Asia, Africa Out Of FIBA World Cup At First Hurdle

Harrison Barnes #8 of USA goes to the basket against Japan during the First Round of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup on September 5, 2019 at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai, China. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER / NBAE / GETTY IMAGES / AFP

 

 

It is the largest basketball World Cup ever but there will be no teams from Asia or Africa in the second round of the sport’s global showpiece.

Hosts China with their 1.4 billion population crashed out of contention on Wednesday with a 72-59 defeat to Venezuela.

That came hours after Tunisia surrendered a spot in the next round, and a guaranteed place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with an agonising 67-64 loss to Puerto Rico.

Nigeria thrashed South Korea 108-66 at the same time, but the fate of Africa’s highest-ranked team already been sealed after losing both their opening games.

The last time there was no team from Asia or Africa in the second round was in 1998, when the championship had only 16 teams.

Now it has a record 32 but it is almost exclusively teams from the Americas, led by reigning champions the United States, and Europe who will compete for the medals.

Outside of those only Australia, nominally Asian in the FIBA rankings are concerned, have also reached the second round and they could be joined by New Zealand if they beat Greece on Thursday.

Paolo Povia, coach of the Ivory Coast, said there were “a lot of factors” why African sides had failed to make their mark in China.

“There’s definitely a difference in experience and knowledge of the game,” said Povia after his team lost 80-63 to Poland on Wednesday, their third defeat in three games.

“The development of the game (in Africa) is a little inconsistent. In our team we have some guys who have learned to play the game in different places all over the world.

“So you don’t get the same continuity all the time in how the game is learned.”

Basketball is hugely popular in the Philippines but the national team — the joint-shortest at the competition — have lost all three of their matches.

They were drubbed 108-62 and 126-67 by Italy and title-contenders Serbia respectively before narrowly succumbing to already eliminated Angola on Wednesday.

Serbia’s plain-speaking coach Sasha Djordjevic said that the Philippines’ lack of physicality and athleticism “might be the problem”.

“Obviously you are missing quality,” he told a reporter from the Philippines.

After easy wins over the Philippines and Angola, Djordjevic also questioned the format of the enlarged World Cup, containing eight groups of four countries in the first phase.

“There are some groups that from the start you practically know which two teams are going to advance,” he said, shaking his head.

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing for the World Cup in general because what does it serve us?

“What does it serve the Philippine team losing by this points difference?” he said, of Serbia’s 59-point win.

Ousted teams such as the Philippines need to rally themselves, because they now face a low-key “classification” round with Olympic qualifying in play.

China World Cup Boost As Nine Foreigners Switch Nationality

 

China could soon be able to field a national team made up almost entirely of players born elsewhere after authorities said nine foreign footballers were switching allegiance.

On Wednesday Brazil-born striker Elkeson became the first player without Chinese heritage to be named in the national squad, as China attempts to reach the World Cup for a second time.

The 30-year-old is poised to make his debut next month in a 2022 World Cup qualifier in the Maldives, where London-born Nico Yennaris — who is half-Chinese — will likely win a third cap.

“We want to go to Qatar (2022 World Cup),” Chen Xuyuan, new president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), was quoted as saying by state media.

“Naturalised players can be helpful in order to achieve the national team’s short-term goals.

“Up to now, clubs have registered nine naturalised players with or without Chinese heritage at the CFA in total, some of them are still going through the naturalisation process.”

Chen, named to the top post in Chinese football on Thursday, said that more naturalised players will likely represent China as qualification for 2022 progresses.

“But it will never be a long-term policy of the CFA and the numbers will be very limited,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying.

Several Brazilian attacking players from the Chinese Super League are reportedly among those being naturalised, as is English-born defender Tyias Browning.

The move to give passports to players born elsewhere — particularly when they have no Chinese ancestry — has divided fans.

Some say the CFA should do everything it can to help Marcello Lippi’s side reach only China’s second World Cup.

Others say that a country of 1.4 billion people should easily be able to find 11 players good enough.

China have reached football’s biggest stage only once, in 2002, but left without a point or scoring a goal.

President Xi Jinping wants China to become a major force in world football by 2050, but Lippi’s side languish 71st in the current FIFA rankings.

Chen also reiterated China’s wishes to stage a World Cup, also part of Xi’s ambitious plans for football in the country.

“Hosting the World Cup is a dream of all Chinese fans, including me,” said Chen, declining to say when the country will make its move.

“The CFA will analyse and find out when is the best timing to bid,” he added.

Brazilian Elkeson To Break Record, Earns China Call-up

Guangzhou Evergrande’s Elkeson (C) watches as Beijing Guoan’s goal keeper Zou Dehai (2nd L, in grey jersey) fails to stop a goal during their Chinese Super League (CSL) football match in Beijing on August 11, 2019.

 

China named Elkeson in their squad for their opening World Cup qualifier with the Brazilian poised to be the first without Chinese ancestry to play for the country.

Coach Marcello Lippi has long complained about a dearth of attacking options and has moved to plug the gap with the 30-year-old, who will use the Chinese name Aikesen.

The move to naturalise a Brazilian is controversial and comes after China similarly gave a passport to London-born midfielder Nico Yennaris.

The former Arsenal man however is half-Chinese, whereas Guangzhou Evergrande striker Elkeson qualifies for China having played in the country since 2013.

READ ALSO: Bayern Munich Offer Coutinho Fresh Start On Loan

Along with Espanyol forward Wu Lei and Yennaris, Elkeson is part of a 35-man squad named by Italian World Cup winner Lippi for China’s game at the Maldives on September 10.

Elkeson appears likely to be the start of a growing trend for perennial under-achievers China.

Fellow Brazilians Ricardo Goulart and Fernando are both reportedly set to be naturalised, along with English defender Tyias Browning, also of Evergrande.

Although many other nations, notably 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, call up players born in other countries, China had resisted doing so until now.

But respected football commentator Zhan Jun recently hinted at public discord, writing to his 16 million followers on the Twitter-like Weibo: “Sigh, don’t know how the fans who care about Chinese football are feeling?

“I can’t get over it,” said Zhan, in a post which drew thousands of comments.

AFP

Indonesia Football Fans Damage Asian Stadium

This picture taken on July 21, 2018 shows irate spectators throwing chairs ripped from the stands during the league football match between Sriwijaya FC and Arema FC at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, also known as Jakabaring Stadium, a venue for the upcoming Asian Games, in Palembang. Indonesian football fans ripped plastic seats from the stands and hurled them onto the pitch at a stadium scheduled to host the Asian Games next month, an official said July 22.
MUHAMMAD TOHIR / AFP

 

Irate Indonesian football fans ripped plastic seats from the stands and hurled them onto the pitch at a stadium scheduled to host the Asian Games next month, an official said Sunday.

A league match between Sriwijaya FC and Arema FC ended in chaos Saturday afternoon when the fans tore up seats at the Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium in Palembang on the island of Sumatra.

Pictures showed multi-coloured chairs strewn across the outer edges of the ground, which is bordered by an athletics track.

“We are very upset with the supporters who ruined the seats in Gelora Sriwijaya during the game,” Rusli Nawi, the stadium’s security supervisor, told AFP.

“I’ve been here for nearly 10 years… there has never been damage to the seats like yesterday.”

The stadium had been renovated for the Games, which are being held in Palembang and the capital Jakarta from August 18-September 2.

Indonesia has been scrambling to prepare venues, finish building work, widen roads and ease traffic congestion.

Some 335 seats were damaged, about half of which will have to be replaced with seats ordered from outside Indonesia, Nawi said.

Police have arrested four people over the rampage, which was started by Sriwijaya fans upset at their team’s 3-0 home loss, Nawi said.

No one was injured.

About 11,000 athletes and 5,000 officials from 45 Asian countries will compete in the Games, the world’s biggest multi-sports event after the Olympics.

Saudi Arabia To Cut Oil Exports To Asia In January

Nigeria To Exit Joint Venture Cash Calls With Oil Companies

Saudi Arabia said on Monday it will trim crude exports to Asian customers in January to help accelerate the rebalancing of the international oil market.

An energy ministry spokesman said state-owned Aramco will maintain “steady supplies to the United States and Europe while exports to Asia will be reduced by more than 100,000 barrels per day” from December’s production levels.

“This is in line with our continued demonstration of keeping to, and in fact, exceeding, our commitments under the declaration of cooperation,” he said in reference to the deal by producers to cut production by 1.8 million bpd.

The agreement was last month extended until the end of 2018 in a bid to remove a supply glut from the market that has sent oil prices crashing.

About 24 producing countries, including all 14 members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC Russia, the world’s top producer, are signatories to the deal.

“We hope that by leading by example, our partners from OPEC and non-OPEC will do the same in order to keep conformity levels above 100 percent and accelerate the rebalancing of the market,” the spokesman said.

The deal has helped oil prices to rebound from below $30 a barrel at the start of last year to more than $60 a barrel currently.

AFP

Pope Francis Wraps Up Asia Tour After Meeting Rohingy

Pope Francis wrapped up a high-stakes Asia tour Saturday after meeting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in a highly symbolic gesture of solidarity with the Muslim minority fleeing violence in Myanmar.

The Catholic leader visited a hospital in Dhaka run by the order of Mother Theresa on the final day of a visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar that has been dominated by the plight of the Rohingya.

Pope Francis is known for championing the rights of refugees and has repeatedly expressed support for the long-suffering Rohingya, whom he has described as his “brothers and sisters”.

The usually forthright pontiff walked a diplomatic tightrope during his four days in Myanmar — the first papal visit to the country — avoiding any direct reference to the Rohingya in public while appealing to Buddhist leaders to overcome “prejudice and hatred”.

In Bangladesh he addressed the issue head-on, meeting a group of Rohingya refugees from the squalid camps in southern Bangladesh in an emotional encounter in Dhaka.

Among them was a 12-year-old girl who told him she had lost all her family in a Myanmar army attack on her village before fleeing across the border earlier this year.

“Your tragedy is very hard, very great, but it has a place in our hearts,” he told them.

“In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness.”

– ‘Clear message’ –

The pope referred to the refugees as Rohingya, using the term for the first time on the tour after the archbishop of Yangon advised him that doing so in Myanmar could inflame tensions and endanger Christians.

The word is politically sensitive in the mainly Buddhist country because many there do not consider the Rohingya a distinct ethnic group, regarding them instead as incomers from Bangladesh.

He had faced criticism from some rights activists and refugees for failing to address the issue publicly.

The pope did not visit the refugee camps, where only a handful were aware that one of the world’s most high-profile leaders was championing their cause just 300 miles (around 500 kilometres) away.

One refugee expressed gratitude that the pope had finally uttered the word Rohingya, and said he believed the meeting would have a big impact.

“It is the first time that a great world leader has listened to us,” said 29-year-old Rohingya teacher Mohammad Zubair.

“This meeting will send a clear message to global leaders.”

Analysts were more cautious. Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, said the pope’s recognition helped raise global awareness of the humanitarian crisis, “but it unfortunately does very little to address the big questions about their future”.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since a militant attack on police posts in late August sparked a deadly crackdown by the Myanmar military.

They have given consistent accounts of mass rape, killings and villages deliberately burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist militia.

The two countries last month signed an agreement to begin repatriating refugees, but rights groups say they are concerned about plans to house them in camps away from their former homes — many of which have been destroyed.

The pope returns to Rome on Saturday having led well-attended open-air masses in Bangladesh and Myanmar, which both have small Christian populations.

In the morning he was greeted by hundreds of Bangladeshi nuns at the Mother Teresa House clinic, all dressed in the blue-and-white habit favoured by the woman who dedicated her life to the region’s poorest.

Earlier he paid tribute to the works of Catholics in Bangladesh, where schools and clinics run by the church provide a lifeline for poor communities.

“I am sure if the pope touches my head and prays for me, I’ll be cured,” Ananda Hira, a kidney patient who receives dialysis at the clinic, told AFP ahead of the visit. “God listens to his prayers.”

AFP

After Pearl Harbor, Trump Embarks On Asia Tour

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, with Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. (2nd R), Commander, US Pacific Command; and his wife Bruni Bradley (R), participate in a wreath ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial on November 3, 2017, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. JIM WATSON / AFP

 

After stopping in Hawaii to pay his respects at a Pearl Harbor memorial, US President Donald Trump reboarded Air Force One on Saturday for a marathon Asia tour as North Korea’s nuclear threat looms large.

Trump and his wife Melania tossed flower petals into the waters of the USS Arizona memorial, later taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony to honour soldiers who died in a Japanese surprise attack in 1941 that triggered the US entry into World War II.

But it was the threat of conflict with another East Asian power that was set to dominate talks on the almost two-week trip that takes him from Japan to South Korea, China, Vietnam and finally the Philippines.

Months of verbal escalation between Washington and Pyongyang have raised the specter of nuclear war, and left allies South Korea fearing the US president’s propensity to veer off script and launch into fiery tirades may worsen the situation.

Trump is also seeking to leave behind domestic woes, including recent developments into the probe on Russian election meddling, as he holds closely-watched meetings with leaders ranging from powerful Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to controversial Philippines strongman Rodrigo Duterte.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump throw flowers during their visit to the USS Arizona Memorial on November 3, 2017, at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. (L), Commander, US Pacific Command, and his wife Bruni Bradley accompanied theTrumps.
JIM WATSON / AFP

Trump told reporters it was “very special being in Hawaii,” later tweeting: “Remember #PearlHarbor. Remember the @USSArizona!”

– Golf diplomacy –

He joins his “friend” Shinzo Abe on Sunday a new round of golf — following the one they shared in Florida last February — before a series of meetings aimed at underscoring the strength of the US-Japanese alliance.

Abe is riding high after seizing a “super-majority” in Japan’s parliament following a snap election, and has vowed to push to amend the country’s pacifist constitution.

In South Korea, Trump — unlike many of his predecessors — will not travel to the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean peninsula. Instead he will deliver what is set to be a closely-scrutinized speech before the country’s national assembly.

Seoul will be hoping during Trump’s two-day visit starting Tuesday for a reaffirmation of its alliance with Washington, at a time when the North is pushing ahead with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of the international community.

There is widespread concern in South Korea that Trump’s visit might worsen the situation if he fails to dampen his fierce rhetoric.

“Because of his tendency to veer off the script, many Koreans are worried that he may let loose”, Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies told AFP.

Some 500 protesters took to the streets in Seoul Saturday, chanting slogans and waving banners as they accused Trump of bringing the Korean peninsula to the brink of war.

After Seoul, the 45th US president heads to Beijing next Wednesday to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping just weeks after he was formally handed a second term in power, solidifying his grip on the world’s most populous nation.

As a candidate Trump railed against China’s trade imbalance with the United States, but after gaining power has been carefully in dealing with the Asian giant.

Analysts predict Xi will grant Trump a lavish welcome but few concessions.

Trump will round off his trip with a visit to Vietnam, where at an APEC summit he will deliver his vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” — remarks eagerly awaited by the business community following the president’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on his first day in office.

He will wrap up his trip in Manila on November 12-13, taking part in a summit of South East Asian leaders, and will hold what could turn out to be a colorful one-on-one with the outspoken Duterte.

Both men have shocked with their use of threatening language. Trump has even praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem” — despite warnings from rights groups of death squad-style killings.

AFP

UNESCO, 30 Nations Partner On Sustainable Environment

UNESCO, 30 Nations Partner On Sustainable Environment

The growing concern about issues arising from climate change on a daily basis across the globe has brought the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and more than 30 countries together for the Fifth General Assembly of Man and Biosphere (MAB).

Representatives from 28 African countries, Germany and Belgium led by the Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO, Dr Flavia Schlegel, converged on the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

The Fifth MAB Assembly seeks to find solutions to the myriad of environmental problems confronting many African countries, as a result of mismanagement of natural reserves and the consequent catastrophic results on man and the environment.

In her address, Dr Schlegel said UNESCO would take the lead to rehabilitate and strengthen the resilience of the Lake Chad basin systems.

Dr Flavia Schlegel

She said the development would create a transboundary biosphere reserve and world heritage site between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroun, Niger, and the Central African Republic.

The Minister of State for Environment, Mr Ibrahim Jibril, on his part, believes the issues of climate change are real and scary.

He, however, said the Federal Government was fully supporting projects aimed at balancing the conflicting goals of biological diversity conservation, as well as promoting human development while maintaining associated cultural values.

Also addressing a gathering at the end of the weeklong assembly, the Executive Director of Forestry Reserve Institute of Nigeria, Dr. Adeshola Adepoju, said the project was critical to the African continent. as it aligns with the global agenda 2030, sustainable development goals 13 and 15 which relate to conservation, preservation and sustainable use of biosphere.

Adepoju said it aligns with the global agenda 2030; Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15, which he said relates to conservation, preservation and sustainable use of biosphere.

Other speakers at the meeting are confident that decisions at the Assembly would enhance bio-reserve conservation and management, and also reduce poaching of rare species of plants and animals within reserves in Africa.

Asian Nations Step Up Cooperation As IS Threat Mounts

Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines are committed to strengthening their cooperation on defence to stem the movement of militants and combat piracy across their porous borders.

The Indonesian minister said this on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore.

Ryamizard Ryacudu said the current terrorist threat in Southeast Asia – home to the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and over half a billion people – is “unprecedented”, as he pledged to share intelligence information with other nations in the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.

Dozens of fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia are believed to have made their way into Mindanao in the southern Philippines, where Islamic State-linked militants have mounted a prolonged siege against security forces, in an attempt to establish a caliphate.

The three nations also plan to launch joint air patrols at their shared boundaries in the Sulu Sea in addition to existing maritime patrols, but concrete plans will decide after another meeting in mid-June.

FG Activates $20bn Gas Industrial Park In Delta

Yemi Osinbajo, Gas Industrial Park, DeltaEfforts by the Federal Government to fast track the development of the Niger Delta appear to be in full swing, as it plans to site a $20 billion gas industrial park in the region through a public-private partnership.

This was made known on Monday by Nigeria’s Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, during a meeting with a group of international investors and developers on the project at the Presidential Villa.

The consortium is made up of fortune 500 companies which include the GSE&C of South Korea, the China Development Bank, Power China and several other global operators from Asia and the United Arab Emirates in the Middle-East.

A statement from the Vice President’s office explained that the project, tagged the Gas Revolution Industrial Park (GRIP), would be located in Ogidigben, Delta State, and is envisaged to be a regional hub for all gas-based industries.

According to the Acting President, the project would cover 2700 hectares with fertiliser, methanol, petrochemicals, and aluminium plants located in the park which has already been designated as a Tax Free Zone by the Federal Government.

He said the government “is committed to the development of the Niger Delta, and the importance of this project is underlined by the presidential attention it is attracting. The presidency is very interested”.

We Are Unwavering

Professor Osinbajo added that the Federal Government takes the project very seriously, just as it is ready to make several other commitments to change the fortune of the oil-producing states.

“We already have a steering committee in place, chaired by the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and that shows the level of our commitment. We are unwavering.

“We take the project very seriously and glad to see you are committed and ready to make several other commitments. This is a process that we intend to see happen,” he said.

On his part, Dr. Kachikwu expressed confidence that the GRIP would bring the much needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta and the oil-producing states.

Speaking earlier, the leader of the group of investors and developers, Sheikh Mohamed Bayorh, stated the commitment of the consortium, stressing the importance of the project to solving the Niger Delta crisis.

The development comes against the backdrop of the recent visit by the Acting President to the oil-producing communities, to demonstrate the resolve of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to pursue a new vision for the Niger Delta.

South Korea Scandal: Samsung Heir Lee Jae-Yong A Suspect

China, Samsung Note 7, Global RecallSamsung heir-apparent, Lee Jae-Yong, is to be interviewed as a suspect in a corruption scandal surrounding the South Korean President.

The firm is accused of giving donations to non-profit foundations operated by Choi Soon-Sil, a confidante of President Park Geun-Hye.

The donations were allegedly made in exchange for political support of a controversial merger.

Officials say Mr Lee would face special prosecutors on Thursday.

Lawmakers had voted on December 9, to impeach President Park over the scandal – a decision south Korea’s constitutional court has six months to either uphold or overturn.

Pope Francis Names 17 New Cardinals

Pope Francis, New CardinalsPope Francis has named 17 new cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from around the world, many of whom will help choose his successor.

The new cardinals come from five continents, and include the Vatican’s envoy to Syria.

The range of backgrounds “represents a break with custom”, said the BBC’s David Willey in Rome.

Pope Francis has now chosen close to a third of the College of Cardinals who will ultimately pick who succeeds him.

The new cardinals come from countries including the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Mauritius, among others.

During the ceremony, Pope Francis decried what he said was a “growing animosity” between people, and raised concern over those who “raise walls, build barriers and label people”.

“We live at a time in which polarisation and exclusion are burgeoning and considered the only way to resolve conflicts,” he said.