Messi mania engulfs Miami ahead of Argentine football superstar’s arrival

Messi mania engulfs Miami ahead of Argentine football superstar’s arrival
Inter Miami team co-owner David Beckham at the end of a training session for the MLS soccer team Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Soccer superstar Lionel Messi is expected to make his debut with the team in a match on July 21, after an introductory event on July 16. (AP)
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Updated 13 July 2023
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Messi mania engulfs Miami ahead of Argentine football superstar’s arrival

Messi mania engulfs Miami ahead of Argentine football superstar’s arrival
  • There is no hiding the euphoria generated by Messi in Miami as he begins the new Major League Soccer phase of his career in one of the most Latino cities in the US
  • The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or is coming off two years with Paris Saint-Germain and is expected to make his Inter Miami debut against Mexican team Cruz Azul on July 21

MIAMI: A hamburger and drink combination called the Lionel Messi. A huge sketch of the football star’s smiling face on a restaurant wall beside a viral meme from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. A beer with a pink label matching the color of the Inter Miami jersey he will wear.

Wherever you turn in Miami these days something reminds you of the imminent arrival of the Argentine football legend.

There is no hiding the euphoria generated by Messi in Miami as he begins the new Major League Football phase of his career in one of the most Latino cities in the US. But his arrival is also bringing a note of sadness as fans know that at age 36 he is nearing the end of his career.

Messi announced on June 7 that he will play for Inter Miami in a move that is expected to revitalize football in the US and South Florida with one of the sporting world’s best-known figures. More than 100,000 Argentines live in Miami, which will host World Cup matches in 2026.

The seven-time winner of the Ballon d’Or, the football world’s most prestigious individual award, is coming off two years with Paris Saint-Germain and is expected to make his Inter Miami debut against Mexican team Cruz Azul on July 21.

In a career spanning more than 17 years with his country’s national team, Messi has scored more than 100 goals, including two against France at the 2022 World Cup, a match Argentina won on penalties.

“I love that he’s in Miami because my children will be able to experience him like I experienced (fellow Argentina football star Diego) Maradona,” said Maximiliano Alvarez, one of the owners of the Fiorito restaurant, where a wall has a giant mural of Messi. “It also makes me sad, nostalgic, because it looks like it is the beginning of his retirement.”

“Coming to this league is not the same as playing in the European league,” said the Argentine businessman.

Álvarez and his brother Cristian had the original mural with Messi’s face painted in the restaurant in 2018, when many people criticized the football star for his role in the Argentine national team’s poor performance. His idea was to honor him and the resilience he brings, never giving up.

In 2021, they renovated the restaurant in Little Haiti in northeast Miami with another mural of Messi on the same wall, this one by Chilean-American artist Claudio Picasso.

On the walls of another restaurant called Kao Bar & Grill, in the Hallandale Beach area north of Miami Beach, Messi’s meme ”¡Andá pa’ alla bobo!” “Go over there, fool!” is immortalized along with a giant drawing of the football star.

Angry after Argentina’s heated victory over the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup, Messi said those words to a Dutch player who was passing by while he was being interviewed.

Messi, who is known for his calm and cautious way of speaking, repented the comment, which immediately went viral.

“He regretted it, obviously ... but it was left as a joke,” said Augusto Falopapas, the artist who drew the meme on the restaurant’s wall.

To the south, in Wynwood district, an area near downtown Miami known for its warehouse-turned-art galleries, other artists have painted murals of Messi. One is two giant images of the player, one with a smiling face, the other another running as if in a game. And there are plans for more, including a 10-meter-high (32-foot-high) mural of Messi kissing the World Cup in an open parking lot.

Messi’s arrival has also impacted breweries like Prison Pals Brewing Co., which sells a beer bearing Messi’s number 10. The can is painted pink with black lettering, a replica of Inter Miami’s colors.

The Argentine grill The Knife offers a Messi mojito and the Hard Rock Cafe is launching a new “Messi Chicken Sandwich” made from the football star’s favorite “milanesas.” Messi t-shirts, pants, sweatshirts with hood and water bottles will also be for sale.

“When we found out that he decided to choose Miami as his South Florida home, it was incredible for us,” said Elena Alvarez, vice president of global sales for Hard Rock International. “We are very, very grateful and we have him as a brand ambassador and we are launching (the new sandwich) at the same time that he is moving here.”

Near Miami Beach, at the Café Ragazzi of Argentine-Venezuelan singer-songwriter Ricardo Montaner, they are waiting for his return.

Messi was there on vacation after he won the America’s Cup with Argentina in 2021. The star caused an uproar in the restaurant as fans came to greet him, forcing staff, including waiters and kitchen workers, to form a wall around him to protect him and allow him to exit to his car.

Now they want to offer the football legend more privacy and are thinking of putting up curtains.

“We are waiting for you in Miami with open arms,” said Emiliano Valdés, the café’s general manager. “He is revolutionizing the entire city and has not yet arrived.”


Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
Updated 23 April 2024
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Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan

Inter Milan seal Scudetto in derby thriller with AC Milan
  • Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns

MILAN: Inter Milan sealed the Serie A title on Monday after beating AC Milan 2-1 and creating an unassailable lead at the top of the league with their sixth straight derby victory.
Goals from Francesco Acerbi and Marcus Thuram gave Inter a 17-point advantage over closest challengers Milan and secured their 20th league crown with five matches of the season remaining.
Inter last won Serie A in 2021, followed by AC Milan in 2022 and Napoli last year.
For Simone Inzaghi it was the first league title as a manager and on a cold, soaking wet evening at the San Siro he strode proudly in front of a clutch of Inter’s “away” fans in the 75,000 crowd as they roared in delight and fired fireworks from the stands at the final whistle.
Milan made a fight of it in the final moments after Fikayo Tomori pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining but Inter held out to kick off a title party after a stormy ending to the match which featured three red cards.
“I feel like crying because we worked so hard, we deserve this joy,” said tearful captain Lautaro Martinez.
“It’s been wonderful but we have to keep going because we’ve already won a lot of trophies and we want to win many more.”
Inter have become the second team to win 20 Italian league titles, and will have a second star stitched onto their jersey, after Juventus who are way out in the lead with 36 league crowns.
Inzaghi’s team did it style, laying waste to the rest of the division and becoming the first team to claim the title by winning the Milan derby and leaving his opposite number Pioli on the verge of the sack.
“He was struggling 14 months ago according to the media and look what he has achieved since. I am happy here, I work well and I think the team has margin for improvement,” insisted 2022 Scudetto winner Pioli.
With outgoing champions Napoli crashing and burning early in the campaign and Milan falling away in the autumn Inter raced off into the distance at the turn of the year.
Juve looked like putting up a fight but they collapsed in February just as Inter strung together a run of 13 wins which also gave them hope of repeating a deep run in the Champions League.
Inter failed in that mission as they were knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid in mid-March, but by that time the domestic damage had already been done.
The future looks bright too as Inzaghi, Martinez and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella are all set to renew their contracts while smart work in the transfer market and increased revenue have helped mitigate significant financial harm wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Piotr Zielinski and Mehdi Taremi will arrive from Napoli and Porto as free agents in the close season while big stars like Thuram should stay.
“Crazy feeling, crazy game. We wanted to do it for our fans and we did it. It’s my first league title and I’m very proud of it,” said Thuram.
The nominal away side on Monday, Inter were on their way to a title party in the 18th minute when Acerbi was left completely free to head home Benjamin Pavard’s flick-on.
Inter should have been two ahead seven minutes later through Lautaro Martinez who lost his footing when Federico Dimarco’s perfect cut-back fell to the Argentina striker.
And his strike partner Thuram was equally at fault for Inter not increasing their lead seven minutes before the break as he shot a great chance just wide after being set up by Nicolo Barella.
But shortly after half-time Thuram made up for that miss with a brilliant individual goal which took his tally for his debut Serie A season to 12.
France forward Thuram collected Alessandro Bastoni’s long pass on the left and eventually cut inside before drilling home at Mike Maignan’s near post.
Yann Sommer did well to keep out Theo Hernandez’s well-struck shot as Milan fans let go a barrage of flares in the stands.
The resulting smoke mixed with the persistent rain to create an misty atmosphere around the San Siro, and just as Inter looked set to see the match out Tomori made sure it would be a grandstand finish when he headed home on the rebound.
However instead of levelling the match Milan lost their heads, with both Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria receiving straight red cards in stoppage time.
Inter’s Denzel Dumfries was also sent off in the closing minutes, but that will matter less to his team who danced and bounced in front of joyous fans.


Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
Updated 22 April 2024
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Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup

Indonesia eliminate Jordan, join Qatar in last 8 of AFC U-23 Asian Cup
  • A 4-1 win secured second spot in Group A of the tournament which also provides a pathway to 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

DOHA: Indonesia on Sunday beat Jordan 4-1 at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha to reach the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup.

Indonesia has now secured second spot in Group A behind already-qualified hosts Qatar, who drew 0-0 against Australia on the same day at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Al-Rayyan.

The tournament, which runs until May 3, provides a pathway to the men’s football competition at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Indonesia led 2-0 at half time thanks to Marcelino Ferdinan’s penalty on 23 minutes and Witan Sulaeman’s strike five minutes before the break.

Ferdinan made it 3-0 after 70 minutes before Jordan’s consolation nine minutes later came via an own goal from Justin Hubner.

Komang Teguh ensured there would be no late drama by making it 4-1 with four minutes of the 90 left.

In Monday’s action, a draw against Iraq will be enough for Saudi Arabia to secure top spot in Group C, while Thailand and Tajikistan meet at Al-Janoub Stadium in Wakrah.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia lead the group with a maximum of six points while Thailand are second with three points on goal difference from Iraq. All three can still qualify for the quarterfinals while bottom-of-the-table Tajikistan, with no points, have already been eliminated.

Monday will also see the conclusion of Group B. South Korea meet Japan, with both having already ensured progress; and the UAE and China clash in a dead rubber having amassed no points between them so far.

The tournament has 16 nations split into four groups, with the top two from each progressing to the quarterfinals. For the Olympic Games in Paris this summer, the winners of the two semifinals secure automatic qualification.

The two losing semifinalists will compete for third place, with the winner also booking a place in Paris. The fourth-place finisher has a final chance with a playoff against an African qualifier.


Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
Updated 22 April 2024
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Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat

Liverpool bounce back to keep title bid alive, Forest fume after Everton defeat
  • Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals
  • Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest

LONDON: Liverpool got back on track after a miserable week as a 3-1 win at Fulham kept their Premier League title bid alive, while Nottingham Forest launched an astonishing rant at the officiating in their 2-0 defeat against Everton on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side crashed out of the Europa League quarterfinals against Atalanta on Thursday after suffering a damaging Premier League defeat at home to Crystal Palace last weekend.

The Reds’ hopes of giving Klopp a glorious farewell were dwindling but they climbed back into the title race with a much-needed first win in three league games.

Liverpool are now in second place, behind leaders Arsenal on goal difference and one point ahead of third placed Manchester City, who have a game in hand on their two title rivals.

Next for Liverpool is the Merseyside derby at Everton on Wednesday, while Arsenal host Chelsea on Tuesday and City travel to Brighton on Thursday.

“Fulham usually cause us more problems so it was a good performance at the right moment,” Klopp said.

“We want to stay in that race, that’s clear. Arsenal won yesterday, Manchester City will win their game in hand, so we have to win games and that’s what we’ll try.”

Klopp responded to signs of fatigue from his team in recent weeks by dropping Mohamed Salah to the bench among five changes.

And Liverpool took the hint with a more cohesive display by the banks of the River Thames in west London.

Trent Alexander-Arnold put Liverpool ahead in the 32nd minute with a superb free-kick that flashed into the top corner.

Fulham defender Timothy Castagne levelled from close-range after Liverpool failed to clear in first half stoppage-time.

Ryan Gravenberch restored Liverpool’s advantage in the 53rd minute with a swerving blast from the edge of the area for his first Premier League goal.

Diogo Jota wrapped up the points in the 72nd minute, drilling a clinical low finish into the far corner.

Everton took a giant stride toward extending their 70-year stay in the English top-flight in a highly controversial victory over Forest.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored the goals that took the Toffees five points clear of the relegation zone.

Forest remain just one point above the bottom three and were left dismayed at being denied three strong penalty appeals.

The club’s official account on social media platform X called into question the Premier League’s integrity by claiming the VAR official is a fan of relegation rivals Luton.

“We warned the PGMOL (referees’ governing body) that the VAR is a Luton fan before the game but they didn’t change him,” Forest said in a statement said.

“Our patience has been tested multiple times. NFFC will now consider its options.”

Aston Villa tightened their grip on Champions League football next season with a 3-1 win over Bournemouth.

Villa shrugged off the exertions of having to go to extra-time and penalties in midweek to book their place in the Europa Conference League semifinals against Lille.

Unai Emery’s men even had to come from behind after Dominic Solanke opened the scoring from the penalty spot.

Morgan Rogers’ fine finish just before half-time proved to be the turning point.

Moussa Diaby slotted in from Ollie Watkins’ pass to put Villa in front.

Watkins was the provider once more for Leon Bailey to tap in to seal the points 12 minutes from time.

Victory takes Villa six points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham.

Spurs have two games in hand but still have to play all of title challengers Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool in their final six matches.

David Moyes’ future as West Ham manager looks more uncertain after they were thrashed 5-2 at Crystal Palace.

Michael Olize headed in the opener before Eberechi Eze’s spectacular acrobatic effort found the roof of the net.

Emerson Palmieri’s own goal made it 3-0 before Jean-Philippe Mateta struck twice for Palace either side of half-time.

Michail Antonio’s strike and a Tyrick Mitchell own goal was scant consolation for West Ham.


Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
Updated 22 April 2024
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Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona

Bellingham scores late and Madrid moves closer to league title after ‘clasico’ win over Barcelona
  • Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September
  • Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league

MADRID: Real Madrid took a huge step toward winning the Spanish league title after beating Barcelona 3-2 with a stoppage-time goal by Jude Bellingham in the final “clasico” of the season on Sunday.

Barcelona twice took the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium but Madrid came back to win for a comfortable 11-point cushion over their second-place rival entering the final six rounds.

Bellingham scored the winning goal from a difficult angle one minute into stoppage time with a left-footed strike into the top of the net after a cross toward the far post by Lucas Vazquez, who also scored and set up a goal by Vinícius Júnior.

It was the third straight win for Madrid over Barcelona this season. Madrid are unbeaten in 26 league games, since losing at Atletico Madrid in September.

The clasico came four days after Madrid eliminated Manchester City on penalties in England to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Barcelona had been eliminated a day earlier by Paris Saint-Germain after a loss at home, leaving the league as the Catalan team’s only title opportunity for the season.

Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, the hero for Madrid in the shootout against City, miscalculated a cross into the area in Barcelona’s first goal and failed to fully clear a ball in front of the goal in the second.

Barcelona, the defending league champions, came to the Spanish capital looking to revive their title chances and took an early lead with a header by Andreas Christensen six minutes into the match.

The hosts equalized with Vinicius converting an 18th-minute penalty kick before Barcelona went ahead again with Fermín Lopez’s goal from close range in the 69th. Vazquez, who was fouled after a run inside the area to prompt the penalty converted by Vinícius, evened the match again after a cross by the Brazil forward in the 73rd.

Vazquez was one of the changes made to the squad by Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti after the match against City. He also used Luka Modric alongside Toni Kroos in midfield, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in the defense.

Barcelona loudly complained about the penalty awarded to Madrid and wanted one for themselves after a challenge on López in the second half. They also complained over a potential goal in the first half when it wasn’t clear if the ball crossed the goal line before Lunin batted it away. It took several moments before video review determined that it was not a goal.

It was likely the last clasico for Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez, who earlier this season said he will leave the club at the end of the season.

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie De Jong left the field on a stretcher late in the first half after hurting his right leg in a clash with Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde.

The match marked the debut of the new state-of-the-art video screens at the renovated Bernabeu.

ATLETICO STRUGGLE

Atletico Madrid followed up their Champions League elimination with a 2-0 loss at Alaves in the Spanish league, missing a chance to strengthen its hold on fourth place.

The defeat against 13th-place Alaves kept Atletico only three points ahead of fifth-place Athletic Bilbao in the fight for a Champions League spot next season. Athletic had been held to a 1-1 draw against relegation-threatened Granada at home on Friday.

Atletico failed to advance in the Champions League after losing to Borussia Dortmund 5-4 on aggregate following a 4-2 loss in Germany on Tuesday.

Alaves, which had lost three league matches in a row, won with goals by Carlos Benavídez in the 15th minute and Luis Rioja in second-half stoppage time.

In other results, sixth-place Real Sociedad were held 1-1 at midtable Getafe, while ninth-place Villarreal won 2-1 at last-place Almeria.


Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
Updated 21 April 2024
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Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final

Man Utd beat Coventry on penalties to set up Man City FA Cup final
  • Red Devils win shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick

LONDON: Manchester United overcame an astonishing collapse to beat Coventry on penalties in an FA Cup classic on Sunday, setting up a second straight FA Cup final against Manchester City.

Erik ten Hag’s men won the shootout at Wembley 4-2, with Rasmus Hojlund scoring the decisive spot kick after the teams were level at 3-3 after extra time.

The game perfectly encapsulated a chaotic season for Ten Hag’s men, who are well off the pace in the Premier League and had a Champions League campaign to forget.

There was no hint of what was to come when United coasted into a 3-0 lead against their second-tier opponents in the London sunshine, with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

But they have made a habit of tossing away leads in recent weeks and the match against Coventry proved no different.

Second half strikes from Ellis Simms and Callum O’Hare gave the 1987 FA Cup winners hope and Hajji Wright leveled from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, capping a scarcely credible comeback.

Coventry fans taunted Ten Hag with chants of “you’re getting sacked in the morning” as belief infused the massed ranks of supporters clad in blue.

Coventry manager Mark Robins famously played a key part in United’s FA Cup final win in 1990, a victory that launched two decades of success under Alex Ferguson.

But his team’s push to reach the Championship playoffs has faded in recent weeks and they traveled to Wembley as underdogs despite United’s stuttering season.

United, 12-time winners of the competition, settled early and took the lead in the 23rd minute after a fine move down the right.

Alejandro Garnacho fed the overlapping Diogo Dalot, whose cross went under the hands of the diving Bradley Collins and was tapped in by McTominay from close range.

Marcus Rashford forced a fine save from Collins late in the first half but United doubled their lead from the resulting corner, with Maguire heading home from Fernandes’ cross.

Coventry, who scored twice in stoppage time to beat Premier League Wolves in the quarter-finals, struggled to make inroads against an organized United team.

They looked brighter in the early stages of the second half.

But the wind was taken out of their sails when Fernandes’s shot found its way past Collins in the 58th minute, courtesy of a deflection off defender Bobby Thomas.

O’Hare headed over from an angle as Coventry continued to probe but they pulled a goal back when top scorer Ellis Simms connected with a cross from substitute Fabio Tavares in the 71st minute after United’s defense switched off.

They made it 3-2 in the 79th minute when O’Hare’s shot from just outside the box looped off Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s back and over Onana.

Coventry’s fans were now in full voice as their team mounted waves of attacks.

Substitute Victor Torp hit a stinging shot from the edge of the area with five minutes of normal time to go, forcing Onana into a sharp save.

But Coventry still were not finished. Wan-Bissaka was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area and Wright scored from the spot to take the match into extra time.

Coventry looked the more likely winners in 10 long minutes of stoppage time but could not find a winner.

United captain Fernandes rattled the crossbar in the fourth minute of extra time when set up by substitute Amad Diallo.

Simms then smashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar as time ran out.

Coventry thought they had won it in the dying moments when Torp poked the ball past Andre Onana but a VAR check ruled that Wright was marginally offside.

The Championship side drew first blood in the shootout when Casemiro’s weak penalty was saved by Collins.

But O’Hare and captain Ben Sheaf failed to convert, leaving Hojlund with the job of sending United through and he made no mistake.

Manchester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the other semifinal on Saturday.