Newest Cavs star Mitchell gets warm welcome in Cleveland

Newest Cavs star Mitchell gets warm welcome in Cleveland
Mitchell has already begun developing on-court chemistry with his new teammates during workouts. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2022

Newest Cavs star Mitchell gets warm welcome in Cleveland

Newest Cavs star Mitchell gets warm welcome in Cleveland
  • The team invited fans to greet Mitchell when he touched down at Burke Lakefront Airport, and he made a good impression by stepping out of a van wearing a Cavs hooded sweatshirt and Browns baseball cap

CLEVELAND: From the moment he arrived, Donovan Mitchell received the kind of love once reserved in this city for his basketball idol.

The New York kid, who grew up cheering for Cleveland from afar while wondering what it was like to be LeBron James, got his first taste.

“Blew me away,” he said.

Two weeks after being acquired from Utah in a trade that stunned the NBA and blindsided the three-time All-Star guard while he was playing golf, Mitchell received a warm welcome while being introduced Wednesday by the Cavaliers.

For months, Mitchell heard the trade rumors and convinced himself he was headed to the Knicks, his hometown team. It would have been ideal, reuniting with family and again being near his mom, Nicole.

Instead, he landed in Cleveland as the newest piece for the rising Cavaliers, who doubled their win total last season before barely missing the playoffs. They don’t figure to again with the 26-year-old.

“It would have been nice,” Mitchell said of the homecoming that didn’t happen. “But for me, once I found out I got traded and what we’re going into, that trumped everything. I’m truly excited to be here, be part of this group, be part of this city.”

Cleveland received him with open arms.

The team invited fans to greet Mitchell when he touched down at Burke Lakefront Airport, and he made a good impression by stepping out of a van wearing a Cavs hooded sweatshirt and Browns baseball cap.

From there, Mitchell was greeted by team employees at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, most of whom then joined an introductory news conference that felt like a late-night TV talk show, minus the band.

For Mitchell, who averaged 23.9 points in five seasons with the Jazz, Cleveland has always been sort of a second home. Like many kids, he was enamored with James.

“I was a LeBron fan, but I was a Cleveland fan. My man’s over there saying Cleveland Cavaliers; I was saying that at the house,” he said, pointing toward arena host Ahmaad Crump. “It’s crazy how life comes full circle.”

Mitchell has already begun developing on-court chemistry with his new teammates during workouts. All-Star backcourt mate Darius Garland showed his support by sitting in the front row at the news conference along with forward Caris LeVert.

The basketball will be a work in progress, and there are no guarantees the Cavs will ascend to contender status immediately. It’s long season filled with ups, downs, wins, losses and surprises.

Mitchell knows that better than anyone. He was on a talented Utah team that never quite got over the hump, so he’s a realist when it comes to expectations.

Still, he knows the Cavs have plenty of potential.

“There are going to be expectations, there’s going to be noise, but how can we be the best team we can be?” Mitchell said. “It’s five-on-five basketball. Doesn’t matter how many cameras or how many people are watching. It’s five-on-five basketball and just do the little things — continue to grind, continue to get better.”

Mitchell’s comments brought a smile from Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff, who said he and his staff were meeting about the upcoming season when general manager Koby Altman pulled off the trade.

“It was kind of a curveball when it happened,” Bickerstaff said. “We had had our coaches’ retreat and put a plan in place, so we had to make some changes. But we’ll make it work.”

There will certainly be adjustments ahead for Mitchell. But after playing in Utah, he’s not worried about Cleveland’s dreaded winter.

“I love the cold, to be honest,” he said. “I think I dress better in the cold.”

And if his welcome was any indication, he’s a perfect fit in Cleveland. He’s already learned the Cavs’ fan base stretches well outside Ohio’s borders.

“I didn’t realize how many Cleveland fans there are in America and in the world,” he said. “Like, once I got traded, everywhere people were walking and they were like, ‘I’m a Cleveland fan, I’m a Cleveland fan.’ I was like, ‘Wow, I had no idea.’”

Mitchell should have known. After all, he’s pulled for the Cavs since he could first dribble a ball. When James left Cleveland for Miami in 2010, making his nationally televised “Decision” announcement at a Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut, Mitchell was there in person.

He also remembered James’ return and making good on his promise to deliver Cleveland a championship.

“That was a special moment,” Mitchell said. “He was screaming and I was in my dorm room in Louisville screaming in front of my friends who bet against him or whatever. To be able to see that and now to be part of this organization and a city that really, truly love their team is awesome.”
 


IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics

IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics
Updated 13 sec ago

IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics

IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics
  • The IOC said its support for Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee will depend on conditions including women being allowed to play sports

LAUSANNE: The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday warned that it could stop working with Afghanistan ahead of the next Olympics in 2024 if women are not allowed to play sports under Taliban rule.

The IOC said its support for Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee will depend on conditions including women being allowed to play sports with “safe and inclusive access” and to take part in sports administration. Afghanistan’s teams for international events must include female athletes who live in the country and not only those based abroad.

The IOC board said it “expressed its serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.”

Afghanistan’s participation and “the representation, or not, of the country” in the next Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024 “will depend on the progress made in relation to the fundamental issue of safe access to sport for women and young girls in the country,” the IOC said.

It was not immediately clear how soon the IOC might implement the measures.

The IOC said it will continue direct support for individual athletes from Afghanistan who aim to compete at the Olympics.

Afghanistan had a team of four men and one woman at the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Human Rights Watch called on the IOC on Monday to suspend Afghanistan from taking part in sports events immediately and to halt its funding. The IOC suspended the Afghanistan NOC in 1999 during the previous period of Taliban rule.

Also at the IOC executive board meeting Tuesday, a long-running standoff between the IOC and the International Boxing Association continued. The IOC said the boxing body had not achieved the “drastic change of culture” that the IOC had demanded.

The IOC has long criticized how IBA is run, its finances and a history of disputes over refereeing and judging Olympic fights.

The IOC suspended the IBA, then known as AIBA, in 2019 and excluded its officials from running the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics last year. The IOC is already planning to stage the qualifying competitions for boxing in Paris in 2024 without the IBA. The dispute means boxing is not yet on the program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, though it could be added at a later date, with or without the IBA in charge.


Twilight for Busquets, last of Spain’s champs at World Cup

Twilight for Busquets, last of Spain’s champs at World Cup
Updated 5 min 26 sec ago

Twilight for Busquets, last of Spain’s champs at World Cup

Twilight for Busquets, last of Spain’s champs at World Cup
  • One by one, Spain’s greatest generation has aged out of the national team
  • Busquets wore the captain’s armband, the leader and senior statesman

AL RAYYAN, Qatar: Sergio Busquets stood in the center circle, hands on hips, a blank look on his face.

He reached soccer’s top step with Spain and now had been stung by La Roja’s third straight elimination from a major tournament on penalty kicks, this time 3-0 to Morocco after a 0-0 draw Tuesday in the round of 16 of the World Cup.

Spain have become a team of the past, their passing game passé.

“What we did was dominate the game but we lacked the goal, that is the reality,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said through a translator, accepting defeat without anger or expressions of sorrow. “There is no point in punishing oneself.”

Now 34, Busquets contributed to Spain’s demise.

Morocco had taken a 1-0 lead in the shootout when Pablo Sarabia put his attempt off a post, and Carlos Soler’s effort was blocked by diving goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, keeping the Moroccans ahead 2-0. Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon saved Badr Benoun’s effort, and Bounoun leaped to his right and batted away Busquets’ penalty. Achraf Hakimi followed with the winner.

“It’s always a tossup. This time we got tails,” Busquets said. “We missed the first three penalties, and then it’s very difficult to go through.”

Four years ago, Busquets didn’t shoot in the penalty-kick loss to Russia, also in round of 16. Last year, he hooked a shot and hit a post with the opening kick as Spain beat Switzerland in the European Championship quarterfinals.

One by one, Spain’s greatest generation has aged out of the national team, the defensive duo of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, the steady superiority of goalkeeper “San Iker” Casillas and the dazzling duo of the midfield, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. Of the 2012 European champions, only Busquets in defensive midfield and left back Jordi Alba remain.

Spain and their Barcelona core group made “tiki-taka” a style emulated around the globe and that style has lived on. Spain loves the ball, but the opponents have figured out how to neutralize.

If games were decided by passes or possession, Spain would be en route to another title. The Spaniards completed 988 of 1,063 passes to 238 of 331 for the Moroccans. They had 63 percent possession to 21 percent for Morocco with 16 percent contested.

Spain didn’t look like themselves even before the opening kickoff. Known for red jerseys, the Spaniards were the visiting team and had to wear alternate light blue jerseys because the Moroccans were in red.

Busquets wore the captain’s armband, the leader and senior statesman. He came up through Barcelona’s La Masia and made his league debut in September 2008, about 2 1/2 months after Spain beat Germany for its first European title since 1964. His national team debut was that April and he helped Spain win their first World Cup in 2010 and then another European Championship in 2012. Busquets was picked for the World Cup All-Star team and the Euro 2012 team of the tournament.

He made his 143rd international appearance against Morocco, third behind Sergio Ramos’ 180 and Iker Casillas’ 167, and with his 17th World Cup appearances he tied those two for the most among Spaniards.

Luis Enrique and a pair of Moroccans tried to console Busquets. He remained in the center circle for a full four minutes before heading to an onfield television interview. Busquets wouldn’t address his national team future.

“Now the important thing is the team and not me,” he said. “It’s a difficult night. We’ll pick ourselves up and use it as a learning experience. We’re in a good dynamic, with young people. This is going to make them stronger.”


Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain

Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain
Updated 18 min 10 sec ago

Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain

Moroccans celebrate historic World Cup win against Spain
  • The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations”
  • In central Paris, cars started honking almost immediately after Morocco’s surprise win Tuesday

RABAT, Morocco: Exuberant Moroccans poured into the streets of their capital and in cities across Europe on Tuesday, waving flags and honking horns to celebrate their national soccer team’s historic victory over Spain at the World Cup.

Morocco defeated Spain in a penalty shootout, making the Atlas Lions the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the quarterfinals in Qatar — and the first Arab team in World Cup history to make it to the last eight.

“We are so proud of our Lions, who fought hard to get us into the quarterfinals,” said Niama Meddoun, a Rabat resident. “We are delighted to be Moroccans today, since we are the first Arab country that has reached the quarterfinals.”

The king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, praised the national team and sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to the players, the technical team and administrative personnel, “who gave their all and blazed a trail throughout this great sporting event,” according to a statement from the royal palace.

The king said the players represented “hopes and dreams of Moroccans in Morocco, Qatar, and all over the world.”

Morocco is the only Arab — and African — nation left in the tournament, the first World Cup held in the Middle East. Its World Cup success has reverberated across the Arab world and among Moroccan and some other immigrant communities in Europe.

In Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, a crowd of youths waving Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian and Palestinian flags gathered in the center, where fans of FC Barcelona traditionally celebrate big victories. People cheered to the sound of drums. Some were lighting flares.

In a Barcelona restaurant where viewers had congregated, people jumped on tables and lifted chairs in the air. Outside, cars honked horns and people lit firecrackers and red and green smoke bombs.

Youssef Lotfi, a 39-year-old construction worker who was born in Casablanca but moved to Spain as a child and said he feels love for both countries, was brimming with pride.

“Today is a day of joy for Moroccans and all the Arab world,” Lotfi said. “It was a heart-attack finish that could have gone either way.”

He called the victory “once in a lifetime” experience. “Morocco is representing all the Arab world, all the African continent, that is beyond description, it is the most glorious part,” he said.

In Ceuta, a Spanish exclave which borders with Morocco on the north African coast, the win was also celebrated with cars honking horns. Ceuta’s population is a mix of Spaniards and Moroccan residents and workers.

“What pride! What happiness! Now to celebrate with friends. I have lost my voice!” said 20-year-old Ismael Mustafa. “We were able to pull it off. For Spain? You will win next time, so no worries.”

Celebrations across Spain, which has some 800,000 Moroccan residents, were mostly peaceful, though Spanish media reported a brief scuffle between Morocco and Spain fans in a bar in the southern city of Huelva. No injuries or arrests were reported.

In Qatar, Moroccan fans clashed briefly with police outside the stadium before the game started.

Ten days ago riots broke out in Belgium and the Netherlands as Morocco fans celebrated beating Belgium in the group stage in Qatar.

In central Paris, cars started honking almost immediately after Morocco’s surprise win Tuesday, and crowds of people streamed toward the Champs-Elysees to celebrate. Men and women, in business suits or track suits, from teenage to middle-aged, cheered or raised their hands in victory. Cries of “Allez, allez!” in French rang out, and one woman asked strangers “Who has a Moroccan flag I can borrow?”

Spain fans were crushed by the loss.

“They have been very unlucky in the penalties, but it seems to me that they have also made a mistake in the players who take the penalties,” said 64-year-old Dionisio Sánchez, who was among a group of fans who trickled out of bar in Madrid.

“They shot with very little enthusiasm ... little desire to score, but the penalties, it’s luck, it’s a lottery,” he said.
 


Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters

Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters
Updated 07 December 2022

Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters

Ramos bags hat-trick as Portugal crush Swiss to reach World Cup quarters
  • Goncalo Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958
  • Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday

DOHA: Goncalo Ramos justified the shock decision to drop Cristiano Ronaldo by scoring a hat-trick on his full debut as Portugal demolished Switzerland 6-1 on Tuesday to power into the World Cup quarter-finals.
The 21-year-old Ramos, who started instead of Ronaldo, became the youngest player to strike three times in a World Cup knockout match since Pele in 1958.
Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on target for a rampant Portugal, who booked a showdown with Morocco on Saturday for a place in the last four in Qatar.
Ronaldo, 37 and now without a club after his departure from Manchester United, has hogged the headlines during the tournament while looking a shadow of his former self.
The only man to score at five World Cups, Ronaldo was left out by coach Fernando Santos against the Swiss following his angry response to being substituted in the last group game.
It was a bold call to omit a player with a record 118 international goals in favor of giving a full debut to Ramos, the Benfica striker who had played just 33 minutes across three previous appearances.
But it took just 17 minutes for Ramos to reward Santos’ faith, and to achieve something Ronaldo has never done — score in a World Cup knockout game.
Joao Felix clipped delicately into the feet of Ramos, who quickly swivelled past Fabian Schaer and rifled into the roof of the net past a stunned Yann Sommer.
Otavio, who returned to the Portugal midfield after injury in their opening match, shot straight at Sommer before Ramos did likewise moments later.
Xherdan Shaqiri drew a fingertip stop from Diogo Costa with a dipping free-kick from distance, but Portugal soon had their second.
Bruno Fernandes whipped in a corner and the 39-year-old Pepe towered above the Swiss defense to powerfully head home.
Diogo Dalot hacked Remo Freuler’s header off the line after Diogo Costa failed to properly deal with a cross, but the Swiss simply had no answers against an irresistible Portugal.
Ramos turned in his second from close range six minutes into the second half from Dalot’s cross down the right.
He then turned provider by playing in Guerreiro to lash in another just four minutes later as the Swiss defense was ruthlessly ripped apart.
It was also Ramos who inadvertently glanced a corner toward Manuel Akanji at the far post as the Manchester City center-back pulled one back for Switzerland.
Ramos completed his treble after more outstanding work from Felix, nonchalantly dinking over Sommer with one of his final touches before making way for Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s introduced elicited the biggest roar of the night. Ronaldo did have the ball in the back of the net but it was ruled out for a clear offside.
Leao capped off a sensational Portugal performance with a terrific curling strike in stoppage time.


Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset

Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset
Updated 06 December 2022

Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset

Morocco players celebrate with Palestinian flag after Spain upset
  • The Palestinian flag -- which has been fluttering widely across Qatar during the finals -- was seen being held aloft by Moroccan players

DOHA: Morocco’s players unfurled a Palestinian flag during their on-pitch celebrations after the team’s stunning World Cup upset victory against Spain on Tuesday.
The Palestinian flag — which has been fluttering widely across Qatar during the finals — was seen being held aloft by Moroccan players following the dramatic penalty shoot-out win over the Spaniards.
FIFA regulations prohibit the display of banners, flags and fliers that are deemed to be “political, offensive and/or discriminatory nature.” In the past, football’s governing bodies have issued fines for displays of the Palestinian flag inside stadia.
Morocco’s players also displayed the Palestinian flag after the team’s win against Canada during the group stage last week.
World Cup host Qatar has no relations with Israel and remains a supporter of the decades-long Palestinian cause for statehood.
Israel has occupied the Palestinian territories of east Jerusalem and the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War fought with Arab nations.
About 250,000 Palestinians live in Qatar which has a population of around 2.9 million, most of them foreigners.