Qatar’s Al Thani submits new $6 bln bid for Manchester United — Sky News​

The battle to buy Manchester United heated up on March 22, 2023 as Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe prepared to raise their initial bids for the 20-time English champions after the submission deadline was extended. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2023

Qatar’s Al Thani submits new $6 bln bid for Manchester United — Sky News​

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani has submitted a new bid to buy Manchester United which is believed to be worth around 5 billion pounds ($6.12 billion), Sky News reported on Saturday.
Sheikh Jassim, a son of Qatar’s former prime minister, launched the bid in February. A spokesperson representing Sheikh Jassim said at the time that the bid was completely debt free, via Sheikh Jassim’s Nine Two Foundation.
Finnish entrepreneur Thomas Zilliacus also placed a bid on Thursday and told Reuters that he was willing to pay a premium for the English soccer club.
United’s current owners, the Glazer family, began looking at options for the record 20-times English champions in November, including new investment or a potential sale, 17 years after they bought the Old Trafford club.
Manchester United did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

($1 = 0.8177 pounds)

Sevilla in seventh heaven after Europa League win

Updated 39 min 5 sec ago

Sevilla in seventh heaven after Europa League win

  • Gonzalo Montiel netted the decisive spot-kick after Mancini and Roger Ibanez had failed to convert for Roma
  • Sevilla made it seven wins in seven finals in Europe’s second-tier competition

BUDAPEST: Sevilla found their Europa League magic formula on Wednesday, beating Roma 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to make it seven wins in seven finals in Europe’s second-tier competition.

The Spanish side trailed after Paulo Dybala’s first-half opener in Budapest but pulled level in the second period when Roma defender Gianluca Mancini scored an own goal.

Extra-time could not separate the teams and the game went to penalties at the Puskas Arena.

Gonzalo Montiel, who scored the winning penalty in the 2022 World Cup final, netted the decisive spot-kick after Mancini and Roger Ibanez had failed to convert for Roma.

Earlier, Paulo Dybala put Jose Mourinho’s Roma in front in the 35th minute only for a revitalized Sevilla to drew level 10 minutes after the break through a Mancini own goal.

The fans created a crackling atmosphere before kickoff but the early stages of the game did not match the color in the stands.

The Italian side created the first opportunity of the match but Leonardo Spinazzola shot straight at Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou after neat build-up play involving Dybala and Zeki Celik.

Just after the half-hour, Roma appealed for a spot-kick after forward Tammy Abraham was caught on the head by a high boot from Nemanja Gudelj as the Sevilla defender was clearing the ball but VAR confirmed it was not a penalty.

But minutes later they were in front.

Dybala ran between two defenders and latched onto Mancini’s through ball from the center circle, coolly slotting his shot past Bounou.

Sevilla, finally finding some fluency, came agonizingly close to levelling deep into the seven minutes of added-on time when Ivan Rakitic drilled a fierce left-footed strike from distance that cannoned back off an upright.

Sevilla boss Jose Luis Mendilibar brought on forward Suso and Erik Lamela for Oliver Torres and Bryan Gil at the break and the Spanish side began the second period on the front foot.

They were level after 10 minutes when Mancini bundled a Jesus Navas cross from the right into his own net from close range.

Roma seemed certain to re-take the lead against the run of play midway through the second half but the Sevilla defenders somehow scrambled the ball away after several stabs at goal from close range.

Dybala, starting a match for the first time since mid-April, was withdrawn, with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum coming on to replace him.

Sevilla thought they had a penalty with 15 minutes to go after referee Anthony Taylor ruled that Ibanez had brought down Lucas Ocampos but the decision was overturned by VAR.

The Italian side should have been ahead in the 83rd minute but substitute Andrea Belotti failed to keep his shot on target with only the goalkeeper to beat after captain Lorenzo Pellegrini found him with a clever dinked free-kick.

Extra time was largely uneventful as tempers flared between the two benches but Roma defender Chris Smalling almost snatched the win when he hit the woodwork with a looping header from a corner in the dying seconds.

Sevilla had the advantage in the shootout when Mancini’s penalty was saved and when Ibanez hit the post the Spanish side appeared certain winners.

But there was still more drama to come.

Montiel’s effort was saved by Rui Patricio but the kick was ordered to be re-taken after an encroachment by the goalkeeper and this time the Argentine made no mistake.

Brazil court seeks arrest of LA Galaxy’s Costa for failing to pay child support

Updated 31 May 2023

Brazil court seeks arrest of LA Galaxy’s Costa for failing to pay child support

  • The 32-year-old Costa cannot be arrested outside Brazil, according to the court’s ruling

SAO PAULO: A Brazilian court is seeking the arrest of L.A. Galaxy striker Douglas Costa for failing to pay for child support.
An attorney for the Brazilian striker said on Tuesday in a statement that he trusts the decision by a judge in the city of Porto Alegre will be reversed. Details of the case are sealed.
The 32-year-old Costa cannot be arrested outside Brazil, according to the court’s ruling, which was issued on Friday.
Costa has played for Brazil, Bayern Munich and Juventus. He signed a deal with the Major League Soccer team in February 2022, and it runs to December.

Forwards Nkunku, Dembélé recalled by France for Euro qualifiers

Updated 31 May 2023

Forwards Nkunku, Dembélé recalled by France for Euro qualifiers

  • The two strikers were included in coach Didier Deschamps’ squad for upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece
  • France top the Group B standings in qualifying after back-to-back wins against the Netherlands and Ireland

PARIS: Christopher Nkunku and Ousmane Dembélé were recalled Wednesday to France’s national team.
The two strikers were included in coach Didier Deschamps’ squad for upcoming European Championship qualifiers against Gibraltar and Greece after missing Les Bleus’ previous games due to injury.
France top the Group B standings in qualifying after back-to-back wins against the Netherlands and Ireland. The two-time world champions take on Gibraltar in Portugal on June 16, then host Greece three days later at the Stade de France.
Nkunku, who plays for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, has been sidelined for months due to a knee injury while Barcelona’s Dembele missed a series of games due to a hamstring problem.
Deschamps will be without the injured Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kanté, with William Saliba also missing because of a back injury.
France squad:
Goalkeepers: Alphonse Areola (West Ham), Mike Maignan (AC Milan), Brice Samba (Lens)
Defenders: Axel Disasi (Monaco), Wesley Fofana (Chelsea), Theo Hernandez (AC Milan), Ibrahima Konaté (Liverpool), Jules Koundé (Barcelona), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Pavard (Bayern Munich), Dayot Upamecano (Bayern Munich)
Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Youssouf Fofana (Monaco), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus), Aurélien Tchouaméni (Real Madrid),
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Ousmane Dembélé (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (AC Milan), Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kylian Mbappé (Paris Saint-Germain), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach).

Djokovic back in action at French Open after Kosovo controversy

Updated 31 May 2023

Djokovic back in action at French Open after Kosovo controversy

  • Djokovic scrawled the message "Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence" on a camera following his first-round match
  • "It was a message that is very activist, that is very political," Amelie Oudea-Castera told broadcaster France 2

PARIS: Novak Djokovic will take to Court Philippe Chatrier in Wednesday’s French Open night session under fire for his recent comments about clashes in Kosovo, after world number one Carlos Alcaraz also plays in the second round.
Djokovic, who is chasing a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam singles title at Roland Garros, scrawled the message “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. Stop the violence” on a camera following his first-round match.
The 36-year-old faces Hungarian Marton Fucsovics for a place in the last 32 but the focus has been on his political views, with the French sports minister on Wednesday condemning the two-time Roland Garros champion.
“It was a message that is very activist, that is very political,” Amelie Oudea-Castera told broadcaster France 2.
“You shouldn’t get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn’t happen again.”
She added that tournament director Amelie Mauresmo had spoken to Djokovic and his entourage.
Thirty peacekeepers from a NATO-led force in Kosovo were injured in clashes with ethnic Serb demonstrators on Monday during protests about the installation of ethnic Albanian mayors in northern Kosovo.
“Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, center of the most important things for our country... There are many reasons why I wrote that on the camera,” Djokovic told Serb media after writing his message.
Djokovic will be hoping for less drama on the court against an opponent he has beaten four times in as many meetings.
He has not failed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament since the 2017 Australian Open.
In Wednesday’s early action, Stefanos Tsitsipas cruised into the third round with a straight-sets win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
The Greek fifth seed, the runner-up to Djokovic in 2021, claimed a 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 win on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Tsitsipas will next face either Argentinian Diego Schwartzman or Portugal’s Nuno Borges for a place in the second week.
Elina Svitolina battled back from a break and a set down to beat Storm Hunter, just 12 hours after her husband Gael Monfils’ late-night escape act.
Ukrainian Svitolina, playing at a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 2022 Australian Open, downed qualifier Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Home favorite Monfils claimed his first win in nine months in a five-set first-round thriller against Sebastian Baez which finished after midnight in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Yes, I watched him, but not live. I was screaming in my room so if someone heard me, it was me cheering for Gael,” said Svitolina, who was being supported on Court Simonne Mathieu by Monfils.
American third seed Jessica Pegula booked her spot in the last 32 when opponent Camila Giorgi retired injured after losing the first set 6-2.
Former champion Jelena Ostapenko crashed out, though, losing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to the United States’ Peyton Stearns.
Later, Alcaraz continues his bid for a second major title against Japan’s Taro Daniel, while world number two Aryna Sabalenka plays Iryna Shymanovich in an all-Belarusian women’s tie.

‘Destined to be a fighter’: Trailblazing Pakistani women MMA fighters enter the cage

Updated 31 May 2023

‘Destined to be a fighter’: Trailblazing Pakistani women MMA fighters enter the cage

  • MMA is a relatively new sport in Pakistan, remains a male-dominated sport globally
  • Women players in Pakistan say have had to face resistance from family and friends

ISLAMABAD: Mixed martial arts may have started as a male-dominated sport around the world, but women, including in Pakistan, are grappling their way to pursuing it as a full-time profession and representing their country internationally.

Meet Anita Karim, 26, the first international female MMA fighter from Pakistan, who got into the sport initially to learn self-defense but later turned her passion into a career choice.

MMA is a full-contact combat sport that combines boxing with wrestling, jujitsu, taekwondo, and other disciplines, both standing and on the ground. Fighters can attempt to knock out their opponents or force them to submit by using various submission holds. In recent years, MMA has gone from a perceived “blood sport” to mainstream global sports entertainment, and while it is yet to be adopted as an Olympic game, it is the world’s third most popular sport, behind football and basketball, according to Nielsen Sports DNA, a leading international analytics company.

Women’s MMA has been around since the 1990s but it was Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey’s signing in 2012 with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) that helped bring it to the general public.

Even Karim had to face resistance from society, and she had to reassure people that she could protect herself in a cage from punches, kicks, elbows, and chokeholds.

“I came to Islamabad from Hunza in 2016 and started training for MMA in 2017, mainly to learn self-defense techniques, but it gradually became a passion,” Karim said in an interview with Arab News.

“Initially, when I opted for it as a full-time profession, I had to listen to remarks about how MMA was a sport for boys. They would question whether I was capable of doing it or not and they used to say I should learn household chores instead, but I was determined that if I worked hard, I would get my desired results.”

Karim has participated in several national-level promotions and represented Pakistan three times at the Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship, Asia’s largest MMA organization, included on Nielsen's list of the world's top 10 biggest sports media properties in terms of viewership and engagement.

The picture posted on May 9, 2019, shows Pakistani MMA fighter Anita Karim (right) at the Singapore-based ONE Fighting Championship. (Anita Karim/Facebook)

Karim has also participated in the Fairtex Fight Promotion in Bangkok twice.

“When I went abroad, people over there were initially surprised to see a female fighter from Pakistan. But now, a lot of girls are getting ready for their MMA careers and will be performing internationally in the near future,” Karim said.

The fighter said even if girls did not want to pursue MMA professionally, they should still learn self-defense techniques:

“Girls should not see self-defense as a leisure activity, but they must learn it to protect themselves in Pakistan … I request everyone, especially working women, to learn self-defense as it gives you confidence, and when you have confidence, you can handle all kinds of difficulties.”

Bushra Ahmad, 27, an amateur MMA fighter, said the sport had helped amplify qualities she already had.

“I had no plans to start it as a full-time career as I had casually joined a gym in 2018 for workout sessions, but I observed that whatever it takes to be an MMA fighter, I had that in me: I was confident, I was very disciplined, I was always on time on the mats, and I could take punches,” Ahmad, who represented Pakistan in the IMMAF World Championship in Serbia earlier this year, told Arab News.

The picture taken on February 14, 2023, shows Pakistani MMA fighter Bushra Ahmad during her International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) fight in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo courtesy: Instagram/Bushra Ahmed)

In fact, she said, the sport chose her.

“I did not decide to choose MMA as a profession, it came to me as I was destined to be a fighter,” Ahmad said.

But despite her commitment to the sport, it has not been an easy ride.

“I have been asked a lot as to why I am doing this … how much am I earning from this profession, so that has been a challenge,” Ahmad said. “Besides, there are not many MMA gyms in Pakistan, there are very few female fighters, fewer events, and since I am from a higher weight category, it’s hard for me to find an opponent.”

But despite their passion, Karim and Ahmad both lamented that lack of governmental support was holding back many talented fighters like themselves and blocking the development of women’s MMA in Pakistan.

“There have been no facilities or help from the government to develop MMA in Pakistan, and so far, MMA has earned a name for itself in the country through self-help,” said Karim.

“Some of our top athletes need sponsorship because they are not financially strong, so they can’t manage it. In this way, our fighters are wasting their talent. If the government promotes MMA like cricket and helps the sport grow, we can produce lots of top athletes from Pakistan too.”

Shoaib Khoso, the director-general of the Pakistan Sports Board, did not respond to questions for this story but Babar Raja, the president of the Pakistan Mixed Martial Arts Federation (PMMAF) said most MMA events in the country were conducted and sponsored by non-profit associations like the PMMAF and the Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan (PAK MMA) group.

“Each year, the federation gives incentives to MMA fighters by organizing competitions for both men and women and we pay the winners Rs500,000 ($1,774) in each weight category to encourage them,” Raja told Arab News.

“Unfortunately, there is no help or support on the part of the government. In fact, people in power at the Pakistan Olympic Association, as well as the Pakistan Sports Board, take steps to discourage this sport, therefore, we have to rely on private sponsors.”

But Bashir Ahmad, the founder of PAK MMA group, said that the government’s involvement in the sport would only increase bureaucracy.

“I don’t think the government should be too involved, as even without any support from it, MMA in Pakistan has already grown step by step and at a pretty solid pace,” he said.

Both Ahmad and Raja, however. hoped more girls would come forward and join the sport."

“I think the future of Pakistani girls pursuing MMA as a full-time profession is very bright as it’s not only one of the fastest-growing sports in the world but is also one of the world’s highest-paying sports,” Raja said. “And while there are very few women fighters from Pakistan, they are becoming champions on both national and international levels, so more women should pursue this sport.”

Many of Karim and Ahmad’s male colleagues also advocated the need to encourage more women to join the sport.

“In my opinion, more women should learn self-defense as it could be a life-changing experience for them,” Shahzaib Ijaz, a male MMA fighter from Islamabad, said.

“That’s because at the end of the day, it’s your own responsibility to protect yourself, and that’s the message we try to give to women. People think it’s a male-oriented sport, but women also have hands and legs, so they can do it as well.”