Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Horizonstar Sports’

UEFA closes Bulgaria stadium for fan racism at England game

October 29, 2019

NYON, Switzerland (AP) — Bulgaria was punished Tuesday for the Nazi salutes and racist chanting of its soccer fans with an order to play a European Championship qualifying game in an empty stadium, although the team avoided expulsion from the competition.

UEFA’s options to deal with the incidents in Sofia at a Euro 2020 qualifier against England could have removed Bulgaria from the playoffs in March. The UEFA disciplinary panel also put Bulgaria on probation for two years, which should include most of the 2022 World Cup qualifying program. A repeat offense will trigger a stadium closure for a second competitive game.

Bulgaria fans made Nazi salutes and targeted monkey noises at England’s black players during a 6-0 loss two weeks ago. The game was twice stopped by the referee following UEFA guidelines to address discrimination.

The Bulgarian soccer federation was fined 85,000 euros ($94,000), including the mandated 50,000 euros ($55,500) for a second charge of racist behavior. A charge of fans throwing objects was also proven.

Although the England game was the third time Bulgaria fans were guilty of racist behavior this year, the previous incidents at back-to-back Euro 2020 qualifiers in June were judged together in July. UEFA’s disciplinary code states a team will be punished for a second offense with “one match played behind closed doors and a fine of 50,000 euros.”

A third offense “is punished with more than one match behind closed doors, a stadium closure, the forfeiting of a match, the deduction of points and/or disqualification from the competition,” according to UEFA rules.

Bulgaria’s next home game is against the Czech Republic on Nov. 17. The stadium closure will likely cost the national soccer body at least 100,000 euros ($110,000) in lost revenue. Bulgaria drew about 5,000 fans for home games against Kosovo and Montenegro, then more than 17,000 to see England.

Bulgaria is last in Group A with no chance to advance to Euro 2020 by finishing in the top places. However, the sanctions do not affect Bulgaria’s second chance to reach the final tournament from the playoff round in March. Potential playoff opponents include Iceland and Scotland.

A UEFA charge of Bulgaria fans causing disturbance during the national anthem for England accounted for 10,000 euros ($11,100) of the 85,000 euros ($94,000) fine. The English Football Association was fined 5,000 euros ($5,500) for a similar charge.

Hong Kong soccer fans loudly boo Chinese national anthem

September 11, 2019

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of Hong Kong soccer fans booed loudly and turned their backs when the Chinese national anthem was played before a World Cup qualifier match against Iran on Tuesday, taking the city’s months of protests into the sports realm.

The crowd broke out into “Glory to Hong Kong,” a song reflecting their campaign for more democratic freedoms in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. After the match started, fans chanted “Fight for freedom” and “Revolution of our Times.” One person carried a blue poster that read, “Hong Kong is not China.”

Hong Kong has been roiled by protests since June over an extradition bill that would have sent some residents to mainland China for trial. The government promised last week to withdraw the bill but that failed to placate the protesters, whose demands now include democratic reforms and police accountability.

Security at the Hong Kong Stadium was tight, with fans frisked to ensure they did not bring in political materials and other prohibited items. Iran, Asia’s top team, had sought to move the match, citing safety concerns over the unrest, but the request was rejected by FIFA, soccer’s governing body.

Stadium announcers said 14,000 spectators attended the game. Iran beat Hong Kong 2-0. “Hong Kong people are united. We will speak up for freedom and democracy,” one of the spectators, Leo Fan, said as members of the crowd continued to chant slogans and sing protest songs as they left.

In July, Hong Kong fans chanted slogans and waved banners when English Premier League champions Manchester City played local team Kitchee at the stadium. Many see the extradition bill as a glaring example of the city’s eroding autonomy since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997. Clashes have become increasingly violent, with police firing tear gas after protesters vandalized subway stations, set street fires and blocked traffic over the weekend.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam renewed an appeal to protesters earlier Tuesday to “say no to violence” and engage in dialogue, as the city’s richest man urged the government to provide a way out for the mostly young demonstrators.

Lam said the escalation of violence, in which more than 150 people including students have been detained in clashes since Friday, will deepen rifts and prolong the road to recovery. She said her decision to formally withdraw the extradition bill and her other initiatives reflected her sincerity to heal society by initiating a direct dialogue with various communities, including protesters.

Billionaire Li Ka Shing, in a video broadcast on local TV, described the summer of unrest as the worst catastrophe since World War II. In his first public comments, Li called youths the “masters of our future” and said the government should temper justice with mercy in resolving the crisis.

“I am very worried. We hope Hong Kong people will be able to ride out the storm. We hope the young people can consider the big picture and those at the helm can give the masters of our future a way out,” Li, 91, told a religious gathering outside a Buddhist temple over the weekend.

Asked about Li’s comments, Lam agreed that the government “can do more and can do better” especially in meeting young people to hear their grievances. But she stressed the government cannot condone violence and will strictly enforce the law.

The unrest has become the biggest challenge to Beijing’s rule since it took over Hong Kong and is an embarrassment to its ruling Communist Party ahead of Oct. 1 celebrations of its 70th year in power. Beijing has slammed the protests as an effort by criminals to split the territory from China, backed by what it said were hostile foreigners.

Beijing rebuked Germany on Tuesday for allowing prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong to visit “to engage in anti-China separatist activities.” Wong met Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin late Monday at an event hosted by the German newspaper Bild.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Maas’ “political show” with Wong displayed disrespect to China’s sovereignty and was an interference in its internal affairs. She urged Germany to avoid sending the wrong signal to “radical, separatist forces in Hong Kong” and said any efforts to solicit foreign support to split the country are “doomed to fail.”

In an immediate response, Wong tweeted that Chinese ‘s strong reaction was “baffling.” Wong, a leader of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy protest movement, was charged last month with inciting people to join a protest in June. His prosecution came after his release from prison in June following a two-month sentence related to the 2014 protests.

Associated Press videojournalist Harvey Kong in Hong Kong and news assistant Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

New faces to watch in the pool on the road to Tokyo Olympics

July 28, 2019

GWANGJU, South Korea (AP) — An American named Michael. Teenage girls from three different countries. A Hungarian who took down Michael Phelps’ favorite world record. New faces emerged in the pool at the world championships a year out from the Tokyo Olympics. They all have potential to make the podium in what would be the first games for each of them.

Here’s a look at the talent pool:

MICHAEL ANDREW, United States

He has been generating attention since turning pro at 14 and skipping college swimming. Andrew is coached by his father using a method that emphasizes swimming at low volume all at race pace. The 20-year-old from Kansas reached his first worlds final in Gwangju and barely missed a medal in the 50 butterfly, finishing fourth with a personal-best time. Andrew has a win over Caeleb Dressel (50 fly, 2018 U.S. national championships) and remains poised to become a breakout star.

MAGGIE MACNEIL, Canada

She stunned four-time world and Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden to win the 100 butterfly in the biggest international meet of her career. The 19-year-old who swims at Michigan helped Canada to bronzes in the 4×100 free relay and 4×100 medley relay. She was a key part of the Canadian women’s team earning eight medals.

KRISTOF MILAK, Hungary

He turned heads by breaking Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old world record in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:50.37. That bettered Phelps’ mark by 0.78 seconds in the American’s favorite event and was more than three seconds faster than the other medalists. Milak was already the European champion and junior world record holder in the event, but the 19-year-old’s fame shot through the roof after erasing Phelps’ mark. No longer is Katinka Hosszu the most famous Hungarian swimmer. How Milak copes with the increased attention and his ability to follow up with a medal in Tokyo will prove whether he has staying power or is a one-hit wonder.

REGAN SMITH, United States

The 17-year-old from Minnesota introduced herself to the world in the 200 backstroke, lowering the world record in the semifinals before nearly doing it again in the final. Smith won gold in 2:03.35, beating her nearest rival by a whopping 2.57 seconds. Her 100 back split of 57.57 seconds in the 4×100 medley relay set a world record, too. She qualified for only one individual event in Gwangju but figures to add several more in the Olympics, including the 100 back.

ARIARNE TITMUS, Australia

Nicknamed “The Terminator,” the 18-year-old from Tasmania upset Katie Ledecky to win the 400 freestyle, finishing a full second ahead of the American star. Turns out Ledecky was ailing throughout the world meet, but Titmus’ presence makes things interesting for Ledecky, who has trounced the competition since the 2012 Olympics. Titmus earned silver in the 200 free, bronze in the 800 free and gold in the 4×200 free relay at worlds.

Swedish bid hopes Latvia link key to 2026 Olympics host vote

June 23, 2019

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The head of Sweden’s 2026 Winter Olympics bid believes having Latvia on the hosting ticket can sway Monday’s vote for the perceived underdog against Milan-Cortina. The Stockholm-Are plan to stage ice sliding sports across the Baltic Sea at a venue in Latvia avoids building a white elephant venue in Sweden — a key demand of IOC reforms to cut Olympic hosting costs.

Using the sliding track at Sigulda “adds enormous value” to the two-nation bid, Stockholm-Are chief executive Richard Brisius told The Associated Press on Sunday. “It will be very important for delivering the new transformative games that we want to do,” Brisius said.

The International Olympic Committee wants the 2026 Winter Games to help end skepticism about the cost of bidding and hosting the games, after potential bids in Canada, Switzerland and Austria dropped out due to local opposition.

Brisius argued the Latvian element in Sweden’s bid is the best example of living up to the IOC’s promise to be flexible with candidates aiming to be cost-efficient. “Are the IOC members ready for that? We are offering that,” the Stockholm-Are official said in a challenge to around 85 IOC voters.

“If we can do this, and we show that this is the way to do it, it will open up for more bid cities in the future,” Brisius said. “I would not say we are the underdog — I think we are the future.” One member of Sweden’s delegation who is more than happy with the underdog label is retired high jumper Stefan Holm, who has been an IOC member since 2013.

The 43-year-old Holm, who won Olympic gold in 2004, even drew comparisons with Sweden’s victory over Italy in the qualifying playoff for the 2018 World Cup. “Sweden is always the best when we’re the underdog,” Holm said after a bilateral meeting at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. “In the team sports we could beat Italy in football and we’re always the underdog against Italy, the same against Canada in ice hockey or whatever.

“So I think we’re in a good place.” Sweden has never hosted the Winter Games. It made numerous bids between 1984 and 2004, while it was also briefly in the race for 2022. “We are a stable country politically speaking, economically speaking,” said Holm, who has been an IOC member since 2013. “We have never held the games before and we really, really want it. We are a sports loving people especially when it comes to winter sport so hopefully it’s our turn this time.”

IOC members are famously discreet about their voting intentions ahead of a hosting vote, and more than one-third of this electorate is voting for the first time. A total of 35 members have joined since the last contested vote in July 2015 when Beijing edged Almaty to get the 2022 Winter Games.

“I meet people who are very keen to find out what is best for the (Olympic) movement,” Brisius said of the newer recruits. Two of those 35 are Italian — bobsled federation president Ivo Ferriani and Italian Olympic committee head Giovanni Malago — and so cannot vote Monday.

Malago is confident that the support for the Italian bid, from the government and the general population, will see it edge out Sweden. That support is a contrast to recent Italian bids — three years ago, Italy was forced to end Rome’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics because of staunch opposition from the city’s mayor. And in 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s candidacy for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.

“We have never received a critic. From any parties,” Malago said of the current bid. “The government and the opposition support this bid. I think it is a unique case not only in Italy but also in the world.”

The IOC president traditionally does not vote, though in an expected close race the winner is likely to be the candidate most favored by Thomas Bach’s office.

FIFA’s record finances reignites World Cup pay parity debate

March 07, 2019

LONDON (AP) — When world soccer executives receive FIFA’s annual report this year, they will see that $753,000 is funding a women’s league in Colombia, $588,197 is helping female players in New Zealand and girls in Botswana are benefiting from $341,600.

That’s merely a snapshot of the $270.3 million that the body that governs world soccer has invested in projects worldwide between 2016 and 2018. Four years since police raided the hotel and offices of soccer officials and FIFA’s Zurich headquarters in 2015 in a scandal that threatened the organization’s existence, FIFA is awash with cash. People with knowledge of FIFA’s finances told The Associated Press that in the four-year period covering the 2018 World Cup, FIFA’s reserves soared to $2.74 billion and revenue rose to $6.4 billion. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the financial results remain confidential.

Now, the organization is eager to show that handouts no longer line the pockets of its top managers. Rather, the money is being used to build stadiums, train coaches and provide more playing opportunities. But while the annual report underscores FIFA’s financial vitality, it also highlights the glaring disparity between men and women’s soccer.

Last summer’s World Cup is a good example: France banked $38 million from FIFA for winning the championship, but the women’s champion this July will earn just $4 million. U.S. coach Jill Ellis, who is leading her team’s title defense in France, said she is disappointed with the financial rewards.

“You want to make sure there is a fair apportionment of winnings going out,” Ellis said. Most upsetting to critics is the fact that the financial gulf appears to be growing. FIFA has doubled the overall prize money fund to $30 million since the last Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015. But that total amount is less than the $40 million increase that men’s World Cup prize money will get in 2022 — for a total of $440 million in prize money.

“The difference between the men’s and women’s prize money is ridiculous,” said Tatjana Haenni, who stepped down as FIFA head of women’s soccer in 2017. “It’s really disappointing the gap between the men’s and women’s World Cups got bigger. It sends the wrong message.”

The world players’ union said the disparity is a reflection of FIFA’s priorities as well as of the status of women’s soccer . “In most countries, the pace of change has not been fast enough nor the changes progressive enough to make up for decades of neglect of the women’s game,” FIFPRO said in a statement to the AP. “Even today women’s football remains an afterthought for many of football’s male administrators and the game lags embarrassingly behind other more progressive sports and industries.

“Most troubling of all is that the gender gap in football is even widening in some areas, including the share of FIFA World Cup prize money.” FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said critics are “perfectly justified” and have a “fair point.”

“We need to try to find what is the most balanced way and I think we made a step and there will be many more steps going ahead,” Infantino said in October before his ruling council approved the 2019 Women’s World Cup prize scale. “Maybe one day women’s football will generate more than men’s football.”

Exactly how much money women’s soccer generates is unclear, as much of FIFA’s revenue comes from top sponsors who are signed up for both World Cups. “That’s something never really analyzed,” said Haenni, who spent 19 years at FIFA. “What is the potential value of the Women’s World Cup? Nobody knows the Women’s World Cup commercial value because it’s not sold separately. This is something that should at least be discussed.”

One of FIFA’s main sponsors is listening. Credit card giant Visa said last week that it would support “women’s football with a marketing investment equal to our support of the men’s FIFA World Cup in Russia.” It did not disclose any figures.

Visa is one of the sponsors that stuck with FIFA through its corruption scandal, calling for the departure in 2015 of Sepp Blatter, FIFA’s then-president who was eventually banned for financial misconduct.

After being elected as Blatter’s successor in 2016, Infantino said “FIFA was clinically dead as an organization.” Now, the Swiss-Italian has the budget is in a healthy state, and is due to be re-elected unopposed in June to a four-year term.

The 2015-18 finances exceed the forecasts that were presented to the FIFA Congress in June. While FIFA projected cash reserves to increase to $1.653 billion in the 2018 World Cup cycle, they had grown to $2.74 billion at the end of 2018, according to the people with knowledge of the finances.

Following the corruption scandal of 2015, FIFA had modestly aimed to raise $5 billion by the end of last summer’s World Cup in Russia — a projection later increased to $6.1 billion. Those expectations were eclipsed when the four-year cycle ended with revenues of $6.4 billion, according to the people with knowledge of the financial report, which shows a profit of around $1 billion.

Haenni noted the challenge lies in ensuring that FIFA’s riches don’t all go to men’s soccer. “Some federations won’t have proper structures for the women’s teams,” Haenni said. “You want to know where the money is going and linked to creating a more balanced environment for women’s teams.”

IOC revokes shooting event status over Pakistan visa refusal

February 22, 2019

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Olympic Committee has revoked the Olympic qualification status of a 25-meter shooting event in New Delhi because Indian officials refused to grant entry visas to two Pakistani athletes and an official.

The IOC said Thursday it was informed on Monday that the Indian government authorities did not grant entry visas to the Pakistani delegation for the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event at the ISSF World Cup, where two places at next year’s Tokyo Olympics were meant to be at stake.

The IOC said it only withdrew the Olympic qualification status from the competition in which the two Pakistani athletes were supposed to participate. There are 500 athletes from 61 countries who are already in India for other World Cup events.

“Since becoming aware of the issue, and in spite of intense last-minute joint efforts by the IOC, the ISSF (International Shooting Sport Federation) and the Indian NOC (National Olympic Committee), and discussions with the Indian government authorities, no solution has been found to allow the Pakistani delegation to enter India in time to compete,” the IOC said in a statement.

It did not say whether Pakistani athletes were entered in any other events at the competition. In a statement to the Press Trust of India news agency, Rajeev Mehta, the secretary general of the Indian Olympic Association, said Friday the IOA would approach the government again about the visas.

“It is a dangerous situation for all sport in the county,” Mehta was quoted as saying. “In addition to not being able to host events in India, there may be problems for our athletes to take part in international events.”

The IOC said the situation goes against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter to not discriminate against any athlete. The visa refusal comes amid escalated tensions between the two countries following last week’s deadly suicide bombing in Kashmir against Indian paramilitary troops. At least 40 Indian soldiers were killed in Thursday’s attack, which New Delhi blamed on Islamabad.

Since independence from Britain in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which is divided between the two but claimed by each in its entirety.

Koreas win UNESCO recognition of traditional wrestling

November 26, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Divided for seven decades, North and South Korea together won their first international recognition of Korean traditional wrestling on Monday. The Koreas had earlier pushed separate bids for the sport’s UNESCO recognition before merging their applications amid an easing of tensions this year. Local media reports said South Korea had first proposed the joint bid after a leaders’ summit at a Korean border village in April.

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, meeting in Port Louis, decided to inscribe traditional Korean wrestling on its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” on the basis of an application by the two Koreas, UNESCO said in a release.

“The joint inscription marks a highly symbolic step on the road to inter-Korean reconciliation,” UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay said. “It reminds us of the peace-building power of cultural heritage, as a bridge between peoples. This marks a victory for the longstanding and profound ties between both sides of the inter-Korean border.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in hailed the UNESCO inscription, calling it a “result of recent South-North cooperation.” The South’s Cultural Heritage Administration said that the two Koreas have been given a new opportunity to further promote exchanges in the field of cultural heritage. It said in a statement the joint nomination is the “fruitful outcome of a meeting” between Moon and Azoulay in October.

UNESCO said during that meeting with Moon, Azoulay proposed a series of concrete projects involving UNESCO that would facilitate inter-Korean reconciliation. It said similar discussions also took place with North Korea in recent weeks.

“The commitment of UNESCO to facilitate peace between the two parties has led to the joint inscription in a short timeframe,” it said. The Koreas saw their ties improved greatly since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump with a vague nuclear disarmament commitment early this year.

They have since marched together during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, exchanged pop singer performances and taken steps toward easing a frontline military standoff. But it’s unclear how far their reconciliation moves would go as U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program has reported headway since Kim’s summit with Trump in June.

The Koreas were a single country before their separation in 1945. Split along the world’s most heavily fortified border, the countries now have linguistic, cultural and other gaps. They use different English Romanization rules. The wrestling’s English spelling is “ssirum” in North Korea and “ssireum” in South Korea. The Koreas use both spellings for their combined bid for UNESCO recognition.

North Korea has won UNESCO recognitions of two Korean cultural assets — the Korean folk tune “Airrang” and the making of Kimchi. The two are among the 19 items that South Korea has received UNESCO recognition for, according to South Korean officials.

Korean wresting is a national sport and a popular cultural practice in both Koreas. In the sport, participants with a belt around their waists and thighs use their hands, legs and other body parts to bring down their opponents. In South Korea, it gained wide popularity in the 1980s, threatening the long-running popularity of baseball and soccer.

Tag Cloud