Major League Soccer must attract best players to grow: Infantino

Major League Soccer  must attract best players to grow: Infantino
This handout picture released by the Argentinian Presidency shows Argentina's President Javier Milei (L) with FIFA's President Gianni Infantino at the Milken Institute's Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 6, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 07 May 2024
Follow

Major League Soccer must attract best players to grow: Infantino

Major League Soccer  must attract best players to grow: Infantino
  • Infantino said Inter Miami’s signing of Lionel Messi, and the club’s acquisition of other big-name players such as Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, had proven the demand for top talent among US fans

LOS ANGELES: FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Monday Major League Soccer needs to sign more top players in order to boost the profile of the sport in the US.

Infantino, speaking at a conference in Los Angeles, said he told MLS officials recently that bringing in the world’s best players would take football to the next level.

“I told them you have to be a bit more bold, a bit more in the game,” Infantino said at the Milken Institute Global Conference. “Bring in the best players.”

Infantino said Inter Miami’s signing of Lionel Messi, and the club’s acquisition of other big-name players such as Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, had proven the demand for top talent among US fans.

The FIFA chief alluded to the record 65,612 crowd who flocked to the New England Revolution’s recent home game against Miami at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots.

“The ‘Messi effect’ if we want to call it that way, you see Messi and Inter Miami filling stadiums, and not MLS stadiums but NFL stadiums,” Infantino said.

MLS salary and roster restrictions mean that teams are unable to spend freely when it comes to signing top players.

However the league has faced growing calls — not least from broadcast partner Apple TV — to relax those rules in order to enable clubs to target more top talent.

Infantino said bringing in top talent would ultimately reap dividends at grass roots level in North America, encouraging young players to believe they could forge a career in soccer.

“We want to see the best so we need to bring them the best players, but also the best game, and the best spectacle,” Infantino said.

“For this we need to invest in the players because we want to show to the kids who play soccer when they are at school or when they are very young, that there is a path in soccer to glory to become one of these world stars.

“This is what maybe they don’t see yet. They see it in basketball, American football, in baseball and ice hockey. But in soccer, it’s still kind of far away. You have to go to Europe. And is there really a great American soccer player?“


‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world

‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world
Updated 55 min 54 sec ago
Follow

‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world

‘I’m a believer in dreams’: Southgate wants Euro 2024 glory so England get respect of soccer world
  • “I’m not a believer in fairy tales,” England coach Gareth Southgate said on Saturday, “but I’m a believer in dreams”
  • Southgate has played a central role in England’s painful journey of agonizing exits, near-misses and national angst down the years

BERLIN: For the English, it’s largely self-deprecating banter.
For pretty much everybody else, it’s a sign of arrogance and entitlement.
“Football’s Coming Home” — the England team soccer anthem — have been sung on the streets of cities throughout Germany over the past month, and will be roared with even more gusto in Berlin in the next 24 hours.
England are in the European Championship final against Spain on Sunday, a chance for the underachieving birthplace of soccer to capture a major men’s title for the first time since the 1966 World Cup on home soil.
A chance, it is being said by England, for football to come home.
“I’m not a believer in fairy tales,” England coach Gareth Southgate said on Saturday, “but I’m a believer in dreams.”
Southgate has played a central role in England’s painful journey of agonizing exits, near-misses and national angst down the years.
It was Southgate, England’s coach since 2016, who led the team to a first major final since 1966 only to lose to Italy in a penalty shootout in the 2021 Euro final.
Twenty-five years earlier, it was Southgate — then a defender of modest ability — who missed what proved to be a decisive penalty in England’s shootout defeat to Germany in the Euro 1996 semifinals.
The “Football’s Coming Home” anthem is born from the “Three Lions” song that was released before Euro 1996.
One of its lines spoke of “30 years of hurt.” It is now 58 years of hurt, and the fans are still singing it.
“It has been going on for years and years,” said England fan Justin Tucknott, a 54-year-old business analyst who was grabbing a drink at a bar near Olympiastadion in a sun-kissed evening in the German capital.
“We’re going to keep singing it until it does come home. And when it does, the words will be changed slightly.”
England’s chances of ending that men’s title drought approaching nearly 60 years have improved under Southgate, with the team reaching back-to-back Euro finals and getting to the World Cup semifinals in 2018.
He has had to change the mentality and culture in a squad that are regularly full of some of the top players in the English Premier League, the most popular and watched domestic league in the world.
Famous and rich, the players maybe thought they had a divine right to win titles at international level as often as they do at club level.
Southgate quickly drummed it into them that they don’t.
“We have tried to change the mindset from the start, tried to be more honest about where we were as a football nation,” Southgate said. “I traveled to World Cups and European Championships as an observer and watched highlights reels of matches that were on the big screens — and we weren’t in any of them.
“They only showed the finals and big games. We needed to change that. We had high expectations but they didn’t match where we were, performance-wise. … We’ve come through a lot of big nights now, a lot of records have been broken, but we know we have to get this trophy to really feel the respect of the rest of the football world.”
England started slowly — very slowly — at Euro 2024, relying on big moments from big players to get them through to the semifinals. There, the team produced their best performance so far, but still needed a goal exactly on 90 minutes from Ollie Watkins to get past the Netherlands.
“It builds resilience and belief,” England captain Harry Kane said.
It’s an increasingly confident England heading into the final. And much of that comes from the coach.
“Tomorrow, I don’t have any fear what might happen,” Southgate said, “because I have been through everything. I want the players to feel that fearlessness.
“If we are not afraid to lose, it gives us a better chance of winning.”


Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
Updated 13 July 2024
Follow

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor

Amr Zedan clinches Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024 at Windsor
  • Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan wins for second time in row
  • Zedan participated in the US Polo Assn team, which was led by Prince William

LONDON: The US Polo Assn team, led by the Prince of Wales, Prince William, and with the participation of the Saudi Polo Federation’s President Amr Zedan, have won the Royal Charity Polo Cup 2024.
It was Zedan’s second triumph in a row in the competition, which was held at the Guards Polo Club fields in Windsor, London, with the Japanese company Out-Sourcing Inc sponsoring the tournament.
The US Polo Assn team were crowned after drawing with the Malaysian team BP 4-4 and surpassing them on goal difference in the championship rounds.
Alongside Prince William and Zedan in the attack were Ayawat Srivaddhanaprabha, the CEO of King Power, representing Thailand, and Mark Tomlinson, representing the UK. Khaled Al-Ajmi, a board member of the SPF, and Faisal bin Dwaid, the federation’s CEO, were also present.
Zedan’s participation helped in furthering the SPF’s role in local and international social responsibility, while helping it toward its goals through participation and support in social events.
British media reports said that Prince William had taken part in the polo match to help raise more than $1.5 million for his charities. According to the UK’s royal family website, the funds raised by the match will be distributed across 11 charities and causes supported by Prince William and the Princess of Wales.


Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
Updated 13 July 2024
Follow

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini

Barbora Krejcikova wins Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam trophy by beating Jasmine Paolini
  • Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise
  • “It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova

LONDON: Barbora Krejcikova kept insisting that nobody — not her friends, not her family, not even herself — would believe she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.
Her first major championship, as an unseeded player at the French Open three years ago, certainly was a surprise. This one, which came via a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory over Jasmine Paolini in the final at the All England Club on Saturday, was maybe just as unpredictable, sure, but perhaps now it’s time to recognize that these sorts of results from Krejcikova are not only possible but make perfect sense.
“It’s just unreal what just happened. Definitely the best day of my tennis career — and also the best day of my life,” said Krejcikova, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, who thanked her late mentor, 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, for pushing her into professional tennis.
Even while holding her gold champion’s plate, Krejcikova described herself as “the lucky one” for getting past the seventh-seeded Paolini, who also was the runner-up at the French Open last month.
Krejcikova was only the 31st of 32 seeds at the All England Club after illness and a back injury this season limited her to a 7-9 record entering this tournament. Then came a three-setter in the first round last week, adding to the doubts.
But by the end of the fortnight, there Paolini was during the trophy ceremony, telling Krejcikova: “You play such beautiful tennis.”
Krejcikova is the eighth woman to leave Wimbledon as the champion in the past eight editions of the event. Last year’s champion also is from the Czech Republic: unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who lost in the first round last week.
Paolini is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to get to the finals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same season — and the first since Venus Williams in 2002 to lose both.
Saturday’s finalists took turns being in charge.
Playing coolly and efficiently — seemingly effortlessly — Krejcikova claimed 10 of the first 11 points and quickly owned a double-break lead at 5-1.
As much as the crowd, likely because of a desire to see a more competitive contest, pulled loudly for Paolini, yelling “Forza!” (“Let’s go!”) the way she often does, or “Calma!” (“Be calm!”), Krejcikova never wavered.
She has net skills, to be sure — that’s part of why she has won seven Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, including two at Wimbledon — but Krejcikova mainly was content to stay back at the baseline, simply delivering one smooth groundstroke after another to its appointed spot and getting the better of the lengthiest exchanges.
There really was no need for anything other than Plan A in the early going in front of a Center Court crowd that included actors Tom Cruise, Kate Beckinsale and Hugh Jackman.
Paolini did try to shake things up a bit, with the occasional serve-and-volley rush forward or drop shot, but she couldn’t solve Krejcikova. Not yet, anyway.
After the lopsided first set, Paolini went to the locker room. She emerged a different player, one who no longer looked like someone burdened by residual fatigue from the longest women’s semifinal in Wimbledon history, her 2-hour, 51-minute win over Donna Vekic on Thursday.
Paolini had come back from dropping the first set in that one, so she knew she had it in her. And she began the second set against Krejcikova in style, using deep groundstrokes to grab a 3-0 advantage.
Once the match was tied at a set apiece, it was Krejcikova who left the court to try to recalibrate.
Her shots that suddenly went so awry in the match’s middle — after just four winners in the second set, she accumulated 14 in the third — were back to being crisp and clean.
“I was just telling myself to be brave,” Krejcikova said.
At 3-all in the deciding set, it was Paolini who faltered, double-faulting for the only time all afternoon to get broken.
Krejcikova then held at love for 5-3, but when she served for the championship, things got a little tougher.
She needed to save a pair of break points and required three match points to get across the finish line, winning when Paolini missed a backhand.
“Nobody believes that I got to the final. And I think nobody’s going to believe that I won Wimbledon,” Krejcikova said several minutes later. “I still cannot believe it. It’s unbelievable.”


Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
Updated 13 July 2024
Follow

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad

Former France boss Laurent Blanc takes over at Saudi club Al-Ittihad
  • Frenchman will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema

PARIS: Former France manager Laurent Blanc has been hired as coach of Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Arabian club announced on Saturday.
Blanc, who had been out of work since being fired by Lyon last September, will be reunited in Jeddah with one star from his 2012 Euro squad Karim Benzema.
After the team finished fifth in the Saudi league last season, the 36-year-old striker, the club’s star recruit, reportedly campaigned for a French-speaking coach.
This prompted the resignation of club president Louay Nazer, who had reportedly reached an agreement with Italian Stefano Pioli, who had left AC Milan.
The Al-Ittihad squad also includes N’Golo Kante, a starter in the France team that reached the last four at the current Euros, and former Monaco and Liverpool Brazilian Fabinho.
The 58-year-old Blanc was at the heart of the France defense as they won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
In his second season as a manager he led Bordeaux to a League 1 title. He coached France from 2010-12.
He guided Qatari-own Paris Saint-Germain to three Ligue 1 titles and five domestic cups between 2013 and 2016, had a stint in Qatar with Al-Rayyan from December 2020 to February 2022 and a painful 11 months from October 2022 when he was unable to reverse Lyon’s decline.
Al-Ittihad have not specified the length of Blanc’s contract.
He will be the club’s third coach in a year following Nuno Espirito Santo, who led the club to a ninth Saudi title in 2023, and Marcelo Gallardo.
Last season the club finished only fifth in the table, 42 points behind runaway champions Al-Hilal. They failed to qualify for the Asian Champions League.
Argentine Gallardo, who dropped the misfiring Benzema for a time, was fired in July after less than seven months in the job.


French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics
Updated 13 July 2024
Follow

French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics

French sports minister takes a dip in the Seine ahead of Paris Olympics
  • Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge
  • She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France

PARIS: French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra took a symbolic dip in the Seine on Saturday in a bid to ease concerns about water quality before the start of the Paris Olympics.
Oudéa-Castéra, dressed in a body suit, dove into the famous river after an initial slip and swam a few meters near the Alexandre III bridge, where the Olympic open water swimming competition will be held.
“We held our promise,” she said to BFMTV, referring to an earlier pledge to swim in the Seine before the Games begin on July 26.
She was accompanied by Alexis Hanquinquant, the Paralympic flag bearer for France.
Ever since swimming in the Seine was banned in 1923 due to pollution levels, French politicians have promised to make the river swimmable again. Former Paris mayor and later president Jacques Chirac famously vowed in 1988 that the river would be clean enough to swim in by the end of his term, a promise that went unfulfilled.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also plans to swim in the Seine to prove its cleanliness.
In February, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to take a dip, too. But he added: “I’m not going to give you the date: There’s a risk you’ll be there.”
Hanquinquant, a para-triathlete, joined Oudéa-Castéra in Saturday’s swim and experienced firsthand the conditions he will face in competition on Sept. 1.
If water quality issues arise, organizers have backup plans.