In the Post Covid era this year, football, the most favorite sport of the globe gave the world the first set of mega sporting spectacles- Copa America and the Euros that rattled and dazzled not only Americas or Europe but the entire world earlier this year. The year 2021 proved to be a year to remember for Lionel Messi as he found redemption guiding the La Albiceleste to their first title in almost two decades beating rivals Brazil by a solitary goal in the finals of the Copa America.
Their last World Cup glory came way back in Mexico 1986 and more recently in Rio 2014 Argentina finished runner up courtesy Mario Götze’s extra time goal that helped Germany claim their fourth World Title. The Blue and White brigade had last won the Copa America in 1993 at Ecuador while finishing Runner up 2004, 2007, 2015 and 2016 in the recent past. This was Messi’s first Winners Trophy for his beloved Argentina.
The world was slowly finding its way back to the post-pandemic way of life, when the news that Messi was parting ways with Barcelona, shook the entire world. Football fans across the globe, believed that Barca and Messi were inseparable. The blow was close to the hearts of the 250 million fans who follow Barcelona FC – the second most popular Club in the World. Lionel Messi had joined Barcelona in 2003 in his early teens and since then won a record Six Ballon d’Or Awards, Six European Gold Shoes, Ten La Liga Titles, and for the club 35 trophies which include Seven Copa del Ray and Four European Champions League Crowns. The 5’7” maestro found the opposition net 672 times in 778 appearances for Barca, and scored over 750 senior career goals for club and country -the most goals ever by a player for a single club.
While many indicated how Messi’s good friend Luis Suárez was made to feel at the Barcelona and as a result he left to join Atlético Madrid, these were early signs that things were going to be different. In August 2020, Messi had tried to leave Barcelona making a formal request for an exit after a breakdown in his relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu but his successor Joan Laporta, had convinced him to stay.
This time when the contract had run out, and Messi and Barcelona wanted to renew their contracts, economic, structural and legal issues were cited to force the two to part ways. Barcelona maintained that Messi wanted to stay with the club even if it meant a 50% reduction in his wages but La Liga’s Financial Fair Play regulations would not permit the club to incur any further debt. Javier Tebas, Chief, La Liga was reported saying that Barcelona, which has a total debt of more than 1 billion euros equivalent to $1.18 billion, would not be shown any leniency when it comes to obeying the league’s strict financial control rules.
In 2013, La Liga had introduced financial measures of controlling that determined the maximum amount of money each club could spend on its teams, which was conditioned by their income. This included the amount a club could spend as paying wages to the playing squad and coaching staff each season. According to the 2021 Deloitte Money League, Barcelona has the highest revenues in world football, although the club’s income fell drastically by 125 million euros last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the income plummeted, the big salaries have definitely been a burgeoning liability on the Catalan giants. Desperate attempts to offload a couple of high-wage players and talks about reducing salaries of players they wanted to retain, things did not actually pan out as planned.
Messi who also captains Argentina and is considered by many to be one of the greatest players to play the game would have had many lucrative offers. Many expected him to move to Manchester City and reunite with his former manager Pep Guardiola but Paris Saint-Germain’s Mauricio Pochettino sealed the deal. Reports state that Messi’s two-year contract with PSG gives him a $41 million annual net salary, including bonuses. There is more on the table like a near $30-million signing bonus, while reports are rumored that Argentine will also get a share of player image rights, including jersey sales, which could potentially take his salary up to the $75 million range. PSG said in a statement that Messi will also have a share in the cryptocurrency or fan tokens included in his “welcome package”, or signing on fee. The contract also has an option for extending into a possible third year.
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BOPANNA CRASHES OUT IN DOUBLES OPENER, NADAL CRUISES INTO ROUND 3 IN AUSTRALIAN OPEN
India’s Rohan Bopanna alongside Edouard Roger-Vasselin suffered an opening-round loss in the men’s doubles event of the ongoing Australian Open on Wednesday. Playing at Court 5, the wild card entries, Treat Huey of the Philippines and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia defeated the duo of Bopanna and Frenchman Edouard by 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-2. The doubles match lasted for one hour and 48 minutes.
Bopanna and Edouard started the match at a rapid pace as they broke their opponents early in game 4 and easily captured the first set. The pair from the Philippines and Indonesia then pegged back in the tiebreak game in the second set. And in decider Huey and Rungkat continued their momentum to seal the victory.
At Rod Laver Arena, Rafael Nadal defeated the Yannick Hanfmann of Germany to cruise into round 3 at Melbourne Park. 2009 AO champion defeated German qualifier 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a match that lasted for two hours and 42 minutes.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, playing just his second tournament since mid-August, did not need to move into top gear to get the job done against the world number 126, who did use his heavy groundstrokes to win some skirmishes, without ever looking likely to win the larger battle. Spaniard will next match against Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov or Benjamin Bonzi.
SANIA MIRZA REVEALS RETIREMENT PLANS, SAYS 2022 SEASON WILL BE HER LAST
India’s first women’s tennis superstar, Sania Mirza on Wednesday announced her retirement plans, confirming that the 2022 season will be her last.
The Indian tennis player has won six Grand Slams and has reached the summit of the WTA doubles ranking. Mirza is also the first Indian to break into the top 30 in the WTA singles ranking. Mirza announced her retirement plans after her opening-round loss in women’s doubles event at the ongoing Australian Open. The 35-year-old after her match said: “There’s a few reasons for it. It’s not as simple as ‘okay I’m not going to play’. I do feel my recovery is taking longer, I’m putting my 3-year-old son at risk by travelling so much with him, that’s something I have to take into account. I think my body is wearing down. My knee was really hurting today and I’m not saying that’s the reason we lost but I do think that it is taking time to recover as I’m getting older.”
“Also for me to find that motivation everyday to come out. The energy is not the same anymore. There are more days than there used to be where I don’t feel like doing that. I’ve always said that I will play until I enjoy that grind, the process which I’m not sure I’m enjoying as much anymore.”
“Having said that, I still want to play the season because I’m enjoying it enough to play the year. I’ve worked very hard to come back, get fit, lose the weight and try to set a good example for mothers, new mothers to follow their dreams as much as they can. Beyond this season, I don’t feel my body doing it. It’s beat,” Mirza added.
Sania Mirza along with her Ukrainian partner Nadiia Kichenok suffered an opening-round loss in the women’s doubles event. Kaja Juvan and Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia defeated Mirza and Kichenok 6-4, 7-6.
Mirza and Kichenok were not able to leave any sort of mark in the first set. However, the duo showed some sort of fight in the second set, but in the end, it did not prove enough.
NAOMI OSAKA STORMS INTO THIRD ROUND AFTER STRAIGHT-SETS WIN OVER BRENGLE
Naomi Osaka produced some of her best tennis to beat American Madison Brengle 6-0, 6-4, and reach the third round of the Australian Open. The 24-year-old Japanese will next meet 60th-ranked American Amanda Anisimova with a mouthwatering clash against Australian Barty potentially waiting in the round of 16.
Osaka, who won the 2019 women’s single too, took just 20 minutes to wrap up the first set against her American opponent. Brengle won just nine points in the first set as an aggressive Osaka served superbly, facing no breakpoints, and returned strong to breeze through the set.
The 54th-ranked Brengle, 31, had a big smile as the Rod Laver Arena crowd cheered her first service game win at the start of the second set as Osaka’s game dipped. But the two-time U.S. Open winner soon regained control and sealed the win after 65 minutes on her first match point with a second break of serve in the set.
Representing every girl who has been deprived of sports, says Aditi Chauhan
Team India goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan believes that a good run in the Asian Cup has the perfect opportunity to further popularise women’s football in India. “We stand at a very crucial juncture for women’s football, or Indian football. Most of the girls in our team have seen the struggles that every other girl child has to face if they want to take up sports as kids. I can assure you, we represent every one of them on this stage – all of them who may have been deprived. We have girls from every corner of the country, and we fight for every girl from every nook and corner of India. We fight as one,” said Chauhan as per an AIFF release. “Sports has an uncanny habit of impacting social lives, and we want to strive for such change. We do not just want to strive for victories. We are fighting for much more. We are fighting for women’s football, and we hope to make some impact in our country, no matter how small it is,” she added.
The Blue Tigresses are brimming with excitement, but are also cautious about their three opponents on Group A – IR Iran, Chinese Taipei and China PR – who stand in their way to the quarterfinals; should they progress past the Group Stage and into the quarters, they will get a shot at qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia 2023. “I’ve been playing for well over a decade, and I never really thought over all this time that we would be this close to something which is a lifelong dream for any footballer anywhere in the world. But as they say, if you don’t work for it, your dreams remain mere dreams. We have to give our heart and soul on the pitch, and we are mentally prepared to do so,” said captain Ashalata Devi.
The central defender has had to overcome perceptions during her initial days that women should not play football, and believes that there is no greater proof against such perceptions than the Blue Tigresses shining in the Asian Cup. “Would I have thought about an Asian Cup appearance, when I would sneak out of my house to play football with the boys, as a kid? Not in a million years. But that just shows you how much women can do if they put their minds to it. If you truly love something and do it with passion, and an inhumane obsession, it will eventually take you somewhere,” said Devi.
India will take on IR Iran on January 20, Chinese Taipei on January 23, and China PR on January 26 in Group A of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
THERE IS A NEED TO CARRY FORWARD THE WORK DONE BY VIRAT
If we look at the statistics of Indian cricketers, then I do not think that there has been a bigger match winner in Indian cricket than Virat Kohli. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. He has been answering every criticism with his bat. Actually, the trend of Indian cricket has been such that people forget your actions very quickly.
I am extremely proud to say that Virat has a huge hand in taking forward KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma. There is no ego in this player. Like Sachin, Dravid and Dhoni, he too has given up captaincy and has decided to focus on batting. I remember when he became the new captain, he used to react strongly when a teammate dropped the catch. Then I explained to him that no one comes on the field with the intention of performing poorly.
Such a mistake happens. That’s why it should be considered a part of the game. Virat understood this very well and after that he started taking all such mistakes on the field with ease. I explained to him that how to take hundred percent performance from every player of the team, it is the captain’s job. As captain, Virat understood this very well and encouraged all the players of the team. He didn’t compromise on building a great team.
Virat should stay away from any kind of bias and the result is in front of you. I am sure KL Rahul will understand this very well in the ongoing ODI series and then Rohit Sharma will have a big responsibility to take this thing further.
The author is a Dronacharya Award winner & a coach of Virat Kohli
Bavuma, Dussen help SA register 31-run win over India
Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen’s centuries were backed by a spirited bowling performance as South Africa defeated India by 31 runs in the first ODI of the three-match series here at Boland Park, Paarl on Wednesday.
With this win, the hosts have gained a 1-0 lead in the three-match series. The second ODI will be played on the same ground on Friday. Chasing 297, India got off to a steady start as openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul put on 46 runs but as soon as the Men in Blue started to gain an upper hand, Aiden Markram sent skipper Rahul (12) back to the pavilion and this brought Virat Kohli to the middle. After the first ten overs, India’s score read 55/1.
The left-handed Dhawan brought up his fifty in the 14th over of the innings, and he along with Kohli kept on moving the scoreboard briskly. At the halfway mark, India’s score read 137/1, with the visitors needing 160 more runs for the win with nine wickets in hand. South Africa got the much-needed wicket in the 26th over through Keshav Maharaj as he bowled Dhawan (79).
Kohli (51) brought up his fifty but as soon as he reached the landmark, he was sent back to the pavilion by Tabraiz Shamsi. Soon after, Lungi Ngidi got the better of Shreyas Iyer (17) while Rishabh Pant was stumped off the bowling of Andile Phehlukwayo, reducing India to 182/5 in the 35th over, with the visitors still needing 115 runs for the win. Shardul Thakur (50*) tried his best but in end, the task proved too much for the lower-order and South Africa registered a 31-run win.
Earlier, Rassie van der Dussen (129*) and Temba Bavuma (110) were the bright spots with the bat as South Africa posted 296/4. Bavuma and van der Dussen put on a stand of 204 runs for the fourth wicket and this is the second-highest by a South African pair in ODIs against India. Opting to bat first, South Africa got off to a bad start as the hosts lost opener Janneman Malan (6) in the fifth over of the innings. The batter was sent back to the pavilion by pacer Jasprit Bumrah and this brought skipper Temba Bavuma to the middle. After the first ten overs, the Proteas’ score read 39/1.
Indian bowlers were able to maintain a stranglehold over the Proteas batters and Bavuma and de Kock found the going tough in the middle. The 39-run stand for the second wicket came to an end in the 16th over as R Ashwin bowled De Kock (27). Soon after, Venkatesh Iyer’s direct hit got the better of Aiden Markram (4) and Proteas were reduced to 68/3 in the 18th over.
Rassie van der Dussen then joined Bavuma in the middle and the duo revived Proteas’ innings by mixing caution with aggression. The partnership saw both batters going past their respective fifty-run mark. Bavuma brought up his ton in the 45th over while van der Dussen brought up the landmark in the 48th over of the innings. In the last five overs, the Proteas added 51 more runs to the total, taking the score past the 295-run mark.
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