3 known Chelsea bids left after Cubs owners drop buyout plan

3 known Chelsea bids left after Cubs owners drop buyout plan
Chelsea’s players react at the end of their UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Tuesday. (AFP)
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Updated 15 April 2022

3 known Chelsea bids left after Cubs owners drop buyout plan

3 known Chelsea bids left after Cubs owners drop buyout plan
  • The consortium did not directly address the “issues” that prevented them pursuing the bid ahead of Thursday's deadline for final submissions
  • “The Ricketts-Griffin-Gilbert Group has decided, after careful consideration, not to submit a final bid for Chelsea FC,” the group said in a statement

DUBAI: The owners of the Chicago Cubs dropped their interest in buying Chelsea, leaving three remaining bids for the enforced sale of the Premier League club by sanctioned Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
The bid was being led by Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts but faced opposition from Chelsea fans over Islamophobic comments by his father, Joe, that featured in leaked emails three years ago.
The consortium, which also featured American investors Ken Griffin and Dan Gilbert, did not directly address the “issues” that prevented them pursuing the bid ahead of Thursday’s deadline for final submissions.
“The Ricketts-Griffin-Gilbert Group has decided, after careful consideration, not to submit a final bid for Chelsea FC,” the group said in a statement.
“In the process of finalizing their proposal, it became increasingly clear that certain issues could not be addressed given the unusual dynamics around the sales process. We have great admiration for Chelsea and its fans, and we wish the new owners well.”
The remaining three known bids also involve North American sports team investors.
Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca has partnered with Larry Tanenbaum, who has ownership stakes in Toronto with the NBA’s Raptors, the NHL’s Maple Leafs and the city’s MLS team. Peter Guber, a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is also backing in the group.
Another part-owner of the Dodgers, Todd Boehly, is leading another consortium.
The third remaining known group is fronted by former Liverpool and British Airways chairman Martin Broughton with planned investment by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, who own the Philadelphia 76ers and have stakes in Premier League club Crystal Palace.
A New York-based merchant bank, the Raine Group, has been overseeing the sale process that was announced last month by Abramovich following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The oligarch has been sanctioned by Britain and the European Union over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin with assets frozen, including Chelsea.
Abramovich has been disqualified from running the reigning European champions by the Premier League and he cannot profit from the proceeds of the sale, which the British government must sign off under terms of a license that allows the team to continue operating.
Chelsea’s Champions League title defense were ended by Real Madrid on Tuesday but Thomas Tuchel’s team are on course to qualify for the lucrative UEFA competition next season as they are third in the Premier League. Chelsea remain in contention for the FA Cup with a semifinal match against Crystal Palace on Sunday.


Uganda prevail over Tanzania after 36 minutes of first half added time

Uganda prevail over Tanzania after 36 minutes of first half added time
Updated 29 March 2023

Uganda prevail over Tanzania after 36 minutes of first half added time

Uganda prevail over Tanzania after 36 minutes of first half added time
  • Play was halted to allow players from both teams an opportunity to break their Ramadan fast
  • Uganda registered its first victory in the qualifiers and are deadlocked with Tanzania on four points and a negative two goals difference

RIYADH: Uganda’s 0-1 victory over Tanzania, in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, came after the referee added a staggering 36 minutes of added time in the first half.

The referee added the stoppage time after play was halted to allow players from both teams an opportunity to break their Ramadan fast and further time was added as a result of a power outage in the stadium.

Uganda revived its hopes of qualifying for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, thanks to its victory in the fourth round of the Group F qualifiers.

Rogers Mato scored the winning goal for Uganda in second half added time.

Uganda also registered its first victory in the qualifiers and are deadlocked with Tanzania on four points and a negative two goals difference.

Both teams have also recorded away victories, Tanzania winning in Uganda before the result was reversed in the latest encounter.

Algeria qualified for the continental championship by topping the group standings with 12 points from four victories.


Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place
Updated 29 March 2023

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place
  • Haythem Jouini scored the match-winner on 16 minutes in the eastern city of Benghazi
  • Victory assured Tunisia of a top-two finish in Group J and a place at the 24-nation African football showpiece

JOHANNESBURG: Tunisia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations by winning 1-0 in Libya on Tuesday while dodging dozens of plastic bottles flung on the pitch by home supporters.
Haythem Jouini scored the match-winner on 16 minutes in the eastern city of Benghazi, powerfully heading an Ali Maaloul corner into the net.
By the final whistle the pitch was littered with bottles as Libyans vented their anger after Tunisia dominated for long periods and inflicted a second loss in five days on their neighbors.
Victory assured Tunisia of a top-two finish in Group J and a place at the 24-nation African football showpiece in the Ivory Coast next January and February.
They are likely to be joined by Equatorial Guinea, who are six points ahead of Libya with two rounds remaining in June and September.
Tunisia are the seventh qualifiers after the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, South Africa and Burkina Faso.
Elsewhere, veteran forward Cedric Bakambu scored for the Democratic Republic of Congo and was later sent off as they drew 1-1 with Mauritania in Group I.
Bakambu netted after nine minutes in Nouakchott, Mohamed Soueid levelled 12 minutes into the second half, and the 10 Congolese then repulsed endless Mauritanian attacks.
All four teams remain in contention with Gabon having seven points, Sudan six, Mauritania five and DR Congo four.
The last of 44 matchday three and four fixtures is scheduled for Wednesday in Kigali, where Rwanda can climb above Mozambique into second place if they defeat Benin in Group L.


Ronaldo’s embrace of Saudi Arabian adventure could pave the way to Messi reunion

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least
The word is that, for Messi, a deal with Al-Hilal is a preferred option to returning to former club Barcelona. (FILE/AFP)
Updated 29 March 2023

Ronaldo’s embrace of Saudi Arabian adventure could pave the way to Messi reunion

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least
  • The Portuguese superstar’s successful start to his Al-Nassr career could also lead to the signing of Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric

The rumor won’t go away. In fact it’s getting stronger by the day.

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least. But Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr, and above all, his embrace of his new home, has altered things dramatically.

So much so, the word is that, for Messi, a deal with Al-Hilal is a preferred option to returning to former club Barcelona, a new adventure in the US or a homecoming in Argentina.

An enticing precedent has now been set.

Let’s face it, few people believed that Ronaldo would make the move to Saudi Arabia when rumors began swirling during the World Cup, particularly as no specific club was initially mentioned.

Surely a move from Manchester United to a Champions League club in Europe would be his preferred choice?

But on Dec. 30, 2022, the rumors became a reality. Ronaldo was presented as an Al-Nassr footballer to millions of fans, many of them disbelieving, around the world.

While many have cast doubts about the reasons behind his move, and his future intentions, the Portuguese legend has gone about his business in exactly the professional manner you’d expect, on and off the pitch.

“I did everything in Europe, and it’s time to share my experience in Asia,” he said.

Ronaldo, like Messi, has had a successful international break, scoring doubles in the 4-0 win over Liechtenstein and the 6-0 defeat of Luxembourg. He returns to Riyadh in buoyant mood, having reminded the world that his golden touch remains intact since his move to Saudi.

Looking at his Al-Nassr spell so far, accusations that his prime motivation was money seem off the mark.

He has fitted seamlessly into the Al-Nassr setup, and so far has scored eight league goals — including four against Al-Wehda and a hattrick against Damac — to close in on top scorer Talisca’s tally of 13. He has also been named Roshn Saudi League player of the month for February.

Off the pitch, he has embraced his new surroundings.

Many believed he would be spending his time travelling between Saudi and Europe, but his family seems to have settled in Riyadh in double quick time, and they have been seen visiting many famous spots and historical landmarks such as AlUla, while his children have been taking Arabic lessons.

He further endeared himself to the local population by celebrating Saudi Arabia’s Founding Day in traditional attire.

Since his move, the world’s press has been focused on his every move, while football fans are increasingly targeting Riyadh as a tourist destination thanks to his presence.

No doubt the support for the Ronaldo deal by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government, as confirmed by Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki, has had a significant impact on how the Kingdom will be seen as a home for the world’s best players, with the promise that all clubs will receive similar backing.

This has led to speculation that players like Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric could be next to make the move to Saudi.

But it’s Messi’s name that has caused the most excitement, not least for the potential renewal of his rivalry with Ronaldo.

The idea, unthinkable a few years ago, is very much a possibility now, with good reason.

Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has established itself as a hub of Middle Eastern and Asian football, with Al-Hilal claiming two Champions League titles and the national team excelling at different age-group levels.

Where the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean leagues had been seen as superior in the past, the Saudi Pro League is now arguably the most competitive.

Messi’s camp will be aware of all these developments.

The Argentine captain’s father was recently in Riyadh and will have been tempted with offers that could dwarf even Ronaldo’s deal.

And should Messi make the move to Al-Hilal, Saudi football fans and media will be the big winners. From watching two of the world’s greatest ever footballers duel it out in Spain’s El Clasico, the rivalry will be there for all to witness in the heart of Riyadh.


WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
Updated 29 March 2023

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
  • Event will take place at SoFi Stadium in California April 1-2

RIYADH: WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Logan Paul are set for matchups at WrestleMania 39 taking place at SoFi Stadium in California on April 1 to 2.

The two-day premium live event will feature 12 matches as legendary WWE Superstars face off against the new generation on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

After passing the unprecedented 900-day milestone as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Reigns has his eyes firmly set on retaining the title against his latest challenger, Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 39.

A victory for the champion would allow Reigns to surpass the 1,000-day streak at WWE King and Queen of the Ring, set to take place in Jeddah in May.

Meanwhile, social media sensation Paul will take on his latest opponent in a long line of rivals, as the new superstar goes head-to-head with Seth Rollins to continue his meteoric rise in the sport.

In the women’s championship battles, SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair will defend her title against Rhea Ripley. Ripley enters the match following her spectacular victory at Royal Rumble to earn her title shot at WrestleMania 39, presenting a career defining moment for the Australian as she takes on Flair, an opponent she has never conquered.

Bianca Belair will be determined to retain her Raw Women’s Championship as she heads into the ring for a mammoth clash with Asuka, who earned her place in the title match after emerging victorious at Elimination Chamber in February.

WWE fans are also set to see legends of the past with Hollywood star and WWE icon Cena bringing his two decades of experience to WrestleMania 39.

Cena will face off with the new generation of local talent in the form of US Champion Austin Theory in an unmissable moment in WWE history.

The recent feud between former allies, Scotland’s Drew McIntyre and Ireland’s Sheamus, has led to a three-way title fight for the Intercontinental Championship against German Giant, Gunther, in an explosive clash of the European heavyweights in California.

With more matches still to be announced, WWE fans in the Middle East can get ready for the epic showcase of WrestleMania 39 with weekly SmackDown and Raw episodes showing live and exclusively on Shahid.


Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
Updated 29 March 2023

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
  • Frenchman leaves to take over his country’s women’s national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup

Saudi Arabia’s fans, players and football officials are today coming to terms with the news that Herve Renard has left his position as head coach of the national team to take charge of the women’s team of France.

Rumors of his exit have been circulating for over a week, and following his last two international matches in charge of the Green Falcons, 2-1 friendly losses to Venezuela and, last night, Bolivia, they became a reality.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation confirmed Renard’s departure with a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation Board of Directors has agreed on the contract termination of the Head Coach of the Saudi National Team Mr. Herve Renard upon his request,” said the statement.

“A legal settlement has been (completed) to end the contract between the two parties. The President and the Board of Directors of SAFF wish Mr. Renard every success in his future career.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Renard released his own farewell message in a three-tweet thread following the loss to Bolivia.

“Having been the coach of (the) National team of Saudi Arabia is a great pride for me. Since August 2019, I had the chance to be an integral part of the life of this beautiful country. I have seen this team grow alongside me and achieve a fabulous World Cup,” he posted.

 

 

“This fantastic and unforgettable win against Argentina. Very proud to have been able to show to the world the progress and a good image of the Saudi football. It’s time for me to fly to another horizon but with this memories engraved in me,” he added.

He also thanked the minister of sport, the head of SAFF and everyone at the national team. “Special thanks to @AbdulazizTF @Yalmisehal @SaudiNT and to all the players, the staff, and all the fans for their incredible support,” the final tweet said.

The official account of the Saudi national team also followed up with a video message from Renard.

 

 

The Frenchman has presided over a period of success during his four years in Riyadh and while that has been welcomed in the Kingdom, it has also been noticed elsewhere, not least in his home nation.

His move to France will come as a blow to the Saudi Arabia Football Federation who looked like they had a respected coach who loved the job and was in it for the long haul. After taking over in 2019, he signed a contract extension in 2022 that would have taken him to 2027.

Renard has improved the team, established a style and, most importantly, delivered on the pitch.

All of Asia was impressed during qualification for the 2022 World Cup when the Green Falcons finished above Japan and Australia in a tough group. Placed in a difficult group in Qatar, Saudi Arabia more than held their own.

The world watched in awe as Renard’s men defeated eventual champions Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game. It was not only a come-from-behind victory, and not only achieved courtesy of fine goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari but, most importantly, it was deserved. Once they took the lead, Argentina quickly ran out of ideas in the face of determined and organized defending.

It was immediately hailed as one of the best results in the history of the World Cup and it certainly sparked the 2022 tournament into life. In the end, Saudi Arabia could not quite make the second round but returned home with heads held high and reputations enhanced.

Renard’s next task was to prepare for next January’s Asian Cup. It started with friendly games at the end of March against Venezuela and Bolivia but now it has ended, and somebody else will have to continue that journey.

It could be that Renard would not have left a job he seemed to enjoy for any other nation except his homeland. The 54-year-old takes over a troubled women’s team, however.

In early March, Corinne Diacre was sacked as head coach following a revolt from players. After six years in charge, a number of senior stars said that they would not play at this summer’s World Cup as they were dissatisfied with the standard of the coaching setup. The French Football Federation had little choice but to make the change, acknowledging that changes needed to be made. It was rumored that they wanted Thierry Henry but the former French international striker is said to be interested in the US women’s national team.

It is no surprise that the FFF have turned to Renard. He has shown that he can win tournaments, leading Ivory Coast and Zambia to the African Cup of Nations titles. He impressed at the 2018 World Cup with Morocco and did the same four years later with Saudi Arabia. With just four months before the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand, there is not much time but Renard has demonstrated in the past that he can turn teams around and achieve success.

The Frenchman is giving up plenty, however. Not just the chance to lead Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup next January but there is the 2026 World Cup — and with the expanded tournament, it would be a surprise if the boys from Riyadh do not make it — as well as the 2027 Asian Cup that will be held in Saudi Arabia.

The Frenchman has swapped all that for the chance to take his home nation to a World Cup that will be held this summer and one that France, grouped with Brazil, Jamaica and Panama, have the potential to win.

While fans in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and elsewhere will perhaps have a passing interest in how France performs Down Under, now the focus is on finding the right person to lead Saudi Arabia forward.

After the World Cup and the improved reputation of football in the country, there should be plenty of interested parties.