Monthly Archives: March 2019

European clubs still hopeful of 2022 World Cup in May

A FIFA task force, set up to find the best time of year to stage the tournament, meets for the third and final time in Doha on Tuesday when it is expected to make a recommendation to the FIFA executive committee.

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On the basis of that recommendation, the final decision on the long-running saga should then be made in Zurich on March 20.

After the last task force meeting in November, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said that the January/February 2022 or November/December 2022 options were the favourites.

However, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said earlier this month that he had received an assurance from FIFA president Sepp Blatter that there would be no overlap with the 2022 Winter Olympics.

That would effectively rule out the January/February option, leaving November/December as the only choice.

However, the European Clubs’ Association (ECA) said they believed that May was still on the table.

“Our position remains unchanged really,” an ECA spokesman told Reuters.

“We have elaborated a proposal with EPFL (the Association of European Professional Leagues), which our representatives will present to the task force tomorrow. We want it to be seriously discussed.

“We are surprised by the reports claiming that there is an agreement. We are not aware.”

DESERT HEAT

Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup on the basis that the finals would be staged in June/July using naturally cooled stadia to alleviate the effects of the searing desert heat.

Qatar has continued to say it is happy to stage the World Cup in June/July and that the cooling technology will be ready.

Despite this, there is widespread agreement that the tournament should be held in the cooler months, particularly for the benefit of visiting fans.

ECA’s proposal is for the finals to be staged from May 5 to June 4, which it said would cause less disruption to the European club season and would not require the World Cup to be squeezed between club commitments.

It argues that the weather in May would be “acceptable”, especially if the stadiums are cooled.

ECA said that, in the worst case, it would be similar to some cities in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup and better than some games played at the World Cups in Mexico (1986) and the United States (1994).

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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McLaren blame gusting winds for Alonso crash

The team said in an update on Monday that the double world champion was making a solid recovery in hospital in Barcelona, chatting to family and friends, and would remain there under observation.

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They cast doubt, however, on whether the Spaniard would take part in this week’s final four-day test in Barcelona before the opening race of the season in Australia on March 15.

McLaren said a detailed analysis of damage to the car, and telemetry data, indicated “the accident was caused by the unpredictably gusty winds at that part of the circuit at that time, and which had affected other drivers similarly.

“We can categorically state that there is no evidence that indicates that Fernando’s car suffered mechanical failure of any kind,” they said.

The data also showed the car had no loss of aerodynamic pressure nor was there any electrical discharge or irregularity in the ERS (energy recovery) system before, during or after the incident.

“That last point refutes the erroneous rumours that have spread recently to the effect that Fernando was rendered unconscious by an electrical fault. That is simply not true,” the team said.

“Our data clearly shows that he was downshifting while applying full brake pressure right up to the moment of the first impact — something that clearly would not have been possible had he been unconscious at the time.”

While the driver’s manager posted a photograph on Twitter of a smiling Alonso giving a thumbs up to the camera, McLaren said he would need time to recover from sedation.

“We intend to give him every opportunity to make a rapid and complete recovery, and will evaluate in due course whether or not he will participate in the next Barcelona test,” they said

The third and final pre-season test starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday, with the teams then returning to their factories before flying to Melbourne.

Alonso is back at McLaren, where he spent a sole season in 2007, after five years at Ferrari to start a new Honda-powered era for the team.

Testing had been challenging for McLaren even before the accident, with Alonso and 2009 champion team mate Jenson Button having to contend with repeated power unit problems.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

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Chelsea to appeal against Matic red card v Burnley – Sky

Matic was sent off in the 70th minute at Stamford Bridge for his violent reaction to a studs-up challenge from Burnley’s Ashley Barnes.

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But the FA said on Twitter on Monday that no action would be taken against Barnes as the incident was seen by the officials.

“A criminal tackle. Matic is a very lucky guy,” said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after his midfield player escaped injury.

The 26-year-old Serbian international rushed at Barnes and pushed him to the ground but he was defended by his manager.

“Football is about emotions and clearly Nemanja Matic had a reason to lose his emotions,” Mourinho said.

“What are the consequences of his push? Nothing. The consequence for Matic from the tackle? It could have been the end of his career.”

The FA added on Twitter: “In the vast majority of challenges for the ball, no retrospective action is taken as the incident has been seen by the match officials.

“Retrospective action introduced as deterrent for ‘off the ball incidents’ (for example kicks, stamps etc) committed out of sight of officials.

“Whole game in agreement that, in vast majority of cases, match officials are best-placed to deal with incidents to avoid re-refereeing.”

Chelsea must submit their appeal to the FA by 1300 GMT on Tuesday. Unless it succeeds, Matic will miss Sunday’s League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.

He will also be banned for Premier League matches against West Ham United and Southampton.

(Reporting by Mike Collett, additional reporting by Ken Ferris; editing by Tony Jimenez and Justin Palmer)

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Two wins in three weeks a dream come true for Lahiri

Out of nowhere the 27-year-old Indian has rocketed to 34th in the world rankings after following his victory in the Malaysian Open two weeks ago by landing the co-sanctioned Indian Open title in New Delhi on Sunday.

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“This is what dreams are made of,” Lahiri told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday. “You don’t expect this sort of thing to happen all the time.

“I wasn’t anticipating these two performances to come in such a rush. Malaysia was very special of course, achieving my first European Tour win and getting into the world’s top 50.

“Since then I’ve found it easier to play with a little more freedom.”

Lahiri, though, has a tendency to make a drama out of a crisis.

He had to sink a 40-foot putt at the 17th hole to edge out Austrian Bernd Wiesberger in Malaysia and his second European Tour win also came as a result of a moment of magic.

Lahiri chipped in for a par at the penultimate hole of regulation in New Delhi before going on to defeat countryman SSP Chawrasia in a playoff.

“That was quite a moment for me,” he laughed. “The 17th at the Delhi Golf Club is a short par-three but it had a wicked pin position at the back corner of the green.

“I pushed my tee shot, it got caught in the wind and my ball narrowly escaped going into the thorn bushes. It rested on some twigs and leaves and I didn’t really have a backswing because of the bushes so I just tried to bump it up on the green.

“I couldn’t get there in two and then chipped in from four or five yards off the green. I was three or four yards from being dead because Delhi is infamous for having big clumpy thorn bushes that you can’t even get near to — they are everywhere.”

HARD WAY

Lahiri clearly likes to do things the hard way. Sunday’s victory was his fourth at the Delhi Golf Club and all of them have been in playoffs.

“I seem to attract a lot of drama whenever I win there, even my wins on the Asian Tour,” he said.

“My win at the Delhi Golf Club last year came after I eagled the last and won by one shot. Fortunately for me I’m able to extricate myself from a lot of these difficult situations.”

His experience at the European Tour’s six-round Qualifying School event in Spain in November provided further evidence of a steely nerve.

“I don’t know why I like making a habit of these dramatic finishes but I was pretty much cruising at Q School,” said Lahiri, who was speaking to Reuters in an interview arranged by club suppliers Srixon (南宁夜网.srixon.co.uk).

“I led for two days and then I don’t know what happened in the last two and a half rounds because it was a struggle.

“Suddenly at the 13th on the last day I found myself one shot outside the qualifying spots. I had my back up against the wall so it was something very special to me that I could make two birdies and get myself over the line.

“It was the toughest stretch of the course and I played it in two-under-par.”

Q School may have been three months ago but it now appears light years away for Lahiri who is thrilled at the prospect of playing in this year’s U.S. Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and U.S. PGA Championship.

“There is so much to look forward to, the majors, the World Golf Championship events and I’m trying to get an invite to the Players Championship in Florida,” he said.

“The world has just opened up to me in the space of three weeks.”

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Maguire excited by Stewart’s NRL potential

Michael Maguire believes the leg and ankle injuries which kept key signing Glenn Stewart off the park have the potential to prolong the former Manly star’s career.

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An ankle injury restricted Stewart to just six games in maroon and white in 2014 and the classy back-rower missed the first six rounds of the 2013 season following knee surgery.

He also endured an injury-disrupted 2012 after breaking his hand in round one and picking up a knee-injury mid-year.

But far from being deterred by the 31-year-old’s injury trouble over the past three seasons, Maguire believes the time spent off the field should freshen the 185-game veteran up.

The early indications look promising, with the one-time NSW and Australia representative playing a starring role in the Rabbitohs’ record-breaking World Club Challenge victory over St Helens.

“I think he’s going to have a great benefit from it,” Maguire said.

“His body has obviously had a lot of wear and tear over the years, but he hasn’t had too many injuries.

“So to have that bit of a spell, he’s actually come back into our pre-season as the fittest he says he’s felt in a long, long time.

“For us we’re just happy to have him in the green and red.”

Stewart, meanwhile, admits he has looked ahead on the calendar to see when he will face off against his old club.

He will have to wait until round 16, with the Bunnies hosting Manly at ANZ Stadium on June 26 – and a return to Brookvale Oval won’t be until round 22.

Stewart left Manly in difficult circumstances, with club management’s decision to not offer the two-time premiership winner a new deal causing ructions within the playing group which has since led to star Anthony Watmough walking out to join Parramatta.

But while Watmough has been happy to fan the flames following his fiery exit from Manly, Stewart is reluctant to stick the boot into his old club, where younger brother Brett remains.

“It was a big part of my life but things change and I’ve moved on,” he said.

“It’s all about Souths for me now.

“The boys have really welcomed me and so has the coaching staff and the fans have been really good too.

“I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous and worried about going because I’d been at Manly for so long but they’ve really welcomed me and I feel good there.”

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The secret behind Souths’ record WCC win

The smiles that crept across the faces of each South Sydney player, and even the normally unflappable Michael Maguire, gave away the secret behind their record-breaking World Club Challenge win.

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It wasn’t the ball-playing back-rowers, Glenn Stewart and John Sutton, who wreaked havoc on the edges of St Helens’ defence, nor the freakish defensive efforts which held their opponents to zero points.

Rather, it concerned halfback Adam Reynolds’s cheeky field goal with the clock winding down which took the Rabbitohs’ lead to 39 points – a record in the fixture.

That one point meant this magnificent South Sydney side, who in the past six months have claimed the NRL premiership, been crowned world champions, won the Auckland Nines and retained the Charity Shield, had another piece of history attached to it.

Surely a coach as meticulous as Maguire, who manages games down to the minute, would be conscious of the record which was right before his side?

So you ask Maguire, whose demeanour is normally more in line with a Buckingham Palace Guard, had a message been sent out that the record was in play?

“I wasn’t aware. I was told that at the end of the game that we broke the record,” Maguire, doing his best to maintain a straight face, explained.

“It was the players (who called for it).

“I think Adam, at that time, just saw an opportunity and he took it.”

Captain Greg Inglis, sitting alongside Maguire in the press conference, couldn’t help but crack a small grin.

That they took the honour from fierce rivals Sydney Roosters, who had beaten St Helens 38-0 in 2003 and shared that winning margin with the 2000 Melbourne Storm side, likely makes the record extra special.

One by one the Bunnies players lined up to express their surprise.

Some, such as the straight-faced Reynolds, sold it better than others like halves partner Luke Keary who beamed when asked about it.

“Oh no, I had no idea – I promise you,” the five-eighth said earnestly while stifling laughter.

“We were a bit all over the shop there and when Adam came back on (having left the field with concussion) we thought we’d just settle it down and put one point over and then get control of the game again.”

Most observers at Langtree Park felt the Rabbitohs were in reasonable control of the game at 38-0 up, with two minutes remaining.

Unless, perhaps, they had a record on their minds.

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Former NHL player’s brain goes to research

Before concussions were a serious topic in ice hockey, Steve Montador knew all about the consequences of head injuries.

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Five years ago, while still playing in the NHL, Montador committed to donating his brain to research.

Dr. Charles Tator of the University of Toronto told that story at Montador’s memorial service on Saturday in Mississauga, Ontario.

“He didn’t know when it was going to be, but when it did happen he wanted to donate his brain,” former Calgary Flames teammate and current assistant general manager Craig Conroy said.

“That just tells you what kind of person he was. Obviously it’s way too early, but if it helps someone else, that’s what he was always about.”

Montador died on February 15 at age 35, more than a year after lingering concussion symptoms forced him to leave his team in Croatia. The defenceman didn’t play professional hockey again.

Many of his friends and former teammates didn’t know about his plans to donate his brain. The decision didn’t surprise those close to him.

“He was very intellectual himself and looking for answers and trying to figure out what made things work and how to improve things,” retired enforcer George Parros said.

“And if he could donate his brain to figure out how to best treat concussions and things like that, then he would certainly do it.”

Brain injuries have been the subject of much discussion lately, especially after the 2011 death of enforcer Derek Boogaard.

Research determined Boogaard, who died of an accidental drug overdose, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain condition.

Rick Martin of Buffalo Sabres French Connection fame and former Detroit Red Wings tough guy Bob Probert were also posthumously diagnosed with CTE, which has also been found in NFL players and professional wrestlers.

Research is ongoing to determine the link between concussions, depression and CTE.

Longtime defenceman Mathieu Schneider had concussions during his career but was fortunate they didn’t affect him as much as they did Montador, who battled depression at times when he was unable to play.

“Obviously it had a tremendous effect on his life,” said Schneider, who got to know Montador through work with the NHL Players’ Association.

“The players that do have those effects are extremely passionate about it and he was certainly one of the most vocal. He was a leader.”

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This time we’re ready for Barca, says Man City’s Nasri

A year ago at the same stage City bowed out 4-1 on aggregate against the four-times European champions, never recovering from losing 2-0 at home when they had Martin Demichelis sent off.

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There is a growing belief within the squad, however, that the Premier League champions are hitting top gear at just the right moment and can reach the quarter-finals of Europe’s blue-riband competition for the first time.

“I think it was too much of a big game for us (last year),” Nasri told a news conference on Monday. “We gave Barca too much respect last year.

“This year is different. We know what we’re capable of. (Lionel) Messi and (Real Madrid’s Cristiano) Ronaldo play in their own galaxy, but the rest do not. We’re not going to be scared.”

“No fear” clearly is the mantra.

“Fear?” said City’s captain Vincent Kompany, who will be manning the barricades to stop Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in front of a noisy full house on Tuesday.

“You don’t go in at this level fearing strikers. We want to play against them. It will be the fourth time in a year. There’s nothing new to worry us.

“They’re a special team with special players, of course. I think their ability is not about hurting you all game — you can have tougher games when you go to Stoke City.

“It’s about the fact they can decide a game within a second, can finish games with a touch of magic.”

City, 5-0 winners at home to Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday, were boosted with the news that midfield trojan James Milner has shaken off an injury and manager Manuel Pellegrini was upbeat about his side’s prospects.

“I think that last year was different. We arrived having played 19 games in two months,” he told reporters. “It wasn’t our best moment.

“The main thing is to fight for possession of the ball. That is very important,” he added.

Pellegrini warned against reading too much into Barcelona’s shock 1-0 defeat by Malaga at the weekend though.

“I think that before their last game they won 11 games in a row so I don’t think they have a lot to criticise at this moment,” he said.

“I think tomorrow we will see the real Barcelona here trying to continue in the Champions League.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)

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Veteran Furyk still has the drive to do well

At the age of 44 and despite a few “dings, nicks and bruises along the way,” American Furyk is still one of the most consistent players around as he continues his quest to add further PGA Tour titles to his impressive tally of 16.

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Criticised by some pundits early on in his career for his highly unorthodox and loopy swing, Furyk’s game has stood the test of time and he maintains a high level of fitness while many of his peers have succumbed to injury and dips in form.

“So far, I’ve been fortunate but we all know in this sport that it can be short-lived,” Furyk told Reuters while competing in last week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club where he tied for 14th.

“If something happens to the back or whatever it may be, it’s a tricky slope. I’m just thankful for the very healthy years that I’ve had and I do the best to get as many more as I can.

“Workouts are something that I enjoy. I feel better, I am stronger, I am more fit. As I get older, I realise that I am more prone to injury and I am trying to not reverse the effects but at least kind of keep them sidelined for a while.”

VARIOUS CRITICISMS

Furyk, whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open, has had only one swing coach during his career – his father, Mike. He vividly recalls the various criticisms of his unique swing while he was making his way as a young professional.

“People would say, ‘Well, I wonder if that swing will hold up or I wonder if that will cause some injuries?’ And now people tend to be on the front end,” Furyk smiled. “They say, ‘It’s efficient and it doesn’t put as much stress on my body.’

“I think it’s just a bunch of bandwagon, if you ask me. So-called experts love to say that this swing puts more force on this or that or whatever it may be.

“But most of those people making those comments don’t have any medical degrees or know anything about biomechanics probably. It’s all an uneducated guess at that moment.”

Though Furyk has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2010 Tour Championship, he continues to be one of the circuit’s most consistent players. He made the cut in all of his 21 starts last season, while recording 11 top-10s.

Asked what still motivated him on the golf course as he approaches the twilight of his career, Furyk replied: “I would love to win more golf tournaments. The ultimate aim is you want to raise a trophy and you want to add a title to your list.

“But I’m in a good spot right now with the state of my game and the state of my attitude. I’m not saying I’m content but I’m in a place where I’m just enjoying competing.

“And because I’m having a good time of it, I have played very well in the process. I’ve found a way to somewhat juggle family and career and still have the drive to do well. As long as I have that drive, I think I can play well.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Charlie Hebdo bites back with new issue

More than a month after jihadist gunmen massacred much of the Charlie Hebdo editorial staff, the magazine is back at work with another savage swipe at its favourite enemies.

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The cover of the latest issue due out Wednesday depicts the Pope, a jihadist, former president Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right politician Marine Le Pen as a pack of enraged animals chasing after a dog with a copy of Charlie Hebdo clamped in its jaws.

“We’re back!” reads the headline.

The team has laid low since rushing out a “survivors’ issue” a week after the jihadist attack that killed 12 people, including five of France’s best-loved cartoonists, on January 7.

“We needed a break, a rest… There were those who needed to work again straight away, like me, and those who wanted to take more time,” says Gerard Biard, the paper’s new chief editor.

“So we reached a compromise, and agreed on February 25… to start off again on a weekly basis.”

Charlie Hebdo has a long history of courting controversy by lampooning political and religious figures of all stripes.

The Kouachi brothers who carried out the January 7 attack said they were taking revenge for the weekly’s depictions of Prophet Mohammed – considered blasphemous in Islam.

In a show of defiance, the magazine’s “survivors’ issue” featured Mohammed on its cover with a tear in his eye, holding a Je Suis Charlie sign under the headline “All Is Forgiven”.

Je Suis Charlie was the slogan taken up around the world to express solidarity with the weekly.

Some eight million copies were printed, a stunning number for a publication that had been struggling to stay afloat with a circulation of just 60,000 before the attack.

But the January 14 cartoon once again stirred anger, triggering violent protests in several Muslim countries.

A print run of 2.5 million is planned for the new edition.

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