Palestinian team arrives in Islamabad to participate in 15th West Asia Baseball Cup

Palestinian baseball team arrives at Islamabad International Airport in Islamabad on January 25, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan Baseball Federation)
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Updated 25 January 2023

Palestinian team arrives in Islamabad to participate in 15th West Asia Baseball Cup

  • Six countries including Pakistan, Palestine, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan will participate in the event
  • The tournament had to include seven teams, but India squad couldn’t get clearance from government after getting visa

ISLAMABAD: The Palestinian baseball team arrived in Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday to participate in the West Asia Baseball Cup, a six-nation event scheduled to be held at the Pakistan Sports Complex from January 27 through February 1.

Apart from the host nation, the tournament will be played among Palestine, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The event has been organized by the Pakistan Federation Baseball in collaboration with Dubai-based Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league created to serve South Asia and the Middle East.

“The Palestinian baseball team arrived in Islamabad early in the morning, at 2am, while the Afghanistan team reached Pakistan and are scheduled to arrive in Islamabad at around 11am to 12pm tomorrow,” Syed Fakhar Ali Shah, president of the Pakistan Federation Baseball, told Arab News.

“The Bangladesh team has just arrived at the Lahore airport,” he continued. “We have received them and they are on their way to Islamabad, while the Nepal team reached Lahore at 2pm and is also on the way to the federal capital. Both teams are en route to Islamabad in separate buses.”

Shah added the tournament was originally planned to have seven teams, but the Indian squad could not get border clearance from their government after getting visas to Pakistan.

“As of now, only six teams will play because of India’s situation,” he said.

Earlier, Shah told the Associated Press of Pakistan news agency the event would be the 15th edition of the tournament.

“It will be the 15th edition of the Cup and will be played in a round-robin system,” he said.

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

Updated 17 sec ago

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

LAUSANNE: FIFA has toughened its disciplinary proceedings for cases of sexual assault or harassment in a revised Code of Ethics that was announced and came into force on Wednesday.
The code, said the governing body of world football in a press release, is intended “to enhance protection of football integrity.”
It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees.
“The changes are aimed at improving the protection of certain parties to proceedings before FIFA’s judicial bodies, while providing FIFA with further instruments against illegal, immoral or unethical methods and practices,” said the release.
The revised code removes the 10-year limitation period on prosecuting sexual offenses.
The changes make the possible victims “parties to the relevant proceedings, who enjoy all procedural rights, such as that of being notified of the relevant decision and being entitled to appeal it.”
The code also obliges “member associations and confederations to notify FIFA of any decisions rendered on sexual abuse and match-fixing.”
A series of sexual assault scandals in recent years, notably in Gabon, Haiti, the United States and Afghanistan, forced FIFA into disciplinary proceedings, particularly in cases where the local authorities refused to act.
FIFA said it would appoint an independent integrity expert to investigate match fixing and coordinate with the public authorities in assessing potential offenses, and propose “appropriate disciplinary measures.”
FIFA said it was extending transfer bans on debtor clubs that do not comply with decisions by its Football Tribunal and could charge 18 percent interest on unpaid debts.

Injured Pakistani pacer Shaheen Afridi ‘very excited’ for PSL comeback

Updated 34 min 55 sec ago

Injured Pakistani pacer Shaheen Afridi ‘very excited’ for PSL comeback

  • Shaheen Afridi says there were times during injury when he ‘wanted to give up’
  • Afridi leads Lahore franchise, who begin PSL title defense against Multan on Feb 13

ISLAMABAD: Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi said on Wednesday he is “very excited” to be making a comeback to the cricket field for the upcoming Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8 after a knee injury in November last year ruled him out of action for a couple of months.

Afridi, who made his international debut for Pakistan in 2018, has gone on to become one of the most lethal fast bowlers in the world. The lanky pacer, who spearheads Pakistan’s pace battery in all three formats of the game, has the ability to bowl toe-crushing in-swingers at a fiery pace while at the same time, surprise batters with plenty of bounce and variety. 

After missing an important white-ball series against England at home, Afridi returned to action in last year’s ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia. However, a freak twist while taking a catch aggravated his injury further, ruling him out of action for a few more months. 

According to a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Afridi described the PSL, Pakistan’s professional T20 cricket league, as “one of the best” leagues in the world and an important event for him to make his comeback. 

“I am very excited to be making my comeback here and look forward to all the challenges that it will throw at me,” Afridi said. “Thanks to the Almighty, I am doing well. I am ticking both the bowling workload and fitness requirement boxes.”

Afridi, who led Lahore Qalandars to their maiden PSL title last year, will hope to take the field when the defending champions take on Multan Sultans on February 13 in Multan when the tournament kicks off. 

The bowler spoke of how he wanted to play in Pakistan’s home series against England and New Zealand but was unable to do so. “I was more distressed for missing the Tests, because I like Test cricket more. A bowler is measured on how he performs in Test cricket and I wanted to take wickets against England,” he added. 

“There were times when I wanted to give up,” he said. “I was working on only one muscle and it was not improving. Often during the rehabilitation sessions, I used to say to myself ‘this is enough, I cannot do this anymore’.

Afridi’s potency can be judged by the fact that he has taken the most wickets in the tournament since his debut. He is third on the list of the highest wicket-takers in the tournament history behind Wahab Riaz (103) and Hassan Ali (81) who have played 27 and 14 more matches than him.

While he missed several important fixtures at home, Afridi aims to make his return to international cricket at an important time. The third ICC World Test Championship cycle and 50-over Asia Cup and World Cup would both be played this year. 

Pakistan-born Aussie batter Khawaja's India visa delayed ahead of Test tour

Updated 01 February 2023

Pakistan-born Aussie batter Khawaja's India visa delayed ahead of Test tour

  • Khawaja, who moved to Australia aged four, has toured India before, but also faced delays on that occasion
  • Pakistan and India have had tense ties since partition in 1947 and those tensions have routinely seeped into sports

SYDNEY: Pakistan-born Australian batter Usman Khawaja said on Wednesday he was still waiting for an Indian visa, even as his teammates began departing for a four-Test tour that starts on February 9.

Khawaja — who moved to Australia aged four — has toured India before, but also faced delays on that occasion with his visa taking longer than Australia-born teammates.

“Waiting for my Indian Visa,” Khawaja said on Instagram, above an image from Netflix series “Narcos” where a forlorn Pablo Escobar — played by actor Wagner Moura — sits alone on a swinging seat.

The left-handed opener is now scheduled to fly out on Thursday.

Australian media reported that touring players and support staff began receiving visas in early January, and some have already begun arriving in Bengaluru, where the team will set up pre-match camp.

Pakistan and India have had fraught relations since partition in 1947 and those tensions have routinely seeped into sports.

The two countries last played a bi-lateral series a decade ago and Pakistani players have been barred from the prestigious T20 Indian Premier League.

Australia is trying to win its first Test series in India in almost a decade. Tests will be played in Nagpur, Delhi, Dharamsala and then in the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

After being left out of the Test side for about two years Khawaja made a stunning return against England in the 2021-2022 Ashes.

He notched his 4000th Test run in a recent match against South Africa in Sydney, where he was 195 not out.

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

Updated 01 February 2023

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

  • Kyiv wants ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes
  • IOC has opened door to them competing in qualifiers

KYIV: Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics in 2024 due to Moscow’s invasion, the sports minister said on Tuesday.

Vadym Huttsait, 51, a former Olympic fencing champion, told Reuters the idea of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals was unacceptable.

“It is impossible for us at a time when the full-scale war is going on, when our athletes, our soldiers are defending our homeland,” he said in his Kyiv office, beside a wall with portraits of athletes killed in the war.

Last week the International Olympic Committee said it was open to including Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the Games and opened a door to them competing in qualifiers, prompting an international campaign by Kyiv to keep them out.

Moscow said on Tuesday it would welcome any IOC moves to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics. But hours later the IOC said it was standing by sanctions imposed against the countries over Russia’s invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday that “Russian politization of sport would invariably mean justification of terror.”

At least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died in the war, said Huttsait, who won an Olympic fencing team gold in 1992 for the so-called Unified Team, which comprised 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics. He also coached Ukraine’s winning team at the 2008 Games.

“Ukraine will unite with many countries ... and it (Russians competing) will not be allowed,” he added, saying 40 nations had given Ukrainian athletes housing and training assistance abroad during the war.

There has been little public support yet from other nations for an outright ban on Russians at Paris.

The IOC’s initial recommendation to ban Russians and Belarusians has been applied by many sports federations.

But last week, it backed a proposal by the Olympic Council of Asia to allow them to compete in Asia, which could potentially include Olympic qualifying events.

Should that happen, Ukraine’s sporting authorities and athletes will face a “very difficult decision” whether to boycott Paris, Huttsait said.

“When we lose so many people, so many athletes, the lives of Ukrainians are more important to us than any medal at international competitions,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have turned on the IOC in recent days for promoting “violence, mass murders, destruction” with the idea of giving Russia a “platform to promote genocide.”

The IOC has called that defamatory and said such words do not promote constructive discussion.

Zelensky said “only the free world acting together can protect sport from those sports bureaucrats who for some reason are ready to close their eyes to reality.”

On Tuesday, former boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko called on IOC head Thomas Bach not to betray the Olympic spirit and become an “accomplice in this abominable war.”

Moscow is trying to turn the page on years of doping scandals after its teams were forced to compete without their flag or anthem at the Olympics and major international events.

Newcastle sink Saints to end 47-year wait to reach League Cup final

Updated 01 February 2023

Newcastle sink Saints to end 47-year wait to reach League Cup final

  • Newcastle had all the momentum, sweeping forward in a black and white wave that left Southampton powerless to stem the tide

NEWCASTLE, United Kingdom: Newcastle reached the League Cup final for the first time in 47 years as Sean Longstaff’s double inspired a 2-1 win against Southampton in Tuesday’s semifinal second leg at jubilant St. James’ Park.
Longstaff’s first-half strikes ensured Eddie Howe’s side finished the job after winning 1-0 in the first leg last week.
Che Adams reduced the deficit before the interval and Magpies midfielder Bruno Guimaraes was sent off in the closing stages.
But Newcastle held on to clinch a 3-1 aggregate victory that booked a final date with Manchester United or Nottingham Forest at Wembley on February 26.
United hold a 3-0 lead against Forest heading into Wednesday’s second leg at Old Trafford.
The Magpies’ most recent domestic final ended in defeat against United in the 1999 FA Cup.
Newcastle, who have never won the League Cup, are aiming to lift a major domestic trophy for the first time since the 1955 FA Cup.
Their last major silverware in any competition came in the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
On a cathartic night for Newcastle after decades of suffering, it was fitting that Longstaff, a boyhood Magpies fan, should be the one to send them to Wembley.
With Newcastle legends Alan Shearer and David Ginola joining the celebrations in the stands, raucous Magpies fans were ready to keep the party going all night long in the football-crazy city’s Bigg Market and Quayside bars.
Revitalized by Howe’s astute leadership and the financial muscle of a largely Saudi-backed ownership group, a club once regarded as the laughing stock of the Premier League can finally hold their heads high.
They sit third in the Premier League and look set for a sustained period as contenders for the English game’s top honors.
Reaching their first domestic cup final this century is another significant landmark in Newcastle’s rebirth.
Ramping up an already vociferous atmosphere, Newcastle’s Anthony Gordon was paraded on the pitch before kick-off after completing his £45 million ($51 million) move from Everton.
Howe had labelled the second leg a “season defining” moment for Newcastle and it took his fired-up side just five minutes to raise the decibel levels even further.
Longstaff found Kieran Trippier on the right flank and sprinted onto the defender’s return pass before guiding a low finish past Gavin Bazunu from 12 yards.
Longstaff’s first goal at St. James’ Park in four years was nearly followed by a second moments later when he flashed just wide from Guimaraes’ reverse pass.
Newcastle had all the momentum, sweeping forward in a black and white wave that left Southampton powerless to stem the tide.
Once again it was Longstaff who provided the finishing touch to a breathtaking raid in the 21st minute.
Exposing Southampton’s fragile wing-back system, Joe Willock sprinted into space behind James Bree and found Miguel Almiron, whose cutback was drilled home by Longstaff.
Newcastle keeper Nick Pope had kept 10 successive clean-sheets, but his unbeaten streak ended in the 29th minute.
Completely against the run of play, Willock gifted possession to Adams and the striker smashed a superb shot into the far corner from outside the penalty area.
In a symbolic passing of the torch, Jonjo Shelvey — a veteran of Newcastle’s darker days — waved farewell to fans on the pitch at half-time ahead of his move to Nottingham Forest.
Shelvey has been left behind by Howe’s revolution, an overhaul that has given Newcastle a much stronger spine.
In the past, Newcastle would have wilted when Southampton pushed hard in a tense second half, but they are made of sterner stuff now.
Pope’s brilliant save from Adam Armstrong ensured Newcastle’s long-awaited return to Wembley wasn’t derailed despite Guimaraes’ 82nd minute red card for stamping on Samuel Edozie.