Argentina will be based in Abu Dhabi as they prepare for this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar after the Argentina Football Association (AFA) entered into a strategic cooperation agreement with Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC).
The two-time World Cup winners will play friendlies in Abu Dhabi as part of their preparatons for what is likely to be superstar Lionel Messi’s final chance to win the trophy — he will be 35 by the time the tournament kicks off.
Messi came closest to lifting it when Argentina lost to Germany in the 2014 final in Brazil.
“After months of joint-work exchanges, ADSC together with the AFA, a long-term agreement has been consolidated,” read a statement by the ADSC.
“Abu Dhabi will host the Argentine national team preparing camp for the 2022 World Cup, which will include friendly matches in November.
“As part of Argentina’s collaboration with the UAE, the SuperCopa Argentina finals will be played for four consecutive years in Abu Dhabi starting from this January 2023 until the year 2026.
“The Argentine Football Association thus becomes the first federation in Latin America to export a high global impact sporting event to the Middle East region.”
Argentina have been drawn in Group C opening their campaign against Saudi Arabia on November 22 before facing Mexico (November 26) and rounding off their group matches against Poland November 30).
The quadrennial global football showpiece gets underway on November 21 and runs till December 18.
Lionel Messi stole the show as Copa America holders Argentina powered to a 3-0 win against European champions Italy in the Finalissima at Wembley on Wednesday.
Inspired by the peerless Messi, Argentina raced into a two-goal lead in the first half of the prestigious friendly thanks to strikes from Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria.
Paulo Dybala capped Argentina’s rout, but after a disappointing season with Paris Saint-Germain by his sky-high standards, it was the sight of Messi back to his imperious best that took the spotlight.
The 34-year-old’s eye-catching display featured two assists and was worthy of his rare appearance at one of football’s great cathedrals.
It was another memorable moment for Argentina, who have qualified for this year’s World Cup as they extend the golden afterglow from the victory over Brazil that ended their 28-year wait to win the Copa America in 2021.
Argentina were already established as one of the leading contenders to win the World Cup and defeating Italy was another statement of intent from La Albiceleste, who are now unbeaten in 32 matches.
If Messi can play at this level in Qatar, Lionel Scaloni’s side will be a force to be reckoned with as they chase a first World Cup title since 1986.
For Italy, it was a disappointing return to Wembley 11 months after they beat England on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.
Roberto Mancini’s team have gone into a steep decline since that memorable triumph.
They failed to qualify for the World Cup after suffering a humiliating loss to North Macedonia in their play-off semi-final.
Mancini admitted the Finalissima represented the “end of a cycle” for his European champions.
After the World Cup failure, Mancini is transitioning to a younger generation, with the forthcoming Nations League matches against Germany, England, and Hungary his real focus.
Mancini’s overhaul effectively started at half-time when Italy said farewell to 117-cap skipper Giorgio Chiellini, who was substituted in his final game before international retirement.
This was only the third Finalissima contest between the respective champions of Europe and South America and the first since Diego Maradona’s Argentina beat Denmark in 1993.
Fittingly, Messi — the heir to the legendary Maradona — used the occasion to remind the world of his astonishing talents.
The 80,000 sell-out crowd created a colourful backdrop for Messi’s mastery, with Argentina’s raucous fans turning the north London suburb of Brent into Buenos Aires for one ear-splitting evening.
Every touch from Messi lifted the decibel levels and moments after his shot was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma, the forward played a key role as Argentina took the lead in the 28th minute.
Messi worked his magic on the touchline, showing tremendous strength to hold off Giovanni Di Lorenzo before unfurling a precise low cross to Martinez, who applied the finishing touch from close-range.
Italy argued that the goal should have been disallowed for a foul in the build-up, but their protests were in vain.
With tempers still running high, Leonardo Bonucci was booked after leaving Messi writhing in pain with a flailing arm that caught him in the face.
Di Maria exacted revenge on Messi’s behalf in first-half stoppage-time.
Martinez drove forward with bullish tenacity and slipped a perfectly weighted pass to Di Maria, with the PSG forward producing a finish to match the approach play as he clipped a cool finish over Donnarumma.
Di Maria almost struck again on the hour, but his curler was brilliantly tipped over by Donnarumma as it fizzed towards the far corner.
Messi robbed Jorginho and embarked on a mesmerising run that finished with a save from Donnarumma.
Messi’s name echoed around the stands as Argentina’s fans paid tribute to their idol’s latest masterpiece.
Dybala’s clinical strike in stoppage-time came via a deft Messi pass as the maestro provided one final flourish.
An auction of the jersey worn by Diego Maradona when he scored twice against England in the 1986 World Cup, including the infamous “hand of God” goal, kicked off Wednesday with a bid of over $5 million.
Sotheby’s is selling the blue number 10 Argentina shirt in an online sale that runs until May 4.
A few hours after bidding opened, the site showed that the first offer of £4 million ($5.2 million) — matching the low end of the auction house’s pre-sale estimate — had been registered.
That would set a new record price for a football jersey at auction.
The record for a game-worn shirt from any sport is $5.6 million, set in 2019 for a jersey Babe Ruth wore while on the New York Yankees.
Maradona’s daughter cast doubt on the sale earlier this month when she claimed that the shirt put up for auction had been the one her father wore in the goalless first half, not the second when he scored his two goals.
Sotheby’s insists they have the right shirt, though.
It had been owned since the end of the controversial encounter by opposing midfielder Steve Hodge, who swapped his jersey with Maradona after England lost 2-1.
Hodge, whose autobiography is titled “The man with Maradona’s shirt,” has for the past 20 years loaned the jersey to be on public display at the National Football Museum in Manchester.
The quarter-final showdown became etched in football folklore for Maradona’s two goals — one notorious and one sublime — in Mexico City’s seething Aztec Stadium.
The first came shortly after half-time when Hodge, on the edge of the England penalty area, intercepted a pass and flicked the ball back towards goal.
Maradona, running into the box, rose with England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton and punched the ball into the net. He later said the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona, a little with the hand of God.”
Soon after, Maradona left five English defenders in his wake before gliding past Shilton and slotting home for a strike that was voted “Goal of the Century” in a 2002 FIFA poll.
Argentina went on to win the final and Maradona, who died from a heart attack in 2020, became worshipped in his home country.
Their mascot is named “Little Defeat”. Their fans “protest” when they win. But after a notorious losing streak that earned them the nickname “the world’s worst football team”, Brazilian minnows Ibis are ready for victory.
Based in the city of Paulista in northeastern Brazil, Ibis Sport Club rose to infamy in the 1980s for going three years, 11 months and 26 days without winning a match.
But the regional club, who play in the Pernambuco state championship, have responded to decades of derision with good-natured humor, turning their mocking nickname into a badge of pride — and what is turning out to be a powerful brand.
With their penchant for self-deprecating tweets and Instagram posts that go viral, Ibis have drawn worldwide attention, including from Swedish online gambling firm Betsson, which signed the most lucrative sponsorship deal in the club’s 84-year history last June.
Now, flush with cash, the eternal losers are starting to do the unthinkable: win.
“Let’s leave our history as ‘the world’s worst team’ to the 1980s when Ibis really were the worst in the world. We’re not anymore — though we use it for marketing, so people know us,” said club president and passionate fan Ozir Ramos Junior.
Losers or not, Ibis have shown a knack for building their brand in the social media age.
When Lionel Messi left Barcelona last August, Ibis offered to sign the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner — on condition he not score “too many goals” or win a championship.
In the event, the Argentine superstar went to Paris Saint-Germain — whom Ibis now compare themselves to, given that neither team have had any luck winning the Champions League.
“We’re known all over the planet as the worst in the world. But let’s not mix that up with our professional side. We’ve got highly competent people,” Ramos told AFP.
The sponsorship deal with Betsson has allowed Ibis to upgrade their sporting infrastructure and pay actual salaries to their footballers, who formerly played out of “love for the jersey”, Ramos said.
Last season, the club won promotion from the Pernambuco second division to the state’s top-flight league for the first time in 21 years.
The championship is the gateway to Serie D, the bottom rung of Brazil’s national league system — though Ibis, returning to form, have struggled for results, and risk being relegated again.
It is only a temporary setback, says coach Paulo Jesse.
“Today, we only work with winners. We’re going to ditch our reputation as the worst in the world,” said the coach, a school security guard in his day job.
Ibis have certainly come a long way since their worst ignominy, when they went from July 20, 1980, to June 17, 1984, without winning a match — racking up 48 losses and six draws, with 25 goals for and 225 against.
The losing streak was so bad sports magazine Placar wrote a profile of the club, declaring them “the worst team in Brazil” — a nickname that soon became more famous than the club’s official one, the Black Birds.
Ibis claim they even hold a Guinness record for the world’s worst losing streak — though there is no register of that.
Israel Leal, author of a book on the team, says Ibis have universal appeal.
“Ibis is resistence. It’s like any one of us who’s going through a bad time and then starts fighting to win,” he said.
“For many years the club did nothing but lose, and now they’re winning.”
Owner Ramos says Ibis have a way of conquering people’s hearts.
Among fans who support Pernambuco’s most popular sides, Nautico and Sport Recife, “Ibis are everyone’s second-favorite team”, he said.
Even the club’s best-loved legends tend to be everyman stars, such as Mauro Shampoo, a barber with a massive mane of hair who played as a midfielder for Ibis in the late 1980s.
He claims to have scored one goal, in an 8-1 loss to Ferroviario do Recife.
But there is no record of it.
The club president at the time said it was actually an own goal.
Paris Saint-Germain were beaten 3-0 at Monaco on Sunday after a Wissam Ben Yedder double strike, as Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were both booked in a feisty Ligue 1 encounter. It was the club’s worst defeat this season.
PSG remain 15 points clear of second-placed Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after the fourth league defeat of the season for Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who have been shaken since being dumped out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.
Nice can close the gap to 12 points if they beat Marseille in Sunday’s late Ligue 1 game.
Monaco captain Ben Yedder is now Ligue 1’s top scorer with 18 goals after his 25th-minute tap-in from a rebound, and an 84th-minute penalty.
Ben Yedder also helped in the build-up for German striker Kevin Volland’s goal for Monaco, making it 2-0 on 68 minutes in what was the real turning point of the game as PSG began to chase.
Mbappe and Neymar started for PSG and had a string of opportunities as the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.
The death toll among dozens of people who consumed cocaine likely laced with opioids in Buenos Aires rose to 23 on Friday, with 37 still in hospital, health officials said.
Two of the hospitalised are in a serious condition and on mechanical ventilation.
Officials said 20 men and three women aged 21 to 58 have died since Tuesday night from adulterated cocaine bought from dealers in the poor neighborhood of Loma Hermosa, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Buenos Aires city center.
Most died far from the point of sale, 12 of them at home and two on the road, unable to make it to a hospital on time because of the sudden effects of the tainted drug. Many suffered heart attacks.
Thirty-seven remained hospitalized Friday in seven different hospitals, according to a provincial government update.
Three of them had been discharged but had to be re-hospitalized after taking more of the cocaine, provincial health minister Nicolas Kreplak said.
More than 200 other people sought medical intervention after consuming the substance, presenting symptoms of varying degrees of gravity.
Arrests and Seizures
Thirteen people rounded up in a police operation to establish the origins of the tainted drug were due to appear before magistrates as part of the ongoing investigation, according to the Telam news agency.
They include the well-known leader of a drug trafficking network in greater Buenos Aires, a 33-year-old nicknamed “El Paisa.”
The substance with which the cocaine was laced has not yet been confirmed, but authorities say it is likely an opioid.
Police have seized more than 20,000 doses of cocaine in a crackdown, but have not revealed how many of these were from the laced batch.
The incident has brought to light the dangers of illegal drug use, especially of cheap, low-quality cocaine sold and consumed in Buenos Aires’s poorest communities.
According to security chief Sergio Berni, at least 250,000 doses of cocaine are sold daily in Buenos Aires province, home to some 40 percent of the Argentine population of 45 million and with high poverty rates.
Officials said Thursday that things were under control, but urged recent buyers of cocaine in and around the capital city to throw it away.
“Every dealer that buys cocaine cuts it. Some do it with non-toxic substances such as starch. Others put hallucinogens in it, and if there is no form of control, this kind of thing happens,” Berni said.
San Martin public prosecutor Marcelo Lapargo has said what happened was “absolutely exceptional” and there was “no precedent” in Argentina.
Illegal drug use has been on the rise in the South American country.
In the mid-1980s, half a ton of cocaine was seized every year — a decade later, it was four times that, official data shows.
In 2017, a record 12.1 tons of cocaine were seized in the country, but in 2020, the number fell to about 2.7 tons as consumption dropped during the pandemic.
Packets of cocaine similar to those described by the victims’ families were seized. The drugs were taken to a laboratory in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province, for analysis.
Authorities issued an urgent warning early Wednesday after three separate hospitals reported several deaths and serious cases of poisoning.
Several of those being treated told doctors they had taken cocaine together.
Beatriz Mercado told AFP she had found her 31-year-old son, one of the victims, lying face-down on the kitchen floor.
“He was almost not breathing, his eyes were rolling back,” she said. She took him to the hospital, where he was on life support as of Wednesday evening.
“I hope in God, nothing else. A miracle.”
An initial toll of 12 deaths and 50 hospitalizations kept rising — with victims admitted to eight different hospitals, a Buenos Aires province government spokesperson told AFP.
Earlier reports said the victims suffered convulsions and sudden heart attacks.
Health authorities said at least four of the victims were men aged between 32 and 45.
Cut With Harmful Substance
Berni’s office said late in the day that emergency services were reporting new patients in “critical condition” being brought to hospitals.
He said: “Every dealer that buys cocaine cuts it. Some do it with non-toxic substances such as starch. Others put hallucinogens in it, and if there is no form of control, this kind of thing happens.”
On this occasion, however, the drug was cut with a harmful substance as part of a “war between drug traffickers,” Berni added.
The San Martin public prosecutor, Marcelo Lapargo, told Radio Mitre that authorities’ main concern “is to be able to communicate, so that those who are in possession of this poison know that they should not consume it.”
Investigators fear the toll could rise, with some people who bought the cocaine unable to reach a care center in time.
Lapargo said that this case was “absolutely exceptional.” He added that the idea of a battle between drug traffickers was “conjecture” at this point.
Police clashed briefly with residents in a part of Tres de Febrero who were protesting the arrest of local young people in the drug raid.
Manchester City on Monday announced the signing of Argentina forward Julian Alvarez from River Plate on a five-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of £14 million ($19 million).
The 22-year-old, who has won five senior international caps with Argentina, will remain with River on loan at least until July 2022.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain said Premier League leaders City had signed a player with significant potential.
“Julian is a player we have monitored for some time,” he said. “He is capable of operating in a number of attacking roles, and we firmly believe he’s one of the best young attacking players in South America.
Some might question whether Lionel Messi really deserved to win his latest Ballon d’Or prize ahead of other worthy candidates, but the Argentinian has been rewarded for continuing to be so good for so long.
The most turbulent year of Messi’s glittering career, in which he was forced to tearfully bid farewell to Barcelona, ends with him –- at the age of 34 — claiming a record-extending seventh Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world.
In Germany, they thought it had to be Robert Lewandowski’s year after he missed out 12 months ago when the 2020 edition was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Karim Benzema might have had plenty of support in Spain for his remarkable performances with Real Madrid, and Jorginho could stake a claim following a year in which he won the Champions League with Chelsea as well as Euro 2020 with Italy.
Yet it is the enduring brilliance of Messi -– who won the last award in 2019 — which stays in the minds of the jurors when it comes to voting.
Having joined Paris Saint-Germain in August, he is the first male player to win the award while with a French club since Jean-Pierre Papin of Marseille in 1991, although it was his achievements with Barcelona and with Argentina that counted towards him effectively retaining his crown.
Messi tried unsuccessfully to force his departure from Barcelona in August 2020 but he showed no signs of rancour as he stayed put at the Camp Nou and ended last season with 38 goals in 48 games for his boyhood club.
These are the kind of remarkable figures that he has made so mundane over the course of his career –- indeed he had actually scored more goals than that in 10 of his previous 11 seasons.
Messi was the top scorer in La Liga for the fifth consecutive year with 30 goals and won the Copa del Rey, scoring twice in the final as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0.
This will always be remembered as the year his long association with the Catalan giants came to an end, after 672 goals in 778 appearances, a record goal tally for one club.
However, 2021 was also the year he finally won a major international title, captaining Argentina to victory in the Copa America with a 1-0 win against Brazil in the final at the Maracana.
He scored four goals in the tournament as Argentina won the South American championship for the first time since 1993.
“I think I won this trophy thanks to what we did at the Copa America so I dedicate this to my teammates,” he said after being handed his latest Ballon d’Or at the Chatelet Theatre in central Paris.
However, the shame was that hardly any fans were in the stadium to witness Argentina’s Copa America success due to coronavirus restrictions, only adding to the sense that, despite all he has achieved, Messi still has unfinished business.
Not least at PSG, where he has so far played just 11 games since arriving in August, and scored just four goals.
Messi did provide three assists for the Parisians in a Ligue 1 match on Sunday but it remains to be seen how motivated the Argentinian is by the French league. He has other priorities.
“My dream is to win another Champions League,” he said at his unveiling in August, with the last of his four European Cups coming in 2015.
Then there is the really big one: the World Cup in Qatar will be underway this time next year and Messi will be 35 by then.
That will surely be his last chance to win the greatest trophy of all, and you imagine he would swap his seven Ballons d’Or to get his hands on it.
Rescue teams saved two stranded whales along the Atlantic coast of Argentina Tuesday, the World Marine Foundation said.
The animals were stranded on the beach of the seaside resort town of La Lucila del Mar, 220 miles (360 kilometers) south of Buenos Aires, just as spring arrives to the southern hemisphere.
“The first, which was stranded on Sunday, was a juvenile female humpback whale, 32 feet (9.8 meters) long and approximately eight tons in weight,” the conservation group said in a statement.
The second individual, which “is a male of the same species, 28 feet long, and approximately seven tons, appeared Monday night,” the foundation added.
Some 30 people participated in the rescue operation, including local residents, marine conservationists, Civil Defense members, coast guard officers, firefighters, volunteers and beach lifeguards.
Their collective efforts allowed the animals to return to the sea, the statement said.
“Upon arriving to survey the first animal’s situation, primary support efforts were immediately carried out, including assuring the individual’s position allowed it to breathe, keeping its pectoral fins underwater in order to stabilize its body temperature as much as possible,” the organization said.
The whole procedure was “difficult,” the group said. At one point, the force of the waves knocked the whale over so that the mammal’s blowhole was underwater and it was unable to breathe.
“Thanks to a quick action, they were able to turn it over,” said Sergio Rodriguez Heredia, a biologist at the World Marine Foundation’s Rescue Center.
Rescuers tucked cables underneath the whale’s body — connected to a huge backhoe tractor crane — hoping to free it from the sandy sea floor.
The workers noticed the second whale overnight, seeing it was in a “good state of health,” said Augusto Giachetti, director of the Civil Defense’s coastal division.
They waited until dawn to begin the second whale’s rescue.
“It was necessary to realign the animal, using the assistance of a backhoe and special cables to move it a big enough distance that it was able to float,” he Giachetti said.
Once the whale realized it was able to float, it swam out to sea.
Since it seemed unlikely the coach would take the six-time Ballon D’Or winner along and not put him on the team sheet, the question that remained tantalizingly unanswered was: whether Messi would start at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, or would he tease from the substitutes’ bench?
Messi and Neymar both missed the first two league games as they worked their way to match fitness after demanding summers. They met in the Copa America final on July 10 in Brazil as Argentina won to earn Messi his first international trophy.
They will be reunited as team-mates for the first time since PSG broke the bank to attract Neymar for Barcelona in 2017.
The possible symbolism of Messi’s first official appearance for PSG in Reims, where French kings were traditionally crowned, was not lost on sports daily L’Equipe.
“Leo I, a king in Reims”, it wrote on its front page declaring his possible selection a “coronation”.
Le Parisien pointed to the local club’s history as home to “three of the most beautiful artists of this game”. A Reims squad led by Just Fontaine and Raymond Kopa reached the first-ever European Cup final in 1956.
Hundreds of fans gathered in cities across Argentina Sunday to celebrate their team’s victorious return from the 2021 Copa America, where they beat Brazil on home turf.
The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) had not planned any official celebration given the coronavirus epidemic, which had caused the country to pull out of co-hosting the tournament, which then went to even worse-hit Brazil.
Lionel Messi and his team arrived home in Buenos Aires Sunday morning on a private flight from Rio de Janeiro, and submitted to coronavirus tests.
In two buses emblazoned with the words “Champions of America 2021” and the number 15 — for Argentina’s number of Copa America wins — the team was escorted from the airport by police as hundreds supporters gathered along the highway, waving and cheering.
“Beautiful, beautiful. And thank you, because the people needed it,” exclaimed one fan, Emilio Navarro.
After a quick show at the AFA headquarters in Buenos Aires, the victorious players went their different ways, without fanfare.
Messi left the AFA in a car accompanied by police motorcycles, avoiding dozens of gathered fans, and headed for his home city of Rosario, according to television images.