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Coutinho stars as Brazil thump Bolivia in Copa America opener

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Brazil lacked a cutting edge in the absence of star forward Neymar.

Sao Paulo (Brazil): Philippe Coutinho scored two second-half goals as Brazil kicked off their Copa America with a 3-0 victory over Bolivia.

On Friday, the Barcelona attacker netted twice inside five minutes before substitute Everton put the result beyond doubt with a long-range strike at Sao Paulo’s Morumbi Stadium, reports Xinhua news agency.

Despite the comprehensive scoreline, the five-time world champions were below their best against an organised if unthreatening Bolivia outfit.

For long periods, Brazil lacked a cutting edge in the absence of star forward Neymar, who was ruled out of the tournament last week because of an ankle injury.

“It was a tough match for us,” Coutinho told reporters after the game. “At half-time, the manager (Tite) asked us to focus more and to control the ball better. We managed to do that. The first goal changed the course of the match.”

Brazil dominated possession early but struggled to find ways past a resolute Bolivia defence. Roberto Firmino and Thiago Silva had early chances from corners while Coutinho failed to make clean contact with a header after a Filipe Luis cross.

Tite opted against making changes at half-time and his faith was rewarded almost immediately.

Argentinian referee Nestor Pitana consulted the video assistant referee before ruling that Adrian Jusino used his left hand to obstruct Richarlison’s chipped shot. Coutinho then dispatched the resultant spot-kick into the bottom left corner.

The goal quickly released the pressure on Brazil and the Selecao netted again four minutes later when Coutinho headed in after a precise cross from his former Liverpool teammate Firmino.

Everton, introduced as an 85th-minute substitute for David Neres, completed the rout with a fine solo goal, five minutes from time.

The Gremio forward cut in from the left before smashing a low drive from the edge of the box that curled into the bottom right corner of Carlos Lampe’s goal.

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Man Utd to be without Pogba, de Gea against Liverpool in EPL clash

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Paul Pogba

London: Manchester United’s hopes of upsetting the odds against Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday suffered a fresh blow as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed both Paul Pogba and David de Gea will miss the clash at Old Trafford through injury.

De Gea pulled up with a muscle problem during Spain’s 1-1 draw away to Sweden in qualifying for Euro 2020 on Tuesday and is expected to be sidelined for a few weeks.

“David needs a scan,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports. “I think he’ll be out.” Pogba was absent for France during the international break due to the recurrence of an ankle problem that has seen him start just once in the Premier League since August.

The World Cup winner played 90 minutes against Rochdale in the League Cup and Arsenal last month, but missed United’s latest defeat at Newcastle just before the international break.

“He came back and played a couple of games, maybe played through the pain barrier,” added Solskjaer.

“He had a scan after the Arsenal game and maybe needed a few weeks’ rest in a boot, so hopefully he won’t be too long, but he won’t make this game, no.”

Solskjaer is, though, hopeful that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Anthony Martial will make their return from injury against Liverpool, even if they are not yet fit enough to play 90 minutes.

“Hopefully Aaron and Anthony will last through the training this week and be available for selection. If it’s for half a game or 30 minutes, I don’t know, but let’s see where they’re at,” said Solskjaer.

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ATK motivated to grab top spot in ISL for ACL berth, says coach Habas

Press Trust of India

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antonio-habas
Antonio Habas.

Kolkata: Hailing the proposed roadmap for Indian football, ATK chief coach Antonio Habas has said they are highly motivated to top the standings, which will give them a berth in the AFC Champions League playoffs.

As per the roadmap, the Indian Super League will replace the I-League as the top-tier competition in the country and the ISL table toppers — not the champions — will get a ticket for the AFC Champions League playoffs.

“It is a big recognition which will motivate us more. It is a very good opportunity for players as they would get to play against the best of players of Asia,” Habas said on the sidelines of ATK Media Day here.

Following two unforgettable seasons, the two-time champions have invested heavily, buying A-League’s Golden Boot recipient Roy Krishna and brought back their most successful manager Habas, who guided the team to the inaugural title and then a playoff berth in the first two seasons.

“I have the same target – to win. We are here to compete every day. I am very happy with the behaviour of my players. They are all charged up,” he said as the team gears up for the sixth season with a clash with Kerala Blasters on Sunday.

The team co-owner Sourav Ganguly is set to become BCCI’s top boss at the Annual General Meeting on October 23.

“It’s a very nice development. We are all very proud. It may inspire us to go all the way,” ATK assistant coach Sanjoy Sen hailed.

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How Football vs Athletics battle over stadium is damaging Indian sports

Mario Rodrigues

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Bengaluru FC recently said they would play their ISL home matches at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

Mumbai: ‘Cricket kills’ is a theme that has been debated by representatives of lesser sports disciplines in India and sundry pundits for years. They have claimed that cricket’s overpowering presence, bountiful resources and the ability to gobble up sports sponsorships adversely affects the fortunes of other sports.

But in recent times a new predator is stalking the maidans and stadiums – football. The issue again hit the headlines last month when former India sprinter and Olympian Ashwini Nachappa slammed Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Bengaluru FC for treating athletes at the Karnataka state-owned Sree Kanteerava stadium like criminals since shifting their home base there in 2015.

“They [Bengaluru FC] have treated athletes [at Kanteerava stadium] like criminals,” Nachappa told scroll.in.

“They completely cordoned off athletics from the stadium. They have set up barricades around the pitch and have private security guards at all four ends of the track so that we don’t even touch the grass. They warned coaches if they tried to move the barricades, they would be arrested. This is a ridiculous way to treat fellow sportspersons,” she added.

Two years earlier, the Arjuna awardee and other famous former India athletes like Reeth Abraham, Pramila Aiyappa etc, and renowned coaches like Dronacharya award winner N Lingappa, V R Beedu, G V Gaonkar, Robert Bobby George (husband and coach of ace long jumper Anju Bobby George), among others, had similarly protested over the same issue.

Nachappa and other athletes have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court pleading for the stadium to be retained solely for athletics which enjoys a long history there. Bengaluru FC had tried to resolve the issue amicably but their efforts have not met with success.

Kanteerava Stadium

The Kanteerava Stadium has been Bengaluru FC’s home ground since 2015.

The football club has received widespread support on social media with famous personalities including former tennis player Mahesh Bhupati and Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya tweeting in support of keeping the club in the city. But these worthies have not seemingly addressed the concerns of the athletes.

The issue of football lately marginalising other sports is not confined to Bengaluru alone. It has happened in Mumbai too where the stadium at the multi-purpose municipal owned Shahaji Raje Krida Sankul (Andheri Sports Complex) was renamed as Mumbai Football Arena a few years ago and appropriated exclusively for football to the exclusion of other disciplines like athletics, cricket etc.

The Mumbai Football Arena is now the home ground of Mumbai City FC, an ISL franchise. The arena has also hosted several international fixtures as well as the 2019 ISL final. The ‘Blue Tigers’ have also prowled around the turf in training on several occasions.

In the distant past the stadium hosted several events of a varied nature including concerts by Michael Jackson, Deep Purple and Bon Jovi which used to temporarily interrupt the training of the athletes and cricketers. It was the home ground of Andheri boy Siddhanth Thingalaya who shattered the 110 metre hurdles national record in 2010 among others. Several adjoining schools used to also hold their annual sports meets at the stadium.

Not any longer. For the last couple of years, nobody is allowed to set foot on the turf on the pain of being expelled, even on the small strip at the southern end used by footballers to warm up when a match is in progress. Worse still, runners cannot even run a full lap as the southern side is blocked at both ends. The turf on three sides surrounding the football pitch has also been thoughtlessly replaced by a tarred road. Even a batch of young badminton players are forced to do their fitness regimen on this surface.

It is a cruel logic that to promote football you have to kill other existing sports and deny use of a public facility to locals who have paid their fees and patronised the stadium for years, this reporter included. Ironically, the scion of a leading family of a political party that subscribes to a nativist ideology has pioneered this makeover that completely marginalizes the rights of locals in favour of ‘outsiders’!

“We have no place to train in Andheri (West) except this ground and now they have stopped us from using the turf. This is a grave injustice,” said Gopinath Sarfare, a retired Indian Air Force technician and former Services cricketer turned long distance runner, who regularly participates in half marathons both in and outside Mumbai.

Retired bank executive Anil Ghosalkar, who has been jogging here for over 20 years, revealed that the authorities wanted to stop this activity. “We strongly protested and they agreed to provide a jogging track. Instead, they have just built a tarred road. About 500 people come here for running and walking daily, including those who run in half marathons and other races. What we want is that a track that can satisfy both casual joggers and professional runners,” he reiterated.

Another regular, Dr Vijay Pisat, who switched over from swimming to walking and jogging (he even took part in the Dream Run in the 2019 Mumbai Marathon) , bemoaned the fact that conditions for joggers and walkers have been deteriorating: “We told the authorities, you stop this walking and jogging in the stadium and do whatever you want. But they cannot do so as there are legal restraints, because the purpose of building this stadium was for walking and jogging.

“But they are now they are giving the stadium for football and other activities. The place is so filthy and the conditions have become so dangerous that anyone can get injured. We are not asking for the moon, but for basic facilities like jogging track, cleanliness etc. We will all get together and escalate this matter to various administrative levels till we get justice.”

The agitated members are keeping an eye on the PIL filed in the Karnataka High Court. A verdict in favour of the athletes might set the ball rolling in Mumbai as well.

Bengaluru FC recently said it would play their ISL home matches at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium after the Karnataka government sports department issued a letter of consent to the club.

No competent stadium official was available to give their side of the story. Their views will be incorporated as and when received.

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