Two-time Masters champ Watson headed to LIV Golf, Stenson leads on debut at Bedminster

Two-time Masters champ Watson headed to LIV Golf, Stenson leads on debut at Bedminster
Henrik Stenson of Majesticks GC plays his shot from the 15th tee during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational Bedminster at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster on July 29, 2022 in Bedminster, New Jersey. (AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2022

Two-time Masters champ Watson headed to LIV Golf, Stenson leads on debut at Bedminster

Two-time Masters champ Watson headed to LIV Golf, Stenson leads on debut at Bedminster
  • Although he claimed the most recent of his 12 US PGA Tour titles four years ago, Watson remains a fan favorite and is another former major winner to make the leap to the lucrative series
  • Stenson birdied his last two holes in a 7-under effort at Bedminster, where he shared the first-round lead with former Masters champion Patrick Reed

NEW YORK: Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson confirmed his move to Saudi-backed LIV Golf on Friday as marquee recruit Henrik Stenson snagged a share of the first-round lead on his debut.

Former world No. 2 Watson, currently ranked 86th, has been sidelined since May and said he won’t actually play on the fledgling circuit until next year as he continues to recover from surgery on his right knee.

“So I should be 100 percent in the next couple of months,” Watson said in an interview during the live stream of the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“I’m good now, it’s just now getting the leg to loosen up so I can hit the shots full-bore,” he said.

Although he claimed the most recent of his 12 US PGA Tour titles four years ago, Watson remains a fan favorite and is another former major winner to make the leap to the lucrative series. 

Sweden’s Stenson was stripped of the European Ryder Cup captaincy last week after confirming his move to the LIV Golf series spearheaded by Greg Norman.

Stenson birdied his last two holes in a 7-under effort at Bedminster, where he shared the first-round lead with former Masters champion Patrick Reed.

“I have to be extremely pleased with my focus,” Stenson said after a round that featured eight birdies. “It’s been pretty busy the last 10 days, so to come out and be able to focus on the golf as well as I did today — I’m very happy with that.”

The fledgling global tour offers golfers $20 million purses this season for its 54-hole, shotgun start events.

Watson said he’d heard “nothing but great things” from the golfers who have risked the wrath of the established tours to participate.

Watson said he was particularly attracted to the team aspect of the events, with players part of four-man teams battling for another $5 million in prize money this week.

“It’s not an individual sport any more,” said Watson, who plans to join LIV as a non-playing team captain until he is ready to resume competition.

Stenson said he enjoyed his first LIV experience.

“It’s obviously very fair when we’re all playing at the same time,” he said of the shotgun start, which eliminates the chance of differing weather conditions for early and late starters.

He also enjoyed the fan-friendly but non-traditional touch of music at the practice facilities.

“I do that at home,” he said.


Indonesia’s president says FIFA will not impose sanctions over deadly soccer stampede

Indonesia’s president says FIFA will not impose sanctions over deadly soccer stampede
Updated 59 min 24 sec ago

Indonesia’s president says FIFA will not impose sanctions over deadly soccer stampede

Indonesia’s president says FIFA will not impose sanctions over deadly soccer stampede
  • Indonesia would work with FIFA to improve its management of soccer matches

JAKARTA: Indonesia President Joko Widodo on Friday said soccer’s world governing body FIFA will not impose sanctions on the country over a stadium stampede last week that killed 131 people.
In a video message, the president said Indonesia would work with FIFA to improve its management of soccer matches and that FIFA president Gianni Infantino will visit Indonesia in October or November.


One dead in unrest at Argentina soccer match

One dead in unrest at Argentina soccer match
Updated 07 October 2022

One dead in unrest at Argentina soccer match

One dead in unrest at Argentina soccer match
  • Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas as they attempted to stop fans attending the match
  • A cameraman for sports channel TyC was injured by rubber bullets while dozens of spectators were suffering from the effects of tear gas

BUENOS AIRES: One person died Thursday following violent clashes that started outside a soccer match on the outskirts of Buenos Aires before spilling into the stadium and onto the pitch, authorities said.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas as they attempted to stop fans attending the match between top-flight teams Boca Juniors and Gimnasia y Esgrima from pushing into the already crowded venue.
The unrest outside the Carmelo Zerillo stadium in La Plata, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Argentina's capital, continued inside, where shocked spectators were seen squeezing through fencing to escape the violence and get onto the field.
"There were about 10,000 people around the stadium trying to get in, some with tickets, some without. Everyone could see that the stadium was very full," said Eduardo Aparicio, head of a government agency tasked with preventing violence in sports.
"All this is being investigated," including "the actions of the police," he added.
Authorities at San Martin hospital in La Plata confirmed the death of 57-year-old Cesar Regueiro from cardiac arrest as he was being transferred from the stadium to a hospital.
A cameraman for sports channel TyC was injured by rubber bullets while dozens of spectators were suffering from the effects of tear gas and had been taken to hospitals, according to local media.
The game was suspended after nine minutes due to a lack of security, referee Hernan Mastrangelo said.
"It affected all of us on the field," he added. "The air became unbreathable. The situation got out of control and there were no security guarantees."
Explosions were heard inside the stadium and smoke from the fumes quickly reached the pitch.
The players, the referee and technical staff members were forced to evacuate the field.
At the same time, fans, including children being led or carried by adults, rushed from the stands and onto the pitch, where people were seen sitting or lying down apparently recovering from tear gas exposure.
"The first thing I saw was that people had started to flee the stalls and I began to feel the effects of the gas. I thought about my family and I started to worry," Nicolas Contin, a Gimnasia player, said from the locker room where he had carried his young son.
"I'm angry about everything that happened."
The match came at a critical point in Argentina's Primera Division, with Gimnasia trying to stay in the title race and Boca looking to move into first place.
"What was going to be a party ends in this. It hurts us all what happened, it is tremendous and we regret it," Boca Juniors manager Hugo Ibarra told reporters.
Clashes inside and outside Argentina's stadiums have resulted in more than 300 deaths since soccer became professional in the 1930s, with two-thirds of the deaths occurring after the 1990s, according to a local NGO.
The violence in La Plata comes just five days after one of the deadliest disasters in soccer history in which 131 people were killed in a stadium crush in Indonesia.
The incident in the city of Malang also descended into tragedy after police fired tear gas into packed stands.


Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao
Updated 07 October 2022

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao

Philippine court dismisses tax case against boxing legend Manny Pacquiao
  • Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee were accused in 2012 of owing more than $37 million in unpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009

MANILA: Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on Friday won a years-long court battle to avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in extra taxes after an appeals court dismissed the case against him.
Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee had been accused by the Bureau of Internal Revenue in 2012 of owing more than $37 million (2.2 billion pesos) in unpaid taxes for 2008 and 2009.
The 43-year-old previously insisted he had paid the taxes in the United States, so did not need to do so in the Philippines because the two countries have an agreement allowing their citizens to avoid double taxation.
Then president Benigno Aquino was waging a bruising campaign against tax evasion as part of a general crackdown on corruption.
Pacquiao, a former world champion and politician, became one of the highest-profile targets of the tax office’s sweep.
But the Court of Tax Appeals found the tax office had relied on “unverified news articles” to make its assessment.
In a 49-page judgment, the court said the “assessment for deficiency income tax is void for violation of petitioners’ right to due process and for lack of sufficient factual basis.”
The ruling was handed down on September 29 but apparently only released on Friday.
Pacquiao, who reportedly ranked among the country’s top individual taxpayers in 2008 and 2009, welcomed the decision.
“Since the start of my career, I have made sure to pay all my taxes because this helps our government,” he said in a statement.
“I thank the Lord that the truth has come out.”
AFP could not reach the tax office for comment. It is not known if it plans to appeal the decision.
Pacquiao, who retired from boxing last year for a tilt at the Philippines presidency, is deeply admired for hauling himself out of poverty to become one of the world’s greatest and wealthiest fighters.
But he has also earned plenty of detractors with his support for former president Rodrigo Duterte’s deadly drug war, homophobic comments and lack of education.
Pacquiao has been preparing for a charity match against martial arts YouTuber DK Yoo scheduled for December 10 in Seoul.
He ended his 26-year boxing career with a points defeat to Cuban Yordenis Ugas in August 2021 and, as well as being a former senator, made a failed bid earlier this year to be president of his country.
Pacquiao’s net worth was almost $54 million in 2020, according to Senate data.


Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
Updated 07 October 2022

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die

Soccer’s worst disasters: Same mistakes by police, fans die
  • Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned
  • Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster

DUBAI: Police fire tear gas into a crowd of soccer fans, who panic and rush for the exits.
There are so many trying to escape and some of the gates are locked. The stadium becomes a death trap.
People are trampled in the desperation. Others suffocate, crushed by the weight of bodies around them.
They are the details of last weekend’s soccer game in Malang, Indonesia, where 131 people, some of them children, died in a crush after police fired tear gas at fans of home team Arema FC.
It’s also the story of the Estadio Nacional disaster in Lima, Peru, in 1964, when 328 died in a panic sparked by tear gas. It was the same in Accra, Ghana, in 2001, when 126 died.
Soccer’s three worst stadium tragedies occurred over a 60-year span but are so strikingly similar that its clear lessons haven’t been learned.
The world’s most popular game has historic problems of hooliganism, and Indonesia has its share of team rivalries that have led to violence. But Arema had the only fans in the stadium. Just them and the police.
“Not a single rival supporter. How can that match kill more than 100 people?” said a sobbing Gilang Widya Pramana, the president of Arema.
The blame has landed at the feet of the police, like it did in Lima, and Accra, and elsewhere.
Some Arema supporters rushed the field in anger at their team’s loss. Yet, major soccer tragedies have almost always been caused, experts say, by a heavy-handed overreaction by police and poor stadium safety. Firing tear gas in enclosed stadiums is universally condemned by security experts. Locking exits goes against all safety regulations.
“Actually, fans killing other fans is an incredibly rare thing,” said Prof. Geoff Pearson of the University of Manchester, an expert on the policing of soccer fans. “When we look at pretty much all the major (soccer) tragedies, I can’t think of an exception off the top of my head, all of these have been caused by unsafe stadiums or practices, or inappropriate policing.”
Indonesia, a country of 273 million, is due to host next year’s Under-20 World Cup. It is soccer’s “sleeping giant,” said James Montague, a journalist and author who traveled there to watch games with fans.
Montague found a passion for soccer that matches, even outstrips, the game’s leading countries. He said he also found “largely decrepit” stadiums, corruption and mismanagement everywhere and the kind of police that would “smash me in the face with a baton just because I’m standing there watching a football match.”
Soccer was believed to have reached a turning point 33 years ago with the Hillsborough disaster, where 97 Liverpool fans died as a result of a crush at a stadium in Sheffield, England, in 1989. Police were eventually found to have been to blame for letting fans into an already overcrowded section but it took 27 years before the police’s lies and coverups — blaming drunken fans for the deaths — were fully exposed.
Hillsborough led to sweeping reforms in English soccer, making stadiums safer and demanding police change.
That echoes in Indonesia this week. So do calls for justice. Indonesian authorities have laid charges against six people for the crush, three of them police officers.
But a lack of ultimate accountability — “the state closes ranks,” Montague said — has also been a repeat feature.
A BBC report on the 50th anniversary of the Lima disaster found that only one police officer had been sentenced for soccer’s deadliest stadium tragedy, getting 30 months in prison. More than 30 years after Hillsborough, one official has been convicted of a safety offense and fined. Police were acquitted after Africa’s worst sports disaster in Accra despite an inquiry that blamed them for the reckless firing of tear gas and rubber bullets.
Soccer authorities stand helpless. FIFA, the governing body of world soccer based in Switzerland, has recommendations that tear gas should never be used in stadiums. But soccer bodies can’t dictate the tactics used by a country’s security forces, even if it’s at a soccer game.
“It is all down to the organized culture of the police,” said Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe, a group that represents fans’ interests.
Soccer’s inability to interfere in domestic security matters is underlined by the situation in Egypt, where a 2012 stadium riot that killed 74 people came amid a decade of harsh crackdowns on fans by security forces. Dozens of fans have been killed in encounters with police at and away from games, and some fan groups were declared terrorist organizations because they were critical of the Egyptian government, which has been widely accused of human rights violations.
The African soccer body is even based in Cairo but has no authority to intervene.
It’s the police, Pearson said, who have to be “willing to admit their mistakes and learn from their mistakes.” But that kind of institutional change is grudging.
Hillsborough did bring effective reform for England, but it stands almost alone. Lessons were lost after Lima and Accra, and the same can happen again after Indonesia.
Only days after last weekend’s tragedy, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at soccer fans outside a stadium in Argentina and one person died in the chaos.
George Lawson worked at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation when he raced to the unfolding tragedy at Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra 21 years ago. He remembered being stunned by the sight of dozens of bodies lying on the ground. He recalled his country coming to a standstill.
But while an inquiry demanded the stadium be totally upgraded, the only lasting change has been a bronze statue erected outside as a memorial, with the inscription: “I am my brother’s keeper.”
“When things happen like this, there’s a hullabaloo,” Lawson said. “And after some time people forget about it.”


Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
Updated 07 October 2022

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury

Iran forward Azmoun doubtful for World Cup with calf injury
LEVERKUSEN: Iran forward Sardar Azmoun is a doubt for the World Cup after picking up an injury while warming up for Bayer Leverkusen.
The Bundesliga club said late Thursday that the 27-year-old Azmoun is expected to miss six to eight weeks after tearing a muscle in his right calf in the warm-up before Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Porto in the Champions League.
Iran’s World Cup campaign begins against England on Nov. 21 in Doha, four days before playing Wales in Ar-Rayyan. The Iranians’ final game in Group B is against the United States on Nov. 29 in Doha.
Azmoun, who joined Leverkusen in January from Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg, has one goal in 17 Bundesliga appearances for the team. He has yet to score this season.
Azmoun has 41 goals in 65 appearances for Iran, including 10 goals in World Cup qualifying.