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Pele backs Brazil to win sixth World Cup

Monitoring Desk

RIO DE JANEIRO: Footballing legend Pele said that Brazil are favourites to win the World Cup in Russia, four years on from their humiliation on home soil.

Five-time winners Brazil were thrashed 7-1 in the 2014 semi-finals by eventual champions Germany at the Maracana, but Pele, considered one of the best players of all time, insisted that new coach Tite has formed a team ready to put his country´s painful memories to rest.

“Those who are Brazilian and believe in Brazil always point to Brazil as the favourites,” the 77-year-old said while attending the opening ceremony of the Rio de Janeiro league on Monday.

The Selecao romped to qualification as winners of the South American group, with Tite building an exciting side featuring the world´s most expensive player Neymar and new Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho.

“One of the good things that happened was the arrival of Tite, he´s making a team,” Pele added. “In the last World Cup we had the best players in the world but the team was disorganised. “It seems that now we´ll have a team and a Selecao that gives us confidence.”

Pele, who won three World Cups with Brazil in 1958, 1962 and 1970, has been struggling with ill health and Monday was his first public appearance with a zimmer frame, having attended December´s World Cup draw in a wheelchair.

“I´m fine, thank goodness, and I want to thank all those who sent me messages wishing me a good recovery from all over the world,” he said.

Pele, who scored over 1,000 goals during his career, also claimed that modern football produces fewer great players than in his era, despite the presence of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

“Today, there are only three players who really stand out; Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar,” he said. “Before, at the time of Cruyff or Beckenbauer, there were three in each team.”

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Shoaib Malik narrowly escapes head injury

Monitoring Desk

LAHORE: Pakistan cricket teams all rounder Shoaib Malik narrowly escaped head injury while trying to take a run as he was hit on his head with a wayward throw during the fourth one day international against New Zealand at Hamilton on Tuesday. Shoaib was assessed on field by match doctor and team physio.

“He did not show any sign of concussion and was able to carry on playing”, said a spokesman of the Pakistan Cricket Board here. After getting out he was re-assessed and was showing delayed concussion signs. He was doing well and resting, he stated. As advised by match doctor and team physio Shoaib will not be taking any further part in this match, he added.

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Mitchell Johnson pulls out of PSL 3

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Australian pacer Mitchel Johnson has pulled out of the upcoming edition of Pakistan Super League.

Sources privy to the matter have confirmed to media that Johnson, who was picked by Karachi Kings, has informed the PSL management of his unavailability. “Mitchel has informed the PSL that he needs some rest before the much attractive and lucrative Indian Premier League,” said one source.

The Australian fast bowler, who was in the platinum category of players for the PSL was picked by Karachi Kings after demoting to the Diamond category for the third season. Sources believe that Mitchell Johnson was unhappy over being demoted from the platinum category to the diamond category of players.

“This can be one understandable reason that he wasn’t happy about his category. He might have come if he was in platinum,” said a source. “Another reason was his unwelcoming relationship with Karachi Kings’ coach Mickey Arthur over an infamous homeworkgate scandal.

Johnson was one of four players suspended for the third Test of the 2013 tour of India along with Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson.

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U19 World Cup: Afridi stars as Pakistan humiliate Ireland

Monitoring Desk

WHANGAREI: Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi decimated the Irish batting line-up and guided Pakistan to a comfortable nine-wicket win in the International Cricket Council (ICC) U19 World Cup Group D match in Whangarei on Tuesday.

After deciding to bowl first in bowling friendly conditions, the Boys in Green remained on top and never gave Ireland any relief throughout their innings with immaculate line and length. Harry Tector’s men were eventually bowled out for just 97 in the 29th over, as JoshuaLittle finished with the top score of 24 off 20 balls with the help of two fours and one six.

For Pakistan, Afridi was the star of the show as he claimed figures of six for 15 in his 8.3 overs, which included three maidens as well, whereas captain Hassan Khan claimed three wickets with his tidy left-arm spin.

In reply, the Boys in Green cruised to the target in less than nine overs at the loss of just one wicket. Opener Muhammad Zaid finished the innings with the top score of 43 not out off 19 balls with the help of seven fours and one six. For his outstanding bowling performance, Afridi was named player of the match.


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Happy to be visiting Pakistan again, says Dutch Hockey Legend

ISLAMABAD (APP): Former Netherlands penalty corner specialist Floris Jan Bovelander shared his excitement regarding coming back to Pakistan as part of World XI tour.

“I am very happy to be back in Pakistan,” he said in a video statement shared by Pakistan Hockey Federation, private news channel reported. Bovelander can be seen in the video sitting in his office with a picture of Netherlands match against Pakistan in the background. Pointing towards the picture, he said: “As you can see in office here some good memories from the 90s and the 80s….this one [hanging picture is] from Olympics 1988 playing Pakistan.

“Of course, one of our finest moments in Lahore winning the world cup and beating Pakistan. Four years later, Pakistan beats us in final world cup. Good memories for Holland and Pakistani hockey.” The hockey legend also remarked that he believes that “Pakistan should be always at the top of hockey. Hopefully, with this event and with support from all of us, Pakistan hockey will be back.”

He shared that he looks forward to meeting friends and revisiting memories in Pakistan. “Hope this aspires the children, and [proves to be] motivation for youth to get back to hockey.” Bovelander was a part of the Dutch national squad which secured two gold medals at 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. During his career, Bovelander played 241 international matches for the Netherlands and scored a total of 216 goals.

Earlier, Netherlands’ Matthijs Brouwer and Rob Reckers along with New Zeland’s Kyle Pontifex and Phillip Ross Burrows had shared their excitement to visit Pakistan. The World XI will visit Pakistan on a three-day visit during which it will play two exhibition matches against the current Pakistan hockey team. The international players will arrive in Pakistan on January 19.


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Israel banning reconstruction work at Al-Aqsa: Official

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: The Israeli authorities have warned officials at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque against undertaking any restoration work inside the flashpoint mosque compound, a Palestinian official said Tuesday.

“Israeli police forced their way into the office of the Al-Aqsa reconstruction committee and warned engineers against carrying out any mosaic work or restoring the Dome of the Rock’s wooden ceiling,” Firas al-Dib, a spokesman for Jerusalem’s Jordan-run Religious Endo-wments (Awqaf) Authority, told Anadolu Agency.

“Police have also prohibited any reconstitution work in the Al-Qibli and Marwani mosques [both of which are located in the Al-Aqsa compound],” he said.

“They even threatened the reconstruction director with detention if any additional work was carried out,” al-Dib added.

For Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is considered the world’s third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the “Temple Mount”, claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

The city of Jerusalem, in which Al-Aqsa is located, remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict, with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem — currently occupied by Israel — might one day serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.

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Turkey to ‘destroy’ terror nests in Syria’

Monitoring Desk

ANKARA: Turkey will “destroy” all terror nests in Syria, one by one, starting with Afrin and Manbij regions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Addressing his Justice and Development (AK) Party’s parliamentary group meeting in capital Ankara, Erdogan said: “In a short span of time, we will destroy all terror nests, one by one, in Syria, starting from Afrin and Mambij regions.

“Those who stabbed us in the back and appear to be our allies … cannot prevent it.”

The president urged NATO to fulfill its responsibilities to its partners.

“NATO! You are obliged to take a stand against those who harass the borders of one of your partners,” he said.

Following the group meeting, Erdogan gave further details about the Afrin operation to reporters; Afrin, a district of Aleppo near the Turkish-Syria border, is under siege by the PKK/PYD terrorist organization. He said the Turkish army would conduct operations with Syrian opposition. “This fight is made for them. We are helping our brothers there so that they can protect their own territories,” Erdogan said.

He said that he did not even think about calling the U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the latest Syria situation. “As long as he does not turn to me, I do not turn to him.” The Turkish president, however, said talks with his Russian counterpart continue.

Erdogan spoke over the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 11.

“Our phone diplomacy is continuing.”

The president slammed the U.S. support for the SDF — largely controlled and manned by the PKK/PYD terrorist organization in Syria — in setting up a border protection force.

“America will come from 11-12,000 kilometers, it will set up an army here, and it will name it what? ‘Border protection’? Whose border protection?

“The regime in Syria says ‘This poses a threat for us’ and they never lean towards such kind of formation.”

On Saturday, Turkish security forces hit several PKK/PYD targets in Afrin to prevent a “terror corridor” from forming along Turkey’s borders. The Afrin operation will follow Turkey’s successful seven-month Operation Euphrates Shield, which ended in March 2017.

The coalition had issued a written statement to some media outlets earlier on Sunday, wherein it said that it was working with the SDF to set up and train a Syrian border protection force.

Turkey has long protested the U.S. support for the PKK/PYD, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist organization, and its military wing PYG, while Washington sees it as a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh in Syria.

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Iran slams US plan for ‘border force’ in Syria

Monitoring Desk

ISTANBUL: Iran on Tuesday criticized U.S. plans to draw up a “border security force” inside Syria, describing the move as “interference in another country’s domestic affairs”.

On Sunday, U.S.-led coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon announced plans to establish a 30,000-strong border security force in Syria in tandem with the SDF — a U.S.-backed group drawn up largely of PKK/PYD terrorist elements.

The PKK/PYD is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group, which has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Since the mid-1980s, the PKK has waged a wide-ranging terror campaign against the Turkish state, in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.

“U.S. plans to establish a ‘border security force’ in Syria constitute flagrant interference in another country’s affairs,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Kasimi said in a Tuesday statement.

“Along with complicating the situation in Syria, this decision will only serve to further destabilize the country,” he added.

According to Kasimi, Iran — along with Turkey and Russia — is striving to end the years-long conflict in Syria by promoting dialogue and establishing cease-fires.

The spokesman also called on the U.S. to withdraw all its forces from Syria at the earliest possible opportunity.

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Several’ feared killed, abducted in Boko Haram raid

Monitoring Desk

LAGOS: Several people and animals were killed and many houses razed early Tuesday during a Boko Haram attack in a town in the northeastern Nigerian state of Adamawa — one of the three states worst hit by the insurgents so far–, according to a federal lawmaker.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency by phone, lawmaker Adamu Kamale said Boko Haram attacked the Pallam community in the town of Madagali, which was completely occupied by Boko Haram at the height of the insurgency between 2013 and early 2015.

“The attack, according to my constituents who briefed me about it, led to the killing of several people and livestock. Many houses were also burnt while at least nine people are believed to have been abducted by the terrorists,” Kamale said. He said he could not ascertain the exact figure of the people killed in the attack, which he insisted “has now become routine in my constituency. I can tell you that Wanu and Kamale towns were [also] recently attacked and people were killed.”

Abba Kolo, a local journalist from Madagali, confirmed the development to Anadolu Agency.

“The attack started around 11 p.m. and didn’t end until around 4 a.m., when we heard troops being deployed to the area. We learnt that people were killed while many men were kidnapped at gunpoint,” Kolo said.

Adamawa police spoke-sman Othman Abubakar told Anadolu Agency by phone that he had heard of the incident.

“We are trying to get further details from the divisional police department of Madagali,” he saiDespite claims to the contrary by the Nigerian authorities, analysts insist that Boko Haram remains a security threat that might take years to eradicate.

Separately, in a video posted Monday, a Boko Haram factional chief, Abubakar Shekau, claimed the group had downed a military jet of the country’s air force in Borno, among other purported exploits. The air force confirmed that an aircraft had crashed last week but did not disclose how the mishap had occurred.

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UAE responds to UN over Qatar airspace violation claims

Monitoring Desk

DOHA: The United Ar-ab Emirates (UAE) on Tue-sday announced it had submitted a formal response to the UN Security Council (U-NSC) over allegations by Do-ha that it violated Qatari airspace last month, the UAE’s official WAM news agency said.

“The UAE’s permanent m-ission to the UN in New York has delivered the state’s re-sponse [to Qatar’s allegati-ons],” WAM quoted Yacoub Yousef al-Hosani, UAE assistant minister of foreign affairs, as saying. The response, he said, “refutes the Qatari allegations contained in a memorandum sent to the UN Security Council concerning the alleged infiltration of its airspace by a UAE military aircraft”.

“The military aircraft was flying outside of Qatari airspace,” al-Hosani added.

Last week, Qatar announced it had filed a complaint with the UN Security Council regarding the alleged breach of its sovereign airspace late last month by a UAE military aircraft — a claim denied by Abu Dhabi.

On Monday, the UAE responded in kind, alleging that Qatari jet fighters had “intercepted” Emirati civilian aircraft — twice — as they flew towards Bahrain.

Qatari officials, for their part, have been quick to deny the allegations. Notably, the UAE is a member of a Saudi-led bloc of Arab states that collectively severed ties with Qatar last summer for allegedly supporting terrorist groups in the region.

Qatar has consistently denied the terrorism claims, describing the attempts to isolate it by its fellow Arab states as a breach of international law.