FIFA asks British PM to exempt players from quarantine

FIFA asks British PM to exempt players from quarantine
FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino has asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift quarantine requirements for footballers to allow them to travel next week to play for their countries. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 August 2021

FIFA asks British PM to exempt players from quarantine

FIFA asks British PM to exempt players from quarantine
  • FIFA president Gianni Infantino took advantage of an exemption in place for European Championship so he could fly into London from Rio de Janeiro in July
  • He suggested an approach similar to that adopted by UK government for the Euro 2020’s final stages be implemented for upcoming international matches

ZURICH: Demanding that all players be released for World Cup qualifiers, FIFA president Gianni Infantino has asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lift quarantine requirements for footballers to allow them to travel next week to play for their countries.
Infantino himself took advantage of an exemption in place for the European Championship so he could fly into London from Rio de Janeiro in July and avoid the mandatory 10 days of hotel quarantine in England.
The Premier League defied FIFA to decide on Tuesday that almost 60 players from 19 clubs would not be released next week to fly off to qualifiers in 26 countries on Britain’s red list — including all South American nations.
“I have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and appealed for the necessary support, in particular, so players are not deprived of the opportunity of representing their countries in qualifying matches for the FIFA World Cup, which is one of the ultimate honors for a professional footballer,” Infantino said in a statement on Wednesday. “I have suggested that an approach similar to that adopted by the UK government for the final stages of the Euro 2020 be implemented for the upcoming international matches.”
The Confederation of African Football joined FIFA’s call for Britain to extend the “same treatment previously applied to Europe” to players needing to go to Africa for games. Egypt and South Africa are among the African nations on Britain’s red list.
“The circumstances in the African countries on the red list in many cases are in fact less severe than other countries not currently on this list or for which exemptions were previously provided,” CAF said in a statement.
Serie A on Wednesday also said it supports clubs not releasing players to countries where they would have to quarantine on their return to Italy. The Spanish league also said it would support any of its clubs that did not want to release players for international duty with South American teams, over concerns about the lack of recovery time to resume games with their clubs.
Infantino did not directly address the concerns about the scheduling in the statement.
“Together we have shown solidarity and unity in the fight against COVID-19,” Infantino said. “Now, I am urging everyone to ensure the release of international players for the upcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers.”
Unlike for other international fixtures during the pandemic, FIFA is no longer allowing exemptions for players to opt out of the trips if they are forced to quarantine on their return to countries to resume club duties.
Clubs face FIFA sanctions if they refuse to release players. The Spanish league hit out at FIFA’s “unilateral decision” to grant two additional days for South American countries to play games in both September and October so three qualifiers can be played in each window, rather than the usual two. That means, regardless of any quarantine requirements on their return, players would likely not be rested enough to play for their clubs when leagues resume.
“I am calling on a show of solidarity from every member association, every league, and every club, to do what is both right and fair for the global game,” Infantino said. “Many of the best players in the world compete in leagues in England and Spain, and we believe these countries also share the responsibility to preserve and protect the sporting integrity of competitions around the world.”
FIFA has not challenged an assertion from the European Club Association that the governing body “abuses its regulatory function in order to place its commercial interests and those of its member associations above the physical wellbeing of players and legitimate sporting interests of clubs.”


Eddie Howe’s Newcastle edging closer to signing Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle edging closer to signing Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes
Updated 56 sec ago

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle edging closer to signing Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes

Eddie Howe’s Newcastle edging closer to signing Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes
  • Despite frustrations in efforts to get deals over the line, several other transfers, including Man United’s Jesse Lingard, could be completed in the coming days
  • Brighton’s Dan Burn is of interest and Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah has also emerged as a potential target

JEDDAH: Eddie Howe has confirmed that Newcastle United are edging closer to signing a target believed to be Brazil international Bruno Guimaraes — and added that the transfer-hungry Magpies are not finished with the transfer window yet.
Speaking from the club’s Saudi base, the head coach did not mention the 24-year-old midfielder by name, but assured fans that United are on the verge of their third capture of winter trading.
It is widely expected Guimaraes will sign a long-term contract with English club this weekend, after Newcastle agreed a fee, said to be in the region of $44million, with French Ligue 1 side Lyon on Wednesday.
Howe saw his players beat Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Ittihad 2-1 in Jeddah on Friday evening. Goals from Allan Saint-Maximin and Ryan Fraser in either half won it for the Magpies, who were reduced to 10-men when Ciaran Clark saw red for an altercation with home goalscorer Abderrazak Hamdallah.
Before the match, Howe confirmed that good news about transfers is just around the corner.
“I can say nothing about individual players but we are hopeful we are close to completing a transfer for a player,” he said. “We will try and give you that update when we have it. Fingers crossed, we are close to getting one over the line.”
That player is understood to be Guimaraes. When asked if that is the case, Howe responded: “You can guess; there will be no confirmation from me. It would be foolish of me to do so. We are hopeful. We are closer to getting one more in to add to the two quality additions we have brought in so far.
“From my perspective, I don’t think that will be the end of our interest in bringing new players in. If that turns into reality, who knows? Things can change very late in this window, as everybody knows. It can be quite unpredictable, with things happening in the last few days that you maybe didn’t expect.”
In terms of other specific Newcastle targets during the remainder of the transfer window, which closes on Monday night, a center forward remains high on the agenda, as does a central defender.
Brighton’s Dan Burn is of interest, and Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah has also emerged as a potential target. Arab News understands Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard is also pushing hard for a deal to be brokered with the Magpies that would allow him to see out the final months of his Old Trafford contract on Tyneside.
“We are open. We are working hard to improve the squad and give this squad the best possible chance of staying in the league,” said Howe. “That was our aim at the beginning of the window and it remains the same now.”
United have had their share of frustrations during this transfer window, with moves for Sven Botman and Diego Carlos aborted late on due to the unwillingness of Lille and Sevilla, respectively, to sell.
Howe admits things have often proved not to be straightforward but did not lay any blame at the doorstep of the Magpies’ transfer committee.
“We are in a lot better place if we can get this deal done,” he said. “The frustration I felt was only at the window, not anyone connected with the club. I see what everyone is doing behind the scenes, what everybody wants.
“This window has been difficult, regardless of our situation. It has been tough to actually get clear decisions — not from our side, from others — on what we can and can’t do and what they want to do. The work has been immense and we hope it bears fruit at the end of the window.”


Nyck de Vries kicks off Season 8 of Formula E with a win under the lights in Diriyah

Mercedes-EQ driver Nyck de Vries (C) has won the Formula E Season 8-opening Diriyah E-Prix for the second year running. (SPA)
Mercedes-EQ driver Nyck de Vries (C) has won the Formula E Season 8-opening Diriyah E-Prix for the second year running. (SPA)
Updated 23 min 14 sec ago

Nyck de Vries kicks off Season 8 of Formula E with a win under the lights in Diriyah

Mercedes-EQ driver Nyck de Vries (C) has won the Formula E Season 8-opening Diriyah E-Prix for the second year running. (SPA)
  • The Dutchman defeated Mercedes team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne, who failed to take advantage of his pole position

DIRIYAH: Mercedes-EQ driver Nyck de Vries won the Formula E Season 8-opening Diriyah E-Prix for the second year running on Friday, beating teammate Stoffel Vandoorne who failed to capitalize on his pole position under the floodlights in Riyadh.

De Vries, who missed almost all of the opening practice sessions of the weekend due to a crash, managed to pull off a recovery that led to an impressive victory, ensuring a strong start for his and Mercedes’ championship title defenses.

“The result might be the same but the way we achieved it was very different,” said de Vries. “I’m glad we were able to capitalize on our qualifying position, the way we managed to win this race and start the season strong, we worked really well as a team.”

An attack mode error from Vandoorne allowed de Vries to race to a win in Diriyah when he failed to activate it correctly after leading the race from pole. After dropping behind his teammate, the Belgian driver was unable to make up the gap, then took his second activation with de Vries in the following lap, effectively giving away the win to his counterpart.

“I messed up on my second activation, there’s only myself to blame for that,” said runner-up Vandoorne. “I basically handed the position to Nyck, I’m a little bit disappointed with the way I handled the attack mode and not handling the loop correctly but it’s still a positive start to the season.”

Jake Dennis secured third for Avalanche Andretti after passing Andre Lotterer.

“Everything that I imagined happened, happened,” said third placed Dennis. “We pulled away from the pack, it was generally a clean race.”

Lotterer dropped several places and eventually finished in 13th place after Dennis managed to get through on turn 18 with under 10 minutes remaining in the race. Five additional minutes were added due to the deployment of the safety car, meaning energy usage became critical.

In his first race with Venturi, Lucas di Grassi moved past Sam Bird to take fifth on the straight. Rookies Dan Ticktum and former Alfa Romeo Formula One driver Antonio Giovinazzi had difficult debuts, with the former finishing 18th and the ex-Formula 1 Italian driver the last to cross the chequered flag

The safety car was deployed after Mahindra Racing’s Oliver Rowland made contact with Envision Racing driver Robin Frijns on turn 17, a collision that sent Rowland’s car into the wall. The collision caused Frijns to receive a drive through penalty, while Rowland was awarded a three-place grid drop from tomorrow’s second race.

Season 6 winner Antonio da Felix Costa was forced to pit and retire after the first lap.


South Africa’s Justin Harding leads after day two of Dubai Desert Classic

Justin Harding leads Dubai Desert Classic field by two shots at the end of second round. (Getty Images Europe)
Justin Harding leads Dubai Desert Classic field by two shots at the end of second round. (Getty Images Europe)
Updated 28 January 2022

South Africa’s Justin Harding leads after day two of Dubai Desert Classic

Justin Harding leads Dubai Desert Classic field by two shots at the end of second round. (Getty Images Europe)
  • Tyrell Hatton is two shots back as chasing pack eyes fresh charges

DUBAI: Overnight joint-leader Justin Harding claimed the outright lead on the second day of the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic after a host of potential challengers failed to capitalize at Emirates Golf Club on Friday.

Starting the day seven under par following a grandstand opening round of 65 on Thursday, Harding carded a steady four-under-par round of 68, including a magnificent eagle on the par-four 15th hole, to reach the clubhouse with a two-shot cushion at 11 under par.

“I’ve played this golf course well over the years. I had a good final round a couple years back and was in contention last year and played badly on the Sunday. My game seems to be close. If I can control the putter and make some putts, (I’m) always going to be there or thereabouts, which is nice,” said Harding.

Leading the chase is Tyrell Hatton, who is aiming for a fifth career victory in Rolex Series events this week. The Englishman bogeyed the par-four first hole for the second day running before recovering with seven birdies en route to a six-under-par round of 66.

With Harding bidding to become only the third South African to lift the famous Dallah Trophy, compatriot Erik Van Rooyen, the world number 63, fired a 67 to finish Friday three strokes behind his fellow countryman. Van Rooyen threatened to finish even closer to Harding before a sole bogey on the iconic par-four eighth hole spoiled the 31-year-old’s otherwise blemish-free card.

“It’s what we play for — to be in contention, especially in these Rolex Series events. I can’t wait for Sunday,” said Van Rooyen, who sits at eight under par alongside Fabrizio Zanotti. The Paraguayan carded a two-under-par round of 70 following an impressive 66 on Thursday.

After his three-under-par opening round of 69, Richard Bland was on course to set the early morning pace before a late collapse saw the Englishman card a double-bogey and bogey on the final two holes. Posting a second round of 68, Bland — who become the oldest-ever first-time winner of a DP World Tour event when he clinched the British Masters at The Belfry in 2021 — is in a five-strong chasing pack at seven-under alongside two-time Dubai Desert Classic victor Rory McIlroy, world number five Viktor Hovland, Poland’s Adrian Meronk, and Denmark’s Joachim B. Hanson, who began the day as joint leader.

Following a two-under-par opening round, defending champion Paul Casey is poised to challenge at minus six after a second-round score of 68.

“I made some mistakes and I wasn’t feeling 100 percent,” Casey said. “I tweaked my neck and I’m not physically right, but I’m not unhappy. I’m actually quite happy that I did a good job of managing and getting round.”

Casey’s compatriot Lee Westwood, twice a runner-up on the Majlis Course, posted a second consecutive round of 69 to join Casey and fellow countrymen Sam Horsfield, Richard Armitage and Tommy Fleetwood on six under par.

Other high-profile players who will complete this year’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic after making the halfway cut include world number 2 Collin Morikawa at three under par, and a raft of former Majlis Course conquerors, notably 2017 champion Sergio Garcia at three under par; 2018 champion Li Haotong at one under par; and 2012 winner Rafa Cabrera-Bello at one over par.

In a boost to home hopes, UAE-based amateur Josh Hill, 17, will see out all four rounds of his maiden Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic appearance after a two-over-par round of 74 left the young Englishman sitting at level par through 36 holes.

“It was a bit of a struggle to be honest. I didn’t play that well, so I’m proud of the way I dug in and kept positive,” said Hill. “Even though it was disappointing, there are lots of positives. I dug deep which I’m pretty happy with.”

Elsewhere, fans of all ages are making the most of free entry to the event, experiencing a wide range of food and entertainment offerings in a buzzing Tournament Town, which is open until 11 p.m. daily though to Sunday.

The Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic will continue its commitment to breast cancer awareness on Pink Saturday, with players, caddies, officials and fans encouraged to wear something pink for the cause.

Held in partnership with Al Jalila Foundation, Pink Saturday will see Tournament Town run a ‘Best Dressed’ competition and on-the-spot prizes for spectators. In addition, visitors are encouraged to post images of a special flower display to their social media channels to further raise awareness.


Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton

Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton
Updated 28 January 2022

Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton

Rooney says he turned down approach from former club Everton
  • Rooney said he was approached via his agent and thought long and hard before declining the opportunity at the Premier League club
  • “I believe I will be a Premier League manager," the former England and Manchester United striker said

DERBY, England: Wayne Rooney turned down the chance to interview for the manager’s position at former club Everton, saying Friday he wasn’t ready to leave his current job at second-tier Derby.
Rooney, who started his playing career at Everton and had a second spell at Goodison Park before retiring, said he was approached via his agent and thought long and hard before declining the opportunity at the Premier League club.
“I believe I will be a Premier League manager,” the former England and Manchester United striker said. “I believe I’m ready for that, 100 percent. And if that is with Everton one day in the future, that would be absolutely great.
“But I’ve got a job here that I’m doing at Derby County which is an important job to me.”
Everton are looking for a replacement for Rafa Benitez, who was fired this month as the team slides toward the relegation zone. Everton are in 16th place and just four points above the bottom three.
Rooney has been Derby’s manager since November 2020 — previously he’d been the team’s player-coach — and has received plaudits for the job he has done at the club amid its financial crisis.
Derby entered administration — a form of bankruptcy protection — in September and have been docked a total of 21 points this season because of their financial problems. They are in next-to-last place in the Championship, eight points from safety.
Rooney said last week he was “flattered” by the speculation linking him with the Everton job.
Frank Lampard, Rooney’s former England teammate, is among the favorites to fill the vacancy.


Howe reveals motivational speech by Newcastle United chief Al-Rumayyan

Eddie Howe has revealed details of a motivational speech given to Newcastle United players by PIF chief and club chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, during their Saudi training camp. (Facebook/@newcastleunited)
Eddie Howe has revealed details of a motivational speech given to Newcastle United players by PIF chief and club chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, during their Saudi training camp. (Facebook/@newcastleunited)
Updated 28 January 2022

Howe reveals motivational speech by Newcastle United chief Al-Rumayyan

Eddie Howe has revealed details of a motivational speech given to Newcastle United players by PIF chief and club chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, during their Saudi training camp. (Facebook/@newcastleunited)
  • The PIF chairman visited players at their warm weather training camp in Jeddah, which wraps up on Friday evening with a match against SPL leaders Al-Ittihad

JEDDAH: Eddie Howe has revealed the details of a motivational speech given to Newcastle United players by Public Investment Fund chief and club chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan.

The Magpies take on Saudi Pro League leaders Al-Ittihad in a behind-closed-doors friendly in Jeddah this evening, a game which rounds off a six-day trip to the Kingdom, the club’s first since they were bought by majority shareholders PIF.

As part of the trip, Howe confirmed Al-Rumayyan visited the players at their Jeddah training base.

The governor of the PIF outlined his short-term vision for the team, according to Howe — and it was a speech that really resonated with the United staff.

“I’ve spoken with the chairman,” said Howe. “We met him one of the day and that was a great experience to hear his thoughts on the club, his vision and how the future looks.

“I think the players enjoyed that, I enjoyed that. A lot of people around the PIF team have been here as well so it’s been a very good experience from that side to bring everyone closer together.”

While fans are keen to look to the big picture at United, with long-term plans and dreams very much on the agenda, that’s not the thought-process from within the club or ownership group.

For now, the focus is on the short-term, and staying in the Premier League.

Of Al-Rumayyan’s talk with the players, Howe said: “It was more short-term. There is no point looking too long-term with the players at that moment.

“It was more of a motivational and inspirational talk based on the shorter-term; the collective team spirit, the collective aims we have between now and the end of the season,” the Newcastle boss said. “No (long-term) assurances, it was more a conversation based around what’s happening on the pitch and the togetherness and fight we need and the fact everyone is there to support the players.

“It was just a nice feeling rather than any big promises or assurances. It was just a nice way for us all to spend a little time together and get to know each other better,” added Howe.

“That includes everybody connected with the staff, players. It was a really nice moment and we all enjoyed it.

“We were all very impressed with what was said and how it was said. I’m sure the players feel very enthused and ready to work.”