Pep Guardiola says he will not apologise for urging fans to fill empty seats at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium after his comments irritated some of the club’s supporters.
The City boss said this week that he wanted a bigger crowd at Saturday’s home game against Southampton than the 38,062 who watched his side’s 6-3 Champions League win over RB Leipzig in midweek.
City’s poor attendances and flat atmosphere for some European games are often used as taunts by rival fans but crowds of more than 50,000 turned up to watch their opening two Premier League games.
Guardiola’s comments annoyed some supporters, who felt the manager had questioned their loyalty, but he said that was a misinterpretation of his comments.
The City manager said at his pre-match press conference on Friday: “Did I say after the game against Leipzig that I was disappointed that the stadium was not full? An interpretation is an interpretation.
“I am not going to apologise for what I said. What I said was we would love, and we need the support.
“It doesn’t matter how many people come but I invite them to come and enjoy the game because we need the support.”
Guardiola said he would never criticise fans for being unable to attend games.
“I am entirely grateful for the support that we had against Leipzig,” he said. “I never have the words to ask why people don’t come. If you can’t come then don’t come.
“If you want to come it’s a pleasure, if you don’t, then don’t.”
Kevin Parker, the general secretary of City’s official supporters club, said Thursday that Guardiola should be more appreciative of the cost for fans in time and money of attending matches.
“He doesn’t understand the difficulties that some people might have getting to a game at the Etihad on a Wednesday evening at 8:00 pm,” Parker said.
“They’ve got kids to think of, they might not be able to afford it, there are still some Covid issues about. I don’t see why he comments on it.
“He’s absolutely the best coach in the world but, in the nicest possible way, I think maybe he should stick to that.”
The negotiation and possible settlement, between the Federal Government – through the Ministry of Labour and Employment, and the Nigerian Resident Doctors (NARD), has failed.
Both parties had told the vacation judge at the National industrial court, Justice Bashar Alkali, on 15th September, that they were set to negotiate and give the court an update on Friday the 17th, but that isn’t the case.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Tochukwu Maduka, told the court that the resident doctors were not disputing any issue in the memorandum of understanding, but their concern was the relapse of the timeline.
He added that they brought an entirely different settlement that wasn’t in the original document and walked out of the meeting with the Labour Minister.
Furthermore, the counsel stressed that there have been interventions from the President, Vice President and the National Assembly, but NARD has refused to shift grounds.
In his defense, however, counsel to the resident doctors, Mr. Femi Aborishade, told the court that the Minister of Labour, invited NARD to a meeting with his aides who brought additional documents of settlement, proposing a term of settlement.
He insisted they never walked out of the meeting and urged the court to order the Federal Government to go into negotiations and reconcile on issues within the additional document.
The proposed new term of settlement by the resident doctors, which is predicated upon the recognition that the timelines in the original Memorandum of Understanding, has relapsed, is one of the reasons the negotiation failed.
In a short ruling, justice Bashar Alkali, ordered the Federal Government to move its application for interlocutory injunction, which mandates the Resident Doctors to suspend their strike and go back to work pending when the substantive suit is heard and determined.
The Taliban on Monday claimed total control over Afghanistan, saying they had won the key battle for the Panjshir Valley, the last remaining holdout of resistance against their rule.
Following their lightning-fast victory in mid-August over the former Afghan government’s security forces and the withdrawal of US troops after 20 years of war, the Taliban turned to fighting the forces defending the mountainous Panjshir Valley.
As the Islamist hardliners claimed victory, their chief spokesman warned against any further attempts to rise up against their rule while urging former members of the security forces to join their regime’s ranks.
“With this victory, our country is completely taken out of the quagmire of war,” chief spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
“Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another,” he later added at a press conference in Kabul.
The Taliban published a video of their flag being raised over the governor’s house in Panjshir — underscoring a historic win that has seen the anti-Taliban bastion defeated for the first time during 40 years of conflict.
It remained in the hands of resistance fighters during Soviet rule, a subsequent civil war, and the Taliban’s first regime of the late 1990s.
The National Resistance Front (NRF) in Panjshir — made up of anti-Taliban militia and former Afghan security forces — on Sunday acknowledged suffering major battlefield losses and called for a ceasefire.
But on Monday the group said in a tweet that its fighters were still present in “strategic positions” in the valley.
The NRF includes local fighters loyal to Ahmad Massoud — the son of the famous anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud — as well as remnants of the Afghan military that retreated to the Panjshir Valley.
As Taliban fighters amassed in the valley, Massoud on Monday called on Afghans in and out of the country to “rise up in resistance”.
The Taliban are yet to finalise their new regime after rolling into the capital Kabul three weeks ago at a speed that analysts say likely surprised even the hardline Islamists themselves.
As they undertake a mammoth transition into overseeing key institutions and cities of hundreds of thousands of people, Mujahid said an interim government would first be announced, allowing for later changes.
“Final decisions have been taken, we are now working on the technical issues,” he said at a press conference.
Afghanistan’s new rulers have pledged to be more “inclusive” than during their first stint in power, with a government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic makeup — though women are unlikely to be included at the top levels.
Women’s freedoms in Afghanistan were sharply curtailed under the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule.
This time, women will be allowed to attend university as long as classes are segregated by sex or at least divided by a curtain, the Taliban’s education authority said in a lengthy document issued on Sunday.
But female students must wear an abaya (robe) and niqab (face-veil), as opposed to the even more conservative burqa mandatory under the previous Taliban regime.
However, some universities in Kabul remained closed on Monday and those that did open saw a drastic fall in the number of students — some who complied with the new rules, and others who resisted.
Afghans are also facing a host of other challenges, including looming financial and humanitarian crises.
“The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers — both men and women — will be guaranteed freedom of movement,” a statement from UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The Taliban spokesman said the group had assured a visiting UN team of cooperation.
Flurry of diplomacy
The international community is coming to terms with the new Taliban regime with a flurry of diplomacy.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due Monday in Qatar, a key player in the Afghan saga.
Qatar, which hosts a major US military base, has been the gateway for 55,000 people airlifted out of Afghanistan, nearly half the total evacuated by US-led forces after the Taliban takeover on August 15.
Blinken will also speak to the Qataris about efforts alongside Turkey to reopen Kabul’s airport, which is necessary for flying in badly needed humanitarian aid and evacuating remaining Afghans.
Blinken will then head Wednesday to the US airbase in Ramstein, Germany, a temporary home for thousands of Afghans moving to the United States, from which he will hold a virtual 20-nation ministerial meeting on the crisis alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
The West African state of Guinea awaited word on its future on Monday as a new military junta summoned the outgoing cabinet a day after toppling the president.
Elite troops led by Lieutenant-colonel Mamady Doumbouya told outgoing ministers and institutional leaders to gather at 1100 GMT at parliament in the capital Conakry.
“Any refusal to attend will be considered a rebellion,” they warned.
Impoverished and volatile, the West African state was hit by fresh turmoil on Sunday when special forces arrested 83-year-old President Alpha Conde, declared they were scrapping the constitution and imposed a curfew.
Land borders have been shut, the government dissolved and top governors and other senior administrators have been replaced by the military, the junta said.
Discontent had been growing for months over a flatlining Covid-hit economy and the leadership of Conde, who became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010.
Five years later, he was re-elected — but in 2020 he sparked fury after ramming through changes to the constitution enabling him to sidestep a two-term limit.
Doumbouya appeared on public television on Sunday draped in the national flag, accusing the government of “endemic corruption” and “trampling of citizens’ rights”.
“We are no longer going to entrust politics to one man, we are going to entrust politics to the people,” the coup leader said.
“Guinea is beautiful. We don’t need to rape Guinea anymore, we just need to make love to her.”
He promised to launch a “national consultation to open an inclusive and calm transition.”
An umbrella group called the FNDC, which led protests against Conde’s constitutional changes, said imprisoned members would be freed on Monday.
A video sent to AFP by the putschists on Sunday showed Conde sitting on a sofa surrounded by troops.
Wearing a rumpled shirt and jeans and sitting on a sofa, he refused to answer a question from a soldier about whether he had been mistreated.
Guinea’s 13 million people are among the poorest in the world even though their country is a treasure trove of minerals from bauxite and iron ore to gold and diamonds.
It has rarely known stability since declaring independence from France in 1958 and bloody repression is entrenched.
Conde was accused of following that same path towards authoritarianism in the final years of his rule.
Dozens of people were killed during demonstrations against his bid for a third term and hundreds more were arrested.
He was proclaimed president last year after elections that his main challenger Cellou Dalein Diallo and other opposition figures denounced as a sham.
The latest turbulence erupted on Sunday morning, when gunfire broke out in the centre of Conakry. For several hours, the situation was unclear, as the government said an attack on the presidential palace had been “repulsed”.
There has been no official account of any casualties and there was no report of any major incident during the night.
The end of Conde’s regime triggered jubilation in some parts of Conakry, especially in pro-opposition districts.
The junta on Sunday said that land and air borders had been closed, but on Monday said that air frontiers had been reopened.
Conakry, usually a bustling city, awoke in calm on Monday. Many shops were closed, and the main market of Medina was exceptionally quiet.
Outside Guinea, international leaders condemned the latest bout of turmoil in West Africa, a region where many countries are struggling with poverty, inequality and jihadist bloodshed.
“Violence and any extra-constitutional measures will only erode Guinea’s prospects for peace, stability, and prosperity,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, urging all parties to abide by the rule of law.
The African Union and the United Nations both called for Conde’s release.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through its acting president, Ghana’s leader Nana Akufo-Addo, threatened sanctions if Guinea’s constitutional order was not restored.
The EU and France, the former colonial power, have both condemned the coup — the latest in a region that has seen recent military takeovers in Mali and Chad.
Six Palestinians broke out of an Israeli prison Monday through a tunnel dug beneath a sink, triggering a massive manhunt for the group that includes a prominent ex-militant.
The Israel Prison Service said an alert was sounded around 3:00 am (0000 GMT) by locals who spotted “suspicious figures” outside the Gilboa prison in the country’s north.
The group includes Zakaria Zubeidi, a former militant leader from the flashpoint city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the IPS confirmed in a statement.
In footage that recalled the iconic 1994 prison escape film “The Shawshank Redemption,” the service released a video that showed agents inspecting a narrow tunnel beneath a sink and another showing a hole just outside the prison walls.
Gilboa — which opened in 2004 during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising — is a high-security site where hundreds of Palestinians are detained among other inmates.
The prison service said all those held at Gilboa over “security offences” are being relocated in case additional escape tunnels have been dug beneath the facility.
Police, the army and agents from Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency joined the search, which included aerial surveillance vehicles, officials said.
Sniffer dogs were deployed and checkpoints were set up in the area surrounding Gilboa.
The army had in particular deployed heavily at a crossing point from Israel to Jenin governorate, checking identities of all Palestinian workers seeking to cross, an AFP reporter said.
The army said its forces were “prepared and deployed” in the West Bank as part of the operation.
The jailbreak occurred hours before Israel begins its High Holiday season, starting with Jewish New Year which begins at sundown.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the escape “a serious event that required a comprehensive effort by all of the security services”.
The premier was “receiving regular updates regarding the search efforts for the terrorists”, said a statement.
Gaza groups cheer
The five others who escaped were accused of planning or carrying out attacks on Israelis.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip, called the escape “a heroic act and a victory for the will and determination of our heroic detainees”.
Islamic Jihad, one of Gaza’s most powerful armed groups after Hamas, lauded the jailbreak as “a powerful blow to the occupation forces”.
Zubeidi was the former head of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and a well-known figure among Palestinians and Israelis.
He was arrested over “terror allegations” in 2019 in a West Bank village near Ramallah.
He had faced charges in the past from the Palestinian Authority for taking part in a shooting attack on the residence of Jenin governor Qaddura Musa in 2002.
Musa died after suffering a heart attack during the incident, and Palestinian security forces arrested dozens of people, including Zubeidi, shortly afterward.
Zubeidi in 2007 agreed to lay down his arms and went on to help found Jenin’s Freedom Theatre.
In 2011, the theatre’s well-known Israeli-Palestinian director Juliano Mer-Khamis was gunned down in Jenin’s refugee camp, in an attack that remains unsolved.
Unrest has also spiked in Jenin in recent weeks. A gun battle broke out last month as Israeli forces came under fire while looking for suspects, leaving four Palestinians dead.
Special forces who seized power in Guinea on Sunday, capturing President Alpha Conde, announced a nationwide curfew “until further notice” as well as the replacement of governors by the military.
The junta also said in a statement read out over national television that it would convene Conde’s cabinet ministers and other top officials at 11:00 am (1100 GMT) Monday in the capital Conakry.
Army putschists in Guinea on Sunday had arrested the president and staged a coup, in the latest political upheaval to roil the impoverished west African country, as the government insisted it had repelled the attack.
“We have decided, after having taken the president, to dissolve the constitution,” said a uniformed officer flanked by soldiers toting assault rifles in a video sent to AFP.
Scientists in South Africa are monitoring a new coronavirus variant with an unusually high mutation rate, and whose frequency has gradually increased in recent months, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said Monday.
The variant, known as C.1.2., was flagged last week by the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation and Sequencing Platform in a preprint study that has yet to be peer-reviewed.
While the majority of South Africa’s coronavirus cases are currently caused by the Delta variant — first detected in India — C.1.2. caught scientists’ attention because its mutation is almost twice as fast as observed in other global variants.
Its frequency remains relatively low, however, and it has so far been detected in less than three percent of genomes sequenced since it was first picked up in May — although this has increased from 0.2 to two percent last month.
NICD scientists on Monday said C.1.2. was only “present at very low levels” and that it was too early to predict how it might evolve.
“At this stage, we do not have experimental data to confirm how it reacts in terms of sensitivity to antibodies,” NICD researcher Penny Moore said during a virtual press briefing.
But “we have considerable confidence that the vaccines that are being rolled out in South Africa will continue to protect us against severe illness and death,” she added.
So far C.1.2 has been detected in all nine of South Africa’s provinces, as well as in other parts of the world including China, Mauritius, New Zealand, and Britain.
It is however not frequent enough to qualify as a “variant of interest” or a “variant of concern” such as the highly transmissible Delta and Beta variants, which emerged in South Africa late last year.
South Africa is the continent’s hardest-hit country with over 2.7 million Covid cases reported to date, of which at least 81,830 have been fatal.
The Beta variant drove a second wave of infections in December and January, and the country is now grappling with a persistent third Delta-dominated wave predicted to overlap with a looming fourth.
The Imo state government has evacuated over a hundred of its indigenes studying at the University of Jos in Plateau state following rising tensions in Jos Plateau State.
Chief of staff to the Imo Governor, Nnamdi Anyaehi, alongside other dignitaries were present to receive the students at the Government House in Owerri the state’s capital on Monday night.
Mr. Anyaehi commended the students for their patience while waiting for the government to come to evacuate them.
He reiterated the Uzodimma-led administration’s concern for the welfare of all Imo indigenes irrespective of their location, while also assuring the students of their safety back to their various homes.
“This government is sensitive to the plight of the common man, sensitive to not only the plight of students but the generality of the Imo people,” he said.
“The governor has directed that none of you should leave here unaccompanied to his or her home.”
Speaking to Channels Television, one of the students expressed his relief at being evacuated from the troubled zone and appreciated the governor’s prompt reaction.
“Words alone cannot express what our eyes have seen. I don’t know if our appearance can bear the picture,” he said.
“But the trauma of what we have seen will live with us for the rest of our lives.”
The student added, “This is so far the only silver lining we have seen in this dark cloud.”
Recent attacks in Jos North, Bassa, Riyom, and Barkin Ladi have plunged Plateau into a state of high tension.
About 36 people were killed last week in Yelwa Zangam village, Zangam District in Jos North Local Government Area.
Lagos State, Kaduna State amongst others have followed suit in transporting their indigenes from Jos metropolis and the University of Jos has been shut down.
Governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong on Monday relaxed curfews imposed on parts of the state after some level of normalcy had returned to the state.
The Islamic State-Khorasan group claimed a rocket attack Monday on the airport in Afghanistan’s capital.
“The soldiers of the caliphate targeted Kabul’s international airport with six… rockets,” the group said in a statement.
The rockets fell as US troops were racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuate allies.
President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict, which began in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.
The Islamic State-Khorasan group, rivals of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal, after carrying out a suicide bombing outside the airport late last week that claimed more than 100 lives, including those of 13 US troops.
The United States meanwhile said it had carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an IS-prepared car bomb.
Kylian Mbappe’s dream move to Real Madrid hangs by a thread as the deadline to the transfer window draws close.
Mbappe stole the show on Sunday by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win against Reims in Ligue 1 despite Lionel Messi making his debut as a 65th-minute substitute for Neymar.
Madrid has offered PSG an amount in excess of €170m for Mbappe, but the French giants are yet to reply.
Europe’s transfer window closes on Tuesday.
Madrid are said to be waiting till Monday evening for a formal response, according to Sky Sports.
Earlier in the week, Paris Saint-Germain’s sporting director Leonardo had confirmed the 22-year-old wanted to leave the club but was adamant he wouldn’t let the superstar leave without the appropriate price tag placed on him being met.
“If Real Madrid are making an offer, that seems clear. We cannot, the week before the end of the window, change our plans. If he wants to leave, we will not hold him back, but on our terms,” he said in an interview with EuroSports.
Leonardo was also critical of Madrid’s conduct, claiming the Spanish club have contacted Mbappe illegally.
“For the last two years, Real Madrid have been behaving like this, it is not correct, illegal even because they contacted the player,” he said.
“It is unacceptable for us because it is not correct. It is proof of the strategy: an offer comes 1 year before the end of his contract and 7 days before the end of the window.”
Real Madrid are keen on landing Mbappe, and if talks fail to yield positive results before deadline day, they will try to sign him on a pre-contract agreement in January as he runs out of contract at PSG in 10 months.
Manchester United confirmed on Monday that Edinson Cavani will miss Uruguay’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador after his call-up was withdrawn by the Uruguayan Football Association.
The Premier League announced last week that its clubs will not release players for international matches played in countries on the United Kingdom government’s red-list for travel.
Players who do travel to red-list countries on international duty have not been given an exemption from quarantine on their return so would have to spend 10 days in a government-allocated hotel.
“Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani is set to remain in England during the international break, after his call-up for the Uruguay squad was withdrawn,” United said in a statement.
A further complication for South American internationals is that the third round of qualifiers is due to take place on Thursday, September 9, just hours before many are supposed to be in action for their clubs.
Spain’s La Liga failed in an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) over the weekend for clubs to be able to refuse to release their players after FIFA extended the window for international games by two days.
CONMEBOL, the South American football confederation, is trying to make up for lost time after March’s World Cup qualifiers were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the united stance of Premier League clubs last week, Aston Villa have allowed Argentine duo Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia to travel on the agreement they miss their country’s third qualifier against Bolivia.
Tottenham’s Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso were also pictured on social media travelling with Martinez and Buendia.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said on Friday his players affected will not be travelling as the quarantine conditions could see them miss multiple games.
Brazilian trio Alisson, Fabinho and Roberto Firmino and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah are therefore not set to travel.
“It’s not even close to a spa hotel, it’s eating and waiting and sleeping,” said Klopp.
“As the clubs we cannot do that not only because we play games in that time but because without being positive (for coronavirus) they lose 10 days of training.
“Without any chance of moving you lose muscle. I’s a real risk for the boys if they have to then play three, four or five days after 10 days in quarantine.”