Real Madrid and Barcelona’s hopes of a so-called European Super League are dealt fresh blow

Juventus had been with Real Madrid and Barcelona in persisting with a new competition that would replace the Champions League. (AP)
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Updated 01 June 2024
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Real Madrid and Barcelona’s hopes of a so-called European Super League are dealt fresh blow

  • Juventus had been with Real Madrid and Barcelona in persisting with a new competition that would replace the Champions League

LONDON: A so-called European Super League was dealt a fresh blow on Saturday when Italian giant Juventus decided to rejoin the body of clubs opposing the controversial breakaway competition.
Juventus had been with Real Madrid and Barcelona in pushing for a new competition that would replace the Champions League. But it will rejoin the European Club Association of 600 teams, which has fought strongly against attempts to create a Super League.
“They are back. It is great,” ECA chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said. “The club has an amazing history. We are proud they are back to their family. I also call the others to be back.”
Madrid and Barcelona are now the only two clubs trying to form a proposed Super League, which has already had one failed launch after angry fan protests in 2021.
Madrid president Florentino Perez has been determined to push ahead with plans to create a breakaway, despite the majority of Europe’s leading clubs rejecting the idea. His position appeared to be strengthened in December when the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that soccer’s governing bodies UEFA and FIFA acted contrary to EU competition law by blocking attempts for a breakaway league.
Super League organizers quickly revealed plans for the new competition, which Perez described as a “great opportunity to improve European club football.”
But, crucially, he did not have the backing of many of the leading clubs, which faced a furious backlash from fans when attempting to form a breakaway in 2021.
Back then a group of 12 of Europe’s most storied clubs announced plans to create a new Super League. Proposals for the 20-team elite tournament would have seen 15 top sides protected from relegation.
Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan were part of the original breakaway group.
Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus were eventually left as the only clubs carrying on the fight before Italy’s record 36-time champion, Juventus, withdrew last year.
Al-Khelaifi, who is also president of Paris Saint-Germain, spoke after a meeting of the ECA Executive Committee in London ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final between Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
He said he wanted Madrid and Barcelona to follow Juventus’ lead, saying a Super League of two teams “doesn’t make sense.”
“They can play two teams, home and away for 20 matches?”, he said. “It is not for anyone’s interest. They are going against their (own) interests today.”
Madrid is going for a record-extending 15th European Cup when it faces Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.
“I heard yesterday they (Madrid) talked about the love story between Madrid and the Champions League. On the other hand they want to destroy the Champions League. You love or you hate. You want to destroy the thing you hate?” Al-Khelaifi said.
Al-Khelaifi said he would welcome discussion with Madrid and Barcelona about rejoining the ECA.
“It’s really important for us and for them,” he said.


Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

Updated 14 sec ago
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Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

RIYADH: Gaming fans and esports enthusiasts are gearing up for a sensational Sunday of action-packed drama at the Esports World Cup with two new champions set to be crowned at Boulevard Riyadh City.

After delighting audiences ever since the Esports World Cup began, the Dota2 Riyadh Masters concludes at the SEF Arena with Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons among the last three clubs vying to win the $5 million tournament.

After overcoming Tundra 2-0 in Saturday’s lower bracket semi-final, the hometown heroes face the Netherlands’ Team Liquid in the lower bracket final on Sunday afternoon. The victor will progress to the Grand Final, where they will meet Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators later on Sunday evening for glory and the $1.5 million first prize.

Also sharing the Esports World Cup spotlight is the Counter-Stike 2 Grand Final. Germany’s G2 booked their place in Sunday’s showpiece — overcoming Russian outfit Virtus.pro to move within one match of the $400,000 first prize and valuable Esports World Cup Club Championship points. Awaiting them in the Grand Final is NAVI of Ukraine — who set up a highly anticipated showdown with G2 after defeating MOUZ of Germany.

The Sunday action in Riyadh concludes Week 3 of the Esports World Cup. Alongside the Dota2 Riyadh Masters and CS2 grand finals, fans can also catch PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024 group stage matches.

For more information on scheduling and results, visit the Esports World Cup website.

 


Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

Updated 38 min 13 sec ago
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Paris ramps up security in preparation for the Olympics

  • Squadrons of police are patrolling Paris streets and fighter jets and soldiers are ready to scramble. An imposing metal-fenced security cordon has been erected like an iron curtain on both sides of th
  • The city has repeatedly suffered bloody extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza

PARIS: A year ago, the head of the Paris Olympics boldly declared that France’s capital would be ” the safest place in the world ” when the Games open this Friday. Tony Estanguet’s confident forecast looks less far-fetched now with squadrons of police patrolling Paris’ streets, fighter jets and soldiers primed to scramble, and imposing metal-fence security barriers erected like an iron curtain on both sides of the River Seine that will star in the opening show.
France’s vast police and military operation is in large part because the July 26-Aug. 11 Games face unprecedented security challenges. The city has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks and international tensions are high because of the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.
Rather than build an Olympic park with venues grouped together outside of the city center, like Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or London in 2012, Paris has chosen to host many of the events in the heart of the bustling capital of 2 million inhabitants, with others dotted around suburbs that house millions more. Putting temporary sports arenas in public spaces and the unprecedented choice to stage a river-borne opening ceremony stretching for kilometers (miles) along the Seine, makes safeguarding them more complex.
Olympic organizers also have cyberattack concerns, while rights campaigners and Games critics are worried about Paris’ use of AI-equipped surveillance technology and the broad scope and scale of Olympic security.
Paris, in short, has a lot riding on keeping 10,500 athletes and millions of visitors safe. Here’s how it aims to do it.
The security operation, by the numbers

A Games-time force of up to 45,000 police and gendarmes is also backed up by a 10,000-strong contingent of soldiers that has set up the largest military camp in Paris since World War II, from which soldiers should be able to reach any of the city’s Olympic venues within 30 minutes.
Armed military patrols aboard vehicles and on foot have become common in crowded places in France since gunmen and suicide bombers acting in the names of Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group repeatedly struck Paris in 2015. They don’t have police powers of arrest but can tackle attackers and restrain them until police arrive. For visitors from countries where armed street patrols aren’t the norm, the sight of soldiers with assault rifles might be jarring, just as it was initially for people in France.
“At the beginning, it was very strange for them to see us and they were always avoiding our presence, making a detour,” said Gen. Éric Chasboeuf, deputy commander of the counter-terror military force, called Sentinelle.
“Now, it’s in the landscape,” he said.
Rafale fighter jets, airspace-monitoring AWACS surveillance flights, Reaper surveillance drones, helicopters that can carry sharpshooters, and equipment to disable drones will police Paris skies, which will be closed during the opening ceremony by a no-fly zone extending for 150 kilometers (93 miles) around the capital. Cameras twinned with artificial intelligence software — authorized by a law that expands the state’s surveillance powers for the Games — will flag potential security risks, such as abandoned packages or crowd surges,
France is also getting help from more than 40 countries that, together, have sent at least 1,900 police reinforcements.
Trump assassination attempt highlights Olympic risks
Attacks by lone individuals are major concern, a risk driven home most recently to French officials by the assassination attempt against Donald Trump.
Some involved in the Olympic security operation were stunned that the gunman armed with an AR-style rifle got within range of the former US president.
“No one can guarantee that there won’t be mistakes. There, however, it was quite glaring,” said Gen. Philippe Pourqué, who oversaw the construction of a temporary camp in southeast Paris housing 4,500 soldiers from the Sentinelle force.
In France, in the last 13 months alone, men acting alone have carried out knife attacks that targeted tourists in Paris, and children in a park in an Alpine town, among others. A man who stabbed a teacher to death at his former high school in northern France in October had been under surveillance by French security services. 
With long and bitter experience of deadly extremist attacks, France has armed itself with a dense network of police units, intelligence services and investigators who specialize in fighting terrorism, and suspects in terrorism cases can be held longer for questioning.
Hundreds of thousands of background checks have scrutinized Olympic ticket-holders, workers and others involved in the Games and applicants for passes to enter Paris’ most tightly controlled security zone, along the Seine’s banks. The checks blocked more than 3,900 people from attending, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. He said some were flagged for suspected Islamic radicalization, left- or right-wing political extremism, significant criminal records and other security concerns.
“We’re particularly attentive to Russian and Belorussian citizens,” Darmanin added, although he stopped short of linking exclusions to Russia’s war in Ukraine and Belarus’ role as an ally of Moscow.
Darmanin said 155 people considered to be “very dangerous” potential terror threats are also being kept away from the opening ceremony and the Games, with police searching their homes for weapons and computers in some cases.
He said intelligence services haven’t identified any proven terror plots against the Games “but we are being extremely attentive.”
Critics fear intrusive Olympic security will stay after the Games
Campaigners for digital rights worry that Olympic surveillance cameras and AI systems could erode privacy and other freedoms, and zero in on people without fixed homes who spend a lot of time in public spaces.
Saccage 2024, a group that has campaigned for months against the Paris Games, took aim at the scope of the Olympic security, describing it as a “repressive arsenal” in a statement to The Associated Press.
“And this is not a French exception, far from it, but a systematic occurrence in host countries,” it said. “Is it reasonable to offer one month of ‘festivities’ to the most well-off tourists at the cost of a long-term securitization legacy for all residents of the city and the country?“


Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

Updated 21 July 2024
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Rianne Malixi of the Philippines wins US Girls’ Junior, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7

  • The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole
  • Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025

TARZANA: Rianne Malixi of the Philippines won the 75th US Girls’ Junior a year after falling in the final, routing Asterisk Talley 8 and 7 in the 36-hole championship match at El Caballero Country Club.

The 17-year-old Malixi won five straight holes to take a 7-up lead after 14, was 6 up after 18 and ended it with a par win on the 29th hole.

Last year in the final, Kiara Romero beat Malixi 1 up at the US Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Malixi has verbally committed to play at Duke, starting in 2025.

The 15-year-old Talley, from Chowchilla, California, teamed with Sarah Lim to win the US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May in San Antonio.


Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

Updated 21 July 2024
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Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finale

  • Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions
  • Pogacar on brink of third Tour de France triumph ahead of Riviera finaleBarring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998

NICE: Tadej Pogacar will be firmly in the spotlight as he goes down the ramp last on Sunday’s final day individual time trial in his adopted home of Monaco, with a third Tour de France title all but secured.

The final stage of the 2024 Tour will be broadcast around the world as he speeds along the corniche from Monaco to Riviera town Nice.

“I can ride home from there and sleep,” Pogacar said earlier in the Tour.

Having won five stages, Pogacar enjoys a healthy five-minute 14-second lead over Jonas Vingegaard, winner of the past two editions.

Barring a major incident it will be his third Tour win, completing a Tour-Giro d’Italia double not achieved since 1998.

It will also provide him the platform for potential Olympic glory in two weeks and at the world championships which follow soon after.

The 25-year-old, runner-up to Vingegaard on the last two Tours, took the lead on day four, attacking his key rival downhill as the race entered France via the Alps.

Other stars emerged along the way, as Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay won three stages, the sprint points green jersey and national hero status in his homeland.

He narrowly beat the 2023 sprint king Jasper Philipsen, who won three stages but never had the lead in the points race.

Belgian newcomer Remco Evenepoel is set to win the best young rider’s white jersey, also winning the first individual time trial and looks good for a spot on the podium going into the final day in third.

The 24-year-old Evenepoel trails second-placed Vingegaard by 2min 50sec, but is expected to win the final day’s individual run.

“He’s the best time-triallist in the world,” Vingegaard said Saturday.

Olympic champion Richard Carapaz is being hailed as the most combative rider on the 2024 Tour.

The Ecuadorian EF rider won a stage, took the yellow jersey for a day and came close to other victories. He raced on Saturday in the polka dot best climber’s jersey.

Another Belgian won hearts, as the tough Victor Campenaerts rung one up for dads everywhere.

After winning a three-way battle to close out stage 18 he grabbed a phone for a video call with his partner, who immediately showed him their newborn baby, Gustaaf, with dad in tears.

“You have no idea how much this means,” he said, though nobody asked if he was referring to the stage win.

The French did well too, grabbing the opening day win with Kevin Vauquelin and calming nerves from home fans.

Retiring Romain Bardet, twice a podium finisher, should be well received in Nice after a fine Tour. He took the yellow jersey, albeit for a day.

Mark Cavendish also grabbed the headlines, claiming a record 35th stage win.
 


India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

Updated 21 July 2024
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India’s Paes, Amritraj make history joining Tennis Hall of Fame

  • The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies
  • Vijay Amritraj : I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport
  • Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist

NEW YORK: Former doubles world No. 1 Leander Paes and tennis broadcaster, actor and player Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The first inductees from India were joined by British tennis journalist and author Richard Evans in enshrinement ceremonies at the Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Paes recounted his youth playing football and hockey before turning to tennis and eventually following his hockey-captain father as an Olympic medalist.

“It’s my greatest honor to be on this stage with not only these legends of the game, people who have inspired me every single day of my life — not because you’ve only won Grand Slams, not because you’ve shaped our sport but every single one of these people have shaped the world we live in,” Paes said.

“I would like to thank you so much for giving this Indian boy hope.”

Amritraj, 70, played from 1970 until retiring in 1993, winning 15 ATP singles titles and 399 matches and being ranked as high as 18th in the world and helped India to the Davis Cup finals in 1974 and 1987.

“I am humbled and honored to join this incredible and exclusive group that have brought glory to our sport,” Amritraj said.

After his playing days, Amritraj has helped humanitarian causes, backed ATP and WTA events in India and has acted in the James Bond and Star Trek movie series.

“A feeling came over me that I had never experienced,” Amritraj said of learning about his election to the Hall. “This was an honor not just for me, for my family, for my parents, but for all of my fellow Indians and my country who live around the world.”

Like Amritraj, Evans was inducted in the contributor category for his life impact on the sport.

Paes, 51, was an 18-time Grand Slam champion in doubles and mixed doubles who was selected in the player category after honing his trade in an Amritraj youth academy.

Paes and Amritraj made India the 28th nation represented in the Hall of Fame.

“Playing for 1.4 billion people could either be pressure or it could be wind within your wings,” Paes said.

“I’d like to thank every single one of my countrymen who supported me, who stood by through all the ups and downs, and we’ve been through a few, but you all were the inspiration, the support, you were even the strength to guide me through when even I didn’t believe.”

Paes won career Grand Slams in both men’s and mixed doubles, completing one in men’s by winning the 2012 Australian Open and another in mixed by capturing the 2016 French Open.

He won the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bronze medal by defeating Brazil’s Fernando Meligeni 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

His only ATP singles title came in 1998 on Newport grass in the same venue where he was inducted.

“As my father always said to me, if you believe in yourself, you work hard, you’ll be passionate not only to win prize money and trophies, but you do that to inspire the world,” Paes said.

“It has been my greatest honor to play for my countrymen in seven Olympics, to stand where the national anthem is playing in all those Davis Cups, and to prove that we Asians can win Grand Slams and also be No. 1 in our field, be it tennis or anything.”