WRESTLEMANIA 33: Ultimate wrestling extravaganza this Sunday

Orlando, UNITED STATES
VIJAY SHAH and SUNNY ATWAL with AARON CARR, PHIL HAIGH via Penn News and Metro

Fans of sports entertainment brand WWE are in for a treat this Sunday as the wrestling highlight of the year, WrestleMania 33, happens this Sunday. This will be a once-in-a-year chance to see some of the world’s greatest wrestlers face off against each other in the ‘squared circle’.

In its third decade of existence, WrestleMania will take place at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, United States, the second time this venue has hosted the event since 2008. Around 70,000+ fans are expected to fill up the stadium for the highlight of the wrestling calendar. The matches will also be broadcast on the sports entertainment firm’s own WWE Network as well as sports channels across the globe.

 

 

Featuring a healthy selection of big names from the locker rooms of the bitterly competitive RAW and SmackDown brands, thirteen matches are scheduled, including title matches for the Universal Championship (RAW) and SmackDown’s WWE Championship. Goldberg will defend the Universal Championship against the seemingly unstoppable and brutal Brock Lesnar and Bray Wyatt will defend the WWE Championship against the famed ‘Legend Killer’, Randy Orton. Already, critics and observers have commended the line-up for the matches, and numerous rumours and predictions are doing the rounds all over the Web.

The following thirteen matches are scheduled to take place around WrestleMania this weekend, with ‘(c)’ indicating the current title holder with their belt on the line:

  1. 2017 André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (Battle royal for the André the Giant Memorial Trophy)
  2. Neville (c) vs. Austin Aries (Singles match for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship)
  3. Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton (Singles match for the WWE Championship)
  4. Goldberg (c) vs. Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) (Singles match for the WWE Universal Championship)
  5. The Undertaker vs. Roman Reigns (Singles match)
  6. Seth Rollins vs. Triple H (Non-sanctioned match)
  7. Shane McMahon vs. AJ Styles (Singles match)
  8. Bayley (c) vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax (Fatal 4-Way elimination match for the WWE Raw Women’s Championship)
  9. Chris Jericho (c) vs. Kevin Owens (Singles match for the WWE United States Championship)
  10. John Cena and Nikki Bella vs. The Miz and Maryse (Mixed tag team match)
  11. Dean Ambrose (c) vs. Baron Corbin (Singles match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship)
  12. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson (c) vs. Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs. Cesaro and Sheamus (Triple threat ladder match for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship)
  13. Alexa Bliss (c) vs. Becky Lynch vs. Natalya vs. Mickie James vs. Carmella (with James Ellsworth) vs. Naomi (Six-pack challenge for the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship)

Many of the matches are the culmination of storylines in the WWE shows, where wrestlers frequently challenge each other, not only for belts and bragging rights, but also for the hearts and minds of their legions of fans.

The event, often known among fans as the ‘The Ultimate Thrill Ride’ and the ‘Show of Shows’ will take place on Sunday, 2nd April 2017, but will be broadcasting early morning the next day in the United Kingdom due to time differences. British subscribers to the WWE Network can catch the match live, and television viewers can view WrestleMania on Sky Sports Box Office, channels 491 and 492, with the pay-per-view broadcast costing £19.95.

This past Friday, as the build-up to WrestleMania 33 has already reached boiling point, long-time WWE veteran Kurt Angle hosted the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Angle joins Diamond Dallas Page, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Beth Phoenix, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) and Theodore “Teddy” Long in the 2017 class.

SOURCES:
“WrestleMania 33” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WrestleMania_33
“WrestleMania 2017: How to watch WWE’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony” – Aaron Carr, Penn Live/PA Media Group (31 March 2017) http://www.pennlive.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/03/wrestlemania_2017_how_to_watch.html
“When is WrestleMania 33? Date, UK time, TV details and full card of matches for 2017 spectacular” – Phil Haigh, Metro/Associated Newspapers Limited (20 March 2017) http://metro.co.uk/2017/03/20/when-is-wrestlemania-33-date-uk-time-tv-details-and-full-card-of-matches-for-2017-spectacular-6522578/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Wrestlemania XXVII Stage.jpg” – KinkESizemore, Wikimedia Commons (3 April 2011) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wrestlemania_XXVII_Stage.jpg This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

NEW ENGLAND MANAGER?: Gareth Southgate to interview for top national football job this Monday

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via PA Sports and ESPN FC

Current caretaker England football team manager and former international star Gareth Southgate has said he will undergo an interview for the manager’s job this Monday, ESPN FC reported via PA Sports yesterday.

Southgate has been the interim manager after previous incumbent Sam Allardyce was expelled from the role last September after becoming embroiled in a corruption scandal concerning players, their agents and FIFA. According to the FA (Football Association, the governing body of English football) chief executive Martin Glenn, Southgate has said he wants to make the role permanent and the two will hold further talks on the matter at the start of next week, ESPN reports.

 

 

Before taking over from the disgraced Allardyce, Southgate was head of the England under-21s side. He quickly assumed managerial position after Allardyce was caught on camera telling an undercover reporter from the Daily Telegraph newspaper ‘controversial comments’ about overriding FIFA rules concerning player purchases.

So far, Southgate has shown some promise in the role. In addition to his many years of experience at the top end of English football, Southgate has now overseen two wins and two draws of the four matches under his guidance.

It is not known if anyone else is also been interviewed for the manager’s post. Glenn refused to be drawn into naming other candidates, citing confidentiality in the FA’s interviewing processes. He only went as far as saying that Southgate was one of their stronger choices.

He added: “Not just [because] the facts of the last four games have shown a lot of signs of encouragement but the fact he’s worked in the FA for the last couple of years.

”He’s run the Under-21s well, he understands how the international set-up works so we’re going to be having discussions with him in the coming weeks to really understand what his learnings are, what his ambition for the England team is and really, really understand that well and then we’ll take a considered view.”

Gareth Southgate was born in Watford, a commuter town north of London in 1970 and began his playing career at London side Crystal Palace as a central midfielder. His prowess on the pitch soon led him to captain the side and saw them win the 1993/1994 First Division cup. He later transferred to Aston Villa before eventually becoming manager of Middlesbrough in 2006, after joining them five years earlier. He also made appearances internationally starting with Euro 1996, the 1998 World Cup and then again at Euro 2000. In 2013 he began his first national position as head of the youth side for England.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Bitcoin Sportsbook, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/SportsbookBTC
“Gareth Southgate’s interview for England job set for Monday – reports” – PA Sport via ESPN FC Global (18 November 2016) http://www.espnfc.com/england/story/2998606/gareth-southgates-interview-for-england-job-set-for-monday-reports
“Gareth Southgate” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gareth_Southgate
IMAGE CREDIT:
Pixabay via PEXELS https://www.pexels.com/photo/grass-sport-game-match-39562/

A MILLION MILES TOGETHER: UK Olympic gold champion at launch of Newham keep fit drive

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London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via Newham Council

British Olympic champion and gold medallist Christine Ohuruogu returned to her home borough of Newham to help the council’s special keep fit drive Million Miles Together Challenge, which officially launches today and is designed to encourage residents to be more active.

The challenge encourages people to go out and get involved in activities such as running, sports, jogging, yoga and dance to help Newham collectively achieve a million miles in a hundred days. The former 400 metres World Champion and the borough’s mayor, Sir Robin Wales, came together yesterday (Friday 30th October) to announce that they would both be participating.

 

Ohuruogu became a role model for the nation after winning a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, before picking up a silver in her native country in London 2012, which was partly held in the Newham district of Stratford’s purpose-built Olympic Stadium. She recently collected a bronze in this year’s games in Rio de Janeiro, where Team GB walked away with the second highest medal haul of all nations that took part.

The Million Miles Together Challenge involves people signing up to the Million Miles Together website. There they can record all the physical activity they take part in, which is then converted into mileage. By Sunday 8th January 2017, it is hoped that Newham’s residents will have collected a million miles between them – the equivalent of a return trip to the moon.

In addition to Ohuruogu and the local government, the challenge is also been supported by the borough’s eight Community Neighbourhood Teams. The Teams, which encourage members of their respective community areas to get involved in social events and initiatives, have been tasked with getting at least 1,500 people signed up to the health drive per community neighbourhood. The drive is also been sponsored by London City Airport.

In an interview with the council, Olympic champion Ohuruogu, who was born in Stratford on the 17th May, 1984 said I’m really excited to be involved in Million Miles Together. It’s fantastic that Newham will be the first Council in the whole of the UK to take on this challenge.

“I love that this challenge is for everyone, of any age, any level of health and fitness. It’s not just about sport and anyone can take part.

“It is an opportunity to take part in something I believe offers a fresh, new and creative approach to an age old problem of getting people to lead fitter and healthier lives. Both the Council and I are committed to helping inspire people to get more active, and initiatives like this are a positive step in the right direction.”

Councillor Ken Clark, cabinet member for building communities, public affairs, regeneration and planning, said: “Million Miles Together is a fantastic initiative that will give people the impetus they need to get active.

“As well as helping Newham reach its million miles target they will also be able to see and feel the benefits in their own health.

“I am delighted Christine has added her support to the initiative as she is an inspirational figure for many people across the borough. I will also be joining the Mayor and many of my council colleagues in taking part and I hope as many others also join in.”

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Pam, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/salsapam
Newham London, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/NewhamLondon
“Newham’s Olympic hero spearheads Million Miles Together Challenge” – Newham London/Newham Council (30 September 2016) https://www.newham.gov.uk/Pages/News/Newham’s-Olympic-hero-spearheads-Million-Miles-Together-Challenge.aspx
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Christine Ohuruogu, October 2008.jpg” – Nick J Webb, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (16 October 2008) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christine_Ohuruogu,_October_2008.jpg

I’M THE GREATEST: Boxer Muhammad Ali passes away aged 74

Phoenix, UNITED STATES
VIJAY SHAH via BBC

Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, who dominated the world’s rings in the 1960s and 1970s, has passed away today at the age of 74, BBC News has reported. The three-times world heavyweight champion, who was famous for the epic ‘Rumble in the Jungle‘, was admitted to hospital recently in the US after suffering a respiratory illness.

Formerly known as Cassius Clay, the sportsman changed religion to Islam and renamed himself Muhammad Ali, was plagued by Parkinson’s disease in his later years, but still made an imposing figure in the sports world, and inspired a generation of boxers such as Mike Tyson.

He passed away at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona USA. He was admitted there on Thursday after suffering breathing complications.

Billed as the ‘ultimate fighter’, Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky on the 17th January 1942. His father painted signs while his mother worked as a house cleaner. Of African-American heritage, Ali was born at a time when Kentucky, as with much of the southern United States at that time, was racially segregated, and black families such as his were forced to live in separate neighbourhoods, use separate shop entrances, and study at separate schools. His mother, Odessa Grady Clay, remember her son as a particularly active child, never sitting still, and was talking and learning well ahead of his years.

On his 12th birthday, a bike that was given to Ali as a gift was stolen. He visited a local police station to report the theft and told officer Joe Martin he wanted to beat up the thief. Martin, who was also a part-time boxing instructor, told Ali he should first learn how to fight before making threats. Ali took up Martin on his offer, and the officer became Ali’s first trainer and mentor. Soon Ali was picking up his first boxing titles at local rings.

Six years later, Ali appeared for the American Olympic team in Rome. His affable and energetic personality caught the attention of the world’s media and endeared him to his team members and fellow athletes. He won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division, and later turned professional, beginning his path to boxing glory.

Clay had immense confidence in his speed and agility, often leaving his guard down and leaning back to avoid punches. Clay’s showmanship was also evident in early bouts, as he dazzled media and fans with his bravado and predicted the round in which his fights would end. This was also the time when Ali began using his trademark witticisms and slogans, one of the most quoted being “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

In 1967, Ali famously refused to serve in the draft for the American army as the Vietnam War began to start up. Ali was dragged to court after refusing to sign up, citing his religious beliefs and his anger against the treatment of African-American people. He was stripped of his championship, indicted for draft evasion, fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. Three years later, his conviction was overturned. Away from the ring, Ali toured colleges and spoke out on a variety of social and political issues.

In October 1974, Ali faced hard-striking heavyweight George Foreman in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DPR Congo). He entered the ring as a 3-1 underdog. Avoiding Foreman’s colossal punches, Ali laid low around the ropes until his opponent tired out in the middle rounds. It was this strategy, which Ali affectionately called ‘rope-a-dope’, that was to pay off by round eight, Ali came alive with a serious of fast punches, utterly capitulating Foreman.

Ali’s victory over Foreman in central Africa firmly planted him in the limelight. He won a crew of celebrity fans, including Elvis Presley, Bertrand Russell and Nelson Mandela. In 1975, Ali destroyed Joe Frazier in a low key rematch in the Philippines, dubbed the ‘Thriller in Manila’. The match lasted an astonishing 14 rounds, fuelled by a wordy animosity between the two sports personalities.

After a few losses however, Ali called it quits in 1978, retiring permanently at the age of 40 with  a ring record of 56 wins and five losses. After retirement, Ali began to appear on the world stage in a political sphere. In 1980, then US President Jimmy Carter asked Muhammad Ali to visit the African continent to drum up support for a boycott of the Moscow Olympics, and during the First Gulf War in 1990, Ali made a personal visit to Iraq to help negotiate the release of American hostages captured after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Fifteen hostages were released, aided by Ali’s profile.

Sadly, in 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after he began to slur his speech and tremble in his hands. The degenerative conditions was believed by Ali’s doctors to have come from enduring repeated blows to the head from his numerous matches. In the ensuing years, Ali became a visible symbol of courage in the face of physical disability and helped raise millions of dollars for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center. Ali also began to devote himself to humanitarian causes and became a well-respected philanthropist. In 1999, the United Nations nominated Ali as a Goodwill Ambassador, and the biographical film Ali, starring Will Smith in the titular role, was released in the boxer’s honour in 2001.

Beyond the ring, he will be remembered for his belief in social justice and support for Black civil rights. Truly a cultural icon, Ali’s passion, skill, intelligence and wit gave him a global appeal unmatched by few, if any, other sporting figures and inspired millions.

Muhammad Ali’s funeral will be held in his hometown, according to his family.

He leaves behind wife Lonnie and two daughters, Tatyana and Hana.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dies at 74” – BBC News – US and Canada (4 June 2016) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16011175
“Muhammad Ali: The ultimate fighter” – BBC – iWonder http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zy3hycw
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

 

RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015: Newham’s Fanzone

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via the Newham Mag

As one of the ‘host cities’ for the Rugby World Cup of 2015, the London borough of Newham has pulled out all the stops to welcome the sport’s fans from across the world to watch and celebrate the dozens of great teams taking part, from Australia to Samoa. As part of the celebrations, the borough has opened a special Fanzone at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Almost 70,000 sports fans from all over the world visited the Park where they were able to view the matches on big screens and join in on fun activities. The Fanzone has proven to be a huge success for Newham, as it builds on its legacy from the London 2012 Olympics, the council magazine Newham Mag has reported.

The park, situated in a heavily redeveloped area of Stratford, near Newham’s borders with Tower Hamlets and Hackney boroughs, saw a footfall of 200,000 global visitors as a whole, many of which had booked tickets to watch RWC matches at the showpiece Olympic Stadium. So far four Tournament matches have been played at the stadium, with one more still to go. 

Newham’s Mayor, Sir Robin Wales told the Newham Mag “When we were awarded the honour of hosting Rugby World Cup 2015,we said we would put on a great party and we have proved it”

The rugby tournament is now in its semi-final stages, although home country fans were left disappointed by the England team’s dismal dropout in the early stages. Despite this, there is still great enthusiasm and pride that the RWC has made its mark in east London. Attention has now switched from the main matches at the Olympic Stadium and the park to other fanzones set up outside Newham in Trafalgar Square, central London, and the home of Greater London rugby, Twickenham, as the Newham Fanzone temporarily shut up shop for the rest of the World Cup.

The Stratford Fanzone will return in earnest on the 30 October 2015, when the ultimate Bronze Final of the World Cup kicks off at the Olympic Stadium.

SOURCE:
“Thousands give fanzone a try” – The Newham Mag – News/Newham Council [Issue 327], 23 October 2015
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

THOMAS MULLER: Is he coming to Manchester United?

Aveersingh Gopal (contributor)

Vijay Shah (reporter)

One of the biggest transfer rumours of this new football season is the talk of the town. Reports are coming in of a possible sale of the Bayern Munich forward and German national squad member Thomas Müller to English club Manchester United where he could potentially pocket a hefty £1 million per week. The Red Devils apparently want to put up £60 million for Müller as they seek to capitalise on a recent run of good fortune under the patronage of former Bayern Munich manager Louis van Gaal. They hope by offering him a significant increase on his current £135,000-a-week wages plus the fact that his former teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger had already moved to Old Trafford, it might be an incentive for him to come over, even if it means Müller making a formal request to leave Bayern and break his contract.

A United source quoted in the Daily Star said: “He is the one the club wants more than anyone else.

“With him in the side, United could genuinely challenge for major honours again and they are willing to break the bank to get him.

“But he will have to force the issue himself and make it clear he wants to leave Bayern. It is all down to him now.”

The Daily Mirror reported on Thursday (20 August) that Müller’s agent had expressed an interest in sending his player over to Old Trafford, who recently signed up new star Memphis Depay from PSV ­Eindhoven. Depay, who was bought for a cool £25 million, has already made his money’s worth by scoring two stunning goals in his first match of play versus Club Brugge in a 3-1 Champions’ League playoff.

Thomas Müller (FC Bayern Munich), german natio...
Thomas Müller (FC Bayern Munich), german national football team (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the Daily Mail however, Bayern are keen to retain their superstar, having previously deflected an offer from Arsenal to acquire the formidable forward, one of the most invincible elements of the German top flight team’s attack formation. Müller, according to the Mail, has said that he has a ‘special relationship‘ with Man. Utd’s boss Louis van Gaal, something which will inevitably make any transition to the red shirt much easier on the 25-year-old, who currently commands a yearly salary of nearly five million euros. Likewise, another report in the Mail’s football section stated that van Gaal is a ‘keen admirer’ of the striker. Van Gaal once managed the player at Bayern and made him a key part of the team during his spell in charge at the club between 2009 and 2011, with Kicker magazine previously describing Müller as Van Gaal’s ‘star pupil’.

More confusingly, van Gaal himself has said that buying another forward is not his priority right now, with two good forwards already in the bag. New signing Depay and Adnan Januzaj are currently holding the fort and their impressive forms could mean there is no need to add more muscle at least this season.

Meanwhile back at Bayern, the rumours are being quashed by the club’s chief executive officer Karl-Heinze Rummenigge. In a message to Bayern’s supporters, Rummenigge stated that he will not let another player leave for Manchester United” after losing Bastian Schweinsteiger to them recently. Rummenigge and other top Bayern officials have also stated that the striker has ‘no price tag’, possibly meaning they are not looking to value him for any possible sale to Man. Utd. or any other team. Müller has in any case still a contract running until 2017 or 2019, depending on the source, and there is no word on whether he has a get-out-early clause in that document.

Eventually, Thomas Müller himself came to the media to talk about the rumours, which have been neither denied or confirmed by Manchester United senior figures. In a report by the Daily Mirror, Müller rubbished reports that United are prepared to spend €100 million on him as ‘crazy’. The claim has originally been reported in the sensationalist German tabloid Bild.

“It’s basically crazy the numbers which are currently kicking around in football – that’s just business,” Muller told German broadcaster Sport1.

Müller also saw the funny side of the endless speculation in the UK tabloids and sports media on this past Monday, when he played in a testimonial match against Dynamo Dresden.

“In Dresden, a fan addressed me with a megaphone: ‘Hey €100m man, what is your playing shirt worth?’ That made me smile,” Müller added.

The keen interest in Thomas Müller from Manchester United has not gone unnoticed by his Bayern teammates. Dutch national Arjen Robben told ESPN sports news channel that he could understand why Müller would be flattered by the attention and could easily be tempted. Robben himself was also a Manchester target by van Gaal, but did not make good on the move.

“First of all, I am not sure if it really is true that Thomas Müller receives such an offer but in general it is always nice for a player when such a big club is interested,” the Netherlands international told reporters. “We’re all human and have feelings.

“Receiving such an offer is flattering but it doesn’t automatically mean that you are leaving the club. I think the players like it here and Bayern is one of the biggest clubs in the world. I love it here.

“But it is always nice when other big clubs are interested — you feel honoured. Sometimes then you choose to go, but sometimes you stay.”

If Müller did decide to move to Manchester United, then what would he bring to the team and to the field? Number-crunching journalists at the Trinity Mirror Data Unit decided to look at his vital stats to see if he would become one of van Gaal’s ‘golden boys’. Since the start of the 2012/2013 season, Müller has scored an impressive 41 league goals for Bayern, which makes him the Bundesliga’s fourth highest goalscorer of the past four seasons, behind Robert Lewandowski (62 goals), Stefan Kießling (50) and Alexander Meier (43). He has netted fifteen per cent of the 277 goals Bayern have scored in that time, so a fairly hefty percentage. Eight of those goals have been against sides that finished in the top six of the Bundesliga.

Since the 2012/2013 season, Müller has also set up a further 31 goals, the same as French superstar Franck Ribéry. The figures therefore speak for themselves. Though Manchester have a strong team of world-class players who are doing better and better under Louis van Gaal’s experienced leadership, Müller could well prove to be a valuable asset and a useful tool in the box for United to rise to glory again. His maturity, technique and unorthodox approach to setting up and delivering goals has made him a cult figure in German football and he could well make that magic work cohesively in United’s game formulation.

Thomas Müller was born on the 13th of September 1989 in Weilheim in Oberbayern. He has been praised for his positioning, team work and stamina, and has shown consistency in scoring and creating goals. He has been with Bayern through almost all of his footballing career and came up through their youth team, and became established in the main side when Louis van Gaal was manager in the 2009/2010 season, the same time as he was called up for the German national team where he scored five goals in six appearances. Only two years ago, he had pledged his career to Bayern saying that “there is no club to step up from when you leave FC Bayern … there almost is no better club.

Most of this article was written at Informa’s Knect House in Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia, London with additional writing, formatting and layout done at HEM HQ in Plaistow, London.
SOURCES:
“Manchester United news and transfer rumours: Thomas Muller to be offered £1million a month?” – Aaron Flanagan, Daily Mirror/Mirror Online (20 August 2015) http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/manchester-united-news-transfer-rumours-6283617
“Manchester United ‘bid £60m for Thomas Muller’ as Germans claim Louis van Gaal tables huge offer for Bayern Munich star” – Matt Morlidge, Mail Online Football/Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group/Associated Newspapers Ltd () http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3203188/Manchester-United-bid-60m-Bayern-Munich-star-Thomas-Muller.html
“Manchester United set to ramp up Thomas Muller and Sadio Mane moves but Louis van Gaal won’t panic if no more signings arrive” – Mike Keegan, Mail Online Football/Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group/Associated Newspapers Ltd (
“Manchester United target Thomas Muller speaks out over Old Trafford transfer talk” – Samuel Luckhurst, Daily Mirror/Mirror Online (20 August 2015) http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/transfer-news/manchester-united-target-thomas-muller-6288425
“Thomas Muller opens up about sensational £71.9m move to Manchester United” – Jonathan Green, Daily Star Sport/Northern and Shell Media Publications (21 August 2015) http://www.dailystar.co.uk/sport/football/460444/Thomas-Muller-71-9m-Manchester-United-crazy-money-100m-euros
“Thomas Muller to Manchester United: ‘£60m bid made’ for Bayern Munich forward” – Tom Sheen, The Independent (19 August 2015) http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/transfers/thomas-muller-to-manchester-united-60m-bid-made-for-bayern-munich-forward-10461612.html
“Man United links flattering for Thomas Muller – Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben” – Stephan Uersfeld, ESPN FC UK Edition/EPSN.com (21 August 2015) http://www.espnfc.co.uk/story/2573653/man-united-links-flattering-for-thomas-muller-arjen-robben
“What would Thomas Muller bring to Manchester United? All the numbers crunched” – David Dubas-Fisher,  Daily Mirror/Mirror Online (21 August 2015) http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/what-would-thomas-muller-bring-6293916
“Thomas Müller” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_M%C3%BCller
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Thomas Müller, Germany national football team (07).jpg” – Benutzer Steindy, Wikimedia Commons (3 June 2011) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_M%C3%BCller,_Germany_national_football_team_(07).jpg
 

ASHES 2015: England and Australia to clash again from today

One of the most intense rivalries in the world of cricket is set to resume today as England face the Aussies for the Ashes. The Test series begins today (July 8) and will run until the 12th. The matches take place at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales – neutral territory for these two intense rivals and cricketing champions. Australia is the 2013-14 champion of the tournament, which began in 1883, and where these two teams vie to take the Ashes, a small urn from the 19th century said to contain the ashes of a wicket.

The Australia team, captained by Michael Clarke, is eager to reverse a bad run of fortune in the last few Test matches, and call a halt to a long 14-year stretch without a series win in England, while the home team have their sights set on taking back the prized urn and restoring English cricketing, and national, pride.

Australia won 5-0 at home in the last ashes two years previously. However, the Aussies’ series tally has been less impressive on UK soil. It won its last series in 2001, more than a decade ago, and crashed out of the record in 2005, 2009 and 2013, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC), making the 2015 series a highly anticipated and even contest.

(c) Alastair Cook/Facebook

The Australian captain Clarke was part of those three defeats and is eager to save face both for himself and the Aussies by securing the Ashes this time round. He has already a very established and successful leadership career, the ICC states.

England will be headed by accomplished captain Alastair Cook and will also be managed by new coach Trevor Bayliss. England made an exceptional performance in recent One-Day International and Test games against New Zealand, playing an aggressive brand of cricket that promised results and entertainment. Andrew Strauss, a former England captain and current director of cricket, was positive that England would be no pushover. “I think if Australia do win, they’ll have to play some outstanding cricket to do so,” he said.

The last Ashes to be held in England was a positive one for the Three Lions, who secured a comfortable 3-0 victory, although close performances on both sides made this a far from easy victory. Australia soon acquired a new leader, Darren Lehmann, who inspired the team from Down Under to a stirring victory against the motherland of cricket, and earned that spectacular 5-0 usurping that brought smiles on faces from Perth to Sydney and a drubbing for the beleaguered England outfit. Things have changed for the Aussies since that glorious match in 2013-2014. The team will be missing their sting in the attack. Ryan Harris recently retired from the international game, after wowing audiences with his ingenious bowling in the England series of 2013, as well as the return leg in Australia in that season’s Ashes. Australia’s pace attack now will be mainly reliant on remaining international team members Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who performed well in a series win against the West Indies. Starc, the Man of the Tournament during Australia’s ICC World Cup 2015 win, has been helping demolish wickets with that famed hard red ball, and he says that it was his consistency in play that helped him to that glory. “I have worked a long time for my stock delivery being at a left-hander,” said Starc. “The consistency is getting to where it needs to be and I’m starting to see results.”

England’s counter attack against a notoriously challenging team could well rest with County Durham ‘pacer’ Mark Wood. Fresh to the international pitches, Wood has already done well for himself and justified the selector’s pick for England. He recently picked up nine wickets in the two Tests against New Zealand in his debut series. The spinning contingent will be supported by Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, both very meticulous in their department, and will be useful tools in England’s pace attack assault against Australia.

In other Ashes news, former captain of England, Kevin Pietersen has urged his old team to be like the Australians and go for more sledging, writing in The Telegraph that “this is sporting war” and that he did not want to see “people laughing and joking with each other”. England has won the toss to bat first today. Meanwhile, media giants Sky Sports are already offering up their predictions for the outcome of this year’s Ashes.

With both sides keyed up to win a series that has held a special place in the hearts of players and fans for more than a century, the action promises to be enthralling from start to finish.

Teams (from):

England: Alastair Cook (Captain), Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wicket keeper), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Adil Rashid.

Australia: David Warner, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (Captain), Adam Voges, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wicket keeper), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Fawad Ahmed, Peter Nevill.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
ICC – International Cricket Council, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/icc?fref=nf
“England, Australia set for Ashes battle” – International Cricket Council/ICC Development (International) Limited (7 July 2015) http://www.icc-cricket.com/news/2015/features-and-specials/88599/england-australia-set-for-ashes-battle
IMAGE CREDIT:
Alastair Cook, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/AlastairCookOfficial?fref=photo

PHOTO FEATURE: Mayweather defeats Pacquiao – Facebook reacts

The much awaited epic boxing match between Floyd Mayweather of the United States and Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines saw Mayweather defeat his opponent on an unanimous decision in what was billed as the ‘fight of the century‘ by fans and the media. This will now be Mayweather’s 48th consecutive bout that has ended in a win, along with 26 knockouts and no losses. The two boxers had been sparring for a box-office bustup for several years, but frequent delays meant the fight had no chance of happening until last night.

Pacquiao, in his normal humble manner, congratulated his opponent on their win.

Here is a selection of Facebook posts of the outcome of the fight….

MGM Grand Las Vegas – The Champ Floyd Mayweather doing some interviews just after his win against Manny Pacquiao. Thanks to all the fans who came out tonight!

World Boxing Organization – Congratulations to the Welterweight Champion of the World Floyd Mayweather! Winner by UD 118-110, 116-112, 116-112 ‪#‎WBO‬ ‪#‎MayPac‬

Mayweather Promotions – “Floyd Mayweather is a good boxer, he’s fast and I respect that.” – Manny Pacquiao

HBO Boxing – Congratulations to Floyd Mayweather who improves to 48-0, 26 KOs

ESPN – STILL UNDEFEATED! Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision.

Neymar Jr. – Manny Pacquiao is an amazing fighter but for me Floyd is the one and as we said in Brazil he is “the guy”. Thanks for the show guys !! Congratulations my friend !! Floyd Mayweather

CBS Sports – Floyd Mayweather moves to 48-0 after defeating Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision on Saturday night.

HEM 3rd anniversary banner pizap.com14293560242241

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/

IBROX DISASTER: Scottish football team remembers the fallen 40 years on – January 2011

New Year’s Day may have been a time of happiness for most, but for the Scottish football club Rangers FC, their fans and for many in Scotland, New Year’s Day 2011 was a time for remembrance for 66 fans who perished in a stampede at the club’s ground in Glasgow forty years ago at the time of the memorial service, which took place in January. The Ibrox disaster of 1971 also saw 200 people injured in the darkest day of the team’s history.

Thousands of people gathered at the Rangers FC home ground in Glasgow in January 2011 to remember one of the darkest chapters in Glaswegian and Scottish football history, reported The Scotsman newspaper today in a past New Year’s events commemoration. Four years ago, the special service was attended by relatives, families and friends of those who died. Many survivors of the Ibrox disaster, despite the onset of old age, also attended to pay their respects to their fallen friends. At the time of the disaster, a match between Rangers and their rivals Celtic was taking place and players from both teams also honoured those who died at the service.

They made a vow to always remember those who perished in the disaster, in which fans attempting to leave the stadium were crushed to death as they tried to leave through overcrowded gates after the conclusion of the game. The incident occurred on the Stairway 13 part of the Old Firm’s Ibrox Stadium, then called Ibrox Park. At that time, 80,000 fans were on the stalls for the Rangers vs. Celtic clash and safety concerns had been raised about the standard of Ibrox’s passageways after two fans died in an earlier stampede. Among the dead in the 1971 disaster included several children, including five school friends from the town of Markinch in Fife. Rangers FC admitted responsibility for the disaster and were later sued by several families of victims.

Statue of John Greig at Ibrox Stadium, memoria...
Statue of John Greig at Ibrox Stadium, memorial to the Ibrox Disaster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tragedy was described by Martin Bain, Rangers’ chief executive, as a “tragedy beyond belief“, according to The Scotsman.

The service was attended by around 5,000 people, including past and present Rangers players, including John Greig, the team captain at the time of the disaster, whose statue forms part of a memorial to the victims of both the 1971 tragedy and a similar incident that occurred at the turn of last century. The Celtic side were represented by manager Neil Lennon, chairman John Reid and chief executive Peter Lawwell.

Victims’ relatives and the footballers placed bouquets of blue and white flowers, the team colours of Rangers at the stand as the current manager Walter Smith, a survivor of the tragedy, and Greig solemnly read out the names of the fans who did not return home that fateful day. As the act of commemoration, several relatives were reported to have turned and saluted to the stand where their loved ones watched the game.

The Celtic chairman then also laid a wreath in his team’s colours of green and white before the crowd, who had gathered at the Govan East Corner area of the stadium, fell silent for two minutes as an act of remembrance. Following this, the Rangers chief executive addressed the mourners, describing the events of January 1971 as an “unimaginable horror“.

He said “January 2, 1971, is a date that will be forever etched deeply into the soul of the Rangers family. Each year we remember with the heaviest of hearts and wish for all the world that the fate of those on Stairway 13 had been so different.

Forty years may now have passed, but as Willie Waddell said at the time, the scar is deep. It still is, and always will be.”

Martin Bain then went on to recollect to the gathered how Rangers and Celtic put aside their sporting rivalry to rally together and support each other, both fans and officials.

Rivalries do run deep – sometimes too deep – but at the core of it all is a common bond, and that is a love of football,” he explained. “A game of football should and does bring joy, happiness, frustration and disappointment in different measure, but it should never bring tragedy and disaster.

To the relatives and friends of those lost, and those who survived Stairway 13, his message was a simple one of remembrance.

We cannot fully comprehend your grief, your anguish, your torment, or your suffering, but we can come together today to offer you our comfort,” he vowed. “There is a heartfelt desire among all of us to remember and never forget.

The service was presided over by local Christian clergy, in particular the Reverend Stuart MacQuarrie, who himself was a survivor who was watching the match from the Copland Road terracing at the time the crush occurred. Rev. MacQuarrie described the tragic events as a “personal tragedy” for the families left behind.

After the Reverend’s address, a lifelong Rangers fan, Ian Loch, another survivor, read an extract from a speech famous among the club’s fans. Entitled ‘To Be a Ranger‘, it was originally delivered by past manager, Bill Struth.

No matter the days of anxiety that come our way, we shall emerge stronger because of the trials to be overcome,” he told the crowd. “That has been the philosophy of the Rangers since the days of the gallant pioneers.”

There was also a musical element to the memorial service as the Glasgow Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Salvation Army and Govan Citadel band led the crowd in the hymns The Lord is My Shepherd, Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah and Follow On. A large banner was seen suspended from the Bill Struth Stand, which stated: ‘In our hearts forever’. Several Scottish figureheads of government and religion also paid their respects along with fans, including the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Bob Winter, Nicola Sturgeon, then the country’s Deputy First Minister, the Right Rev John Christie, the moderator of the general assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the Most Rev Mario Conti, Glasgow’s archbishop.

SOURCES:
“HEM News Agency” – Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-news-agency
Scotsman, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TheScotsman
“Ibrox disaster: ‘A date that will be forever etched in Rangers’ soul’ ” – The Scotsman (3 January 2011, republished 2 January 2015) http://www.scotsman.com/news/ibrox-disaster-a-date-that-will-be-forever-etched-in-rangers-soul-1-1524078
“1971 Ibrox disaster” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_Ibrox_disaster
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:John Greig Statue.JPG” – Archibald99, Wikimedia Commons (18 February 2007) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Greig_Statue.JPG

BOXING: Mayweather to take on Pacquiao at last

American ‘pound-for-pound‘ king of the boxing ring Floyd Mayweather Jr. has announced that after a two-year wait, he will finally face up to rival Manny Pacquiao, the U.S. sports news network ESPN reports. Fans of the heavyweight have long wanted him to clash with the Filipino, but Mayweather had been putting off the chance of a match between the two legends until yesterday night due to collapsed negotiations and busy fighting schedules.

During a televised interview with the Showtime boxing channel held in the Texan city of San Antonio, Mayweather announced that he will insist on sparring with Pacquiao in his next bout. He plans to schedule the fight for the May 2 weekend next year and it will occur around the same time as the Cinco de Mayo Mexican festival, a time when Mayweather has some of his biggest and most prestigious fights.

We are ready. Let’s make it happen. May 2. Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao. Let’s do it,” Mayweather said in that interview last night as he threw down a challenge to square up to Pacquiao and as his promotional company was doing the rounds in promoting their star fighter for the next stage in the boxing season.

Manny Pacquiao, who is also a politician and actor in his native country, had recently disposed of Chris Algieri six times over in a ‘near-shutout decision’ on the 22nd of November. That victory helped Pacquiao retain his welterweight title belt and the athlete has now once again turned his attention to his nemesis Mayweather. Pacquiao appeared recently in an advert by sportswear retailer Foot Locker alongside Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, where he launched a ‘verbal offensive’ to turn up the heat on the American and get them trading blows at last. Pacquiao used the opportunity to mock Mayweather for being reluctant to accept the challenge up until now and Mayweather’s army of fans have also being applying pressure on the Grand Rapids-born superstar to make happen what many describe as the boxing match of the century, according to ESPN.

Boxing fans have been clamouring for a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight since 2009 and several negotiations between the two camps have taken place over the last five years, but with no success. One group of meetings between the two boxers that took place over 2009 and 2010 involved a compulsory drug-testing formality as part of the proceedings but the talks were scuppered and not much has happened since until last Friday and Mayweather’s spectacularly determined response.

I would love to fight Manny Pacquiao. We tried to make the fight happen years ago; we had problems with random blood and urine testing. “I just want to be on an even playing field. Now he’s in a very, very tight situation. He’s lost to [Juan Manuel] Marquez [in 2012], he’s lost to [Timothy] Bradley [by controversial decision in 2012 but avenged it in April]. Pay-per-view numbers are extremely low. He’s desperate. I wanted that fight a long time ago. I’m just waiting on them.” Mayweather explained to ESPN.

Floyd Mayweather is not ducking or dodging any opponent. Bob Arum is stopping the fight. We have been trying to make this fight happen behind the scenes for years now, but the fans and the people have been fooled because they have been listening to people just on one side. Now it’s time for us to talk. We want the fight.”

Asked about his chief motivation for now wanting to take on Pacquiao, Mayweather told ESPN, “I know that he’s not on my level. The fans would love to see the fight. And, of course, I want to go out with a bang.” He then addressed Pacquiao and his manager directly.

So let’s make this fight happen. Manny Pacquiao, Bob Arum, you guys have been ducking us for years,” Mayweather said. “We’re tired of you guys fooling the public, fooling the critics. You guys didn’t want to take random blood and urine testing, so that’s why it didn’t happen. Then I offered you $40 million, then you didn’t want to make the fight happen. You lost twice, now you coming back begging for the same money. That’s not gonna happen. Let’s make the fight happen for the people and the fans. Mayweather versus Pacquiao, May 2nd, Cinco de Mayweather.”

A video of the interview can be found at the ESPN site. A link is provided in the Sources section underneath this article.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Mayweather calls out Pacquiao” – Dan Rafael, ESPN Boxing/ESPN.com/ESPN Internet Ventures (13 December 2014) http://espn.go.com/boxing/story/_/id/12022404/floyd-mayweather-jr-says-wants-fight-manny-pacquiao-proposes-2-bout
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.