Arsene Wenger: Arsenal boss says ‘retirement is dying’ as he vows to continue

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has reiterated his desire to manage next season as he believes “retirement is dying” for people of his age.

Wenger, 67, has been criticised by some fans after Arsenal slipped to sixth in the Premier League following four defeats in their past five games.

A 10-2 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League added to the pressure on the Frenchman.

But Wenger said: “I will not retire. Retiring is for young people.”

Wenger’s contract expires at the end of the season but he has been offered a new two-year deal. He says he will make a decision on his future “very soon”.

“For old people retirement is dying,” added Wenger, speaking before Sunday’s Premier League match at home to Manchester City.

“I still watch every football game. I find it interesting.”

Wenger is into his 21st year as Arsenal manager but he has not led the Gunners to a Premier League title in 13 years.

“Of course I’m as hungry,” he said. “I carry a bit more pressure on my shoulders than 20 years ago but the hunger is exactly the same.

“When you see what the club was and what it is today – when I arrived we were seven people [members of staff], we are 700 today.”

He added: “I hate defeat. I can understand the fans that are unhappy with every defeat but the only way to have victory is to stick together with the fans and give absolutely everything until the end of the season, that’s all we can do.”


Global reaction to Sepp Blatter’s decision to resign

Reaction from around the globe to Sepp Blatter’s sudden announcement Tuesday that he will step down as FIFA president amid a corruption scandal:

“It was a difficult decision, a brave decision, and the right decision.” — Michel Platini, president of European soccer federation UEFA.

“A good day for FIFA and for football … Change is finally coming. I said on Friday that the day would come sooner or later. Here it is! Now we should, responsibly and calmly, find a consensual solution worldwide in order to start new era of dynamism, transparency and democracy in FIFA.” — Former Portugal great and one-time FIFA presidential candidate Luis Figo.

“I think that it is the right move from Sepp Blatter and I think we have to look to the future … I am at the disposal of all the national associations who want a change, including all of those who were afraid to make a change.” — Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who lost to Blatter in last Friday’s election:

“We highly respect this decision of President Blatter to step down and to initiate the necessary reforms — and to make way for a new leadership of FIFA to drive these changes.” — IOC President Thomas Bach.

“He says he won’t step down until the next president is elected. If there is no specific reason (for his resignation) there is no need for him to step down. I think there is an obligation to explain this.” — FIFA Executive Committee member and Japan Football Association vice-president Kozo Tashima.

“We are at an important moment for the game, a moment that we must not squander. CONCACAF stands ready to assist in the process of rebuilding FIFA in a way that strengthens the game for many years to come.” CONCACAF President Alfredo Hawit.

“FIFPro welcomes the decision of FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign as this creates an overdue and unique opportunity to fundamentally reform the governance of football. … The effort will fail without the direct involvement of the players.” — world players’ union FIFPro.

“I was kind of expecting that the pressures — the external pressures — would be sustained, and therefore Mr. Blatter would soon have to retreat. Because he should.” Raymond Tim Kee, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association.

Michel Platini “suits the role of president of FIFA better than anyone else … (He is) a more prepared and experienced person.” — Russian Football Union acting president Nikita Simonyan.

“The CBF sees the announcement of the resignation of Joseph Blatter with surprise. It’s a decision that is personal and deserves our most profound understanding.” — Brazil’s football confederation, the CBF.

“It is a good afternoon. I think it’s brilliant for world football. This is the start of something new.” — England’s Football Association chairman Greg Dyke.

“I wanted change for the FIFA and this may be a very big step in the right direction. Let’s truly accomplish.” — Dutch FA chief and one-time FIFA presidential candidate Michael van Praag on Twitter.

“Blatter wasn’t sole responsible, more have to follow. Transparency and voting reform, then we move on and bring back ethics.”— Manchester City and Belgium defender Vincent Kompany on Twitter.

“The announcement today by President Blatter represents an exceptional and immediate opportunity for positive change within FIFA. I commend him for making a decision that puts FIFA and the sport we love above all other interests.” — U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati.

“I want the full facts around the bidding to be known. If there was fairness and transparency, then good, well done. If it is found there was improper behavior in any way they must have a look at whether they should reopen the processes.” — Simon Johnson, member of England’s team which unsuccessfully bid to stage the 2018 World Cup.

“We welcome his belated announcement today but this is only the beginning of the process of change we need to see from FIFA. I sincerely hope this is the first step to a new FIFA that can command the confidence and respect of the football world once again.” — British Culture Secretary John Whittingdale.

“As I announced following the election at FIFA Congress, I simply could not countenance serving on the FIFA Executive Committee alongside Mr. Blatter. I respect his decision but am pleased he is standing aside and by the clear determination for real change within FIFA. This in turn allows me to reconsider my position.” — English FA Vice Chairman David Gill.

“His fall will come as a tsunami to every corrupt leader in the confederations around the world. … We need the corrupt ones in prison, and we need the contributions from great idols, good sports leaders and football lovers.” — Former Brazil great Romario.

“This man (Blatter) was probably and surely under a lot of pressure and he resigned from the game and now it’s time to reboot FIFA and reboot the game of football and that’s the most important.” — Former France winger David Ginola, who previously tried unsuccessfully to stand as a FIFA presidential candidate.

Messi not one of the all-time greats

Lionel Messi was at his brilliant best against Manchester City and the knee-jerkers have been out in full force proclaiming him as the greatest footballer of all time.

Steady on, boys and girls.

Barcelona’s little maestro was just having fun with one of our pot-holed Premier League defences.

It was a delight to watch Messi enjoying himself and it was hard to keep a straight face when he made a laughing stock of a player described by City’s manager as the complete English footballer.

If James Milner really is that, it begins to tell us something of what’s wrong with the England team.

But sublime performances like this from Messi merely perpetuate the riddle of why he has failed to fully deliver on the greatest stage of all. The tango he danced around poor old City does not erase the memory of how he fell short — not for the first time at a World Cup — in Brazil last summer.

Russia 2018 represents his last chance to gatecrash this list of the top five players in the history of the beautiful game — and by the way, I saw them all:

Pele — There can be no arguing with the three World Cup glories, the thousand goals, the rare art of making the impossible look simple, nor that extraordinary ability in the air for a comparatively short man. And by the way, the great Brazilian was also as hard as nails.

Diego Maradona — Not only as mind-boggling to watch on the ball as Messi but capable of winning the glittering prizes single-handed — as he did in lifting Argentina to one World Cup triumph and, when virtually crippled, to the final of another. Forget our English angst about the Hand of God. Remember the genius.

Garrincha — Revered as greater than Pele in Brazil, where they worship pure, incredible magic on the ball. He was the divine inspiration for two of his country’s World Cup triumphs, perhaps most notably in 1962 when he assumed the mantle of leadership from the injured Pele.

Alfredo di Stefano — One of only three who played in all of Real Madrid’s first five European Cup wins. He ran things from midfield, inspiring dazzling moves which he then turned into goals as he arrived in the box. At his greatest when Ferenc Puskas joined him at the Bernabeu. Don’t just take my word for it. Pele and Eusebio described him as ‘the most complete footballer of all time’.

Cristiano Ronaldo — Exempt from our World Cup statute by virtue of playing for second-tier Portugal, yet still did more for his country in Brazil than Messi. He, too, is blessed with little Leo’s dexterity on the ball but also brings physical power and serious pace to the argument as to which of them should be the representative of the modern era occupying the final place in this list.

Spurs wanted to sell Kane – Sherwood

Tim Sherwood insists senior figures at Tottenham wanted to ‘sacrifice’ England new boy Harry Kane to bring in a foreign striker as recently as January 2014.

The Aston Villa manager said he refused to sanction the move as head coach and instead picked the then unproven forward regularly during the run-in.

Sherwood said: ‘There were people at the club who wanted to bring in another striker and sacrifice Harry Kane. I wouldn’t allow that to happen. They know who they are. That’s why they should trust the people who know football within the club and not listen to outside influences who are trying to flog them a player.

‘If they would have brought in somebody last January and his name ended in an “I” or an “O”, the fans would have been very excited, but I’m not sure he would have given them the same output as Kane has given.’

Since 2011, Kane has gone on loan with varying degrees of success to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester, before sparking to life with 26 goals this season. Sherwood insists only Championship clubs would have been interested in the striker 14 months ago.

‘A lot of people would have taken him but no-one would have put their hand up in the Premier League,’ said Sherwood.

‘Everyone will tell you now that they always believed he would be a top player. But he had a few loans and a few managers never played him. They’d like him now, wouldn’t they?’

Fifa sets date for 2022 World Cup final

Zurich – Fifa ended more than four years of uncertainty over the timing of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by announcing that it would be played in November and December with the final on December 18.

Spokesman Walter De Gregorio said the winter tournament would probably last 28 days, instead of the 32 for last year’s finals in Brazil, but this was still to be decided.

“The executive committee today … decided that, yes, we are going to play in November and December and, yes, the final is going to be played on Dec. 18,” De Gregorio told reporters at Fifa headquarters.

“It’s a Sunday and it’s also the national day of Qatar and, in principle, we try to play in 28 days.

“The next steps will be to have different talks especially related to the match calendar,” he added, referring to the 2019-22 cycle of international fixtures and the 2023 African Nations Cup in Guinea that is scheduled to be played in January.

Thursday’s news was widely expected after the November/December period had been recommended by a task force of soccer’s ruling body Fifa.

It will be the first time the tournament has been played outside the European summer.

Qatar was awarded the event in December 2010 on the basis it would take place in the summer in air-conditioned stadiums.

But within days Franz Beckenbauer, an executive committee member at the time, and Uefa president Michel Platini suggested a winter World Cup would be possible.

Qatar always said a summer World Cup was viable thanks to cooling technologies it is developing for stadiums, training areas and fan zones. However, there was still widespread concern for the health of players and supporters.

The decision could set Fifa on a collision course with the European clubs who had suggested staging the tournament in May as a compromise.

The European Clubs Association (ECA), which represents more than 200 teams, previously said they would demand compensation for interrupting the league season.

In addition to the tournament, clubs must release players two weeks before for training and warm-up friendlies.

The ECA demand had already been rejected by Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke who said the switch to November/December was a one-off.

Qatar still faces controversy for its treatment of migrant workers, mainly from Nepal and India, employed in the construction industry.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has said Qatar must do more to protect those working on 2022 sites.

Football player shot dead near Alabama campus, suspect arrested

An 18-year-old Auburn University football player was shot dead early on Sunday at an apartment complex near his campus in eastern Alabama, and a male suspect was later arrested, police said.

Jakell Mitchell, from Opelika, Alabama, sustained multiple gunshot injuries to the chest, according to a statement from Auburn Police, who found him in a vehicle leaving the area.

He apparently was placed in the vehicle after being shot, and later died at a hospital, police captain Will Mathews said.

Later on Sunday, police arrested Markale Deandra Hart, 22, on a murder charge, the statement said.

Three men, including two former Auburn football players, were shot dead at a party at the same apartment complex in 2012, news website reported.

Suarez hates racist, cheater label

Barcelona – Luis Suarez is unconcerned at being overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s scoring feats at Barcelona but remains angry about being labelled a “racist” and a “cheat” in England.

The former Liverpool striker has made more an impact with his assists since returning from a biting ban at the end of October while Messi has become the top scorer in La Liga and Champions League history.

“I have always been a goal scorer but I also like to help set up goals,” Suarez told the Catalan newspaper Sport.

“I came here to score goals and not provide passes. I came because I had scored a lot of goals in the my career and above all at Liverpool but fortunately I have more to my game than just that.

“We don’t just play for Messi but for everyone. We have players that we know can make the difference like Messi, Neymar and (Andres) Iniesta. They are players that give you confidence when they have the ball at their feet.”

Suarez said it was easy to play with Messi.

“I am having a great time here. Obviously I want to score more goals but while the team is doing well then there is no problem. It is fantastic to play alongside the best player in the world,” the Uruguayan added.

“On his own and with his skill he has ended all the doubts over the team and him.”

Suarez, however, is unhappy at the way he was treated in England and the eight-match ban he received at Liverpool for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

“For now I have to accept that I was accused of being a racist without any proof over what happened with Evra,” added Suarez.

“Also of being a diver and throwing myself on the ground. It is lies.”


Zimbabwe – Samukelo moyo died and doctors discovered that she was actually a man

A male athlete from Zimbabwe who for many years competed as a female long distance runner has died, finally putting an end to the controversy behind his gender.

Samukeliso Sithole rose to prominence when she represented Zimbabwe at international level, bagging awards.

Thereafter, controversy about “her” gender came to light. But while appearing in court a few years ago he said he was a transgender.

But “her” last day on earth this week confirmed Samukeliso to be a man.

The athlete was reportedly stabbed during a family dispute leaving him hospitalised. He was admitted into a female ward under the name Samukeliso Moyo – the name that rose to prominence in long distance running.

All hell broke loose when a doctor called to examine “her” in the female ward discovered that all along he had his penis tied in-between his legs to give a shape that looks like a vagina.

Shocked by the sight of a penis, the doctor called police for help.

After investigation into the matter, police discovered that the woman known to the world as Samukeliso Moyo was actually a 38 year old man by the name Mduduzi Sibanda.

Her boyfriend who reportedly took her to hospital is now on the run allegedly fearing interrogation.

Man City stay alive in Champions League

Rome – Manchester City concluded one of the great Champions League Houdini acts on Wednesday as they qualified for the knockout stages with goals from Samir Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta sinking Roma 2-0 to eliminate the Italians at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Frenchman’s 60th-minute thunderbolt, before he layed on a second for the Argentine in the 86th minute, ensured the English champions did not suffer another frustrating early exit in Group E.
City’s great escape into the last 16 seemed unthinkable when they trailed in their penultimate game at home to Bayern Munich with just five minutes remaining before Sergio Aguero completed his famous hat-trick.

Victory or a score draw offered City’s most realistic chance of progressing from the group behind Bayern Munich in a fevered atmosphere in Rome and even without their injured totem Aguero, Manuel Pellegrini’s men produced a performance full of resolve.

Nasri, given too much space on the edge of the box, hammered a glorious 20-metre shot which cannoned off the post and into the net, and City defended manfully before Nasri freed the rampaging fullback Zabaleta to score his first Champions League goal.

Real set Spanish record for consecutive wins

Madrid – Real Madrid have set a Spanish record for consecutive victories in all competitions of 19 when they beat visiting Ludogorets 4-0 in Champions League Group B on Tuesday.

Real surpassed the previous record they jointly held with Barcelona, who won 18 matches in a row between October 2005 and January 2006.
Real, the European champions, last failed to win when they were beaten 2-1 by city rivals Atletico Madrid in a La Liga game in September.

Brazilian side Coritiba hold the overall record for most consecutive wins in all competitions, according to Guinness World Records.

The South Americans won 24 straight games between February and May 2011 spread between the Paranaense state championship and the Brazilian Cup.

Real’s 19 wins have come in La Liga (11), the Champions League (six) and the King’s Cup (two).
Barca hold the record for the most La Liga wins in a row of 16 set under Pep Guardiola in the 2010-11 season.

La Liga leaders Real can make it 12 straight victories in Spain’s top flight when they play at Almeria on Friday before heading to the Club World Cup in Morocco.

Basel through as Gerrard heroics come too late

Liverpool – Steven Gerrard has scored in vain as Basel ended Liverpool’s Champions League campaign with a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Tuesday that consigned his side to the Europa League.

Gerrard’s exquisite late free-kick cancelled out Fabian Frei’s 25th-minute opener, but with Liverpool reduced to 10 men by the dismissal of substitute Lazar Markovic, Paulo Sousa’s Basel held on for a point that took them into the last 16 alongside Group B winners Real Madrid.

It was yet another English scalp for Basel, who knocked Liverpool out of the tournament in 2002, eliminated Manchester United in 2011, put Tottenham Hotspur out of the Europa League two seasons ago, and beat Chelsea twice in the Champions League last year.

The match fell 10 years and a day after Gerrard had inspired Liverpool to a stirring 3-1 win over Olympiakos at the same stage of the competition, en route to an unforgettable comeback against AC Milan in the final.

But his fine 81st-minute strike was not enough to rescue his team on this occasion as Liverpool’s return to Europe’s elite competition after a five-year absence dissolved in the Anfield drizzle.

Brendan Rodgers must now rouse his side for a trip to old enemies Manchester United on Sunday, but the disappointment of a campaign in which his side’s only win came against Bulgarian newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad will take some time to digest.

Rodgers had emphasised the importance of patience prior to kick-off, but in front of an anxious crowd, the hosts were eager to get forwards quickly.

Captain Gerrard, back in the team at number 10 after being rested for Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Sunderland, saw an early effort easily held by visiting goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

But there was haste and imprecision in Liverpool’s attacking interplay and Basel began to exploit their nervousness, with Shkelzen Gashi slashing wide from Luca Zuffi’s pass before they went ahead.

Liverpool allowed the visitors to advance to the edge of their box and paid the price when Frei exchanged passes with Zuffi before crashing a 20-yard shot into the bottom-right corner.

Raheem Sterling looked to sound the revolt by cutting in from the right and shooting at Vaclik, but Basel could have doubled their lead before half-time, with Marco Streller and Safari threatening.

Rodgers introduced Markovic and Alberto Moreno at half-time and the former’s direct running provided Liverpool with a spark, only for him to be sent off on the hour for swinging a hand at the chasing Safari.

The Serbian winger did not appear to make contact with his opponent, but the intent was sufficient for Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers to brandish a straight red card.

Taulant Xhaka had shot narrowly wide after striding to the edge of Liverpool’s box immediately prior to Markovic’s dismissal, but despite being a man down, the hosts belatedly began to offer a threat.

Martin Skrtel sent an audacious shot narrowly wide from 35 yards, while Vaclik showed impeccable timing to slide out and prevent Gerrard from surging onto Sterling’s through-ball.

With nine minutes remaining, Gerrard set up a grandstand finish by arcing a picture-perfect free-kick into the top-left corner from just outside the box.

But in a frantic finale, an injury-time drive from Jordan Henderson that forced a full-length save from Vaclik was the closest the hosts came to the goal they craved.

Juventus do enough to reach knockout round

Turin – Juventus have secured their ticket for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in two years after dominating a listless Atletico Madrid in an entertaining scoreless draw in Turin on Tuesday.

While the Spaniards already qualified thanks to the four-match winning run that followed their opening day defeat to Olympiakos, Juventus required just a point to qualify for the knockout phase.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri had underlined his side’s intention to go for a win with a two-goal margin that would allow the Turin giants to snatch top spot from Diego Simeone’s reigning Spanish champions.

But despite dominating in all departments, the Italians failed to convert chances into goals.

The draw means Atletico finish top of Group A on 13 points, with Juventus second on 10 and Olympiakos, who beat Malmo 4-2, finishing third on nine to drop into the Europa League.

Juventus suffered a minor blow before kick-off when Claudio Marchisio was ruled out with a bout of flu and replaced by Roberto Pereyra, which forced Arturo Vidal back to the right side of midfield.

But the late change did not upset Juve’s plans.

Atletico were restricted to only one real chance on goal in the opening half and Juventus were allowed to move the ball around with surprising ease.

After Andrea Pirlo had driven an early free-kick into the defensive wall, a poor headed clearance by Leonardo Bonucci set Atletico up for one of their few real chances of the game.

Although the defender tried to rectify his error, the ball was fed to Koke to fire a low angled shot that forced goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon down low to block.

Barely a minute later, Paul Pogba’s floated cross in from the left just missed Fernando Llorente as the Spaniard hovered in front of Miguel Moya’s left post hoping to deflect.

Vidal earned a yellow card before the half-hour when he pulled down Raul Garcia, leading directly to another half-chance for Atletico as Jose Maria Gimenez sent a looping header towards goal which Buffon had to tip over.

Mario Suarez was then shown a yellow card moments later when he tugged at Carlos Tevez’s right shoulder, and the subsequent free-kick by Piro from 30 metres flashed over the crossbar.

With Atletico apparently set on defending top spot, Juventus found momentum.

Good build-up on the left allowed Pogba to deliver a delightful ball for Llorente with the outside of his right boot but the Spaniard’s looping header was collected by Moya.

A defeat would have proved disastrous for Juve and Atletico, at times, were a threat. Buffon was forced into a two-handed parry two minutes before half-time after Pogba lost control and the ball found its way to Suarez on the edge of the area.

It took Juve almost 10 minutes to fashion any kind of chance after the restart, but from 10 metres out on the left Pogba’s shot was blocked after a move featuring a back-heel from Tevez.

Another great build-up saw Pereyra cross inside for Tevez but after the Argentinian’s short pass to Vidal the Chilean’s angled shot lacked power and was easily parried by Moya.

Juve continued to keep Atletico pegged in their own half for much of the remainder of the second half, but apart from two long-range efforts from Pogba the hosts failed to break the deadlock.

Footballer’s wife ‘has plastic surgery after fans call her ugly’

Daniela Ospina, the wife of Real Madrid star James Rodriguez has apparently had cosmetic surgery and a make-over after being abused online by Madrid fans.

Daniela, who is the sister of Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, was on stage with Rodriguez when he signed for Madrid in the summer from Monaco.

The family posed for photographs at the time, but Real fans then went online to abuse Daniela, calling her ugly among other vile insults.

Reports in South America say she has decided to have cosmetic surgery in the hope of changing opinions.

People are tired of Qatar allegations, say bid team

The public are growing tired of hearing about allegations of wrongdoing against Qatar’s winning 2022 World Cup bid, according to organisers, with the Gulf state more interested in improving worker’s rights than publishing Michael Garcia’s report.

The 42-page summary of the ethics investigator’s inquiry into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup earlier this month has posed more questions than answers, and failed to quell the push for the vote for both tournaments to be restaged.

Qatar and Russia, both of whom have long pleaded their innocence, were cleared of wrong doing but the New York lawyer swiftly complained his work had been misrepresented by FIFA ethics judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who delivered the summary.

The ethics committee did, however, open a number of formal cases against unidentified individuals and FIFA confirmed it had lodged a criminal complaint in Switzerland.

That, Qatar say, is not their issue.

“Our opinion is this report isn’t in relation to Qatar, as a lot of people make it sound,” Nasser Al Khater, member of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, told reporters in the Filipino capital. “The report, I understand, they are looking at certain individuals.”

A report in British newspaper ‘The Sunday Times’ said it had passed on a dossier revealing further allegations of corruption regarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids, to a House of Commons committee and which were published on Saturday.

Al Khater, queried why they needed the protection of parliamentary privilege to make the “tired” accusations.

“I’m pretty sure people are feeling tired of this story already, I think there is reader fatigue in terms of this story.

“I think the same stuff is being regurgitated so many times people are questioning the motive now, not the story.”

Many have called for the Garcia report to be published in full, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter told members of the Asian Football Confederation on Sunday at their annual awards that no matter what was revealed, the tournament was going to Qatar.

Meanwhile, Qatar have their own report coming next week into welfare rights of migrant workers building infrastructure for the tournament, amid heavy criticism of the labour conditions.

“We recognise there are some problems but we recognise there has been tremendous progress on this issue as well,” Al Khater said.

Likewise intensive work continues to go into the air cooling technologies, despite the general acceptance the tournament will be staged in the winter months to avoid the stifling heat of the Middle East in June and July.

Successful tests were completed in July on cooling fan zones, to following the work on keeping temperatures down in stadiums.

Qatar say they are ready to host in any month the soccer world deems best.

“I think for us, at this stage, it doesn’t create so much of a concern. Its always better to have things cleared but whether they select the date end of 2022 or beginning it doesn’t matter.

“We know its a sensitive subject, we just want to make sure at the end of the day the consensus is reached, whether it be summer or winter, spring, or the fall.”

Senzo Meyiwa’s killer may have been one of the people inside the house

South Africa – Police are investigating several eye witnesses who were inside Kelly Khumalo’s Vooslorus home the night Senzo Meyiwa was shot.
Police detectives involved in the investigation told City Press that discrepancies in one of the statements issued by an eyewitness in the house have led to police exploring the possibility that no armed robbery took place that day.

According to the one detective: “I can assure you that a witness who was there during the shooting will soon be taken in for questioning and possibly be arrested thereafter.”

Police are also following up on an eyewitness who said he had lied about the events which took place that night. It is believed that one of the witnesses who include Khumalo, her sister Zandi and her boyfriend Longwe Twala, mother, Ntombi and Meyiwa’s close friends Thoko and Tumelo Madlala will come forward about what really occurred that night.

“The other thing is if it is proved that there was no robbery, [anyone] who lied in their statements could be arrested and charged for defeating the ends of justice,” said one detective.

Ronaldo insists: “Cristiano has been superior to Messi”

Cristiano Ronaldo has by far been superior to Lionel Messi, according to Brazilian World Cup winning legend Ronaldo.
Ronaldo, who played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona during his illustrious career, once again sided with Cristiano in the race for the Ballon d’Or, as he did a few days ago, calling the season “memorable”

“Explosiveness, speed, strength, scoring many goals – I think that this year Cristiano has been superior to Messi, like last year, and it seems like once again he will win the Ballon d’Or,” Ronaldo is quoted as saying byAS as per  Brazilian website UOL.

The Brazilian Ronaldo also praised another Barcelona forward, Neymar, who he believes will be the man to end Brazil’s wait to win the Ballon d’Or once again.

He said: “Neymar has drawn himself a lot closer to those two, he is the best hope we have now of seeing a Brazilian with the Ballon d’Or.”

Rules flouted for Oscar’s birthday – report

Johannesburg – The correctional services department has denied that paralympian Oscar Pistorius was receiving special treatment at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria, but said recent claims would be investigated, Sunday Times reported.

This was after the Sunday Times had reportedly witnessed several rules being flouted for Pistorius on Saturday, his 28th birthday.

The paper reported that Pistorius’s brother Carl and sister Aimee were allowed to bring the former Blade Runner a string of balloons, gift bag and cake purchased outside the prison.

According to the department of correctional services’s rules for sentenced offenders, inmates were only allowed delicacies bought at the prison tuck shop.

The siblings visited Pistorius for almost two hours, despite departmental guidelines stipulating visits were not allowed to exceed an hour.

Prison officials reportedly let the siblings’ cars into the prison grounds without searching them and allowed Carl and Aimee to use another exit to avoid the paper’s photographer.

Correctional services spokesman Logan Maistry denied this but said the allegations were regarded as serious and “will be investigated”.

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Hungary PM, accused of flirting with Kremlin, at Russia soccer match

When Russia’s national soccer team took to the pitch for a friendly match against Hungary on Tuesday night, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban watched intently from the VIP section of Budapest’s new stadium.
Hungarian officials say he was there because he loves soccer. But at a time when most European Union leaders are at pains not to associate with Russia over its intervention in Ukraine, Orban’s presence at the stadium stands out.
To his opponents inside Hungary and to some Western diplomats, Orban is moving dangerously close to the Kremlin, a course that risks forcing his country of about 10 million people to the margins of the European Union.
Hungary has signed a 10 billion euro ($12.5 billion) deal with Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Hungary, committed to build the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline despite opposition from Brussels, and stopped shipping gas to Ukraine that was helping Kiev evade a Russian energy blockade.
At a rally of Orban opponents outside parliament on Monday, one protester held a banner with the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem stencilled on it and a slogan that read: “We don’t want to be a colony.”
The biggest cheer of the night went up when an opposition supporter inside the parliament building waved a European Union flag from an office window.
“They call it an interests-based policy but it is not in our interests to be marginalised with the European Union,” said Bernadett Szel, a lawmaker with the small opposition LMP party. “It leads us nowhere.”
Orban says he is not drifting into Russia’s orbit, just being pragmatic. That applies especially to energy. Hungary depends on Russian gas imports, and Western-backed efforts to provide alternative supplies have stalled.
The majority of Hungarians back his policies. His Fidesz party won a second term in April by a landslide.
“In no way is there any drift” towards the Kremlin, said Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman. On Orban’s presence at the match, he said the prime minister tried to attend all Hungary’s games. “So do not make or take it as political in any way,” he said.
At the soccer match on Tuesday, there was no sign of any anti-Russian feeling, though some jeering did break out among the disappointed Hungarian fans after their team conceded two goals. The final score was 2-1 to Russia.

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Former SAFA referee convicted for corruption

Former SAFA Referee Clifford Malgas was on Friday convicted and sentenced on two counts of corruption and perjury related to his role in attempted match fixing during the 2011 SAFA Second Division play-offs.

Malgas was sentenced to two years for corruption and another two years for perjury, bringing the total sentence to four years in prison.

None of the sentences were suspended and he will therefore serve an effective four years behind bars

The court convicted the disgraced official following overwhelming evidence that he colluded with convicted criminal, Philemon Setshedi, who himself was convicted and sentenced for corruption in 2013.

In her judgment, the magistrate said the act of compromising the integrity of sport was a very serious offence that warranted a custodial sentence.

As stated before, the South African Football Association is working very closely with the South African Police Services and National Prosecutions Authority to pursue the persons who are implicated in wrong-doing during the SAFA Second Division Playoffs in 2011 and corruption in football generally.

The Association, SAPS and NPA will leave no stone unturned to ensure that all corrupt elements within football are brought to book.

“We welcome this custodial sentence as it sends a strong message to criminals that they do not have a place in our sport.

“SAFA has adopted a zero-tolerance to any form of crime and anyone harboring such evil tendencies be warned,” said SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan.

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Equatorial Guinea named AFCON hosts

The Confederation of African Football says Equatorial Guinea has been chosen to host the 2015 African Cup of Nations in place of Morocco.

CAF says the dates for the tournament will remain January 17-February 8 after Morocco was dumped as host for demanding a postponement over Ebola fears.
Equatorial Guinea co-hosted the African Cup in 2012 with Gabon.
CAF says four cities will be used for the tournament: Malabo, Bata, Mongomo and Ebebiyin.
CAF also says Equatorial Guinea’s team would be allowed to take part as the host nation despite being disqualified from African Cup qualifying this year for fielding an ineligible player.

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Morocco stripped of hosting Afcon 2015

Morocco has been stripped of hosting the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and flung out of the competition after saying they wanted to postpone the tournament because of fears about the Ebola epidemic, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Tuesday.

The decision was taken during a six-hour meeting of the CAF executive committee at its Cairo headquarters.

Morocco has said since early October that its call for a postponement was “dictated by health reasons of the most dangerous kind, linked to the serious risk of the spread of the deadly Ebola pandemic”.

CAF called on the Moroccans to change their minds, but decided at Tuesday’s meeting that the response they had been given “clearly indicates that the Royal Moroccan Football Federation reiterated its refusal to hold the competition on the dates indicated. Therefore, having firmly and unanimously notified on November 3 its decision to keep the competition on the dates indicated, the executive committee confirmed that the Orange Africa Cup of Nations 2015 will not take place in Morocco.”

The CAF said other countries had indicated a willingness to host the tournament and that a decision on a new host would be taken “shortly”.

A senior CAF source speaking on condition of anonymity said later that up to three countries, including Angola and Gabon, could be in the running to replace Morocco.

Angola hosted the event in 2010, when separatists attacked the Togo team, and Gabon co-hosted with Equatorial Guinea in 2012. Among the countries reportedly not interested in replacing Morocco as host at such short notice are South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan and Ghana, while there has been no public response from reigning champions Nigeria.

The dates for the 2015 edition of the continent’s most prestigious football tournament are January 17 to February 9. The CAF executive committee confirmed that qualification matches for the tournament will continue as planned on November 14 to 15 to decide which 15 teams will join that of the new host country for the finals.   

Exaggerated fears
The Ebola virus has killed at least 4 960 people, mainly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Morocco fears that an influx of foreign fans could help spread the epidemic. CAF has said the fears are exaggerated and that only a limited number of foreign fans will go there. 

The Ebola epidemic first hit the Cup of Nations in August, when Seychelles forfeited a qualifying tie rather than host a return match against Sierra Leone.

As the death toll mounted, CAF barred Sierra Leone and Guinea from hosting their qualifying group games. Apart from being kicked out of the competition, CAF indicated that the Moroccan Football Federation could be hit by further sanctions, notably financial. 

“The organising committee of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations will later apply the statutory provisions that are required due to a breach of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation regulatory and contractual provisions, including those set out in the host association agreement signed between CAF and the Royal Moroccan Football Federation in April 2014,” it said.

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Keshi re-appointed as Nigeria coach

Abuja – Stephen Keshi has been re-appointed as coach of African champions Nigeria after he was sacked earlier this month, in the latest twist in a long-running battle for control of the country’s football federation.

The head of the federation’s technical committee, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, said his body had “decided to accept” a proposal re-instating Keshi as Super Eagles coach for Nigeria’s next Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Congo and South Africa in November.

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Oscar is ‘finished in sport’

Oscar Pistorius’s sentencing and conviction for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp is “the end of his journey” in world athletics, says Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

In an exclusive interview with the Cape Argus on Wednesday, Mbalula said he believed that the “golden boy” had reached the end of his career.

“(Oscar’s sentencing) has been a very sad moment for us in sport, in the sense that he was the epitome of wisdom, skill and triumph over adversity.

“Doors were beginning to open for us globally because of this young man. The last national anthem played at the London Paralympics was that of South Africa’s because Oscar took the podium after winning the event’s final race.

“In the world of athletics, Oscar was number two, second only to Usain Bolt, in terms of popularity.

“I do not think Oscar will be able to come back in terms of athletics.

“For me, (Pistorius’s conviction and sentence) was the end of the road of his journey. It is unfortunate that it had to end in this manner, but the courts have spoken and we will respect their decision.”

The 27-year-old Paralympic star began his five-year prison sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru II correctional facility in Pretoria on Wednesday. Judge Thokozile Masipa also sentenced the athlete to an additional three years in prison, suspended for five years, for the second count of a firearm contravention.

Recalling the morning of the fatal shooting, Mbalula said he had been woken by a telephone call from Jacaranda FM at about 5am.

“They said ‘what is your comment because Pistorius, your star athlete, has shot his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder?’”

Mbalula said he answered: “Don’t quote me but it could be that it was an intruder.”

Mbalula said Pistorius’s deeds had not only hurt Steenkamp’s family and friends, but many people – especially young people – who looked up to him as a role model.

In his glory days, the Paralympian was the face of many high-end brand campaigns including the Nike “I am the bullet in the chamber” ad and as the face of fashion house Thierry Mugler’s men fragrance.

The campaigns were withdrawn soon after the shooting.

Mbalula admits he was a big supporter of the “golden boy” and used his pulling power for several sports campaigns.

He said that Pistorius would have been the perfect ambassador for the Unite 4 Mandela campaign due to take place in Tshwane next month.

“One of the ambassadors of such a campaign would have been Pistorius to unite us as a nation… a white Afrikaner boy who triumphed over adversity. He made blade running fashionable.”

Mbalula said that Pistorius was so respected that during the Paralympics in London people sang along to the South African anthem as he walked up the podium to accept his medal.

“The courts have spoken and we respect the decisions of the court. I hear people saying that Pistorius will come back. To me that was the end of the road.”

Pistorius had testified that he had mistaken the 29-year-old model for a burglar hiding in his toilet at his Silverlakes home in Pretoria. Steenkamp was shot in the head, chest and arm in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

Pistorius’s family said the athlete would not appeal against his sentence, but the State prosecuting authority was yet to decide whether it would appeal against the conviction for culpable homicide.

Pistorius’s appearance at the Olympics and Paralympics in London last year was one of sport’s defining narratives of an athlete triumphing over adversity.

He became the first disabled athlete to compete in the Olympic Games when he qualified for the men’s 400m semi-final.

Mbalula said that Pistorius’s rehabilitation should take its course.

“Pistorius must pay his dues to the nation and face correctional responsibilities.”

Asked whether he foresaw a future role for Pistorius in any capacity in South African sport, Mbalula said: “We will cross that road when we get there.”

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Record Chelsea win prompts talk of another title assault

London – Chelsea scored their biggest Champions League victory when they thrashed Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday with a performance that underlines the belief that they are real contenders to rule Europe again.

Fittingly two heroes from their 2012 final triumph over Bayern Munich — the returning Didier Drogba and skipper John Terry — were back among the goals along with the outstanding Eden Hazard.

Belgian midfielder Hazard played a pivotal role with a superb performance with two goals, one from the spot, as Jose Mourinho’s men stretched their unbeaten run from the start of the season to 12 matches.
Veterans Drogba, 36, who also scored a penalty, and skipper Terry, 33, both scored in the first half, along with Loic Remy.

An own goal and Hazard’s two came after the break with Chelsea now almost certain to make it to the last 16 and with Maribor’s coach Ante Simundza saying his team simply had no answer to Chelsea’s dominance, tipping them to go all the way this season.

“Chelsea were out of reach for us and are one of the favourites for the title. They have great individual quality and they were exceptional today,” he told reporters afterwards.

Mourinho played down any talk of the title though, telling reporters: “We have played three group games and there are 12 games before you get to the final so there is a long way to go and this group isn’t finished yet.

“First of all we have to win at Maribor and the result today does not mean we are going to win there. Schalke are in a good position, Sporting are a good team.
“But we have found a good balance we are playing well and we are confident.”

The night’s results left Chelsea top of Group G with seven points, followed by Schalke 04, who beat Sporting 4-3, on five, Maribor on two and Sporting on one.

Maribor had no answer to Chelsea or Hazard, who capped his fine performance with a beautifully executed sixth in stoppage time to seal Chelsea’s win.

Despite what followed, the Slovenian side had the first scoring chance but Damjan Bohar headed over after five minutes.
But although Maribor came searching for goals with an attacking lineup, it was Chelsea who scored them.

Early breakthrough

Remy made the early breakthrough when he collected a neat pass from Terry, cut inside past two defenders and curled home with his left foot, but he injured his groin in the process.

Three minutes later Drogba replaced him to loud applause from the Chelsea fans and seven minutes after that he gave them even more to cheer about after Willian’s cross was handled by defender Ales Mertelj.

Dutch referee Danny Makkelie pointed to the spot and Drogba, who returned to Chelsea this season after two years away, scored his first goal for the club since the equaliser in the 2012 final by sending goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic the wrong way.

Nice symmetry

Drogba’s last kick in a Chelsea shirt in his first spell at the club came with the winning penalty in the 2012 shootout and he recalled that when he spoke to the media afterwards.

“To finish (my first time at Chelsea) with a penalty and start again with a penalty was a nice symmetry,” he said.
“I wanted to score that goal. I asked him (Eden Hazard) and he said it was OK. This is the spirit we have in this team.”
If the match was nearly over as a contest by then it was definitely all over eight minutes later.

Terry, marauding upfield, also scored his first Champions League goal since 2012 when he crashed the ball over the line from close range after a cross from Cesc Fabregas in a counter-attack that started when Chelsea cleared a Maribor corner and featured a mazy 60-metre run from Hazard.

Chelsea did not have long to wait after the break for their fourth, when Hazard’s shot was deflected over the line by Maribor left-back Mitja Viler.
The visitors wasted the chance of a consolation when Ibraimi’s penalty hit Petr Cech’s left-hand post.

Willian went close to a fifth when he smacked a 20-metre shot against the bar after 75 minutes, but two minutes later the fifth goal arrived when Marko Suler fouled Branislav Ivanovic to concede another penalty.
Hazard resumed his penalty-taking responsibility for this one, and scored with a sweet strike.

Maribor, thoroughly crumpled by this stage, went into damage limitation mode, but were breached again when Hazard, collecting the ball from substitute Nathan Ake, twisted this way and that for a brilliant sixth.

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Neymar and Messi guide Barca to victory over Ajax

Barcelona – Neymar and Lionel Messi have maintained their lethal partnership with a goal apiece as Barcelona swept aside Ajax 3-1 in Champions League Group F on Tuesday.

The Argentine was the provider, slipping the ball through for Neymar to hit the opener with a clinical finish into the corner after seven minutes, the he struck midway through the half to put the hosts in control.

Andres Iniesta threaded the ball through to the Argentine and his shot from the centre of the penalty area squirmed under keeper Jasper Cillessen.

Messi now has 69 Champions League goals, as does Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo with the duo two off all-time leading scorer Raul.

Anwar El Ghazi pulled back a late goal for Ajax before Sandro Ramirez settled any late jitters.

Barcelona are second in the group behind leaders Paris St Germain.

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I left Liverpool happy – Suarez

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez has revealed his performances for Liverpool last season allowed him to leave Anfield on good terms.

Suarez netted 31 Premier League goals for Brendan Rodgers’ side last season despite missing the first six games of the season as a result of a ban for biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic at the back end of the 2012/13 campaign.

The Uruguayan’s impressive haul nearly inspired the Reds to their first Premier League title in over 20 years as they eventually finished runners-up to Manchester City.

And Suarez, who is yet to make his competitive debut for Barcelona, says the feats he accomplished last season have provided the perfect platform for him to kick on at the Nou Camp.

“Personal success is always welcome and makes you happy,” the controversial Uruguayan told Barca TV.

“Because that’s recognition of the good work you have done. But I put the team ahead of that and last season Liverpool came so close to winning the Premier League, which would have been spectacular.

“I appreciate all the work the team did. But I missed six matches and scored all those goals in the Premier League without being the penalty-taker.

“I really could leave happy because if I hadn’t had the attitude and mentality to lead the team, I don’t think Liverpool would have done as well as they did. Getting back into the Champions League was another target I had in mind.”

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Footballer bashes girlfriend’s friend for sleeping with ‘nearly all his teammates’

31-year-old Highlanders Football Club’s star, Mthulisi Maphosa, beat up his girlfriend Nobuhle Nkomo’s friend, Amanda Mbuisa, and her boyfriend, Bongani Rabvu, accusing Mbuisa of sleeping with ‘three quarters’ of his teammates

He accused the alleged bed-hopping Mbuisa of being a bad influence on Nkomo.

Appearing before Western Commonage magistrate Tancy Dube, Maphosa said he once bedded Mbuisa, 22, whom he claimed had also slept with nearly all the Highlanders FC players.

Maphosa said he assaulted Mbuisa because she was influencing his girlfriend into prostitution.

The footballer initially pleaded guilty, but his plea was altered to not guilty after he denied assaulting them using bricks.

Highlanders is battling reports of rampant indiscipline among players, with claims suggesting that some players indulge in drug abuse and binge drinking.

The court heard that during the night of October 4, Maphosa was waiting for Nkomo at her place of residence in Mpopoma suburb when she arrived home in a car at around 11PM in the company of Mbuisa and her boyfriend, Rabvu.

Maphosa flew into a rage and asked Mbuisa what she was doing with his girlfriend so late in the night.

He then accused Mbuisa of being a prostitute and a bad influence on his girlfriend before attacking them.

The two sustained serious facial injuries and were referred to hospital.

Testifying, Mbuisa said Maphosa always assaults his girlfriend and had turned her into a “punching bag”.

“Maphosa always assaults Nkomo and she even wants to file a protection order against him

She’s scared to report the abuse to the police but he beats her almost every timeMaphosa also said he’s gone through worse than assault cases and is not afraid of the police,” she said.

Maphosa was remanded out of custody to today for sentencing.

This is not the first time that Maphosa has been caught on the wrong side of the law.

In 2011, the footballer was arrested for attempted murder after stabbing a soldier but the matter was later settled out of court.

Last year, he was involved in a bar brawl where he reportedly hit bouncers with a baton stick and has also faced allegations of assaulting his mother.

A guilty conviction would most likely spell the end of Maphosa’s time at Highlanders, and possibly his career

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Blackpool FC terrace murder victim remembered

A simple tribute will be paid later to the first fan to be murdered inside an English football ground on the 40th anniversary of his death.

Blackpool fans will stop on their away trip to Wigan to lay a wreath at the memorial to Kevin Olsson, who was stabbed to death on 24 August 1974.

They will pause in silence by a memorial plaque near the club’s shop.

The 17-year-old Blackpool fan was killed when trouble broke out at a Blackpool v Bolton match.

Fans will call at the club shortly after 13:00 BST as they head for Wigan.

Glenn Bowley, chair of the Blackpool Supporters Association (BSA), said: “It may have been 40 years ago but is very important that we never forget this tragic death.”

Hooliganism death aftermatch

  • Dennis Howell Sports Minister in the Labour Government visited the murder scene saying it would consider identity cards for football fans
  • Blackpool introduced segregation for fans on their Kop and fenced them in – other clubs followed suit
  • A juvenile was acquitted of Kevin Olsson’s murder at Lancaster Crown Court – no-one else was ever charged
  • ID cards were never introduced even though Margaret Thatcher’s government considered them following the 1985 Heysel Disaster and pitch-side fences fell out of favour after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster
  • He added: “Heaven forbid that this should every happen again inside a football ground.”

    The plaque to Mr Olsson was unveiled by BSA in 2009 at the part of the ground which replaced the former Spion Kop where he was killed.

    Bolton manager Jimmy Armfield, who was making his first return to the club after he served as a player from 1954 to 1971, said: “It was the worst Saturday night of my life – Alan Waldron, one of my players, had suffered a horrific broken leg. I went from visiting him in hospital to calling on the family of the dead boy.”

    He added: “As a Blackpool man I felt I had to visit them.”

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    University of New Mexico suspends soccer coach over hazing

    ALBUQUERQUE N.M. – The University of New Mexico women’s soccer coach and 22 players on the team were ordered suspended on Friday over a hazing incident that landed one extremely intoxicated freshman athlete in the hospital last weekend, the athletic department said.

    The university athletic director, Paul Krebs, announced the disciplinary action as the school forfeited the team’s season-opening match against Texas Tech University, resulting in a $5,000 fine against UNM. But the brief duration of suspensions will allow the squad to avoid missing any further games.

    “We believe the disciplinary measures we have taken today send a clear message about the gravity of the incident, and that it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Krebs said in a statement.

    Kit Vela, entering her 14th season as coach of women’s soccer at the university, will be placed on suspension for one week without pay, starting on Monday, forcing her to miss one scrimmage but no official games.

    In the statement released by the university, Vela took responsibility for the conduct of her squad and accepted the suspension, though at a press conference on Thursday she denied any knowledge of the hazing.

    The incident came to light early Aug. 17 after campus police were called to the dormitory room of a highly intoxicated freshman player who was having difficulty breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital, university officials said.

    The player and her sister, who was also a freshman on the team, have since left the university and returned home to California.

    Krebs has said an investigation of the incident revealed that a majority of the team’s players were consuming alcohol at more than one off-campus location the night of the incident, but that none of them were forced to drink.

    Twenty-two players, essentially the entire squad except for seven freshmen athletes who were subjected to the hazing, will be benched for one game each over the next few weeks. But their suspensions will be staggered so the team can still field enough players to compete in its next four scheduled matches in the Mountain West Conference during that time.

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    City ready to roll: Pellegrini

    Newcastle – Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini thinks he has a stronger squad than last season as the champions prepare to begin their Premier League title defence at Newcastle on Sunday.

    City start their campaign with a trip to St James’ Park having added a number of new faces to their ranks since last season’s Premier League and League Cup triumphs.

    Pellegrini signed French defender Eliaquim Mangala and Brazilian midfielder Fernando from Porto, Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero from Malaga and French right-back Bacary Sagna on a free transfer from Arsenal.

    City have also loaned veteran midfielder Frank Lampard, released by Chelsea during the close season, from their sister club New York City FC.

    Pellegrini believes those acquisitions put City in a strong position to retain the title and make a sustained challenge in the Champions League as well.

    “Last season we had a very good squad and a very successful year,” Pellegrini said.

    “But that is the past and that is history. Now we must try this season to have a strong squad and I think that players such as Willy, Bacary, as Mangala, Fernando, Frank Lampard will make us a strong squad. We try to have a stronger squad this year.

    “I think this Premier League will be exactly the same as the last title, we will have five or six teams with a very strong squad.

    “All of them want to win the title. We also want to retain it. So we will see during the year who works better.”

    City will be without Mangala while he builds up his match fitness, so Martin Demichelis will partner captain Vincent Kompany at the heart of defence this weekend.

    Argentine forward Sergio Aguero, who signed a new five-year contract this week, may also be rested after struggles with injuries during the World Cup, while Spain striker Alvaro Negredo has been ruled out until September with a broken foot.

    “Mangala needs to work more with the team to be able to play. It will not be this weekend,” Pellegrini added.

    “I think that always this team needs Sergio Aguero, but it is also important for him to make a good pre-season. He has so many months without playing normally.

    “I think we are ready to start. Maybe some players need some more days to be 100 percent but the squad is ready to start the season.”

    Newcastle have been among the busiest Premier League clubs during the close-season transfer market, with nine new arrivals at a cost of almost 40 million.

    Of those, French duo Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback and Dutch defender Daryl Janmaat are set to make their league debuts against City.

    Another of those recent signings, former Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong is ruled out by a calf problem.

    Ivory Coast international Cheick Tiote, who has been linked with an 8 million move to Arsenal, is sidelined with a hamstring injury.

    Newcastle hope to end a 16-game winless streak against City stretching back nine years, which has seen them lose their last 10 games in this fixture, claiming two points from a possible 45.

    “We’ve got a couple of notable absences from the squad through injury, and last season we wouldn’t have been able to cope with that,” Magpies manager Alan Pardew said.

    “But with the signings we’ve brought in, we’re able to deal with it and that shows the strength in depth we’ve got.

    “We go into the game in good spirits with a fit, strong team and hopefully we’ll give City a good test.”

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    Sharapova rallies to beat Halep

    Cincinnati – Maria Sharapova won a re-match of her French Open title victory over Simona Halep, rallying for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win to reach the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters.

    The reigning Roland Garros holder will play Ana Ivanovic after the Serb ninth seed defeated Ukrainian teenager Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-3 in less than an hour on Friday night.

    Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, has won eight of 11 meetings with her former world number one opponent. Ivanovic claimed their last meeting in the third round at Rome in May.

    Sharapova had to make a great escape against world number two Halep, who has burst into WTA prominence over the past year. Sharapova won her fifth match against Halep without a loss.

    Sharapova also claimed her 13th match at the pre-US Open event and took the title in 2011.

    The Russian, who tends to play well under pressure, recovered after a tight opening set to finally secure the victory – her 38th of 2014 – after two and a half hours.

    “It was a pretty poor first set from my end, a lot of unforced errors,” said Sharapova. “I think it was some of the lowest first serve percentages I’ve had for a while.

    “Nothing really was going my way. So I definitely needed to do a few things differently to be a bit more consistent but maintain that aggressiveness that works against her.

    “The court is like a battlefield. It’s my job. It’s where I’m supposed to perform.”

    Top-seeded Serena Williams cruised into the final four with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Jelena Jankovic.

    “She’s beaten me several times, so I knew today I just had to be focused and do the best I could,” said Williams, a 17-time Grand Slam champion who has never lifted the trophy in Cincinnati.

    “She played some great points. I was just trying to not make many errors, stay focused and do the best that I could.”

    Williams will face former world number one Caroline Wozniacki, who beat fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

    Williams completed her win over Jankovic in less than an hour as she reached the last four without the loss of a set. The American fired seven aces and broke five times against the former number one.

    Williams won 10 of 14 career matches against Jankovic, last losing to her in 2010. She has beaten the Serb five times in the past two seasons.

    “I definitely felt pretty good about today, I felt better,” said Williams. “My unforced errors are lower than they’ve been this year, so it’s definitely going the right way.

    “I don’t think she played her best today and still she fought well. I was glad to have an opportunity to just get through that.

    “I don’t think I played great last week (a semi-final loss in Montreal). I was just fighting to be in the tournament. I was mentally fighting really hard. I definitely feel like I’m playing better this week.”

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    Rooney to lead from the front

    London – Wayne Rooney believes he is ready to play a lead role in Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United revolution after being appointed as the team’s new captain.

    Van Gaal named Rooney as the United skipper on Tuesday and he will wear the armband as permanent captain for the first time in Saturday’s Premier League opener against Swansea at Old Trafford.

    Before handing him the armband, United manager van Gaal reminded Rooney he must be a role model for United players and fans both on the pitch and off it.

    His indiscipline has cost him in the past, but Rooney says he is now up to the task of being a responsible and successful captain.

    “It’s a massive role to take on, I’m aware of that, the responsibility of it. I feel I’m ready at this stage in my career to do it,” Rooney told United Uncovered.

    “I spoke to the manager and he decided that I was right to take the role which I am delighted with. It’s a great honour.

    “I will perform the role as best I can and hopefully help the team to be successful.”

    Rooney has been stand-in captain on several occasions during his 10-year spell at United, but this is the first time he has been given the honour on a full-time basis.

    However, he can draw from the experience of playing under the captaincy of inspirational leaders like Roy Keane, John Terry and Steven Gerrard for both United and England.

    “I’ve played under some great captains for club and country so I will take a little bit of what they have brought to the role and try to use that,” Rooney added.

    “Then I’ll try to lead the players on the pitch with hard work, dedication, and that’s what we really want to do – we want to show the fans that we care and want to win.”

    Robin van Persie, van Gaal’s captain with the Netherlands, was regarded as the initial front-runner for the armband at United.

    But van Gaal is adamant van Persie won’t have a problem with either the decision or Rooney, with whom the Dutch striker is said to have a sometimes difficult relationship.

    “It was not difficult,” Van Gaal said when asked if it was hard to overlook Van Persie.

    “I didn’t say it to him. He was not there at that moment.

    “I told it personally to Wayne, then I had to choose the vice-captain, then I had to say it to my players. This is a different situation to the Dutch national team.

    “I think you always have to choose a native captain. I don’t think there’s any problem.”

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    Man United to start afresh

    London – The Louis van Gaal era will begin in earnest for Manchester United on Saturday when they host Swansea City in the first match of the 2014-15 Premier League season.

    The 63-year-old Dutchman has impressed in his first four weeks at the United helm, overseeing five wins and a draw in pre-season, but it is in the league that his achievements will be judged.

    Swansea were one of eight teams who came to Old Trafford and won last season, creating a sense of vulnerability that Van Gaal has been hired to banish for good.

    Coincidentally, United also met Swansea on the opening day of the 2013-14 campaign, with the then-defending champions winning 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium in David Moyes’s first league game as manager.

    The result was to prove a red herring, as United finished the season down in seventh place, but midfielder Tom Cleverley says that it will be important to set the right tone for the forthcoming campaign.

    “We can’t wait to get going against Swansea and look to put right the wrongs from last year,” he told the United website.

    “We started against Swansea last year, but away. This time it’s at home and I’m sure the fans will be the same as us: raring to go. It’ll be the manager’s first competitive game and I’m sure it’ll be a special atmosphere.”

    Wayne Rooney will lead United out for the first time since being named captain after Tuesday’s 2-1 friendly win over Valencia.

    United will have to make do without 27 million ($45 million, 33.6 million euros) close-season signing Luke Shaw, however, after the 19-year-old left-back was ruled out due to a hamstring strain.

    Another team buoyed by a positive pre-season period are Arsenal, who launch their assault on the league title at home to Crystal Palace.

    Having ended a nine-year trophy drought by winning last season’s FA Cup, Arsene Wenger’s side gave an eye-catching demonstration of their title credentials by outclassing league champions Manchester City 3-0 in last weekend’s Community Shield.

    New signing Alexis Sanchez, a 30 million acquisition from Barcelona, is in line to make his competitive home debut against Palace and captain Mikel Arteta has called on his side to make a positive start to the campaign.

    “We’ve done our (transfer) business early this season so we can start from the off and that’s what we want,” the Spanish midfielder told the Arsenal website.

    “We want to set a marker and we don’t want to miss that opportunity. We’ve got experience now, we are able to win. We have the qualities to do it, we have the structure, the fans, the club and the desire to do it.”

    Palace go into the game in crisis after reports emerged late Thursday that manager Tony Pulis had left the club after falling out with owners over transfer policy.

    Championship champions Leicester City will play their first top-flight game since 2004 when they host Everton on Saturday, while fellow promoted side Queens Park Rangers welcome Hull City to Loftus Road.

    Champions Manchester City begin their title defence at Newcastle United on Sunday.

    When City last claimed the title, in 2012, they won only two of their opening five games the following season, but captain Vincent Kompany feels that they now possess the necessary know-how to retain their title.

    “We know what to look out for. We know what not to do,” said the Belgian centre-back, who has signed a new five-year contract.

    “The players at City have got experience with winning trophies. It goes in phases. We’re in this phase now. We feel we can win it.”

    Liverpool, who narrowly lost out to City in last season’s title race, open the campaign at home to Southampton, who saw Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all leave for Anfield in the close season.

    Lallana will miss the reunion with his former club due to a knee injury, but Lambert and Lovren are both in contention to feature in what will be Liverpool’s first competitive game since the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

    Chelsea, meanwhile, are expected to hand competitive debuts to new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas when they visit the third promoted team, Burnley, on Monday.

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    Suarez ‘an accident waiting to happen’

    London – Luis Suarez is “an accident waiting to happen”, English Premiership chief executive Richard Scudamore said Wednesday, adding he was glad the controversial forward had left Liverpool for Barcelona.

    The Uruguay striker left Anfield for Camp Nou in a £75 million after he was banned for four months from all football after biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini at the World Cup in Brazil.

    Scudamore said the English Premiership would be more peaceful without Suarez, whose ban was his third for biting.

    “I think probably the time had come,” said Scudamore talking at the launch of the English Premiership season, which starts on Saturday.

    “He’s a great player and I’m not taking anything away from his talents: he was voted by both his own players and the media last year the player of the year and deservedly so.

    “He’s great to have but an accident waiting to happen, and if you spend your time trying to promote what’s good about the Premier League, you’re always waiting for the next thing to come along.

    “And this one in the summer, although it was with Uruguay, although it didn’t directly involve the English Premiership, clearly it reflected on Liverpool as one of our great clubs and it reflected on us,” he added.

    “He’s done his time here, but I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go.

    “I think it was good business on a number of levels from Liverpool to move Suarez on,” said Scudamore.

    Suarez has appealed against his FIFA ban to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport and will learn their decision on Thursday.

    The striker was banned for 10 games for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 and sidelined for seven matches for biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal in Ajax action in 2010

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    Rooney named United captain

    London – Wayne Rooney has been named Manchester United captain by new manager Louis van Gaal, the club announced on Tuesday.

    The 28-year-old England striker succeeds Nemanja Vidic after the Serbia defender left United at the end of last season to join Inter Milan.

    “For me it’s always very important the choice of captain,” said van Gaal in a club statement issued after United’s 2-1 friendly win against Valencia at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

    “Wayne has shown a great attitude towards everything he does. I have been very impressed by his professionalism and his attitude to training and to my philosophy,” the Dutchman explained.

    “He is a great inspiration to the younger members of the team and I believe he will put his heart and soul into his captaincy role.”

    Rooney, who could now also become captain of England following Steven Gerrard’s retirement from international football, said: “It is a huge honour for me – and for my family – to be named captain of this great club.

    “It is a role I will perform with great pride. Team spirit has always been very high in our dressing room and I am very grateful to the manager for the faith he has shown in me. I look forward to leading the team out on Saturday at our first match of the new season.”

    Van Gaal, who formally took charge at Old Trafford last month after guiding the Netherlands to third place at the World Cup, said Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher, whom he labelled a “natural leader” would be the team’s vice-captain and lead the side in Rooney’s absence.

    “I am delighted to have been named as vice-captain,” Fletcher said. “It’s a very proud moment for me and my family.

    “Wayne and I have always worked well together and we will continue to work closely together in our new roles. I would like to thank the manager for putting his trust in me.”

    Van Gaal was appointed after United, who finished a relatively lowly seventh in the Premier League last term, sacked David Moyes – retired manager Alex Ferguson’s chosen successor – after the former Everton boss failed to complete his first season in charge at Old Trafford.

    United play their first competitive match under van Gaal when they begin their Premier League campaign at home to Swansea on Saturday.

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    Wenger: This win gives us a platform

    London – Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt his side had established a benchmark for their season after a convincing 3-0 win over Premier League champions Manchester City in the Community Shield

    Read: Arsenal Thrash City

    Substitute Olivier Giroud capped a one-sided victory with a brilliant 25-yard strike on the hour mark at Wembley on Sunday, after first-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey had put Arsenal in control.

    Arsenal’s league title bid last season was fatally undermined by losses to their biggest rivals – including a 6-3 humbling at City – and Wenger is hopeful that the FA Cup winners have now turned a corner.

    “To win today gives us a positive platform to prepare,” the Frenchman told his post-game media conference.

    “You want to win the game and you want to look at the quality of the performance as well.

    “It was important for our confidence to win the game, but it was even more important to have a big part in the game with the quality.

    “And that is a comfort for me to see that we can produce the kind of quality that we have produced for some long patches in the game.”

    Reminded of his team’s poor record against their title rivals last season, he replied: “That’s why it was important for us today (Sunday) not to lose the game.

    “Last year we were very consistent against the teams below the top six and not consistent against the top six teams. The year before it was the reverse. So let’s hope that this year it will be right on both sides.”

    Wenger was particularly pleased by the performances of new signings Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez.

    He said that 19-year-old Chambers, who again played at centre-back, had been “outstanding” and described Debuchy’s display as “excellent”, while he felt that Sanchez had been “always a danger”.

    Wenger also revealed that Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta has succeeded Thomas Vermaelen as club captain following the Belgian defender’s move to Barcelona, with Per Mertesacker named vice-captain.

    Vermaelen’s departure leaves Arsenal light at centre-back, with Laurent Koscielny the only other established central defender on the club’s books.

    But while Wenger admitted that he would like to bring in another defender, he added: “To find another one of (Vermaelen’s) quality will not be easy.”

    The pain of defeat for City was softened by the fact that they were without several key first-team players, including captain Vincent Kompany, right-back Pablo Zabaleta and striker Sergio Aguero.

    “It was not the day today to make pressure for different players. It was one game more for pre-season,” said manager Manuel Pellegrini.

    “We have seven players who have just worked for five days. They were not considered for this game. We have another five players who have just worked for eight or nine days.

    “It’s difficult to be ready in two weeks. Aguero, Zabaleta, (Martin) Demichelis, Kompany, (Bacary) Sagna, Fernandino just arrived seven days ago. They started working on Monday.

    “They will have 15 days before we start the Premier League so we’ll see during the week which of them are ready and which of them are not ready.

    “It is always bad to lose, but we don’t need to worry.”

    City open their league title defence at Newcastle United on Sunday and Pellegrini refused to confirm that England goalkeeper Joe Hart will come back into the team after new signing Willy Caballero played against Arsenal.

    “All the 22 players that we have in our squad must demonstrate who is number one in all the positions,” said the Chilean.

    “The goalkeeper and the other positions of the team are exactly the same. Joe finished last season playing very well. We’ll see next Sunday which 11 starts against Newcastle.”

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    More Wembley joy for Arsenal

    London – Arsenal have delivered a rousing demonstration of their Premier League title credentials by overwhelming league champions Manchester City 3-0 in the Community Shield at Wembley on Sunday.

    Buoyed by last season’s FA Cup success over Hull City, Arsene Wenger’s side took charge with first-half goals from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey before substitute Olivier Giroud added a glorious long-range third.

    With £30 million new signing Alexis Sanchez also impressing on a sunny afternoon in northwest London, Arsenal’s fans will hope it proves the precursor to a sustained title challenge, after seeing their side fall away last season.

    Victory in the traditional season curtain-raiser — which witnessed the first use of vanishing spray in English football — suggests Arsenal are in fine fettle ahead of their opening league fixture at home to Crystal Palace on Saturday.

    In mitigation for City, manager Manuel Pellegrini could point to the absences of first-teamers such as captain Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero, but his side’s rustiness will be cause for concern ahead of their season opener at Newcastle United.

    With the millstone of a nine-year trophy drought no longer weighing them down, Arsenal made an assured start on their return to Wembley, with new signing Mathieu Debuchy obliging Gael Clichy to head a cross clear.

    Debuchy then blocked a shot by Samir Nasri — lustily booed by the fans of his former club — at the other end, before Cazorla gave Arsenal the lead in the 21st minute.

    Jack Wilshere was felled on the edge of the box by Dedryck Boyata, but play continued and the ball ran to Cazorla, who threw Clichy off-balance with a clever feint before drilling home left-footed.

    Edin Dzeko looked to get City level by racing away from Calum Chambers and teeing up Stevan Jovetic, but Laurent Koscielny produced a timely block. Moments later it was 2-0.

    From Sanchez’s sweeping through ball, Yaya Sanogo played a pass inside that was slightly behind Ramsey, but the Welshman checked his run and smartly chipped the ball on before drilling a shot into the bottom-left corner.

    It had been a less than ideal first 45 minutes for new City goalkeeper Willy Caballero — who was preferred to Joe Hart — but he helped limit the damage in first-half stoppage time by rushing out to prevent Sanchez collecting a pass from Sanogo.

    Sanchez made way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after a lively first-half cameo on the right flank, while City were given fresh impetus by the introduction of David Silva.

    Jovetic twice threatened to halve Arsenal’s lead, heading against the post and blazing the rebound over before seeing a rasping 15-yard shot blocked by Wojciech Szczesny.

    But Giroud put the game to bed on the hour, gathering the ball in the inside-right channel and launching a superb, dipping strike from 25 yards that plunged beneath the crossbar.

    Arsenal’s fans goaded their City counterparts by aping their backwards-facing ‘Poznan’ goal celebration.

    The teams will resume hostilities in the Premier League on September 19, by which time Pellegrini will expect to have witnessed significant improvements.

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    Dembare fans brutally stab Bosso fan to death

    A Highlanders fan was stabbed to death in cold blood by suspected Dynamos supporters after Saturday’s epic clash at Babourfields stadium in Bulawayo.

    The teams’ intense rivalry spilled out of the pitch when mostly Bosso fans rioted after the match.

    The Bosso fans were frustrated with losing one nil to their arch rivals, whom they last beat in open play in 2006.

    Witnesses said a Highlanders supporter, only identified as Themba (23) got into a fight with some Dembare supporters.

    “Some Bosso fans were smashing vehicles outside the stadium when Themba threw a stone at a car that was draped with the Dynamos flag. The people in the car were not amused and they started chasing after him in the car.

    They lost sight of him but saw him again near Renkini Bus Terminus,” said a witness.

    The people in the car reportedly piled out and confronted Themba who was dressed in a white overall that had the Bosso insignia on it.

    “They started beating him and he fought back and one of the people produced a knife and stabbed him on the chest, killing him instantly. Two of them were arrested a few hours later and they told police Themba fell on some security spikes near the Renkini main gate but that story has since been proved to be false,” said a police officer who is close to investigations.

    Themba’s uncle who only identified himself as Ncube, said there was a funeral wake at Sizinda Flats but the deceased’s parents have said their son is not dead.

    Themba was an apprentice at the National Railways of Zimbabwe, according to his uncle.

    Police in Bulawayo could not be reached for comment.

    According to Dynamos fans, soccer violence resulted in their team dominating Highlanders at every turn since 2006.

    The supporters blame the death of one of their most colourful leaders, Stanford Nhau aka Taribo West, on Bosso.

    They claim he died from injuries sustained after an assault by the Bulawayo giants’ fans at Babourfields Stadium in 2006.

    They have declared that until Highlanders formally apologises and pays an undisclosed number of cattle as compensation, their team will never beat Dynamos.

    The declaration would seem to hold water if match statistics are anything to go by.

    Highlanders supporters have always maintained that Nhau died of HIV related TB.

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    Toure confirms his future is at Man City

    Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has said he wants to stay at the club for “as long as possible”.

    Yaya Toure threw his Manchester City future into doubt by backing up his agent’s claims that the club’s wealthy owners showed him a lack of respect on his 31st birthday.

    Reports this summer suggested that the 31-year-old Ivory Coast international was unhappy at Etihad Stadium.

    The player’s agent, Dimitry Seluk, had claimed Toure felt “disrespected” by the Premier League champions’ owners.

    But Toure told City’s website:  “It was not a case of leaving the club. It was difficult because my situation was quite difficult.”

    Seluk claimed the player’s birthday was ignored by the club’s owners when the squad arrived in the United Arab Emirates to celebrate their Premier League title triumph in May.

    Toure appeared to support that claim on his Twitter account, before later suggesting he did not know which club he would be playing for in the coming season.

    Seluk then said his client wanted a “job for life” at the clubdespite his upset at his treatment.

    And Toure’s latest interview reaffirms that position, with him saying: “For me I was always quiet and my decision is that I will stay at Manchester City for as long as possible.”

    Toure, who signed a new four-year deal last season, also wants to see more signings in the coming weeks to help establish City as a “massive” club.

    He added: “If we want to be the best, we need to win every trophy possible.”

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    Frank Lampard set to sign for Manchester City on loan

    Manchester City are set to sign former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard on loan from New York City FC.

    Lampard was released by Chelsea this summer after 13 years at Stamford Bridge, his 211 goals in 649 matches making him the club’s record scorer.

    The 36-year-old signed for New York City last month on a two-year contract.

    The Major League Soccer franchise is owned by Manchester City and baseball giants New York Yankees, but the team’s season does not start until March 2015.

    Manchester City declined to comment, but Lampard could be at their Carrington training ground as early as next week for manager Manuel Pellegrini to monitor his fitness.

    The loan deal is likely to run until mid-January, and City plan to register the England international for both their Premier League and Champions League campaigns.

    Manchester City won their second Premier League title in three years last season, with Chelsea finishing third.

    The two sides meet at Etihad Stadium on 21 September.

    During his time at Stamford Bridge, Lampard was Chelsea’s vice-captain and won the Premier League title three times and the Champions League and Europa League once apiece.

    The former West Ham player also helped the Blues win four FA Cups and the League Cup twice.

    On signing for New York City FC, Lampard said: “New York ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s very exciting.”

    Former Spain striker David Villa, 32, has also joined the MLS franchise, though he will spend three months on loan at Melbourne FC,Manchester City’s Australian partner club.

    Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano said: “One of the reasons David Villa and Frank Lampard decided to come to New York is because they know who manages and who owns the club.”

    Lampard, who won his 106th England cap during the World Cup in Brazil, said he would make a decision on his international career once his club future was finalised.

    At his official New York unveiling, Lampard said: “I’m going to keep fit, that’s the main thing. How I do that is not clear yet.

    “I’m going to sit round with people at the club and sort that out.”

    A number of MLS players have spent the US close-season on loan to Premier League clubs, including Clint Dempsey at Fulham, Landon Donavan at Everton, Robbie Keane at Aston Villa and Thierry Henry at Arsenal.

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    Arsenal ‘never wanted Balotelli’

    Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal were “never in” for Mario Balotelli and told Milan that Joel Campbell isn’t for sale.

    The Gunners boss spoke in his press conference this afternoon and shut down on-going transfer gossip about Balotelli.

    “For weeks we were buying Balotelli from one minute to the other and it was all wrong. We were never in for him,” insisted Wenger.

    “We do not master the noises that come out.”

    He was also at great pains to point out Costa Rica striker Campbell, who spent last season on loan at Olympiacos, was not heading for Milan.

    “Yes, Joel Campbell is part of my plans. He might play tomorrow against Benfica.”

    Wenger also wants to see England win the next World Cup with a team made up of Arsenaltalent.

    The 64-year-old has signed England Under-19 captain Calum Chambers from Southamptonduring his summer recruit drive, with the likes of Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain andTheo Walcott already in his ranks at the Emirates Stadium.

    With previous World Cup winners Spain and Germany having a nucleus of players fromBarcelona and Bayern Munich, respectively, Wenger is keen to provide the backbone of an England team who can challenge for major honours in the coming years.

    “He was a long-term goal,” Wenger said when asked about his pursuit of Chambers.

    “I like the player and the quality he has, he is a young prospect as well.

    Of Wenger’s current home-grown crop, only Wilshere appeared from England in Brazil in a disappointing showing from Roy Hodgson’s side.

    Since then the 22-year-old midfielder, who has suffered with knee and ankle injuries in recent years, has courted controversy having been photographed smoking a cigarette whilst on holiday.

    But Wenger has been impressed with the player he has seen in pre-season training, although he admits the coming campaign will be a pivotal one for Wilshere’s development.

    “It is a big season for Jack,” Wenger said.

    “But in the last three years, for me, this is the best shape he’s has been in. He has prepared, I think he is rid of his ankle problems and if he can maintain that I think he will have a great season – but it is a very important season for him.”

    If Wilshere can keep fit and hold down a place in an ever-competitive Arsenal midfield, he could find himself playing alongside Chambers – who Wenger believes is equally adept at playing in a more advanced role as he is at operating at full-back or in the heart of the defence.

    The move away from Southampton continued an exodus from St Mary’s, with Chambers joining Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw in leaving the south-coast side.

    The 19-year-old has also extended the trend of Arsenal taking young, English talent away from Southampton, joining Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in north London.

    Wenger admits the Saints could have been one of the biggest teams in Europe had they kept those players, as well as current Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, and will be watching on intently as new coach Ronald Koeman looks to cope with the loss of so many talented players.

    “I respect the quality of work they have done,” added Wenger.

    “You look at Southampton and the team they had last year, plus Walcott, Chamberlain and Bale – they could have won the European Cup had they managed to keep everyone together.

    “The modern game has changed and the smaller clubs with less potential are not in a position to keep their players. It will be interesting to see how they get over what happened to them.

    “They have made a lot of income and they have shown in the past they are very clever at scouting and it will be very interesting to see how they manage what has happened to them.”

    “He is English and I hope in the future we have a core of the English national team because what we have learned over the past two World Cups is that Spain won it with six players from Barcelona, this time Germany won it with six players from Bayern Munich – I hope England win it with six players from Arsenal.” 

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    West Ham back out of Samuel Eto’o deal

    Samuel Eto’o has priced himself out of a move to West Ham.

    The 33-year-old former Chelsea striker, now a free agent, had asked for a salary of £120,000-a-week to go to Upton Park – a wage that the Hammers do not regard as value for money.

    West Ham have now targeted Arsenal’s Joel Campbell or another free agent, 30-year-old Portugal international Hugo Almeida.

    The east Londoners are looking to bring two strikers into the club ahead of this month’s transfer deadline – one of them a replacement for the injured Andy Carroll.

    But there are also concerns over Eto’o’s physical condition and his motivation having left Stamford Bridge at the end of last season.

    There is a feeling at Upton Park that in his current condition Eto’o would not be ready for the start of the new Premier League season.

    Although Eto’o scored 12 times in 35 appearances last season, all of those goals came came at Stamford Bridge.

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    Manchester United and Real Madrid to play in front of sell-out 109,000 crowd

    Manchester United and Real Madrid sold out all 109,000 tickets for their pre-season friendly in under 24 hours.

    The two heavyweights of European football will lock horns at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, in the early hours of tomorrow, with former Red Cristiano Ronaldo expected to be fit to face his former club.

    The crowd will be the biggest for a football match in the US, beating the 93,137 attendance for a friendly between Barcelona v LA Galaxy at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 2009

    United striker Wayne Rooney said: “It’s fantastic. The fanbase over here is great and it’s two massive clubs, two of the biggest clubs in the world, so to sell that many tickets for a pre-season match is incredible.”

    The biggest crowd United have ever played in front of was 120,000 at the Bernabeu for a European Cup semi-final in April 1957. This will be the largest attendance they have played for since then.

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    Lampard back to haunt Mourinho?

    Manchester – Frank Lampard, who spent 13 seasons with English Premiership side Chelsea, could face his former club in September under a loan deal from his new Major League Soccer team to Manchester City.

    The New York Daily News reported on Friday that Lampard, who signed a two-year deal last week with New York City FC, will be loaned to Manchester City for six months by the US expansion team, which will play its first MLS season next March.

    The 36-year-old England midfielder hopes to keep his name in the mix for national team duty with the move, according to the newspaper.

    Lampard, a member of the England squad that exited this year’s World Cup in Brazil in the group stage, has scored 29 goals in 106 appearances for his country since making his international debut in 1999.

    Manchester City and Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees partnered to create the new MLS team and have also signed Spanish star David Villa for the squad.

    Manchester City will host Chelsea in the Premier League on September 23 with Manuel Pellegrini’s men then set to visit the west London side on January 31.

    Villa will be on loan with Melbourne, Manchester City’s sister club in Australia, until the MLS campaign begins.

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    Dunga lashes out at Neymar

    After his recent appointment as the headcoach of Brazil, Dunga has come out and slammed the country’s leading player.

    Neymar was ruled out of Brazil’s humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany but has still come under criticism from the Selecao’s new coach.

    Neymar had until that point kept the hosts in the tournament with some fine displays. are reporting that Neymar has come under fire for a variety of lifestyle choices as well as his perceived lack of team unity.

    Dunga is in charge of Brazil for the second time. His first appointment came to an end after Brazil’s exit from the 2010 Soccer World Cup at the quarter-final stage. 

    In Dunga’s first major press conference in charge of the national side, the former Brazilian player came out and warned Neymar of his future conduct.

    “We will not play for Neymar, he will play for the team,” Dunga said.

    “I wouldn’t have allowed these players to dye their hair while they were with the national team. Either do it before or after, but they should be thinking about the World Cup.”

    “Neymar appears with a cap or without a cap. It should be [a Brazil cap]. We should be talking about what happens on the field.”

    Neymar is currently recovering from the fractured vertebrae he suffered in Brazil’s win over Colombia.

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    Time was right for Reds to sell Suarez

    Liverpool chose the right time to part ways with the prolific-but-controversial striker Luis Suarez and the Premier League side will have no trouble coping without the Uruguayan, the club’s principal owner John Henry said.

    Suarez joined Barcelona on a five-year-deal despite receiving a nine-match international ban and a four-month suspension from all soccer-related activities over his World Cup biting scandal.

    The 27-year-old, who cost the Catalan club 81 million euros ($109 million) according to Spanish media, was the Premier League’s top scorer last season with 31 goals as Liverpool ended two points behind champions Manchester City and earned a return to Champions League for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

    “It was time for Luis and time for the club to make a break,” Henry was quoted as saying by the Liverpool Echo. “He brought so much to the club but we brought a lot to Luis.

    “I think you will still see a very explosive Liverpool offence this season.”

    Suarez, who was banned for biting Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s group stage clash with Italy on June 24, could make his La Liga debut in the El Clasico against Real Madrid on the weekend of Oct. 25-26 at the Bernabeu.

    Meanwhile, Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, who announced his retirement from international soccer earlier this week, would be offered a contract extension soon, coach Brendan Rodgers said.

    The 34-year-old talismanic midfielder quit England to focus on his commitments for the club, where he has entered the final year of his current deal.

    “I am very happy that Steven is now going to commit to Liverpool and I am sure that (his contract) is something that we will look at,” Rodgers said.

    “He is in real good condition and I’m sure it is something that will happen at some point… I’m sure he will want it sorted out, absolutely. You never want to leave players with not too long to go on their contract.

    “A lot has gone on at the club over the course of the summer. It is something I am sure will get sorted.”

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    Neymar’s brain ‘on auto-pilot’

    Tokyo – Brazilian superstar Neymar’s brain activity while dancing past opponents is less than 10 percent the level of amateur players, suggesting he plays as if on auto-pilot, according to Japanese neurologists.

    Results of brain scans conducted on Neymar in February this year indicated minimal cerebral function when he rotated his ankle and point to the Barcelona striker’s wizardry being uncannily natural.

    “From MRI images we discovered Neymar’s brain activity to be less than 10 percent of an amateur player,” researcher Eiichi Naito said on Friday.

    “It is possible genetics is a factor, aided by the type of training he does.”

    The findings were published in the Swiss journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience following a series of motor skills tests carried out on the 22-year-old Neymar and several other athletes in Barcelona in February this year.

    Three Spanish second-division footballers and two top-level swimmers were also subjected to the same tests, added Naito of Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.

    Naito concluded in his paper that the test results “provide valuable evidence that the football brain of Neymar recruits very limited neural resources in the motor-cortical foot regions during foot movements”.

    Asked whether Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi or Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo might display similar test results, Naito said: “It is fair to assume they would show similar levels given their footwork and technique.”

    Naito told Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper: “Reduced brain activity means less burden which allows (the player) to perform many complex movements at once. We believe this gives him the ability to execute his various shimmies.”

    Neymar carried the hopes of host nation Brazil on his shoulders at the recently ended World Cup but his involvement ended in tears as he fractured a vertebra in the 2-1 quarter-final victory over Colombia.

    Without their talisman, who had scored four goals in the tournament, Brazil suffered their most humiliating defeat ever when they were pulverised 7-1 by eventual champions Germany in the semi-final.

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    Glasgow 2014: Commonwealth Games begin at Celtic Park

    The Queen officially opened the games before a 40,000-strong crowd in Glasgow’s Celtic Park with millions more expected to watch on television.

    Thousands of athletes from 71 nations and territories took part.

    They entered the stadium after the live show, which had a cast of around 2,000.

    The Queen declared the Games open by reading her own message from inside the Commonwealth baton.

    Adventurer Mark Beaumont landed on the city’s river Clyde in a seaplane carrying the baton to Celtic Park, having tracked its progress across the Commonwealth on a 288-day journey spanning almost 120,000 miles.

    Inside the stadium, the baton was transferred between a group of volunteers who have helped children around Scotland find their potential through sport.

    Sir Chris Hoy carried it on its final stage to Commonwealth Games Federation president Prince Imran of Malaysia, who struggled briefly to open the container and remove the message to hand to the Queen.

    Her Majesty then spoke of the “shared ideals and ambitions” of the Commonwealth and highlighted the “bonds that unite” the 71 nations and territories.

    “The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth and serves as a reminder of our shared ideals and ambitions as a diverse, resourceful and cohesive family.

    “And now, that baton has arrived here in Glasgow, a city renowned for its dynamic cultural and sporting achievements and for the warmth of its people, for this opening ceremony of the Friendly Games.”

    The Queen, in her role as head of the Commonwealth, then sent her best wishes to the competing athletes

    Events inside the stadium are being shown to the assembled guests and crowd on Europe’s largest LED screen.

    The giant display, which stands across the whole of the stadium’s South Stand, is almost 100 metres long, 11 metres high and weighs 38 tonnes.

    Other adaptations to the venue include a specially-created stage floor covering the entire pitch and a multi-coloured walkway specifically designed for the athlete’s parade.

    Star Wars actor Ewan McGregor opened proceedings with a pre-recorded video message, before Glaswegian comedian Karen Dunbar struck up an elaborate song and dance number celebrating Scotland, accompanied by Torchwood star John Barrowman.

    The routine welcomed visitors from across the Commonwealth to Glasgow and included larger-than-life representations of famous Scots inventions, landmarks, cultural heroes and Scottish history.

    Rod Stewart was joined on stage by Bishopbriggs singer-songwriter Amy Macdonald alongside hundreds of ordinary Glasgow citizens to perform a version of his classic song Rhythm of My Heart.

    Later in the ceremony, dancers from Scottish Ballet performed a routine to an acoustic version of The Proclaimers hit I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

    Pipe band

    The Scottish Regiment Pipe Band arrived in the stadium to accompany Susan Boyle performing the Paul McCartney and Wings song Mull of Kintyre, as the Red Arrows performed a flypast over the city to signal the arrival of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

    India, the hosts of the previous Games in Delhi in 2010, were the first team to enter the arena and received a warm welcome.

    The remainder of the competing nations arrived according to geographical region, led by a Scots representative wearing tweeds and walking a Scottie terrier bedecked in a jacket bearing the name of each country.

    The England team were met by loud cheers from the crowd as the European nations entered the stadium, Northern Ireland were led by cyclist Martyn Irvine and the Wales team sported black Harrington-style jackets with tartan lining.

    The loudest reception of the night was reserved for the host nation Scotland, who paraded into Celtic Park last, according to Games tradition, accompanied by The Shamen’s hit Move Any Mountain.

    Sir Chris Hoy joined Scottish actors Ewan McGregor, who was on screen, and James McAvoy in an unprecedented appeal for donations to Unicef’s Children of the Commonwealth Fund.

    The charity said initial figures showed that more than £2.5m had already been raised to help young people across the nations.

    Unicef said more than 500,000 people in the UK donated by text within an hour of seeing the appeal.

    Towards the end of the ceremony a message was delivered live from the International Space Station to the Commonwealth nations, and Scots musician Nicola Benedetti performed a violin solo as the Games Federation flag was raised.

    Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond paid tribute to the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, leading a silence before welcoming the participating nations to the Games in English and Gaelic.

    The sentiments were echoed by Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson and Malaysia’s Prince Imran, who both encouraged and promoted a spirit of competitiveness and friendship.

    Glasgow band Primal Scream closed proceedings as fireworks went off all across the city.

    Temperatures in Glasgow earlier reached 25 degrees C, officially the hottest day in Scotland this year.

    The Games will feature 17 sports across 11 days of competition, beginning on Thursday.

    The closing ceremony will take place at Hampden Park on the south side of the city, which has been transformed into an athletics venue, on 3 August.

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    Referee banned for life after headbutting another referee

    A referee has been banned from officiating for life after an alleged ‘headbutting’ incident involving a fellow referee.

    Birmingham County Football Association has imposed the lifetime ban on Julian Workman after an incident in March involving another official on the car park of Redditch United, the Birmingham Mail reports.

    Mr Workman, the junior and senior football development officer at the Southern League club, admitted he had been subject of a misconduct charge and ban when contacted by the Mail

    But he denied headbutting anybody and said he was appealing the decision.

    But the Birmingham County FA confirmed the lifetime ban and that an appeal has been lodged, to be heard before September.

    A spokesman said the incident had taken place during a match where Mr Workman was coaching a junior team.

    He was fined over the incident, but the Referee Disciplinary Panel has now also imposed a lifetime refereeing ban.

    One parent at the club is now calling for the non-league side to take disciplinary action against Mr Workman, who is also Junior Secretary.

    They said: “I hope that the club takes appropriate actionHe oversees all of the youth teams and is supposed to set a positive example to the youngsters.

    “It’s ridiculous that you can be banned from refereeing, but can continue to hold official positions at the football club.

    “If somebody like Luis Suarez can get banned from all football related activities for violent conduct, how can somebody who has been banned from refereeing be allowed to stay involved with the club?’

    Mr Workman had been promoted last April to a Level 6 official, meaning he was able to referee county level matches before the ban was imposed.

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