Egypt and Liverpool fans hope for their own Mo Salah happy resolutions

If there is to be a chance of adding to the record seven African Cup of Nations titles, then Egypt need to get the best out of red-hot Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. (AFP)
If there is to be a chance of adding to the record seven African Cup of Nations titles, then Egypt need to get the best out of red-hot Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2022

Egypt and Liverpool fans hope for their own Mo Salah happy resolutions

If there is to be a chance of adding to the record seven African Cup of Nations titles, then Egypt need to get the best out of red-hot Liverpool star Mohamed Salah. (AFP)
  • The 29-year-old star was peripheral in his country’s 1-0 loss to Nigeria, while his absence was felt by his club in 0-0 draw with Arsenal

There are fears in Egypt of another disappointing international tournament for Mohamed Salah, and given how important he is for his country, that would mean failure for the Pharaohs.

If there is to be a chance of adding to the record seven African Cup of Nations titles, then the national team need to get the best out of the red-hot Liverpool star.

Ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Egypt’s appearance in the competition was overshadowed by the shoulder injury that Salah picked up in the final of the UEFA Champions League against Real Madrid just weeks earlier. The question as to how fit he was followed the team all around the tournament.

I attended a St. Petersburg pre-match press conference and the Russian players grew increasingly exasperated before their clash with the North Africans as they had to field question after question on Salah. Egypt fans will be hoping that his contract negotiation with Liverpool does not turn into another cloud.

It is becoming a bigger and bigger story, though it is unlikely to have been the reason for Egypt losing 1-0 to Nigeria in the opening game of AFCON 2021 on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old was a peripheral figure and could do little given the service, or the lack of it, he received from his teammates. Nigeria worked to cut off the supply from midfield and it was an effective tactic, as the Super Eagles coach Augustine Eguavoen explained after the game. “I’d like to congratulate my players. We had respect for Egypt and we just played our game,” he said. “Egypt only played on giving Salah spaces to run. It’s their only play, so we just had to keep the ball away from him.”

They did just that, and it now presents a headache for Egypt coach Carlos Queiroz. A win against Guinea-Bissau on Saturday is now not only necessary to get some points on the board, but a good performance is also needed to help fans forget the display against Nigeria in Garoua. Queiroz also needs to get his star shining. There is not yet a crisis — with the top two from each of the six-team groups going through as well as the four best-performing third-placed teams — but there has to be improvement.

The ideal situation would see Salah banging in a couple of goals and breaking a barren run for his country that has now reached six games.

That would be huge news back in Liverpool, where Salah’s contract situation has become the talk of the city. His current deal expires in the summer of 2023. It means that the player will be able to start talking to other teams next January and move for nothing a few months later. But Salah has indicated that he wants to stay at the six-time champions and has put the ball in the club’s court.

“I know Mo wants to stay. We want Mo to stay,” Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said on Wednesday. “These things take time, but I think all of it is in a good place. I’m very positive about it. But as long as it is not done, we can’t say anything about it. Good conversations — that’s what I can say.”

A day later, Liverpool’s resolve to keep Salah surely strengthened as they looked short of firepower in a 0-0 draw against a 10-man Arsenal. The English papers were quick to point out the problem.

“Liverpool receive warning over life without Mo Salah and Sadio Mane in Arsenal draw,” was the Daily Mirror’s headline — just one of many pointing out that the Reds need the Egyptian.

Not only has he been consistently excellent since arriving in 2017, Salah has climbed to even greater heights in England this season, with 23 goals in 26 games.

After the stalemate, leading UK pundit and former Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher told the club to hasten the signing of a new contract for the Egyptian star. “I would love this deal to be done as quickly as possible,” he said on television, adding that Salah has provided incredible value for money in his five years so far.

“I don’t think they (the club and owners) would be forgiven if Salah left this club in the summer or in 18 months’ time. He’s a Liverpool legend and one of the greatest players the club has ever had. Salah wants to be paid as well as any top player in the Premier League or world football, and why shouldn’t he? He deserves that — we’re talking about one of the best players in the world.”

Few Reds would disagree. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then fans at Anfield woke up on Friday morning even more in love with Salah than before. That love only extends so far, however, as supporters would be delighted if Egypt exit at the earliest stage so that Salah can return to England.

For the player himself, it may not be a bad thing for his club to be reminded of just how much he brings, but his imminent concern is Egypt recovering from a poor start and living up to their record as the most successful team in the tournament’s history. To do that, coach Queiroz and the rest of the Egyptian team need to get the best out of their talisman, starting on Saturday against Guinea-Bissau.

Both club and country have their own Salah questions to answer, and while Egypt’s is more pressing, Liverpool cannot afford to wait too much longer.


Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers
Updated 4 sec ago

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers

Qatar braces for 200,000 daily World Cup air passengers
  • Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans
  • Qatar Airways will cut flights to destinations that are ‘irrelevant’ to the World Cup, so that it could increase flights to countries taking part
DOHA: Qatar will only let football fans with match tickets enter the Gulf state during the World Cup tournament, officials said Thursday as they announced that scores of shuttle flights would bring in thousands of fans each day from neighboring countries.

Facing growing pressure to cope with the four-week football tournament, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the national airline would halt some routes to countries not involved in the 32-nation tournament during the tournament and reduce others.

Baker, who is also tourist minister, said Qatar’s Hamad International Airport and the older Doha International Airport would double capacity so that they can process more than 200,000 people a day.

The tiny state is desperately trying to find rooms for the 1.4 million predicted visitors and a top World Cup organizing committee official said only fans with tickets would be allowed in during the four weeks from November 21.

Fans will have to get a special pass, a Haya card, to enter the country and stadiums. They will need a match ticket to get the pass.

Saeed Al-Kuwari, director of the Haya digital platform for the organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, told AFP: “The only people who will enter the country during the tournament are holders of the Haya digital card.”

Qataris and legal residents will also be able to enter but authorities have yet to announce how business people will be processed.

Baker announced that Saudia, Kuwait Airways, flydubai and Oman Air will organize more than 160 daily flights from November 20 to bring supporters on one-day trips to see matches.

Officials estimate that more than 20,000 fans could come in each day on the shuttles.

Saudia chief executive Ibrahim Koshy said his airline would run at least 30 daily round trip flights from the cities of Riyadh and Jeddah, that could carry 10,000 fans.

Flydubai would operate at least 30 return flights, Kuwait Airways 10 and Oman Air 24, Baker said.

All flights would be reserved for fans with World Cup tickets who would go through a special booking that Baker promised would provide a “seamless” immigration and security processing as though they were entering on a domestic flight.

Baker said Qatar’s civil aviation authorities were increasing airspace capacity so that the three runways at Hamad airport could operate “continuously” during the World Cup.

He said Qatar Airways would cut flights to destinations that are “irrelevant” to the World Cup, so that it could increase flights to countries taking part.

Some 70 percent of Qatar Airways regular flights would see their times changed so that extra flights can be organized.

The airports would have to handle extra charter flights and airlines that have asked to establish regular lines because of the World Cup.

He said “state of the art immigration systems” would be introduced to speed up the arrival of international passengers.

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun
Updated 40 min 22 sec ago

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun

Bernie Ecclestone arrested in Brazil for illegally carrying a gun
  • Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening
  • Ecclestone is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council

SAO PAULO: Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was arrested in Brazil late on Wednesday for illegally carrying a gun while boarding a private plane to Switzerland, local police said on Thursday.
The Brazilian police found an undocumented LW Seecamp .32 gun in Ecclestone’s luggage during an X-ray screening, police said in a statement, adding that the 91-year-old was then arrested and taken to a facility at Viracopos airport in Campinas.
Ecclestone acknowledged owning the gun, but said he was unaware it was in his luggage at the time, police said. The Briton paid bail and was freed to travel to Switzerland.
Asked about Ecclestone’s arrest, the Sao Paulo state public security office confirmed in a statement to Reuters that a businessman was arrested for possession of a firearm at Campinas’ airport, but did not name him directly.
The office said the “small, silver colored pistol” was out of ammunition and that the arrestee had to pay 6,060 reais ($1,257.55) as bail. The handgun was seized, it added.
Ecclestone was not immediately available for comment on why he had a gun.
He is married to Brazilian-born Fabiana Ecclestone, an FIA vice president and member of the World Motor Sport Council.
Her mother Aparecida Schunck was kidnapped in Sao Paulo in 2016, with criminals demanding 120 million reais ($25.07 million) in ransom before she was freed nine days later in a police raid without any money being paid.
Such kidnappings have become less common in recent years, however.
Ecclestone also suffered a head injury in 2010 after being mugged in central London, his attackers making off with jewelry including a watch.
The Ecclestones attended several events in the South American country in May, including a local Stock Car race in the countryside near Sao Paulo and a meeting with triple world champion Nelson Piquet in Brasilia.
The Ecclestones own a coffee plantation near Sao Paulo, which they bought in 2012 and where they regularly spend time when not in Europe. Piquet drove for Brabham when it was owned by Ecclestone in the 1970s and 80s.
For decades Ecclestone was Mr. Formula One, the man who did the deals, turned the wheels and transformed the sport into today’s billion dollar business.
He was moved aside in 2017 when US-based Liberty Media took control of the commercial rights.


Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal
Updated 26 May 2022

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal

Saudi’s Rakan Al-Rashed targets more points in World Rally Championship 2 after top-10 finish in Portugal
  • The 32-year-old driver and businessman was delighted to earn first WRC 2 point in his career after a challenging rally that saw his tires punctured on the opening day

RIYADH: Saudi professional rally driver Rakan Al-Rashed has set his sights on winning more points in the World Rally Championship 2 after securing his first top-10 finish in Portugal.

The 32-year-old, also a successful business professional and entrepreneur, finished 10th in the fourth round of the competition, earning him one point in the rally that attracted 48 teams in his category.

The achievement was even more impressive given Al-Rashed was forced to retire on the first day before the last stage due to punctured tires, but having recovered and restarted, he drove smoothly for the next two days.

He said: “I am extremely happy to score my first point in the WRC 2. This is a moment that I am very proud of because I am one of the least experienced drivers in the mix, so placing 10th in this competition gives me the motivation to work even harder for the rest of the upcoming rallies that I take part in.

“I also realize that there’s still a very long way to go if I want to get better results and win points. Consistency will be the key in getting a top-10 finish and then gradually working my way up to securing a top-five, but my result in Portugal will give me a lot of confidence that I can secure more points in WRC.”

To help him prepare for the Portuguese rally, Al-Rashed had taken part in a local test event in April that used the same track as the WRC 2. He said that the experience was vital in achieving the best result in his career.

“That experience was very important because it prepared me well, but it also did not prepare me on how rough the stages would be,” he said. “The first day was extremely tough for everyone, which resulted in many drivers facing several issues because the race was on a very tough terrain. Nonetheless, the test race in April allowed me to get used to the Portuguese track and what to expect, and that was a great learning experience.”

Al-Rashed will next be in action at the Rally Italia Sardegna, which takes place from June 2-5.

Alongside his rally motorsport career, Al Rashed is also a co-founder and director of Access Bridge Ventures, a leading early-stage venture capital fund, and chairman of Kudu Corp, a leading restaurant chain in Saudi Arabia.


Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape
Updated 26 May 2022

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape

Global revenues at the heart of BCCI’s continued control of cricket’s international landscape
  • Strongarm tactics used by BCCI to get its way have become commonplace in ICC governance regime as calls for independent board members, more egalitarian distribution of power and money have not been heeded

One of the most disturbing aspects of cricket that has emerged through these columns has been the questionable quality of governance that exists in parts of the cricket world.

 

 

Ten years ago, a report was published that looked into the governance of the International Cricket Council, the governing body of international cricket. The report included an analysis of governance structures, ethics, membership and funding. It also considered the purpose of the ICC, which, according to its Memorandum of Association of the time, was “to administer, develop, co-ordinate, regulate and promote cricket world-wide in co-operation with its members.”

The review was initiated by then ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorat and was led by former UK Chief Lord Justice Harry Woolf in association with a prominent international consulting firm. As such, the review was deemed to be independent. Despite reservations from the Indian Board of Control for Cricket, the ICC board had approved it.

There were 65 recommendations and a number of damning criticisms of the way the ICC was functioning. One of these suggested that the body “reacts as though it is primarily a members’ club, its interest in enhancing the global development of the game is secondary. In today’s environment, this is not an acceptable situation. Cricket is a global game and there is a need for global governance.”

At that time, the executive board comprised chairs or presidents from each of the 10 full (Test-playing) members, three elected associate member representatives, and the ICC CEO, vice president and president, who chaired. The perception was that this construction allowed those member countries with the most power to look after themselves rather than the wider game.     

Woolf’s report recommended a restructuring of the ICC’s board to make it more independent. It suggested ways to reduce the domination of bigger countries and called for a re-examination of the rights and benefits of the Test-playing full member nations. This focused on a different financial model based on the need of members that would enable the ICC to distribute funding in accordance with its overarching role to promote and develop international cricket.

Additionally, it called for measures to increase transparency in dealings by the ICC and its members, setting out clear parameters for ethical conduct. 

Narayanaswami Srinivasan, BCCI board president and India’s representative on the ICC board, quickly announced that the BCCI rejected the key recommendations of the report out of hand, without saying why.

Srinivasan also owned an IPL franchise through his company, India Cements. Following the uncovering of match-fixing scandals and conflicts of interest involving the operation of the franchise, the Supreme Court of India was asked to intervene. One of its acts, in March 2014, was to order that Srinivasan should step down as BCCI president. This only served to create space for him to become, in June 2014, the first chair of the ICC board, following constitutional changes precipitated by the Woolf report.

Given Srinivasan’s outright rejection of Woolf’s recommendations, the chances of implementing the most contentious ones were remote. Instead, an attempt to increase the concentration of power within the ICC was mounted, even before the new chair took post. Under a proposal put forward by India, Australia and England, a new executive committee comprising representatives from each country, plus one other full member, would be created, with the “Big Three” holding rotating chairs of key committees. This did meet with opposition from other full members and some concessions were garnered, but the direction of travel was opposite to Woolf’s.

In the ever-twisting relationship between the ICC and BCCI, Srinivasan was removed as chair in November 2015 at the request of the BCCI, which was concerned about ongoing conflicts of interest. He was replaced by Shashank Manohar, then president of the BCCI. He served two two-year terms with the ICC, being instrumental in reformulating Srinivasan’s plans. This occurred in 2017, but not without drama.

In April 2017, the board approved, by 13 votes to 1, a revised financial model for the 2016-2023 cycle. Under this, India would receive $293 million, England $143 million, Zimbabwe $94 million and the other seven full members $132 million each. It would be no surprise to learn that the dissenting vote was India’s since it had been seeking $570 million. Other changes approved by the board opened the way for more Test cricket nations, removed the affiliate level of membership to leave only two categories — full and associate member — and introduced an independent female director, along with amendments that expanded on and clarified the roles and objectives of the ICC to provide leadership in international cricket.

All of this required ratification by the full council in June 2017. Meanwhile, India threatened to boycott the ICC’s Champions Trophy, so it should not be surprising to learn that the revenue distribution had changed by the ratification date. The BCCI was allocated $405 million, England $139 million and the other full members unchanged or slightly reduced amounts. Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test status and shared $240 million with associate members. India did enter the Champions Trophy.

Strongarm tactics used by the BCCI to get its way have become commonplace in the ICC governance regime. While some of Woolf’s recommendations have been implemented over the years, his key calls for independent board members and a more egalitarian distribution of power and money have not. This is hardly a surprise given the BCCI’s overwhelming dominance on both counts.

It claims to generate 70 percent of cricket’s global revenues. On that basis, it feels entitled to the lion’s share of ICC revenue distribution.

The battle is over the size of that share and who determines it. This ought to be the ICC with its remit to promote and develop cricket at all levels throughout the world. It is hard to resist the feeling that Woolf would be distinctly unimpressed by the shackles and tensions under which the ICC still has to operate, imposed mainly by the BCCI. Who is going to control the future landscape of world cricket, especially if the next ICC chair is Indian?


Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
Updated 26 May 2022

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone

Thailand to host AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 – Pilot Tournament in East zone
  • Uzbekistan recently announced as venue for tournament in West zone

RIYADH: The Asian Football Confederation has confirmed the Football Association of Thailand as the host member association for the upcoming AFC Women’s Club Championship – Pilot Tournament in the East region.

The match schedule has also been finalized with teams in the East – Taichung Blue Whale FC from Taiwan, Myanmar’s ISPE FC Women, and a club from Thailand to be decided by June 2022 – with games set to be played from Aug. 15 to 21.

In addition, the Uzbekistan Football Association was confirmed as the host member association for the West, which will be comprised of participating clubs from the host country, India, Iran, and Jordan and will be staged from Aug. 20 to 26, marking the first time the competition has been held across the two regions.

While the final cast of participating clubs will be confirmed at a later date, this year’s edition will also see the introduction of the first ever regional final contest between the East and West group leaders, which will take place in conjunction with the 2022 AFC Cup final on Oct. 22.

The winners will join 2019 victors Nippon TV Beleza from Japan and 2021 champions Amman Club from Jordan in the pilot editions’ honors roll, with the ultimate aim of chasing continental club glory ahead of the inaugural AFC Women’s Champions League in 2024.