Footballers at higher risk of dementia, suggests study in the Lancet Public Health

Footballers at higher risk of dementia, suggests study in the Lancet Public Health
Heading the Ball: Liverpool's Egyptian forward Mohamed Salah (left), FC Porto's Spanish defender Ivan Marcano (R) (middle) and
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Updated 17 March 2023

Footballers at higher risk of dementia, suggests study in the Lancet Public Health

Footballers at higher risk of dementia, suggests study in the Lancet Public Health
  • Study analyzed the medical records of more than 6,000 male footballers in Sweden’s top division from 1924 to 2019

PARIS: Top level Swedish football players — except for goalkeepers — were significantly more likely to develop dementia than the general public over the last century, a large study suggested on Friday.
Experts said the study adds to “convincing evidence” linking the world’s most popular sport to a higher risk of degenerative brain disorders, and comes as head injury controversies rumble throughout other codes such as rugby and the NFL.
While traumatic brain injuries like concussions may be less common in football than those sports, the repeated heading of the ball by footballers has previously been associated with dementia.
The new study, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, analyzed the medical records of more than 6,000 male footballers in Sweden’s top division from 1924 to 2019.
The researchers compared their rates of a range of degenerative brain disorders to 56,000 similarly aged Swedish men.
The footballers were 1.5 times more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias than the control group, the study suggested.
An exception was goalkeepers, who rarely need to head the ball and did not show any increased likelihood of degenerative brain disorders.
“This finding lends support to the hypothesis that heading the ball might explain this association,” the study’s lead author Peter Ueda of Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet told AFP.
Ueda said it was the largest research conducted on the subject since a 2019 Scottish study which suggested that footballers were 3.5 times more likely than to get degenerative brain disorders.
- ‘Protect people’s heads’ -
The Swedish study also found that footballers lived slightly longer than similarly aged men, which Ueda said could be related to the higher levels of exercise and socioeconomic status that come with being an elite footballer.
The study found no increased risk of motor neuron diseases such as ALS among the footballers, and a even slightly lower risk for Parkinson’s disease.
Ueda cautioned that the observational study was not able to show that playing football directly caused the dementia, and its findings could not be extended to female, amateur or youth football.
Because there is so much time between people playing football and the development of these brain disorders, many of the players covered by the study were active during the mid-20th century.
This means that better equipment, knowledge and training could have since made the game safer for modern professional players, Ueda said.
“But you can also speculate that contemporary players today are exposed to intense football from a very young age, so maybe the risk would even be higher among them,” he added.
Gill Livingston, professor in psychiatry of older people at the University College London, said the “high-quality paper” added to “convincing evidence” that footballers whose heads come in contact with the ball were at a higher risk of dementia.
“We need to act to protect people’s heads and brains and keep playing sport,” said Livingston, who was not involved in the research.
Research into head injuries in sport, and post-career side-effects, has recently exploded, notably in rugby union and rugby league.
Last year research indicated former international rugby players are 15 times more likely to develop motor neurone disease. A group of former rugby union players is suing various governing bodies for allegedly failing to protect them from permanent injury.


France hires Renard as women’s coach ahead of World Cup

France hires Renard as women’s coach ahead of World Cup
Updated 30 March 2023

France hires Renard as women’s coach ahead of World Cup

France hires Renard as women’s coach ahead of World Cup
  • The 54-year-old Renard quit as coach of Saudi Arabia’s national team earlier this week

PARIS: French coach Hervé Renard has been appointed to guide France’s women’s team at the World Cup this summer then at the Paris Olympics next year.
The 54-year-old Renard quit as coach of Saudi Arabia’s national team earlier this week, ending a four-year spell highlighted by a win over eventual champion Argentina in the group stage of the World Cup in Qatar last year.
He signed a contract that runs until August 2024, the French federation said Thursday.
The Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be played from July 20-Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand.
Renard replaces Corinne Diacre, who was fired only four months before the tournament after several players expressed their discontent with her. She led the team to the quarterfinals at the last Women’s World Cup in 2019.


Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale
Updated 30 March 2023

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale

Manchester United back in the black ahead of potential sale
  • Net profit came in at 6.3 million pounds ($7.78 million) in the three months to Dec. 31
  • The Old Trafford club did not provide any details about the sale on Thursday

MANCHESTER, UK: Manchester United swung to a second-quarter net profit on the back of higher commercial revenue and lower wages, the club said on Thursday.
Net profit came in at 6.3 million pounds ($7.78 million) in the three months to Dec. 31, against a 1.4 million pound loss a year earlier.
Revenue fell almost 10 percent to 167 million pounds, with increased commercial revenue outweighed by a drop in broadcasting revenue and lower match-day revenue because there were fewer home games than in the same period last year.
United’s American owners, the Glazer family, launched a formal sale process late last year and have received several bids, including from Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and Finnish businessman Thomas Zilliacus.
The Old Trafford club did not provide any details about the sale on Thursday.
United said ticket sales for the current 2022/23 season have surpassed the record set in 2016/17, hitting a cumulative 2.3 million tickets sold.
The 20-times English soccer champions won the domestic League Cup in February for their first trophy since winning the Europa League in 2017 — their longest wait for silverware since 1983.
The Red Devils currently sit third in the Premier League and have reached the semifinals of the FA Cup and quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Prices for adult season ticket renewals have been increased by about 5 percent for next season, the club said.
Short-term borrowing at the end of last year jumped 95 percent to 206.2 million pounds, the club said.
Forecasts for annual revenue and core profit remain unchanged, United added.


Tottenham official Fabio Paratici to serve worldwide ban

Tottenham official Fabio Paratici to serve worldwide ban
Updated 30 March 2023

Tottenham official Fabio Paratici to serve worldwide ban

Tottenham official Fabio Paratici to serve worldwide ban
  • Paratici, a former sporting director at Juventus who has taken up a new position at Tottenham, was handed the longest ban of 2½ years by the Italian soccer federation

MANCHESTER, England: Tottenham managing director of football Fabio Paratici will serve a worldwide ban for his part in a false accounting scandal involving Juventus, FIFA said Wednesday.

Italy’s most famous soccer team was hit with a 15-point penalty in January and bans were handed out to a number of its officials, including former president Andrea Agnelli and former CEO Maurizio Arrivabene.

Paratici, who had already left his role as sporting director and taken up a new position at Tottenham, was handed the longest ban of 2½ years by the Italian soccer federation. That has now been extended worldwide.

“FIFA can confirm that following a request by the Italian FA (FIGC), the Chairperson of FIFA’s Disciplinary Committee has decided to extend the sanctions imposed by FIGC on several football officials to have worldwide effect,” the governing body said.

The decision will have a significant impact on Tottenham at a time when the Premier League club is conducting a search for a new manager following the departure of Antonio Conte.

Conte, who is Italian, left the London club by “mutual agreement” on Sunday, just over a week after a post-match outburst in which he criticized the players and made withering comments about Tottenham’s ownership.

Paratici would have been expected to play a key role in identifying and hiring Conte’s successor, with former Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann among the names linked with the job.

On Tuesday, Paratici spoke about Conte’s exit and of his determination to see Tottenham have a successful end to the season.

“We will fight to achieve our targets. We are prepared to fight until the end of the season,” Paratici said. “Everyone has to be focused on the last part of the season.”

Prosecutors had been investigating since 2021 whether Juventus cashed in on illegal commissions from transfer and loans of players. Juventus said at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But prosecutors claim the players gave up only one month’s salary.

Juventus, who deny wrongdoing, have appealed the 15-point penalty to Italy’s highest sports court within the Italian Olympic Committee, known as CONI. An appeal hearing at CONI is slated for April 19.

On Monday, the club’s lawyers appeared before a judge to face the first in a series of court dates. The hearing was postponed until May 10 for administrative reasons.

Agnelli and 11 others face charges of false communications by a company listed publicly on the Milan stock exchange, obstructing watchdog agencies, false billing and market manipulation.


Barcelona, Arsenal advance into Women’s Champions League semifinals

Barcelona, Arsenal advance into Women’s Champions League semifinals
Updated 30 March 2023

Barcelona, Arsenal advance into Women’s Champions League semifinals

Barcelona, Arsenal advance into Women’s Champions League semifinals
  • Fridolina Rolfo scored twice in the first half for Barcelona and Mapi Leon added another to make it 3-0 by the break

BARCELONA: Barcelona cruised into the last four of the Women’s Champions League for the fifth straight year by routing Roma 5-1 in the second leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Arsenal also advanced after beating Bayern Munich 2-0 at Emirates Stadium in London to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg and end the German side’s 14-match winning streak in all competitions.

Barcelona advanced 6-1 on aggregate and will face defending champions Lyon or Chelsea in April’s semifinals. Arsenal will play Paris Saint-Germain or Wolfsburg.

Fridolina Rolfo scored twice in the first half for Barcelona and Mapi Leon added another to make it 3-0 by the break. Asizat Oshoala and Patri Guijarro scored two more shortly after interval before Annamaria Serturini netted a consolation goal for Roma.

After winning the opening leg 1-0 at Stadio Olimpico in Rome in front of a record-setting crowd of 39,454, Barcelona dominated from the start at Camp Nou.

Oshoala knocked down a cross for unmarked Rolfo in the 11th minute to fire home a low shot from 10 meters (yards) to double the aggregate lead.

Some 20 minutes later, Leon unleashed an unstoppable left-foot drive from well outside the area that gave diving Roma goalkeeper Camelia Ceasar no chance.

In first-half stoppage time, Caroline Graham Hansen broke down the right to provide a precise cross for Rolfo at the far post to tap in her second.

Just seconds in the second half, Aitana Bonmatí presented another perfectly timed cross from the right for Oshoala to make it 4-0 from close range. And minutes later, Guijarro headed in Hansen’s corner for the fifth.

Arsenal suffered an early blow when captain Kim Little had to be substituted soon after the kickoff due to an injury but then scored twice in a six-minute span in the first half to turn things around.

Pressuring their opponent, Arsenal won the ball back inside Bayern’s half and played a series of quick passes to tee up Frida Maanum, who drove a shot from just outside the area into the roof of the net to put the hosts 1-0 ahead in the 20th minute.

Six minutes later, Katie McCabe set up the second with a cross from the left for Stina Blackstenius to head in the decisive goal and send Arsenal into the semis for the first time in 10 years.

Arsenal then wasted a string of clear scoring chances in both halves to stretch the advantage.

The English club has won its last six home matches in all competitions without conceding a goal.


From streets of Cairo to the biggest Arab clubs: The rise of Ramadan football tournaments

From streets of Cairo to the biggest Arab clubs: The rise of Ramadan football tournaments
Updated 30 March 2023

From streets of Cairo to the biggest Arab clubs: The rise of Ramadan football tournaments

From streets of Cairo to the biggest Arab clubs: The rise of Ramadan football tournaments
  • From humble beginnings among groups of soccer-loving friends the contests have become more organized and professional, even attracting the attention of major sponsors
  • ‘These matches were initially played on the streets, on cold, hard asphalt, but around the year 2000, youth centers started to host them on well-equipped pitches,’ said one organizer

CAIRO: For more than 25 years, football tournaments have been among the most popular of the special events in Egypt associated with the holy month of Ramadan.

They began when groups of friends would gather together to organize matches so that they could indulge their passion for the game and show off their skills. But as the years have passed they have become more organized and professional, in some cases even attracting the attention of major sponsors.

The growth of these Ramadan soccer competitions can be traced back through the years to humble beginnings in the neighborhoods of Cairo before they expanded to other parts of the country and then elsewhere in the Arab world. Along the way, they moved from the streets to youth centers and, eventually, major sports clubs.

“The Ramadan football tournaments first started in the streets of the capital, where players had to be self-reliant,” Mohammed El-Sayed, a sports journalist with Egyptian newspaper Akhbar El-Youm, told Arab News.

“Youths from different regions would organize their own teams and rounds within each region. They took the streets as their stadium and there were no uniforms involved; the team unity alone was enough.

“In the past, Ramadan football tournaments were always played immediately before iftar. Young people took advantage of the quiet streets at that time to hold matches, while children and young adults gathered around to watch them as a form of entertainment.”

Hatem Hussein, also known as Mizo, is one of the best-known players who took part in Ramadan tournaments during the 1990s.

“I was playing in the streets (back then) and we were all very eager to play … the competition was strong,” he said. “We always adopted the knockout matches method: The team that eliminated all its competitors until the end of the tournament would be considered the winner.

“The prizes were symbolic and reflective of the entry fee that the teams paid at the beginning. Second and third place both took home a complete sports kit.”

The growth of these Ramadan soccer competitions can be traced back through the years to humble beginnings in the neighborhoods of Cairo before they expanded to other parts of the country. (Supplied)

Karim Al-Bibani, an organizer of Ramadan tournaments in the Abdeen area, near the center of Cairo, said: “These matches were initially played on the streets of Cairo, on the cold, hard asphalt, but around the year 2000, youth centers started to host them on well-equipped pitches.

“In part, this was a result of the large number of housing units that were being built, which left little or no space for playing football on the streets.

“The tournaments have now moved to youth centers because of their good playgrounds, strong lighting and better capabilities. These centers organize the tournament and are responsible for it, financially.”

As the popularity of the seasonal competitions grew and spread, it was no surprise that established football clubs wanted to get in on the act.

“In the past 15 years, Ramadan tournaments began to move to major clubs, and a number of great players who had retired from their clubs began to play in these tournaments,” said sports journalist El-Sayed. In particular, an increase in the number of five-a-side pitches with artificial grass that were being built helped to fuel this trend, he added.

“The participation of the retired players is the reason Ramadan tournaments started to expand outside Egypt,” El-Sayed said.

As a result of these popular veteran stars taking part, in recent years Ramadan tournaments have increasingly become big business, attracting lucrative sponsorship deals, said journalist Mahmoud Essam

“For the big clubs, sponsorship will be at a higher level, including real estate and mobile phone companies, among others,” he said. “These sponsorships depend on having big names participating in these tournaments.”