Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence

Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence
Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard says that reading has always been an integral part of his life. (X: @Ettifaq_EN)
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Updated 03 October 2023
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Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence

Steven Gerrard on the drive for footballing excellence
  • Liverpool and England legend wants major silverware with Al-Ettifaq
  • Education is critical for lifelong success, Gerrard tells fans during appearance at Riyadh Book Fair

Liverpool and England legend Steven Gerrard believes that the key to success in life is continuous learning — as he described his own journey in football from player to coach.

The coach of Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia made the remarks on Monday at the Riyadh Book Fair, where he attended a seminar titled “Sports and Cultural Exchange” — in front of adoring football fans.

Gerrard said that reading has always been an integral part of his life, at airports waiting for flights, and during rest periods at football camps.

He said football was not just a sport but also a form of cultural exchange.

“Saudi Arabia has been of interest to me since the football explosion, and I received a warm welcome from Saudi fans, making me feel special. I am grateful for that. After experiencing wearing the Saudi thobe, I designed another one for myself because I liked it and found it very comfortable. Sports are evolving in the Kingdom, and I wanted to be a part of this development. My presence in this league will bring me experience and benefit.”

He said he committed himself to further education to make the transition to management. “After retirement, I had the desire to continue in the field of football, specifically in coaching, and I read many books related to coaches. It is in my nature, and ever since I was in Liverpool, I loved challenges and taking first place, and this motivates me to give my all here.”

“The difference between being a coach and a former player is that coaching comes with a lot of pressure because you are leading a whole team. It was better for me to gradually progress in the field, starting as a player, then a team manager, and finally, a technical coach.”

He ended his speech by talking about the most beautiful strike in his football career. “The best goal I scored in my career was against Milan in the Champions League final in 2005.”

At the end of the seminar, Gerrard graciously stopped to interact with the fans and posed for photographs — which made it a memorable day for many at Riyadh’s iconic cultural event.


Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’
Updated 7 sec ago
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Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’

Verstappen dominates testing as Wolff says Horner probe ‘issue for all F1’
  • The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren
  • Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff

SAKHIR: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen gave his struggling rivals little hope for optimism ahead of the new Formula One season when he dominated the first day of winter testing on Wednesday.

The Red Bull driver was more than a second faster than Lando Norris in a McLaren with Carlos Sainz, about to start his final year as a Ferrari driver, in third spot at the Sakhir track where the season-opener takes place on March 2.

Sainz will lose his seat at Ferrari to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who is entering his last campaign behind the wheel of a Mercedes. Hamilton will be in action on Thursday.

Verstappen’s performance was a boost for a Red Bull team reeling from an investigation into team chief Christian Horner who has been accused of “inappropriate behavior” by a female member of staff.

“It feels good to be back in an F1 car again and I had fun out on track today. We covered a lot of laps and tried quite a few things with the car, which was important, so happy overall with how it went,” said Verstappen.

Horner faced questioning for eight hours at an internal hearing in London earlier in February after allegations emerged in the Dutch press of a complaint being made against the 50-year-old Englishman by a female employee.

Horner categorically denies the accusation while Formula One chiefs said they want the issue resolved at the “earliest opportunity.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff described the investigation as “an issue for all of Formula One.”

“Red Bull has started as an independent investigation, if this is done in the right way with transparency and with rigour, I think that’s something that we need to look at — what the outcomes are and what it means for Formula One, and how we can learn from that,” Wolff told a news conference.

“We want to talk about racing cars and we want to talk about the sport rather than these kind of very critical topics, that are more just a team’s issue, it’s a phenomenon or it’s an issue for all of Formula One and in general for every individual that works out there.”

Horner is scheduled to appear at a press conference in Bahrain on Thursday.

At the launch of this season’s Red Bull car held last week, he insisted he had no intention of resigning.

“No. It’s business as usual,” he said. “There obviously is a process.

“Obviously, I fully deny any accusations that have been made against me but of course I’ll work with that process, which I hope is concluded in the near future.”

Testing times on the first day of three on Wednesday:

1. Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull) 1:31.344 sec (143 laps,

2. Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren) +1.140 (73),

3. Carlos Sainz (ESP/Ferrari) +1.240 (69),

4. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Racing Bulls) +1.255 (52),

5. Pierre Gasly (FRA/Alpine) +1.461 (61),

6. Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin) +1.663 (54),

7. Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) +1.903 (64),

8. Fernando Alonso (ESP/Aston Martin) +2.041 (77),

9. Oscar Piastri (AUS/McLaren) +2.314 (57),

10. Zhou Guanyu (CHN/Sauber) +2.527 (63),

11. Logan Sargeant (USA/Williams) +2.538 (21),

12. George Russell (GBR/Mercedes) +2.765 (122),

13. Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/Racing Bulls) +2.792 (64),

14. Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Sauber) +3.087 (68),

15. Alex Albon (THA/Williams) +3.243 (40),

16. Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine) +3.333 (60),

17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN/Haas) +4.348 (66),

18. Nico Hulkenberg (GER/Haas) +4.562 (82)


Major League Soccer chief blasts referees union over lockout

Major League Soccer chief blasts referees union over lockout
Updated 22 February 2024
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Major League Soccer chief blasts referees union over lockout

Major League Soccer chief blasts referees union over lockout
  • Garber: I can’t remember in my near 40 years of sports of having a bargaining unit reach agreement and not have their members support it
  • The referees’ previous five-year labor deal expired in January

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber has hit out at referee union members after talks broke down leaving the league to start the new season without their top referees.

Garber, speaking to reporters prior to the opening game of the season between Inter Miami and Real Salt Lake, warned MLS was “very prepared” to deal with the lockout of the officials.

The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) said on Saturday that 95.8 percent of their voting members had voted to reject the tentative deal they had reached with MLS’s Professional Referees Organization (PRO).

“I can’t remember in my near 40 years of sports of having a bargaining unit reach agreement and not have their members support it,” Garber told reporters, saying that over 20 bargaining sessions had been held before the deal was reached between negotiators.

“Very disappointing process. In my opinion, it was one that either was intentional or there’s a disconnect between the members and their elected negotiators,” he said.

“It’s not the way MLS was looking to start a season, but you can’t really negotiate with an entity that, in my opinion, hasn’t really negotiated with PRO fairly. So we’ll see how all that plays out in the weeks to come,” he added.

The referees’ previous five-year labor deal expired in January.

PSRA said the rejected deal fell “short of expectations, along with a lack of quality of life improvements.”

But Garber said it was not clear to him what the main issues were that needed resolving.

“At this point, we don’t even know what it is that they’re looking for because we agreed (a deal) with their elected representation.

“Not knowing what it is and how far PRO is apart from the PSRA, that is just not something that I can say is normal in a bargaining unit right now,” he said.

The PRSA responded quickly to Garber’s comments on social media.

“If the Commissioner doesn’t know what we want, he should simply ask his own Negotiating Committee. We have made it clear: “PRO negotiators failed to heed PSRA’s warnings at the table that the TA (agreement) would fall short of membership expectations and face an uphill ratification process,” the union posted.

PSRA members earlier staged protests on Wednesday outside MLS’s offices in midtown Manhattan and in Arlington, Texas.

“My hope would be that they would have come and told us what it was that the officials were looking for that their elected representatives were not able to deliver for them rather than spending their time on protesting outside our offices,” said Garber.

“So I’m sitting here today not quite sure what the next step is. I don’t know how you get to a point where there’s work stoppage and not know what it is that you’re disagreeing about.

“That’s frustrating. I imagine it’s frustrating for fans. It’s certainly frustrating for us. We’ll see how it plays out. I will tell you that we are very prepared.

“We’re more than willing to manage this in a way that’s in the best interest of our players, our teams, the best interest of our fans,” he said.


Duplantis says he is in ‘good shape’ and aiming for pole vault record

Duplantis says he is in ‘good shape’ and aiming for pole vault record
Updated 22 February 2024
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Duplantis says he is in ‘good shape’ and aiming for pole vault record

Duplantis says he is in ‘good shape’ and aiming for pole vault record
  • So far this season, Duplantis has fallen well short of 6m in his two appearances, starting at Astana in January
  • Duplantis said he plans to add one centimeter to his world record at the French meet, organized by his friend Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion and previous world record holder

CLERMONT-FERRAND, France: Despite a slow start to the season, Olympic pole vault champion Armand Duplantis said he is aiming to break his world record in Clermont-Ferrand five months before returning to France for the Paris Games.

Since 2020, the Swedish athlete has raised the world record from 6.16m to 6.23m, and is returning on Thursday to the indoor venue where he broke the record for sixth time last February, clearing 6.22.

The dedicated “All Star Perche” in central France comes less than two weeks before the men’s pole vault at the indoor world championships in Glasgow.

So far this season, Duplantis has fallen well short of 6m in his two appearances, starting at Astana in January. His best jump was 5.92 at a competition named after him, the Mondo Classic, in Upsala, Sweden on Feb. 6.

“I don’t think my first two competitions of the year reflected my real form,” he told AFP.

“I know that I’m in very good shape and also that I’m jumping very well.”

“My training is very good, at the level I want. Of course the first two competitions were a little frustrating, but these are very small things, easy to sort out.”

“They were two completely opposite competitions.”

“Kazakhstan was a difficult journey and my legs were really dead.”

“In Sweden, I felt really good, in great shape, but I was a bit too pumped. It was as if I was trying to break the record when the bar was only at six meters.

“I’ve done some good training since then. I feel good, I feel confident, I feel strong, fast. I’m confident about what I can do and where I stand, and I know that I’m at a high level at the moment.”

Duplantis said he plans to add one centimeter to his world record at the French meet, organized by his friend Renaud Lavillenie, the 2012 Olympic champion and previous world record holder.

“Six meters 24! That’s the objective. But there are stages to go through before that. First you have to win and clear the bars at less than six meters.”

“I think it’s possible, that it’s within my capabilities, and I want to show that this is the form I’m in, because I know I’m there. Of course I want to clear six meters again, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

He said he was looking forward to returning to the Maison des Sports in Clermont-Ferrand.

“You know it’s a track I feel comfortable on, where I’m able to jump well. The configuration should be the same as last year, and it’s a configuration in which I jumped high, in which I know I can jump well, I don’t expect it to change this year.”


Galeno stuns Arsenal with late Porto winner in Champions League

Galeno stuns Arsenal with late Porto winner in Champions League
Updated 22 February 2024
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Galeno stuns Arsenal with late Porto winner in Champions League

Galeno stuns Arsenal with late Porto winner in Champions League
  • The defeat ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run against Portuguese opposition

PORTO, Portugal: Galeno curled in a sublime stoppage-time strike as FC Porto defeated Arsenal 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie in Portugal on Wednesday.
Appearing in a first knockout match in Europe’s premier club competition for seven years, Arsenal struggled to break down an organized Porto defense before Galeno’s last-gasp stroke of brilliance.
The defeat ended Arsenal’s eight-game unbeaten run against Portuguese opposition and leaves Mikel Arteta’s side with plenty of work to do in the return leg in London next month.
Arteta stuck with the same starting line-up for the third game in succession following his team’s 5-0 demolition of Burnley at the weekend.
Porto defender Pepe, who turns 41 next week and is the oldest outfield player in Champions League history, made his 119th appearance in the competition.
By comparison, Arsenal’s starters had combined for a total of 104 before kick-off at the Estadio do Dragao.
While short on Champions League experience, Arteta has said his squad have the belief they can mix it with Europe’s best.
The Gunners have started the new year with five successive wins in the Premier League, scoring 21 goals in those games, and are firmly in the race for a first title since 2004.
As well as reigning supreme in England for the first time in 20 years, the north Londoners are convinced they can also conquer Europe, spurred on further by the prospect of a Wembley final.
Arsenal have never won the Champions League — losing their only final appearance against Barcelona in 2006.
Porto, European champions in 1987 and 2004, are a disappointing third in Portugal this term, but frustrated Arsenal throughout.
They were happy to cede possession and allow Arsenal to dictate the tempo in the first half, but it was the hosts who created the best chance.
Francisco Conceicao darted in from the right and slid over a cross that looped off a sliding Gabriel, with Galeno rifling against the far post and then steering the rebound wide after the ball came right back to him.
William Saliba and Kai Havertz headed wide at corners either side of a Nico Gonzalez drive that sailed over in a physical opening 45 minutes.
Leandro Trossard, deployed again as the leader of the attack alongside Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, lashed over on the volley from Declan Rice’s driven corner early in the second half.
Arteta made his first change with a quarter of an hour left, replacing Trossard with Jorginho, as Arsenal sought additional control in the closing minutes only to be undone by a moment of magic from Galeno.


Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca

Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca
Updated 22 February 2024
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Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca

Returning hero Osimhen snatches Champions League draw with Barca
  • Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona

NAPLES, Italy: Victor Osimhen made a special return to action for Napoli on Wednesday as his goal gave the Italian champions a 1-1 draw with Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Nigeria forward Osimhen rolled home the leveller with 15 minutes left of the first leg at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in his first match since returning from the African Cup of Nations.
The 25-year-old equalized Robert Lewandowski’s 60th-minute opener, which seemed likely to be the decisive goal as Barca were for long periods the better team, with Napoli’s first and only shot on target.
Osimhen had last played for Napoli in a 2-0 defeat at Roma just before Christmas, when he was one of two players from his team to be sent off.
His ninth club goal of the season came at a crucial time, not just in the match but in Napoli’s campaign as they play under their third manager of the season in Francesco Calzona.
Calzona had less than 48 hours to prepare for his first match in charge after replacing Walter Mazzarri on Monday night, and Osimhen gave Napoli a chance of progressing despite a disjointed performance by his team.
Napoli head into next month’s second leg in the Catalan capital knowing that they with Osimhen in the team there is always a chance of a goal regardless of the overall team display.
For Barca meanwhile it was the latest misstep of a complicated campaign at the end of which coach Xavi will leave, assuming president Joan Laporta doesn’t sack the coach before then.
The away side had the better chances but couldn’t put Napoli away and could yet pay for their wastefulness.
Barca showed why they were pre-match favorites in the opening exchanges, dominating the ball and creating shooting opportunities which dulled an initially raucous crowd.
Teen sensation Lamine Yamal come close to becoming the Champions League’s youngest ever scorer when his ninth-minute effort was well-saved by Alex Meret.
In the 23rd minute, the away side twice went close to taking the lead, Lewandowski’s flicked finish kept out by Meret who then tipped away Ilkay Gundogan’s long-range rocket.
From that point on Napoli’s presence in the game grew, but the hosts failed to let off a single effort on goal before the break despite pushing their opponents on back.
Gundogan forced another smart save from Meret shortly after the restart after being put through by Yamal before blasting over another presentable chance.
Barca had the lead their performance deserved on the hour when Lewandowski collected Pedri’s pass and drilled a perfect low finish past Meret.
With the away side looking like they would push home their advantage, Osimhen pounced as Inigo Martinez slipped on the edge of the area to level the scores and transform the atmosphere in the stadium.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and substitute Giovanni Simeone both had efforts off target with the home side’s tails up, but it was Barca who went inches away from snatching a late win.
Gundogan’s frustrating night in front of goal continued deep into stoppage time as his low effort flew just wide.