By Karolos GrohmannA 90-day provisional ban by FIFA on World Cup-winning player and coach Franz Beckenbauer has been lifted after only 15 days with world soccer’s governing body saying on Friday the German was now welcome at the tournament.German football association (DFB) president Wolfgang Niersbach welcomed the move and said he could not understand why FIFA had taken such a drastic step in the first place against someone who had done so much for international soccer.Beckenbauer, one of the world’s best known former players, had been banned two weeks ago after refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.The 68-year-old is a former member of the FIFA executive committee which controversially awarded the World Cup to Qatar in 2010, and had received “repeated requests” to provide information, FIFA said in a statement at the time of the ban.Beckenbauer has since had a change of heart and offered to provide responses to the questions which he had initially rejected because they were written in “legalese English.”FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke told reporters that Beckenbauer could now attend the tournament he graced as a player with West Germany.Beckenbauer has however indicated he has no plans to come to Brazil for the tournament.“As you know Franz is someone we all respect and was an amazing footballer and we would love him to have him here at the World Cup, even more because his national team is playing in the second round,” Valcke told reporters in Rio de Janeiro.“But it is his decision not to come to Brazil and that’s his decision,” he added.Beckenbauer’s manager Markus Hoefl had earlier announced the end of the ban, saying it had been unjust but conceding that it would have been better had the former player answered the questions posed to him by the commission earlier.“I underestimated the situation mainly because such issues were usually dealt with by my management,” Beckenbauer said.The ban issued at the start of the World Cup in Brazil meant he could not attend any games in an official capacity, embarrassing such a high profile figure in the game.FIFA told Beckenbauer that a repeat of his actions could lead to further sanctions.DFB president Niersbach said FIFA’s ban was an over-reaction.“It was completely incomprehensible to me why such a ban was issued on the second day of a World Cup,” Niersbach said in a statement to Reuters.“Perhaps Franz made a formal mistake but still that’s not the proper way to treat someone who has done so much for soccer all around the world.”As a player, Beckenbauer redefined the role of libero or sweeper and captained the West Germany side which won the 1974 World Cup.He led West Germany to World Cup victory as a coach in 1990 and was head of the local organising committee when Germany hosted the showpiece in 2006.
By Mike CollettIn-form West Ham United are just about the last team Manchester United would want to face on Saturday as Louis van Gaal’s side seek an immediate response to their Premier League collapse at Leicester City.West Ham, who have lost on their last six league visits to Old Trafford, thumped Liverpool 3-1 last Saturday the day before United twice lost two-goal leads and slumped to a 5-3 defeat at Leicester which left them 12th with one win from five matches.That loss left United eight points behind leaders Chelsea, who face unlikely third-placed occupants Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (5pm), while Southampton, the early season surprise packages in second place, face struggling Queens Park Rangers (5pm).The first Merseyside and north London derbies of the season also take place with Liverpool playing Everton at Anfield (2.45pm) and Arsenal taking on Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates (7.30pm).Liverpool drew 2-2 with Championship Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup before going through 14-13 after a marathon penalty shootout while Everton were knocked out 3-0 at Swansea City.Arsenal were also eliminated when they lost 2-1 at home to Southampton while Spurs came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest 3-1.Although league positions do not count for much at this stage of the season, form counts for a lot and West Ham showed their pedigree as goals from Winston Reid, Diafra Sakho and Morgan Amalfitano handed Liverpool a third defeat in five league games to leave them in 11th place.England international Andy Carroll, their record signing, was asked if they could add United’s scalp at a presentation about West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium.“One hundred per cent we can. I don’t see why not,” said the injured striker who hopes to be playing again by December.“You saw the way we played against Liverpool, the way we started, from the beginning, right from the off, and I don’t see anything changing from when we go to United.”Even without Carroll, West Ham have scored five goals in their last two games which suggests another high-scoring match at Old Trafford.United have netted seven goals in their last two league games but the five they conceded at Leicester has raised doubts about their ability to challenge for a top-four finish, let alone the title.“I know United have spent 150 million pounds on new players this summer but I think they need to spend another 100 million in the next two transfer windows before they can even think about winning the title,” former United defender Phil Neville said.While United flounder, others are prospering and few with as much style as Southampton, who have won their last five matches and enjoyed an impressive 2-1 win at Arsenal in the League Cup, their first win there for 27 years.“Of course, we have made a great start to the season, but it’s how you finish the season that really counts. But we believe in ourselves and our results are proving that,” coach Ronald Koeman said.Spurs will try to emulate Southampton by winning at Arsenal, something they have done only once in the last 21 years.They started the season well with four successive wins under ex-Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino, but drew two and lost two before seeing off Forest in the League Cup.Leaders Chelsea warmed up for the Villa game with a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup and Manchester City crushed Sheffield Wednesday 7-0 ahead of their trip to Hull City.Leicester travel to Crystal Palace (5pm), who won their first match of the season at Everton on Sunday and will be looking for their first home league win against Nigel Pearson’s promoted side following a 3-2 loss to Newcastle at Selhurst Park in the League Cup.
AFTER three days of tests and evaluations at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, Panikos Polykarpou of Cyprus won a major boost for his motor sport career by gaining selection to the FIA Institute’s 2015 Young Driver Excellence Academy.Polykarpou earned his place in the fully-funded 2015 Academy programme based on his overall display on the track, in the classroom and in the gymnasium during the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia qualifying event at the home of November’s F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.He now has the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous Academy graduates who have gone on to greater things, including World Rally Championship drivers Andreas Mikkelsen, Pontus Tidemand and Craig Breen, and Formula One reserve drivers Alexander Rossi, Stoffel Vandoorne, and Robin Frijns.While Polykarpou grabbed the top prize, there were no losers in Abu Dhabi, as each of the other 12 young drivers who had been nominated by the national motor sport authorities in their own countries gained invaluable knowledge and experience to help them in their careers. “I’m very happy to win, especially as I felt a lot of tension on the first day, ” said 23-year-old Polykarpou, who was warmly received as the winner by Mohammed Ben Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, organisers of the selection event, one of six being staged worldwide on behalf of the FIA Institute.“I have learnt a lot this week, and I’m very excited to be going through to the Academy because I will be among the best young drivers in the world and it can do a lot for me in my career.” Sulayem, the FIA Vice President, said: “We were proud to have been chosen by the FIA Institute to host this event for the second year in succession. It is a great tribute to the UAE’s status in motorsport, and to the wonderful facilities here at Yas Marina Circuit.“The Academy will give Panikos a great opportunity to take his career to another level, and it’s up to him now how far he goes. At the same time, each of the other drivers have gained a great deal of valuable experience and knowhow that can help them in their careers.”On the final day of the selection event the 13 drivers were quizzed by the judging panel, consisting of the FIA Institute’s Kate Robson, ATCUAE Motorsport Director Ronan Morgan, and professional racing driver and instructor Tom Onslow-Cole.Six drivers were then chosen for a shoot-out, with Polykarpou – a finalist in Abu Dhabi last year – being joined by the UAE’s Mansour Al Helei, Kuwait’s Ali Makhseed, Lebanon’s Patrick Njeim, Petr Borodin from Kazakhstan and Shalva Tsikhelashvili of Georgia. They each set off on timed laps of the Grand Prix circuit in the brand new high performance Nissan 370Zs used throughout three days of driving tests, courtesy of Nissan Middle East.Ultimately, the choice of Polykarpou as the regional winner was based not only on the shoot-out and all-round driving skills displayed over the three days, but also on physical fitness, mental sharpness, and ability to deal with the pressures and responsibilities faced in top-level motor sport.Sulayem said: “There were no losers here, and I’m very pleased to see that Mansour Al Helei showed so much improvement on last year and gave such a good account of himself to reach the final stages this time.” Beginning in November, the next Academy provides a fully-funded training programme which develops young talent and promotes safety in motor sport.
By Martyn HermanHome favourite Andy Murray stayed afloat at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 6-3 7-5 win over big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic on Tuesday night.After losing to Japan’s Kei Nishikori in his opening Group B match at the season’s finale on Sunday, Murray knew only a win against Raonic would keep his hopes alive and he duly delivered with a solid display at a jam-packed 02 Arena.Murray needed one break of serve to clinch the opening set and struck again at 5-5 in the second as Raonic faltered.He clinched victory in one hour 31 minutes and on his second match point and will now go into his final Group B match against six-time champion Roger Federer on Thursday with a place in the semi-finals at stake.Federer is top of the group with a 100 per cent record after beating Nishikori earlier.
By Steve KeatingPersistence finally paid off for Kevin Anderson as the towering South African prevailed in a slugfest with Andy Murray to reach the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open on Monday while another tennis giant John Isner was slain by Roger Federer.Two David v Goliath matchups, however, ended all too predictably as 97th ranked British qualifier Johanna Konta saw her Flushing Meadows joy ride ended 7-5 6-3 by fifth seeded Czech Petra Kvitova and 68th ranked American Donald Young ran out of comeback magic in a 6-4 1-6 6-3 6-4 loss to fifth seed Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.Tomas Berdych’s time in Flushing Meadows also came to an end with the sixth seeded Czech falling 2-6 6-3 6-4 6-1 to 12th seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet.Seven times before the six-foot, eight-inch (2.03m) Anderson had progressed to the fourth round of a grand slam but never beyond until his 7-6(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 7-6(0) victory over third seeded Scot Murray.Murray had battled his way back from two sets down in the second round against France’s Adrian Mannarino, but could not work another miracle against the 14th-ranked, 29-year-old, who swept the final tiebreak 7-0.“That’s obviously something that is disappointing to lose,” said Murray after watching his run of reaching 18 consecutive grand slam quarter-finals come to an end. “That’s many years’ work that’s gone into building that sort of consistency.“Also to lose a match like that, that was over four hours, tough obviously after a couple of tough matches earlier in the tournament, as well. It’s a hard one to lose, for sure.”Second seed Federer also came face-to-face with one of the ATP Tour’s biggest hitters and coolly defused six-foot, 10-inch (2.08m) Isner’s booming serve to claim a 7-6(0) 7-6(6) 7-5 victory.Roger FedererFederer held his own from the service line to thwart Isner, never losing his serve, and used his returning skills to derail a pair of long streaks enjoyed by the American.The 34-year-old Federer closed out the two hour, 39 minute fourth-round match by breaking Isner’s serve, ending the American’s string of 108 consecutive service holds at the U.S. Open.His perfect scoreline in the opening set tiebreak snapped an even longer Isner streak.In 429 tiebreakers played by Isner, he had never dropped one 7-0.“Seven-love obviously is a pretty good score against John,” said Federer.Second seed Simona Halep overcame a thigh injury, baking heat and finally big-hitting German Sabine Lisicki to also reach the U.S. Open quarters for the first time.It was Labor Day in the United States but it was certainly no holiday for Halep who had to work for her spot in the last eight, needing two hours and 38 minutes under a broiling sun to dispatch Lisicki 6-7(6) 7-5 6-2 and reach the U.S. Open quarter-finals for the first time.Waiting for the Romanian in the last eight is two-time U.S. Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, who advanced with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over American Varvara Lepchenko.After a couple of days of relief, the heat returned to Flushing Meadows turning the fourth round clash between Halep and Lisicki into a test of survival.After dropping the opening set Halep called out the trainer to have treatment on her left thigh and at the end of the second the players left the court when the heat rule came into effect, but through it all the exhausted Romanian was able to gut out a victory.Her left leg heavily strapped, a wounded Halep sensed her opportunity when Lisicki began to cramp in the third set and stretch between every point.Halep, who converted 10 of 11 break chances, claimed the most crucial one to go ahead 4-2 and then held serve to break her 24th seeded opponent again and clinch a spot in the last eight.Italy’s Flavia Pennetta returned to the quarter-finals for the fourth consecutive year easing past 2011 U.S. Open winner Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-4 6-4.
By Karolos GrohmannThe former head of international athletics, Lamine Diack, organised “conspiracy and corruption” at the heart of the federation and sanctioned fraud and extortion of athletes, independent investigator Dick Pound said in a report released on Thursday.Pound’s report added to a rapidly growing scandal involving organised doping and its concealment that has rocked world athletics and drawn comparison with a corruption and governance scandal at football’s governing body FIFA.Pound found that Diack, a Senegalese who stepped down as president of the IAAF last year, had established his own “informal, illegitimate governance structure” at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).But the report said other senior staff “could not have been unaware” that normal procedures were being circumvented.“It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” the report said, adding that governance processes at the organisation had been inadequate.“The corruption was embedded in the organisation. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on his own.”Pound, a former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), had already rocked global athletics in November with the first part of his report, which led to athletics superpower Russia being banned from international competition for state-sponsored doping.The IAAF’s own Ethics Commission subsequently banned former IAAF anti-doping chief Gabriel Dolle, two top Russian athletics officials and Diack’s son Papa Massata Diack for covering up a Russian runner’s positive dope test and for blackmailing her over it.The furore has put huge pressure on Sebastian Coe, Diack’s successor who served as one of his vice presidents for seven years.However, Pound expressed confidence in Coe’s ability to conduct the necessary reforms at the IAAF.“There is an enormous amount of reputational recovery, and I can think of no one better than Lord Coe to lead that,” he told a news conference in Munich.Allegations of corruption and money laundering linked to Russian athletes have also led French prosecutors to open a formal investigation against Diack.As well as Lamine Diack, French prosecutors are investigating his lawyer Habib Cisse, his son Massata and Dolle. The prosecutors were due to give an update on their investigation after the WADA commission’s news conference.Massata Diack, a former marketing executive for the IAAF, has denied wrongdoing on his own and his father’s behalf’
Hosts France brought Iceland’s dream Euro 2016 run to a grinding halt when they demolished the outsiders 5-2 in their Euro 2016 quarter-final on Sunday to earn a mouth-watering last four meeting with Germany.Iceland’s resistance was broken after 12 minutes when Blaise Matuidi’s pass over Iceland’s defence sent Olivier Giroud clear and he placed an angled shot past keeper Hannes Halldorsson.Paul Pogba headed the second in the 20th and France ended Iceland’s hopes when Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann scored twice in three minutes to put the hosts 4-0 ahead at halftime.Kolbeinn Sigthorsson turned in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross in the 56th for Iceland but Giroud then scored his second when he headed in Payet’s free kick three minutes later. Iceland’s Birkir Bjarnason got a consolation goal six minutes from time.
Roger Federer felled high-flying Steve Johnson at Wimbledon on Monday, knocking the wind out of the powerhouse with a 6-2 6-3 7-5 win in the fourth round.Despite considerable pre-match hype about Johnson, fresh from victory at the Nottingham grass court event, there was to be no Independence Day party for the burly American, asFederer showed more than enough to suggest he remains on track for a record eighth Wimbledon men’s singles crown.While Andy Murray-supporting Brits have been rubbing their hands with glee over Novak Djokovic’s shock third-round defeat, the biggest beneficiary of the Serb’s removal may yet prove to be third seed Federer, who on Monday drew level with Martina Navratilova on a record 306 grand slam singles match wins.In the quarter-finals, Federer will play Croatian ninth seed Marin Cilic who advanced after his opponent, Japanese fifth seed Kei Nishikori, retired injured while trailing 6-1 5-1.
It follows the arrest of Coe’s predecessor Lamine Diack last year as part of a French police investigation into allegations he headed a cabal of IAAF officials who accepted bribes in return for the covering up of Russian doping tests. Coe is not implicated, although he has faced scrutiny because he was an IAAF vice-president at the time this was going on. “I think Seb Coe is smart enough, he’s a great guy who can do this,” nine-time Olympic gold medallist Lewis told Associated Press after being unveiled as a member of the Los Angeles 2024 Athlete Advisory Committee.”But at the end of the day, when you’re talking about drugs and issues like this, you’re talking about credibility. “If he was willing to step aside and let someone independent come in and really clean this up, he’d be the perfect guy to come back in and run it.” Lewis, who competed at the same time as Coe, had backed the Briton to become president in 2011, telling insidethegames that he would be “tremendous” in the main role and would “really help clear things up”. Lewis admitted in 2003 that he had failed three tests for a stimulant at the 1988 United States Olympic trials. He claimed, however, he was one of “hundreds” of American athletes allowed to escape bans at the time by the United States Olympic Committee. Lewis, though, has been a long-time critic of the IAAF, claiming they have not done enough to tackle the issue of doping in the sport. “It’s not rocket science,” he said. “A lot of the countries that had issues… Diack ran to defend them immediately, and now we find out he’s taking bribes.” Coe has received support from several senior figures, including Richard Pound, the Canadian who headed the World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Commission which uncovered serious failures of governance within the IAAF. Pound warned that the corruption within the body “cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on his own”. He still insisted though that Coe remain the right man for the job and that he “cannot think of anyone better” to take the organisation forward. Coe was also unanimously supported by the IAAF’s six Area Associations following a meeting of the respective Presidents at Cap d’Ail in France last month.
Coach Ernesto Valverde will get his first proper taste of the scorching rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid when the two giants of Spanish football meet on Sunday at the Nou Camp in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup.Barca beat Real 3-2 in a pre-season ‘Clasico’ friendly in Miami in July but the stakes will be far higher in the Super Cup, the annual curtain raiser in Spain between the Liga champions and King’s Cup holders.The second leg takes place next Wednesday in Madrid.The two teams have not met in the competition since 2012, which was the last time Real lifted the trophy. One of the most defining images in the recent history of the rivalry came in the 2011 edition, when Jose Mourinho poked Barca’s then assistant coach Tito Vilanova in the eye as tensions boiled over following a dramatic 3-2 win for the Catalans.Barca beat Juventus and Manchester United in addition to the Spanish champions in a promising pre-season tour of the United States, but have since been rocked by losing Neymar, one third of the ‘MSN’ strike force including Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi that routinely battered Liga defences,Barca have so far failed in their efforts to spend the 222 million euros Paris St Germain paid them for Neymar, seeing bids rejected for Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund’s Ousmane Dembele which leave the club wracked with doubts before facing a supremely confident Madrid side.With Paco Alcacer or Gerard Deulofeu as his only options to join Messi and Suarez in a front three, Valverde may stray from the 4-3-3 formation his predecessor Luis Enrique preferred in order to bolster the midfield to counter Real.Madrid outclassed Manchester United to win the European Super Cup 2-1 with a powerful four-man midfield although they will be without Luka Modric in the first leg due to a suspension dating back to Madrid’s last appearance in the Super Cup in 2014.The Croatian’s absence gives Real coach Zinedine Zidane a dilemma over whether to bring in another midfielder against Barca, such as Mateo Kovacic or new signing Dani Ceballos, or revert to a front three to accommodate Gareth Bale, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to make his first start for Real since the Champions League final.Ronaldo will be the centre of attention at the Nou Camp after a summer in which he reportedly threatened to leave Madrid although Valverde’s tactics should also focus on how to shackle Isco, the chief conductor of Real’s win over United and who has been in scintillating form in 2017.Zidane’s side, meanwhile, will be equally attentive to the movements of Messi, the all-time top scorer in the Clasico who stunned the Bernabeu with a last-minute 3-2 winner but who has not scored against Real at the Nou Camp since 2012.