Coronavirus Forces Paris To Cancel Lunar New Year Parade

 

Paris, home to two of the three French people taken ill in China’s coronavirus outbreak, cancelled a Lunar New Year parade on Sunday as a “precaution”, the capital’s mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

“Yesterday, I met members of the Chinese community in Paris who themselves wished to cancel the procession” scheduled for Republique square, the mayor told reporters.

“The principle of precaution takes precedence,” she added.

On Friday, France’s health ministry said three people who had recently travelled to China were confirmed to have contracted the virus — the first cases in Europe.

One was a patient at a hospital in the southwestern city of Bordeaux and the other two in the capital. All three were “very well”, according to France’s director-general of health Jerome Salomon.

Health officials were tracking other people the three had been in contact with.

The Lunar New Year, sometimes called Chinese New Year, marks the beginning of the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar.

This year, the start to the Year of the Rat fell on Saturday, but celebrations in China were dramatically scaled down amid a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 56 and infected nearly 2,000.

Hidalgo did not specify whether other New Year’s celebrations planned for the coming days would also be called off, including the main, yearly procession in Paris’ so-called Asian quarter, set for next Sunday.

“We were informed of the cancellation of the festivities last night,” said Pierre Ducerf, a representative of the Franco-Chinese Association.

Celebrations planned for Bordeaux on Sunday were also cancelled.

The outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, an industrial and transport hub of 11 million people in China’s centre, spreading to several other countries including the United States.

A precautionary lockdown of Wuhan city has since been expanded to much of the rest of Hubei province.

France on Sunday put in place a medical team of several dozen experts at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport to take charge of any arrivals with possible symptoms of infection with the contagious virus.

French carmaker PSA on Saturday said it would repatriate expat staff and their families — 38 people in total — from Wuhan.

They would be quarantined in the city of Changsha, 300 kilometres (180 miles) from Wuhan where the virus originated, before being allowed to return “to their countries of origin”, the company said in a statement.

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

AFP

Western Powers Condemn Iran Attack On US Bases

 

 

Western powers on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases housing the US and other foreign troops, urging an end to the escalating crisis.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran said it was in response to the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week, warning it would hit back even harder if Washington responded.

 Trump: ‘All is well’

“All is well!” US President Donald Trump’s tweeted. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

He would be making a statement Wednesday morning, he added.

– ‘Resounding blow’ –
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Soleimani as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief”, made it clear Israel would strike back if attacked.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” he warned.

‘Urgent de-escalation’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Iran to end its attacks.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition — including British — forces,” he said, urging Iran not to repeat them but instead to “pursue urgent de-escalation.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group. Britain’s defence ministry said there had been no British casualties.

‘No-one’s interest’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the attack was yet another example of “escalation and increased confrontation”.

“It is in no-one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,” he added. He too warned that the crisis was hampering the fight against Islamic State.

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis Friday to discuss what the bloc can do to reduce tensions.

‘Violation of… sovereignty’

Iraq’s prime minister’s office said it had received an official message from Iran warning it of the missile attack just before it happened.

Iran had told premier Adel Abdel Mahdi that “the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations”, said the statement from his office.

“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the premier’s office added.

Civilian flights rerouting

In the wake of the Iranian attack, a number of airlines said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, recommended airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Air France, KLM And Lufthansa Halt Flying Through Iran, Iraq Airspaces

 

 

A growing number of airlines said Wednesday they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace or flights to the region after Tehran fired ballistic missiles against bases housing US troops in Iraq.

“As a precautionary measure and following news of airstrikes underway, Air France has decided to suspend until further notice all flights through Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” an Air France spokesman told AFP.

Iran launched a series of missiles at the bases housing US troops in the early hours, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran’s supreme leader later called it a “slap in the face” after a US drone strike killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad international airport last week.

Shortly after the missile attacks, the US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

The regions is an important corridor for flights travelling between Europe and Asia, although planes can be rerouted.

A KLM spokesman told AFP: “Until further notice, KLM has no flights over Iranian or Iraqi airspace. All flights to different Southeast Asian destinations and other destinations in the Middle East will be flown through alternative routes.”

In Germany, Lufthansa said it had cancelled its daily flight to Tehran in addition to halting overflights of Iran and Iraq until further notice.

It added that Saturday’s twice-weekly service to northern Iraqi city Erbil would also not depart.

UAE carriers Emirates Airline and low-cost Flydubai said they had cancelled flights to Baghdad for “operational reasons”.

Australia’s Qantas said one of its London-Perth flights would be rerouted, with the other already flying an alternative route.

“We’re adjusting our flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice,” said a spokesman.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines said they would divert flights from Iranian airspace.

Vietnam Airlines said it will make “appropriate adjustments” of routes to avoid areas of potential instability although its regular flight paths to Europe do not pass over Iran and Iraq.

Japanese airlines ANA and JAL, and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific said their planes do not fly through airspace affected by latest flare-up.

Macron Urges Iran To Avoid ‘Escalation’, Voices ‘Solidarity’ With US

Macron Signs Controversial French 'Anti-Rioters' Bill Into Law

 

French President Emmanual Macron on Sunday assured US counterpart Donald Trump of “his complete solidarity” and urged Iran to avoid “military escalation that could aggravate instability in the region.”

Macron noted “mounting tensions in Iraq and in the region”, and expressed concern that Iranian forces that were commanded by slain general Qasem Soleimani could take actions that would destabilise the region, in a statement issued by the Elysee presidential office.

The French president “reiterated the necessity that Iran put an end” to such activities.

“The priority should be pursuing international coalition action against Daesh, with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty, for its security and for regional stability,” Macron said, using an Arabic name for the Islamic State group.

Man Killed, Two Injured In Paris Knife Attack

BREAKING: 'Multiple Casualties' As Gunman Opens Fire At US Synagogue

 

knife-wielding man went on the rampage in a park south of Paris Friday, killing a man out for a walk with his wife and wounding two other people before being shot dead by police, officials said.

The Paris police department said the man had attacked “several people” around lunchtime in the park in the suburb of Villejuif.

Some managed to evade him, but the man claimed at least one life — that of a 56-year-old Villejuif local, according to the commune’s mayor Franck Le Bohellec.

The victim “was walking with his wife when the attacker approached; he wanted to protect his wife and it was he who received the knife blows,” the mayor explained.

According to a source close to the inquiry, another man was seriously wounded in the attack and a woman sustained light injuries.

The attacker fled and was later shot dead by police in the neighbouring suburb of Hay-les-Roses.

He had made his way to a shopping centre “where he seemingly intended to continue his attack,” Hay-les-Roses mayor Vincent Jeanbrun told BFMTV.

“Luckily the police were quickly alerted and made their way rapidly to the scene where they neutralised him by killing him,” Jeanbrun said.

Police did not provide a motive for the attack, which came just four days before France marks the fifth anniversary of the killing of 12 people at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris by two brothers vowing allegiance to Al-Qaeda.

 High alert 

France remains on high alert after being hit by a string of attacks by jihadist extremists since 2015, with more than 250 people killed in total.

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a man linked to the Islamic State (IS) group shot and killed a policewoman in a Paris suburb before taking hostages at a Jewish supermarket the following day, killing four more people.

Police eventually killed all three attackers but it was the beginning of the wave of strikes on French territory.

The deadliest came in November 2013, when 130 people died in bombings and shootings at Paris’s Bataclan concert hall, several bars and restaurants, and the Stade de France sports stadium.

In 2016, a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice on the July 14 national holiday, killing 86 people. He was shot dead by police.

In December 2018, a man who swore allegiance to IS shot dead five people at a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg. Police shot and killed him after a two-day manhunt.

Most recently, a police staff member who had converted to a radical version of Islam stabbed four colleagues to death at the Paris police headquarters in  October.

AFP

Sixty Years On, Africa Still Seeks Right Model For Growth

 

 

As 1960 dawned, sub-Saharan Africa braced for historic change: that year, 17 of its countries were destined to gain independence from European colonial powers.

But six decades on, the continent is mired in many problems. It is struggling to build an economic model that encourages enduring growth, addresses poverty and provides a future for its youth.

Here are some of the key issues:

Youth ‘explosion’

Africa’s population grew from 227 million in 1960 to more than one billion in 2018. More than 60 percent are aged under 25, according to the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.

“The most striking change for me is the increasing reality of disaffected youth… a younger population that is ready to explode at any moment,” Cameroonian sociologist Francis Nyamnjoh told AFP.

“They are hungry for political freedoms, they are hungry for economic opportunities and they are hungry for social fulfilment .”

Joblessness is a major peril. Unemployed youths are an easy prey for armed groups, particularly jihadist movements in the Sahel, or may be tempted to risk clandestine emigration, often at the cost of their lives.

The continent’s population is expected to double by 2050, led by Nigeria, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Poverty and inequality

The proportion of Africa’s population living below the poverty line —- less than $1.90 (1.7 euros) per day —- fell from 54.7 percent in 1990 to 41.4 percent in 2015, according to the World Bank.

But this average masks enormous differences from one country to another, exemplified by Gabon (3.4 percent of the population in 2017) and Madagascar (77.6 percent in 2012).

“The inequalities between countries are as extreme as in Asia and the inequalities within countries as as high as in Latin America, where landless peasants coexist with huge landowners,” said Togolese economist Kako Nubukpo.

Christophe Cottet, an economist at the French Development Agency (AFD), pointed out that inequality in Africa is “very poorly measured.”

“There are notably no figures on inequalities of inherited wealth, a key issue in Africa.”

Mega-cities and countryside

Recent decades have seen the expansion of megacities like Lagos and Kinshasa, typically ringed by shantytowns where people live in extreme poverty, although many medium-sized cities have also grown.

More than 40 percent of Africans now live in urban areas, compared with 14.6 percent in 1960, according to the World Bank.

In 1960, Cairo and Johannesburg were the only African cities with more than a million residents. Consultants McKinsey and Company estimate that by 2030, about 100 cities will have a million inhabitants, twice as many as in Latin America.

But this urban growth is not necessarily the outcome of a rural exodus, said Cottet.

“The population is rising across Africa as a whole, rather faster in towns than in rural areas,” said Cottet.

“There is also the problem of unemployment in towns — (rural) people have little interest in migrating there.”

Lost decades of growth

Growth in Africa slammed to a halt in the early 1980s, braked by a debt crisis and structural adjustment policies. It took two decades to recover.

Per-capita GDP, as measured in constant US dollars, shows the up-and-downs, although these figures are official and do not cover Africa’s large informal economy: $1,112 in 1960, $1,531 in 1974, $1,166 in 1994 and $1,657 in 2018.

“If you do an assessment over 60 years, something serious happened in Africa, with the loss of 20 years. But there is no denying that what is happening now is more positive,” Cottet said.

The IMF’s and World Bank’s structural adjustment programmes “broke the motors of growth,” said Nubukpo, whose book, “L’Urgence Africaine,” (The African Emergency) makes the case for a revamped growth model.

The belt-tightening programmes “emphasised the short term, to the detriment of investments in education, health and training.”

New thinking needed

Africa has a low rate of industrialisation, is heavily dependent on agriculture and its service sector has only recently started to emerge.

“We have not escaped the colonial model. Basically, Africa remains a producer and exporter of raw materials,” said Nubukpo.

He gave the example of cotton: 97 percent of Africa’s cotton fibre is exported without processing — the phase which adds value to raw materials and provides jobs.

For Jean-Joseph Boillot, a researcher attached to the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, “Africa is still seeking an economic model of development.”

“There is very little development of local industries,” he said.

“This can only be achieved through a very strong approach, of continental industrial protection — but this is undermined by the great powers in order to pursue free trade.

“The Chinese, the Indians and Westerners want to be able to go on distributing their products.”

Governance problem

Lack of democracy, transparency and efficient judicial systems are major brakes on African growth, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, said the experts.

Of the 40 states deemed last year to be the most world’s most corrupt countries, 20 are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Transparency International.

“Africa is not developing because it is caught in the trap of private wealth and the top wealth holders are African leaders,” said Nubukpo.

“We must promote democracy, free and transparent elections to have legitimate leaders who have the public interest at heart, which we absolutely do not have.”

Nyamnjoh also pointed to marginalised groups — “There should be more room for inclusivity of voices, including voices of the young, voices of women.”

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.

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.

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.

Federer Drops Out Of Inaugural ATP Cup For Family Reasons

Swiss Roger Federer returns a ball to Australian Alex De Minaur during their final match at the Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel on October 27, 2019.
FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

 

Roger Federer has withdrawn from the ATP Cup, a new team competition to be held in Australia in January, citing “family reasons”.

“It is with great regret that I am withdrawing from the inaugural ATP Cup event,” Federer said in a statement.

“When I entered the event last month, it was a really difficult decision because it meant less time at home with the family and a fully intense start to the season.

“After much discussion with both my family and my team about the year ahead, I have decided that the extra two weeks at home will be beneficial for both my family and my tennis.”

The world number three, 38 years old, withdrew on Monday from this week’s Masters 1000 tournament in Paris, two hours before the start also saying he needed to rest.

The ATP Cup organisers tweeted: “@rogerfederer announced that he would not play the #ATPCup for family reasons and therefore Switzerland was removed” from the competition.

The ATP Cup is a new competition which competes with the revamped Davis Cup and will be held in Brisbane, Perth and Sydney from January 3-12.

“It pains me to not be a part of the most exciting new event on the calendar,” Federer said.

“But this is the right thing to do if I want to continue to play for a longer period of time on the ATP Tour.”

“For my Australian fans, I look forward to seeing you all at the Australian Open, fresh and ready to go.”

The Davis Cup will be held November 18-24 in Madrid but Switzerland did not qualify.

Federer will next play at the ATP Tour Finals in London, which get underway on November 10.