PSG have record-equaling 10th title in the bag, Marseille triumph

PSG have record-equaling 10th title in the bag, Marseille triumph
Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe, left, and Angers' French Ivorian defender Ismael Traore during their French L1 football match at the Raymond-Kopa Stadium in Angers, north-western France on April 20, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 21 April 2022

PSG have record-equaling 10th title in the bag, Marseille triumph

PSG have record-equaling 10th title in the bag, Marseille triumph
  • Kylian Mbappe’s league-leading 22 goals puts him two ahead of Rennes forward Martin Terrier, who equalized for Rennes before imposing striker Ludovic Ajorque grabbed Strasbourg’s winner as coach Julien Stephan defeated the club where he made his name

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain all but sealed a record-equaling 10th French league crown with five rounds to spare by winning 3-0 at Angers on Wednesday.

PSG are 15 points ahead of second-place Marseille and have a vastly superior goal difference, but still still needs one point at home against Lens on Saturday to clinch the title.

PSG are set to move level with Saint-Etienne, who won their 10th title in 1981 and are fighting to stay up this season. PSG only had two titles to Marseille's nine when cash-rich Qatari owners QSI bought PSG in 2011.

Kylian Mbappe fired PSG ahead from the edge of the penalty area in the 28th minute after swapping passes with right back Achraf Hakimi.

Former Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos headed in Angel Di Maria’s cross following a short corner just before the break, and captain Marquinhos headed in another fine pass from Di Maria in the 77th.

It looked like PSG would be able to start celebrating the title as Nantes led twice at Marseille. But Marseille rallied with Dimitri Payet netting two penalties and midfielder Amine Harit clinching a 3-2 win when he scored against his former club in the 75th.

Marseille strengthened their bid to finish second in the automatic Champions League spot as it now hold a six-point lead over Rennes and Strasbourg. Alsace-side Strasbourg beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

Mbappe’s league-leading 22 goals puts him two ahead of Rennes forward Martin Terrier, who equalized for Rennes before imposing striker Ludovic Ajorque grabbed Strasbourg’s winner as coach Julien Stephan defeated the club where he made his name.

Rennes stay third in the Champions League playoff place on goal difference ahead of fourth-place Strasbourg and fifth-place Monaco, who beat Nice 1-0 at home to leapfrog their local rival.

At Stade Velodrome, Marseille fell behind midway through the first half when Brazilian midfielder Andrei Girotto was set up by midfielder Wylan Cyprien.

Payet equalized in the 39th but Marcus Coco restored the lead two minutes later for French Cup finalist Nantes.

Payet’s second penalty in the 55th made it 12 league goals for the former France playmaker, seven of them from the spot.

CHASE FOR EUROPE

Monaco is right back in contention for third place, with Russia midfielder Aleksandr Golovin netting in first-half injury time following a cross from Brazilian Vanderson.

Match jerseys were to be auctioned to raise money for Ukrainians fleeing their country following Russia’s invasion.

Monaco are two points ahead of Nice and three ahead of seventh-place Lens, who beat Montpellier 2-0 at home to stay in the hunt for European places.

Eighth-place Lyon lost 2-1 at Brest and defending champion Lille was beaten 2-1 at Reims, who scored an injury-time winner through captain Yunis Abdelhamid.

Lille sit in ninth, one point behind seven-time champion Lyon.

RELEGATION SCRAP

Guinea striker Mohamed Bayo pounced in the 88th minute as Clermont won 1-0 at fellow struggler Troyes to move up to 17th place.

Saint-Etienne dropped to 18th — the relegation-promotion playoff position — after drawing 2-2 at 19th-place Bordeaux.

Six-time champion Bordeaux, who have conceded a league-high 79 goals, went 2-0 up inside 22 minutes through 19-year-old forward Sekou Mara and midfielder Jean Onana.

Goals from Denis Bouanga and fellow forward Arnaud Nordin earned Saint-Etienne a draw that kept it four points clear of Bordeaux.

Rock-bottom Metz edged closer to relegation after losing 1-0 at Lorient, which improved to 15th thanks to Dango Outarra’s winner deep into injury time.


Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona
Updated 19 sec ago

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona

Laporta’s economic gambles far from guaranteed to pay off for Barcelona
  • After a summer of pulled financial levers and big signings, a drab 0-0 draw against Vallecano showed there will be no overnight fix for the team’s on-pitch troubles

Slowly, the picture at Barcelona is getting clearer — and for coach Xavi Hernandez, better. At least we know which players are eligible to pull on the shirt officially.

It has been a long and confusing road, which finally reached an end, of sorts, with the disappointing 0-0 draw against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night.

On Oct. 6, 2021, FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta gave a press conference with then-CEO ​​Ferran Reverter, in which he said the club was in “accounting bankruptcy” and owed $1.5 billion because of the previous board’s mismanagement.

Laporta had only returned to the presidency a few months earlier, in March 2021, and since then it has been one setback after another for the Catalan club.

First was the earth-shattering news last summer that Lionel Messi was leaving Camp Nou. Worse followed as the club, with no money, could not replace the glaring hole left by the Argentine with any big-name signings.

The president who had brought joy back to the club in 2003, who oversaw the iconic Pep Guardiola era, was now a man who only reported bad news.

That is until this summer, when Laporta worked his magic again and pulled a rabbit out of his hat — or at least pulled those financial “levers” we have heard so much about recently.

Only months after Laporta made the club’s technical bankruptcy official, Barcelona somehow became, to global astonishment, the highest-spending club this summer: Raphinha came from Leeds for $59 million, Jules Koundé from Sevilla for $55 million, and Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich for $46 million.

Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva could be the next to arrive if rumors are to be believed.

So how did the bankrupt club become one of the world’s biggest spenders? In a word, levers. Or, in effect, selling future income.

The first two levers allowed the club to cash in $535 million by selling 25 percent of its TV rights for the next 25 years to the US investment fund Sixth Street.

Barcelona currently earn $167 million a year from TV broadcasting rights. At these prices, Sixth Street would receive $1.05 billion over the next 25 years, double what was invested in the lever.

The club also sold 49 percent of Barça Studios, the club’s audio-visual production company, in exchange for $203 million.

In a few short weeks, fans had to become familiar with a process — all above board, everyone was assured — few had heard of before.

But legal concerns aside, is it reasonable, even ethical, for a bankrupt club to become the summer’s highest spending club? It does not sound like financial common sense.

To understand the necessity for these levers, it is first necessary to understand how the club works.

Barcelona, like Real Madrid, is fully owned by its members, and the statutes prohibit transforming the club into a “sports company” — like Chelsea. In short, it is not possible for another company to buy capital from the club.

In addition to these episodes of creative accounting, the fact remains that the club gave up part of its future TV income in an effort to create a new “virtuous circle” of victories and income that is far from guaranteed.

The idea that Barcelona’s salvation lies in mortgaging income for the next 25 years is a gap in the Laportian economic reasoning that is difficult to fill.

The president’s plan is to make the club sexy again, giving it a reboot of sorts that will ensure the new star signings will further attract resources and new fans, and create bonds and new incomes that exceed those now mortgaged.

All experts, critics and even supporters of Laporta agree this is a high-risk operation. If the team does not perform on the pitch, the house of cards could fall apart.

The 0-0 against Rayo Vallecano will hardly have placated the critics. With over $150 million spent on five signings this summer, expectations were sky-high at Camp Nou in the first game of the new La Liga season.

In front of a full house at Barça’s dilapidated stadium, Hernandez started three of their new signings, but Andreas Christensen, Raphinha and Lewandowski could not help the team achieve victory in drab performance.

Laporta has taken a massive risk, and it could well be his last card. His critics await. Should it fail, Barcelona might just have to face the possibility of becoming a sociedad anónima deportiva (sports company) owned by outside forces, something unimaginable until recently. And Laporta will go down in history as the villain who allowed it to happen under his reign.


Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown
Updated 17 August 2022

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown

Usyk and Joshua hold public workouts ahead of big showdown
  • The Ukrainian and British fighters hit the pads with their trainers and spoke to the media

JEDDAH: Fight Week preparations for the Rage on the Red Sea stepped up a gear on Tuesday night when 12 fighters from the card held public workouts at Jeddah’s Saudi Airlines Club.

Main event boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua, who meet for the second time, at the King Abdullah Sports City Arena on Saturday, gave fans and the media a first glimpse of how they’re shaping up going into their heavyweight showdown.

Usyk, who defends the unified world heavyweight titles, said: “I’m very pleased that I’m going to fight very soon. I’ve been watching Anthony Joshua for years already, so I’ve learned a lot and look forward to the fight.”

Commenting on everybody in his homeland of Ukraine being able to watch the bout for free, Usyk added: “I’m also very pleased about this as we all worked hard to ensure this outcome.”

Usyk and Joshua hit the pads with their trainers and interacted with members of the public and media during their 10-minute sessions, teasing what’s to come when they go head-to-head on fight night.

“Previous experiences are helpful, but ultimately, it’s all about what you do on the night. Whoever throws and lands the most punches wins,” said Joshua. “I’m focused, ready to do my best, and get the job done.”

“Saudi Arabia’s been very good to me, shout out to everyone here (in the Kingdom),” he continued. “I’ve had a good time, everyone at the hotel and gym has been looking after me, and it’s been like a second home,” he added. “I’ve good memories of here from last time out (against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019) and it’s time to create new ones.”

Also on show was Zhang Zhilei ahead of his bout with Filip Hrgovic, rivals Callum Smith and Mathieu Bauderlique, as well as Badou Jack, Andrew Tabiti, Rashed Belhasa, and Bader Samreen.

Rounding out the dozen boxers were Ziyad Al-Maayouf and Ramla Ali, who were given huge support from those in attendance.

They will both make history at the Rage on the Red Sea as the first Saudi and female fighters, respectively, to feature on an international professional card in the Kingdom.


UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal
Updated 17 August 2022

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal

UAE president heaps praise on Emirate’s first woman to win World Games medal
  • Shamma Al Kalbani was Emirate’s first woman to win a medal at World Games

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has congratulated Shamma Al Kalbani for becoming the first Emirati woman to win a medal during the World Games.

The president met Kalbani – who scooped bronze in the 63kg category women’s jiu-jitsu at the Birmingham World Games in July - alongside the other Emirati winners of the jiu-jitsu competition at the games on Monday.

The competition, which took place in Birmingham, Alabama, is one of the most important global multi-sport events in the world.

The UAE grapplers won five medals at the championship, with Faisal Al-Ketbi winning gold in the 85 kilogram and open weight categories, and Mohammed Al-Suwaidi taking home silver in the 69 kilogram division. Shamma Al-Kalbani became the first Emirati female athlete to clinch a medal at the World Games, winning two bronze medals in the 63 kilogram and open weight categories.

 

 

He also congratulated the board of directors of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation and commended their efforts in developing the martial art.

In response the delegation thanked the president for his support of the sport in the country.


Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey

Saudi Arabia take football silver at Islamic Solidarity Games after 1-0 loss to Turkey
  • The defeat in Konya ends a run of 10 consecutive victories for the Kingdom’s U-23 team

Saudi Arabia’s footballers fell short of gold in the football competition at the Islamic Solidarity Games after a 1-0 defeat to hosts Turkey in Konya on Tuesday.

The loss ends the team’s run of 10 straight victories, stretching back to the triumphant AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan in June, for the young Green Falcons.

The winning goal was scored by Metehan Altunbas, of Turkish club Adanaspor, in the 27th minute of the match.

Saudi’s players received their silver medals from President of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, who is also the president of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation.

The podium finish is Saudi’s second in the Islamic games across its five editions.

The team’s coach, Saad Al-Shehri, had previously won the competition as a player with Saudi Arabia in 2005.


Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier definitively canceled

Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier definitively canceled
Updated 17 August 2022

Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier definitively canceled

Brazil-Argentina World Cup qualifier definitively canceled
  • Even if the match were replayed, its result could not affect the outcome of qualifying, with Brazil topping the group and Argentina finishing second

RIO DE JANEIRO: Last year’s aborted World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina will not be replayed, the two South American countries’ football associations said on Tuesday.

The original fixture, in September last year, was halted when Brazilian health officials stormed onto the pitch after seven minutes in Sao Paulo, alleging COVID-19 quarantine breaches by the visitors.

But with nothing riding on the match as both countries have already qualified for the World Cup, which begins in Qatar on Nov. 20, they had pleaded with world football’s governing body FIFA to cancel the match definitively.

“The Brazil-Argentina match will not be played,” the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) and Argentine Football Association (AFA) said in a joint statement.

“AFA, CBF and FIFA have resolved the dispute at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”

Both countries argued that playing the match as scheduled on Sept. 22 would adversely affect their World Cup preparations.

FIFA ruled in February that the game must be replayed and in May it rejected an appeal by both federations to have the match canceled, while also hitting them with fines worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The two federations then took their case to CAS, which was due to rule this month.

Both countries qualified for the World Cup with several matches to spare in the single South American qualifying group.

Even if the match were replayed, its result could not affect the outcome of qualifying, with Brazil topping the group and Argentina finishing second.

Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times while reigning Copa America holders Argentina are twice champions.