Diego Armando Maradona “has always been a supporter of Dries Mertens and believed in him,” said the Napoli legend’s agent after last night’s historic goals. Mertens bagged a brace in the Champions League 3-2 victory at RB Salzburg, taking his tally up to 116 goals in a Partenopei jersey, one more than Maradona. The Belgian now has his sights set on Marek Hamsik’s all-time club record of 121 goals. “Diego has always been a supporter of Mertens and believed in him, even when the Belgian wasn’t playing very much,” Maradona’s representative Stefano Ceci told Radio Kiss Kiss. “I remember full well after Arkadiusz Milik’s injury that Diego said Napoli already had the replacement in-house with a real phenomenon called Mertens.” This is because Mertens had originally been a winger, only becoming a make-shift centre-forward under Maurizio Sarri when Milik was ruled out by a serious knee injury. Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/
Fiorentina are still looking to chase down the signature of Sassuolo attacker Domenico Berardi next summer. Even in the wake of Berardi signing a new contract at the Mapei Stadium, the speculation linking the player with a summer transfer is not going away. La Viola’s sporting director Daniele Pradé is still monitoring the situation of the former U21 international, as the club will be looking to add depth to their squad. According to the Corriere Fiorentino newspaper, he is already looking to make a deal with the Neroverdi to make sure they are in pole position when the market opens next summer. The 25-year-old Italian has already scored six times in eight Serie A matches for Sassuolo this term and will be looking to add to the tally when they travel to Lecce this weekend. Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports for just £11.99 per month including live LaLiga, Eredivisie, Scottish Cup Football and more. Visit: https://subscribe.premiersports.tv/
MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag.India may have flopped in the opening cricket Test against Sri Lanka but opener Virender Sehwag held on to the number one spot, while Sachin Tendulkar gained a place to be seventh in the latest ICC rankings for batsmen issued on Friday.Sehwag, who scored 109 and 31 in the Test which India lost by 10 wickets, has opened up a 14-point gap over second-placed Kumar Sangakkara.Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s iconic off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who spent a record 214 Tests and 1,711 days in the number-one spot, retired from Test cricket at the third spot in the bowling chart.The 38-year-old, who finished with 800 wickets from 133 Tests, bowed out in third position behind Dale Steyn of South Africa and Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif after climbing two spots in the latest rankings following figures of 5-63 and 3-128 which set-up a 10-wicket victory for Sri Lanka in the first Test of the three-match series in Galle.The bowlers dropping in the latest rankings include off-colour Indian pacer Ishant Sharma, who was down one spot to 22nd, Rangana Herath (31st, down six places) and Pragyan Ojha (58th, down by nine places).In the Rankings for Test batsmen, Indian opener Gautam Gambhir, middle-order batsmen Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have failed to retain their places.Gambhir has slipped six places to 10th position, Laxman has fallen two places to 15th position, Dravid has dropped one place to 18th place while Dhoni has fallen four places to the 40th spot.advertisementMeanwhile, Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has swapped places with his predecessor Mahela Jayawardena.
With barely 50 days to go for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), the key venues are yet to get a fire safety certificate. So far, only three venues have been given the mandatory fire safety clearance while as many as 17 stadia are yet to get it. That includes the venue for opening and closing ceremonies – Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and Indira Gandhi Stadium. Ironically, most of these stadia are yet to even apply for the fire safety certificate. As the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief, Mike Fenell, has set August 18 deadline for all the venues to get all the regulatory approvals, it spares just five days for the CWG organising committee (OC) to secure the no objection certificate from the Delhi Fire Service. Delhi Fire Service director R.C. Sharma said, “So far we have cleared three stadia — Thyagaraj stadium, Chhatrasal stadium and Karan Singh shooting range. We have got some more requests on last Friday which we are inspecting.” Moreover, none of the venues has secured a building completion certificate as yet. These venues don’t just need regulatory approvals from various departments but even Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) should also clear them. But the process for that has not been initiated yet. Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta said, “Completion certificate can be sought only after DUAC gives a clearance. The local body cannot issue a certificate until the DUAC clears it.” DUAC chairman K.T. Ravindran said, “We are ready to hold an extraordinary meeting to clear all CWG venues. All we want is that Games should be held successfully.”advertisement
A view of the Games venueSeven synthetic athletic tracks that participants would be running on during the Commonwealth Games (CWG) have been laid by a small-time garment manufacturer, a Headlines Today investigation has revealed. The contract was given at Rs 73 crore and much higher than the market rate. SEE VIDEO Shiv Naresh Sports, owned by S.P. Singh, bagged the contract even though it had no experience in sports construction projects. Rather, it was Singh’s closeness to Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the CWG Organising Committee, that may have helped him get the work. Singh’s closeness to Bhanot was revealed on Headlines Today’s cameras. Reporter: So you agree you have been in touch with Lalit Bhanot from 2006 to 2009? S.P. Singh: As I told you I have known him for many years. Ever since the federation work has been on. Reporter: Since when?S.P. Singh: 1985-86. Speaking off camera, Bhanot acknowledged his friendship with Singh but insisted that this had not influenced the tender for the athletic tracks. But documents with Headlines Today show that the CWG Organising Committee formulated tender specifications in violation of rules laid down by the Union sports ministry. This happened despite objections from senior government officials. The CWG Organising Committee bent rules to allow Shiv Naresh Sports to qualify for the bid. The company’s only qualification had been liaisoning work for a Swiss track manufacturer. In 2008, Singh had worked as a commission agent for the Swiss company to supply tracks to a stadium in Ranchi. Reporter: You weren’t the contractor for the work at Ranchi stadium, right?S.P. Singh: No, Nagarjuna Construction Company was the contractor.Reporter: How did you do the work of laying the synthetic track when the project belonged to Nagarjuna Construction Company?S.P. Singh: Nagarjuna Construction Company gave work to me by sub-letting. For the CWG stadia, Shiv Naresh Sports gave tracks like the one supplied in Ranchi. But the money quoted was highly inflated. By his own admission, Singh supplied the synthetic track at Ranchi at 58 dollars per sq metre. Reporter: What was the rate quoted in the contact that Nagarjuna Construction Company got?S.P. Singh: I gave it at 58 dollars. Reporter: 58 dollars? S.P. Singh: Per sq metre.S.P. Singh: And out here (for CWG), I quoted Rs 6,884 per sq metre. So for CWG, Shiv Naresh Sports quoted the track work at Rs 6,884 per sq metre (147 dollars per sq metre) – more than 2.5 times what the company sought in Ranchi. Synthetic surfaces are normally purchased from authorised manufacturers of respective international federations. However, there is a tendency to introduce further technical specifications. This practice cannot be technically justified and is generally done on the basis of brochures of specific manufacturers. This is against the norms of transparency in procurement. The International Association of Athletics Federations has authorised over a dozen turf manufacturers. At least four of them sent expressions of interest for CWG. Three were shortlisted – Conica (Switzerland), Rekotan (USA) and Polytan (Germany). The prevailing market rate for a synthetic athlete track is 60 to 70 dollars per sq metre. But the three companies cast their bids in the range of 145 to 160 dollars per sq metre. While Conica was represented in India by Shiv Naresh Sports, Polytan was represented by defence contractor Inderjeet Mehta Constructions. Rekotan was represented by Jubilee Sports. For the hockey turfs, the CWG Organising Committee shortlisted four brands made by three companies – Polygrass Olympia, Polygrass XL, Megaturf and Astroturf. Two of these brands are manufactured by Sports Technology Australia and represented by Jubilee Sports. The credentials of Jubilee Sports are suspect. The company is owned by Sidhartha Verma, who was arrested by the CBI in 2001 on charges of corruption. Verma’s company got the contract worth over Rs 35 crore even though it quoted close to double the market price of under Rs 3,000 per sq metre. Jubilee Sports supplied five hockey pitches at the rate of Rs 5,100 per sq metre, but has laid turfs at Hisar, Rohtak, Gandhinagar and Kolkata for less than Rs 3,000 per sq. metre.advertisement
The presence of South Africa in India’s qualification group has made it tougher for the hosts to make it to the Olympics, and the absence of some key players in the lead-up has not helped matters for national women’s hockey coach CR Kumar.Women’s hockey coach CR KumarIndia have just one tournament before the qualifiers on home turf in February but several senior players will be missing from that event.”We have a four-nation tournament in Argentina also featuring Ireland and South Africa from December 7 to 20. It will be useful to gauge our preparedness,” Kumar told Mail Today from Bhopal, where the players are undergoing a camp.However, the absence of a few players due to injury or personal reasons has hit preparations. “We have two fractures. Joydeep Kaur and Mukta Barla are out injured. (Skipper) Saba Anjum is getting married on December 25 and has opted out of this tournament.”Jasjeet Kaur’s sister is getting married while Deepika Thakur is absent from the camp due to some unknown reason,” the coach said.However, Kumar is confident that the missing players will be available in time for the qualifiers. “The injuries need four weeks’ rest and recovery period. They should be back by the end of December.”He is quietly confident after the draw put India with South Africa, Italy, Canada, Ukraine and Poland.”The performance in Australia was positive and provided good experience for the girls. I am relieved we did not get Spain in our group. But South Africa will be tough. We will have a chance to have a look at them in Argentina,” Kumar said.advertisement
The Central Council of the All India Chess Federation on Tuesday unanimously decided to recommend Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand for the Bharat Ratna award.Two other icons, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and hockey Olympian late Major Dhyan Chand are also being lobbied for the country’s highest civilian award after the Union government decided to include sports personalities in the eligibility list.The AICF Council that met also decided to explore the possibility of tying up with Anil Kumble’s Tenvic Sports with regard to setting up a National Chess Academy which will basically try to promote chess coaching, to regulate coaches and to broad-base the game throughout India, according to an AICF press release.
Australian Open winners Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek saw off a stiff resistance from Juan Monaco and Kei Nishikori to advance to the quarter-finals of the ATP Indian Wells Masters here.The seventh-seeded Indo-Czech pair scored a tough 7-6(5), 6-4 win in the second round over their unseeded opponents.They will now fight it out with giant-killing Spanish pair of Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal for a place in the last-four stage.Lopez and Nadal had knocked out third seeds Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in their opening round.The Indian pair of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had suffered a first round exit in the USD 4,694,969 hard court event. They had lost to French pair of Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.Sania-Vesnina in WTA quartersMeanwhile, Sania Mirza and her Russian partner Elena Vesnina too moved into quarter-finals of the WTA event of Indian Wells after scoring a hard fought win over Timea Bacsinszky and Alberta Brianti, here.The second seeds dominated the proceedings in the beginning but lost the second set before winning the second round match 6-1, 3-6, 10-2.They face Argentine pair of Gisela Dulko and Paola Suarez in the last-eight stage match.Sania had exited the singles event after losing the second round match against Anabel Medina Garrigues.
Recuperating after undergoing three cycles of chemotherapy for a malignant tumour between his lungs, cricketer Yuvraj Singh received an inspiring video message from his “real life hero” Lance Armstrong — the cycling legend whose own successful battle with cancer is well-documented.”Very special and inspiring message from my real life hero,” tweeted Yuvraj along with a link to the message from the cyclist who won the Tour de France a record seven consecutive times after having survived testicular cancer.In the 19-second video, Armstrong urged Yuvraj to keep moving forward optimistically.”Hi Yuvi, I am Lance Armstrong and welcome home. Man you have got one big following, I have heard about you every hour of every day since you have been diagnosed. We are pulling for you, so glad you are healthy now. Have a great life, don’t look back, live strong buddy,” said the 40-year-old American.Armstrong was 25 when he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer, which spread to his lungs, abdomen and brain.Armstrong had an orchiectomy to remove his diseased testicle and was given less than a 40 per cent survival chance by his doctors. But he battled out of it successfully to not just survive but also renew his career as a cyclist.The 30-year-old Yuvraj, who will return to the country on Monday, was discharged on March 18 from a hospital in the United States.Thousands of well-wishers have sent messages to cricketer, who is known for his aggressive batting and disciplined spin bowling.Yuvraj, has scored 8,051 runs in 274 one-dayers and 1,775 runs in 37 Tests since making his international debut in 2000.advertisement
With 103 days to go for the London Olympics, there is a feel-good factor about the way Indian sportspersons have geared up for the tough challenges ahead.Over the decades, the story of Indian athletes preparing for the Olympics has always been about how they could ensure participation at the last minute in various disciplines. Quite often, it had to do with just getting entries into the events and no realistic chance of coming anywhere near the medal bracket.Sports View by S. Kannan.However, after the highs of Beijing 2008, where India won their first individual gold medal through Abhinav Bindra and two bronze medals came from wrestler Sushil Kumar and boxer Vijender, there has been a marked improvement.In 2010, when the Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi, there was a marked improvement in the medal tally, which was followed by a solid showing at the Guangzhou Asian Games.Almost 18 months hence, the story of Indian sports has been a happy one. Just sample some of the facts. The LTDP (longterm development programme) which was chalked out by the Indian government had identified 16 disciplines in which India needed to concentrate.And with just over 100 days to go for the mega action at the Olympics, India has qualified in a whole gamut of disciplines. As of today, nine track and field athletes have made the grade, in boxing seven pugilists have booked their berths and 11 shooters will be gunning for glory.Add to it the Indian men’s hockey team having qualified for the Olympics there is a feel-good factor. In wrestling, three have secured berths, with a female wrestler Geeta also part of it. Sushil is still in the race and has one more chance to qualify, though dark horses can never be ruled out.advertisementIn archery, the rise has been creditable and four will be there in London with more qualifications likely. Swimming has been a sport where four making the cut on ‘B grade’ timings is also a new high. Badminton is also a focus area with Saina Nehwal and two doubles pairs almost assured of participation.Table tennis and tennis are still open cases, though we keep hearing so much noise about Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. The funny part is none of them is assured of an Olympic spot as yet and still there are reams being written about them. Not to forget, even the All India Tennis Association talks of national interest and what not as they will decide the eventual pairings for the Olympics!There are spots up for grabs in rowing and in weightlifting, even though one qualifier comes up shortly, to hope for qualification is wishful thinking. After the highs of the Sydney Olympics, when Karnam Malleswari won a bronze medal, weightlifting as a sport has been reduced to rubble.Doping, cheating, incompetent people running the federation and charlatans masquerading as coaches have ensured that weightlifting has been finished in India. Sadly, those who run sport in the country still continue to fund this federation.There are still some events where India can win qualifying slots and women’s boxing holds promise as MC Mary Kom and Sarita Devi are fancying their chances. Rowing is also a sport where there could be some surprise qualifiers, since nobody had imagined the rowers would do well in Guangzhou.Every four years, the lament in India is how a country with a population of over a billion is unable to win a clutch of medals at the Olympics. Tiny countries whose population would be even less than the smallest state in India ensure Olympic glory while India languishes.I am not going to be foolish enough to predict that since Indian participation will cross the triple digit mark at the London Olympics, our medal chances will go up.Yes, we can say with pride that Indians these days go to the Olympics only after a proper qualification process and even people like Sushil and Vijender have to labour for it.Vijender has been in the news for a good four years now. After Beijing, he won a gold medal at the Asian Games but had to wait till the last qualifier in Astana before making the cut.My argument is that after doing well in one Olympics, it is not easy for the same Indian athlete to again come up with a similar showing. Take the cases of Leander Paes, Malleswari and RVS Rathore. They never won a medal again, though Leander wants us to believe that he is still a medal prospect. I would advice everyone to take that with a spoon of salt as nobody in India wants to partner him.advertisementAfter the silver effort in Athens, Rathore was lost when he competed in Beijing. He didn’t find himself in the competition list for the 2010 CWG and the Asian Games, though people have been plugging that he should have gone to London!Hello, if you have to compete at the Olympics, slog, fight hard and earn your berth like Abhinav Bindra has done. Don’t look for largesse from the federation and fool yourself that you are still a medal prospect.In India, the word ‘medal prospect’ is so misused by athletes and their federations, the public actually starts believing we will win Olympic medals.Agreed, a jumbo contingent will be going to London, but as far as winning medals is concerned, we have to be realistic. Let’s hope they win us medals but let’s keep the hype low. [email protected]