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US Open champion Osaka withdraws from French Open

Monitoring Desk

TOKYO: Naomi Osaka, who captured her third Grand Slam title at the US Open on September 12, has pulled out of the upcoming French Open with a hamstring injury.

“Unfortunately I won’t be able to play the French Open this year,” Osaka said in posts on Instagram and Twitter. “My hamstring is still sore so I won’t have enough time to prepare for the clay – these two tournaments came too close to each other for me this year.”

The French Open is due to start on September 27 at Roland Garros, rescheduled from earlier in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday , Osaka rallied from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the US Open women’s final, adding a third major trophy after her victories at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open triumphs.

First Asian with three Grand Slams

The 22-year-old was the first woman to win the US Open singles final from a set down since 1994, and the victory moved her to third in the WTA rankings.

She also became the first Asian player to win three Grand Slams, overtaking China’s Li Na on two.

Osaka had gone into the US Open at Flushing Meadows with fitness concerns.

She pulled out of the WTA final of the We stern & Southern Open – also held this year at Flushing Meadows – with a left hamstring injury just two days before the start of the Grand Slam in New York.

She said she pulled the muscle in her semi-final victory.

Osaka played her US Open matches with her left thigh heavily strapped, but showed no sign the injury hindered her.

Pandemic break

The US Open, normally the final Grand Slam in a season, was just the second major to be played in 2020 after the Australian Open in January.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought tennis to a halt along with the rest of global sport, with Wimble don cancelled completely and Roland Garros moved from its usual May start to September 27-October 11.

Unlike the US Open, organisers at Roland Garros will admit fans, although it was announced Thursday that the number of spectators will be limited to 5,000 per day.

Organisers had originally hoped to accommodate 20,000 spectators per day.

Defending women’s champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia announced earlier this month that she would not defend her title because she feared participation still carried health risks and because she had not been able to train properly with her coach because of the state border closures in Australia.

Courtesy: AFP

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Misbah, Azhar draw PCB’s ire over meeting with PM Imran

KARACHI (Monitoring Desk): The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has sought explanation from head coach-cum-chief selector Misbahul Haq and Test captain Azhar Ali for meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan without informing the top officials of the board.

According to sources, although PCB chairman Ehsan Mani and chief executive Wasim Khan were also part of the aforementioned meeting on Wednesday, they were taken aback by the fact that Misbah and Azhar, despite being contracted with PCB, decided to consult the PM regarding the resumption of departmental cricket without taken them into confidence first.

Veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez also accompanied Misbah and Azhar, but escaped PCB’s ire since he is not a centrally contracted player. The head coach and Test skipper will now be called next week to the PCB’s headquarters to explain their actions. It must be noted that PM Imran in the meeting, reiterated his stance that there is no place for departmental cricket in the domestic structure.

“I have explained to Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez that there will be short-term difficulties with the new system but they will lead to long-term gains. Any system needs a bit of time to develop and prosper,” said Khan.

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Shahid Afridi bats for PCB’s current domestic structure

LAHORE (APP): Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has thrown his weight behind the current domestic cricket structure a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the Patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board, fully backed it during a broadcast deal signing ceremony between the PCB and PTV Sports.

Afridi, who played a staggering 524 international matches for Pakistan (27 Tests, 398 ODIs, 99 T20Is) in a career spanning 20 years, said on Thursday that the new system needs to be given two to three years for it to pay rewards during his interaction with the media on the sidelines of a Shahid Afridi Foundation event.

“Currently nearly 290 players are in the system with contracts [270 domestic central or seasonal contracts besides PCB centrally contracted players] while around 100 former cricketers will be given jobs for Cricket Associations. I don’t think so there is unemployment at large with the end of departmental cricket, most of the side-lined players didn’t have a future in the game or were past their prime as players and nearing retirement,” he said.

On 30 September, the PCB will begin its second domestic season under the new domestic cricket model, which is based on six Cricket Associations. Over the course of the 2020-21 season, in which National T20 Cup, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and Pakistan Cup One-Day tournament will be played, each association will field its first XI, second XI and U19 teams.

“Every system formulated needs to be given at least two to three years,” Afridi said. “This revamped system is still new in the sense that it is in its second year. The results will start coming in a year or so from now.

“If the Prime Minister thinks that this system will develop world-class players then we must back it for a year or the next 18 months at least. We shouldn’t rush for results, Pakistan is seven decades old, everything needs time and this system also needs time and our backing.”

Meanwhile, the PCB announced on Wednesday, a comprehensive plan to boost domestic cricket while providing more job opportunities following a historic $200 million (three-year) deal for broadcast with the state broadcaster. The deal will take all domestic and international cricket featuring men’s, women’s and age-group cricketers to every home in Pakistan.

The PCB also revealed its plans to invest PKR15billion over the next three years on both men and women domestic cricket structure, which include upgrading of stadiums and infrastructure, building provincial academies and centres of excellence.

This will also lay an employment path for over 100 former cricketers as coaches and managers for the City Cricket Associations, restart inter-university cricket, investment in grass roots cricket and improve players’ earning and welfare.

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FIFA president Infantino meets Trump to discuss 2026 World Cup

ZURICH (Agencies): FIFA boss Gianni Infantino has met United States president Donald Trump to discuss preparations for the 2026 World Cup which the country will co-host with Mexico and Canada, the global soccer body said on Thursday.

Infantino travelled to Washington to discuss the establishment of a FIFA headquarters in the U.S. for the tournament and review preparations, FIFA said in a statement. “President Infantino thanked President Trump for his great commitment to the success of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and his engagement in a bright future for soccer in the US,” said the statement. Infantino also made a courtesy visit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr where he used the opportunity to “personally thank the U.S. authorities… for their work in the fight against corruption in football.”

Several dozen football officials, mainly from Latin America and the Caribbean, were indicted in the United States in 2015 on corruption charges, leading to the biggest scandal in FIFA’s history. Several of those have since been jailed. “Ever since I was elected, we have shown our determination to eradicate malpractice that tarnished FIFA’s reputation in the past,” said Infantino, who was elected in 2016. “I have had similar meetings in Switzerland, and FIFA’s lawyers are also in regular contact with prosecutors and law enforcement agencies wherever and whenever needed,” he added.

“In this way, I am fully convinced that the credibility and reputation of FIFA is being restored at the highest level.” Infantino himself is the subject of criminal proceedings in his native Switzerland which have been launched by a special prosecutor looking into meetings that the FIFA president had with former Swiss Attorney General Michael Lauber. Lauber and Infantino have denied wrongdoing.

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KP CM Football Cup-2020 in October this year

PESHAWAR (APP): Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Football Cup-2020 in October this year, Senior Vice President Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Sports and Culture Shahid Khan Shinwari told media men during here on Thursday.

Shahid Khan informed that he held a meeting with his visit to the media center soon after meeting with Director General Sports KP Asfandyar Khan Khattak. Former Footballer and Director Development Niamat Ullah Marwar, former Senior Producer PTV Aziz Ijaz, Shahid Kokhar were also present during the meeting.

He said during the meeting a detailed discussion was held with all aspects for the smooth conduct of the Chief Minister Cup would be conducted.

He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is full of talent for football and holding of the competitive activities mean to polish that talent through competitive exposure. He said Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has immense football talent even in the merged tribal areas, which will be nurtured through different events. He said efforts have been taken to involve the private sector for the promotion of football in the province. Shahid Khan Shinwari said that they have taken key steps to promote football in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Chief Minister KP Football Cup-2020. Appreciating the project presented by DG Sports KP Asfandyar Khan Khattak, Shahid Khan assured him full support.

He also lauded Chief Minister Mahmood Khan and his efforts for the promoted sports in the province. He expressed his determination to provide all possible support for the success of the Cup.

He said that players from all the districts would be involved in different teams during the Cup. He said all the teams would be divided into four groups and would be played on League basis.

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PCB terminates contract with HBL PSL’s int’l media rights holder

LAHORE (APP): The Pakistan Cricket Board on Thursday announced it has terminated the contract of the HBL Pakistan Super League 2020 international media rights partner following a series of breaches, including matters relating to payments.

Techfront International FZE had secured HBL PSL’s international media rights from 2019-2021, but due to a series of contractual violations, the PCB has terminated the agreement.

Shoaib Naveed, PSL – Project Executive, said here : “The PCB works professionally and with integrity and transparency. In this instance, the partner, despite repeated reminders and discussions, failed to honour its commitment and obligations, leaving the PCB with no other option but to terminate the agreement.

“The termination of the agreement at this stage was also necessary so the PCB had sufficient time to start exploiting other avenues and partners for the future HBL Pakistan Super League events. Since its inception in 2016, the HBL PSL has become one of the most attractive and competitive leagues around the world.

“The PCB is already in discussions with various sub-licensees and relevant broadcasters in the international territories. The process is already underway to ensure a robust media rights strategy for the HBL Pakistan Super League 2021 and onwards.”

The PCB reserves its rights in terms of claiming appropriate remedies and damages, and will be taking strictest possible measures to ensure and safeguard the league’s interests as well as its valuable stakeholders.

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Messi wins court case against cycling company over logo

BARCELONA (Agencies): Barcelona and Argentina captain Lionel Messi has won a legal battle over trademark rights relating to his own logo after the European Union’s top court on Thursday dismissed an appeal against the player from a Spanish cycling clothing brand.

The EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a statement it had authorised the player to register the trademark Messi, dismissing an appeal from the EU’s intellectual property office EUIPO and the Spanish company Massi.

Messi first filed an application with the property office in 2011 to trademark his surname as a sportswear, footwear and equipment brand despite opposition from the owners of Massi, who argued that the player’s brand would cause confusion to customers.

The EU property office upheld their complaint in 2013 and while an appeal from Messi the following year was dismissed, an appeal to the EU’s General Court in 2018 led to the original ruling being annulled.

The statement added that the Court of Justice had dismissed an appeal by the clothing brand and EUIPO against the annulment, saying the General Court was correct to say Messi’s reputation was a relevant factor in establishing a difference between the player’s brand and the cycling company.

Messi, 33, has been named the world footballer of the year a record six times and is the all-time top scorer for Barcelona, Argentina and in Spanish football.

He was named the wealthiest soccer player in the world by Forbes earlier this month, pocketing an estimated $92 million from his salary from Barca plus $34 million in endorsements.

The Argentinian made global headlines last month for declaring his intention to leave Barcelona, where he has spent his entire career, although he eventually decided to stay because he did not wish to face a legal battle with the club.

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PCB finalizes broadcast deal for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (APP): Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday signed a satellite broadcast deal for broadcast in Pakistan with PTV Sports and a further agreement to secure cable distribution with I-Media Communication Services.

The agreements were signed in the presence of the Prime Minister who is the Patron of PCB, said a press release issued by PCB. The broadcast deal will be for the 2020 to 2023 cycle. The broadcasting arrangement is structured to provide for increasing revenues over the term of the cycle and PCB expects to earn in excess of US$200 million over the three year term.

The Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board Ehsan Mani speaking at the occasion thanked the Patron for his unwavering support to PCB and the efforts of the Minister for Information Shibli Faraz and SAPM on Information Lt. General (Retd) Asim Bajwa not only for their support in getting the broadcasting arrangement finalised but their efforts in modernizing PTV Sports and its production capabilities as well as the digitalizing of cable networks.

Mani thanked the Chairman and Board of PTV and the MD PTV as well as the President l-Media Communication and Cable Association of Pakistan for their support and efforts in concluding the agreements.

The broadcast agreement is for Pakistan only while PCB will be soon finalizing the grant of its broadcast rights for international territories separately as well as launching a new structure for its digital media rights.

Under the arrangement all Pakistan International Home Series of the Senior Cricket Team and the Women’s and Junior cricket teams will be broadcast live on PTV Sports. Also for the first time all the major domestic tournaments, including the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the National T-20 Cup, the One Day Pakistan Cup and the National U-19 One-Day and National U-19 Three Day tournaments, will be broadcast live on PTV Sports and distributed across Pakistan on cable networks.

The supporting cable distribution agreement, unlike in the past, seeks to ensure that the broadcast content of PCB cricket is not redistributed without proper authorization which was one of the reasons for greatly diminishing the value of PCB content.

The matches will be produced by PCB directly to the highest international standards and will not be bulked as part of the broadcasting deal as was done in the past. PCB will ensure broadcast and distribution of Pakistan cricket across the globe.

For the first time in almost three decades the broadcasting rights of Pakistan Cricket in Pakistan have been granted exclusively to a Pakistani broadcaster and that too the national broadcaster. This will maximize the opportunity for cricket fans in Pakistan to watch good competitive cricket almost throughout the year and follow the top cricketers and teams they support in the domestic season.

PCB plans to invest Rs15 billion over the next three years on Men and Women Domestic Cricket including upgrading of stadiums and infrastructure, building provincial academies and centres of excellence, employment of over 100 former cricketers as coaches and managers for the City Cricket Associations, restarting inter-university cricket, investment in grassroots cricket and improving players’ earning and welfare.

The broadcast deal also marks the launch of rebuilding PTV’s production and broadcast capabilities, with a conversion of PTV Sports to HD broadcast format already in the pipeline to be followed by acquisition of not only international quality production equipment but also training of its staff during the production by PCB of cricket matches in Pakistan.

It also seeks to create the impetus to expedite the conversion of analogue cable to digital cable in Pakistan which will go a long way in ensuring all cricket fans receive the highest quality and maximum quantity of cricket content on their television screens. Digital cable will allow cricket lovers to select from simultaneously played live matches and not miss any cricket match!

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Gareth Bale closer to leaving Real Madrid

MADRID (BBC): Gareth Bale is closer to leaving Real Madrid now than at any time during his seven years at the Spanish club, according to his agent.

Jonathan Barnett told BBC Wales Sport talks over a move back to Tottenham are “slowly progressing”.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho refused to speculate on the talks on Wednesday.

Bale, 31, left Spurs to join Real for a then-world record £85m in 2013 and has since scored more than 100 goals and won four Champions League titles.

In July 2019, Real Madrid cancelled a deal for Bale to join Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning, with the player spending last season at the Bernabeu, playing 20 games.

Barnett said on Wednesday: “We are still negotiating. We shall see how it goes.” It remains to be seen whether the potential deal will be a loan or a permanent move for Bale. When asked about the Wales captain, Mourinho replied: “He is a Real Madrid player and I don’t comment on players from other clubs. I have to respect that. It’s better not to speak.

“I tried to sign him for Real Madrid, which was not possible to do during my time there. But the president followed my instinct and my knowledge and the season I left he brought Gareth to the club. It’s not a secret, even Gareth knows that. “A squad is a puzzle and when a new signing completes the puzzle it’s great for the team.

“There are three more weeks, the market is open both ways. I think in football you have to always be waiting for something to happen. Let’s see what happens to us,” added Mourinho, who was in charge of Real Madrid from 2010-2013.

The Portuguese previously told Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy that he “needs a striker” before 5 October. Tottenham were beaten 1-0 at home by Everton in their first game of the new Premier League season on Sunday. Former Tottenham winger Darren Anderton says the forward is “exactly what Spurs need”.

“After watching the game on Sunday, oh boy do Spurs need it – someone who can go and win a game with a bit of magic, creativity and flair,” said Anderton. “It has to be great for all parties. To come back to somewhere you are loved really does make sense. “He carried the Wales team, he carried the Tottenham team when he was here, winning games on his own. He is exactly what Spurs need.

“For me it is a no-brainer to come and play for us and prove what he is all about.”

Spurs midfielder Eric Dier said it is “exciting” for Tottenham fans “when you are linked with a player of that level”, but does not feel the Spurs squad needs a fresh impetus. “I would disagree to be honest,” he said. “Since I have been back for pre-season there is new blood. “[Steven] Bergwijn’s been here six months, and Gedson Fernandes. Pierre-Emile [Hojbjerg] and Matt [Doherty] have just arrived. There’s a different dynamic to the dressing room.

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I see myself in players like Hafeez: Younis Khan

ISLAMABAD (APP): Former Skipper Younis Khan sees himself in players like Muhammad Hafeez, saying the Sargodha-born cricketer has played and performed for the country.

Hafeez’s retention in the side was been criticised as he’s set to turn 40 next month, although he silenced his critics with a brilliant 69 and 86 in the second and third T20, respectively.

“The way he started the tour, there were many controversies. But I see myself in players like him who want to perform for the country. The gesture Hafeez gave for refusing the domestic contract and instead asked to share it among two three young players, shouldn’t we appreciate this? When players like me and Hafeez who at sometime were unable to perform, had faced a lot of criticism.

Then why can’t we stand up for players like him when they perform. Hafeez performed for the country and not for me or else,” he said this while talking to a programme ‘Score’ on a private news channel.

Younis also said that he was in talks with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) over being appointed as batting coach in future. “I was always willing to render my services for the country. There were talks going on and you will come to know as it gets finalized.

It is very important for me that how much work I can do and I’m hopeful that I will have something to do, whenever I will come on regular basis on the board,” he said.

Speaking about batsmen Asad Shafiq, who scored a mere 67 runs across five innings and three matches on the England tour, Younis said he has identified some technical things of Asad on which work needs to be done.

“I have given it to the head coach and have told him to work on it. If I stayed with the team then I will make sure that it doesn’t happen on the next tour. Coaches can only convince you but as a player you need to fix those things yourself,” he said.

Younis said Pakistan’s Test Skipper Azhar Ali also had a problem on the tour, which we identified to him and at the end he performed. “I told him that whenever you go to bat just think that you are a top-class batsman. Don’t think that you have to sacrifice, when you are in the field as then you have to be the leader.

You don’t have to think that you have done 200 or two zeros in the past innings,” he said.

To a question, he said he would appreciate batsman Fawad Alam for the England tour saying he has seen his day and night practices and his fitness.

“I have been in off and on talks with him and I always suggested him to be ready all the time as you didn’t get the chance,” he said and also lauded former Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed saying he performed well with the bat and gloves in the side matches on the tour.

Younis also revealed that English wicketkeeper Jos Butler was keen to talk to him during the visit and even sought tips from him on playing sweep shots.