and family members, are currently in Lahore where they have been granted temporary refuge until Oct. 12 after a personal intervention by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan helped get them out of Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban. 

They are being supported by the Rokit Foundation, NGO Football for Peace, and the chairman of English Premier League side Leeds United, Andrea Radrizzani, who has offered to “give the girls a prosperous and peaceful future,” helping with housing, employment for relatives, education and training opportunities with the club’s youth teams.

The team only escaped Afghanistan after an initial attempt to fly them to Qatar was scuppered by the deterioration of security in Kabul, with many of the girls facing additional threats from the Taliban on account of coming from various ethnic and religious minorities.

Rokit CEO Siu-Anne Marie Gill said the team’s departure from Afghanistan had become high-profile following Khan’s intervention, and members would be at great risk were they to return to the country.

“There were photos of their faces on TV, they will be in even more danger now,” she told The Guardian. “They’re the girls that got out. They cannot go back to Afghanistan, we have got to make this happen.”

She said she had written to Johnson to ask the UK to add the team, some of whom are as young as 12, to the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, after Australia offered sanctuary to the senior women’s team.

She added that other football clubs and local authorities in the UK have also offered support for the team should they be added to the ACRS.

Kashif Siddiqi, a former Pakistan footballer and co-founder of Football for Peace, said: “The race is on to find them a permanent safe haven. These girls were on the path for development for the national football team. Now, the very thing that gave them hope has become a risk to their life.”

The UK government said it is “urgently” looking into the matter “as part of the wider resettlement scheme.”


Lewis Hamilton wins 100th Formula One Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton wins 100th Formula One Grand Prix
Updated 26 September 2021

Lewis Hamilton wins 100th Formula One Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton wins 100th Formula One Grand Prix
  • The champion reached the unprecedented century in his Mercedes after being stuck on 99 since the British Grand Prix in July
  • Hamilton also claimed the championship lead by two points from Max Verstappen, who finished second

SOCHI: Lewis Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix for his 100th Formula One Grand Prix success on Sunday.
In treacherous rain the seven-time world champion reached the unprecedented century in his Mercedes after being stuck on 99 since the British Grand Prix in July.
Hamilton also claimed the championship lead by two points from Max Verstappen, who finished second.
After taking his 100th chequered flag 14 years after his first in Canada Hamilton told his team on the car radio: “Phew. That was hard work man!“
The 36-year-old Briton looked destined to come away for the fifth race stuck on the 99 mark with McLaren’s Lando Norris firmly in command up front.
But with five laps to go, the rain that had been threatening the 15th round of the championship for so long arrived, causing mayhem.
With cars fitted with slicks starting to lose grip and coming in for intermediates Hamilton joined them, leaving Norris leading.
But with three laps left and Norris a sitting duck and sliding all over the circuit Hamilton eventually hit the front to finally nail the magic number of victories.
After jumping out of his car he said: “The rain came, it was very opportunistic, the team did a great job, I’m grateful for the points.”


Joshua wants Usyk rematch ‘110 percent’

Joshua wants Usyk rematch ‘110 percent’
Updated 26 September 2021

Joshua wants Usyk rematch ‘110 percent’

Joshua wants Usyk rematch ‘110 percent’
  • Usyk's victory extended his unbeaten professional record to 19 wins
  • Joshua is determined to face Usyk again

LONDON: Anthony Joshua said he was “110 percent” likely to activate a rematch clause with Oleksandr Usyk after losing his world heavyweight titles to the Ukrainian in stunning fashion in London on Saturday
Usyk gave a boxing masterclass in recording a unanimous points victory to deprive Joshua of his World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization belts in front of the dethroned champion’s home crowd of more than 66,000 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
His victory extended Usyk’s unbeaten professional record to 19 wins and scuppered the prospects of an all-British world heavyweight title unification bout between Joshua and Tyson Fury.
It also meant Usyk became just the third cruiserweight world champion after Evander Holyfield of the United States and Britain’s David Haye to also take a heavyweight title, with the 34-year-old achieving the feat in just his third professional contest in the heavyweight ranks.
The contract for this bout, however, contained a rematch clause.
And Joshua, who previously lost his belts when beaten by Andy Ruiz in New York in June 2019 before regaining the titles in a rematch in Saudi Arabia six months later, is determined to face Usyk again.
“A hundred percent, 110 percent,” he told a post-fight press conference. “I’m ready to get back to training.
“There’s an old saying ‘If you want to go down as a great fighter, don’t fight southpaws’, especially good ones. He (Usyk) is a good fighter.”
Joshua suffered a badly swollen right eye which required medical attention in a fight where only the bell appeared to save him from a last-round knockout.
“I couldn’t see in the ninth round,” explained Joshua. “My eye was shut, but it was a good experience, because in adversity, you’ve just got to learn to control yourself... it’s the first time it’s happened in a fight.”
Joshua, sounding remarkably upbeat despite a convincing loss, insisted: “I’m a different kind of animal. I’m not a sulker, this is a blessed opportunity to be able to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world.
“Straight away I’ve already been watching the fight and figuring out what I could have done better.”
Joshua’s defeat put paid to a fight anytime soon with Fury, who defends his World Boxing Council heavyweight title against Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas next month — the third time the pair have met after a split-decision draw and a win for Fury.
Joshua, however, insisted: “I’ll fight Tyson Fury, Wilder, without the belts. It’s great, it’s legacy but with or without the belts I’ll fight whoever.”
Usyk, three years older than Joshua, also made light of giving away three inches (7.62 centimeters) in height as well as nearly 20lbs (nine kilogrammes) in weight during his latest triumph in London following a heavyweight gold medal at the 2012 Olympics — a Games where Joshua took the super-heavyweight title.
“London is a really lucky city for me but not a single professional victory can be above an Olympic gold,” said Usyk via a translator.
“At this point it is the biggest fight in my career but it wasn’t the hardest one. I cannot say (who was) but, most likely, it’s ahead of us.”
Most of Usyk’s wins have come outside Ukraine, with the new champion — who spent three months in a preparation camp away from his wife and family — adding: “I would love to have the rematch at Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kiev.”
But Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, suggested any rematch would be in Britain, in February or March.
Hearn said a defeat by the “outstanding” Usyk was easier to accept than the “bolt from the blue” that was the first Ruiz fight.
“I think in a strange way he (Joshua) enjoyed the fight because I think he knows he learnt so much and, deep down he knows he was beaten by the better man tonight,” he said.
“I think you need to credit him (Joshua) because he could have swerved that fight easy and maybe we should have, but that’s not really what he’s about.”
Hearn, who questioned whether Usyk could hit the same heights again after a “perfect fight,” added: “Anything can happen, but AJ will, I promise you, be much, much better than that in the re-match.”


Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team
Updated 26 September 2021

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team

Noura Al-Brahim looks toward a winning future with Saudi women’s futsal team
  • Al-Yamamah Club player is part of the squad participating in training camp in Croatia

Noura Abdulmohsen Al-Brahim of Al-Yamamah Club in Riyadh has revealed her pride in representing her country after joining the Saudi women’s futsal team in the training camp with Croatia.

“I am full of enthusiasm and desire to win and raise the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia high and to be the best possible representative for my country,” she told Arabic sports daily Arriyadiyah.

Al-Brahim pointed out that the Women’s Football Department at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has continued to provide strong moral support to all players ahead of their coming commitments in the Gulf and Asian championships.

Noura Al-Brahim with Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee President Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal. (Arriyadiyah)

On being part of the Saudi squad at the Croatian training camp, she called her experience “special and exceptional,” adding: “I’ve learned many things about the game that are new to me. This trip also allowed me to learn about different cultures and learn about new ideas and ways to play football.”

Speaking about her ambitions, Al-Brahim that her goal is to be Saudi’s best player and help the national women’s team become a force on the international stage.

As part of the camp that will run until Sept. 28, the Saudi women’s team beat Serbian team ZFK Zemun 7-5 on Thursday and dedicated the victory to the nation’s 91st National Day.