French Open lets Belarus’ Sabalenka skip standard news conference after questions about Ukraine war
Updated 10 sec ago
PARIS: Two years after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open when she was fined, then threatened with disqualification, for skipping news conferences, another top tennis player — No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion — was allowed to avoid the traditional postmatch session open to all accredited journalists and instead speak Friday with what was described as a “pool” of selected questioners. Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, didn’t appear at a news conference Friday after reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kamilla Rakhimova. After each of her previous two wins this week, Sabalenka was asked about her stance on the war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, when Russia invaded that country with help from Belarus. Sabalenka said she “did not feel safe” at her news conference Wednesday and wanted to protect her “mental health and well-being.” Sabalenka’s desire to bypass the standard Q-and-A was supported by the tournament and the WTA. She will not be fined. The topic of the war was raised at both earlier news conferences by Daria Meshcheriakova, a part-time journalist from the Ukraine for a sports outlet she said gets 7 million views per month. Meshcheriakova, who said she used to be an employee of the German embassy in Kyiv, left Ukraine 10 days after the war began and moved to the Netherlands. Sabalenka’s first match at this French Open was against a player from Ukraine, Marta Kostyuk, who refused to shake hands at the net afterward — as she’s done against all opponents from Russia or Belarus since the attacks began. Kostyuk was booed by fans apparently unaware of why she declined the usual gesture. Two spokespeople for the French Tennis Federation wouldn’t say who was allowed to talk with Sabalenka on Friday, but a transcript was distributed to the media. The first “question” was: “Before we start, I know there was a tense situation in your second-round press conference, and if you wanted to address it at all.” The response, according to the transcript: “After my match, I spoke with the media like I normally do. I know they still expect some questions that are more about the politics and not so much about my tennis. For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in (the) press conference. I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches. For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision. It hasn’t been an easy few days, and now my focus is (to) continue to play well here in Paris.” What followed were topics such as how Sabalenka played Friday, her previous track record at Roland Garros, her fitness training and what types of movies she has been watching. At the 2021 French Open, Osaka — a four-time major champion and former No. 1 — shined a light on the issue of athletes’ mental health by saying she did not want to speak to the media during the tournament. She was docked $15,000 for skipping the news conference after her first-round victory in Paris, then was threatened by all four Grand Slam tournaments with possible additional punishment, including disqualification or suspension, if she continued to sit out those availabilities. Osaka then pulled out of the competition, saying she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before speaking to the media and revealed she has “suffered long bouts of depression.”
Juddmonte’s Arrest, Frankie Dettori in final Derby ride bid for glory at world’s most famous race
Arrest, owned by Juddmonte and trained in Newmarket by John and Thady Gosden, landed two wins in 2022 at Sandown and Ffos Las
Will be Italian icon Dettori’s final run in the Derby at Epsom Downs
Updated 57 min 29 sec ago
LONDON: Legendary jockey Frankie Dettori is hoping to continue this season’s glorious swan song in one of the world’s biggest races on Saturday when he saddles up on board Saudi Arabia-owned Arrest.
It will be the Italian icon’s final run in the Derby at Epsom Downs and he will be hoping to make it a hat trick of victories in the famous old race, having won aboard Authorized in 2007 and Golden Horn in 2015.
Arrest, owned by Juddmonte and trained in Newmarket by John and Thady Gosden, landed two wins in 2022 at Sandown and Ffos Las and comes into the Derby in good form having scored a victory in the Group Three Chester Vase last month.
The colt, by Juddmonte’s world-renowned sire Frankel, will be in good company at the two-day Derby festival, which got underway on Friday, with Soul Sister, Military Order, Hurricane Lane and Westover also representing the retired champion across the weekend.
The win at Chester was a reward for the confidence shown by Arrest’s trainers, the Gosdens, and they have high hopes for him in the Derby.
“John and Thady have held him in high regard since last year. While we were a little nervous of all the rain that fell on Chester that morning, we were still hopeful of a very big run,” Barry Mahon, Juddmonte’s general manager of Irish and European racing, said in comments to Great British Racing International for Arab News.
“The race went far from ideal with no pace early on and Arrest getting caught a little wide, but in the end his class shone through and he powered away for an easy victory.
“This year seems to be a very open renewal of the Epsom Derby and being a son of Frankel, we know he will give his all (on Saturday) and we’re hopeful of a good run,” he added.
Gosden believes Arrest has the staying power to beat the field, having proved his mettle in his Chester victory.
“This horse can change gears, absolutely. He’s a big boy and he proved he stayed the other day (in the Chester Vase) when he handled the conditions. He doesn’t need it to be like that,” John told the Jockey Club. “He’s got the stamina; to do what he did at Chester in ground like that shows he’s got the stamina, no problem.”
He added: “Stamina is a requirement in this race, the same for the Kentucky Derby going a mile and a quarter for the Americans, they see it as a marathon. Stamina wise you never really know until you go the mile and a half, you really don’t.
“Everybody thinks this is a downhill track, but it’s uphill, it rises 150 feet before you start going downhill, then you have a last section which climbs before the finish and it can catch a lot out on stamina.”
A win in the Derby would be monumental for Juddmonte and Frankel, as well as Arrest’s future after racing, Mahon said.
“The Epsom Derby is still one of the most important, iconic thoroughbred flat races in the world. History tells us that colts who have won (the race) have gone on to shape the breed as stallions,” he said.
“The fact that it is one of the most iconic races in the world makes it very significant that Frankel would add a second victory in the race.
“He is progressing to be an outstanding stallion at present with a number of runners in the Oaks and Derby as well as siring this year’s English 2000 Guineas winner, so hopefully he will be able to build on his tally in the coming seasons,” Mahon added.
Following the passing of owner and founder Prince Khalid bin Abdullah Al-Saud in 2021, his family have continued his work and passion for racing, with his son Prince Saud bin Khalid in attendance at Newmarket when Juddmonte’s Chaldean won the 2000 Guineas on May 6.
Mahon believes the future of the operation is in good hands and hopes to give Prince Saud another winner this year, especially if he makes the journey to England.
“It will be wonderful to welcome Prince Saud to Epsom over the weekend. He has been racing numerous times this year and is really enjoying how the season is going,” he said.
“Prince Saud and his family are very dedicated to Juddmonte and the wider thoroughbred industry and hopefully we can provide them with more success as the season continues,” he added.
Speaking to the Jockey Club, Dettori was hopeful of glory in his final Derby run, saying: “I have been fortunate enough to win the Derby twice and it is still the most famous race in the world for us.”
He added: “When I started my career as a jockey, first of all you want to get a ride in it and then try to win it. I’ve had over 20 rides in it and this is my last go. At least I am going into my last Derby with a great chance.”
Jose Mourinho charged by UEFA for verbally abusing referee at Europa League final
UEFA said the Roma coach is charged for “insulting / abusive language against a match official” after Sevilla’s victory in Budapest this week
Footage circulated Thursday of Mourinho approaching referee Anthony Taylor in the garage and calling him a “disgrace” with an expletive
Updated 40 min 7 sec ago
NYON, Switzerland: Jose Mourinho was charged by UEFA on Friday after being filmed aggressively cursing at the English match referee in a stadium garage after the Europa League final.
UEFA said the Roma coach is charged for “insulting / abusive language against a match official” after Sevilla’s victory in Budapest this week.
It was one of a slew of disciplinary charges UEFA opened into incidents at a testy, bad-tempered game that lasted more than three hours on Wednesday.
Footage circulated Thursday of Mourinho approaching referee Anthony Taylor in the garage and calling him a “disgrace” with an expletive.
Later Thursday, Taylor and his family were harassed and verbally abused by Roma fans at the airport in Budapest.
Roma lost to Sevilla in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw that saw players and officials clash on the field and in the technical area.
UEFA charged both teams with improper conduct – typically activated for at least five yellow cards shown – and Roma was charged over crowd disturbances and acts of damage.
Sevilla was also charged because dozens of its fans invaded the field after the match.
UEFA gave no timetable for its disciplinary panel to judge the cases.
Ronaldo and Al-Nassr to take on PSG during summer friendly in Japan
The clash between Al-Nassr, who finished second in the Roshn Saudi League, and PSG will be held in Osaka on July 25
Messi was not among the players PSG used to illustrate the tour announcement on their website
Updated 02 June 2023
JAPAN: Cristiano Ronaldo and Saudi Arabia’s Al-Nassr will take on Paris Saint-Germain during their summer friendlies in Japan.
The clash between Al-Nassr, who finished second in the Roshn Saudi League, and PSG will be held in Osaka on July 25.
However, there will be no head-to-head between Ronaldo and old rival Lionel Messi, with the Argentine set to leave PSG.
Messi was not among the players PSG used to illustrate the tour announcement on their website.
Last summer PSG traveled to Japan to play three local clubs and were greeted by sell-out crowds, even for their training sessions.
They round off their Japan visit against Inter, who play Manchester City in the Champions League final, at Tokyo’s National Stadium on August 1.
PSG clinched a record 11th French title last week as Messi scored in a 1-1 away draw at Strasbourg.
PSG are scheduled to play J-League club Cerezo Osaka on July 28.
City, Bayern Munich and Celtic have also announced tours to Japan this summer.
(With inputs from AFP)
Lebanon looking to make historic progress at 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar
Despite being placed in tough group with hosts Qatar, China and Tajikistan, the Cedars will look to reach the Round of 16 for the first time
Lebanon have a hectic schedule ahead in 2023 as they prepare for a tournament delayed after China pulled out of hosting
Updated 02 June 2023
The 2023 AFC Asian Cup may be six months away, but preparations have already started for the 24 qualified nations.
Lebanon know that eyes will be on them from day one as they take on hosts Qatar in the opening fixture on Jan. 12, 2024.
Hassan Maatouk, the Cedars’ captain, has stressed the team’s strong spirits and continued preparations to reach their major objective of the quarterfinal, particularly given the considerable time they have set aside for camps and friendly matches in order to find harmony among the players.
In a group with the hosts, China and Tajikistan, it will not be easy, and history is against them.
The competition was moved to January of next year after China pulled out of hosting duties and will end on Feb. 10 with 10 Arab teams taking part, one fewer than the 11 that played in the 2019 edition in the UAE.
Following the curtain-raiser at Al-Bayt Stadium, Lebanon will play China on Jan. 17 and Tajikistan on Jan. 22, both at Al-Thumama Stadium.
They will be hoping for a big improvement in their results at the last edition of the tournament.
Lebanon won only one of its three 2019 matches — 4-1 against North Korea — before suffering losses to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, both with a score of 0-2.
The opener against Qatar certainly looks the most challenging for the Lebanese, for several reasons.
For a start, the Maroons are the reigning champions and will be doing their utmost to retain the title they claimed in the UAE in 2019. Secondly, they will be keen to make amends to their fans after the massive disappointment of the 2022 World Cup.
More will be expected from Lebanon against the other two teams in the group.
Tajikistan are theoretically the easiest opponent and the only team in the group whose FIFA ranking of 109 is lower than Lebanon’s (99). Despite this, the team has managed to make it to the Asian Cup finals for the first time in their history under the leadership of Croatian coach Petar Segrt and should not be taken lightly.
Lebanon will hope that by the time they face China in their final group fixture their chances of progressing to the Round of 16 are still alive.
Since taking over the Cedars in August of last year, Serbian coach Aleksandar Ilic has overseen several poor results.
He has received significant backing from the Football Association in an effort to change the strategy and direction of the Lebanese national team by introducing young players who can keep up with the rapid development of other Asian teams. The team’s last three friendly matches have resulted in away losses to Kuwait in November (2-0), the UAE in December (1-0) and Oman in March (2-0).
Veterans such as Mohamad Haidar, Rabih Ataya, Omar Bugiel, Kassem El-Zein, and Mostafa Matar have been sidelined as younger players like Mohamed Sadek, Ali Tneich, Mohamad Baker El-Housseini, and Ali Al-Hajj have been drafted in.
However, 35-year-old captain Hassan Maatouk, goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil, and midfielder Nader Matar have retained their place in the squad.
The rest of 2023, and the buildup to the AFC Asian Cup, will be hectic as the team takes part in the Intercontinental Cup in India; the 2023 SAFF Championship also in India; the Merdeka Tournament in Malaysia; several friendlies and even the start of the qualifying campaign for the 2026 World Cup.
As always, logistical and economic challenges abound for the team and its coach, while on the technical side, the players continue to play on artificial pitches at home.
Despite this, Lebanon still have a good chance of making it out of the group stage as the tournament system allows the top two teams in each group, along with the best third-place teams, to advance to the Round of 16.
Such an achievement might seem modest from the outside, but it would be a historic first for the Cedars and will bring a sense of joy and pride to the long-suffering people of Lebanon.