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Barcelona sacks Valverde

FC Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde have reached an agreement to terminate the contract that unites both parties.

Agence France-Presse

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Ernesto Valverde was dismissed after two-and-a-half-seasons in charge at Barcelona (AFP Photo)

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Spanish champion Barcelona sacked its coach, Ernesto Valverde, and appointed Quique Setien as replacement.

The decision to remove Valverde was confirmed following a board meeting that lasted more than four hours at Camp Nou on Monday afternoon.

Barca is on top of La Liga, but has won only one of its last five matches. Valverde is the first coach the club has sacked mid-season since Louis van Gaal in 2003.

“FC Barcelona and Ernesto Valverde have reached an agreement to terminate the contract that units both parties,” read a club statement released on Monday night.

Setien will be presented in a press conference at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

“Barcelona and Quique Setien have reached an agreement for the latter to become first team coach until 30 June 2022,” the club said.

“Setien is one of the most experienced coaches in Spanish football,” it added. “Throughout his career he has been a proponent of possession based, attacking football that has been attractive to the fans.”

His first game in charge will be at home to Granada on Sunday. Barcelona plays Napoli in the Last 16 of the Champions League next month and Real Madrid in the league at the start of March.

Setien has made no secret of his admiration for the stylistic traditions of Barcelona with the 61-year-old also renowned for favoring an exciting, offensive mode of football.

A former player of Atletico Madrid and Racing Santander, he was circled as a potential Barca coach during a particularly successful period in charge of Real Betis.

Setien led Betis to a sixth-place finish in 2018 and qualification for the Europa League despite overseeing a thrilling 4-3 victory at Camp Nou early the following season, results tailed off.
Betis finished 10th and the club and coach parted ways in the summer.

Previously, he also helped Las Palmas avoid relegation from La Liga in 2016.

A footballing purist, Setien and Barcelona would seem a good fit, particularly if the players feel released from some of Valverde’s more pragmatic tendencies.

But critics of Setien would argue style often takes precedence over substance and it remains to be seen how he handles the pressure of matching aesthetics with results at one of the world’s most demanding clubs.

He will also have to do without Luis Suarez, who will be missing for the next four months after having surgery on his right knee.

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PFL respects Global FC ban

We fully understand their decision and we appreciate their stand for the cause of the players.

Ian Suyu

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The Philippine Football League (PFL) respects the decision of the Games and Amusement Board (GAB) backlisting Global FC due to its failure to settle its contractual obligations to its players and staff.

PFL commissioner Coco Torre said they fully understand GAB’s decision that bars Global FC from renewing its professional license or transacting with the government sports licensing body.

In a memorandum released Wednesday, GAB laid down its blacklist order after the club failed to respond to the show cause order addressed to its team manager, Mark Jarvis, in August.

Global, which used to rule the United Football League, has yet to settle its obligation to 15 of its players, including skipper Jerry Barbaso and Jorrel Aristorenas, who still haven’t received their salaries amounting to P1.6 million and P1.02 million, respectively.

Torre said GAB’s decision to blacklist Global is a testament to its support to the athletes, who are seeking to collect what the club owes them.

“We respect the decision of GAB. They are there to protect the interest of the professional players,” Torre said.

Prior to GAB’s action, the PFL and the Philippine Football Federation had also sent their respective show cause orders to seek the side of the Global management.

Torre said the banning would serve as a warning to other professional clubs to be more careful and responsible in dealing with their athletes.

“It will also serve as a deterrent for the future of other clubs to be careful with their management, and be careful and responsible on their duties,” said Torre, who will roll out the fourth season of the PFL with six participating teams in United City FC, alongside Kaya Iloilo FC, Stallion Laguna FC, Mendiola FC, Maharlika FC and Azkals Development Team.

“We fully understand their decision and we appreciate their stand for the cause of the players.”

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Brady recovers powers Bucs

Agence France-Presse

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LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Tom Brady bounced back with his first victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday as Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to a thrilling overtime victory against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Brady, who suffered a mauling in a debut loss to the New Orleans Saints last week, showed flashes of his old self in a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at the Raymond James Stadium.

The six-time Super Bowl champion, who joined Tampa Bay in March after ending a 20-year career with the New England Patriots, threw for 217 yards with one touchdown from 23 completions.

“It feels good to win,” Brady said.

“It’s going to feel good to watch the film and learn.”

“There was a lot of good things and definitely things we can be better at. So it was fun to win and we’ve worked hard at winning. We’re going to take it and we’re going to try to be better next week.”

The Buccaneers had taken control of the contest in the first half, racing into a 14-0 first quarter lead with a close-range rushing touchdown from Ronald Jones before Brady connected with Mike Evans from 23 yards for a second score.

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Solid showing for Etheridge

Ian Suyu

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Azkals star goalkeeper Neil Etheridge came up with an impressive debut performance as Birmingham City FC battled Swansea City FC on Sunday to a rare nil-nil draw in the second match day of the English Football League.

Etheridge pulled off his first clean sheet of the season, highlighted by his last minute heroics against the heavily-powered Swansea team, regarded as one of the powerhouse teams.

Despite the goalless encounter between the squads, the Filipino stopper expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance in the early stage of their season.

With an additional point on their end, the 30-year-old goalkeeper said that their performance will definitely boost their momentum for their upcoming matches.

“Great feeling to make my Birmingham City FC debut! A good point away from home, keeping the momentum,” said Etheridge, who is the first Filipino to ever play in the prestigious Premier League with his former club Cardiff City FC.

“The boys worked hard for 90 minutes, with the bonus clean sheet on the road.” Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka also agreed with Etheridge and said that the squad’s collective effort really countered the Spurs’ fiery offense.

Birmingham is currently seated in the middle of the league rankings, with one win and one draw on their card. The club is next scheduled to battle the visiting Rotherham United FC at their home turf on 26 September.

“I’m really pleased because it’s a second game against another team that was in the playoffs last year and this was another really good performance,” said Karanka.

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Barca: Messi our leader, captain

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MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said he does not want to argue with Lionel Messi and believes the Argentinian is excited to play under new coach Ronald Koeman.

Bartomeu also said he has no intention of resigning, despite a petition to oust him as president gathering more than 20,000 signatures last week.

Messi has reintegrated with the team since admitting he had been forced to stay at Barcelona and claiming Bartomeu had broken his word over a clause in his contract allowing him to leave.

The 33-year-old could still depart for free when his contract expires next summer.

“As president I will not enter into any conflict with Messi,” Bartomeu said on Saturday in an interview with Catalan television channel TV3.

“Messi is our captain, the leader. We have seen him in recent days and does his talking on the field as we have seen. The issue is parked. What has been said has been said.

“I couldn’t allow, like anyone on the board or coaching staff, to let the best player in the world go. The team needs him. Things have to be discussed at home. You have to support the team and the players.

“We have to congratulate ourselves that Messi is still with us. He is excited about Koeman. The important thing is he plays for Barca, at his home. We want him to retire at the club and to start a project with Messi.”

The chaos surrounding Messi’s future prompted a motion of censure against Bartomeu, who will face a vote of no confidence if more than 16,520 of the 20,867 signatures against him are approved.

A vote will then be held and if two thirds of voting members go against Bartomeu, he will have to step down, with an election held perhaps as early as January.

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Neil banks on experience

Ian Suyu

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NEIL Etheridge vows to power Birmingham City FC to prominence. GLYN KIRK/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Neil Etheridge will use his experience to his advantage when he sees action for Birmingham City FC in the English Football League.

Speaking at the CPT Crossover Podcast late Thursday, Etheridge, the star goalkeeper of the Philippine Azkals, said he is ready to play for his new club using the experience he gained after becoming the first Filipino to play in the Premier League.

“It’s all about Birmingham’s consistency over the season. There would be bumps in the road and the championship would change so quickly,” said the 30-year-old stopper, who is the remaining active member of the Azkals squad that essayed the “Miracle of Hanoi” back in 2010.

“Hopefully, I can bring that experience here at Birmingham together with the senior players that I am joining in the dressing room.”

Etheridge played a key role in the success of Cardiff City FC in recent years, guarding the post with authority in its promotion-winning season in 2017 and in its Premier League campaign in 2018 to clinch the club’s Best Player of the Year honor.

But his performance took a dive this year as he lost his spot in the rotation due to hamstring injury.

Still, the Filipino was considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the Championship League and a major part of Cardiff City’s rebuilding effort.

Aside from him, Birmingham City also acquired the services of veteran Aston Villa and top striker Scott Hogan to fire up its offensive arsenal.

Birmingham finished the season at the bottom of the standings with only 12 wins in 46 matches and Etheridge is looking forward to turn things around.

“I’m ready for it actually. It will be a new experience and a new challenge. I don’t think anyone could argue that I’ve never faced tough challenges in my career,” he said

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COVID costs football $11B

Agence France-Presse

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BELLINZONA, Switzerland (AFP) — FIFA on Wednesday put the cost of Covid-19 on football around the world at $11 billion in lost revenue.

The pandemic has already led to over 150 football associations to seek financial help from the $1.5 billion emergency relief fund set up by football’s governing body.

Olli Rehn, chairman of FIFA’s coronavirus steering committee, laid bare for the first time the true financial impact the virus has had on the game through fixture list chaos, empty stadiums and loss of TV rights revenue.

“It’s a huge number and it covers the football economy in its entirety, including all youth academies,” Rehn, a Finnish politician and governor of the Bank of Finland, told a press conference.

“This will impact next year as well, there is a carry over. That is why this Covid-19 relief fund is not time-bound — they may request loans later on if they need to,” Rehn, who is also independent deputy chairman of the FIFA Governance Committee, said.

He said that while Europe was hit hardest in terms of absolute cost, it was the associations outside Europe which “have suffered more”.

“In particular in South America, many on account of their relative means and the spring to autumn season,” he said.

Last month European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli predicted lost revenue of four billion euros over two years for its member clubs.

Each national association can request a FIFA grant of $1million ($2mn for confederations) plus $500,000 for women’s football.

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Messi strikes twice in Barca victory

Agence France-Presse

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Lionel Messi of Barcelona makes his move against a Girona defender. JOSEP LAGO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BARCELONA, Spain (AFP) — Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.

The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.

He went off after an hour.

Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club.

Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition… and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.”

Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training center but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.

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Neymar banned two matches as league opens racism probe

Agence France-Presse

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Neymar received a two-match ban Wednesday for his red card against Marseille as the French league announced it would open an investigation into accusations of racism by the Brazil forward against Alvaro Gonzalez.

Angel Di Maria will also be summoned to the league’s next disciplinary commission meeting on September 23 over claims he spat at Marseille defender Gonzalez during PSG’s 1-0 loss which ended with a mass brawl and five players sent off.

Neymar was sent off for slapping Gonzalez on the back of the head and accused the Spaniard of calling him a “monkey”.

Gonzalez denies the allegation.

“We know there was an exchange of words. But right now, there isn’t enough certainty to call in the players,” said Sebastien Deneux, president of the disciplinary commission.

He said the investigation would study the footage further to determine whether there was enough evidence to substantiate the claims of racist abuse.

The goal will be to establish “what was actually said and what was actually heard”, Deneux added, while insisting the commission would only rule on “objective, tangible elements.”

The probe could also potentially interpret whether Neymar made homophobic remarks to Gonzalez, as reported by Spanish media.

PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa incurred a six-match ban for kicking out at Marseille left-back Jordan Amavi, who was hit with a suspension of three games after he too was dismissed.

Leandro Paredes was banned for two games after he was sent off for a clash with fellow Argentine Dario Benedetto, who was also red-carded and will be suspended for Marseille’s game with Saint-Etienne on Thursday.

Neymar watched Wednesday’s 1-0 win at home to Metz from the stands as PSG registered their first points of the season courtesy of a stoppage-time Julian Draxler goal, after successive opening defeats for the first time since 1984/85.

He will be free to return to face Reims on September 27 but will miss Sunday’s trip to Nice.

The suspension adds to a growing list served by Neymar since his arrival in Paris in 2017 as the world’s most expensive football.

He was banned for three games by UEFA — eventually reduced to two — following a foul-mouthed rant at officials following PSG’s Champions League exit at the hands of Manchester United in March 2019.

A couple months later he lashed out at a Rennes supporter following PSG’s defeat on penalties in the French Cup final, earning himself a three-match ban from the French FA.

Neymar was also sent off in a 2-2 draw against Marseille in October 2017 for two petulant yellow cards late in the game.

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PFL ready to adjust

Ian Suyu

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The Philippine Football League (PFL) is ready to adjust its calendar depending on the decision of the government on the resumption of contact sports.

PFL commissioner Coco Torre said they are ready to move their opening salvo to a later date if the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would not give them the green light to resume.

In a statement over the weekend, IATF vice chairman Karlo Nograles said the government is not yet confident on allowing the resumption of contact sports such as basketball and football due to the high number of coronavirus cases in the country.

With that, doubts were raised on whether the Philippine Basketball Association could resume its Philippine Cup on 9 October and if the PFL could kick off its fourth season on 15 October.

“We respect their decision, first and foremost. And second is that we will continue to cooperate and abide by their directives,” Torre added.

Torre said the trainings of their team under strict health and safety measures are going well at the Philippine Football Federation training center in Carmona, Cavite, where they are also planning to hold their season using bubble concept.

But with Nograles’ statement, they are shifting to Plan B, which is to push it to a later date while abbreviating their competition format to only 45 days.

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