Afghanistan chase football milestone on road to 2026 World Cup

Afghanistan chase football milestone on road to 2026 World Cup
Afghanistan's Sharif Mukhammad (2L) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the 2026 FIFA World Cup AFC qualifiers football match between India and Afghanistan at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on March 26, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 10 June 2024
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Afghanistan chase football milestone on road to 2026 World Cup

Afghanistan chase football milestone on road to 2026 World Cup

HONG KONG: Afghanistan hope to achieve a footballing milestone on Tuesday by snatching a spot in the third and final phase of Asian qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.
The team ranked 151 in the world are on the brink of history and a place at the 2027 Asian Cup under their English coach Ashley Westwood.
Once on the books of Manchester United, he took over the Afghan team seven months ago and has masterminded a significant upturn in fortunes for the footballing minnows.
They play away at Kuwait on Tuesday in the final round of games in the second qualifying stage knowing they need to better India's result at Qatar to progress further.
Afghanistan held already qualified Qatar, the Asian champions, to a precious 0-0 draw on Thursday in a "home" game for the Afghans that was played in Saudi Arabia.
"When we took over in November just before the first game against Qatar, which we lost 8-1, (if) you told us that we'll be giving ourselves a chance of qualifying with one game to go, we wouldn't have believed it," Westwood said afterwards.
"The players are excited and we believe that we have a genuine chance of making history for Afghanistan in reaching the Asian Cup and third round of the World Cup qualifiers."
India are also trying to reach the final stage of World Cup qualifying for the first time.
Igor Stimac's side currently occupy the second qualifying berth from Group A on goal difference from the Afghans.
Just to complicate things, Kuwait are also in with a shot of progressing, with the group going right down to the wire.
After Stimac saw his men held to a goalless home draw against Kuwait on Thursday, the coach said: "We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves because our chances are still alive.
"I need to do everything in the next five days to make the boys believe they will take us into the challenge against the Asian champions."
Elsewhere, it is a straight shootout between China and Thailand for the second qualifying berth out of Group C.
China are in the driving seat in second place and needing only a point from their final game to guarantee advancement.
However, they must travel to Son Heung-min's table-topping South Korea while Thailand have a far easier task when they host basement side Singapore in Bangkok.
As well as Qatar and South Korea, also already into the last qualifying round are: Japan, Oman, Iran, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Australia and Palestine.
Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Indonesia are all bidding to join them in the third Asian qualifying round for the first time.
It is between Indonesia and Vietnam to take the second qualifying place out of Group F.
Indonesia will be favourites to progress because they are a point in front and host already eliminated Philippines in Jakarta. Vietnam travel to table-toppers Iraq.


Berlin fan zone reaches capacity amid Euro fever

Berlin fan zone reaches capacity amid Euro fever
Updated 14 June 2024
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Berlin fan zone reaches capacity amid Euro fever

Berlin fan zone reaches capacity amid Euro fever
  • Hundreds of thousands of Berliners flocked to the iconic gate in downtown Berlin to watch the match
  • Berlin police said an hour before kick-off “the fan zone at Brandenburg Gate has reached its capacity”

BERLIN: A fan zone at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate was filled to capacity ahead of the Euro 2024 opening game between Germany and Scotland on Friday, with police saying the venue could hold no more people and the local underground station was also closed.
Hundreds of thousands of Berliners flocked to the iconic gate in downtown Berlin to watch the match on big screens and 90 minutes before kick-off fans could be seen running and jostling with stewards and security personnel as they tried to enter.
Berlin police announced on social media site X around an hour before kick-off that “the fan zone at Brandenburg Gate has reached its capacity. No more fans will be allowed in.”
Police later said on X that the nearby train station was also closed, though trains would continue to run through it.
Earlier in the evening, an area at a nearby fan zone near the German parliament was cordoned off due to a suspect device.


Esports World Cup adds ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’ and ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ competitions

Esports World Cup adds ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’ and ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ competitions
Updated 14 June 2024
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Esports World Cup adds ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’ and ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ competitions

Esports World Cup adds ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III’ and ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ competitions
  • EWC schedule consists of 22 competitions across 21 games, making it the largest multi-game e-sports tournament of all time
  • Federation CEO says World Cup ‘cemented our promise to deliver the world’s best games’

RIYADH: The Esports World Cup Foundation said on Friday that “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III” and “Call of Duty: Warzone” had been added to the games that will be part of the inaugural Esports World Cup this summer in Riyadh.
The EWC schedule consists of 22 competitions across 21 games, making it the largest multi-game e-sports tournament of all time.
EWCF’s CEO Ralf Reichert said: “By adding two amazing ‘Call of Duty’ games to EWC, we have cemented our promise to deliver the world’s best games to e-sports fans everywhere.
“‘Call of Duty’ is the final piece of our historic EWC 2024 schedule, and we are excited to welcome its athletes and global fanbase to Riyadh this summer.”
Since its original launch in 2003, the “Call of Duty” franchise has remained one of the world’s most popular video games. “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III” is one of the best-selling video games of 2023 in the US.
Published in March 2020, “Call of Duty: Warzone” found instant success as the franchise’s first entry into the battle royale genre. Both games feature robust e-sports ecosystems that engage fans in a variety of formats ranging from league-based play to open circuit competitions.
EWC will also host competitions in “Apex Legends,” “Counter-Strike 2,” “Dota 2,” “EA Sports FC 24,” “Fortnite,” “Free Fire,” “Honor of Kings,” “League of Legends,” “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang,” “Overwatch 2,” “PUBG Battlegrounds,” “PUBG Mobile,” “ESL R1,” “Rocket League,” “StarCraft II,” “Street Fighter 6,” “Teamfight Tactics,” “TEKKEN 8” and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 Siege.”
Each of the championships at EWC will have its own prize pool with a combined total exceeding $33 million. By adding these two games, the EWCF has created additional opportunities for additional athletes to participate at the event and earn a piece of life-changing winnings.
During the tournament, the “Call of Duty: Warzone” competition, running Jul. 3-6, will feature 21 teams battling for a share of a $1 million prize pool, and the “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III” competition, Aug. 15-18, will have 16 teams vying for a $1.8 million prize pool.
Results in both competitions contribute points to the overall Club Championship rankings, an innovative cross-game competitive format unique to the EWC.
Winners of at least one EWC game competition become eligible for the Club Championship’s top prize of $7 million (out of a $20 million pool to the top 16 clubs) and the prestigious title of Esports World Cup Club champion.


USA into T20 World Cup Super Eights, Pakistan out, after rain strikes again

USA into T20 World Cup Super Eights, Pakistan out, after rain strikes again
Updated 14 June 2024
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USA into T20 World Cup Super Eights, Pakistan out, after rain strikes again

USA into T20 World Cup Super Eights, Pakistan out, after rain strikes again
  • The match between Ireland and USA was abandoned after a heavy downpour
  • Pakistan were in a precarious situation in the tournament after USA’s shock win

Lauderhill, UNITED STATES: The USA advanced to the Super Eights stage of the T20 World Cup on Friday when their match against Ireland was abandoned, an outcome which meant former champions Pakistan were eliminated.

Ground staff spent hours working to dry the wet outfield at Lauderhill but shortly after the umpires had inspected conditions a huge downpour ended any hope with the field quickly under water once again.

The USA reach the last eight in their debut appearance in the T20 World Cup largely thanks to their shock win over 2009 champions Pakistan.

A USA defeat to Ireland would have handed Pakistan the chance to leapfrog into the top two when they face Ireland at the same venue on Sunday.

Instead, the early exit is a bitter disappointment for Pakistan, who were beaten finalists in the tournament two years ago.

This is the earliest Pakistan have exited T20 World Cup, having played just three games with a defeat to India and their sole victory coming against Canada.

Pakistan were knocked out in the group stage in 2014 and 2016, but on every other occasion made it to the last four of the tournament.

Fans who had waited patiently inside the Central Broward Stadium were instructed to stay in the facility and in shelter due to thunder and lightning which accompanied the torrential rain.

The two teams will receive a point each meaning the USA will progress to the Super Eights along with Group A winners India who are due to play Canada on Saturday in what is now a dead rubber

South Florida has suffered heavy rain and flooding and the game on Tuesday at Lauderhill between Sri Lanka and Nepal was also abandoned.

There were heavy showers earlier on Friday morning which added to the workload which all proved to be in vain.

But while it was not the way they wanted to qualify, the USA team celebrated in their locker-room what is a historic achievement for the associate nation.

“As a cricketer, you don’t want to leave home and not play cricket, you want to play but at the end of the day there was nothing that we could control,” said USA vice-captain Aaron Jones, who was again stand-in skipper in the absence of the injured Monank Patel.

“Definitely we celebrated. Everybody is happy right now, obviously qualifying for the Super Eights is a big deal,” added Jones, who has been the stand-out batter for the USA team.

Jones was vocal before the tournament in insisting the USA were not just happy to be involved but believed they could win games and he said that attitude would continue against the tougher opponents that await.

“I think that on any given day, once we play proper cricket that we can beat any team in the world,” said the New York born Jones, who grew up in Barbados and will return to the Caribbean for the next round of games.

The spot in the last eight also means that the USA have qualified automatically for the 2026 World Cup.


Palestinian swimmer hopes to lift spirits of Gazans at Olympics

Palestinian swimmer hopes to lift spirits of Gazans at Olympics
Updated 14 June 2024
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Palestinian swimmer hopes to lift spirits of Gazans at Olympics

Palestinian swimmer hopes to lift spirits of Gazans at Olympics

DUBAI: Palestinian swimmer Yazan Al Bawwab, who is training for the 2024 Olympic Games, has a mission. He wants to represent Palestinians suffering from Israel’s bombardment of Gaza by making a splash on the international stage.
These Olympics, which kick off in Paris on July 26, are perhaps more important than the last games in 2021 when he competed in Tokyo, he said.
“We, as Palestinian players, are here to raise the flag and show people that we are here, and even if we face difficulties, we will be there and represent the Palestinian people,” he said.
The 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza need all the help they can get as they endure dire conditions.
Israel agression on Gaza killed more than 37,000 people and reduced much of the Gaza Strip to rubble.
Bawwab, 24, who was born in Saudi Arabia to Palestinian refugees, is chasing a dream that is not his alone.
“My father’s dream was to learn how to swim and become a swimmer,” Al Bawwab told Reuters in Dubai, where he conducts his workouts and runs a furniture factory.
But his father, Rashad Al Bawwab, who left Palestinian territory when he was 18, was not able to realize that dream.
“I wanted Yazan to enter swimming, because I loved swimming and it’s a beautiful sport,” the senior Al Bawwab said.
His father said the upcoming games in Paris are an opportunity for his son to help the Palestinian cause.
“But what’s more important is that he represents an oppressed people, whose rights are repressed,” Rashad said.
Aside from the near constant bombardments, Palestinians in Gaza are suffering a humanitarian crisis, with severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Many of their homes have been destroyed.
Al Bawwab was born and raised outside of the Palestinian territories. But he says: “I remain Palestinian, Palestine is in my heart and all my thoughts.”
In Dubai, Al Bawwab trains by himself and with retired Palestinian Olympic swimmer Ahmed Gebrel, who represented Palestine at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Gebrel says: “I’m confident that he’s at the top level and will represent us in the best way.”
Al Bawwab will travel to an Olympic training camp in the Netherlands next week and then onto France. Ahead of the competition, his focus will be on three things — training, eating, and sleeping.
“Inshallah (God willing) we’ll win something, and make the country and the people proud,” he says.
“I want to show people that Palestinians are strong. If we’re given an opportunity, we’ll take it.”


Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US
Updated 14 June 2024
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Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

Dakota Ditcheva victorious as 2024 PFL Global Season resumes in the US

CONNECTICUT: The Professional Fighters League resumed on Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, with an 11-fight card in the men’s heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions, that featured eight athletes earning 2024 PFL Playoff berths.

In the evening’s co-main event, Dakota Ditcheva defeated Chelsea Hackett by first-round knockout in a women’s flyweight bout.

Ditcheva remained undefeated at 12-0 with 10 knockouts, and clinched the top playoff spot in the division.

Valentin Moldavsky entered the PFL SmartCage in a highly anticipated trilogy matchup against Linton Vassell. After three punishing rounds, Vassell earned a split decision victory and is now 2-1 against his foe. Although he did not win, Moldavsky also heads to the 2024 PFL Global Season Playoffs.

Also in the heavyweight division, Denis Golstov defeated Thiago Santos by first-round technical knockout, to punch his ticket to his fifth PFL playoff.

In women’s flyweight action, former Bellator champion Liz Carmouche and Kana Watanabe squared off in an exciting rematch. The contest was even going into the third round and looked to be headed to the judges’ scorecards before Carmouche locked in an armbar submission with eight seconds remaining.

Said PFL CEO Peter Murray: “The 2024 PFL Global Season resumed this evening with the highest of stakes as the heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions looked to secure 2024 PFL Global Playoff berths and continue their million-dollar journeys.

“The PFL is the only organization in which the athletes and fans know what is needed to advance, which provides for the best action and unparalleled synergy with the audience.”

Ray Sefo, president of fighter operations at the PFL, said: “Tonight in Connecticut we saw our world-class PFL athletes fight their way to the PFL Playoffs. We look forward to next week’s action in Salt Lake City. It is officially time to win or go home.”

Taila Santos and Jena Bishop met in women’s flyweight action, with both having a viable shot at a berth in the 2024 PFL Playoffs. Both women left it all in the PFL SmartCage for three rounds, with Santos winning by split decision.

Oleg Popov defeated Davion Franklin by unanimous decision in a heavyweight clash, and extended his winning streak to 16, the longest in mixed martial arts.

Marcelo Golm and Tyrell Fortune duked it out in heavyweight action, with the bout going the distance. Fortune took the unanimous decision win and secured three points in the season standings.

Flyweights Ilara Joanne and Shanna Young traded blows for three rounds, but it was Joanne who won via unanimous decision.

In heavyweight action, Tim Johnson made quick work of Danilo Marques with a first-round technical knockout. Johnson is now 18-9 with 10 knockouts. Johnson, who took the fight on short notice, earned six points.

In an exciting flyweight bout, Juliana Velasquez used her striking prowess to beat Lisa Mauldin by technical knockout in the second round. Velasquez is now 13-3 with five knockouts.

Kicking off the night, Sumiko Inaba defeated Saray Orozco by split decision in a women’s flyweight bout. Inaba moved her career record to 7-1 in her PFL debut.

The 2024 PFL Global Season continues Friday, June 21, from Salt Lake City, Utah, with light-heavyweight and lightweight action across ESPN platforms in the US and via DAZN in Canada and Europe.