France Extend Deschamps’ Contract Until 2022

France’s national football team head coach Didier Deschamps arrives for a press conference at the team’s base camp in Clairefontaine en Yvelines on October 8, 2018. FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Didier Deschamps’ contract as coach of world champions France has been extended through to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a source said Tuesday.

Deschamps, a former France skipper who led the team to 1998 World Cup glory, has been at the coaching helm of Les Bleus since summer 2012.

The decision to extend his contract will be made official by the French football federation at a press conference later Tuesday, the source told AFP.

Federation president Noel Le Graet had previously said that a contract extension for the 51-year-old Deschamps was dependent on France qualifying for the 2020 European championships.

Deschamps duly guided France into the competition, where they have been drawn alongside 2014 world champions Germany, reigning European champions Portugal and one more team still to qualify through the play-offs.

Deschamps will shortly become the longest-serving France coach, overtaking the eight years and six months of service by Michel Hidalgo between January 1976-June 1984.

AFP

France Rejects ‘Optional’ US Digital Tax Proposal

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire addresses the “day of the automobile industry” meeting at the Economy Ministry in Paris on December 2, 2019. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

 

A US proposal for international digital taxes to be made “optional” is “not acceptable,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Friday.

Le Maire urged the United States to negotiate “in good faith” with fellow OECD members to reach agreement on taxing global computing giants rather than resorting to “regrettable” trade measures that target symbolic products.

France has been at the forefront of efforts to tighten taxation of  digital giants and parliament infuriated the administration of President Donald Trump in July by adopting a law taxing digital firms like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon for revenues earned inside the country.

In a letter addressed Thursday to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated support for ongoing talks on a deal that is to be finalised by June, but also made new propositions that unsettled trade partners.

The notion of a “safe harbor regime” that Mnuchin presents as a solution to US concerns includes the principle of “optionality” which Le Maire, however, said would not work.

“Frankly, I do not believe in the US proposal for an optional solution, where companies choose freely to be taxed or not,” Le Maire told an audience in Paris.

“An optional solution would clearly not be acceptable to France or its OECD partners,” the minister said.

“I have not seen many companies that accept to be taxed of their own free will. While you can always count on individual philanthropy, I am not sure that when it comes to public finances that goes very far,” Le Maire said.

The French finance minister argued for a binding text being mulled by 135 countries under OECD auspices that would replace France’s own three-percent tax on sales by digital giants within France.

– ‘In good faith’ –

Le Maire urged Washington to “return to the path of negotiations … in good faith, not on an optional basis but on a binding basis for all states that sign up to the agreement.”

France and other countries argue that multinational digital giants must pay taxes on revenues accrued in a country even if their corporate or tax headquarters are elsewhere, such as Ireland or Luxembourg where company profits are taxed at comparatively low levels.

In response to the French digital tax plan, the US has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French goods including champagne, cosmetics, yoghurt and Roquefort cheese.

In his letter, Mnuchin underscored the importance of the OECD talks “to prevent the proliferation of unilateral measures, like digital services taxes” that he urged member countries to suspend.

The row now threatens to block the OECD negotiations.

“It is regrettable that these trade wars lead our US allies and friends … to directly attack products that symbolise the French culture,” Le Maire said.

He said the French tax did not single out US companies, and that European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan had expressed his “full support” for a EU-wide plan that would reply to the US threat in kind should it take effect.

Meanwhile Hogan said he was planning to sit down with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer next month to discuss the American threat against French exports.

“We are looking at all possibilities, but we prefer to have a negotiated settlement,” Hogan told Bloomberg News.

jug/arz/wai/jh

40 Notable Deaths Of 2019

 

From Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison to iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld and Zimbabwe strongman Robert Mugabe, here are some of the notable deaths of 2019.

January

– 21: Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala, 28, was killed when the plane he was in crashed into the English Channel.

– 26: French film composer Michel Legrand, who won three Oscars and scored such classics as “Yentl” (1983), died aged 86.

February

– 7: Veteran British actor Albert Finney, winner of three Golden Globes, passed away aged 82.

– 16: Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for his role as Adolf Hitler in “Downfall” (2004), died aged 77 from cancer.

– 19: Haute couture legend Karl Lagerfeld, long-running artistic director of Chanel, died aged 85.

– 21: Stanley Donen, US director of such beloved Hollywood classic as “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), was 94 when he died.

– 28: US-German composer and conductor Andre Previn, winner of 10 Grammys and four Oscars, died aged 89.

March

– 4: US actor Luke Perry died after a stroke at the age of 52.

– 4: Frontman of British rave band The Prodigy, Keith Flint, was found dead aged 49.

– 29: Pioneering female French film director Agnes Varda passed away aged 90.

April

– 17: Ex-Peruvian president Alan Garcia, 69, killed himself as the police were about to arrest him on bribery charges that he denied.

May

– 13: Hollywood legend Doris Day died aged 97.

– 16: Ieoh Ming Pei, Chinese-American architect of iconic modern structures such as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, was 102 years old when he passed away.

– 20: Austria’s three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda died aged 70, eight months after a lung transplant.

– 22: British children’s author and illustrator Judith Kerr died aged 95.

June

– 1: Star Spanish football striker Jose Antonio Reyes, 35, was killed in a car crash.

– 15: Italian film-maker and opera director Franco Zeffirelli died aged 96.

– 17: Islamist Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, ousted in 2013 after one year of divise rule, died in prison aged 67.

– 17: American heiress and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt passed away aged 95.

July

– 6: Brazilian musician and songwriter Joao Gilberto, a pioneer of bossa nova, died aged 88.

– 16: South African singer Johnny Clegg died at 66 years old from cancer.

– 17: Andrea Camilleri, the Italian novelist who created Sicilian detective Montalbano, passed away aged 93.

– 22: Former Chinese prime minister Li Peng, a hardliner in the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, died at 90.

– 25: The world’s oldest president, Tunisian Beji Caid Essebsi, died aged 92, just ahead of the end of his first mandate.

August

– 5: Author Toni Morrison, the first African-American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, died aged 88.

– 10: US financier Jeffrey Epstein, 66, was found dead in jail from an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on charges of trafficking girls for sex.

– 12: Ivory Coast singer DJ Arafat died in a motorbike crash aged 33.

– 16: US actor Peter Fonda, best known for “Easy Rider” (1969), died from lung cancer aged 79.

September

– 3: German photographer Peter Lindbergh, credited with launching careers of supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, died aged 74.

– 6: Zimbabwe’s autocratic leader Robert Mugabe, ousted by the military in 2017 after 37 years in power, died aged 95.

– 9: Pioneering Swiss-born documentary photographer Robert Frank passed away at 94.

– 19: Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled in the 2011 Arab Spring, died in exile in Saudi Arabia aged 83.

– 26: Jacques Chirac, French president from 1995 to 2007, died aged 86.

– 30: Celebrated American opera singer Jessye Norman died in hospital aged 74.

October

– 17: Alicia Alonso, Cuban ballet legend who taught well into her 90s, passed away at the age of 98.

– 17: US Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings died at 68 and was the first African-American lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol building.

– 22: Belgian Paralympic champion Marieke Vervoort, suffering from a degenerative muscle disease, ended her life through euthanasia aged 40.

– 26: Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his late 40s, blew himself up during a raid by US special forces in Syria.

November

– 24: Clive James, the Australian broadcaster, writer, critic, and poet, died aged 80 after a long battle with leukaemia.

– 30: One of the leading conductors to emerge from the former Soviet Union, Latvian Mariss Jansons, 76, died of cardiac arrest at his home in Saint Petersburg.

US Tariffs On French Goods ‘Unacceptable’, Says Minister

French Finance and Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire addresses the “day of the automobile industry” meeting at the Economy Ministry in Paris on December 2, 2019. ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

 

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday promised a “strong” EU response to threatened US tariffs on French goods, as another front split open in the US trade war.

“We were in contact yesterday with the European Union to ensure that if there are new American tariffs there will be a European response, a strong response,” Le Maire told Radio Classique.

On Monday, the United States threatened to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French goods in retaliation for a digital services tax that Washington says is discriminatory.

The US and China are already embroiled in a trade war and US President Donald Trump said tariffs would be reinstated on Argentina and Brazil, accusing them of manipulating their currencies and hurting US farmers.

READ ALSO: Two Injured In Indonesia Grenade Explosion

French sparkling wine, yoghurt and Roquefort cheese are on the latest list of goods that could be targeted as soon as mid-January, after a report from the US trade representative’s office found the digital tax penalises American tech companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

The decision “sends a clear signal that the United States will take action against digital tax regimes that discriminate or otherwise impose undue burdens on US companies,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.

Le Maire told Radio Classique on Tuesday that the US threat was unacceptable.

“This is not the sort of behaviour one expects from the United States with respect to one of its main allies, France, and to Europe in general,” Le Maire said.

Lighthizer had also warned that Washington was considering widening the investigation to look into similar taxes in Austria, Italy and Turkey.

“The USTR is focused on countering the growing protectionism of EU member states, which unfairly targets US companies, whether through digital services taxes or other efforts that target leading US digital services companies,” he said.

The announcement came just hours before Trump is due to meet his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the NATO summit in London on Tuesday.

The French tax, enacted earlier this year, imposes a three percent levy on the revenues earned by technology firms in France, which often come from online advertising and other digital services.

The tax affects companies with at least 750 million euros ($830 million) in annual global revenue on their digital activities.

The French tax targets revenue instead of profits, which are often reported by tech giants in low-tax jurisdictions like Ireland in a practice that has enraged governments.

The USTR report “concluded that France’s Digital Services Tax (DST) discriminates against US companies, is inconsistent with prevailing principles of international tax policy, and is unusually burdensome for affected US companies”.

The USTR has scheduled public hearings on the proposal to impose “duties of up to 100 percent on certain French products” and the possibility of “imposing fees or restrictions on French services”.

The last date to submit comments on the proposed actions is January 14, and “USTR expects to proceed expeditiously thereafter”.

 Roquefort, not Bordeaux 

The list of French products subject to potential duties includes cosmetics, porcelain, soap, handbags, butter, and several kinds of cheeses, including Roquefort, Edam and Gruyere.

However, despite Trump’s repeated threats to retaliate against French wines, only sparkling wine made the tariff list.

Industry groups welcomed the report, with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation saying in a statement that France’s tax is “narrowly and inappropriately targeted to raise revenue only from the largest companies in a small set of industries, many of them American”.

While applauding the USTR investigation, Jennifer McCloskey of tech industry lobby group Information Technology Industry Council said she would prefer to avoid “a strong trade response”.

“We respectfully urge the United States, France, and all participating governments to focus on a successful and lasting tax policy resolution” at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), she said in a statement.

So far, efforts to find a global solution to the dispute over digital taxes have not been successful.

Last month, G20 ministers meeting in Washington opened talks on an international system to tax global tech giants that the OECD hopes would take effect by June.

AFP

Euro 2020: Portugal Drawn With France, Germany

A board displays the groups and Spanish football player Iker Casillas (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

 

Reigning European champions Portugal will come up against World Cup winners France and Germany in the standout group at Euro 2020 following Saturday’s draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

Neither France nor Portugal were in Pot One for the 24-team competition being held in 12 cities across Europe, making them the teams to avoid for the top seeds.

The section, Group F, will be completed by one of the winners of the play-offs to be played next March.

See the draw for the group stage of the Euro 2020 finals, to be played from June 12-July 12, made in Bucharest on Saturday:

Group A

Turkey

Italy

Wales

Switzerland

Group B

Denmark

Finland

Belgium

Russia

Group C

Netherlands

Ukraine

Austria

Winner of play-off Path D or Romania should they qualify (home games in Bucharest)

Group D

England

Croatia

Winner of play-off Path C

Czech Republic

Group E

Spain

Sweden

Poland

Winner of play-off Path B

Group F

Winner of play-off Path A or Path D (if Romania win Path A)

Portugal

France

Germany

Note: Remaining four teams to qualify through UEFA Nations League play-offs in March

Macron Defends ‘Wake-Up Call’ For NATO After Talks With Chief

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg shake hands after giving a press conference and holding a meeting at the Elysee palace in Paris on November 28, 2019.
Bertrand GUAY / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday stood by his claim that NATO is suffering “brain death” with no strategic cooperation among members, after talks with alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg ahead of a high-stakes meeting outside London next week.

“I totally stand by raising these ambiguities because I believe it was irresponsible of us to keep talking about financial and technical matters given the stakes we currently face,” Macron said at a joint news conference after the talks.

“A wake-up call was necessary,” he said, regarding NATO’s failure to address pressing challenges such as relations with Russia, the subject of Turkey, or even “who is the enemy?”

It is no longer Russia or China, Macron said: “Our common enemy… is the terrorism which has struck us all.”

Macron’s “brain death” comment, published in an interview with the Economist magazine this month, drew sharp criticism from allies, not least Stoltenberg, who warned against undermining the transatlantic alliance.

Stoltenberg said Thursday that “in uncertain times, we need strong multilateral institutions like NATO,” and that he had “good and open discussions” with Macron.

He praised, in particular, France’s role in fighting the spread of Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region of Western Africa, where 13 French soldiers were killed this week when two of their helicopters collided in Mali.

Call For Help In Sahel

Macron said that at next week’s NATO meeting in Watford, northwest of London, he would urge allies to get more involved in the Sahel fight.

While Britain has provided helicopters and security personnel to help France’s 4,500-member Barkhane force in West Africa, and the US provides intelligence support, Paris has so far failed to persuade other allies to make a significant contribution.

Underscoring that France’s forces were acting “on behalf of everyone”, Macron said: “A bigger engagement by the allies is obviously something that would be quite positive.”

Speaking later to Europe 1 radio Stoltenberg said that if Macron requested NATO’s help the alliance would consider the appeal “very seriously”.

Macron on Thursday also defended his push for a rapprochement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, rebuffing charges of naivety.

“Has the absence of dialogue with Russia made the European continent safer?… I don’t think so,” he argued.

In a controversial move, he suggested talks with Moscow over its call for a moratorium on deploying mid-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

The proposal came after the US walked away from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia earlier this year.

NATO diplomats have voiced concern about even considering Russia’s request to freeze the status quo, pointing out that it would give Moscow, which has already deployed the missiles, a military advantage over NATO, which has not.

Macron said he merely considered Moscow’s request as a “basis for discussions”.

The French president, who wants to wean Europe off its military dependence on the US, also insisted that European countries be involved in any efforts to forge a new missiles pact.

Turkey Reprimanded

A combative Macron also again took aim at Turkey over its unilateral decision to attack the Western-backed Kurdish militia that had been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria.

“I respect the security interests of our Turkish ally, which has suffered numerous attacks on its soil,” Macron said.

“But you cannot, on the one hand, say we are allies and demand solidarity in that regard and on the other hand present your allies with the fait accompli of a military operation that endangers the actions of the anti-IS coalition of which NATO is a member.”

The comments set the stage for a possibly fractious NATO summit in London on December 3-4, which will be attended by US and Turkish presidents Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Last year’s gathering got off to a stormy start, with Trump calling Germany a “captive” of Russia and demanding that NATO members double their defence spending.

Fresh tensions appeared within the alliance this year, after Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw US troops from northeast Syria, a move that cleared the way for Turkey to attack the Kurdish forces.

Trump, in turn, has repeatedly accused European NATO members of freeloading on the US by falling short of their commitment to spend at least two percent of GDP on defence.

Stoltenberg confirmed that Washington would cut its funding to the alliance’s operating budget to 16 percent of the total from 22 percent, with Germany and other nations taking up the slack.

Macron was dismissive of the budget debate.

“If some people want to see an example of what they term ‘cost-sharing’, they can come Monday to the ceremony France is organising” for the 13 soldiers killed in a midair helicopter collision while fighting insurgents in Mali, he said.

“There they will see the cost.”

Sex Tape: Benzema Makes Final Plea To Have Valbuena Case Dismissed

Benzema Scores Twice To Give Madrid Win Over Eibar
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 6, 2019. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Lawyers for Karim Benzema urged a top French appeals court on Monday to throw out a years-long case over an alleged attempt to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape, which has kept the Real Madrid star from playing for France’s national side.

The French striker argues that a police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair, which began in June 2015.

That was when Valbuena received a call from a blackmailer who threatened to release an intimate video and contacted the police.

Investigators later accused Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and Valbuena, which Benzema has denied.

While resorting to some ruses can be common in police work, “the sin is in the zeal shown by this officer”, Benzema’s lawyer Fabrice Spinosi told the Court of Cassation in Paris.

READ ALSO: Zidane Says Real ‘Not Looking For Revenge’ Against PSG

“He eventually took charge of the exchanges by regularly renewing his contacts” despite Benzema’s attempts to end their conversations, he said.

A previous appeal to a court in Versailles in December 2016 had failed, but the Court of Cassation later annulled that ruling and instructed the Paris Court of Appeal to hear the case again.

Benzema has been under formal investigation while fighting the charges and has not played for France since 2015.

The Cassation court said Monday that it would issue its decision on December 9.

If Benzema’s claim is rejected, the prospect of a trial will loom, whereas acceptance would likely result in the charges being dropped.

Car, Truck Swept Away As Bridge Collapses In France

The French flag

 

A suspension bridge over the Tarn river in southwest France collapsed on Monday, sweeping away a car and a truck, rescue workers said.

No information on casualties were immediately available.

The bridge connects the towns of Mirepoix-sur-Tarn and Bessieres, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of the city of Toulouse.

The head of the Haute-Garonne department Georges Meric told AFP that three vehicles were caught in the bridge collapse, without saying what happened to the third.

Over 60 emergency workers were at the scene, he said, adding that an investigation would be carried out into the condition of the bridge.

 

AFP

Euro 2020 Takes Shape As Netherlands, Germany And Croatia Qualify

 

The Netherlands, Germany and World Cup finalists Croatia expanded a list of big hitters to qualify for Euro 2020 on Saturday as the trio booked their places at next summer’s finals.

Austria also made it through to the multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, with 16 sides now ensured of a spot at the 24-team event and only four places remaining from the main qualifying route.

They join other big names such like world champions France, Spain, Italy and England, with European champions Portugal one win away from qualification.

Ronald Koeman’s resurgent Dutch needed a point to qualify for their first major tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup and got what they needed in a scrappy goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast.

“It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people,” Liverpool defender Van Dijk said.

However they were far from the flamboyant outfit that has so often thrilled in Group C, and survived a huge scare when Steven Davis smashed a first-half penalty high over the bar.

The Dutch dominated possession and stopped the hosts from having a single shot on target but failed to create much themselves.

Davis’ spot-kick blunder left Michael O’Neill’s side third and hoping for a way into the tournament via the playoffs.

Germany join the Dutch

The draw allowed fierce rivals Germany to move top in the group as Toni Kroos hit a brace in a simple 4-0 win over Belarus in Moenchengladbach which saw them qualify for the Euros for the 13th time in a row.

A deft back-heeled goal from defender Matthias Ginter just before the break and impressive finishing by Leon Goretzka and Kroos gave the Germans a comfortable three-goal lead early in the second half.

Captain Manuel Neuer produced a superb save to keep out Belarus striker Igor Stasevich’s penalty before Kroos dribbled through the defence to claim his second goal seven minutes from time and make sure of a routine win.

“Overall we did well, but at the moment I don’t include us among the favourites for the European title,” said Kroos, echoing coach Joachim Loew’s comments from earlier in the week.

A win over Northern Ireland in Frankfurt on Tuesday will guarantee Loew’s new-look side first place.

Croatia survived a scare to secure their place in the Euros after coming from behind beat Slovakia 3-1 in Rijeka.

The World Cup runners up needed just a point to ensure qualification from Group E but Robert Bozenik stunned the home crowd when he tapped the away side ahead in the 32nd minute.

However it was one-way traffic in the second half and Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.

“We were trying to stay calm in the dressing room at half-time, we were sure that our quality would prevail. We kept attacking, creating chances, and the goals came,” said Petkovic.

Wales with fighting chance

That win gives Wales a fighting chance of qualifying after their 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan earlier on Saturday.

Ryan Giggs’ side stay third thanks to first-half headed goals from Kieffer Moore and Harry Wilson and Slovakia losing against the Croats.

They are just one point behind second-placed Hungary, who travel to Cardiff on the final day for a winner-takes-all clash.

“It’s massive for us to get the three points and now we go again Tuesday,” said Moore. “We came here for the three points and we got them — now it’s all guns blazing towards Tuesday.”

Austria booked their place with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia that kept third-placed Slovenia at bay despite their 1-0 triumph over Latvia.

They are second in Group G behind Poland, who had already qualified going into this round of games but maintained a three-point lead at the top of the group thanks to a 2-1 win at Israel.

In Saint Petersburg, the Hazard brothers made short work of Russia as already-qualified Belgium maintained their 100 percent record with a 4-1 win that secured them top spot in Group I.

Eden and Thorgan Hazard put Roberto Martinez’s side three goals ahead at the break before in-form Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku crashed home the fourth in the 72nd minute to make absolutely sure of the result.

Bale Says He Gets More Enjoyment From Wales Than Real Madrid

Wales’ forward Gareth Bale poses before the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Slovakia and Wales in Trnava on October 10, 2019. VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP

 

Gareth Bale has risked fuelling the criticism of his commitment to Real Madrid by admitting on Friday he is more excited playing for Wales than for the Spanish giants.

Bale has not featured for Real since scoring in his country’s 1-1 draw against Croatia on October 13 and a calf injury has prevented him from even training with his club’s first-team squad.

So his decision to join up with Wales for their final Euro 2020 qualifiers against Azerbaijan in Baku on Saturday and Hungary on Tuesday has drawn negative comments in the Spanish press.

READ ALSO: Tsitsipas Shocks Federer To Reach Final At ATP Finals

“I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales,” Bale said at a press conference in Baku.

“I’ve been with most of the older players since we were in the Under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. It’s normal.

“With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn’t change what I do on the pitch. I always give 100 percent on the pitch wherever I am, that’s what I always strive to do.”

Former Real players and the media regularly accuse Bale of putting his love of golf before the club.

“I find it hilarious, to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me,” Bale said.

“On one it said triple bogey – and I’ve never had a triple bogey! At least give me an albatross! It’s funny.

“Some of the things I have seen, people don’t understand and don’t know what they’re on about. So I just find it quite funny.”

To have a chance of qualifying for their second successive European Championship, Wales probably need to win both games.

Bale said he wasn’t sure he would play the whole of both matches but defended his return to action in time for the Wales matches.

“I’ve done as much as I can in terms of trying to get back as quick as I can.

“If there had been a Real Madrid game this week, I would’ve been fit and training to play. Maybe to them, it doesn’t look great, but it’s just a kind of coincidence that the national team comes around this week.”

Payet Fires Marseille To Fiery Derby Win After Fans Attack Lyon Bus

Marseille’s French midfielder Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the French L1 football match between Olympique de Marseille (OM) and Olympique Lyonnais (OL) on November 10, 2019 at the Orange Velodrome stadium in Marseille, southeastern France. Sylvain THOMAS / AFP

 

Dimitri Payet scored twice as 10-man Marseille beat rivals Lyon 2-1 on Sunday in a bad-tempered derby which was overshadowed by the behaviour of a record home crowd.

The build-up to the game was focused on former Marseille boss Rudi Garcia’s return to the Stade Velodrome after his controversial decision to join Lyon as coach, but it is more likely to be remembered for ugly scenes off the pitch.

Home supporters attacked the Lyon bus with stones, bottles and other projectiles on its way to the stadium, before visiting players were repeatedly bombarded with objects thrown from the crowd while taking corners during the match.

Payet netted a first-half double as Marseille moved second in the Ligue 1 table, eight points adrift of Paris Saint-Germain.

The Lyon team coach was left with two shattered windows by the pre-game ambush, with club president Jean-Michel Aulas threatening to pull his team out of the match if anything else happened.

“We were bombarded with stones, bottles and other projectiles. It’s a disgrace, it’s just sick,” regional newspaper La Provence reported an unidentified passenger of the bus saying.

The match was also suspended for two minutes in the second half due to thick smoke billowing around the pitch, coming from pyrotechnics by the record Marseille crowd of 65,421.

Earlier in the evening, around 6,000 fans had gathered at a city beach to perform a short but boisterous ceremonial parade to celebrate Marseille’s 120th anniversary.

On-field controversy

Controversy also reigned on the pitch early on, as Marseille were awarded a penalty in the 13th minute for a clear handball by Thiago Mendes.

But there was a lengthy stoppage for a VAR review, before Leo Dubois collapsed to the floor in apparent agony after being lightly slapped by Dario Benedetto as the players waited for the penalty to be taken.

Another VAR check deciding against sending off the Marseille forward, with Payet slamming the spot-kick into the top corner five minutes after it had been originally awarded.

Lyon struggled to pose a threat up front, although their players did have to avoid several missiles, including plastic bags and cups, thrown from the stands.

Marseille moved two goals in front when Payet, who was in inspired form, won the ball from Bertrand Traore inside his own half, before later finishing the move with a low drive into the bottom corner.

Lyon gave themselves hope shortly after the interruption as Moussa Dembele headed home in the 59th minute when Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and defender Alvaro left Traore’s cross for each other.

Spaniard Alvaro was sent off just minutes later for hauling down Dembele with the striker clean through on goal.

But OM managed to hold on despite some late Lyon pressure, with Martin Terrier blasting the final chance wide in the 90th minute.

“It’s a night to enjoy,” said Marseille boss Andre Villas-Boas. “Payet was very motivated, he had a great match.

“I hope it will continue. We had a great desire to win the game. We felt that, and we had talked about that desire this week.”

Garcia’s Lyon remain 14th in the table, only four points above the relegation zone.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Lyon’s local rivals Saint-Etienne moved up to fourth with a 3-2 victory at Nantes, who have slipped from second to ninth in the table after four straight league defeats.

PSG had extended their advantage at the top on Saturday thanks to Mauro Icardi’s late winner in a 2-1 success at Brest.

Nigerian ‘Sex Slavery’ Ring Goes On Trial In France

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

 

Twenty-four suspected members of a sex trafficking ring accused of forcing Nigerian women into prostitution in France go on trial Wednesday, the latest case to highlight the growing use of Nigerian migrants as sex slaves in Europe.

Nigeria was the main country of origin of the migrants arriving across the Mediterranean to Italy in 2016 and 2017, though their numbers have since dropped.

Many of the arrivals were women and girls lured to Europe with false promises of jobs as hairdressers or seamstresses, only to find themselves selling sex on arrival to repay their debts.

Nigerians now outnumber Chinese or Eastern European sex workers on the streets of France and some other European countries.

Last year, 15 members of a Paris-based female-led pimping ring known as the “Authentic Sisters” were sentenced to up to 11 years in prison for forcing girls into sex slavery in France.

Many were themselves former trafficking victims-turned-perpetrators.

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Similar gangs have also been dismantled in Italy and Britain.

The investigation in Lyon, where police estimate half the city’s sex workers are Nigerian, began after authorities received a tip about a Nigerian pastor accused of exploiting several sex workers who lived in apartments he owned.

The pastor, Stanley Omoregie, has denied the charges, which include aggravated pimping and slavery.

But in the transcript of a conversation submitted to the court, he is heard saying he wanted “those with beautiful bodies, who can be controlled, not those that cause problems.”

The prosecution has presented him as the kingpin of a family-based syndicate made up of 10 women and 14 men, including one of Europe’s most wanted women, Jessica Edosomwan, accused of recruiting destitute women in Nigeria for the sex trade in Lyon, Nimes and Montpellier.

Edosomwan, who is believed to be on the run in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, will be tried in absentia.

From prostitution to pimping

The UN has estimated that 80 percent of young Nigerian women arriving in Italy — their first port of call in Europe — are already in the clutches of prostitution networks, or quickly fall under their control.

The accused in Lyon cover the entire gamut of sex trafficking activities, from iron-fisted “madams” and violent pimps as well as drivers of the vans in which the women perform sexual acts, and those tasked with laundering the proceeds of the trafficking.

Prosecutors estimate that 17 alleged victims, aged 17 to 38, made up to 150,000 euros ($166,000) a month for the syndicate, selling sex for as little as 10 euros.

Most of the women come from Benin City, capital of Nigeria’s southern Edo State, a human trafficking hotbed with a long history of dispatching women and men to Europe to earn money to send back home.

Many told investigators they had taken part in “juju” or black magic rituals before leaving Nigeria, during which they promised to repay the money they owed for their passage to Europe.

Many of the woman took the perilous migrant trail across the Sahara Desert to Libya and then across the Mediterranean to Italy before winding up in Lyon.

Among the accused is a 28-year-old former prostitute who was herself released from sex slavery after paying off her debts and who in turn brought over another young woman from Nigeria.

Months of police wiretaps and surveillance led to the arrest of the suspects between September 2017 and January 2018.

They risk 10 years in jail if convicted.