Serbian PM vows to help national hero Djokovic in Australia visa fight

Serbian PM vows to help national hero Djokovic in Australia visa fight
A supporter of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic holds a banner that reads: “We all are Nole (Novak)” during protest in Belgrade on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Serbian PM vows to help national hero Djokovic in Australia visa fight

Serbian PM vows to help national hero Djokovic in Australia visa fight
  • Djokovic has been holed up in a Melbourne hotel since Thursday after his visa was cancelled due to problems with the medical exemption
  • Serbian Prime Minister said she had also spoken with Australian government officials and that the talks had been constructive

BELGRADE: Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic threw the weight of her government behind national idol Novak Djokovic on Saturday, vowing that it stood ready to provide all necessary guarantees to allow the tennis champion to enter Australia.
Djokovic, a vocal opponent of vaccine mandates, has been holed up in a Melbourne hotel since Thursday after his visa was canceled due to problems with the medical exemption from vaccination granted by the organizers of the Australian Open.
“He’s staying in Park Hotel until the final decision is made,” Brnabic told Serbian media. “We’ve managed to make sure gluten-free food is delivered to him, as well as exercising tools, a laptop and a SIM card so that he is able to be in contact with his family.”
Djokovic, who is seeking to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the tournament this month, said in a legal challenge on Saturday that he had been given the medical exemption because he had contracted COVID-19 last month.
A court hearing will be held on Monday over the visa cancelation. The drama has already become a diplomatic issue, with Serbia accusing Australia of treating Djokovic, 34, like a prisoner. It has also become a flashpoint for opponents of vaccine mandates around the world.
Brnabic said she had also spoken with Australian government officials and that the talks had been constructive.
“It’s a positive tone from the Australian side. The Serbian government is ready to provide all the guarantees necessary for Novak to be allowed to enter Australia, the Serbian president (Aleksandar Vucic) is also involved,” she added.
Serbian Parliament speaker Ivica Dacic also threw his support behind the tennis world number one.
“Novak is already a winner, it’s obvious that they won’t let him play so that he is unable to become the best tennis player in history,” he told RTS state TV.
“I hope this (Australian) Prime Minister (Scott Morrison) at some point gets into a situation of being treated the way he is treating others now.”


Boehly’s Chelsea takeover puts US tycoon in spotlight

Boehly’s Chelsea takeover puts US tycoon in spotlight
Updated 6 sec ago

Boehly’s Chelsea takeover puts US tycoon in spotlight

Boehly’s Chelsea takeover puts US tycoon in spotlight
LONDON: Todd Boehly’s consortium has secured Chelsea’s future but the hard work is just beginning for the latest American billionaire to be lured by the promise of Premier League riches.
Boehly’s group has received the approval from the British government and Premier League required to seal the £4.25 billion ($5.3 billion) deal.
Having masterminded the purchase from Roman Abramovich in less than three months despite numerous complications due to government sanctions targeting the Russian, Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Boehly will now focus on reaping the rewards of his labors.
The American has grand ambitions for the west London club as he targets sustained success on the pitch and financial growth off it.
Discussing a previous attempt to purchase Chelsea that was rebuffed, Boehly told Bloomberg in 2019: “What you are trying to build with these teams, you are really trying to A, win and B, be part of the community.”
The Premier League’s global brand is a key driver of Boehly’s interest as it provides the opportunity to benefit from significant broadcast revenues and merchandising.
“It’s the highest-quality play, it’s the best players,” Boehly said. “You also have a media market that’s just developing.”
Some football financial analysts believe leading Premier League clubs could be worth more than £10 billion within a decade.
California investment group Clearlake will be Chelsea’s majority shareholder as part of the consortium, with Boehly becoming controlling owner.
While the consortium is clearly motivated by guaranteeing a return on their investment, Boehly would be wise to learn from the experiences of his fellow American owners at Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group has steered Liverpool back to the top of the game with a series of smart moves, crucially landing boss Jurgen Klopp, surrounding him with innovative lieutenants and providing the backing required to land his transfer targets.
In contrast, Manchester United owners the Glazer family and Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke have endured furious fan protests after presiding over precipitous declines in their clubs’ fortunes.
Chelsea have a solid foundation thanks to the sterling work of boss Thomas Tuchel, who won the Champions League in his first season and this campaign secured a third-place finish in the Premier League while reaching two domestic cup finals despite the distractions of the sale saga.
Significantly, Boehly already has institutional knowledge of what it takes to grow a club’s brand, while putting out a winning team.
He was a key member of the ownership group that bought the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt in 2012 for $2 billion — then a record for a North American sports team acquisition.
In the decade since Guggenheim Baseball Management — the investment group that also includes Mark Walter and Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson — took over a Dodgers team in disarray, the club have become perennial contenders.
They reached the World Series three times in four years, coming away empty-handed in 2017 and 2018 before winning the title in 2020.
The turnaround, along with the revitalization of Dodger Stadium, was fueled by a multi-million-dollar media deal and, under Boehly and his co-investors, the Dodgers have eclipsed the New York Yankees as the biggest-spending club in MLB.
“There is only one Dodgers,” Boehly said at the time of the purchase. “It’s not, ‘Oh well, if you don’t get this one, you can go get that one.’“
Boehly left Guggenheim Partners in 2015 and co-founded the holding company Eldridge Industries, of which he is the chairman and chief executive.
He is also chairman of Security Benefit, which has a commercial partnership with the Dodgers, and MRC, an entertainment company with businesses spanning film, TV, media and data.
Boehly has also expanded his sports interests. He is a part-owner of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Sparks and last year joined with Walter to purchase a stake in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
In recent weeks, Boehly has been able to attend matches at Stamford Bridge, both in the directors’ box and also mixing in the stands among supporters.
The laid-back American appears to have the common touch, but emulating the sustained success of the Abramovich era — with 19 major trophies in 19 years — will be the true test of Chelsea’s new regime.

Murray says Wimbledon ‘will never be an exhibition’

Murray says Wimbledon ‘will never be an exhibition’
Updated 25 May 2022

Murray says Wimbledon ‘will never be an exhibition’

Murray says Wimbledon ‘will never be an exhibition’
  • Former world number one Naomi Osaka has revealed she is "leaning towards not playing" Wimbledon
  • Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points

LONDON: Two-time former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said Wednesday the tournament “will never feel like an exhibition” despite it being stripped of ranking points over the ban on Russian and Belarusian players.
The decision by the ATP and WTA to remove the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points has prompted some players to say they may skip Wimbledon, the year’s third Grand Slam.
“I’d hazard a guess that most people watching on center court Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time wouldn’t know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a 3rd round match,” tweeted Murray.
“But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition.”
Former world number one Naomi Osaka has revealed she is “leaning toward not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points.
But Djokovic described it as a “lose-lose situation,” and the controversy has showed no signs of abating, with several players at the ongoing French Open likening Wimbledon to a high-profile exhibition event this year.
“I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of the Masters gets,” said Murray, who opted to miss the French Open to prepare for the grass-court season.
“Me and my friends love football and none of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the FIFA World Cup.
“But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters.”


Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship
Updated 25 May 2022

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship

Cody Rhodes targeting Clash at the Castle, WWE Championship
  • The wrestler, who performs under the Raw brand, is looking for a ‘premium spot’ on the event set for Cardiff on Sept. 3

RIYADH: WWE’s international calendar continues to grow as it brings its staple events to its global fan base.

After the Elimination Chamber was held in Jeddah in February and with Clash at the Castle set for Sept. 3 in Cardiff, one WWE Superstar who cannot wait to be on the road is the returning “American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes.

Commenting on the upcoming show in the UK, he said: “As one of the biggest fans ever of SummerSlam 1992, I am shocked it’s taken this long. Clearly by the sign-up interest and the pre-sale interest and everything that’s happening, this aims to be the biggest stadium show in the world.

“It truly does. It’s one of those things [that], as a member of the roster, I’ve got to find my way onto it,” he added. “I’ve got to find my way into a premium spot because I have watched SummerSlam ‘92 so many times I can do the commentary almost verbatim. It’s our time now. It has been 30 years...It’s time for us to make our moment.”

Rhodes, who made his comeback to WWE during the last WrestleMania, is looking forward to going on the road again.

“I’m very much looking forward to touring the world, not just because I have the opportunity to be a face of the WWE brand at the moment, but because we were closed off from one another for too long,” he said.

“I’m a global sports entertainer. I like to go everywhere. I did that when I was with WWE and outside the company, and then the pandemic happened, lockdown happened, so I am looking forward to going everywhere that this show goes,” Rhodes added. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. You follow your show, and WWE is seen in every country and in every language, and I want to be able to connect with those folks.”

A revered second-generation wrestler, Rhodes credits his father, the late legend “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, for getting him into wrestling training when he was only 12 years old.

During his career, the younger Rhodes was one of the founders of All Elite Wrestling, a promotion in the US in which he was the inaugural and three-time AEW TNT Champion and also served as an executive vice president. He was also the NWA and Ring of Honor World Champion. The one title that Rhodes has yet to win is the WWE Championship.

“I don’t want to say that it’s the most important thing in my life because I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself,” he said. “If you know me and, fortunately and unfortunately, I have been so open...in front of the audience that they do really know me, I think they know that it is the most important thing, that all the pressure in the world is on me to do it. It is the one that got away. No Rhodes got their hands on it.

“I have said it, made it clear, and if it goes unobtained that’s one thing, but I just couldn’t let it go unsaid,” Rhodes added. “With that in mind, I have a habit of very much putting things out in the universe when it comes to sports entertainment and making sure they happen. I am a big, big proponent of sticking to your word. I would love to give my word to the WWE universe that not only do I want it, but I am going to get it. Only time will tell.”


Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait

Saudi women’s futsal team take bronze at GCC Games in Kuwait
  • The female Green Falcons defeated the UAE 4-1 in the third-place match on Tuesday night

The Saudi women’s futsal team have won the bronze medal in the third Gulf Cooperation Council Games taking place in Kuwait after defeating the UAE 4-1 in the third-place match.

The result marked the first time that the Saudi women’s futsal team have a podium finish at any level of the sport.

The team had kicked off the tournament by losing to Bahrain 4-1 and followed that up with 2-1 victories over Kuwait and the UAE.

In the semifinals, they lost 3-1 against Kuwait on penalties after the match and the extra period ended in a 2-2 draw.


Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur
Updated 25 May 2022

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur

Saudi favorites to reach U-17 and U-20 Asian Cups in 2023 after draw in Kuala Lumpur
  • Dammam will host the qualifying campaigns for tournaments set to take place in Bahrain and Uzbekistan next year

Defending champions Saudi Arabia have been handed a favorable draw in their qualification group for the U-20 Asian Cup in 2023, and while the U-17 team look to have a more difficult path to their continental championships next year, they will also be confident about their prospects.

The draw for qualification for both tournaments took place at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. In order to get a ticket to appear at the U-20 tournament, which will take place in Uzbekistan next year, Saudi Arabia will have to find some of the form that took them to the title back in 2018, when it was an U-19 competition.

That was when the young Green Falcons defeated South Korea 2-1 in the final in Indonesia to be crowned continental champions. It is still their title to defend as the global pandemic ensured that the 2020 edition never took place, though Saudi Arabia had already booked a berth by winning their group in qualification back in November 2019. 

Then they just managed to finish above Uzbekistan and have been grouped with the Central Asians once again in Group A, which will take place in September. This time, however, results against the White Wolves will not matter as they are already assured of a place in the tournament as host nation. That means that Saudi Arabia will just have to finish above China, Myanmar and the Maldives to guarantee a spot, though the five best-performing runners-up in the 10 groups will also go through.

It would be a surprise if that did not happen and not least because all the games will be held in the eastern city of Dammam. Playing in front of their own fans in one of the country’s most passionate football cities will be a major advantage. China will be expected to provide the main test but with football going through a terrible time at the moment in the East Asian country, youth tournaments may not be the priority they once were. Chinese Super League clubs are going out of business, the country has given up hosting the 2022 Asian Games and the 2023 Asian Cup, and the future is very uncertain. 

With the political situation in Myanmar, there has not been too much football played in recent months, and the young White Angels may be struggling for match fitness. Even when the Southeast Asians are at their best, a trip to Saudi Arabia is tough. And last but not least are the Maldives. The South Asians can be difficult opponents but should be no match for the defending champions, especially on their home patch. 

The U-17 tournament, which has been rebranded from the past U-16 championships, will be held much closer to home, in neighboring Bahrain. Once again, the group, this time Group D, will be held in Dammam, and while it looks a little more challenging for the two-time champions, Saudi Arabia will again be strong favorites to progress with the format the same: the 10 group winners go through along with the five best runners-up to join the hosts Bahrain.

The 2020 tournament did not go ahead thanks to the pandemic, but Saudi Arabia had booked their berth before it was called off by finishing above Oman, Pakistan and Syria in September 2019. The cancelation was a bitter pill to swallow for the boys from Riyadh, Jeddah and elsewhere as they had failed to qualify for the 2018 edition, losing out to Jordan.

This group does not look quite so difficult as that. Interestingly, Myanmar and the Maldives are also opponents, and the same points apply to this age category as to the slightly older one. Neither will be expected to finish in the top two spots. India have ambitions in this regard and will relish the chance to test themselves against one of the continent’s big boys but maybe do not quite have the strength in depth to challenge in West Asia. Kuwait may be tricky. After suffering at the hands of Jordan in September 2017, the hosts will be wary of the Blues in October 2022.

But given the opposition, home advantage and where Saudi Arabian football is currently at, both the U-17 and U-20 teams are strongly expected to make it to both Uzbekistan and Bahrain in 2023 and once there, will be expected to challenge for the big prize.