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Football: Injured Messi to miss 3 weeks!

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BARCELONA: Lionel Messi is expected to be out for three weeks with a fractured right arm but his last contribution was to help send Barcelona back to the top of La Liga on Saturday.
Messi scored and then went off injured as Barca beat Sevilla 4-2 at Camp Nou, in a six-goal thriller that never looked like ending in anything other than a home win.
Any joy at jumping above in-form Sevilla, however, was tarnished by Messi’s injury, which will now rule him out of next weekend’s Clasico against Real Madrid.
A Barcelona club statement read: “Tests carried out on Leo Messi have confirmed that he has a fracture of the radial bone in his right arm. He will be out for approximately three weeks.”
It means Messi will also miss the Champions League match at home to Inter Milan on Wednesday, and probably the return trip to Italy on November 6, as well as league games against Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in between.
“It is clear it is a blow,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We know what he gives us and we know what he does to the opposition.
“We have to prepare ourselves, it is clear we are going to notice the loss of Messi but we have players that can cover.”
Messi fell to the ground following a tussle with Sevilla’s Franco Vazquez and, as his right hand tried to cushion the landing, his elbow appeared to buckle.
Messi was helped off the pitch by medical staff and, despite having his right arm heavily strapped, he was finally substituted in the 26th minute.
“Emotionally, we know when he is there, he gives us more confidence because he is the best in the world,” Gerard Pique said. “But it does not have to affect us.”
Philippe Coutinho had opened the scoring and Luis Suarez’s penalty, which he also earned, made sure of victory before a three-goal flurry in the final 11 minutes.
Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel twice reduced the deficit to two for Sevilla, either side of a sweeping volley from Ivan Rakitic.
Even without Messi, Barca might be confident of seeing off Madrid, whose slump had continued on Saturday with a 2-1 loss at home to Levante. Barcelona, meanwhile, seems to have sparked a rival.
Since drawing at home to Athletic Bilbao last month to make it three games without a win, they have blown Tottenham away at Wembley, taken a point away to Valencia and now eased past Sevilla, who came into the weekend top of the table.
Barca fans had chanted, “don’t touch the badge” before kick-off after president Josep Maria Bartomeu had announced plans to change the club crest had been shelved.
They were soon celebrating a goal too as Coutinho bent a sumptuous right-footed shot into the far corner with only two minutes on the clock.
Messi doubled the advantage, racing clear on the counter-attack before jinking inside and curling into the bottom corner with his left foot. It was his last significant involvement.
“He did enough didn’t he?” Sevilla coach Pablo Machin said afterward.
Ousmane Dembele was Messi’s replacement but Suarez took on the mantle, too quick to his own heavy touch and brought down by Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik. Suarez buried the penalty.
The game seemed up but Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to make a brilliant double save to deny Sarabia and then Wissam Ben Yedder with his thigh.
Sarabia gave Sevilla hope with 11 minutes left, his shot deflecting off Clement Lenglet and in, but Rakitic took the steam out of any comeback with a well-struck volley. Muriel added what proved only to be a consolation in injury time.

 

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Ahead of women’s World Cup, female fans struggle in Middle East

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DUBAI: Two weeks ahead of a potentially game-changing women’s World Cup, football remains completely male-dominated in large parts of the Middle East and North Africa, where female fans are still battling for a level playing field.

Women fans face obstacles in many parts of the region where rival powers Iran and Saudi Arabia have traditionally enforced rules banning women from entering stadiums.

No countries from the region will be among the 24 teams taking part in the tournament in France from June 7, but at least there are signs of flexibility in the region toward a sport igniting more and more female interest across the globe.

In Iran, rules have been relaxed since the 1979 Islamic revolution and women are selectively allowed to attend some matches.

But the fact that a ban has yet to be officially lifted indicates there is still disagreement over the issue among senior figures in the Islamic republic.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia allowed women into a football stadium for the first time in January 2018 for a regular domestic football league match.

The move was part of reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that included allowing women to drive and take part in other sporting and artistic events.

 

 

 

 

 

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Zidane the boss as Bale set for final game at Real Madrid

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MADRID: Zinedine Zidane hinted on Saturday that Gareth Bale could make his last appearance for Real Madrid on Sunday after saying he would make changes this summer ahead of the final match of their miserable La Liga season.

Bale fell out with Zidane towards the end of the Frenchman’s first spell in charge and their relationship has quickly soured again, with the Wales attacker starting just five times since the coach’s return in March and left out completely for Real’s last two matches against Villarreal and Real Sociedad.

Zidane said Bale would be in the squad against Real Betis on Sunday but, asked by reporters if it would be his last game for Madrid, he said: “I don’t know, I can’t tell you. It’s the season finale and next year there are going to be changes. But I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Madrid face Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu in their final match of a campaign that will see them finish third, behind both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and trophyless after being knocked out of the Copa Del Rey by Barca and the Champions League by Ajax.

Zidane has pledged to make changes once the campaign is over, with several players including Bale expected to be sold, and defended his right to make the big calls.

“It’s my decision,” Zidane told reporters. “That is clear as water. I’m the coach and I will always do what I want to do. If not, I’ll leave.

“For signings and those sorts of things we have people who work on them but we work together.”

Zidane took charge with Madrid’s season all-but over and their performances have fizzled out in recent weeks.

Their defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend means they have lost two of their last three matches and won only three of their last eight.

“The message is clear, it is the last game and we want to say goodbye to the fans with a good game and a victory,” said Zidane.

“It has been a complicated year and I want to convey that we are looking ahead to next season and to show the fans that we will return with enthusiasm to make them proud of the team again.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History made as women to referee men’s AFC Cup clash

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Asian Football Confederation announced Tuesday that for the first time an all-female referee team will take charge of a men’s continental club cup clash.

Japanese referee Yoshimi Yamashita and assistants Makoto Bozono and Naomi Teshirogi will officiate the AFC Cup match between Myanmar’s Yangon United and Cambodia’s Naga World at the Thuwunna Stadium on Wednesday.

“This will be the first time three female referees preside in the Asian Football Confederation’s club competitions, marking a new milestone in Asian refereeing,” the AFC said in a statement.

The AFC Cup is the second-string Asian club competition, a rung below the AFC Champions League.

Women officials have only previously been employed as assistant referees in AFC Cup matches, with Australians Sarah Ho and Alysson Flynn becoming the first in 2014.

“This is one of my dreams,” said the experienced Yamashita, who officiated in the 2016 and 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and 2018 Women’s Asian Cup.

“We’ve worked very hard and this is the result.”

Assistant referee Teshirogi said her appointment will inspire female referees in Asia while Bozono said the experience will help in her preparations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in June, where the trio will be among 12 officials from the AFC.

“It is exciting to work with Yoshimi and Naomi. They are very experienced and have been very supportive. I will learn a lot from them,” Bozono said.

 

 

 

 

 

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