Clashes inside stadiums and organised fights away from them are common. But this weekend’s mass disturbances in Marseille have thrust Russian hooliganism into the international spotlight.The Russian Football Union expressed regret over the fighting and Russia’s sports minister described those involved as a disgrace. But other senior officials have praised the hooligans openly as “real men”.Meanwhile the fans themselves seem largely unrepentant, even proud.”This showed who is the most important among hooligans,” Alexei, a supporter of Moscow’s CSKA football club who says he took part in the clashes, told me by phone from France.He said Russian hooligans learned much of what they know from the English.”In the 70s and 80s everyone would bow down before the English,” Alexei says. “Now there are different hooligans. These are different times.”Hashtags like #Marseilleisours appeared on Twitter after the clashes and Russian hooligan groups on social media praised participants.English fans caught up in the violence have talked of the Russians as savage and say ordinary supporters – not fellow hooligans – were attacked. Russian fans themselves insist they were responding to provocation by the English.But they do describe a new breed of Russian hooligan – younger, fitter and more sober than his English counterpart.”Now many people are boxers or into mixed martial arts, and Russian hooligans often follow a very healthy way of life, avoiding alcohol which used to be part of the subculture,” explains journalist Andrei Malosolov, co-founder of Russia’s Fans’ Union.”The English like drinking more, and when they drink they lose quality as fighters and slow down. Our people were more prepared, because of the culture these days,” he told the BBC, suggesting that the “students” have outgrown their masters.”Russia and Poland are in top place in the hooligan chart,” Andrei Malosolov says. “England has dropped a long way down.”The tabloid paper Komsomolskaya Pravda adopts a similar tone, suggesting that Russia is now clear favourite in what it called the “alternative Euros”.As such, it has published a glossary of hooligan terms for the uninitiated.The hard-core are known simply as the “fighters”, the paper explains, whilst the “Ultras” are the noisy fans behind the goal. Tactics range from a “jump” – striking a few blows then retreating – to a full “action”‘ aimed at the “moral destruction of the rival”.Video footage of the clashes is usually posted online.Reports from France suggest that hooligans from multiple clubs were involved in the brawling in Marseille, including from towns little known outside Russia like Orel and Krasnodar. Fans say key members of the bigger hooligan firms, including two linked to Moscow teams CSKA and Spartak, were banned from travelling.A recent “fans’ law” introduced strict sanctions for violations including violence. The president of Russia’s fans’ union told the BBC that more than 100 hooligans had been blacklisted as a result.But many of those who did travel, fought with their faces uncovered – apparently unconcerned about repercussions.Both Russia and England face penalties from Uefa if the violence continues. The ultimate punishment – disqualification – would be devastating for Russia which hosts the World Cup in 2018.But for now, the mood here is defiant.”The lads defended the honour of their country,” Russian media quoted MP Igor Lebedev, who is also on the executive committee of the Football Union.The spokesman for Russia’s powerful Investigative Committee went even further.”A normal man, as he should be, surprises them,” tweeted Vladimir Markin, referring to European outrage at Russian hooligans. “They’re used to seeing ‘men’ at gay parades,” he concluded.So the fans’ own reaction is hardly surprising.”Of course we are worried about the team, that’s the main thing,” Alexei told the BBC from France, insisting that there would be no more trouble among the fans without “provocation”.He claimed that the clashes at the end of Saturday’s match were sparked by a barrage of abuse from England fans.”Maybe it was wrong what we did,” Alexei admitted. “But if people shout insults, they have to be ready to pay for that.”
This was after the City Pharmacy PNG Lewas’ players, Pauke Siaka and Norma Ovasuru, guided the EAP team to an eight wicket victory against Victoria Country in the Grand Final on Wednesday 11th January, in Wollongong, Australia.After winning the toss, EAP/City Pharmacy PNG Lewas Captain, Siaka, sent Victoria Country into bat at the University Oval No. 1 in Wollongong. After losing the round robin clash against the same opponent, the EAP fought back and restricted Victoria Country to 8/99 (20) from their allotted 20 overs, despite a strong knock of 45 from Steph Townsend.City Pharmacy PNG Lewas’ bowlers Ravini Oa (2/15), Siaka (1/3), Sibona Jimmy (1/11) and Veru Frank (1/16) were the chief destroyers with the ball for the EAP Team.In the replay, EAP got off to a disastrous start in the chase, at one stage being 2/2. Then City Pharmacy PNG Lewas players Norma Ovasuru (42 not out) and captain Siaka (41 not out) put on a third wicket unbeaten 98-run stand to guide EAP to victory with three overs to spare. The EAP women’s team was captained by City Pharmacy PNG Lewas’ Captain, Siaka, which includes a total of nine Lewas players. Majority of these players returned to Port Moresby last week, with Ovasuru remaining in Australia to continue to play for her club side.The ACCC is an annual tournament which showcases the best cricket talent from regional areas around Australia, with teams from all around Australia and from the East Asia Pacific region. The tournament was first held in Beenleigh in Queensland in 1984/85 and since then, has been held in each state on a rotational basis, with the 2017 championships held in Wollongong, New South Wales. For fixtures, results, ladders and statistics from the 2017 Commonwealth Bank Australian Country Cricket Championships, head to www.countrychamps.com.au Squad (EAP Women’s Team)Pauke Siaka (C)- PNGTanya Ruma- PNGKopi John- PNGKonio Oala- PNGHelen Buruka- PNGRavini Oa- PNGSibona Jimmy- PNGKila Frank- PNGNorma Ovasuru- PNGSelina Soloman- VanuatuMatile Uliao- SamoaMai Yanagida- JapanEtusko Kobayashi- JapanLagi Otila Telea- SamoaResults (EAP Women’s Team)Round 1 Friday 6th January, 2017 (T20)East Asia Pacific (EAP) 10/95 (20) Veru Frank 10 (16) defeated by Victoria 6/96 (20) Ravini Oa 3/16 (4), Pauke Siaka 1/10 (2) by four (4) wickets with 0 balls remaining. Round 2 Saturday 7th January, 2017 (T20)South Australia 6/177 (20) Pauke Siaka 3/13 (4), Konio Oala 1/6 (3) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 5/118 (18.2) Veru Frank 30 (50), Tanya Ruma 17 (19), Konio Oala 15 (12), Norma Ovasuru 14* (12) by five (5) wickets with 10 balls remaining. Round 3 Sunday 8th January, 2017 (T20)East Asia Pacific (EAP) 5/100 (20) Norma Ovasuru 35* (36), Konio Oala 31*(29), Pauke Siaka 18 (26) defeated by New South Wales 7/103 (20) Pauke Siaka 3/17 (4), Konio Oala 1/18 (4), Veru Frank 1/23 (4), Norma Ovasuru 1/26 (4) by three (3) wickets with 0 balls remaining. Round 4 Sunday 8th January, 2017 (T20)Northern Territory 8/59 (20) Sibonna Jimmy 3/10 (4), Ravini Oa 2/11 (4), Konio Oala 1/7 (3), Pauke Siaka 1/9 (4) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 2/60 (11) Pauke Siaka 21* (29), Helen Buruka 14* (19) by eight (8) wickets with 54 balls remaining.Round 5 Monday 9th January, 2017 (T20)East Asia Pacific (EAP) Bye Round 6 Monday 9th January, 2017 (T20)Western Australia 10/68 (15.4) Norma Ovasuru 3/14 (4), Pauke Siaka 2/10 (3), Ravini Oa 2/13 (4) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 2/70 (11.2) Sibonna Jimmy 27* (29), Pauke Siaka 19* (34) by eight (8) wickets with 50 balls remaining. Round 7 Tuesday 10th January, 2017 (T20)Queensland 9/81 (20) Veru Frank 2/12 (4), Ravini Oa 2/14 (4), Sibonna Jimmy 2/14 (3) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 2/82 (18.2) Norma Ovasuru 41* (41), Pauke Siaka 17*(32), Tanya Ruma 15 (21) by eight (8) wickets with 10 balls remaining. Semi Final Tuesday 10th January, 2017 (T20)South Australia 4/111 (20) Norma Ovasuru 3/16 (4), Ravini Oa 1/13 (4) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 5/112 (19.5) Norma Ovasuru 38 (38), Konio Oala 31* (30), Pauke Siaka 14 (16) by five (5) wickets with 1 ball remaining. Grand Final Wednesday 11th January, 2017 (T20)Victoria 8/99 (20) Ravini Oa 2/15 (4), Pauke Siaka 1/3 (1), Sibona Jimmy 1/11 (4), Veru Frank 1/16 (3) defeated by East Asia Pacific (EAP) 2/100 (17) Norma Ovasuru 42* (45), Pauke Siaka 41* (51) by eight (8) wickets with 18 balls remaining. (EAP Women’s Team with the ACCC Shield)
Juan Martin del Potro and Rafa Nadal are still expected to produce some spectacular fireworks at the US Open on Friday, even if it was not the semi-final many fans had been hoping for.Argentine del Potro ruined the potential Nadal showdown with Roger Federer in the semi-final with a superb defeat of the Swiss maestro on Wednesday.Del Potro and Nadal have met 13 times but many fans will look to their clash at the same point at Flushing Meadows in 2009 when the Argentine beat the Spaniard.He then went on to beat Federer in a five-set thriller in the final to lift his only grand slam title.Del Potro has charmed the New York crowd with his inspired run highlighted by a fourth round comeback from two sets down to topple sixth seed Dominic Thiem.“Physically I’m not in the perfect conditions but when you play semi-finals on the grand slam, everything can happen,” said Del Potro, who has also had to fight off illness.“So you must be ready for the chance and playing against Rafa in my favorite tournament, I will try to enjoy the atmosphere, the game, and I know if I play my best tennis, I could be a danger for him.”With flag-waving Argentine fans coming out in force to back their man, the atmosphere around del Potro matches has rivaled that of a football game.Nadal, however, can draw on considerable fan support of his own and the Spaniard has given his supporters plenty to cheer with two ruthless straight sets victories in his last two matches.Nadal and Del Potro will be the undisputed headliners on Friday with the other clash featuring 12th seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and South African Kevin Anderson, both of whom are playing their first grand slam semi-final.Anderson booked his place in the last four by beating the last American Sam Querrey, while Busta had the easiest path to the last four without facing a player ranked inside the top 25.
Chelsea know they must beat London rivals Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (6pm) to keep alive realistic hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League and recent history offers them encouragement.Fourth-placed Spurs are five points clear of Chelsea and with seven games to play following the London derby, an eight-point lead would require an unlikely series of results to stop Mauricio Pochettino’s side from taking the final qualifying spot for Europe’s premier club competition.Yet Tottenham’s recent record at Stamford Bridge provides hope for Antonio Conte’s side.Spurs have not won in the league at Stamford Bridge since 1990, when they had a team featuring former England players Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker.And Tottenham fans will need no reminding of the painful way in which their team gave up a 2-0 lead at Stamford Bridge in 2016 to draw 2-2 and hand the Premier League title to Leicester City.Eden Hazard, who scored the equaliser that day, will again be the main threat to the Spurs defence while Brazilian Willian has been in excellent form of late for Chelsea.Pochettino will again be without top scorer Harry Kane in attack as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury which has sidelined him since March 11.South Korean winger Son Heung-min has been excellent, however, as a stand-in for Kane, scoring seven goals in his last five Spurs appearances.Impressive performances against difficult opposition this season has given Spurs the belief they need to win at Chelsea, winger Lucas Moura has said.The Brazilian believes wins over their league rivals, as well as good displays in their recent Champions League last-16 defeat by Juventus had boosted the club’s confidence.“This year we are very good. We’ve had great games against Manchester United, Arsenal and even against Juventus over two matches. I’m sure we can produce a great game against Chelsea,” Moura told the club’s website (www.tottenhamhotspur.com).“It’s a big game and I can’t wait. I’m excited to be around, to hopefully be involved and I believe firmly we can win.”Elsewhere, runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City know a victory at Goodison Park against Everton on Saturday (7.30pm) would set up the chance to clinch the title the following week at home to their derby rivals Manchester United.Pep Guardiola’s side are 16 points clear of United but the Spanish manager will be well aware that Everton are no pushovers – he has failed to beat them in three attempts since taking charge at the Etihad.His last visit to Goodison saw City crushed 4-0 by the Toffees and while a repeat of that result is unlikely, Everton’s 1-1 draw at the Etihad in August showed they can frustrate the free-flowing football that the champions-elect have produced so often in this campaign.Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United meanwhile take on relegation-scrappers Swansea City at Old Trafford on Saturday (5pm) while at the London Stadium there is a real relegation ‘six pointer’ pitting West Ham United against Southampton (5pm), who will have new manager Mark Hughes on the bench for the first time in the league.
Swimmer Ian Thorpe, Australia’s most decorated Olympian, has called on national bodies to stop setting gold medal targets as it puts too much pressure on athletes.Speaking at an Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) summit on “Athlete Wellbeing” on Tuesday, the fives-times Olympic gold-medallist and 11-times world champion said the focus should be on athletes representing the country “well”.“I don’t think it’s beneficial when sporting organisations are talking about how many gold medals we’ll win at a competition and that will be the highest number we’ve ever won,” the 35-year-old told the Beyond the Podium forum in Canberra.“It puts an immense amount of pressure on athletes around something they have no control over.“What I’d prefer to see happen is we know the athletes represent our communities, they’ll represent the diversity of this country and they’re going to represent it well, to the best of our ability, and that will lead to gold medals.”The Australian Olympic Committee has set, but not met, a target of a top-five finish in the medals table at the last three Summer Games and individual sports have also made their own targets.Thorpe won three gold and two silver medals at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, which made him the most successful athlete of the Games.Despite his success, he revealed in a 2012 autobiography that he struggled with “crippling” depression throughout his career, self-medicating with alcohol and considering suicide on more than one occasion.
Mario Mandzukic scored in the 109th minute as Croatia came from behind to beat England 2-1 after extra time on Wednesday and reach their first World Cup final, where they will face France on Sunday, and send the Balkan nation into raptures.England, appearing in their first semi-final since 1990, had looked on course for their first final since 1966 as they led through Kieran Trippier’s fifth-minute free kick and totally dominated the opening half.Croatia, in their first semi since 1998, levelled through Ivan Perisic after 68 minutes and then looked the more dangerous side.It stayed level at 90 minutes, meaning Croatia faced extra time for the third successive game, having got past Denmark and Russia on penalties.But just when it looked as if they would become the first team to appear in three shootouts at a single World Cup Mandzukic struck with a well-taken low shot.England had got off to a flying start when Trippier curled a superb free kick into the top corner.It was his first goal for his country, England’s 12th of the tournament and ninth from a set-piece, but they should have added more from open play as they revelled in the space they were being given in the first half.Harry Kane shot weakly at Danijel Subasic when through, then forced the rebound against a post and Raheem Sterling was a constant thorn in the Croatia defence, though again his final ball was too often astray.The best chance for a second goal, however, was wasted by an unmarked Jesse Lingard when he curled wide when a goal looked certain. Croatia had been desperately poor but started to get a foothold in the game as the match rolled past the hour mark and Luka Modric’s influence grew.England paid the price for those early misses when Perisic showed great determination to get in front of Kyle Walker to meet a curling Sime Vrsaljko cross and though his boot was arguably high, Walker was stooping and there were few complaints.Perisic should have added another three minutes later when ragged defending presented him with a great shooting chance but he cannoned the ball against a post.It was a different game from then on, with Croatia suddenly playing with accuracy and purpose as England lost their shape and composure, though Kane missed a chance to win it in stoppage time when he headed wide from a free kick.Vrsaljko cleared a John Stones header off the line midway through the first extra period.But it was Croatia who struck in the 109th minute when Perisic won a header on the edge of the box and the ball dropped for Mandzukic whose firm low finish beat Pickford.
Eden Hazard has admitted he could wait until the end of the season before making a decision on his long-term future.Hazard passed 100 goals for Chelsea with his brace in the Blues’ 2-1 Premier League win at Watford on Boxing Day.The 27-year-old then revealed immediately he wants to become a Chelsea “legend”, leaving fans excited about the prospect of the Blues holding onto the Belgium star for years to come.Hazard’s current Chelsea deal expires in 2020 and he has been consistently linked with a move to Real Madrid, and the in-form Blues star insisted he is in no rush to resolve his long-term plans.Asked if his desire to go down in Chelsea history means he could stay at Stamford Bridge for the long haul, Hazard replied: “To be fair I’m just focused on the pitch, and we’ll see at the end of the season.”Hazard’s direct hand in 19 goals in 18 Premier League games this term is the highest of any individual.Chelsea’s talisman now has 10 goals and nine assists at the season’s halfway point, and has found himself operating as a ‘false nine’ in recent weeks.While reiterating he feels most comfortable as a winger, Hazard again vowed to keep on slotting in wherever manager Maurizio Sarri needs him most.“I’m scoring more goals, I don’t feel I’m playing better, I’m just scoring more goals,” said Hazard.“I don’t know why, maybe I’m just nearer to the goal. My position is winger. I feel better as a winger, but today I did well as a striker, and against Brighton I did well as a striker. The manager chooses where to put me on the pitch and then I try to do my best.”Despite passing that century mark for Chelsea goals at Watford, Hazard revealed he is not yet sated when it comes to scoring.He added: “If you score 100 you want to score more, so I’ll try to score more goals. I’ve scored a couple of good ones through the years, so I can’t choose my favourite.”
Declan Rice’s first goal for West Ham United earned his side a deserved first home victory over Arsenal for 13 years on Saturday — the youngster’s 48th minute strike securing a 1-0 win at the London Stadium.Arsenal began brightly and then had a flurry of chances after falling behind but West Ham were good value for the three points as they put a dent in Arsenal’s top-four hopes.Former Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri, rebuilding his career at West Ham after a doping ban, was at the heart of much of West Ham’s best work on his Premier League debut for the club.It was the Frenchman’s neat lay-off that allowed 19-year-old midfielder Rice the space to curl a superb shot past Bernd Leno.Rice had headed wide in a first half in which West Ham took charge with Felipe Anderson drilling a shot fractionally wide of the post after another lay-off by Frenchman Nasri.Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette had a double chance early on and Matteo Guendouzi’s 25-metre effort flew just wide but Arsenal struggled to exert any sustained pressure.Alex Iwobi shaved the post with a low shot but Arsenal failed to score for the first time in 21 Premier League matches. Arsenal remain fifth on 41 points while West Ham move up to eighth on 31 points before the rest of the weekend fixtures.
Manchester United’s players are well aware of the importance of Wednesday’s Premier League clash against champions Manchester City and need no extra motivation after a 4-0 hammering at Everton, defender Ashley Young said.Sixth-placed United’s chances of finishing in the top four were dealt a blow at Goodison Park and the nature of Sunday’s defeat prompted manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to issue an apology to fans ahead of the clash with their city rivals.“We know how important that (derby) is going to be. If you can’t get yourselves up for the Manchester derby, there’s something wrong,” Young told the club’s website.“I’ve got confidence that we’re going to be ready for Wednesday… we’ve got to dust ourselves down fairly quickly and go again this week… we’ve got four games left, we’ve got four wins to get. It’s going to be tough but I’m sure we can do it.”United, who have 64 points from 34 games and sit two points adrift of Arsenal in fourth, face Chelsea, Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City in their final three matches of the season.