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SPORTS: February 2016

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Lebanon’s Armenian talent pool

( Friday 26 February 2016
Lebanon’s Armenian talent pool
A language spoken by millions around the world, football brings people together as one, a fact reflected by the clubs and organisations who last year took it upon themselves to offer their support to refugees. Their selfless initiatives earned them the FIFA Fair Play Award for 2015, which was accepted on their behalf at January’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala by Gerald Asamoah, the Ghanaian-born former Germany international.
Highlighting football’s ability to strengthen bonds, Asamoah told “Football unites us! No matter where you come from, you can forget your problems for a while simply by playing our sport.”
An example of that can be found in Lebanon, where many Armenians have been able to settle into a society known for its diversity, thanks in part to football. Though the country’s Armenian community has its own customs and traditions, over the last few decades the sport has allowed them to earn a place in the hearts of Lebanese people.
The three thousand-strong crowd that flocked to see the “Armenian” derby between third division sides Homenmen and Homenetmen two years ago showed the love that Lebanese people of Armenian extraction have for football. That attendance was higher than those attracted by a good number of the country’s premier league matches.
One of the best-known Lebanese players with Armenian roots is Wartan Ghazarian, until recently the national team’s leading goalscorer, a status now held by current Cedars captain Roda Antar. A veteran of two FIFA World Cup™ qualification campaigns, Ghazarian formed part of the side that representedLebanon in the country’s sole AFC Asian Cup appearance, 16 years ago.
Discussing the significant contribution made by players of Armenian extraction to the development of Lebanese football, Ghazarian told “When Homenmen and Homenetmen were in the top flight, there were a lot of players of Armenian origin in the national team, as many as five at one time.”
He added: “Homenmen and Homenetmen draw on players from the Armenian community, though a lot of them play with other clubs. They’ve made a big contribution because they’ve proven their talent, both at club and international level.”  
Faith in the future
Since Ghazarian’s last appearance for Lebanon, in a Korea/Japan 2002 qualifier against Thailand on 30 May 2001, the number of players of Armenian origin featuring in the national team has dropped to zero, with Hagob Donabedian being the last of them in 2006.
Not one featured in the Lebanon side that reached the final round of the qualification competition for Brazil 2014, in which the Cedars earned creditable wins over Korea Republic and Iran, both of whom went on to qualify for the world finals.
The same is also true of the Lebanon squad currently contesting the Russia 2018 qualifiers. Acquitting themselves well in Group G, alongside Korea Republic, Kuwait, Myanmar and Laos, the Lebanese remain in contention for a return to the final qualifying round.
The absence of an Armenian contingent in the national side can perhaps be explained by Homenmen and Homenetmen’s slide down the divisions, though Ghazarian also pointed to other factors: “The fact of the matter is that players are not getting into Lebanese youth teams, which explains why the big clubs don’t have any players from the Armenian community.”
A member of the backroom staff with Lebanese Premier League club Tripoli, Ghazarian added: “Homenmen and Homenetmen used to take a lot more interest in young players before. If that changes, then we might start seeing more players come out of the Armenian community and make an impact on the domestic scene and with the national team.”  
That change could already be taking place, with Lebanon coach Miodrag Radulovic calling up Armen Khadarian and Shant Kevorkian to his U-23 team, a decision that Ghazarian hopes will lead to the return of his brethren to the senior set-up and, who knows, to a long-awaited place at the World Cup.

Gianni Infantino elected FIFA President

Gianni Infantino has today been elected as the President of FIFA for the remainder of the current term of office (until 2019) by the Extraordinary FIFA Congress held in Zurich. He was elected as the ninth FIFA President after the second ballot with 115 of 207 total votes. In line with the FIFA Statutes, the mandate of the new FIFA President started after the conclusion of the Congress.

At the beginning of the proceedings, it was confirmed to the Congress that 207 FIFA member associations were entitled to vote (the member associations of Indonesia and Kuwait could not vote due to their respective suspensions). The candidate Tokyo Sexwale withdrew from the election after his address to the Congress.

Earlier in the day, the Extraordinary FIFA Congress approved a set of landmark reforms to FIFA’s governance structure, including improvements to the governance of global football, a clear separation of commercial and political decision-making, greater scrutiny of senior officials, and commitments to women in football and human rights.

Results of the elections for the office of FIFA President:
Ballot 1:HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein: 27 votes
Shk. Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa: 85 votes
Jérôme Champagne: 7 votes
Gianni Infantino: 88 votes
Ballot 2:HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein: 4 votes
Shk. Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa: 88 votes
Jérôme Champagne: 0 votes
Gianni Infantino: 115 votes

Thursday, February 25, 2016

El niño afgano hace realidad su sueño gracias a Messi

  • Murtaza se hizo famoso hace un mes al hacerse viral una fotografía suya con una camiseta de plásticos simulando que llevaba el ‘10’ de Leo
El niño afgano, con la camiseta de Messi dedicada
El niño afgano, con la camiseta de Messi dedicada
Hace un mes una foto de este niño conmovió al mundo después de hacerse viral por las redes sociales. En la imagen se podía ver a un niño afgano de tan sólo 5 años con una bolsa de plástico blanca y celeste con el nombre de Lionel Messi y el número 10 escrito con un rotulador por su hermano mayor. La historia emocionó a todos, en especial al crack del Barça, quien de inmediato actuó para que Murtaza pudiera ver cumplido de su sueño.
Primero fue la federación Afgana de fútbol la que le regaló al niño la camiseta del Barça con el 10 de Messi a la espalda y ahora ha sido el propio Leo, quien le ha hecho llegar una camiseta de Argentina firmada y dedicada por él a través de Unicef, de la que el crack azulgrana es embajador.
El padre del pequeño, Mohamad Aref Ahmadi, explicó semanas atrás que son una familia muy humilde que vive lejos de la capital del país, Kabul, por lo que se le hacía “imposible” conseguir la camiseta del diez argentino. La familia, además, no tiene televisor pero ve los partidos de Messi en la casa de los vecinos. La historia terminó enterneciendo a La Federación Afgana de Fútbol (AFF) y después de dos semanas de que se publicara la fotografía, el niño recibió un conjunto completo del Barcelona con el nombre de su capitán y se dio el lujo de probarlo con los juveniles de Afganistán, tal y como se puede ver en la foto adjunta.
El niño afgano con la camiseta del Barça contra los juveniles
El niño afgano con la camiseta del Barça contra los juveniles (OTRAS FUENTES)
Además, la AFF aseguró que mantuvo contactos con representantes del Barcelona y allegados a Lio, quien se mostró entusiasmado con la posibilidad de conocer aMurtaza. El “nuevo 10” de Afganistán. “Hemos tenido contactos preliminares, pero no sabemos aún dónde ni cuándo se realizará el encuentro”, detalló Sayed Ali Kazemi, portavoz de la Federación afgana.
A falta de que puedan verse en persona, el pequeño Murtaza ya es feliz con el nuevo regalo que le ha hecho llegar Leo. “Amo a Messi y mi camiseta pone que Messi me ama”, ha explicado el pequeño niño afgano, de sólo cinco años.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Goal gluts and finished famines

Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring
© Getty Images
Droughts dissolving for an Argentinian flea and a Bolivian force decorate’slatest stats review, along with records falling on Australia’s west coast and Spain’s east coast.

34years and 48 games without an away win in the Copa Libertadores came to an end after The Strongest won on the road – and versus no less than the three-time champions. After a 2-1 success at compatriots Jorge Wilstermann in the 1982 edition, Bolivia’s oldest existing club had lost 41 and drawn seven matches on their travels, and few expected them to arrest that sequence against a Sao Paulo side that had won their past five home Libertadores matches without conceding a goal. An unanswered second-half header from Matias Alonso nevertheless gave Mauricio Soria his first victory at The Strongest’s reins.
20successive victories is what Crvena Zvezda improved their own club record to on Saturday. The 1990/91 European Cup winners were expected to make light work of visiting Mladost Lucani, but they had to wait until the 73rd minute for new signing Damien Le Tallec to head them in front. Another debutant, Stevan Lukovic, playing against the club at which he started his career, then equalised with a low, swerving bullet, only for Hugo Vieira to nod home a late winner. It was the Portuguese forward’s ninth goal in his last five games. Crvena are a staggering 25 points clear of second-placed Borac Cacak in the regular season, which is more impressive when one considers that Partizan began 2015/16 as the favourites to seize their eighth league title in nine attempts. The arch-rivals clash in ‘The Eternal Derby’ next weekend.
10hours and 11 minutes was what it took Lionel Messi to finally break his Petr Cech duck. The Barcelona No10 had failed to score in six games while the Czech was guarding the Chelsea net, and he was 19 minutes away from extending that drought in north London when Neymar pounced on a Gerard Pique clearance inside his own half. A mere nine seconds later, following a nutmegged pass from Suarez and a canny Neymar assist, Messi broke the deadlock. Another rapid statistic further hurt Arsenal: 47 seconds after coming off the bench, Mathieu Flamini tripped the twinkle-toed Messi to concede a penalty, which the same player converted to complete a 2-0 victory. La Pulga has now scored 16 goals in all competitions in 2016 – more than any other player based in England, France, Germany, Italy or Spain.
9goals from nine scorers were the record-equalling figures that illuminated Australia’s ‘City of Light’ on Saturday. Brisbane Roar led 2-1 and 3-2, but Perth Glory rallied to go in at the break ahead and ensure seven goals were registered in the first half of an A-League match for the first time. The Purple Rain netted twice without reply after the restart to make it five consecutive victories for the first time in their history. It was only the third time more than eight players had netted in an Australian top-tier game, after Central Coast Mariners 4-5 Sydney FC in 2007 and Adelaide City 10-3 Mooroolbark in the 1977 National Soccer League, and was the fifth occasion nine goals had been posted in an A-League contest. It could have claimed the outright record had it not been for the bravery of Ante Covic. The 40-year-old goalkeeper dislocated a finger making a 57th-minute block, had it pushed back into place by the Glory physio, and made two fine saves thereafter. Perth, who only scored 15 goals in the first 14 rounds, have now hit 18 in their last five outings and rest just one place and one point beneath the playoff zone.
5goals in the first half of their UEFA Europa League Round of 32 clash against Rapid Vienna last Thursday saw Valencia become the first side to score that number in the first period of a match in the history of the competition. Amazingly, they all involved Santi Mina, who scored twice and notched his third assist before the clock hit 35 minutes. Rodrigo Moreno completed a 6-0 win late on, equalling Steaua’s 2014 thrashing of Aab as the biggest victory in the competition’s history and giving coach Gary Neville a memorable 41st birthday. The Englishman, who oversaw a 7-0 humiliation at Barcelona and had to wait ten games for his first Spanish La Liga win, has now masterminded three straight victories following Sunday’s 2-1 league success at Granada.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Barcelona testing: Fernando Alonso 'has no intention to leave F1

Fernando ALonso
Fernando Alonso managed more than 100 laps in the McLaren on day two of testing in Barcelona

Fernando Alonso said he has no intention of leaving McLaren or Formula 1 before his contract ends in 2017.
His future has been the subject of speculation after McLaren boss Ron Dennis said last November that they had discussed the idea of a sabbatical.
After his first test in the new McLaren, Alonso said he would "of course" see the season out, adding: "And the next one.
"I have a contract for three years. I'm not thinking about anything else."
He added: "This is a very important year for us."
The 34-year-old two-time champion, who is still regarded by many as the best driver in F1, indicated on Tuesday his wish for McLaren - and Honda - to turn their performance around after a difficult 2015 in which they finished ninth out of 10 teams.
"The ambition is very high," he said. "I am not here just to travel around the world and to jump in the car and have some fun on Sunday. I am here to win."

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso started the day all smiles, but it soon appeared that the McLaren may still be well off the pace of the front runners

At the end of 2014 Alonso quit Ferrari because he believed McLaren offered him a better chance of winning a third world title. Ferrari's lead driver Sebastian Vettel was fastest for the second day running on Tuesday during pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Alonso ended his first day in the 2016 car eighth fastest, 3.2 seconds off the pace, but 0.7secs quicker than team-mate Jenson Button had been on Monday.
The McLaren ran reliably - Alonso did the equivalent of a race distance in the morning session and managed well over 100 laps for the day.
Honda, which announced a new head of its F1 programme on Tuesday, has, according to Button, fixed one of the biggest issues with its engine - its weakness in deploying recovered electrical energy.
However, the engine is still believed to be a significant margin - perhaps as much as 100bhp - down on the standard-setting Mercedes in terms of absolute performance.
Honda has a new engine for next week's second and final test.
Alonso said McLaren-Honda needed to "improve all areas of the car" but said he believed the team could have the best chassis by the start of the European races in May.
However, he said he believed Mercedes' domination of F1 "had not finished".

Testing day two - who was fastest and what does it mean?

Sebastian Vettel
For the second day in succession Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) was fasted in testing

Vettel set the pace 0.715 seconds quicker than Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, as both drivers became the first to use the new ultra-soft tyre introduced for slow tracks this year.
Force India's Sergio Perez was third fastest on the super-soft tyre and Mercedes' Nico Rosberg fourth on the medium tyre.
Rosberg was two seconds off Vettel but Mercedes had an impressive day.

Don't believe the times

Rosberg completed more laps than anyone else - as did team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the first day of the test on Monday - and taking into account the differences between the tyres, world champions Mercedes still appear to have a very strong car.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg had an impressive day of testing, completing the most laps, despite only posting the fourth-fastest time of the day

The ultra-soft tyre is designed for low-grip slow tracks, not Barcelona, where the long corners and abrasive surfaces are hard on tyres. But it is much softer and would provide better grip and therefore greater speed over a short distance.
Tyre supplier Pirelli estimates the lap-time difference between the ultra-soft and the medium at 1.8-2.3secs, based on initial data.
Pirelli also said it believed the difference between the medium and super-soft was about 1.4-1.5secs - and Rosberg was only 1.2secs slower on medium tyres than Vettel's best time on the super-softs.
On the face of it, that might suggest Mercedes still had a small advantage over Ferrari.
However, the times are not necessarily directly comparable - even taking the tyres into account - because the teams do not reveal the fuel loads the cars are carrying - and 10kg of fuel is equivalent to nearly 0.4secs a lap at Barcelona.
Barcelona testing: day two - final times
* 2015 carVettel and Ricciardo set best times on the ultra-soft tyre; Perez on the super-soft; Ericsson, Bottas, Gutierrez, Wehrlein, Alonso and Palmer on the soft; all others on medium.
Sebastian Vettel (Ger)Ferrari1:22.810
Daniel Ricciardo (Aus)Red Bull1:23.525
Sergio Perez (Mex)Force India1:23.650
Nico Rosberg (Ger)Mercedes1:24.867
Marcus Ericsson (Swe)Sauber*1:25.237
Esteban Gutierrez (Mex)Haas1:25.524
Valtteri Bottas (Fin)Williams1:25.872
Pascal Wehrlein (Ger)Manor1:25.925
Fernando Alonso (Spa)McLaren1:26.082
Jolyon Palmer (GB)Renault1:26.189
Max Verstappen (Ned)Toro Rosso1:26.539
What can be said is that the Mercedes ran reliably and produced consistently impressive lap times over all its runs. Rosberg ran a remarkable 172 laps to add to the 156 done by Hamilton on Monday.
Vettel said he was "fairly happy" with the performance of the Ferrari - which is a much more radical design departure from last year's car than the Mercedes.
However, Ferrari are the ones with all the work to do - Mercedes had an average advantage of 0.6secs a lap in qualifying last year.
Vettel brought the session to a slightly premature end when his car stopped out on track with five minutes to go, causing a red flag.
Among the rest of the field, the new Haas team impressed, with Mexican Esteban Gutierrez setting the sixth fastest time after a delayed start because the car needed its front wing strengthened after a failure on Monday.

Esteban Gutierrez
Despite some technical difficulties, Esteban Guitierrez was sixth fastest on the second day of testing in Barcelona