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Crowds hail Ronaldo’s arrival in Iran ahead of match



(Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo received a warm reception in Iran on Monday, in the first visit of a Saudi team to Iran since 2016 ahead of the beginning of the group stage of the Asian Champions League.

Al-Nassr face Iranian side Persepolis in Group E on Tuesday, while Qatari side Al-Duhail play Istiklol Dushanbe of Tajikistan.

The streets were crowded with fans who raised welcome banners and pictures of Ronaldo upon the arrival of the Saudi Arabian team in Iran after the restoration of relations between the two countries, Reuters reported.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced that matches between Saudi and Iranian teams would be held on a home-and-away basis after the agreement of the two local federations.

Matches had been played on neutral territory since 2016 because strained diplomatic ties between the two countries meant Saudi nationals were not permitted to travel to Iran.

Supporters invaded the team’s hotel, despite attempts by security personnel to prevent them.

The fans chanted Ronaldo’s name, with children and women carrying pictures of the Portugal captain.

Al-Nassr posted several photos of Ronaldo receiving a luxurious hand-made Iranian carpet from Persepolis supporters.

“Mr. Cristiano Ronaldo, welcome to Iran. A token of appreciation, an original hand-woven piece of art made by Iranian artists to commemorate your presence in Iran, on behalf of Persepolis’s fans,” the fans wrote.

Children wore Al-Nassr and Portugal shirts bearing Ronaldo’s name and number, and some fans performed the famous celebration of the former Real Madrid player.

The Saudi Pro League has become an attractive destination for Europe-based players since Ronaldo moved to Al-Nassr last January.

International Sports

Egyptian Super Cup semi-final settled after 34 penalty kicks



(Last Updated On: December 26, 2023)

It took 34 penalty kicks before Modern Future finally beat Pyramids 14-13 in a nerve-shredding shootout in the Egyptian Super Cup semi-final on Monday after the contest had ended in a 0-0 draw.

Modern Future, who will face either Al Ahly or Ceramica Cleopatra in the final, squandered three spot kicks while Pyramids lost the match after missing a fourth penalty kick at Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, Reuters reported.

Pyramids defender Osama Galal wasted two penalty shots, including the decisive one that sealed victory for Future.

Even though at times it felt that the shootout was never ending, it was well short of the 54 penalties taken when Washington FC beat Bedlington Terriers 25-24 in a local cup match in England last year.

A 2005 Namibian Cup match between KK Palace and Civics featured 48 penalties.

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India surprised by Wanderers wicket in big win over South Africa



(Last Updated On: December 18, 2023)

India were surprised how helpful the Wanderers pitch was for their seamers in their eight-wicket victory in the first One-Day International against South Africa on Sunday, as captain KL Rahul said he thought it was his spinners who would win the day.

India bowled their hosts out for 116, a record low score for South Africa on home soil, and then easily chased down the runs with exactly 200 balls to spare.

The tourists won the final Twenty20 International on the same wicket on Thursday, and Rahul says he believed it would be a game for his spinners, Reuters reported.

Instead seamers Arshdeep Singh (5-37) and Avesh Khan (4-27) both recorded career-best figures.

“It was completely different to what we expected,” Rahul said at the post-match presentation. “We had planned to bring the spinners into the game early after what we saw in the T20 match.

“But there was a lot of help in the wicket and the boys did really well to put the ball into the right areas.

“It is my first ODI win here (South Africa) as a captain. When I was here last time (January 2022) we lost all three, so it is good to get that victory under your belt.”

Both sides have rested players ahead of a two-match Test series starting on Dec. 26. There were several new faces in the Indian team, including debutant opening batter Sai Sudharsan, who took his chance with an unbeaten 55 from 43 balls.

“There is a lot of cricket being played these days. You have to prioritise formats and at the moment it is Test cricket and T20s a little bit,” Rahul said.

“That is the modern-day game, but we believe whoever is here will perform for their country.”

South Africa never got going in the game with bat or ball and have much to think about ahead of the second match in the three-game series in Gqeberha on Tuesday.

“Credit to their bowling attack with the lateral movement,” home captain Aiden Markram said. “We weren’t able to settle and build partnerships. It was a problem right from the start and we couldn’t pull things back.

“We expected it to go around (seam) a little bit. Generally in the day games it does do something for five to seven overs. But today it went on for longer and we couldn’t get in.”

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Greece orders top-flight clubs to play matches without fans for two months



(Last Updated On: December 11, 2023)

Greece must play all its top league soccer matches without fans for the next two months following the severe injuring of a police officer in violence during a volleyball match in Athens last week, its government said on Monday.

All Super League 1 matches will be played behind closed doors until Feb. 12, 2024, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told a weekly briefing on Monday.

The volleyball match was between local teams Olympiacos and Panathinaikos who are both owned by the soccer sides of the same name.

Marinakis said the measure might also apply to some European fixtures at home and could be extended beyond Feb. 12, if top league soccer teams fail by that date to take action, such as installing cameras and systems of electronic identification for their fans at the stadiums.

The announcement followed the critical injuring of a 31-year-old police officer by a flare in violent clashes that broke out on Thursday, during a volleyball match hosted by Olympiacos in Piraeus.

In Greece, fights between football fans and clubs are frequent on and off the pitch before or after a game and the government has been trying to reform soccer.

More than 400 people had been briefly detained over Thursday’s incident which Greek police said was a “murderous attack” of hooligans on riot police, including the officer who remains in hospital in critical condition.

Evidence collected helped police track down a 18-year-old man who confessed to joining the group which attacked the police and to throwing the flare which injured the officer, a police official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The arrested man was expected to testify before a public prosecutor on Thursday, the semi-state Athens News Agency reported on Monday.

“For years, criminals in the guise of fans have been committing serious crimes by critically injuring and killing (people),” Marinakis said.

“Neither athletes, nor fans should they suffer from the murderous behaviour of criminal gangs and the pathetic tolerance of a tiny minority of fans,” he added.

Last August, AEK Athens fan Michalis Katsouris was stabbed to death in violent clashes before a Champions League match between AEK and Dinamo Zagreb.

Following another incident, the death of a 19-year-old fan, Alkis Kampanos, in rival clashes in the northern city of Thessaloniki last year, Greece tightened rules over soccer clubs, imposed heavier penalties and increased police controls.

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