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Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA best player award for 4th time

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> ZURICH (AP) — Capping what he called the best year of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo won his fourth FIFA best player award on Monday. The double European champion with Portugal and Real Madrid beat great rival Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann to complete a sweep of top individual awards. 'It was a year that was magnificent at a personal level and at a sporting level,' the 31-year-old Ronaldo said in Portuguese in his acceptance speech, which he began by exclaiming 'Wow, wow, wow.' Ronaldo's fourth career FIFA award closed the gap on five-time winner Messi, who has been the runner-up to each Ronaldo victory. His 34.54 percent of total voting points in a 23-candidate ballot was clearly better than Messi's 26.42 percent. Griezmann got 7.53 percent. Voting was by national team captains and coaches, selected media, and fans online. Messi did not attend after being pulled out hours before the ceremony by his club Barcelona to prepare for a cup match on Wednesday. 'Of course, I wish that they (Barcelona players) had been here tonight like in the other years. We have to respect the decision,' Ronaldo said. Yet again, Ronaldo and Messi snubbed each other on ballot papers they got as captains of Portugal and Argentina. Ronaldo selected three Real Madrid teammates headed by Gareth Bale, and Messi picked Luis Suarez atop an all-Barcelona ballot. Ronaldo's 2016 trophy haul included the European Championship, Champions League, and Club World Cup, plus individual best player awards from UEFA and France Football magazine. 'I won a lot trophies, collective and individual, so I am proud,' said Ronaldo, adding he would send the inaugural silver FIFA Best trophy to the museum dedicated to his career on his home island, Madeira. Messi's Barcelona won the Spanish league and cup double in 2016, though Argentina lost another Copa America final. Griezmann's France and Atletico Madrid lost their finals to Ronaldo's teams. Ronaldo's mentors for club and country were beaten to the coaching award by Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri, who earned the prize for a stunning English Premier League title. 'What happened last year was something strange. The God of football said Leicester must win,' said Ranieri, who was in his first season at the unfashionable provincial club widely tipped for relegation. Ranieri rose from his seat and politely shook hands with his two opponents, Madrid's Zinedine Zidane and Portugal's Fernando Santos, plus their partners before heading to the stage. The 65-year-old Italian collected his trophy from Diego Maradona, who earlier Monday played in an exhibition match with other retired greats at FIFA headquarters. Carli Lloyd of the United States won a FIFA player prize for the second straight year, despite a quarterfinals exit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. With gold-medal winner Melanie Behringer of Germany in third place, Lloyd got more than 20 percent of the vote and five-time winner Marta of Brazil was runner-up with 16.6 percent. Behringer got 12.34 percent. 'I honestly was not expecting this,' Lloyd said. 'I know Melanie did fantastic in the Olympics.' Germany did win the women's coaching prize as Silvia Neid earned her second FIFA prize, after also winning the 2010 award. Neid beat two previous winners: last year's winner, Jill Ellis of the United States, and Pia Sundhage of Sweden, the Olympic silver medalist. The Puskas Award for best goal was won in an online poll by Mohd Faiz Subri, who scored with a wildly swerving long-range free kick for Malaysian club Penang. A players' vote organized by international union FIFPro gave a World XI of: Manuel Neuer (Germany, Bayern Munich); Dani Alves (Brazil, Barcelona/Juventus), Sergio Ramos (Spain, Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Spain, Barcelona), Marcelo (Brazil, Real Madrid); Toni Kroos (Germany, Real Madrid), Andres Iniesta (Spain, Barcelona), Luka Modric (Croatia, Real Madrid); Messi, Luis Suarez (Uruguay, Barcelona), Ronaldo. The First FIFA fan award was chosen by fans and was made to supporters of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, who joined in singing the English club's anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' before a Europa League quarterfinal. The other nominees were Iceland fans at Euro 2016, and Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord. FIFA made its Fair Play Award to Atletico Nacional, the Colombian club which was scheduled to host Chapecoense in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final on Nov. 30. After most of the Brazilian team died in a plane crash flying to the match, Atletico Nacional asked the South American soccer confederation to present the title and trophy to Chapecoense. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 9th, 2017

A guide to FIFA's options for expanding the 2026 World Cup

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer   FIFA is preparing to decide Tuesday on adding 16 more teams to the 2026 World Cup for a 48-team tournament. President Gianni Infantino's favored format would break with soccer tradition to play in groups of only three teams. Two would advance from each group to a Round of 32 knockout bracket. If agreed by the Infantino-chaired FIFA Council in Zurich, the 2026 hosting contest could formally open in weeks. A co-hosted North American bid is widely seen as the best option. Here are some things to know about overhauling the greatest competition in the world's most popular sport: ___ WHY EXPAND? A bigger World Cup was an Infantino campaign promise before his election last February, when his plan was 40 teams. It might have been key. Infantino's momentum for victory in a second-round poll was a three-vote lead over Sheik Salman of Bahrain in the first. Sheik Salman had promised only to review if more World Cup teams were wanted. Infantino also pledged to give more of FIFA's money to member federations — all 211 are now entitled to $5 million from each World Cup — and send more to continental and regional soccer bodies. So, more teams also had to mean more games, earning more revenue from broadcasters and sponsors. The '16x3' format arguably works better with only group winners advancing. But that would leave total matches unchanged at 64. Infantino also wants to create fervor in the extra countries which would qualify. In the short-term, competing national teams attract more sponsors. The long-term goal is appealing to more young people who are the future players, fans and officials. Expect to hear much FIFA talk of helping the next Costa Rica or Iceland — feelgood stories at the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 — by inviting 16 more teams to the party. ___ 48-TEAM OPTIONS A near-consensus is growing around the '16x3' option revealed just one month ago. All 80 games would be played in exclusive time slots. That's more hours of TV exposure for sponsors and sales time for broadcasters in the same 32-day tournament period. By advancing two teams from each group, a Round of 32 ensures most teams still play at least three matches. FIFA's own analysis predicts this format will raise revenue by 20 percent from the equivalent $5.5 billion forecast from the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The flaw for purists is planning for penalty shootouts to settle drawn group matches. If each game has a 'winner' that guards against teams colluding on a mutually favorable result in the last group games. Previously, Infantino suggested an opening playoff round of 16 matches to decide who would join 16 seeded teams in a traditional 32-team group phase. That was unacceptable to many FIFA members federations who said 'one-and-done' teams were not part of a real World Cup. It also would stretch the tournament to 39 days. ___ 40-TEAM OPTIONS Infantino's plan from one year ago is now almost friendless. Either of two options, 10 groups of four teams or eight five-team groups, gives lopsided or weak match schedules, FIFA judged. In '10x4,' only 76 matches are played and only six group runners-up advance from a muddled tiebreaker process to a Round of 16. In '8x5,' the 88 matches include meaningless ones in a flabby group phase ripe for collusion. Also, the four semifinalists would play eight matches and that workload is unacceptable to European clubs releasing employees to national-team duty. ___ PROVEN 32-TEAM FORMAT Why fix something that is not broken? Germany, the defending champion, has publicly asked this question. The 32-team format and perfect 64-match bracket has worked well since being introduced at the 1998 World Cup in France (where Europe had 15 teams). FIFA acknowledged that it produces the best soccer — 'the highest absolute quality' of games pitting high-ranked teams against each other. Recall that former winners Italy, England and Uruguay were drawn in the same 2014 World Cup group — and yet Costa Rica finished top. Still, enough of FIFA's 211 members want change and their chance to play. ___ WHO WILL PLAY? A big question is likely not being resolved Tuesday. FIFA has yet to announce exactly how many entry slots each of six confederations would get for their own qualifying program. Quotas for a 40-team World Cup were proposed in December 2015 by a FIFA advisory group that included Infantino, then UEFA's general secretary. Some saw a cynical move to sweeten skeptical FIFA voters who were being asked to vote through modernizing and anti-corruption reforms on the same day they picked a new president. Then, assuming a single host nation would get automatic entry, the proposal for sharing 39 qualifying slots was: Europe 14; Africa 7; Asia 6; South America 5; North, Central America and Caribbean 5; Oceania 1; plus a final slot awarded 'based on sporting merits using a method yet to be defined.' Going from 40 to 48 can add at least one more from each continent. Who could those new teams be? On current form, maybe Wales and Panama, Congo and Burkina Faso, Uzbekistan and Oman, will bring something new to the 2026 World Cup. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 8th, 2017

Ronaldo favored to win his 4th FIFA award as world's best

GRAHAM DUNBAR, AP Sports Writer br /> Cristiano Ronaldo's remarkable run of success can continue with a fourth FIFA award as the world's best player on Monday. A European champion with club and country last year, the Real Madrid and Portugal forward is favored to beat great rival Lionel Messi and France forward Antoine Griezmann when winners of the rebranded Best FIFA Football Awards are presented in Zurich. Messi leads Ronaldo 5-3 in their career-long duel for FIFA's top individual prize. However, Ronaldo is set to complete a hat-trick of major awards for 2016 after taking home trophies presented by UEFA and France Football magazine's prestiguous Golden Ball. FIFA will also name the best women's player, and the best coaches in men's and women's soccer. Voting is by national team captains and coaches, selected journalists and — for the first time — an online poll of fans. Each category counts for 25 percent of the points. Here is a look ahead to the awards ceremony: ___ CRISTIANO RONALDO After Messi in 2015, it was Ronaldo's turn to win the Champions League in 2016 as the prolific scorer netted 16 goals in the competition. He also got the decisive penalty in a shootout after a 1-1 draw with Griezmann's Atletico Madrid. But where he really dominated Messi was on the national-team stage. Ronaldo captained Portugal to a long-awaited first title at the European Championship — two weeks after Messi's Argentina again lost the Copa America final to Chile. Portugal seemed a long way from glory, and faced a humiliating group-stage exit, before Ronaldo's two goals helped salvage a 3-3 draw with Hungary. He also netted in the 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. In the final against host France, Ronaldo went off injured in the first half, then returned to the bench for extra time as — with his knee strapped — he passionately urged teammates on to a 1-0 win. For good measure, Ronaldo scored a Club World Cup final hat trick against Kashima Antlers in December, but that was after FIFA voting had closed. ___ LIONEL MESSI Messi looks to extend a streak of being winner or runner-up in nine straight seasons since placing second behind Kaka of Brazil in 2007. Last year, Messi and won a Spanish league and Cup double with Barcelona. Yet there was another painful Copa America final loss — a third straight year Argentina lost a major final without scoring — and a Champions League quarterfinal exit against Atletico. Nearing his 30th birthday, Messi's prolific scoring rate has not slowed, and 10 goals in the Champions League group stage means that Ronaldo's season record of 17 — set in 2013-14 — is within his sight this year. ___ ANTOINE GRIEZMANN Griezmann's goals helped get France and Atletico Madrid into major finals in 2016. In the Champions League final in Milan, Atletico trailed 1-0 to its city rival when Griezmann missed with a penalty kick that struck the crossbar. Still, he confidently converted his kick in the penalty shootout. Griezmann's six goals at Euro 2016 made him the tournament top scorer. In a tricky round of 16 match, his two goals overturned an early Ireland lead, and he also struck twice — including a coolly taken penalty — against favored Germany in the semifinals. However, he missed two good chances in the final against Portugal as France 1-0 in extra time. ___ COACHING AWARD Could the coach of a provincial club side beat the men who coached European champions Real Madrid and Portugal? Yes, when that coach is Italian Claudio Ranieri and his team, unheralded Leicester City, won an English Premier League title that delighted and stunned fans worldwide. Zinedine Zidane started 2016 having never coached a senior match. The newly appointed Madrid coach won a Champions League title within five months and started 2017 riding a 37-match unbeaten run. Fernando Santos marshalled one of the less obviously talented Portugal teams of recent years to win Euro 2016 despite winning only one of its seven matches during the 90 minutes. ___ WOMEN'S AWARDS Germany's Olympic gold medal-winning team is favored to sweep the awards. Midfielder Melanie Behringer is challenging two past FIFA award winners: defending champion Carli Lloyd of the United States and five-time winner Marta of Brazil. All three coaching candidates are previous FIFA award winners: Silvia Neid of Germany, last year's winner Jill Ellis of the United States and Pia Sundhage of Sweden. ___ FIFA AWARDS FIFA has added a Fan Award to its annual ceremony, and all three candidates from an online poll are European. Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund, whose fans sang You'll Never Walk Alone before a Europa League match at Anfield; Dutch club ADO Den Haag, whose fans brought soft toys to children supporting rival team Feyenoord; and the Iceland fans at Euro 2016 for their inspirational clapping salute to players after games. A fans' vote will also decide the Puskas Award for best goal. The candidates are: Marlone of Corinthians, Daniuska Rodriguez of the Venezuela women's Under-17 team, and Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysian side Penang. FIFA will also present a Fair Play award, and members of the players' union FIFPro worldwide have voted to select a World XI team. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 6th, 2017

Djokovic wins, then poses for selfie, Murray advances

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Defending champion Novak Djokovic and top-seeded Andy Murray posted straight-set wins on Wednesday to reach the Qatar Open quarterfinals, but only Djokovic was asked to pose for a selfie by his opponent after the match. Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam champion, honored the unusual request of Horacio Zeballos of Argentina after his 6-3, 6-4 win. 'I just have to mention making a selfie after the match was over, that was the first time that I ever had this kind of experience in my career,' Djokovic said on the court. 'So, Horacio, well done. Very original.' Murray had a challenging outing against Gerald Melzer of Austria, the younger brother of former world No. 8 Jurgen Melzer, before advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (6) 7-5 win. 'He played great, great tennis and was dominating large parts of the match,' said Murray, who was on the defense through much of the match. 'He made it extremely, extremely difficult. I was a bit lucky to through in two sets today. 'I think he's playing much better than someone ranked 69 in the world,' Murray added. In the first set, Murray required nine set points before Melzer mis-hit a forehand to surrender the set. In the second, Melzer saved two Murray match points on his own serve in the ninth game, and then broke for 5-5. Murray broke Melzer's serve on a fourth break point in the 11th game and then sealed the victory on a third match point when Melzer blasted a shot long. 'Today was a perfect example of the depth in the men's games just now,' Murray said. 'I actually played pretty good, but he was hitting the ball huge from both sides. You need to be ready for every single match.' Murray, a two-time champion in Doha, will face Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the quarterfinals. Djokovic never offered Zeballos a break point opportunity, but could only carve out one service break in each set against the Argentine's serve. 'Credit to Zeballos for playing some fearless tennis,' Djokovic said. 'He was stepping in and trying to go for his shots. He wasn't backing up to the baseline.' Djokovic will play qualifier Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic, in the quarterfinals. At 38, Stepanek, who ranked a career-best No. 8 in July 2006, is the oldest ATP Tour quarterfinalist since a 42-year-old Jimmy Connors reached the final eight at the 1995 Halle tournament. Stepanek defeated wildcard entrant Arthur De Greef of Belgium 6-3, 6-2 for his quarterfinal berth. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco needed six match points, three in the second set tiebreaker, to upset fourth-seeded David Goffin of Belgium 6-1, 7-6 (6). Verdasco will play sixth-seeded Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the last eight. The other quarterfinal will pit third-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic against fifth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who beat Dustin Brown of Germany 6-1, 6-3. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

105-year-old Frenchman sets cycling record

SAMUEL PETREQUIN, AP Sports Writer   SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Nearly a century ago, Robert Marchand was told by a coach that he should give up cycling because he would never achieve anything on a bike. He proved that prediction wrong again on Wednesday. In a skin-tight yellow and violet jersey, the 105-year-old Frenchman set a world record in the 105-plus age category -- created especially for the tireless veteran -- by riding 22.547 kilometers (14.010 miles) in one hour. 'I'm now waiting for a rival,' he said. Marchand had ridden faster in the past on the boards of the Velodrome National, a state of the art venue used to host the elite of track cycling. But he had warned before his latest attempt that his current form was not as good. 'I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left,' Marchand said after his effort. 'Otherwise I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I'm not tired. I thought my legs would hurt, but they don't. My arms hurt, you have to hurt somewhere.' Three years ago at the same venue, Marchand covered 26.927 kilometers (16.731 miles) in one hour to better his own world record in the over-100s category. Still, impressed fans and chanted 'Robert, Robert' during the last minutes of his ride. Marchand received a standing ovation once he completed the last of his 92 laps and was then mobbed by dozens of cameramen and TV crews. 'He could have been faster but he made a big mistake. He has stopped eating meat over the past month after being shocked by recent reports on how animals are subjected to cruel treatment,' Marchand's physiologist, Veronique Billat, told The Associated Press. By way of comparison, the current overall world record for one hour is 54.526 kilometers (33.880 miles) set by British rider Bradley Wiggins in 2015. But Wiggins, who smashed the previous record using the world's leading track cycling equipment, is now retired. Marchand, who lives in a small flat in a Parisian suburb with a meager pension of about 900 euros ($940), keeps pedaling and stretching every day. As if time had no effect on him. 'He's got two essential qualities. A big heart that pumps a lot of blood, and he can reach high heart beat values that are exceptional for his age,' said Billat, a university professor. 'If he starts eating meat again and builds more muscle, he can better this mark.' Marchand, a former firefighter who was born in 1911 in the northern town of Amiens, has lived through two world wars. He led an eventful life that took him to Venezuela, where he worked as a truck driver near the end of the 1940s. He then moved to Canada and became a lumberjack for a while. Back in France in the 1960s, Marchand made a living through various jobs that left him with no time to practice sports. He finally took up his bike again when he was 68 years old and began a series of cycling feats. The diminutive Marchand — he is 1.52 meters (5-foot) tall and weighs 52 kilograms (115 pounds) — rode from Bordeaux to Paris, and Paris to Roubaix several times. He also cycled to Moscow from Paris in 1992 and set the record for someone over the age of 100 riding 100 kilometers (62 miles). 'If the president of his teenage club who told him he was not made for cycling because he was too small could see him today, he would kick himself,' Marchand's coach and good friend Gerard Mistler told the AP. According to Mistler, the secret behind Marchand's longevity relates to his healthy lifestyle: eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, no smoking, just the occasional glass of wine and exercising on a daily basis. 'He never pushed his limits, goes to bed at 9 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m., there's no other secret,' Mistler said. 'If had been doping, he would not be there anymore.' To stay fit, Marchand rides every day on his home trainer and puts himself through outdoor training sessions on the road when the weather is good enough. 'One needs to keep his muscles working,' said Marchand, a faithful reader of communist newspaper L'Humanite. 'Reading a lot keeps his mind alert,' Mistler said. 'He does not watch much TV, apart from the Tour de France stages.' At 105, Marchand is not making plans for the future. His coach would not be surprised to see him back on the boards, though. 'Setting goals for himself is part of his personality,' Mistler said. 'If he tells me he wants to improve his record, I'll be game. Robert is a great example for all of us.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 4th, 2017

World No. 1 Murray wins his opening match of 2017 in Doha

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Top-ranked Andy Murray extended his winning streak to a career-best 25 matches by defeating Jeremy Chardy of France 6-0, 7-6 (2) in his first match of the year at the Qatar Open on Tuesday. Murray attained the No. 1 ranking in his final match of the season last year, winning a career-best ninth title by upsetting then No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the ATP Finals championship match. Murray, who won back-to-back Doha titles in 2008 and 2009, was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd when he took to the court. One fan held up a handwritten sign, 'Welcome to Doha Sir Andy,' referencing his recently being knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth. Murray won the opening set by posting only one unforced error and seven winners. In all, Murray had nine unforced errors and 18 winners. The 69th-ranked Chardy settled into the second set, even managing to break Murray's serve in the first game. But from 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker, Murray reeled off five straight points to finish off the match. Murray, who has beaten Chardy in nine of the 10 matches they have played, will face Gerald Melzer of Austria in the next round. Fifth seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, playing in Doha for the first time since he won the title in 2012, ousted Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. The win booked Tsonga a second-round outing against Dustin Brown of Germany. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 3rd, 2017

The World: Maverick Macron enters French presidential race

PARIS -- French ex-economy minister Emmanuel Macron, a 38-year-old political novice, announced his bid for the presidency on Wednesday, as an alternative to the "same men and same ideas" that have guided France for decades......»»

Category: financeSource:  bworldonlineRelated NewsNov 16th, 2016

Czech retain Fed Cup

Czech Republic cemented its status of best team in the world by retaining its Fed Cup title on Sunday after Barbora Strycova and Karolina Pliskova won the decisive doubles match in the final against France......»»

Category: newsSource:  tempoRelated NewsNov 15th, 2016

Mauresmo steps down as France's Fed Cup captain

PARIS (AP) — Amelie Mauresmo has stepped down as France's Fed Cup captain as she is expecting her second child. Former top-ranked Mauresmo made the unexpected announcement on Monday — a day after France lost 3-2 in the Fed Cup final to def.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 14th, 2016

Czech Republic retains Fed Cup title, its 5th in 6 years

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Czech Republic cemented its status of best team in the world by retaining its Fed Cup title on Sunday after Barbora Strycova and Karolina Pliskova won the decisive doubles match in the final against France. The .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 13th, 2016

Silent fans remember victims of Paris attacks 1 year on

JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer br /> SAINT-DENIS, France (AP) — Players linked arms as fans stood to observe a minute's silence at Stade de France one year after the Paris attacks. Friday's poignant silence before the World.....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 11th, 2016

Giroud and Gameiro competing to start up front for France

PARIS — Despite helping France reach the European Championship final, striker Olivier Giroud finds himself once again fighting for his place in the national.....»»

Category: newsSource:  philstarRelated NewsNov 10th, 2016

3-time defending champion John Isner reaches Atlanta final

ATLANTA (AP) — Three-time defending champion John Isner won the tallest matchup in ATP World Tour history, beating Reilly Opelka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 on Saturday in the BB& T Atlanta Open semifinals. The 6-foot-10 Isner had 22 aces and never faced .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 7th, 2016

Drinks lift LVMH profits as fashion stalls

PARIS, France – LVMH, the world's biggest luxury goods company, on Tuesday, July 26, reported higher profits for the 6 months to June, helped by a strong drinks division, while fashion failed to contribute to earnings growth. LVMH's net profit rose 8% i.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJul 27th, 2016

Farewell Philae: Earth severs link with silent comet probe

PARIS, France (UPDATED) – Earth bid a final farewell to robot lab Philae on Wednesday, July 27, severing communications after a year-long silence from the pioneering probe hurtling through space on a comet. (READ:  'Time to say goodbye' to comet prob.....»»

Category: newsSource:  rapplerRelated NewsJul 27th, 2016

Nice striker Balotelli says Bastia fans racially abused him

PARIS (AP) — Nice striker Mario Balotelli says he was racially abused by Bastia fans who made monkey noises during Friday night's French league match. The Italian forward wrote a message on his Instagram and Twitter pages on Saturday describing the abuse he heard during the 1-1 draw at the 20,000-capacity Armand Cesari stadium in Corsica. 'Is it normal that Bastia supporters make monkey noise (and) 'uh' 'uh' for the whole game and no one of the 'commissions discipline' say nothing?' Balotelli wrote, referencing the French league's disciplinary committee. 'So is racism legal in France? Or only in Bastia? Football is an amazing sport. Those people like Bastia supporters make it horrible!' Balotelli, 26, the son of Ghanaian immigrants to Italy, concluded his post by writing in French that what happened was 'une vrai honte,' or a total disgrace. Nice's official Twitter account shared Balotelli's message. The French league has yet to comment on the matter. Balotelli joined from Liverpool on a free transfer in August and has scored eight league goals in 10 games to help Nice challenge for the title. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Darvish wants to prove himself in final year of Texas deal

STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer br /> DALLAS (AP) — Yu Darvish marked his five-year anniversary as a Texas Ranger this week. Now healthy again, he wants to prove how good a pitcher he is. 'It's not much about my contract, but coming back from Tommy John surgery,' Darvish said through his interpreter at the Rangers' winter banquet Friday night. 'This will be my second year to see how my body reacts and how much I can do to prove how good of a pitcher I am. That's what I'm looking forward to.' Darvish is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers in January 2012 after seven seasons in Japan. While the 30-year-old Darvish is 46-32 with a 3.29 ERA in 100 career starts for Texas, he missed all of the 2015 season because of the surgery and didn't pitch for the Rangers last season until May 28. Darvish was 7-5 with a 3.41 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings during the regular season. But in his first AL Division Series start last October, he gave up a career-worst four homers. Three of them were in the same inning of a 5-3 loss to Toronto in Game 2 of the best-of-five series that the Blue Jays swept. 'I would love to pitch in that kind of situation again this year,' Darvish said. 'And I would like to pitch very well.' Darvish said he just started throwing again and feels 'really good.' Texas spent more than two years scouting Darvish and getting to know him personally before committing more than $107 million to get him. On top of his guaranteed $56 million contract, the Rangers had to pay in the old system a massive $51,703,411 posting bid to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, his team in Japan. The 2017 season could have become a player option without a buyout had Darvish won the Cy Young and finished second-through-fourth another time, or finished second in the voting once and second-through-fourth two other times. Darvish finished second behind Max Scherzer in the 2013 AL Cy Young voting, when the Rangers right-hander was 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and a league-high 277 strikeouts. He was an All-Star each of his first three seasons (2012-14), a span in which he had 680 strikeouts before getting shut down late in the 2014 season because of elbow inflammation. 'I am really grateful to the Texas Rangers organization by just giving me this big of a contract. They've been taking care of me really well,' he said. 'So I just want to show the Rangers how much I can do and then show them that they were right giving me that contract.' Darvish said he considered it too much of a risk just two years after surgery to compete in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Then, he smiled and said, 'At the end, let me tell you that I didn't get offered' a spot. NOTES: The Rangers announced they will retire uniform No. 7 during an August ceremony to honor former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week and will be inducted with the class of 2017 on July 30 in Cooperstown, New York. The only other Rangers to have their numbers retired by the club are Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan (No. 34) and former manager Johnny Oates (No. 26). .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 21st, 2017

Willett struggling to rediscover game before Masters defense

STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Danny Willett has 2½ months to rediscover his game before making a pressure-filled return to Augusta National as the defending Masters champion. br /> Odds are that won't be long enough. Willett finished 2016 in a rut after dealing with fresh levels of attention for being a major winner as well as a mid-season swing change. Following a short off-season when he sacrificed practice to enjoy a break from golf and his first Christmas as a father, his start to 2017 is hardly encouraging. br /> Rounds of 74 and 76 saw Willett become the biggest name to miss the cut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Friday. He was 121st in a 126-man field, with his second round marred by a quadruple bogey 9 at the 10th when everything that could go wrong did go wrong. br /> Next comes the defense of his Dubai Desert Classic title in two weeks. Then all roads lead to Augusta for the Masters starting April 6. br /> 'I think if I'm playing bad, the attention will die down quite nicely, to be honest,' Willett said, when asked if the build-up to the Masters will be a hindrance. br /> Initially, the green jacket weighed heavily on the shoulders of Willett. Everyone wanted a piece of him after he capitalized on Jordan Spieth's back-nine collapse to be a surprise winner of the Masters. He popped up inside Wimbledon's Royal Box, and was a guest at the World Snooker Championship in his home city of Sheffield. br /> The attention died down, allowing him to return his focus to golf. But he is without a win since Augusta and has only three top-10 finishes in that eight-month period. br /> 'At the end of last year, I was working hard and doing the right things, but it was like I was knocking my head against a brick wall,' Willett said. 'I wasn't analyzing it properly. It was all just bad. It wasn't, but that's how I analyzed it.' br /> Willett is trying not to get too down about his play in Abu Dhabi. Finishing with two birdies — and two more decent birdie chances — in his final four holes helped, but couldn't disguise his problems in the previous 32. br /> His main issue was pulling lots of shots as he tried to hit a cut. That led to a triple-bogey 7 on Thursday and a quadruple-bogey 9 at the 10th hole on Friday, when he drove left into the desert, went out of bounds with his third shot, found a bunker with his fifth, and then three-putted. br /> Willett said he was 'slightly shocked' at the contrast between his form on the range and his form on the course. br /> 'Christmas golf-course rust,' Willett said. 'All joking aside, I know there were a few horrendous scores in there, but there was some better stuff in there, too.' br /> ___ br /> Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80 br />   .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

A tournament without Djokovic to hit home in Australia

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer br /> MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The stark reality of an Australian Open third round without Novak Djokovic — for the first time in 11 years — hits home on Saturday when the remaining players in his half of the draw, Rafael Nadal and Milos Raonic among them, attempt to advance to the second week of the tournament. Djokovic was beaten on Thursday in five sets by wild-card entry Denis Istomin, the earliest that the Serbian star has left Melbourne Park in singles since his first appearance here in 2006 when he was beaten by American Paul Goldstein in the first round. 'What Novak did here is just amazing, six victories here, six titles ... so it is not possible to be every time in that situation, no?' Nadal said after his second-round win. 'So then today was probably an accident, that's all. We are athletes. We know when we are going on court we can lose and we can win. It probably was a combination that Denis played a great match and Novak didn't play his best. When this combination happens, then you are in trouble. Everything can happen. And (it) happened.' Istomin, meanwhile, plays on. He's up against 30th-ranked Pablo Carreno Busta on Show Court 2 on Friday. Here's a look at some of the key matchups Saturday: ___ RAFA'S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: Nadal plays 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in an afternoon match at Rod Laver Arena. The young German was voted the ATP Star of Tomorrow in 2015 and has mostly lived up to the hype, seeded 24th here. 'He is one of the best players in the world, without a doubt ... and one of the next Grand Slam winners,' Nadal said. 'He has a big chance to become the future world No. 1 if he's able to keep improving the way that he's doing.' Nadal has been playing well since his return to the circuit after two lengthy injury spells last year, the 14-time major winner looking almost flawless in his straight sets win over Marcos Baghdatis in the second round. Still, he's expecting to have his hands full with Zverev: 'I know I have a very tough match ... I know I need to play my best if I want to have a chance.' ___ A SERENA BREATHER?: Six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams had two fairly tough matches through the first two rounds, facing Belinda Bencic, a former No. 7-ranked player now sitting at 59, and Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 61 but who Williams beat in the 2015 French Open final. Williams won both matches in straight sets. Her third-round match is against fellow American Nicole Gibbs, who Williams beat in straight sets at Stanford in 2012 in their only previous meeting. Williams said she feels she's better for the experience of having had tough opposition in the first two rounds. 'When I play players like Bencic and Safarova, they force me to play better,' Williams said. 'It forces my game from the very first day to be at a high level. I needed something to start really fast. I'm not going to complain about it.' ___ CONTRASTING STYLES: Third-seeded Milos Raonic plays Gilles Simon on Hisense Arena and the Canadian holds a 3-1 edge in career meetings. Their only Grand Slam match came in the fourth round of the 2014 French Open, when Raonic won in five sets, including 7-5 in the fifth. 'I know a lot about his game. I've watched him play a lot,' Raonic said. 'He's going to be there really trying to get me to play at his speed, his rhythm. Obviously he tries to slow things down, play low. I won't have the opportunity to get too many swings at many shots.' Which means Raonic, with one of the best serves in the game, will try to get points over quickly. 'I've got to serve well and I've got to be aggressive and I've got to take it to him. The last thing I want to do is get into this sort of game of playing long rallies with him.' ___ KONTA vs WOZNIACKI: Last year's semifinalist Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki, a former No. 1 who made it to the final four here in 2011, meet for the first time in an afternoon match at Margaret Court Arena. Both have been playing well, Konta coming off a win in the Sydney International last week, and Wozniacki having dropped just seven games in her first two matches at Melbourne Park. 'She had a good last year,' Wozniacki said. 'But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter who is on the other side.' .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017

Germany launches bid as favorite to host Euro 2024

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The German soccer federation has formally launched a bid to host the 2024 European Championship. Federation president Reinhard Grindel says it will choose 10 stadiums and work with Transparency International during bidding ahead of UEFA's decision in September 2018. German organizers of the 2006 World Cup are criminal suspects in a Swiss federal investigation of irregular payments linked to FIFA. Still, Germany has been seen as the favorite to host Euro 2024 since reaching a deal with England to withdraw from competing to host the Euro 2020 semifinals and final. A combined Scandinavian bid has also been suggested for Euro 2024. However, UEFA said last month a maximum of two hosts would get direct qualification to the 24-team tournament. UEFA set a March 3 deadline for federations to express interest. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJan 20th, 2017