Morocco footballers stuck in Guinea during coup attempt

Morocco were preparing to face Guinea when the coup took place. (AFP)
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Updated 05 September 2021

Morocco footballers stuck in Guinea during coup attempt

  • Morocco were scheduled to face Guinea in a World Cup qualifier on Monday

RABAT: Morocco’s national football team was “safe” Sunday in Guinean capital Conakry, a Moroccan official said, after army putschists said they had staged a coup in the west African country.
Scheduled to face Guinea in a Monday qualifier for the 2022 World Cup, the Moroccans “are safe and currently in a hotel some way away from where things are tense,” Mohamed Makrouf of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation (FRMF) told AFP.
The federation “is working on evacuating the team today. There’s already a plane at the airport,” he added.
Heavy gunfire was heard in central Conakry on Sunday, as the putschists claimed they had arrested President Alpha Conde, sending AFP a video showing the head of state surrounded by soldiers.
But the government said in a statement of its own that it had “repulsed” an attack on the presidential palace.
Guinea — one of the world’s poorest countries despite boasting significant mineral resources — has long been beset by political instability.

Pakistan-born Australian cricketer Khawaja finally gets visa to tour India

Updated 02 February 2023

Pakistan-born Australian cricketer Khawaja finally gets visa to tour India

  • It is not the first time Khawaja, who was born in Islamabad, has faced visa challenges when trying to enter India
  • In 2011, Khawaja took to social media to say he was not permitted to enter India because he was not born in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia: Pakistan-born Australia cricketer Usman Khawaja was cleared to join the national squad for a tour of India after his visa issues were cleared up ahead of his rescheduled departure on Thursday.

Cricket Australia said Khawaja was flying out of Melbourne, more than a day later than planned, after having to wait for his visa to be approved.

The other members of Australia’s 18-man squad were granted entry to India in time to take flights on Tuesday and Wednesday to their training camp in Bangalore.

It is not the first time Khawaja, who was born in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, has faced visa challenges when trying to enter India. In 2011, the top-order batter took to social media to say he had not been permitted to enter the country because he was not born in Australia.

On Wednesday, Khawaja posted a popular meme on Instagram along with the hashtags “stranded”, “dontleaveme”, “standard” and “anytimenow.”

The 36-year-old Khawaja hasn’t played in India in any of his 56 test matches dating back to 2011, although he has played other formats of cricket there. He has undergone a career revival since returning to Australia’s test lineup during the Ashes series win over England in January of last year following an almost three-year absence.

He posted centuries in each innings of his test recall in Sydney and has added three more hundreds, including an unbeaten 195 against South Africa last in Sydney last month, and five big half-centuries in 11 matches.

The four-test series against India begins in Nagpur next Thursday. The second test is set for New Delhi starting Feb. 17, the third March 1 in Dharamsala and the final test beginning March 9 in Ahmedabad.

Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith

Updated 02 February 2023

Golf rankings becoming ‘obsolete’, says LIV player Cameron Smith

  • The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board received an application from LIV Golf in July last year, but is yet to make any announcement

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY: British Open champion and LIV Golf player Cameron Smith claimed Wednesday that the world golf rankings are becoming “obsolete” as a consequence of the sport’s civil war.

The 29-year-old Australian joined the breakaway series last year after rising to No. 2 in the world.

That followed a series of spectacular performances, including winning the 150th British Open at St. Andrews, the Players Championship, the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the Australian PGA Championship. He has, however, slipped to No.4 in the rankings.

The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) Board received an application from LIV Golf in July last year, but is yet to make any announcement.

In the meantime, former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson has fallen to 46, Bryson DeChambeau has slipped from 24 to 96, while Phil Mickelson is 254th compared to 38th at this time last year.

“I’ve tried not to take it that badly, to be honest,” said Smith on Wednesday as he prepared to play the Asian Tour’s $5 million season-opener, the Saudi International which features a host of LIV players.

“I think when you rock up at a tournament, you know who you have to beat, whether there is a world ranking or not. There are generally seven-eight guys that are in that field that you know are going to put up a pretty good fight.

“For sure, it hurts. I feel as though I was really close to getting to No. 1, and that was definitely something I wanted to tick off. However, the longer this stuff goes on, I think the more obsolete those rankings become.”

Smith said it would be difficult to replicate a season like 2022, but he is hoping he can make a similar start like last year when he won the Tournament of Champions with a record score of 34-under par.

“I think 2022 probably would be a really tough one to back up,” said Smith, who started his professional career with a season on the Asian Tour before securing his card on the PGA Tour.

“It’s just about keeping the same processes going, really digging deep, working hard on my game. I think that is really what I need to do. Everything becomes easy when you’re playing good golf.”

There is a question mark over Johnson’s participation this week. On Wednesday, he pulled out of the ProAm for unspecified reasons and his scheduled press conference was canceled as well.

Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia is also in the field, returning following a right-knee operation in November.

“It went well. It feels probably about 95 percent. It doesn’t bother me to swing anymore. Now it is just a matter of getting used to walking holes over and over again,” said 43-year-old Garcia, who is also playing the Asian Tour International Series Oman in Muscat next week.

“After three months off, I want to get some rounds in me. We are going to play these two tournaments and then we have the LIV opener in Mexico before we head to Orlando.

“I will have those four tournaments heading into Augusta, and it is just a matter of getting in a good rhythm and get to the Masters in as good shape as I can.”


NFL superstar Brady calls it a career: I’m retiring for good

Updated 02 February 2023

NFL superstar Brady calls it a career: I’m retiring for good

  • The Californian, widely viewed as the greatest quarterback of all time, leaves the game owning a host of records in the NFL

MIAMI: Record-breaking NFL quarterback Tom Brady announced on Wednesday that he was “retiring for good” at the age of 45, one year after reversing his decision to quit the sport.

Brady, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost in the wildcard round of the NFL playoffs last month, called time on his 23-year career in a social media video.

“Good morning, I’ll get to the point right away: I’m retiring for good,” Brady said, sitting by a beach.

Widely viewed as the greatest quarterback of all time, Brady won a record seven Super Bowls, six of them with the New England Patriots before adding his final triumph with Tampa at the end of the 2020 season.

The quarterback had announced he was retiring on Feb. 1, 2022, but 40 days later changed his mind and said he was returning for another season with the Bucs.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first. So I won’t be long-winded,” he added.

“I think you only get one super emotional retirement essay, and I used mine up last year. So, really, thank you guys, so much, to every single one of you, for supporting me.

“My family, my friends, teammates, my competitors, I could go on forever, there’s too many. Thank you, guys, for letting me live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all,” he said.

Brady was due to enter free agency and already the rumor mill had begun with several teams being linked with the veteran who threw for 4,694 yards and 25 touchdowns in the 2022 regular season.

The Californian leaves the game owning a host of records in the NFL.

He is the league’s all-time regular-season leader in pass attempts (12,050), completions (7,753), passing yards (89,214) and touchdown passes (649). He also owns all those records for the post-season.

Brady won 251 regular season games and 35 playoff games, which are more than any player in the league’s history.

Under coach Bill Belichick at New England, Brady became a specialist in orchestrating comeback victories with his trademark game-winning drives.

Unflappable under pressure, he had the most game-winning drives (58) and fourth-quarter comeback wins (46) of any NFL quarterback.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who will face off against the Philadelphia Eagles in this year’s Super Bowl, responded to Brady’s announcement by posting an emoji of a goat — indicating his view that Brady was the Greatest of All Time (GOAT).

J.J. Watt, the three-times NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who recently announced his retirement, echoed the sentiment.

“Greatest of All Time. No question, no debate,” Watt tweeted.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege.

“PS — The newly retired group meets on the golf course every morning at 10am. Drinks are on the new guy, so bring your wallet.”

Brady’s celebrity surpassed the NFL — in November, he and Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen announced they were divorcing after 13 years of marriage.

The divorce came after months of tabloid speculation concerning the couple’s marriage, which reportedly came under strain when Brady reversed his retirement decision.

Bundchen replied to Brady’s announcement on Instagram writing: “Wishing you only wonderful things in this new chapter of your life.”

Sports greats beyond football also took note, with tennis legend Serena Williams noting on Instagram “I’m getting teary eyed watching this. Sad to see you go. Welcome to the retirement world ..... Again.”

Brady is expected to move into a career in broadcasting having already agreed a 10-year deal with television network Fox, reported to be worth $375 million, to work as a commentator once his football career ended.

In an interview in July with Variety magazine he said he was looking forward to taking on the new role.

“I have a very unique perspective on football and how it should be played, and what good plays look like and what bad plays look like,” he said.

“I feel like I can still have a great impact on the game. I could stay in the game, doing what I love to do, talking about this incredible sport.”

Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma

Updated 02 February 2023

Cremonese pull off another Italian Cup shock to beat Roma

  • Wednesday’s match at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was Cremonese’s first quarterfinal since 1997

MILAN: Hapless in Serie A, Cremonese pulled off another shock in the Italian Cup on Wednesday by beating Roma 2-1 to reach the semifinals for only the second time in their history — and the first in 36 years.

Last-place Cremonese, without a win in the league, followed up their cup victory at Napoli in the last round by eliminating Jose Mourinho’s Roma.

It will face Fiorentina in their first semifinal since 1987. The other semifinal pits holders Inter Milan against either Juventus or Lazio.

Cremonese’s win at Napoli was coach Davide Ballardini’s first match in charge and he followed that up with a draw at Bologna and a narrow loss to Inter in Serie A.

Wednesday’s match at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico was Cremonese’s first quarterfinal since 1997 but the players didn’t let the occasion get to them and impressed from the start.

Roma defender Marash Kumbulla was partly to blame for the opener, however, as he took too long on the ball, allowing Cyriel Dessers to steal it off him on the halfway line and sprint downfield into the area where he was brought down by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

Dessers dusted himself down and fired a precise penalty into the top left corner to give the visitors a 28th-minute lead.

Mourinho rang the changes at halftime but Cremonese doubled their advantage four minutes after the break. David Okereke raced down the right flank and rolled the ball across for Charles Pickel, who tried to flick it on to Frank Tsadjout but it was deflected into his own net by Roma defender Mehmet Çelik to send the 200 traveling fans wild.

Andrea Belotti pulled one back for Roma in the fourth minute of stoppage time.

Fiorentina avenged its league loss Torino by beating it 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

After chances for both teams in Florence, the breakthrough was made in the 65th minute. A corner was taken short to Aleksa Terzic, who whipped in a cross for Luka Jovic to head in at the far post.

Jonathan Ikone sealed the result — and a place in the final four — with a fine strike into the bottom right corner in the final minute after good work from Arthur Cabral.

Cabral also hit the crossbar in stoppage time before Yann Karamoh pulled one back for Torino to set up a nervy final three minutes.

Torino had won 1-0 at Fiorentina in Serie A less than two weeks ago.

Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead

Updated 02 February 2023

Lewandowski scores as Barça beat Betis to improve league lead

  • Lewandowski sealed Barcelona’s sixth straight victory in all competitions with his first league goal since October

MADRID: Robert Lewandowski ended his scoring drought in the Spanish league to help Barcelona defeat Real Betis 2-1 and increase their lead over Real Madrid on Wednesday.

Lewandowski sealed Barcelona’s sixth straight victory in all competitions with his first league goal since October. He is the league’s leading scorer with 14 goals. The Poland striker was making his return from a three-game suspension for disrespecting a referee in a match last year.

Raphinha opened the scoring for Barcelona, which now are eight points ahead of second-place Real Madrid ahead of the rival’s home match against Valencia on Thursday.

Both midweek games were postponed from January because of the teams’ participation in the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona defeated Betis in a penalty shootout in the semifinals before eventually winning the final against Madrid. Madrid played Valencia in the other semifinal, also advancing in a shootout.

It was Betis’ sixth straight league loss at home against Barcelona, who have won seven straight if counting the shootout win over Betis in the Super Cup.

Betis stayed in sixth place in the league, 19 points behind Barcelona. They are three points behind fourth-place Atletico Madrid in the final Champions League place. Manuel Pellegrini’s team has won one of its last five games in all competitions.

Raphinha put Barcelona ahead with a touch from close range after a left-flank low cross by Alejandro Balde in the 65th minute. Lewandowski added to the lead with a shot from inside the area in the 80th, and Betis got on the board with an own-goal by Barcelona defender Jules Koundé in the 85th.

Lewandowski has five goals in his last five matches in all tournaments.

The win came after Barcelona closed the winter transfer window without any signings to boost their squad. It saw forward Memphis Depay move to Atletico and Hector Bellerin join Sporting Lisbon. Veteran defender Gerard Pique retired.

Betis lost defender Alex Moreno to Arsenal and forward Loren Moron to Las Palmas, but it signed former Leicester forward Ayoze Perez.