BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona mortgaged its financial future to give Xavi Hernández the talent he wanted.
But Rayo Vallecano showed Xavi he still has work to do to forge a winning team after his new-look Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw on Saturday in their Spanish league opener.
The modest club from Madrid frustrated Robert Lewandowski and his fellow Barcelona newcomers by defending well and producing the most dangerous scoring threats. As the minutes ticked by, the energy drained from the 81,000-strong Camp Nou crowd that had turned out to cheer the team that was only made possible by the constroversial decision by club president Joan Laporta to sell off television rights and other assets in exchange for some much needed cash.
The biggest applause Lewandowski heard from the crowd was to show their appreciation for his hustle on defense late in the match with Barcelona stymied in attack. The closest the former Bayern Munich star went to scoring was a header flicked well over the bar in the first half.
Fittingly, given its poor finish to the match, Barcelona ended with 10 men after Sergio Busquets got a second booking in stoppage time when he swung his arm into the face of Rayo substitute Radamel Falcao. Busquets’ explusion will rule him out of Barcelona’s visit to Real Sociedad. Falcao then had what looked to be a winner waived away for offside as Rayo went close to claiming a third straight win over Barcelona after it stunned the Catalan club twice last season.
“It is too bad because we wanted to show our fans that we are on the right path,” Xavi said. “We had generated a lot of expectations, but this is just the beginning. Today is disappointing for every Barcelona supporter, but we have to keep our faith in this way of playing as being the right one to win titles.”
Lewandowski, winger Raphinha and defender Andreas Christensen, who also joined Barcelona this summer, all made Xavi’s starting 11. The three players along with fellow newcomer Franck Kessié and the recently re-signed Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto were only declared eligible to play by the Spanish league on Friday after Barcelona sold yet another stake in its in-house production company to improve its troubled financial balance.
The delicate state of Barcelona’s finances meant that it was unable to register Jules Koundé, its top defensive signing, in time for the season opener.
Xavi had said the demands placed on him and his team were higher this season because of the effort the club had made to give him a lot more talent after Barcelona won nothing last campaign following the exit of Lionel Messi.
But Xavi still has a way to go to create a team as well-honed as Andoni Iraola’s Rayo, which for a third meeting in a row held Barcelona without a goal. Iraola’s team, led by midfielders midfielders Isi Palazón and Óscar Trejo, erased all the passing lanes for Lewandowski. Barcelona was unable to find the answer through Raphinha and Dembélé, who both wasted the one good chance they each got.
Barcelona’s best chance came from late substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, whose goal-bound shot was saved by defender Alejandro Catena in the 85th.
Previously, Barcelona had needed goalie Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to keep the game scoreless.
Ter Stegen closed out quickly to block Álvaro García’s point-blank shot after the forward had streaked away down the left flank and cut back past the sliding Ronald Araújo just before halftime.
Barcelona had another scare early in the second half when Sergio Camello pounced on a ball lost by Araújo. Again Ter Stegen came to the rescue, forcing Camello into taking a shot from a narrow angle that trickled just past the far post.
“My team played tense and with nerves. I had tried to tell them that the pressure was on me,” Xavi said. “But Rayo played well and closed off our passing game. They executed their game plan.”
Iraola, a former Athletic Bilbao player who has impressed as a coach, said his team played well enough to claim another victory at Camp Nou.
“I think we played a great match. I am not satisfied because we wanted a win. It is too bad we couldn’t take the three points,” he said. “Maybe they had more chances, but we had three or four clear opportunities. I am happy for the effort of my team and for having neutralized a great rival.”
New-look Barcelona held 0-0 by Rayo in Lewandowski’s debut
New-look Barcelona held 0-0 by Rayo in Lewandowski’s debut
- Fittingly, given their poor finish to the match, Barcelona ended with 10 men after Sergio Busquets got a second booking in stoppage time when he swung his arm into the face of Rayo substitute Radamel Falcao
BARCELONA, Spain: Barcelona mortgaged its financial future to give Xavi Hernández the talent he wanted.
Paris joins big screen boycott of World Cup games from Qatar
It follows similar moves by other French cities, despite France going in as the defending champion. Some other European teams or federations are also looking at ways to protest.
Pierre Rabadan, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of sports, told reporters in the French capital that the decision against public broadcasting of matches is due to “the conditions of the organization of this World Cup, both on the environmental and social level.”
He said in an interview with France Blue Paris that “air-conditioned stadiums” and the “conditions in which these facilities have been built are to be questioned.”
Rabadan stressed that Paris is not boycotting the soccer tournament, but explained that Qatar’s “model of staging big events goes against what (Paris, the host of the 2024 Olympics) wants to organize.”
The move comes despite the city’s football club, Paris Saint-Germain, being owned by Qatar Sports Investments.
“We have very constructive relations with the club and its entourage yet it doesn’t prevent us to say when we disagree,” Rabadan said.
Denmark is staging its own protest: Its team jerseys at the World Cup will include a black option to honor migrant workers who died during construction work for the tournament. And several European soccer federations want their captains to wear an armband with a rainbow heart design during World Cup games to campaign against discrimination.
A growing number of French cities are refusing to erect screens to broadcast World Cup matches to protest Qatar’s human rights record.
The mayor of Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights, cited allegations of human rights abuses and exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar as the reason for canceling public broadcasts of the World Cup.
“It’s impossible for us to ignore the many warnings of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers by non-governmental organizations,” Jeanne Barseghian said in a statement. “We cannot condone these abuses, we cannot turn a blind eye when human rights are violated.”
And then, there’s the impact on the environment, Barseghian said.
“While climate change is a palpable reality, with fires and droughts and other disaster, organizing a soccer tournament in the desert defies common sense and amounts to an ecological disaster,” she said.
Arnaud Deslandes, a deputy mayor of Lille, said that by canceling public viewing of matches, the northern city wanted to send a message to FIFA about the irreparable damage of the Qatar tournament to the environment.
“We want to show FIFA that money is not everything,” Deslandes told The Associated Press in an interview.
As for residents’ reactions to the city’s decision, he added: “I have yet to meet a person in Lille who was disappointed by our decision.”
The gas-rich emirate has been fiercely criticized in the past decade for its treatment of migrant workers, mostly from south Asia, who were needed to build tens of billions of dollars’ worth of stadiums, metro lines, roads and hotels.
Qatar has been equally fierce in denying accusations of human rights abuses, and has repeatedly rejected allegations that the safety and health of 30,000 workers who built the World Cup infrastructure have been jeopardized.
Qatar has also said that it is mindful of environmental concerns and has committed to offsetting some of the carbon emissions from the World Cup events through creating new green spaces irrigated with recycled water and building alternative energy projects.
Environmental activists across France have supported the cancelation of public broadcasting in fan zones because outdoor viewing of the Nov. 20-Dec. 19 tournament would use energy that the country has been storing for winter.
Ukraine to join Spain and Portugal in 2030 World Cup bid
- “Now the Ukrainian delegation will unite with us,” the Spanish football association’s president said
- Portugal held the 2004 European Championship while Ukraine was a joint host with Poland of Euro 2012
NYON, Switzerland: War-torn Ukraine will join Spain and Portugal in a bid to host the 2030 World Cup, presidents from the three countries’ football associations announced on Wednesday.
The original proposal was made public two years ago but has been given a political impetus by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The institutional headquarters are in Madrid, the administrative headquarters are in Lisbon. Now the Ukrainian delegation will unite with us,” the Spanish football association’s (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales said.
“In the coming months, we will come to work on practicalities,” he added.
RFEF, which organized the 1982 edition, said in a statement the idea was backed by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.
“The Royal Spanish Football Federation and the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) have incorporated the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) into the Iberian Bid to organize the 2030 World Cup,” RFEF said.
“With the full support of Aleksander Ceferin, the Iberian bid incorporates the federation chaired by Andriy Pavelko in order to build bridges and project a message of unity, solidarity and generosity from all of European football,” it added.
Portugal held the 2004 European Championship while Ukraine was a joint host with Poland of Euro 2012.
“The example of tenacity and resilience set by the Ukrainian people is inspiring,” the FPF said.
The FPF added that the joint bid “aims to contribute through the power of football to the recovery of a country undergoing reconstruction.”
It added the terms of Ukraine’s role in the bid “will be discussed and defined in due course.”
It follows the announcement last month from an Egyptian official that Egypt, Greece and Saudi Arabia are in talks to jointly host the 2030 World Cup.
In August, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Paraguay launched their bid to host the event — which is the centenary of the first World Cup, held in Uruguay — with the hope of bringing the global showpiece back to its first home.
The 2026 edition has already been awarded to three countries — Canada, Mexico and the United States.
More than half of the 21 World Cup finals already staged have been in Europe but later this year Qatar will host the finals, the first time they have been played in the Middle East.
‘Mindboggling’ how Babar Azam handled relentless pressure, criticism — Shadab Khan
- Pakistan vice-captain Shadab Khan backs Babar Azam ahead of triangular series
- Pakistan to play New Zealand, Bangladesh in coming days before T20 World Cup 2022
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan cricket team’s vice-captain Shadab Khan on Wednesday threw his weight behind skipper Babar Azam, praising him for handling “relentless pressure” and “sometimes unfair criticism” as the green shirts prepare for their triangular series against New Zealand and Bangladesh.
Azam, widely regarded as the best T20I batter in world cricket today, has been criticized by fans over Pakistan’s recent losses in the Asia Cup 2022 and in the home series against England. At times, fans have questioned Azam’s captaincy decisions, his playing XI choices and blamed him for the team not batting aggressively.
Pakistan have a hectic T20 schedule ahead of them in the coming days and weeks. Azam’s team are scheduled to play Bangladesh on Friday and New Zealand on Saturday for the triangular series. On October 23, they kick off their T20 World Cup campaign with a clash against arch-rivals India.
Khan, in a blog published on the Pakistan Cricket Board’s website, said the more he learns from Azam, the more his admiration for the 27-year-old grows. “The way this 27-year-old, who is relatively new to the leadership role, has handled relentless pressure and sometimes unfair criticism while ensuring his own performance doesn’t slip, is simply mindboggling,” he wrote.
“He has stood like a rock for his players and fully backed them. This is the hallmark of a leader, this is how you earn respect from your players and this is how you develop your team,” Khan added.
Khan said Azam had thrown his weight behind every member of the team, adding that it is up to them to rise to the occasion. “If we have to make our captain stand tall and be proud, then we have to convert our potential into performances,” he added.
Khan responded to the backlash after Pakistan’s 4-3 loss at home to England, saying the team had “only two poor days in the office” if the series was properly analyzed.
“But we understand and accept the anger and frustration of the fans and public: they’ve once again started to pin hopes on us after what we have achieved as a team in the past 12 months,” he added.
Christensen ruled out as Barca injury crisis deepens
- The Denmark centre-back was taken off in the 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan on Tuesday
- Barca are already without Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde and Hector Bellerin in defence
BARCELONA: Barcelona defender Andreas Christensen has suffered a sprained ankle, the club confirmed on Wednesday, leaving the Catalans with only two fit center-backs.
The Denmark center-back was taken off in the 1-0 defeat by Inter Milan on Tuesday at the San Siro, and is a doubt for upcoming games, including the Clasico on October 16.
Barca are already without Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde and Hector Bellerin in defense, as well as Dutch duo Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong.
“Tests carried out on Wednesday have confirmed that the first team player Andreas Christensen has a sprained left ankle,” said Barca in a statement.
“He is unavailable and his recovery will dictate his return.”
Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia are set to line up in the center of defense against Celta Vigo on Sunday in La Liga, with Xavi thin on alternatives beyond using players from the B team.
Inter visit Camp Nou on Wednesday October 12, a crucial game for Barca’s hopes of qualifying for the next round of the Champions Leagues, before the Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Saudi Arabia wins right to host Asian Winter Games in 2029
- Games to be held at Trojena, winter sports complex being built in northwest of Kingdom as part of the futuristic NEOM megacity
- Olympic Council of Asia said the Saudi bid was “unanimously approved” at general assembly meeting in Phnom Penh
JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia was chosen on Tuesday to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at Trojena, a year-round winter sports complex being built in the northwest of the Kingdom as part of the futuristic NEOM megacity.
“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” the Olympic Council of Asia said after the Saudi bid was “unanimously approved” at its general assembly meeting in Phnom Penh.
Trojena, which is due to be completed in 2026, is in an area of NEOM where winter temperatures drop below zero and year-round temperatures are generally 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the region.
One of 10 regions within NEOM, it is about 50 km inland from the Gulf of Aqaba in an area that, like much of the rest of the Kingdom, receives very little rainfall. The site spans 60 square kilometers, at an elevation of between 1,500 and 2,600 meters.
The complex will have year-round skiing, chalets, mansions, ultra-luxury hotels and a five-meter-deep manmade lake filled with desalinated sea water.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said that Trojena “will redefine mountain tourism for the world by creating a place based on the principles of ecotourism, highlighting our efforts to preserve nature and enhance the community’s quality of life.”
Among those on the successful Saudi bid team for the Games was alpine skier Fayik Abdi. “I never believed I would ski in my homeland,” he said.
There will be 47 events at the Trojena Games — 28 on snow and 19 on ice — including competitions for skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey and figure skating.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, president of the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the success of the Saudi bid to host the Games was “a great victory for the Saudi nation and the people of the Gulf countries.”
He said: “The Saudi sports sector significantly contributes to … the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.”
The successful bid “also shed light on the enormous potential and the outstanding infrastructure of Saudi Arabia to host and organize international-level sports competitions and games successfully.”
Committee vice president Prince Fahd bin Jalawi said the Saudi leadership was “sparing no effort to push Saudi sports forward alongside the most advanced countries in the world.”
NEOM chief executive Nadhmi Al-Nasr said Trojena would have “suitable infrastructure to create the winter atmosphere in the heart of the desert, to make the Winter Games in Trojena an unprecedented global event.”