Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

Incidents broke out during the pre-match protocol Saint-Etienne/Angers of the 11th day of Ligue 1, caused by the ultras groups of the club stéphanois, and the kickoff of the game scheduled for 21:00 has been delayed. (AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2021

Saint-Etienne match delayed after fans bombard and invade pitch

  • The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm kick off
  • Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.

SAINT-ETIENNE, France: The kick off in the Ligue 1 match between Saint Etienne and visiting Angers was delayed for an hour by protests from home fans angry at their team’s dire form.
The latest in a series of incidents involving fans in and around Ligue 1 games this season started during the player warm up ahead of the scheduled 9pm (1900 GMT) kick off.
Fans unfurled banners, let off a barrage of rockets and smoke bombs and invaded the pitch, damaging the goals.
Fans unfurled banners attacking coach Claude Puel, club leadership and the players.
“We’ve had enough talk, you’re making us crack” said one visible through the smoke.
“Puel resign,” “management resign” and “we want a team worthy of its fans” chanted the fans.
The players left the field and kick off was put back as municipal workers repaired the nets at the city-owned Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
Saint-Etienne are last in Ligue 1, winless after 11 matches.
On Thursday, fans hung a banner on the gates of the training center which said: “Puel, you have 24 hours to resign.”
The latest incidents come just two days after the league disciplinary committee imposed a two-match suspended closure of the stadium’s south stand after incidents during the derby against Lyon on October 3.
A season of angry fans in France opened with a match between Nice and Marseille abandoned on August 22.
That was followed by a string of incidents in September.
The northern derby between Lens and Lille was overshadowed by a pitch invasion that delayed the start of the second half.
The next weekend, supporters invaded the pitch at the game between Angers and Marseille, while stones were thrown at a bus taking Bordeaux fans to their match in Montpellier, with 16 suffering minor injuries.
Nice were deducted a point. Lens were ordered to play home matches behind closed doors.


Ballon d’Or sees Barca childhood fan Putellas go down in folklore

Updated 30 November 2021

Ballon d’Or sees Barca childhood fan Putellas go down in folklore

MADRID: Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.
Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.
Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.
Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.
She started playing the sport in school, against boys.
“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.
So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.
“That’s where things got serious... But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.
After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.
She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.
In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.
It was in the following year that she made the step up to the national team and she has gone on to feature in four major tournaments with Spain, winning 92 caps.
Last season was her crowning glory as her childhood side won the Primera Division and the Copa de la Reina as well as the Champions League in a matter of weeks, a historic achievement for a Spanish women’s outfit.
Individual recognition shortly followed, as she was named UEFA women’s player of the year and Monday’s announcement in Paris made her just the second Spanish player, after Luis Suarez in 1960, to win the much-coveted Ballon d’Or.
 


Messi’s enduring brilliance rewarded with another Ballon d’Or

Updated 30 November 2021

Messi’s enduring brilliance rewarded with another Ballon d’Or

  • The award a is record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world

PARIS: Some might question whether Lionel Messi really deserved to win his latest Ballon d’Or prize ahead of other worthy candidates, but the Argentinian has been rewarded for continuing to be so good for so long.
The most turbulent year of Messi’s glittering career, in which he was forced to tearfully bid farewell to Barcelona, ends with him — at the age of 34 — claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.
In Germany they thought it had to be Robert Lewandowski’s year after he missed out 12 months ago when the 2020 edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Karim Benzema might have had plenty of support in Spain for his remarkable performances with Real Madrid, and Jorginho could stake a claim following a year in which he won the Champions League with Chelsea as well as Euro 2020 with Italy.
Yet it is the enduring brilliance of Messi — who won the last award in 2019 — which stays in the minds of the jurors when it comes to voting.
Having joined Paris Saint-Germain in August, he is the first male player to win the award while with a French club since Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille in 1991, although it was his achievements with Barcelona and with Argentina that counted toward him effectively retaining his crown.
Messi tried unsuccessfully to force his departure from Barcelona in August 2020 but he showed no signs of rancour as he stayed put at the Camp Nou and ended last season with 38 goals in 48 games for his boyhood club.
These are the kind of remarkable figures that he has made so mundane over the course of his career — indeed he had actually scored more goals than that in 10 of his previous 11 seasons.
Messi was the top scorer in La Liga for the fifth consecutive year with 30 goals and won the Copa del Rey, scoring twice in the final as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0.
This will always be remembered as the year his long association with the Catalan giants came to an end, after 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record goal tally for one club.
However, 2021 was also the year he finally won a major international title, captaining Argentina to victory in the Copa America with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the final at the Maracana.
He scored four goals in the tournament as Argentina won the South American championship for the first time since 1993.
“I think I won this trophy thanks to what we did at the Copa America so I dedicate this to my teammates,” he said after being handed his latest Ballon d’Or at the Chatelet Theatre in central Paris.
However the shame was that hardly any fans were in the stadium to witness Argentina’s Copa America success due to coronavirus restrictions, only adding to the sense that, despite all he has achieved, Messi still has unfinished business.
Not least at PSG, where he has so far played just 11 games since arriving in August, and scored just four goals.
Messi did provide three assists for the Parisians in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday but it remains to be seen how motivated the Argentinian is by the French league. He has other priorities.
“My dream is to win another Champions League,” he said at his unveiling in August, with the last of his four European Cups coming in 2015.
Then there is the really big one: the World Cup in Qatar will be underway this time next year and Messi will be 35 by then.
That will surely be his last chance to win the greatest trophy of all, and you imagine he would swap his seven Ballons d’Or to get his hands on it.


Manchester United appoint Ralf Rangnick as interim boss

Updated 29 November 2021

Manchester United appoint Ralf Rangnick as interim boss

  • Rangnick will take over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was dismissed just over a week ago
  • The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on turning around the fortunes of the club, who are floundering in eighth spot in the Premier League

LONDON: Manchester United announced on Monday they had appointed Ralf Rangnick as interim manager until the end of the season following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after a disastrous run of results.
The 63-year-old will arrive at Old Trafford from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow, where he was manager of sports and development, becoming just the sixth German manager to coach in the Premier League.
At the end of the season Rangnick, whose appointment is subject to work visa requirements, will take on a consultancy role at the 20-times English champions for a further two years.
He will take over from first-team coach Michael Carrick, who has been in caretaker charge for two games since Solskjaer was dismissed just over a week ago following a humiliating 4-1 defeat at lowly Watford.
“He was our number one candidate for interim manager, reflecting the invaluable leadership and technical skills he will bring from almost four decades of experience in management and coaching,” said United football director John Murtough.
The former RB Leipzig boss said he was excited to be joining United and focused on turning around the fortunes of the club, who are floundering in eighth spot in the Premier League, five points off the top four.
“The squad is full of talent and has a great balance of youth and experience,” he said. “All my efforts for the next six months will be on helping these players fulfil their potential, both individually and, most importantly, as a team.
“Beyond that, I look forward to supporting the club’s longer-term goals on a consultancy basis.”
Rangnick could take charge for the first time against Arsenal on Thursday if his work permit issues are sorted out quickly.
Carrick — who has overseen a Champions League win over Villarreal and a 1-1 draw on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, where he dropped Cristiano Ronaldo — will remain in caretaker charge until Rangnick’s work visa is finalized.
Former United captain Gary Neville tweeted: “Welcome to the Greatest Football Club in the World Ralf Rangnick.”
Club bosses ran out of patience with Solskjaer despite keeping faith with the Norwegian after humiliating home defeats to rivals Liverpool and Manchester City.
The former striker, who scored the winning goal for United in the 1999 Champions League final to complete a historic treble, was in charge at Old Trafford for nearly three years.
Under his leadership United finished in the Premier League top four in back-to-back seasons for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired as boss in 2013 but they have not won silverware since 2017.
The American-owned club can boast abundant riches in attack, with Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Greenwood and Anthony Martial all vying for starting spots.
But their leaky defense has already conceded 22 goals in 13 games, more than four times Chelsea’s total of five and they are well off the pace set this season by Chelsea, Liverpool and City.
Rangnick has managed a number of clubs in Germany including Stuttgart, Schalke, Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig and has also operated as director of football at RB Leipzig and RB Salzburg.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel have both spoken highly of their compatriot, who won the German Cup with Schalke in 2011.
During the same season, he led Schalke to the semifinals of the Champions League, where they lost 6-1 on aggregate to United, who were then beaten by Barcelona in the final.
Rangnick is renowned for his emphasis on “gegenpressing,” a high-pressing style of football in which hard work and zonal pressing means the ball is won high in the opposition’s half in attacking areas.
Klopp said last week, before the appointment was confirmed, that the veteran manager’s appointment was “not good news for other teams” due to his impressive track record.


PSG star Neymar out for up to 8 weeks with sprained ankle

Updated 29 November 2021

PSG star Neymar out for up to 8 weeks with sprained ankle

  • Neymar tore ligaments in his ankle, PSG said on Monday

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar will be out for up to eight weeks with a sprained left ankle.
Neymar was taken off on a stretcher during the French league leader’s 3-1 win at Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
He also tore ligaments in his ankle, PSG said in a statement on Monday.
It is the latest in a long list of injuries.
Neymar was stretchered off last December with a left ankle injury.
Since joining PSG in 2017 for a world record 222 million euros ($250 million), he has also had rib, groin and adductor injuries as well as breaking his right foot in February 2018.


Frank Williams, F1 pioneer who fought adversity to build dominant team

Updated 29 November 2021

Frank Williams, F1 pioneer who fought adversity to build dominant team

  • Williams’ dry wit and charm, indefatigable spirit and resilience served him well on his journey from being a trainee sales rep for Campbell’s soup to the pinnacle of F1
  • Frank Williams: ‘It’s been a great journey, one I’d love to do again if I was younger. I wouldn’t try and do anything different except try and avoid the accidents’

PARIS: Frank Williams was a colossus of Formula One, but lurking beneath all the success the British racing legend’s life was touched by tragedy.
Williams, who died on Sunday aged 79, was left a tetraplegic and confined to a wheelchair after a road accident in France in 1986.
The courage, energy and determination with which he dealt with this cruel roll of fate’s dice drew admiration from his family, friends, colleagues and the wider public.
With technical guru Patrick Head he created, from scratch, one of the greatest Formula One teams of all time.
Williams captured seven drivers’ titles, the last claimed by Canadian Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, while the team’s nine constructors’ crowns places Williams second only to mighty Ferrari.
His noted dry wit and charm, indefatigable spirit and resilience served him well on his journey from being a trainee sales rep for Campbell’s soup earning £10 a week, to the pinnacle of the high-octane world of F1.
Francis Owen Garbett Williams was born in South Shields in northeast England on April 16, 1942.
In his early days in motor racing, he had to conduct business from his local red telephone box when cash wasn’t flowing.
He established Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966, competing in F3 and F2, and F1 with a borrowed chassis from 1969.
The death of his first driver Piers Courage, driving for Williams at the Dutch GP at Zandvoort in 1970, was said to have marked him for life.
The first all-Williams built F1 car had an inauspicious start, when with Henri Pescarolo at the wheel, it was destroyed in a crash in 1972.
With funding an ever-present problem and having lost control of his company he left, with Head, to set up the team that is still racing today, in 1977.
Clay Regazzoni drove a Cosworth-powered Williams to its first F1 success, fittingly at the British Grand Prix, in 1979.
Australian Alan Jones won the team’s first drivers’ title the following season. Williams also collected the constructors’ championship that year.
Keke Rosberg took the 1982 title, with five more captured in a golden period between 1987 and 1997, all after Williams’ ill-fated 1986 dash to catch a flight in France that led to the car crash.
“I was late for a plane I didn’t need to be late for, I got the French time mixed up with the English time,” he was to recall.
Williams lost control of the rental car, causing it to leave the highway and drop 2.4 meters into a field. Williams suffered a spinal fracture between the fourth and fifth vertebra after being pressed between his seat and the crushed roof.
Williams was consigned to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
“But life has to go on,” he said. “I was able to continue in the business I was already in, but generally speaking it’s been a handicap in the true sense of the word.”
At the height of their powers, Ayrton Senna, who had won three titles with McLaren, came on board for the 1994 season, only to perish in a horrific high-speed crash at Imola.
Williams had a deep connection with the Brazilian great and was never able fully to come to terms with his death.
“Frank had a love affair with Ayrton,” his daughter Claire, who would later head the team, told The Sun newspaper in 2019.
“He got into his heart, got into his mind, and he always wanted to put him in his race car. Dad’s wish then came true, but it ended in the worst possible way.”
Not for the first time personal anguish failed to diminish Williams’ single-mindedness to succeed, with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve capturing the 1996 and 1997 world championships. He was knighted in 1999 and became Sir Frank.
“It’s been a great journey, one I’d love to do again if I was younger. I wouldn’t try and do anything different except try and avoid the accidents,” Williams told the BBC in 2010.
His death comes after his family ended 43 years of involvement in the team in September 2020, following its sale to Dorilton Capital.
Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told AFP shortly before the sale that the team had lost its raison d’etre when Williams stepped down from the board in 2012.
Both of them were among the co-founders of the Formula One Constructors’ Association in 1974.
“Dear old Frank had to work so hard to make sure the team competed and that happened,” he said.
“Frank was hands-on in the way he managed the team.
“He could get things done.”