Monthly Archives: June 2016

Spain secure final spot in Rio women's rugby sevens

REUTERS: Spain’s women matched their men by securing the final spot in the field for the inaugural rugby sevens competition at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics by winning the final repechage round in Dublin at the weekend.

The Spaniards reached the final without losing a point then beat Russia 19-12 for a place in the Aug. 6-11 tournament in Brazil along with the hosts, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, United States, France, Japan, Fiji, Kenya and Colombia.

Their success emulated that of the Spain men’s team, who stunned Samoa in Monaco last week to clinch the 12th and final spot in Rio.

“It’s amazing,” Spain playmaker Patricia Garcia said.

“I’m really, really happy for the team – we are the happiest girls in the world at the moment because now we get to go to the biggest sporting stage of them all in Rio. It’s an incredible feeling.

“Our men qualifying last week has been the inspiration for us all week. We took their example with the teamwork we showed. I am pretty emotional but with smiles, not tears.”

Rugby union returns to the Olympic programme for the first time in 92 years in August when men and women compete for gold in the shorter version of the game at the Deodoro Stadium.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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Israel, Turkey reach deal to restore relations

JERUSALEM: Israel and Turkey reached a deal on Sunday (Jun 26) aimed at ending years of acrimony and restoring normalised ties that soured after a deadly 2010 raid on an aid flotilla, an Israeli official said.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, the official said the agreement had been finalised but that details would not be officially announced until Monday.

Negotiations were said to have been held in Rome, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday.

The agreement was expected to go before Israel’s security cabinet for approval on Wednesday.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is expected to talk about the Israel reconciliation deal at 1.00pm (6.00pm Singapore time) in Ankara on Monday, a Turkish official said.

The Turkish official confirmed that “the prime minister will talk about the contents of the Turkey-Israel agreement at tomorrow’s press conference.”

The highly anticipated deal comes six years after an Israeli raid that killed 10 Turkish activists as an aid flotilla sought to run the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Both sides have been pushing to complete the deal in recent months, with Israel in search of a potential customer for its offshore gas exports and NATO member Turkey wanting to restore its regional clout, analysts say.

The United States has also pushed for the two countries to resolve the dispute as it seeks cooperation in the fight against extremists from the Islamic State group.

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All Blacks turn new page with series win over Wales

WELLINGTON: The All Blacks sent a clear message with their 3-0 test series sweep against Wales that they had definitively moved on from the legacy left by the departure of six stalwarts who guided them to their third World Cup title last year.

The series against the Six Nations runners-up was seen as a benchmark to determine how previous understudies would step out of the shadows of some of the all-time greats of the game like Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

It was also to be used as a chance to develop more players to face the British and Irish Lions next year and for the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.

While Hansen named six uncapped players in his squad he relied on players he had developed throughout the previous four years for the first two tests.

Only centre Seta Tamanivalu and flanker Ardie Savea earned their first test caps, with Savea’s explosive speed and dynamism earning him cult status.

He rolled the dice a little for the third match in Dunedin, giving Elliot Dixon, Liam Squire and Ofa Tu’ungafasi their first caps while some of his less-experienced players were given the opportunity to prove themselves ahead of the Rugby Championship.

Hansen said after the 46-6 victory in Dunedin, in which the All Blacks’ ability to exploit space was evident, that he felt his side were where he wanted them to be.

“That first 65 minutes was probably as good as we wanted it to be at this stage of the season,” Hansen said. “But you’re always wanting more aren’t you?.

“We’re not the finished article but we’re not too far away.”

The gap left by McCaw was more than admirably filled by Sam Cane, who was less flashy than Savea but more industrious, while Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett demonstrated they could control a game at flyhalf.

MIDFIELD CONUNDRUM

Hansen’s biggest concern prior to the series was the midfield, with Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu moving to clubs in France after the World Cup.

While Ryan Crotty did not have the line-breaking prowess of Nonu – few players in the world do – he did what was required of him in attack while his organisation of the defence was superb according to fullback Israel Dagg.

“Crotts is just Crotts. He runs great lines, makes his tackles all day and talks all the time,” said Dagg, who showed he was getting back to his best form after failing to make the World Cup squad last year.

George Moala’s performance in Dunedin, in his second test and first at centre, also gave Hansen something to consider after not being initially named in the squad.

Hansen, who has already said Sonny Bill Williams would come back after the rugby sevens at the Rio Olympics, was also keen to give the injured Charlie Ngatai an opportunity, indicating he felt the talent was there and it just needed to be developed.

One glaring concern, however, was the performances of winger Julian Savea, who was substituted early in the first test and dropped for the second.

While he went looking for work in Dunedin he did not have many chances to show he had shaken out his slump and questions will be asked whether he can regain the form that made him an automatic choice since his debut in 2012.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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Brexit a sobering reminder about globalisation's shortcomings: WP

SINGAPORE: The result of Britain’s European Union (EU) referendum is a sobering reminder about the shortcomings and limits of globalisation, the Workers’ Party (WP) said in a statement on Saturday (Jun 25).

In a 52 per cent to 48 per cent vote, the United Kingdom opted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum, causing turmoil in world currency and stock markets and drawing concern over the fate of the political bloc.

“Brexit is not only about the United Kingdom and the European Union,” said the WP. “It is a sobering reminder about the shortcomings and limits of globalisation, the scale of immigration, how quickly the poison of racism and xenophobia can shape the public discourse, the perceptions and prospects of locals losing good jobs to foreigners, the extent of change people can stomach, the importance of a strong social compact, amongst so much more. It is also about aspirations, and a sense of what home was, is and should be.”

In the statement issued on the party’s website, Assistant Secretary General Pritam Singh added that Singapore is not alien to such emotions.

“We had a sense of what mattered to Singaporeans especially in the years from 2004-2010, when home started to feel so different because of the pace of change, an emotion that came to the fore again after the release of the Government’s Population White Paper in 2013.

“In 2008, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew opined that the ideal population size for Singapore was 5 to 5.5 million people. In 2014, a former CEO of the HDB argued for a population of 10 million after 2030. The significance of these numbers go far, far beyond the obvious. Economics and trade considerations are paramount for developed countries, but as Brexit showed, many other things matter as well.”

Change, the WP said, is constant but it needs to be carefully managed. “For a very small, multi-racial and sovereign nation, the pressures and fissures created by globalisation necessitate that change is stewarded very carefully so that a strong consensus emerges across society.

Concluding, Mr Singh added that, “Our engagement with globalisation and our competitiveness need to be balanced with inclusivity, social harmony and rootedness in order for a strong consensus to emerge. That would require a clear disassociation with demagogues and a permanent commitment to address globalisation’s shortcomings. Because Singapore is not just a city. It is a country. It is all we have. It is our home.” 

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France wants quick British divorce from EU, Germany cautious

BERLIN: France’s foreign minister called on Saturday for the European Union to move ahead quickly to seal the terms of a British exit, arguing that the other 27 members needed to give the bloc new purpose or risk populism taking hold.

“Negotiations have to go quickly in the common interest,” Jean-Marc Ayrault said on his way to a meeting in Berlin of foreign ministers from the six founding members of the EU – Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Britain voted on Thursday to leave the EU, forcing the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing the biggest blow since World War Two to the European project of forging greater unity.

The EU’s other members and the British government must now work out the terms for the country’s departure and future relationship with the bloc.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German newspaper Bild that Britain must consider what kind of a relationship it wanted with the EU but it could not pick and choose.

“There will definitely not be any cherry picking,” he said.

“Out is out,” Juncker added. “Now the priority is a clean divorce, because citizens and businesses need legal certainty.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, hosting Saturday’s meeting, struck a more cautious note but said it was essential to preserve the “project of freedom and stability” that the six founding EU members had forged.

“It is completely clear that we now have a situation that allows for neither hysteria nor paralysis,” Steinmeier said, adding that EU leaders must address the challenges of migration, security and unemployment.

“We must not resort to hectic activity, and act as if all the answers are ready. But after the British decision we mustn’t lapse into depression and inactivity,” he told reporters.

Ayrault said Saturday’s meeting should not focus too much on a plan drawn up by German and French officials for a flexible EU that would envisage “allowing space” for member states that are not ready for further integration. “We shouldn’t fixate on the idea of flexibility. There already is a two-speed Europe,” he said.

Looking to a summit meeting of EU leaders, including Cameron, next week, the French minister added: “There will be a lot of pressure on Cameron on Tuesday to move ahead.”

“We have to agree between the 27 to say that after a certain date this episode is finished,” Ayrault said, though he did not say such a deadline would be set on Tuesday. “We have to give a new sense to Europe, otherwise populism will fill the gap.”

London’s financial centre will lose its prized “EU passport” if Britain fails to secure continued access to the bloc’s single market in its exit talks, ECB Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau warned on Saturday.

“If tomorrow Britain is not part of the single market, the City cannot keep this European passport, and clearing houses cannot be located in London either,” Villeroy, who is also governor of the French central bank, told France Inter radio.

That could be an opportunity for financial centres in the euro zone including Paris, Villeroy said.

Germany Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he was uncomfortable with the prospect that Germany could benefit economically from Brexit.

“It could be that some companies move their headquarters to Europe. Frankfurt is already being discussed,” Gabriel told the Handelsblatt business daily. “But I don’t wish that on the Brits at all.”

(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Paris; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by David Stamp and Alexander Smith)

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Ireland's Duffy relishing Euro 2016 after brush with death

LILLE, France: A little over six years after almost losing his life in a training-ground accident with the Ireland team, defender Shane Duffy will probably start one of the biggest games of his career against France in the second round of Euro 2016.

In his first competitive international, the 24-year-old was the cornerstone of a superb Irish defensive display against Italy that sent them go through to the knockout stage of the Euros for the first time.

It was a far cry from his first call-up in May 2010, when an accidental clash with the goalkeeper of Ireland’s amateur national side in a training game ruptured the blood supply to his liver, necessitating life-saving surgery.

Right back Seamus Coleman, who captained Ireland against Italy in the absence of John O’Shea, paid tribute to Duffy after the Italy game.

“For him to be back on the pitch is massive, but to put in a performance like that was incredible,” he said.

Like manager Martin O’Neill, Duffy comes from the city of Derry in Northern Ireland, and following his solid display the coach is unlikely to drop him when Ireland meet host nation France in Lyon on Sunday.

Far from being disappointed at being pitted against one of the tournament favourites, Duffy, who says he does not remember the incident that almost cost him his life, is relishing the game.

“That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to play big teams, we’ve already played three great teams already. We’re waiting for it,” he said.

LATE GOAL

The Irish started their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sweden before being thrashed 3-0 by Belgium and they needed a late goal from Robbie Brady against a depleted Italy side to get through.

“The team spirit is brilliant, we always feel like we’re going to get that one chance,” Duffy said.

“It’s drilled into us, that never-give-up attitude, and we don’t. The team spirit is there, it’s just brilliant to be involved in.”

Duffy gave a dominant display in one of Ireland’s last pre-Euro friendlies against Netherlands in Dublin, but found himself consigned to the bench when the tournament started, with O’Shea and Ciaran Clark preferred at centre back.

But after the drubbing by Belgium, O’Neill dropped that pairing, replacing them with Duffy and Richard Keogh.

“I always kept myself ready and I always knew, an injury away or … you never know what happens in football,” he said.

Having said himself that he was a million miles from a place in the squad back in the spring, the Blackburn Rovers stopper is still trying to take in the fact that he is playing at the Euros.

“It’s hard to sum up at the minute. I didn’t play a minute in the qualifying, then football changes so quickly. I’m grateful to the boss for picking me and putting me in the squad,” he said.

“I’ve thrived off it, I thrive off big games and I think I did alright (against Italy).”

Having taken just 10 weeks to recover from his life-threatening injury, Duffy says he would welcome the chance to improve by going up against the best France has to offer.

“I can only do what I can do out there. I was comfortable (against Italy), I thought the whole team played well,” he said.

“I can always get better at things and improve, I’m still at an early stage in my career and the more times I can play, I can get better.”

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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Europeans in London shocked at Brexit, say it is UK's loss

LONDON: At the Sintra cafe in south London, a group of colleagues sit having lunch in the sunbathed garden. They are British, Portuguese, Indian and French – and are all horrified by Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

“I’ve been living here for five years but I’ve never felt unwelcome, until today,” said Carlos Velazquez, a 29-year-old Portuguese charity worker. “It’s like half of the country is shouting at our faces that we’re not valued.”

Britons voted 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave the European Union in Thursday’s historic referendum,many swayed by promises of ending uncontrolled migration from the 27 other countries in the bloc.

Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London who had backed a “Remain” vote, sought to reassure the almost one million Europeans living in the capital.

“You are welcome here. We value the enormous contribution you make to our city and that will not change as a result of this referendum,” he said in a statement.

Ricardo Tomaz, 41, who has lived in Britain for 20 years, said he was not worried about his employment status. “It will be a long process,” he said, referring to the two years it will take for Britain to formally quit the bloc.

But his colleague said Britain would suffer if people like him left. “If you kick all the immigrants out of London, the city will collapse,” Velazquez told AFP.

SURPRISE, DISAPPOINTMENT

Sintra, in the inner city area of Stockwell, is a Portuguese cafe and most of the staff are from Portugal. Few of them speak fluent English.

A British member of the lunch party, who voted to stay in the EU, said she was deeply disappointed, and embarrassed, at the result.

“Half the population have not agreed to this and yet we have to deal with it,” said Georgina Nicoli, 36. “It’s really worrying about the future. And it’s about how we are seen in the rest or the world. It’s really disappointing.”

Her Indian colleague, Aapuru Jain, 21, said: “The whole sentiment is anti-immigrant. Today it’s again Europeans, tomorrow it could be against Indians.”

The Europeans around the table admitted to being shocked by the result, even though opinion polls had pointed to a close race. “I was surprised. I was living in the London bubble. I thought it was fine,” said Velazquez.

The capital voted 60 per cent in favour of remaining in Europe, while Scotland also backed EU membership. Brexit supporters in England and Wales swung the vote.

Scotland is now likely to hold a fresh referendum on breaking from the rest of the UK, only two years after voters rejected independence. “I was surprised because the price you pay is very high – you break from Scotland, you break from the EU,” said Tomaz.

WILL THEY STAY?

Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation after losing his fight stay in the EU, said there would be “no immediate changes” in the circumstance of Europeans living in Britain.

“I’d like to stay, if I can,” said Mailys Flajoliet, 24, from France, adding that she has felt welcome in London. “There’s a large French community here, and you feel welcome because there’s a large international community.”

But she was upset about the blow the British have dealt to the ideal of European unity.

“My grandparents’ generation was raised to hate the Germans. It seems so normal that we are in peace – we take it for granted,” she said. “I studied in Paris, Berlin and London – this is what Europe is all about. Peace and cooperation. It’s not about going our separate ways.”

Tomaz notes that the EU citizens at the table all speak several languages and all have masters degrees. “We don’t have to be here. We could go anywhere,” he said.

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There's little luck in the science of penalty shootouts

MARSEILLE, France: Thirty years ago this week Antonin Panenka settled the first European championship penalty shootout, patenting the nonchalant dink over a committed keeper, as Czechoslovakia beat West Germany 5-3 after a 2-2 draw.

Since then a further 14 Euro matches have been decided by shoot-outs, two in each of the last three tournaments.

With this year’s expanded format featuring 15 one-off games compared to seven since 1996, it is a near-certainty that a nation’s joy or despair and an individual player’s career will be defined by 10 shots from 12 yards.

Like many other aspects of top-level sport, some players, and some nationalities, seem to thrive under the ultimate test of nerve and technique under pressure. And others melt.

After their win in 1976, Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic, took part in two more Euro shoot-outs, winning both, and have yet to miss a single attempt.

The Germans obviously learnt from that experience and quickly became the masters, subsequently winning four out of four in the World Cup and beating England in their only other Euros shoot-out in the 1996 semis.

That, of course, is no particular achievement as the country which invented the sport has become firmly established as a laughing stock in shootouts.

In the World Cup and Euros they have managed to lose six out of seven, their sole success coming against Spain in the Euro 96 quarter-finals.

Others too have come to dread the shoot-out, with the Netherlands losing five out of seven and Italy five out of eight, although they boast the unique feat of both losing (1994) and winning (2006) a World Cup final on a shootout.

So if the Czechs and the Germans never lose and rarely miss, while England and the Netherlands almost always lose and always miss, it is surely time to dismiss the commonly-expressed idea that the whole thing is a “lottery.”

“Penalty shootouts have generated a large amount of peer reviewed papers in recent years in an effort to arrive at optimal strategies for both the penalty taker and the goalkeeper,” data analyst Robert O’Connor said.

“Strikers have around an 83 percent success rate while defenders have only 73 percent,” added O’Conner who writes on the use of statistical analysis to gain an edge in sports betting at www.onlinegamblingbible.com.

“Players under 22 are successful 85 percent of the time, while their older team mates convert about 78 percent.”

Almost 30 percent of shoot-out penalties are missed, a much higher percentage than in open play. This no doubt reflects the nerves involved and the fact that penalties are frequently taken by players who never usually perform the task.

Glenn Hoddle, England’s manager in the 1998 World Cup, dismissed the idea of practicing them as he felt it was impossible to reproduce the tension and pressure of the real thing.

So it was hardly a surprise that David Batty, who later admitted to never having taken a penalty in his life, was one of those to miss as England lost out to Argentina.

Even centre back Gareth Southgate’s mother was left to ask her son, whose only previous penalty three years earlier hit a post ‘Why didn’t you just belt it?’ after his feeble effort ended England’s Euro 96 dream.

It was also no surprise that Gary Lineker, who took 50 penalties in a session the day before, dispatched his without fuss in the 1990 World Cup semi-final shootout defeat to the Germans or that Alan Shearer (“I practiced penalties every day”) scored three out of three in England shoot-outs.

Ireland defender David O’Leary said he used to end every training session by taking one single penalty, putting it in the same place every time.

When it came to the real thing, the decisive attempt in a World Cup second-round clash with Romania in the 1994 World Cup, there were no second thoughts as he duly dispatched it in exactly the spot he had been hitting for a month.

It was later voted the greatest moment in Irish football history and O’Leary, duly sanctified, is assured of free Guinness for life.

Southgate got to do a pizza advert with his head in a brown paper bag.

(Editing by Adrian Warner.)

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Pound collapses to lowest since 1985 on Brexit shock: Report

LONDON: The pound collapsed to its lowest level since 1985 as the unit takes a beating on fears that Britain will vote to leave the European Union, in what critics warned would be a hammer blow to financial markets.

The unit tumbled to $ 1.3466, its weakest level in three decades, according to Bloomberg data, as results in the EU membership referendum showed the “Leave” camp posting big wins and bookmakers making the exit camp favourites.

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Mexico keep faith with coach Osorio despite 7-0 humiliation

MEXICO CITY: Coach Juan Carlos Osorio has survived Mexico’s shock 7-0 pasting by title holders Chile in the Copa America Centenario after being confirmed in his position by the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) on Thursday.

Mexico, among the favourites and counting on massive support in the tournament in the United States, were crushed by Chile in their quarter-final in Santa Clara, California, last weekend.

FMF general secretary Guillermo Cantu told a news conference Osorio’s departure was not a good option and the Colombian would continue trying to lead Mexico to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, the task for which he was appointed last October.

The defeat, called the most bitter and humiliating in Mexico’s soccer history by media across the Rio Grande, ended a run of 22 matches unbeaten for the Mexico team.

Osorio’s record in charge is nine wins and a draw in 11 matches.

Chile will meet Argentina in the tournament final on Sunday.

(Reporting by Carlos Calvo; Writing by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ian Chadband)

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