World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

Spain's team captain Irene Paredes lifts the trophy after winning the Women's Nations League final between Spain and France at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, Spain,on Feb. 28, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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World Cup champion Spain beats France 2-0 to win inaugural edition of Women’s Nations League final

  • Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts
  • Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June

SEVILLE, Spain: Spain have not lost momentum since winning their first World Cup title, defeating France 2-0 on Wednesday to also win the inaugural edition of the Women’s Nations League.

Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey scored a goal each for Spain in front of 32,657 fans at La Cartuja Stadium in southern Spain. It was a record crowd for Spain’s women’s team in the country.

Spain also hold the men’s Nations League title, having beaten Croatia in the final in June.

“We have a very good present and a very good future,” women’s team coach Montse Tome said. “I have a group with very experienced players and with new young players coming up. It’s a very positive mix. They have a winning mentality. France haven’t had a shot on goal and that’s also a credit to all of the players.”

Bonmati, named the player of the match, volleyed in a low cross in the first half and Caldentey doubled the lead shortly after the break in a dominant performance by the hosts.

“Happy to win another title,” Bonmati said. “It may seem that what we have achieved is easy, that we have an obligation to win everything, but this is not something easy. And here we are lifting another trophy.”

It was Spain’s first victory over France.

“They’ll be the team to beat at the Olympics, it won’t be easy,” France coach Herve Renard said. “We are going to have to keep improving, learn lessons and keep moving forward. Let’s say we have taken one step but we haven’t taken the second. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Spain had their breakthrough tournament at the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, winning the title in their third appearance.

The celebrations were marred by one of the country’s worst crises, though, as the then-president of the Spanish soccer federation, Luis Rubiales, kissed player Jenni Hermoso on the lips during the awards ceremony to spark an outrage in soccer and Spanish society in general. Rubiales eventually resigned, and prosecutors later accused him of sexual assault.

“Today we get to celebrate again. We deserve it,” Hermoso said. “We try to enjoy ourselves but we also have the responsibility that there are so many people behind us who want to follow in our footsteps. We are so proud that there are so many girls who want to be champions in the future.”

Spain defeated the Netherlands 3-0 in last week’s semifinal, a result that also secured the team a place in the Paris Olympics.

France were already qualified for the Olympics as the host country.

“We didn’t play a good game against a team that are world champions and flying high in women’s football,” Renard said. “You have to be aggressive and keep the ball when you get it, but we lost it again straight away.”

Spain scored a competition-high 28 goals, seven more than any other team. It also had the most total attempts at 131.

Alexia Putellas, the former Ballon d’Or winner, did not enter the match for Spain. She hasn’t played for club or country since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her left knee last year.


NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

Updated 12 April 2024
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NUFC stars Trippier, Burn invite youngsters from Newcastle’s deaf community to be mascots for Spurs match

  • Young fans met their football idols who shared the exciting news with them during a kickabout
  • The mascots will wear innovative haptic technology shirts for the game

NEWCASTLE: Several young members of the deaf community in Newcastle were on Friday invited by Newcastle United stars Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn to be mascots during the club’s Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
On Thursday, NUFC’s front-of-shirt sponsor, Sela, said they will introduce the haptic shirts — which allow deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to experience the live atmosphere — during Saturday’s match against Spurs at St. James’ Park. Haptic shirts use a technology that transforms the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensations.
During a visit to meet young fans from the deaf community to invite them to come to the Tottenham game, Burn revealed to the youngsters: “For the Tottenham game you’re all going to be mascots. So, you get to walk out with us in front of the crowd.”


Trippier added: “To walk out in the Royal National Institute for Deaf shirts is special, and we had a good kickabout with the kids as well.”
The youngsters met their football idols at the Newcastle United Foundation where Burn and Trippier shared the exciting news with them during a friendly kickabout.
In addition to acting as mascots, the youngsters will also wear the innovative haptic technology shirts to enhance their matchday experience.
Sela has donated its front-of-shirt sponsorship rights for Saturday’s clash to RNID, a national UK charity that supports 12 million people who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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“The kids were teaching us a goal celebration, so watch out for it. I’ll probably get a few more before the end of the season,” added Burn. The children also taught the players how to sign “love the fans.”
One of the youngsters said: “I was so happy to see Kieran and Dan, it’s the best day of my life.”
Some Newcastle fans will be wearing haptic shirts with the RNID logo for the first time during the Tottenham game, while the branding will be on display around St. James’ Park and on the big screen to raise awareness of the institute’s work.
Teri Devine, associate director of inclusion at RNID, said: “We’re really grateful to Sela and to Newcastle for doing this. It’s absolutely fantastic that the players take time out to come and meet the kids, and actually get to see the barriers that deaf children face.”

 


Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

Updated 12 April 2024
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Spanish football presidency favorite to be investigated in graft case

  • The judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case
  • Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29

MADRID: Pedro Rocha’s chances of succeeding the disgraced Luis Rubiales as Spanish football federation (RFEF) president have been placed in doubt after being placed under investigation in the alleged graft scandal which has rocked Spain’s football elite.
Rocha, seen as favorite to fill the post, appeared in court on the outskirts of Madrid on Friday as a witness in the case in which Rubiales is being investigated.
However, the judge suspended Rocha’s statement and made him an investigated party in the graft case.
“(The judge) has agreed this morning to change the procedural status of Pedro Rocha from witness to investigated party,” said the court in a statement.
“The classification of the alleged crimes is yet to be defined, as well as the date of his next statement.”
Rubiales, who was briefly detained by police on his arrival in Spain on April 3 as part of the probe after he arrived from the Dominican Republic, is due to testify on April 29.
Rocha, who moved up from vice president to become interim president after Rubiales resigned last year, seemed poised to replace him officially as president as soon as Monday.
Spanish media have reported the two other candidates, Carlos Herrera and Eva Parera, have been unable to collect the minimum of 21 endorsements necessary from RFEF assembly members, while he has 107.
In March Spanish police searched 11 locations, including the RFEF’s Madrid headquarters and Rubiales’ house in Granada as part of the investigation into corruption and other crimes.
Federation contracts signed since 2018 are being investigated including one by Rubiales to take the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.
The Super Cup contracts are worth 40 million euros a year ($43 million) with the deal brokered by Kosmos, a company owned by former Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique.
Rubiales was forced to step down as RFEF boss in September after forcibly kissing Women’s World Cup star Jenni Hermoso following Spain’s triumph in the Sydney final in August.


Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

Updated 12 April 2024
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Atalanta stun Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, Leverkusen beat West Ham 2-0 in Europa League

  • The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield
  • Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games

Gianluca Scamacca struck twice as visiting Atalanta upset Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday.

The loss damages Liverpool’s hopes of a treble of trophies in manager Jurgen Klopp’s final season at Anfield.

The Italian visitors went into the break up 1-0 after Scamacca got a low drive past goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher in the 38th minute.

Klopp sent on Mohamed Salah, Dominik Szoboszlai and Andy Robertson as substitutes for the second half, but Scamacca netted again after Charles De Ketelaere fed him at the far post on the hour mark.

Mario Pasalic finished the scoring seven minutes from time.

Atalanta won at Anfield 2-0 in the group stage of the Champions League in 2020.

Liverpool won the English League Cup and are in a tight Premier League title race with Arsenal and Manchester City. Klopp’s team were eliminated from the FA Cup in the quarterfinals.

The lackluster display Thursday might turn out to be Klopp’s final European game at Anfield. The team needs a big comeback in Bergamo to stay alive.

If Liverpool reaches the Europa League final in Dublin on May 22, it would be Klopp’s final game in charge after nearly nine years.

Bayer Leverkusen got late goals from substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface to top West Ham 2-0 and extend their unbeaten streak to 42 games in a season that can also end up with a treble of trophies.

Hofmann netted on a rebound in the 83rd before Boniface clinched a well-deserved victory with a header in stoppage time.

With a 16-point lead atop the Bundesliga, Xabi Alonso’s team are on course to clinch their first-ever league title and have reached the German Cup final.

In an all-Italian matchup, Gianluca Mancini headed in a winner off a corner kick from Paulo Dybala to upset AC Milan 1-0 at San Siro.

Mancini also scored the lone goal in the Italian capital derby against Lazio on Saturday in Serie A.

It was the first win for Roma over Milan since October 2019.

Milan, the seven-time European champions, have never won the second-tier Europa League or its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.

Milan have never even reached the final — something Roma achieved twice, losing both in 1991 and last year.

Rafa Silva and veteran forward Angel Di Maria scored in each half for Benfica to beat Marseille 2-1. In an encounter of two former European champions. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for Marseille, who lost their fifth straight game in all competitions.

Aubameyang has 24 goals this season in total.

The second-leg games will be played next week.

EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE

Kostas Fortounis scored and provided an assist to help Olympiakos beat Fenerbahce 3-2 in the first leg of the Europa Conference League quarterfinals on Thursday.

Olympiakos built a 3-0 lead in Piraeus and held on after the Turkish team fought back with two second-half goals.

Fortounis opened the scoring after just eight minutes, netting his fifth goal of the European campaign. He then set up Stevan Jovetić to double the lead before halftime.

Chiquinho made it 3-0 with a precise low drive approaching the hour mark before Dusan Tadic pulled one back from the penalty spot and İrfan Can Kahveci added the second for Fenerbahce.

Olympiakos is one of the two Greek teams in the last eight hoping to reach a home final in Athens.

The other, PAOK, lost 1-0 at Club Brugge.

Ollie Watkins and captain John McGinn scored early in each half to secure a 2-1 win for Aston Villa over Lille for manager Unai Emery, who claimed the Europa League on four occasions — three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

Viktoria Plzen held last year’s runner-up Fiorentina to a 0-0 draw in what was the first European quarterfinal for the Czech club, which hasn’t conceded a goal for seven straight games in the third-tier competition.

As Fiorentina looked in control in the second half, the match was interrupted for several minutes because of flares that its fans threw onto the pitch.


French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

Updated 11 April 2024
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French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis defends ex-teammate Ali Al-Bulayhi in Ronaldo saga

  • ‘He is far from being a bad person,’ says Gomis on X
  • Post attracts over 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets, more than 1,500 replies

RIAYDH: French footballer Bafetimbi Gomis on Thursday defended Al-Hilal’s Saudi defender Ali Al-Bulayhi following his altercation with Al-Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday during their Super Cup semifinal showdown.
The Portuguese international was sent off for elbowing Al-Bulayhi during Al-Nassr’s narrow 2-1 defeat.
Gomis, a former Al-Hilal player who turned out for the Riyadh giants between 2018 and 2022, said of his former teammate Al-Bulayhi on X: “An exemplary teammate, first come, last left from training. He gives everything for his country and for his club. Actually, he’s one of the best center-backs in the world and I know a few things from my experience. He is far from being a bad person!!!”

Currently playing for Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale, Gomis’ post has attracted more than 11,000 likes, 4,500 retweets and in excess of 1,500 replies.
One user posted a video of Al-Bulayhi and Gomis hugging, and wrote: “Two historic legends.”
Another user posted a video — which is believed to have been filmed when Gomis left Al-Hilal — of the two players saluting each other and a comment citing the Frenchman as saying “I love you, Bulayhi.”
A user called Yousef commented, saying: “Thank you Gomis for the unforgettable days!”
The Saudi Ministry of Sport denied rumors on Wednesday that its minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki bin Faisal, had held discussions with Ronaldo after his controversial sending off.


Haptic shirts from Sela to allow Newcastle fans with hearing loss to experience live atmosphere in EPL

Updated 11 April 2024
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Haptic shirts from Sela to allow Newcastle fans with hearing loss to experience live atmosphere in EPL

  • NUFC’s front-of-shirt sponsor, Sela, introduces world-first haptic shirts that allow fans with hearing disability to experience live atmosphere during NUFC-Tottenham clash on Saturday
  • Haptic shirts use a technology that transform the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensation

NEWCASTLE, UK: Football fans with hearing disabilities will for the first time ever experience the atmosphere of a live match during Newcastle United’s Premier League home game against Tottenham thanks to the newly-introduced technology of haptic shirts.
NUFC’s front-of-shirt sponsor, Sela, will introduce the world-first haptic shirts that allow deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to experience live atmospheres during a football game at St. James’ Park on Saturday.
Haptic shirts use a technology that transforms the noise of the stadium into real-time touch sensation. Fans and the match day mascots, who are deaf or have hearing loss, will be wearing the shirts in the stands.
A leading live events and experiences company, Sela has been the driving force behind the initiative as a demonstration of their commitment to using innovation to provide moments to all fans.
The company has committed to providing this technology at all future Newcastle home games and hopes its actions will inspire football clubs across the Premier League, Europe and beyond to build on efforts to improve accessibility.
Moreover, the match will also see Sela donate its front-of-shirt sponsorship to RNID, the national charity supporting the 12 million people in the UK who are deaf, have hearing loss or tinnitus.
Sela’s Senior Vice President Ibrahim Mohtaseb said: “St. James’ Park is renowned for its noise and passion. Through this initiative we hope to enable deaf fans and fans with hearing loss to feel a part of this.”
He welcomed the whole football family to join them by adopting the technology.
Peter Silverstone, United’s chief commercial officer, said: “When Sela shared the idea and technology behind the haptic shirts, we supported the concept immediately, knowing it would make such an impact to our supporters who are deaf or have hearing loss.”
He added: “‘Un-silence the Crowd’ fills everybody associated with this initiative with deep pride, from all NUFC, Newcastle United Foundation, Sela and RNID, along with all stakeholders who have helped make this possible.
“We believe that ‘Un-silence the Crowd’ will be truly game-changing for football and expect this campaign will revolutionize the football experience for any fan who is deaf or has hearing loss, regardless of which team they support,” concluded Silverstone.
It is set to be a historic occasion, marking the first time a hearing-loss charity has been promoted on a Premier League front-of-shirt, as well as the launch of the cutting-edge shirts themselves.
Meanwhile, Teri Devine, RNID’s director for inclusion, said: “It’s fantastic to see Sela and Newcastle United leading the way in championing this technology which has the potential to have a real and lasting impact on how people who are deaf and have hearing loss experience live sports.”
Devine expressed excitement to be part of the collaboration and said he hoped this exposure opens up conversations among football fans about hearing loss and encourages other football clubs to raise their game and make sure deaf fans are fully included.