Rio To Allow Football Fans From July 10

Handout picture released by the Communication Department of Botafogo showing a man disinfecting the tunnel of the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 28, 2020, minutes before the start of the 2020 Carioca Championship match between Botafogo and Cabofriense which will be played behind closed-doors amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. Vitor SILVA / Botafogo / AFP.

 

The state of Rio de Janeiro will allow football fans into stadiums from July 10, initially at one-third capacity, according to an official decree.

Capacity will move to two-thirds from August 1, while stadiums will be able to function with no restrictions from August 16, said the decree published by Rio townhall on Friday.

The initial easing must allow for 4 sqm per person and ticket sales will only be online.

The Rio state championship has been the first to resume in South America, a region hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The league, comprising professional teams within Rio state, resumed behind closed doors on June 18.

Brazil has the second-highest number of infections and deaths from the new coronavirus worldwide, after the United States: more than 1.2 million and 55,000, respectively.

And one of Brazil’s top football clubs, Fluminense, won its battle Friday not to play matches at a stadium also serving as a coronavirus hospital, which it argued was disrespectful to victims and their families.

READ ALSO: Dortmund Open Door For Meunier To Play Champions League With PSG

Struggling to avoid the collapse of the health system as the pandemic surges in Brazil, authorities have set up a field hospital in the parking lot at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana stadium.

Paradoxically, the venue also began hosting matches again last week, after a three-month coronavirus hiatus on all professional football across the continent.

AFP

Liverpool Criticise Fans For “Unacceptable” Celebrations

Liverpool fans celebrate victory outside Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on June 26, 2020 after Liverpool FC sealed the Premier League title the previous evening. Oli SCARFF / AFP
Liverpool fans celebrate victory outside Anfield stadium in Liverpool, north west England on June 26, 2020 after Liverpool FC sealed the Premier League title the previous evening. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Liverpool on Saturday criticised some of its own fans for “wholly unacceptable” behaviour after they crowded parts of the city to celebrate the team’s first championship in 30 years.

In a joint statement with Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council, the club condemned supporters who ignored coronavirus social distance guidance to gather at the Pier Head waterfront.

“Our city is still in a public health crisis and this behaviour is wholly unacceptable,” read the statement.

“The potential danger of a second peak of COVID-19 still exists and we need to work together to make sure we don’t undo everything that has been achieved as a region during lockdown.”

Liverpool’s mayor, Joe Anderson, also condemned the scenes, claiming on Twitter they had brought a “negative focus” on the city.

Social media images showed a firework hitting the Liver Bird building, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, during a second night of celebrations on Friday.

Vast amounts of rubbish were cleared by the council on Saturday morning.

Liverpool secured the English Premier League title on Thursday night after their only rivals, Manchester City, lost 2-1 to Chelsea, meaning Liverpool could not be caught.

Prior to the title being won, police and local authorities had warned fans not to gather because of the fear of further spreading the coronavirus.

Police had urged fans to celebrate only with family members as they claimed Liverpool had been “disproportionately affected” by Covid-19.

 

AFP

‘Football With Fans Will Be Back Soon,’ Says UEFA Chief

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is confident “good old football with fans will come back very soon” despite the chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Domestic and continental club competitions were halted across Europe in mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis and Euro 2020 was postponed.

The Bundesliga made a successful return to action behind closed doors at the weekend and many other leagues are preparing to resume in front of empty stands, with Ceferin sure the situation will soon improve.

Asked whether he would bet a million dollars that Euro 2020 would be played in 2021, the chief of European football’s governing body told the Guardian: “Yes, I would. I don’t know why it wouldn’t be.

“I don’t think that this virus will last forever. I think it will (change) sooner than many think.

“I don’t like this apocalyptic view that we have to wait for the second and third waves or even a fifth wave.”

Ceferin said football would follow the recommendations of the authorities but he was optimistic that normal service could be resumed in the near future.

“I’m absolutely sure, personally, that good old football with fans will come back very soon,” he said.

And Ceferin said he did not expect the game to be profoundly changed by the coronavirus.

“Football didn’t change after the Second World War, or First World War, and it will not change because of a virus either,” he said.

AFP

Liverpool Condemn Fans For ‘Racist’ Divock Origi Banner

Liverpool fans in the stands at Anfield during their side’s 5-2 win against Roma (OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Liverpool have condemned a “racist” banner depicting Divock Origi that was displayed in the away end before their Champions League clash with Genk in Belgium on Wednesday.

The banner appeared to show Origi’s head photoshopped onto a naked body alongside the Champions League trophy. It was removed before the match started.

A club statement said: “Liverpool Football Club condemns the offensive banner displayed in our section of the ground, prior to kick-off.

“To be clear, the image used perpetuated a racist stereotype. This is completely unacceptable.

“We acted swiftly to have the banner removed and we are now working with the local authorities and stadium team in Genk to identify those responsible.

“Any subsequent action will be taken in keeping with our sanctions process.”

Madrid Unveil Hazard Before Thousands Of Fans

Belgian footballer Eden Hazard (R) and Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez hold the midfielder’s new jersey during his official presentation as new player of the Spanish club at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on June 13, 2019. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Eden Hazard was unveiled at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday as around 50,000 supporters turned out to welcome the player they hope will launch a glorious new era under Zinedine Zidane.

The 28-year-old Hazard was presented with the home shirt, which was without a number, by club president Florentino Perez, moments after the Belgian had delivered a brief statement to his expectant fans.

“Hello everyone,” Hazard started in Spanish, to huge cheers, before continuing in French. “It was my dream since I was small to play forRealMadridand now I am here.”

“You are one of the best players in the world,” added Perez. “We know Real Madrid was where you wanted to be and now you’re here.”

Madrid confirmed the much-anticipated transfer of Hazard from Chelsea on Friday for an initial 100 million euros ($113 million), with another 45 million in potential add-ons.

The full amount would trump the 101 million euros Madrid paid Tottenham for Gareth Bale and the 91 million euros they spent to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United.

Ronaldo attracted almost 80,000 for his presentation in 2009 and while the attendance for Hazard was not as large, this was still an impressive turnout.

Even three hours before, long queues snaked around the stadium while some supporters were seen running towards entrances they heard had suddenly been opened.

Inside, they roared as Hazard’s best goals were shown on a big screen and then again when he struck a penalty into an open net.

Hazard juggled with one ball in front of the cameras and then booted dozens of them into the stands, waving and applauding as he walked around the edge of the pitch.

Before he emerged, there had been chants of “We want Mbappe!” and a scattering of whistles for Perez, who has been tasked with rebuilding a Madrid squadthat woefully underperformed last season.

Perez has admitted to being interested in Kylian Mbappe but the club’s transfers this summer already amount to around 300 million euros after the arrivals of Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy.

There will surely have to be sales before the French striker could be prized from Paris Saint-Germain.

Without Mbappe, it will be Hazard, who scored 110 goals in seven seasons at Chelsea, who may be the star of Zidane’s renovated team, with the winger’s arrival bolstering an already-bloated list of attacking options.

Scrapping for the spots in support of Karim Benzema are currently Vinicius Junior, Bale, Isco, Brahim Diaz, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez and even James Rodriguez, who has returned from a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

Hazard’s place is all-but guaranteed and he will be expected to at least help in plugging the gap left by Ronaldo’s departure to Juventus. They are big shoes to fill.

AFP

Emery Fined £8,000 For Kicking Water Bottle Towards Fans

Emery Demands Urgency As Arsenal Chase 12th Successive Win
Arsenal’s Spanish head coach Unai Emery shouts instructions to his players from the touchline during the English League Cup third round football match between Arsenal and Brentford at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 26, 2018. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Arsenal manager Unai Emery was fined £8,000 ($10,000) on Monday for kicking a water bottle into the crowd during his side’s Boxing Day draw at Brighton after admitting to a Football Association charge.

“Unai Emery has been fined £8,000 after he admitted an FA improper conduct charge and accepted the standard penalty,” English football’s governing body announced said in a statement.

The FA had announced on Thursday that the Spaniard had been charged over the incident — which took place at full-time of the Gunners’ 1-1 draw on the south coast — although Emery himself had initially hoped his apologising to the home supporter would have been enough to see him escape punishment.

“I hope so, yes,” the former Paris Saint-Germain boss had said when asked whether his apology should be the end of the matter.

“But I have to respect the decision because it is a circumstance of my action but not another intention from me with the supporter. I say to them my apology.”

Emery has however escaped a touchline ban and will be free to take charge when Fulham visit the Emirates on New Year’s Day.

AFP

PSG Fans Jailed After Violent Clashes With Rivals

 

A group of Paris Saint-Germain supporters were jailed for up to 10 months Wednesday after violent clashes with fans of Ligue 1 rivals Reims in 2016.

Prosecutors in the eastern city of Troyes had requested one-year prison terms for the 13 ‘ultras’ — members of the ‘K-Soce Team’ — after they were found guilty of affray following violent clashes at a bar in April 2016.

But judges opted for a range of sentences, from six-month suspended terms to 10 months in jail. Each of the fans was fined 500 euros ($575) and banned from entering the Aube region of France for two years.

AFP

Meghan Takes Spotlight Amid Royal Fever In Fiji

Britain’s Prince Harry (front L) and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (C) receive a gift from the University of the South Pacific in Suva on October 24, 2018.  PETER PARKS / AFP

 

British royal Meghan Markle sent adoring crowds into a frenzy in Fiji on Wednesday when she took centre stage from husband Prince Harry to passionately promote women’s rights.

The American-born 37-year-old recounted her struggle to afford higher education in her maiden international speech, made to students at the University of the South Pacific.

She also met female traders at the Suva markets, although so many enthusiastic fans were jammed into the venue that her security detail cut short the pregnant duchess’s visit.

Meghan, who married into the royal family five months ago, made the case for open access to education, particularly for women.

“For women and girls in developing countries this is vital,” she said. “Providing them with access to education is the key to economic and social development.

“When girls are given the right tools to succeed they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but for all of those around them.”

Meghan, 37, graduated with a communications degree from Northwestern University in Illinois before becoming an actress then marrying Harry earlier this year.

Announcing two grants to encourage female empowerment in Pacific academia, she said higher education for her was “incredible, impactful and pivotal”, despite the challenge of paying for it.

“It was through scholarships, financial aid programmes and work-study — where my earnings from a job on campus went directly towards my tuition — that I was able to attend university,” she said.

“And, without question, it was worth every effort.”

Meghan’s visit to meet women participating in the UN project Markets for Change was curtailed, with Kensington Palace later citing “crowd management issues”

She was calm as bodyguards escorted her out of the markets and into a waiting car without incident.

Rosemerry Dautei, 35, said Fijians were keen to see the visiting royals.

“It is just the excitement… this is an opportunity that has to be grabbed with both hands,” she said.

Meghan’s message resonated with Shayaa Chand, 22, who said: “In today’s era we should support women and we should make them leaders. We are very grateful that Mrs Meghan thinks that way.”

 Climate change 

Harry, who attended the elite Eton school and Sandhurst military academy, watched his spouse’s university address with admiration.

“No way I can follow my wife after that,” he said, to laughter from the assembled students.

The prince acknowledged the Pacific’s concerns about climate change, announcing four scholarships to study the issue.

“All of you living here are confronted with this threat in your daily lives,” he said. “You’re actually experiencing changing weather patterns, ferocious cyclones and rising sea levels, particularly in Tuvalu and Kiribati.

“You’ve been living with this for many years, way before the world started talking about it.”

The royal couple, who arrived in Fiji on Tuesday after a week in Australia, appeared relaxed touring the campus, meeting students and pre-school children.

Meghan wore a pink floral wrap dress with a pompom trim, and flowers in her hair, while Harry sported a blue Hawaiian shirt.

The day started on a sombre note for Harry, who attended a ceremony at the Fiji war memorial in Suva.

“In grateful memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country,” he wrote on a note attached to a wreath laid at the memorial.

The Royals will travel to Tonga on Thursday before returning briefly to Australia then wrapping up the tour with a visit to New Zealand.

AFP

Disappointed Pochettino Vows To Repay Spurs Fans’ Patience With Wins

Tottenham Hotspur’s Argentinian head coach Mauricio Pochettino (R) looks on during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United at Wembley Stadium in London, on May 9, 2018. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Mauricio Pochettino believes winning is the only way to keep Spurs fans happy while waiting to move into the club’s new stadium.

Tottenham face a logistical nightmare after delaying their move to the 62,000 capacity ground until at least October due to “issues with the critical safety systems”.

Pochettino’s men were already due to face Fulham at Wembley on Saturday, but will now also host Liverpool and Cardiff at the home of English football, where they played all of their home games last season.

“We all feel disappointed of course with the announcement from the club this week,” said Pochettino.

“I feel so sorry for myself first of all, for our fans, the players, everyone, and of course for our chairman.”

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy had already been under fire from supporters groups for failing to make a single signing during the transfer window despite a significant rise in season ticket prices.

A refund has been offered to fans for the Liverpool and Cardiff matches, but Pochettino understands the fans’ frustration.

“We need to be all together. Of course I understand the problems about the tickets, the money and everything, and I feel sorry for them,” said the Argentine.

“I want to say thank you and apologise. We’re going to try to reward them by winning games.

“It’s the only way we can pay all the effort they are doing and they are going to do for the club.”

Spurs hope to open the new White Hart Lane on October 28 against Premier League champions Manchester City.

However, contingency plans need to be put in place in case of further delays with Wembley already set to host a NFL game between the Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars on that day.

Pochettino isn’t keen on finding another temporary home even if it means playing on a damaged pitch just 24 hours after a NFL game.

“If you ask me today if it’s not possible to play in the new stadium, of course it’s about finding a way to play at Wembley because I think to play at another place, maybe three stadiums in one season, will be too much,” said Pochettino.

“The day after the NFL game maybe the pitch is not in the best condition, but we need to make the effort and try to play in the end because maybe to find another date will be difficult.”

Despite the lack of new faces in Pochettino’s squad, Spurs are set to let winger Georges-Kevin N’Koudou join Bundesliga side Mainz on a season-long loan.

N’Koudou cost Spurs £11 million ($14 million) from Marseille in 2016 but has not made a Premier League start for the club and spent the second half of last season on loan at Burnley.

AFP

Tottenham Apologise To Fans Over New Stadium Delay

Tottenham’s plans to move into their new stadium next month have been derailed CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

 

Tottenham have apologised to their supporters after the “unavoidable” delay to the opening of their new White Hart Lane stadium.

The Premier League club have been forced to postpone the scheduled opening of the rebuilt area next month due to safety issues.

Tottenham spent last season playing their home matches at Wembley while White Hart Lane was completely knocked down, with the new arena rising in its place.

But the north London club were unable to complete the building work in time for the start of this season, meaning their home opener against Fulham on Saturday will also be staged at Wembley.

On Monday, Tottenham revealed problems with “critical safety systems” meant the new stadium would not be able to host Liverpool on September 15, Cardiff on October 6 or the NFL clash between the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders eight days later.

They have now released details of refunds and ticketing for fans in a further statement on Tuesday, which included an apology.

“Delays are common, certainly for builds of this size and complexity, however, we are hugely frustrated that this has occurred with these systems at such a late stage,” Spurs said in a statement.

“Whilst we would have been able to mitigate other areas, we simply cannot compromise safety. This decision was unavoidable.

“We should like to apologise to supporters for this delay. We are acutely aware of the disappointment this may cause supporters and shall now look to ensure that we minimise any inconvenience.”

A safety licence must be granted before matches can be staged at the ground and that will not happen before test events — originally slated for August 27 and September 1 and now postponed — take place.

No timeline is in place, leaving an element of uncertainty over when the problems will be rectified and questions over when the club will begin life at the new 62,000-seater venue.

Spurs on Tuesday insisted, contrary to reports, the option to have Wembley as a contingency plan had been arranged in late 2017.

“The option was in fact exercised at the end of last year – and not in response to this issue – as a sensible back-up given the nature of construction and the possibility of exactly such an issue arising,” the club added.

In Monday’s statement, which followed a board meeting becoming public, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy asked for supporters to remain patient.

“We know this will be disappointing for all our season tickets holders, premium members and our fans worldwide,” he said.

AFP

Expectant Juventus Fans Await First Glimpse Of Megastar Ronaldo

A picture taken on August 12, 2018 shows a Juventus supporter holding a banner bearing the picture of Cristiano Ronaldo before the friendly match between Juventus A and Juventus B at Villar Perosa, on August 12, 2018.  Isabella Bonotto / AFP

 

 

Juventus fans will get their first look at superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the famous black and white stripes when he makes his debut on Sunday in an intimate alpine setting.

Juventus fans have been waiting just over a month to see Ronaldo in action since he shocked the world by leaving European champions Real Madrid, where he had just won his third straight Champions League, and signing for the Italian champions in a 100 million euro ($117 million) deal.

After arriving in Italy at the end of his post-World Cup holidays, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner trained at Juve’s Continassa facility while the majority of the team took part in the International Champions Cup in the United States.

Ronaldo will make his first appearance for the Serie A champions at 1700 (1500 GMT), when he takes part of one of Italian football’s most curious traditions.

Villar Perosa, 50 kilometers southwest of Turin and at the foot of the Italian Alps, has been swamped with Juve supporters desperate to try and catch a glimpse of their new idol, with chants of “Ronaldo, bring us the Champions” (League) ringing out around the town.

The approximately 5,000 tickets available at the tiny Gaetano Scirea ground for the annual match between Juve’s first XI and a “B” team have long-since sold out and the town’s bars and restaurants were heaving with fans, while at the  packed  ground those lucky enough to have tickets roared themselves hoarse as Ronaldo made his way into the rudimentary dressing rooms.

Massimo Savelli from near Siena, some 450 kilometers to the south-east, got up at 0600 to be in Villar Perosa for this match with three friends.

He was at both the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff, when Ronaldo scored a brace as Real Madrid hammered Juve 4-1, and in Madrid last season when the Portuguese slotted the last-gasp penalty that knocked Juve out in the quarter-finals.

“With the arrival of Ronald,o our expectations are higher for the Champions League. He’s won the last three,” said Savelli.

 ‘Global interest’ 

Around 600 police officers and 200 hundred stewards have been employed for the match and the town is ringed by roadblocks making sure those who enter are either locals or have match tickets.

Meanwhile major daily Corriere Della Sera says that such is the global media interest that there will be a journalist for every 80 of the town’s inhabitants.

Set in a valley at the foot of the Italian Alps, Villar Perosa (population: roughly 4,100) is the home of the family estate and summer retreat of the powerful Agnelli family, who bought what is nicknamed “The Castle” in the mid-19th century and established the annual alpine curtain raiser in the town.

Such was the dominance of the family — founders of Fiat and owners of Juventus since 1923, give or take a few years around the Second World War — over Villar Perosa that deceased former club chairman Gianni Agnelli was mayor between 1945 and 1980.

Cesare Bertoncello, from Turin, was pointed out to AFP by security as being the first person to get to the barriers separating Via Nazionale from the ground, at 0900 (0700 GMT).

“I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old back in the 1960s, when (Gianni) Agnelli would arrive here in a helicopter,” he said.

“I’m always happy to come here and I hope it brings us good luck like it has in the past.

Euro glory 

Established custom dictates that five minutes after half-time fans invade the pitch, bringing the game to a halt as supporters charge after and greet their heroes, and people are keen to get up close and personal with their new idol Ronaldo, who looked in typically good shape upon his arrival.

“I’d like to get on the pitch and greet him, but just seeing him live in a Juve kit is enough for me,” added Savelli.

Italian and Spanish media report that Real Madrid and Juventus’ club doctors found that the 33-year-old’s strict training and diet routine — the subject of many of his Instagram posts — mean he still has the physical capability of someone 10 years his junior.

His monk-like devotion to his body has kept it in the sort of condition that Juve fans hope will bring them European glory.

“For me, the Champions League remains the dream and I hope that Ronaldo can help us with that objective,” said Luca Del Vecchio, who is in his “mid-20s”.

“But at the end of the day, it’s a whole team that wins you that trophy, not one player.”

AFP

Croatia Set For ‘Historic’ World Cup Final

Croatia’s supporters celebrate after winning the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between Croatia and England, at the main square in Zagreb on July 11, 2018. Denis Lovrovic / AFP

 

Excitement reached fever-pitch levels in Croatia as the small nation counted down to its first-ever World Cup final against France on Sunday.

France, the 1998 winners, are firm favourites to win the match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium but Croatia, led by Luka Modric on the pitch, have the players to spring a shock.

“Sons of Croatia, we are waiting for you! Come home so we can celebrate together!” read the front page of the Jutarnji List newspaper.

“There are special days in life that will be remembered forever. Today is such a day. A day when Croatia enters world sports history, and immortality.”

With a population of just over four million people, Croatia would be the smallest World Cup winners since Uruguay in 1950 if they triumph.

Croatian red-and-white chequerboard patterns are everywhere —  on car hoods, shop windows, trams, and on public monuments.

Waiters, street vendors and TV presenters are wearing Croatian jerseys while shops have changed their displays to show their support.

Tens of thousands are expected to watch the match at fan zones in the capital, including on the main Jelacic square.

Despite heavy rain early Sunday, supporters began gathering in squares and streets, sheltering under cafe hoardings.

“It’s a David-and-Goliath tie. We didn’t think twice about the drive, this a historic moment for the country,” said one fan who had driven from Switzerland.

Lorenzo Abbadi, 23, an Italian dressed in Croatian colours, said he had driven nine hours from Assisi in central Italy to support the Balkan country.

“Italy weren’t in the World Cup, we love football, so I thought I’d watch the final here,” he told AFP.

Croatian newspaper front pages blazed with fervour.

“Let’s show our teeth to the French!” said Sportske Novosti alongside a large photo of Mario Mandzukic, who scored the winner in Croatia’s 2-1 semi-final win over England.

“The present belongs to Luka Modric, the future will go to Kylian Mbappe,” said Jutarnji List, while Slobodna Dalmacija said “We are already champions whatever happens,” a view shared by many Croatians.

Church postponed 

A church in Slavonski Brod, the hometown of Mandzukic, postponed a mass to allow the congregation to watch the final.

Many fans want the team to take revenge for Croatia’s defeat by France in the 1998 semi-final.

“It’s clear that we have revenge to take on the French after 1998,” Filip Gudelj, owner of a Swiss construction company, told AFP in Zagreb.

But for Igor Stimac, a member of the 1998 “Vatreni” (the “Fiery Ones” in Croatian) the final is not about revenge.

“In my mind, there is only joy, pride, happiness. It is something magnificent, almost incredible,” Stimac, 50, told the Tportal website.

In a video posted in Facebook, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic thanked World Cup hosts Russia from a plane headed to Moscow.

“In the name of all Croatia fans, I thank Russia for a warm welcome. You were great hosts. Tonight cheer for Croatia!” she said in Russian, dressed in a chequerboard jersey in front of cheering fans.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic urged employers to allow their workers time off on Monday to attend a “magnificent welcome homecoming party” that more than 100,000 people are expected to attend.

If Croatia win, the government is considering declaring Monday a public holiday, while the president is scheduled to formally honour coach Zlatko Dalic and the players.

AFP