Brendon McCullum continues tryst with April 18, hammers 13th IPL fifty

first_imgBrendon McCullum continued his tryst with April 18 to smash a hyper aggressive half-century in the Indian Premier League.Exactly nine years ago on April 18, 2008, McCullum had blasted 158* not out for Kolkata Knight Riders vs Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first game of the inaugural IPL.On April 18, 2017, McCullum was up against RCB again, albeit for a different team but the former New Zealand skipper showed he had lost none of his touch as he blazed away to a rapid 72. However, his knock couldn’t save his team from suffering a defeat as the Gujarat Lions lost to the Royal Challengers Bangalore by 21 runs inRajkot.Chasing 214 for victory in Rajkot, McCullum set the hosts on course with some brutal stroke play. Besides that hundred in 2008, Baz has two more fifties on April 18. Some coincidence that!McCullum retired from ODIs after leading the Black Caps to the World Cup final in 2015.After spending time with KKR,  McCullum moved over to Kochi Tuskers Kerala before shifting base to Chennai Super Kings, where he formed a successful opening combination with Dwayne Smith.Once CSK was suspended for two years along with Rajasthan Royals, McCullum was roped in by Gujarat Lions.last_img read more

Barcelona paid for mistakes in first leg: Luis Enrique

first_imgBarcelona’s errors in last week’s 3-0 defeat by Juventus still weighed heavily on coach Luis Enrique’s mind after his side were held to a 0-0 draw in Wednesday’s quarter-final second leg which sealed their elimination from the Champions League.Paulo Dybala’s double and a Giorgio Chiellini header in Turin left Barca with a near-impossible task and despite firing plenty of shots at Gianluigi Buffon’s goal at the Nou Camp, they rarely looked capable of repeating their heroic comeback in the last 16 against Paris St Germain. (None of the other teams will want to play Juventus after ousting Barca: Leonardo Bonucci)”I will remember what happened in the first half in the Juventus Stadium for a very long time,” Luis Enrique told reporters.”Our participation in this tournament this season has been unforgettable but we had a very poor first half in Turin and that has cost us dear.”Barca rattled up 19 shots at goal but only managed to test Buffon once as talisman Lionel Messi sent four shots off target. Neymar, Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto hurried attempts to beat the experienced Italian goalkeeper which proved futile. (Neymar in flood of tears as FC Barcelona get knocked out of Champions League)”We needed to be more calm and more lucid. We tried to do everything,” added the coach, who will leave the club at the end of the season after three years in charge.”We had a lot of shots on goal but only had one on target. We had a great attitude and made a huge effort so it’s a shame,2 he added.advertisement”We leave this game feeling sad but we can’t blame anyone. We tried everything until the end and kept fighting to create chances but none of them went in. I’m annoyed we couldn’t win the game because we tried with all our strength but we couldn’t find the path to their goal.”Barca will have little time to mourn their Champions League exit as they visit arch-rivals Real Madrid on Sunday in a potential title-deciding Clasico. (Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique in Twitter battle ahead of El Clasico)Barca have won the last two titles but trail Real by three points in the standings having played one game more.”It’s not a good night nor a good moment for Barcelona fans but we’ll keep fighting until the end,” added the coach, whose side face Alaves in the King’s Cup final next month.”We now have the chance of getting back in the fight for the title. I feel happy to be able to work at a club that always wants to win everything all the time.”last_img read more

Stoke City out to upset Arsenal’s Champions League hopes

first_imgMark Hughes believes Stoke City can upset Arsenal’s Champions League qualification hopes on Saturday, the manager saying his side is ready to fulfil their own ambitions of finishing in the top eight of the Premier League.Ahead of the weekend’s clash at the bet365 Stadium, Stoke have collected 12 points and have been unbeaten at home in their last six league games against the North London side.”We certainly aren’t fazed by Arsenal, despite them coming into the game on the back of a really strong run of results,” Hughes told a news conference on Friday.”I’ve always liked going up against them. They have pace, power and very good technical abilities, so we have to be on the top of our game.”We like to upset teams who come here and expect to win. Our record stands up with anybody against Arsenal, so we will use that to our advantage.”With two games to play, 13th-placed Stoke could still finish as high as eighth in the standings, which would be their highest finish in English football since 1975.”We still feel we could finish eighth, but we know everything has to go for us,” Hughes added. “It shows how close we all are and it has been a strange season.”We need to be more potent, we are aware of that, and we would love to address that over the final two games.Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal are fifth in the standings and have an outside chance of finishing in the top four for the 21st consecutive season.advertisementThey trail fourth-placed Manchester City by three points and third-placed Liverpool by four, with a game in hand over the Merseyside club.Also Watch:last_img read more

ICC Champions Trophy: No Virat Kohli-Junaid Khan battle in Birmingham

first_imgFans across both India and Pakistan would not be able to enjoy a small yet intriguing battle between Virat Kohli and Junaid Khan as the left-arm pacer has not been included in the 12-men Pakistan squad for the high-octane Champions trophy clash to be played at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground on Sunday.Junaid and Kohli have faced-off quite a few times in the past and the Indian star has managed to score just 2 runs off 22 balls in ODIs. While Junaid has also dismissed Kohli three times and has also bowled 21 dot balls in the 50-over format.And thus, his exclusion from the playing XI does surprise everyone.However, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed defended his decision of excluding the left-arm pacer on the eve of the match, saying, “It was four-five years ago that Junaid dismissed Kohli. But those conditions were different. But what has suited us, according to that we have picked our top 12.””We have chosen our players keeping in mind the best playing XI we can have for tomorrow’s game. And I am sure the bowlers that are going to play tomorrow’s game will come out with a good performance and will take Kohli’s wicket,” he added.Head coach Mickey Arthur along with Sarfraz announced a 12-men squad for the much anticipated encounter.”Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Fakhar Zaman will not be part of the team,” said Arthur on the eve of the match.The South African coach further said that decision on Fahim Ashraf and Shadab Khan will be made tomorrow, after having a look at the wicket.advertisementHe further said that there are chances of Fahim being preferred over Shadab after looking at the wicket.last_img read more

Daniel Ricciardo all set to give the ‘Shoey’ the boot

first_imgDaniel Ricciardo fears that the “shoey”, a podium ritual dreaded by rival drivers and loved by Formula One fans as well as anyone else not in drinking distance, may be getting out of control.The smiling Australian’s signature celebration involves the pouring of podium champagne into a sweaty racing boot, which an unlucky victim is then urged to share in front of a global audience.With the Red Bull driver having notched up five podiums in a row, including a surprise victory in Azerbaijan at the end of June, the world has been watching plenty of shoeys this season.At the last two races, Azerbaijan and Austria, they were instigated more by podium interviewers – former racers David Coulthard and Martin Brundle – than the happy driver.”I honestly didn’t plan on doing it. Even in Baku I was, like, ‘ah, I won’t do it’,” Ricciardo told reporters on Thursday when asked about his plans for Sunday’s British Grand Prix.”DC (Coulthard) took my shoes off and then in Austria Martin was frothing for it. I feel like there’s some real sick bastards around here. I never thought it would continue like this.”Ricciardo said fans were even shouting “shoey” during an “F1 Live” promotional event in central London on Wednesday.”I’m just walking along, minding my business and they’re like ‘do a shoey’…I don’t actually just take my shoe off while I’m walking in the street and drink out of it. I feel like I dug a hole for myself with this one,” he grinned.advertisement”On that note, I feel like it’s been fun. I want to say it’s run its course; we’ll see what happens.”In Austria, while television commentator Brundle drank deeply from the shoe, Mercedes’ race winner Valtteri Bottas made himself scarce.Ricciardo was unimpressed, even if he conceded that the shoey could be risky when races were back-to-back because the top three could all pick up something that put them in hospital for a week.”I heard the Finns drink. I really heard that. But Valtteri did not carry his flag well last Sunday,” he said. “Shame on him. Wow. Valtteri Bottas. Disappointed. That’s it. No more shoeys.”Triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, Bottas’s teammate and Sunday’s race favourite, was with the Finn. “I still stand firm on the toe jam stuff,” he said. “The juice from the foot is not something I wish to drink. Especially someone else’s.”last_img read more

Virat Kohli praises bowlers after India’s comprehensive victory over Sri Lanka

first_imgIndia registered a comprehensive win against Sri Lanka in the Colombo Test on Sunday and took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.Virat Kohli’s men, who posted 622-9 declared in their first innings, won the Test by an innings and 53 runs after enforcing follow-on.The hosts, who displayed a shambolic batting performance in the first innings and got out for 183, put up their best batting show in the series so far in their second innings at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC). However, they were bowled out for 386 despite twin centuries from opener Dimuth Karunaratne (141) and No. 3 batsman Kusal Mendis (110) and handed over the visitors another comprehensive victory.Ravindra Jadeja, (5/152) after an indifferent final two sessions on the third day, found his rhythm and more importantly length back to inflict maximum damage.Speaking at the post-match press conference, Kohli admitted that the hosts came out with a brilliant batting performance in the second innings, adding that it was good for the team.”You have to give credit to the batters as well to play like that on a pitch like that. It was high quality batting and you expect that to happen at the Test level. We just hope as a team that we have to embrace this all sessions that we are going to play won’t go our way,” said Kohli.”We tried our best whatever we could but they were too good yesterday for sure.”‘OUTSTANDING JOB’The Indian skipper also heaped praise on his bowlers, saying, “Our bowlers did an outstanding job today by pulling things back and keeping it simple and that’s what happens in Test cricket, sessions go away from you and then you have to pull it back to win a Test match.”advertisementJadeja, the No. 1 ranked bowler and all-rounder in the world, was the pick of the Indian bowlers as he scalped yet another five-wicket haul. He was well supported by Ravichandran Ashwin (2-132), Hardik Pandya (2-31). Umesh Yadav also chipped in with a wicket.The left-hander was adjudged Man of the Match for his match figures of 7-236 in 61 overs apart from unbeaten 70 with the bat in the first innings.India have now won back-to-back Test series in the island nation, having clinched the previous edition in 2015 2-1. It was also the eighth consecutive series win for Kohli.”I think it was very good for us, from a team’s point of view that we were up against a challenge in the last four sessions that we played yesterday and today. And we managed to turn things around. You always feel good as a team when you have to comeback from a difficult situation and win the Test match,” said Kohli.Earlier in the game, India continued their dominance over the host on the first two days of the second Test after registering a historic win at Galle.The visitors posted a gigantic first-innings score of 622/9 declared, courtesy centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara (133) and Ajinkya Rahane (132). Apart from the two, Ashwin (54), Wriddhiman Saha (67), Lokesh Rahul (57) and Jadeja (70*) contributed to the score.The two teams will now play the final Test beginning August 12 before starting off with the five-match ODI series and a lone T20.And considering the quality, or the lack of it, of the Sri Lankan team, the visitors will look to complete a clean sweep in Pallekele (Kandy), where the third Test will be played.However, India suffered a massive blow as Jadeja was handed a one-match suspension for dangerous play. The all-rounder will miss the Pallekele Test.last_img read more

1st Test: Rain stops England progress after Alastair Cook makes 243 vs West Indies

first_imgRain held up England’s progress after Alastair Cook scored a superb 243 on the second day of the first Test against West Indies at Edgbaston on Friday. (Scorecard)Cook’s 10-hour knock led the hosts to a first-innings total of 514 for eight declared and James Anderson dismissed Kraigg Brathwaite for nought before the tourists battled to 44 for one in reply.Heavy rain curtailed the final session and West Indies will resume on Saturday 470 runs behind.Resuming on 348 for three in the first day-night Test in England, Cook and Dawid Malan smoothly extended their fourth-wicket partnership to 162.Cook reached his fourth Test double century with a thick edge to the third man boundary off Kemar Roach, the former England captain’s 30th four.Malan, who recorded his first Test 50 in his third match, was out on the stroke of lunch for 65, edging spinner Roston Chase to Jermaine Blackwood at slip.Ben Stokes (10), Jonny Bairstow (18) and Moeen Ali (nought) fell in quick succession as England chased runs and Cook’s marathon vigil ended when he was trapped lbw by Chase, prompting the declaration.A callow West Indies batting lineup was always likely to struggle against England’s experienced pace bowling attack and Anderson had Brathwaite caught by wicketkeeper Bairstow for an eight-ball duck.Powell, dropped by Stokes at gully off Stuart Broad, and Hope battled through to tea without further loss and they extended their partnership in the first match of the three-Test series before heavy rain ended the day’s play.last_img read more

Indian sports coaches meet Consul General in Birmingham

first_imgLondon, Aug 27 (PTI) A delegation of Indian sports coaches made a visit to the University of Birmingham to learn how latest research and training techniques can help boost athletes performance. The delegation, which had Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ronak Pandit (shooting), Asian Games silver medallist Jugraj Singh (hockey) and SAI Deputy Director Vineet Kumar (archery) among others, was joined by Consul General of India Aman Puri at the University. Puri joined the group in a tour of the Universitys new 55 million Sport & Fitness Club, which opened recently. The coaches visit follows a delegation in May which followed a strength and conditioning programme. The Consul General found out the details about the Universitys ongoing partnership with the Sports Authority of India (SAI). He learned more about the Universitys work in helping to improve the sporting performance of Indias athletes, meeting Martin Toms from the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Alex Taylor from University Birmingham Sport. Martin Toms, Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching, said: “It is an honour to welcome Dr. Puri onto campus and introduce him to the coaches and sports scientists from the Sports Authority of India on their latest visit. “The University of Birminghams deepening relationship with SAI and the joint opportunities we are exploring for further collaboration are exciting. It is marvellous to have Dr Puri spending time with this group during their sports science and coaching training programme,” he said. Head of Performance & Coaching Alex Taylor said: “Our Performance Centre was established 10 years ago and the quality and expertise of staff and facilities is really second to none — allowing the University to provide specialist support to elite athletes, from nutrition to psychology to strength and conditioning. “We aim to help develop and nurture talent at the University and its this level of dedication to supporting athletes that makes our offering world-class. It is great to spend time with the Indian delegation to explore how we can work with them on future collaborative opportunities.” The SAI delegation continues the partnership established following last years formal agreement. The Indian government has highlighted the importance of sport and is looking to invest in boosting India sporting performance through SAI. Birminghams collaboration with SAI began in 2012 through the work of staff in its School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences in 2012 and discussions held by Toms with the Ministry of Sports and SAI about how the University could help the countrys athletes boost their performance. Consul General Puri said: “I am delighted to meet Dr. Martin Toms and the visiting Indian delegation of highly- admired coaches and sports scientists from SAI. The Universitys Sport & Fitness Club is truly outstanding. “I congratulate both the University of Birmingham and SAI on developing this strong institutional linkage to share the latest research and techniques in sports science. Such partnerships play a significant role in providing access to latest know-how and techniques for Indian sportspeople.” PTI HSR PDS PDSadvertisementlast_img read more

Spanish media flay Real Madrid after worst La Liga start in five years

first_imgReal Madrid’s first ever trip to Wembley to face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Wednesday will come as a welcome distraction to the European and Liga holders in the midst of their worst domestic run of results in five years.Sunday’s shock 2-1 defeat to Liga newcomers Girona saw them fall eight points behind arch rivals Barcelona in the standings, the biggest gap they have faced with a league leader since their final turbulent campaign under Jose Mourinho in 2012/13.??? FP: @GironaFC 2-1 #RealMadrid (Stuani 54′, Portu 58′; @isco_alarcon 12′).#RMLiga pic.twitter.com/EImC9lHUtj- Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) October 29, 2017Madrid were also defending champions in the Portuguese’s final campaign but came unstuck at the start of the season, dropping eight points in their first four games while Barcelona raced ahead, eventually finishing 15 clear of Madrid while Mourinho had an acrimonious split with the dressing room.The feeling in the Spanish sports press after Zinedine Zidane’s side threw away a 1-0 lead at halftime was one of resignation about Madrid’s faltering campaign, as the 32-times Liga champions have never managed to win the title after falling eight points behind the leaders.”Madrid vote no to La Liga”, ran a headline on the website of daily newspaper Marca, alluding to the political undertones of Sunday’s game at Girona, Real’s first trip to the troubled region of Catalonia since a banned referendum on independence on Oct. 1 sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in 39 years.Only Madrid’s goalscorer Isco and forward Karim Benzema were exempt from criticism in Marca, which criticised the team’s usual talisman Cristiano Ronaldo for only scoring once this campaign and called out Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and captain Sergio Ramos for unconvincing displays.advertisementPhoto Credit: Reuters “Isco is out on his own”, ran the cover of newspaper AS, while daily ABC described Madrid as “apathetic”, calling the defeat the team’s worst performance since Zidane took over at the club in January 2016 and began a winning cycle that has yielded seven trophies.The French coach said Real had lost the game due to two lapses of concentration in the space of four minutes which lead to Cristhian Stuani’s equaliser and Portu’s winner, but denied there was a problem with the team’s attitude.”What I’m most annoyed about is not killing the game off when we had the chance to do it,” the coach said in a news conference after Girona snapped Real’s record run of 13 consecutive away wins over the course of two seasons.”I’m not worried about a lack of intensity nor enthusiasm, these results can happen in the league but we’ll keep on working hard. I’m not worried. We didn’t expect this after winning four games in a row but we still want to win the league.”last_img read more

Thumbs-up from athletes for IOC decision on Russia

first_imgAthletes who lost medals because of Russia’s doping program at the Sochi Olympics gave a broad thumbs-up to the International Olympic Committee’s decision on Tuesday to let Russians compete at the upcoming Pyeongchang Games – but not under their own flag.The consensus among athletes was that the IOC struck a good balance between punishing the nation but not Russian athletes who may not have been part of the vast doping scheme.”It sounds like a really good compromise to me,” said Stuart Benson, who raced on the British four-man bobsled team that placed fifth in Sochi, but which now hopes for the bronze medal after two Russian sleds were disqualified. When those DQs were announced in November, Benson celebrated with a macaroni cheese dinner. (Russia reacts with caution, shock to 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics ban)”It’s a punishment for the state, the country, and they are obviously trying not to punish the athletes who haven’t done anything wrong,” he said in a phone interview moments after the IOC announced that Russian athletes who pass a series of drug tests can apply to compete as neutral athletes. If Russians win, the Russian flag won’t fly and the anthem won’t be played.He said he expects the screening process will weed out any cheats.”I’d be confident enough that the IOC, with all the vast knowledge they’ve got, wouldn’t put in a place a system that didn’t tick all the boxes,” he said. (How Russian athletes can still compete in 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics)advertisementMany athletes said they wouldn’t have felt comfortable had the IOC banned all Russians from the Pyeongchang Games.”Very tough collective sanctions can lead to a huge injustice and that’s not at all the IOC’s role to do that,” said French cross-country skier Robin Duvillard. He and other members of the French team that got bronze in the men’s 4×10-kilometer relay in Sochi are now in line for the silver medal that was stripped in November from the Russian team. (Significance of the IOC ban: Russia pays a price, but no winners in doping saga)He said overly harsh sanctions risked alienating Russians who already “feel that everyone is against them. And that is good for no one.””You have to be careful about not going too far,” he said.Making Russian athletes compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang will hurt Russian authorities but spare its athletes, Duvillard added.”It is a good punishment for the Russian state, because it’s a political setback,” he said. “We are taking away a symbol from them and recognition of their country.”US skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender, who was fourth in Sochi and will go to bronze with a Russian disqualified, said she feels a culture change needs to happen.”The only way to ensure that is to hold a strong line,” she said. “Russia will deny to the end, and if a line was not drawn, I feel behind closed doors they would have made a mockery of the Olympic movement.”John Jackson, another member of the British bobsled team in line for an upgrade to bronze, said Russia deserved the punishment because of its steadfast refusals to accept investigators’ findings that the doping scheme was state-supported.”For me, it’s all to do with the accountability and Russia, as a nation, as a sporting governing body … has not taken accountability and ownership of the fact that this was a massive doping operation within their sporting community,” he said.”The IOC needed to make to stand to show Russia and any other country that might be thinking about doing systematic doping that they can’t get away with it.”Now retired Dutch speed skater Margot Boer, in line for the silver medal from the women’s 500 meters in Sochi that was stripped from Russia’s Olga Fatkulina, said the decision could help restore credibility to the IOC after it was broadly criticized for letting Russia compete under its own flag at the 2016 Rio Olympics.”They are making a point,” she said. “This a step back in the good direction.”Speaking earlier Tuesday before the IOC announcement, she also said that a blanket ban was undesirable.”There are some athletes who I know for sure had nothing to do with it, so I don’t want them to not be able to race,” she said. “If your brother is bad and does something wrong, the rest of the family doesn’t have to go to jail.”last_img read more

Islanders Hang On, Beat Sabres, 3-2

first_imgBUFFALO, N.Y. — This time, the New York Islanders made a 3-0 lead stick in Buffalo. Barely.Mikhail Grabovski’s snap shot from the slot midway through the second period stood up as the difference for the Islanders, who built a three-goal edge and then hung on for a 3-2 victory Feb. 8.That was a switch from New York’s previous visit on Dec. 27, when the Sabres won 4-3 in a shootout by overcoming a 3-0 third-period deficit.The stinging memories of that last outcome briefly started filtering back after Buffalo rallied for two goals in a 2:24 span late in the second period.“We’ve got a clear-cut 3-on-2 and (Casey) Cizikas walks right down the gut and could’ve made it 4-1, and at that time you’re thinking, ‘Can you bury that one?’” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We know what happened here last time, but we didn’t give them that much in that period.”Nor all game, for that matter.Playing their third game in four nights and after losing three regulars to injuries in a 2-1 loss at Boston on Feb. 7, the Islanders regrouped by relying on their defense. They limited the Sabres to two shots over the final 25 minutes in a game New York outshot Buffalo 31-10.“I don’t think there was any panic,” Islanders captain John Tavares said. “When you’re faced with a little adversity, you’ve just got to find a way to overcome it.”Rookie Anders Lee and Colin McDonald also scored. Travis Hamonic had two assists in helping New York (34-18-1) earn its second win in six games and vault into first place in the Metropolitan Division.McDonald scored after he and Harry Zolnierczyk were called up from AHL Bridgeport. They filled in after forwards Michael Grabner and Cal Clutterbuck (both upper-body injuries) and defenseman Calvin de Haan (cut to the forehead) were hurt against Boston.Marcus Foligno had a goal and assist in his first game after missing 19 with a hand injury. Drew Stafford also scored for Buffalo (16-35-3), which was also playing its third game in three days. Buffalo was coming off a 3-2 win over Dallas on Feb. 7, and dropped to 2-16 in its past 18.The inability to generate any offensive momentum cost a team that’s averaging a league-worst 1.7 goals per game.“A 2-0 lead would’ve been something that we could’ve battled back from,” Foligno said. “When it gets to three goals, it’s a little bit tougher.”And yet the Sabres were in the game after Foligno scored at the 12:33 mark of the second period by crashing the net after goalie Jaroslav Halak was unable to control a rebound off Nikita Zadorov’s shot from the left wing.Foligno then set up Stafford by chipping the puck at the Islanders blue line to send in Stafford on a breakaway.The Sabres squandered an opportunity to tie the game in the opening minute of the third period, when they failed to get a shot on net during a 33-second two-man advantage.Defenseman Thomas Hickey played a key role on the penalty kill by blocking Tyler Ennis’ one-timer from the right circle, and then breaking up a pass through the middle.The Islanders appeared in full control when Hamonic set up Grabovski alone in the slot 11:22 into the second period.He scored 62 seconds after Lee stuffed in a loose puck into the left side — and after Hamonic missed just wide on tap-in attempt at the right post.McDonald opened the scoring 16:19 into the game by converting Cizikas’ pass through the middle.“I was waiting for my opportunity, and you just never really know when you’re going to get it,” said McDonald, who appeared in just his third NHL game this season after having eight goals and 10 assists in 70 games last year.(JOHN WAWROW, AP Hockey Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

N.Y. Cosmos Ready For Cuba Game

first_imgHAVANA — In a landmark act of sports diplomacy, soccer’s New York Cosmos on June 2 will become the first U.S. professional team to play in Cuba since Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama announced their countries planned re-establishing diplomatic relations.Baseball may be sport the two nations most share, but soccer’s popularity is growing in both nations and Cuban officials said the friendly match against the country’s national team is an important step in the normalization of the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba.“In this new era that our two countries are living, this game is another link that will help establish the relations announced by the two Presidents,” said Antonio Garces, Vice President of the Cuban Soccer Association.While the two governments have yet to reopen embassies following the December announcement of detente, Havana has been flooded by a surge of U.S. tourists, as well as delegations of lawmakers, businesspeople and athletes.A group of retired NBA stars held a training camp for Cuban players in April and Cuban officials have said a Major League exhibition game is planned for the near future, although Major League officials have said no plans have been made.The Cosmos, who are leading the standings in the second-tier North American Soccer League, arrived Sunday night, and were training ahead of the match at 30,000-seat Pedro Marrera stadium, which is to be televised nationally in Cuba.They were accompanied by honorary president Pele, the legendary Brazilian star who played for the original Cosmos franchise as his career was ending.Asked about the bribery scandal that exploded last week in soccer’s global governing body, he declined to criticize FIFA or its head, Sepp Blatter.“We are players and we want to provide joy to the public and people. What happens with executives doesn’t interest me,” he said. “He’s a man who has been there 25 years. You have to respect him.”While Cuba is far from a soccer powerhouse, the sport hasn’t been spared the waves of departures that have robbed its teams of many top-ranked athletes.Forward Maykel Galindo left in 2005 and went on to play for several U.S. teams. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso abandoned Cuba two years later and now plays in Seattle.Cuba’s relatively weak international soccer performance hasn’t stopped the sport from spreading on the island, with growing numbers watching professional games on television and playing on dusty fields and neighborhood streets.“Soccer is a people’s sport that’s gained a lot of popularity in recent years, in Cuba and the United States, and without a doubt it’ll help tear down barriers and open doors,” Garces said.The last professional U.S. soccer team to visit Cuba was the now-defunct Chicago Sting, which played in 1978 after President Jimmy Carter moved to warm ties with Cuba and open the interests section in Havana that both countries want to soon convert into a full embassy.___By Anne-Marie Garcia. AP writer Michael Weissenstein contributedTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Bradley Rocked, but Wins Bout and Belt

first_imgCARSON, CA — Timothy Bradley got rocked in the final minute and survived a confusing finish to beat Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision Saturday night, claiming the interim WBO welterweight title.Bradley (32-1-1) controlled most of his bout against the previously unbeaten Vargas, but the former two-division champion was hurt by a hard right that nearly knocked him down. The fight went on as Bradley recovered somewhat, but referee Pat Russell apparently stopped the fight 10 seconds early, thinking the 10-second warning was the bell to end the bout.Bradley won 117-111, 116-112 and 115-112 on the scorecards, bouncing back from a winless 2014 — but not before a wild scare at the end.Russell appeared to be deciding that the bout was over by stoppage when he stepped in, and Vargas’ corner went into a wild celebration. Carl Moretti, the vice president of Bradley promoter Top Rank, went up to Russell immediately to find out what happened, and Russell said he thought the 10-second warning was the bell to end the fight.The veteran referee was booed by the StubHub Center fans. Bradley acknowledged he was hurt by the overhand right, but said he would have survived the final 10 seconds.The bout was Bradley’s first fight at the famed outdoor ring south of Los Angeles since his 2013 brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov in which he overcame a concussion from the first round and survived a knockdown in the closing seconds to win a unanimous decision.“I don’t have to defend anything,” Bradley said. “He landed a great shot, he hurt me, but I would have finished. Come on, I survived Provodnikov.”Vargas (26-1) said he could have won the fight if he had those 10 seconds. During Bradley’s in-ring interview, Vargas demanded a rematch.Vargas, the WBA light welterweight champion, knew he was stepping up in weight and class against Bradley, one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters with victories over Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. But Vargas struggled against Bradley’s furious pace at the start, constantly attacking with multiple combinations and making him pay with counters.Vargas tried to keep up but was sorely behind in landing punches. At the end of the first and fourth, Bradley staggered Vargas. By the fifth, Bradley drew blood from Vargas’ nose.The fight was for the WBO belt that Floyd Mayweather said he would vacate after beating Pacquiao in May. But Mayweather has balked at relinquishing the belt, and the WBO has demanded Mayweather declare his intentions by July 3.If he relinquishes, then Bradley would go from interim champion to world champion.It was the fifth time Bradley has won a championship belt. He won the WBO welterweight title twice, the WBC light welterweight belt twice and the WBO 140-pound belt once.Bradley and his wife, Monica, who also is his manager, recently had their fifth child, and Bradley said he wants each kid to have his or her own championship belt in their Christmas photo.TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

FIFA Officials Secret Riches Guarded

first_imgPARIS — As FIFA slid toward what has now become a full-blown collapse of its reputation and credibility, one of Sepp Blatter’s advisers suggested to the President of football’s governing body that he should lift the lid on one of his most tightly guarded secrets.Reveal how much FIFA pays you, Mark Pieth advised. The Swiss anti-corruption expert, recruited by FIFA for his expertise in corporate governance, says he argued that disclosing Blatter’s salary would demonstrate that the discredited organization is committed to change and transparency.Blatter wouldn’t have it. Pieth says the FIFA President explained that doing so risked embarrassing and upsetting his allies on the FIFA board whose pay is also secret.“He told me: ‘Well, you know, I couldn’t,’” the Basel University professor recalls. “‘It wouldn’t go down well with my friends.’”One million dollars? Five million? More than that? Two years after Blatter rejected Pieth’s advice, the exact extent of his salary and perks remain known only by him and a seeming tiny handful of perhaps no more than four others at FIFA headquarters.Here is a look at why the secrecy should be lifted:___SET AN EXAMPLE: Founded in 1904 with the simple aim of organizing football internationally, FIFA has grown into a multi-billion dollar global enterprise largely thanks to the World Cup’s financial success under Blatter’s reign since 1998.Like multi-national corporations, it publishes detailed annual financial accounts and is audited. Beset by allegations of vote-buying and corruption involving members of its ruling executive committee, FIFA also in 2011 launched reforms that tightened the way it does business but which haven’t gone far enough for its many critics.Failing to publish the pay of Blatter and other executives gives the impression that FIFA must still have something to hide, when it should set an example for football to follow.“The old idea is these guys just put their hand in the till and distribute money wildly because they have so much of it,” Pieth said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.___OTHERS DO BETTER: Some football organizations are far more open, making FIFA look secretive.Obliged to do so by U.S. law, the U.S. Soccer Federation that governs the sport in the United States files tax returns that give astounding detail about executive compensation when compared to FIFA. The filings are easy to find on the federation website.The most recent shows federation CEO Dan Flynn got a base salary of US$528,209, plus $102,250 in bonuses, for an average 40 hours of work per week in the 2013 tax year and even that the federation pays his health club bill of $180 per month.The accounts for England’s Football Association, also accessible via its website, aren’t as transparent but do show — as required by British law — that the highest paid director got 550,000 pounds ($850,000) in salary and benefits.Governed by Swiss law, FIFA’s public accounts lack such detail. They say $39.7 million was paid to “key management personnel” in 2014. That included Blatter and the 24 other members of his executive committee, plus 12 executives at FIFA headquarters.If evenly split between all 37 people, that would be $1 million each. FIFA says the total includes gross salary and social charges but won’t break down who got what or even answer questions about why it fails to do so.“We have no further comments on individual compensation,” it said by email to the AP.___COPY CONCACAF: The governing body for football in the North and Central Americas and the Caribbean has been hit hard by the latest corruption scandal.Its former general secretary, Chuck Blazer, pleaded guilty in the United States to racketeering, income tax evasion, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies and was banned from the game for life by FIFA’s ethics committee.To prevent the confederation from imploding, CONCACAF this week announced reforms that include exemplary policies on pay which will be more transparent than FIFA’s.As U.S. Soccer does, tax returns reporting executive salaries will be published on CONCACAF’s website. CONCACAF is also proposing that executives’ compensation be approved annually by its congress.These changes could pressure others, including FIFA, to follow suit.“We think if we can do it, they can do it,” CONCACAF legal adviser Sam Gandhi said in an AP phone interview. “Sports federations shouldn’t be worried about the truth. … If people are valuable, people recognize that they should be paid a valuable amount. But we shouldn’t have anything to hide when it comes to this stuff.”___COST VS. WORTH: FIFA executive committee members are treated like royalty, housed in the best hotels, ferried in limousines and, on top of reportedly generous per diems when conducting FIFA business, also paid $300,000 a year, one insider confirmed to AP.Without breaking down the expenses, FIFA’s accounts show it spends a prince’s ransom on meetings: $35.5 million in 2014, including travel and accommodation for its 209 member associations to a congress in Brazil.Jim Boyce, an executive committee member from 2011-2015, bristled at the suggestion that FIFA is overly lavish.“Bankers, for example, are getting millions of bloody bonuses and all the rest of it and their banks are going down the tube,” he said in an AP interview.“There are many people in many walks of life who are paid a salary for doing a job … That’s a personal thing between a company and the employee. It’s not dishonest if people pay their taxes.”But without detail on who gets what exactly, it’s impossible for outsiders to judge whether FIFA and the sport it is meant to serve is getting value for money.___OBSTACLES: When Blatter announced June 2 that he’ll be standing down, he also said he would use his remaining months to drive “far-reaching, fundamental reforms.”Domenico Scala, overseeing that effort, said one goal is to publish the pay of the President and Executive Committee members, because “FIFA recognizes that many have questioned the transparency by which FIFA operates.”But how that will be done and whose approval they need wasn’t explained, and FIFA wouldn’t elaborate when asked by AP. While some executives say they wouldn’t mind if their salaries are made public, others from countries where pay is seen as more of a private matter and not easily discussed may resist.And Blatter’s record doesn’t inspire confidence that he can pass this last big test of his presidency.“Whenever Blatter has a choice where to side whether with his friends or with the general public, with the critics and so on,” noted Pieth, “he chose to side with his friends.”(JOHN LEICESTER, AP Sports Columnist)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Rousey Destroys Brazil’s Correia

first_imgRIO DE JANEIRO — It’s not a good idea to give Ronda Rousey some extra motivation.Hurt by comments about her family and moved by the death of a close friend and idol, Rousey got off to a quick start and knocked out home-crowd favorite Bethe Correia only 34 seconds into the first round at UFC 190 on Aug. 1.Rousey defended her bantamweight title by throwing a rapid sequence of punches at the Brazilian’s head, landing a combination of right and left strikes that sent her opponent face-first into the ground and disappointed the local fans packing the HSBC Arena.It was yet another impressive performance by Rousey, who improved to 12-0 in her incredible MMA career. She has been crushing her opponents inside the octagon, but this victory seemed special.Rousey came into the fight upset with Correia after the Brazilian made a comment apparently referencing to Rousey’s father’s suicide. Rousey said Correia crossed the line, so she would try to embarrass her in front of her fans.“I hope that nobody really brings up my family anymore when it comes to fights,” she said. “I hope this is the last time.”Before the fight, Correia had said she didn’t know about what happened to Rousey’s father and never intended to attack her personally.Rousey also was extra motivated after the death of Hall of Fame wrestler Roddy Piper, who was one her greatest idols and inspired her to take the “Rowdy” nickname. She had said she would be fighting for him.“We’ve lost a really close friend, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, who gave me his permission to use his name as a fighter, so I hope he and my dad had a good time watching this today,” Rousey said.The UFC’s biggest star, Rousey arrived in Rio as the overwhelming favorite against Correia (9-1) after winning her previous three title defenses in a combined 96 seconds. She needed only 14 seconds to beat Cat Zingano at UFC 184 earlier this year.“It kind of went how I expected it,” Rousey said. “I planned to instead of trying to force a clinch, overwhelm her (by) striking first so that she would want to clinch first, and that’s exactly what happened.”Rousey, who has been redefining the sport, has won 11 of her fights in the first round while being taken to the third round once. She has finished most of her opponents with her signature armbar, but this time it was her striking force that made the difference.“I guess she can’t really say anything about my hands anymore,” Rousey said of Correia.Rousey’s next opponent will likely be fellow American Miesha Tate.In the second-to-last fight on the main card, Mauricio Rua topped Rogerio Nogueira with a unanimous decision in a fight between veteran Brazilian light heavyweight fighters. It was a rematch of fight between the two in 2005, when Rua won a contest that lasted 38 minutes.“I knew he was going to be well prepared, but I won, I got the victory,” Rua said.In other fights, top-ranked strawweight fighter Claudia Gadelha of Brazil defeated Mexican-born Jessica Aguilar with a unanimous decision after three rounds; heavyweight Antonio Silva of Brazil beat Soa Palelei of Australia with a second-round knockout; Stefan Struve of the Netherlands beat Brazil’s Minotauro Nogueira with a unanimous decision.TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Rams WR Bailey Shot, Stable

first_imgST. LOUIS — Suspended St. Louis Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey was shot and critically wounded as he and four other people were sitting in a car outside a home in the Miami area, police said Nov. 25.Bailey was at a hospital awaiting surgery for injuries that have not been disclosed by the Rams or the authorities. Another man, Antwan Reeves, was with Bailey and was also shot in the attack the night of Nov. 24. Three others in the car, including two minors, were not wounded, police said.“The victims drove themselves to an area hospital for evaluation and treatment,” Miami Beach police said in a statement. “Based on reports from the hospital, Bailey is in critical but stable condition awaiting surgery.”Police said they were looking for suspects, who had driven up in another car before shooting.The Rams said they were aware Bailey was “involved in an incident” and that they had spoken with him.“We are gathering facts about the situation and will provide updates as we learn more,” the team said.Bailey went to high school in the Miami area. His is in third season with the Rams but has been suspended twice by the NFL.Bailey, who turned 25 on Nov. 11, was a third-round pick in the 2013 draft out of West Virginia, where he was part of a prolific wide receiving tandem with Tavon Austin, whom the Rams selected with the eighth overall pick that year.Bailey was suspended four games this month for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He has two games remaining on the ban. He served a two-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs at the start of last season.According to police, Bailey, Reeves and the three others were sitting in a car at about 8:45 p.m. ET Nov. 24 at a local residence. Another vehicle arrived and “opened fire,” police said. Reeves was taken into surgery shortly after arriving at the hospital.Players from around the league reached out on social media shortly after reports emerged.“Keep our brother @iamSB3 in your thoughts, prayers tonight. I don’t wanna believe it,” Rams defensive end Chris Long tweeted.Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Le’Veon Bell used Twitter to send his best wishes: “prayers to my brother Stedman Bailey.”Rams punter Johnny Hekker tweeted, “Praying for guardian angels over Sted. We’re with you brother.”Bailey has started three games each of the last two seasons, and this year has 12 receptions for 182 yards with one touchdown. He was fined for pulling a stunt after the lone score after using the ball as a pillow and lying down in the end zone.Last year, he had 30 receptions with a 14.5-yard average and one touchdown. He was among five Rams receivers who did the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture during player introductions before a game last December as a show of solidarity for protesters in nearby Ferguson, Missouri.The Rams signed free-agent wide receiver Wes Welker after Bailey’s second suspension. Bailey is eligible to return to the roster on Dec. 7, the day after the Rams play at Arizona.(R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer)TweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Olympiacos takes Greek derby thriller, 77-79, from Panathinaikos!

first_imgOne of world basketball’s greatest rivalries lived up to the hype on Friday with a spectacular thriller that visiting Olympiacos Piraeus took by 77-79 from archrivals Panathinaikos Athens with a classic connection in the final seconds. Vassilis Spanoulis controlled the final possession for Olympiacos, driving toward the lane then feeding his long-time partner Georgios Printezis for a layup and free throw that decided the outcome. The result broke a tie in the standings between them, raising Olympiacos to a 5-3 record and dropping Panathinaikos to 4-4. Spanoulis finished with 22 points and 8 assists for the winners, while Printezis had 16 and Daniel Hackett 11. Nick Calathes led the Greens with 16 points and 9 assists, while Chris Singleton and K.C. Rivers scored 14 each, and Antonis Fotsis 13. Olympiacos controlled the game until Panathinaikos rallied to lead 76-72 on the 300th career triple by Fotsis with 2:16 to play. Free throws by Spanoulis and a steal plus basket by Printezis tied the score before the final play between them settled it in favor of the visitors. Panathinaikos played without James Gist, who was injured in the previous game, as well as Mike James, out since preseason.Khem Birch was the early protagonist for Olympiacos as he dropped 2 shots in close to open the scoring and soon was fed by Spanoulis for a pair of dunks. When Vangelis Mantzaris blasted a triple, Olympiacos had a 6-11 lead. Triples from Fotsis and James Feldeine changed the scoreboard from deep, then Spanoulis and Singleton did the same as their four triples in succession left a 17-16 Panathinaikos lead. The lead change hands by the shot until it was a 23-23 tie after 10 minutes. Hackett came off the bench with a layup, a corner triple and a short jumper to give Olympiacos a 0-9 start to the second quarter and a 23-30 advantage. Another series of back-and-forth three-pointers by Spanoulis Singleton, Erick Green, Ioannis Bourousis and Spanoulis again highlighted the run to halftime. Spanoulis’s last of four triples on the night supplied the first double-digit lead at 35-45, while Printezis scored right before the half to preserve a 39-47 advantage for the visitors. Calathes led the charge as Panathinaikos climbed back into it after the break. There were dueling shots from deep again as Rivers made his first pair, but Hackett shot a rainbow from the arc to keep Olympiacos up 55-61. Calathes hit one to get the Greens closer and Fotsis another to tie before a Nikos Pappas layup ahead of the third-quarter buzzer restored the first Panathinaikos lead since the first quarter, 63-61. Matt Lojeski’s triple opened the final quarter with another lead change, 63-64. Despite another shot from downtown by Ioannis Papapetrou, Pappas hit free throws and a layup to tie 67-67. Papapetrou and Spanoulis put the Reds up 67-71 midway through the quarter, but Rivers stepped up and swished back-to-back threes to suddenly catapult the Greens in front and the next one by Fotsis made it 76-72 with 2 minutes left. Spanoulis and Printezis took matters into their hands, helped by a decision to foul Calathes, who made 1 of 2 free throws with 26 seconds left, for the last Panathinaikos lead. There was one possession left, and once again, the leaders of Olympiacos decided a major win.Source: EuroleagueTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more

Ansarifard leads Greek champion to triumph in Ankara (video)

first_imgKarim Ansarifard scored twice on his European competition debut to give Olympiakos the boost it needed to see off host Osmanlispor with a 3-0 score in Ankara and advance to the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday.With the first leg in Piraeus having ended goalless a week earlier, Olympiakos had to score away from home to advance to the next round of the competition, and did so three times in the second half in Turkey despite the tricky pitch.The first half was actually quite poor for Olympiakos, with the hosts having several occasions to open the score; however their finishing touch let them down time and again. The Reds committed several defensive errors and were lucky not to pay for them.Yet barely two minutes after the interval Seba took a corner, Alberto Botia tried a swerving header and Ansarifard tucked the ball in from close range for a dream debut in Europe with the Olympiakos jersey. The Iranian striker only got a place in the starting line-up because Brown Ideye appears destined for China.The goal turned the game on its head as the Turks clearly lacked the necessary experience – being at their first ever European campaign – to bounce back from this setback at home.Olympiakos started missing chances until the 70th minute when substitute Thanassis Androutsos tried a parallel cross to find Tarik Elyounoussi in the box and the Norwegian international headed the ball home for 2-0.The Turkish defense had crumbled and three minutes from time Ansarifard scored his second of the night heading the ball in after Osmanlispor keeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas had saved a Seba shot.The result is also preserving the job of manager Paulo Bento, as the Portuguese’s position had become somewhat precarious after the goalless draws with Osmnanlispor and Atromitos at home and the loss to AEK away last Sunday. The irony is that Bento’s job is safe thanks to a player he had chosen to keep out of the squad and resorted to using on Thursday due to Ideye’s departure.Notably the Osmanlispor fans surprised the Greeks with a banner that read “Dear neighbor, friendship will win” in Greek, English and Turkish.Olympiakos is joined in the last 16 of the Europa League by Cypriot champion APOEL, that defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in Nicosia on Thursday and 4-3 on aggregate.Source: KathimeriniTweetPinShare0 Shareslast_img read more