Ex-England cricket captain Vaughan cleared of racism on ‘balance of probabilities’
Vaughan was alleged to have used the term “you lot” when referring to players of South Asian ethnicity
In November 2021, Pakistan-born Azeem Rafiq accused English cricket of being “institutionally racist”
Updated 31 March 2023
LONDON: Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan was Friday cleared “on the balance of probabilities” of using racist language before a match for county club Yorkshire in 2009.
The 2005 Ashes-winning captain was alleged to have used the term “you lot” when referring to a group of four players of South Asian ethnicity, including Pakistan-born Azeem Rafiq.
A Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) report said it was “not satisfied on the balance of probabilities” that Vaughan spoke the words he was alleged to have used.
But it added that its findings “do not in any way undermine the wider assertions” made by Rafiq, who told lawmakers in November 2021 that English cricket was “institutionally racist.”
Vaughan, who appeared in person at a CDC hearing earlier this month, thanked the panel for “their careful attention in very difficult circumstances” in a statement on social media.
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
Updated 31 May 2023
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
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
Updated 31 May 2023
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.
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
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
Updated 31 May 2023
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.
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.
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.
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.”
French Open’s No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev loses to 172nd-ranked qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild
Seybolt Wild needed to win three matches in qualifying rounds last week just to make it into the men’s bracket
It’s the first time the second-seeded man lost in the first round of the French Open since 2000
Updated 31 May 2023
PARIS: If anyone thought a couple of recent runs to Week 2 at the French Open and a clay-court title a little more than a week ago made Daniil Medvedev a little fonder of the red stuff, forget it.
A first-round loss as the No. 2 seed at Roland Garros — against Thiago Seybolt Wild, a qualifier ranked 172nd who never had won a Grand Slam match anywhere until Tuesday — sure reminded Medvedev of his distaste for the slow surface used in Paris.
“I had a mouthful of clay since probably the third game of the match, and I don’t like it. I don’t know if people like to eat clay, to have clay in their bags, in their shoes, the socks — white socks, you can throw them (into the) garbage after clay season,” said Medvedev, who won the 2021 US Open and reached three other major finals on hard courts. “Maybe some people like it. I don’t.”
Seybolt Wild needed to win three matches in qualifying rounds last week just to make it into the men’s bracket — something he’d failed to do on eight previous attempts at Slams — but looked very much like he belonged on Court Philippe Chatrier. He hit big forehands and kept his nerve down the stretch to oust Medvedev 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
It’s the first time the second-seeded man lost in the first round of the French Open since 2000, when Pete Sampras — no fan of clay himself — was eliminated by Mark Philippoussis.
“It definitely was the happiest day of my life,” said Seybolt Wild, a 23-year-old from Brazil. “I knew it was going to be a tough match, but I knew how to play. I have watched him play 1,000 times already. I just had to believe in myself.”
So what was his game plan going in?
“Walking on the court, I really just wanted to get the angles, try to get to the net as much as possible, try to use my forehand against his,” Seybolt Wild explained. “It worked pretty well.”
Did it ever.
Employing a high-risk, high-reward style, Seybolt Wild compiled a 69-45 edge in total winners, including 47-15 on the forehand side.
He hadn’t even played a tour-level main-draw match at all in 2023, instead competing on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour. At his most recent event, in Turin, Italy, Seybolt Wild made it to the quarterfinals and left with a paycheck for $5,950.
“His life is going to be better if he plays like this every match,” Medvedev said. “He’s going to get more money, more sponsors, win big titles. But he has to play like this. Not once on the Philippe Chatrier, but a lot of times in different tournaments all over the world throughout the year.”
At his news conference, Seyboth Wild drew the sort of attention and questions that arrive when a relatively unknown player pulls off a stunning win.
One reporter pulled out some puns related to Seyboth Wild’s last name, including references to whether this was his “wildest victory” and exceeded his “wildest dreams” — to which the response was: “I honestly don’t know how many times I have heard that joke, but it never gets old.”
Later, a query arrived about a far more serious matter: The Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors’ office charged Seyboth Wild in June 2022 with domestic violence against his ex-partner. He has denied any wrongdoing; a ruling is expected sometime this year.
“I don’t think it’s a subject we should talk about ... right here,” Seyboth Wild said. “I don’t think it’s a question you should be (asking).”
Medvedev’s exit was the most significant result as the first round closed. The top women’s seeds in action all advanced, including defending champion Iga Swiatek, 2022 runner-up Coco Gauff, reigning Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina and two-time major finalist Ons Jabeur. So did No. 4 Casper Ruud (the runner-up to Rafael Nadal a year ago), No. 6 Holger Rune, No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 16 Tommy Paul among the men.
Good as he’s always been on hard courts, Medvedev never was known for his prowess on clay: He began his French Open career with a 0-4 record. But he’s been showing signs of improvement, reaching the quarterfinals in Paris in 2021 and the fourth round last year, and claiming the trophy on the surface in Rome this month.
He just could never quite get the upper hand during a 4-hour, 15-minute contest.
Medvedev, who was treated by a trainer for a nosebleed in the third set, didn’t help himself by double-faulting a career-high 15 times, something he blamed in part on the wind that topped 15 mph.
By turns, Medvedev credited Seybolt Wild for playing well, saying the guy could end up ranked in the top 30 by year’s end, but also seemed a bit miffed.
“I honestly hope he’s going to play like this later on,” Medvedev said, “because if not, I’m going to be disappointed. I’m going to be like, ‘Why today? Why not in two days?’”
He was asked how he would characterize his relationship with clay, now that this portion of the tour calendar is done.
“Every time it finishes, I’m happy,” Medvedev replied. “So I’m happy. I’m happy again.”