Jews not to blame for killing Jesus: Pope

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Pope Benedict XVI has made a sweeping exoneration of the Jewish people for the death of Jesus Christ, tackling one of the most controversial issues in Christianity in a new book.

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In Jesus of Nazareth-Part II excerpts released on Wednesday, Benedict explains biblically and theologically why there is no basis in Scripture for the argument that the Jewish people as a whole were responsible for Jesus’ death.

Interpretations to the contrary have been used for centuries to justify the persecution of Jews.

While the Catholic Church has for five decades taught that Jews weren’t collectively responsible, Jewish scholars said on Wednesday the argument laid out by the German-born pontiff, who has had his share of mishaps with Jews, was alandmark statement from a pope that would help fight anti-Semitism today.

“Holocaust survivors know only too well how the centuries-long charge of ‘Christ killer’ against the Jews created a poisonous climate of hate that was the foundation of anti-Semitic persecution whose ultimate expression was realised in the Holocaust,” said Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants.

The Pope’s book, he said, not only confirms church teaching refuting the deicide charge “but seals it for a new generation of Catholics.”

The Catholic Church issued its most authoritative teaching on the issue in its 1965 Second Vatican Council document Nostra Aetate, which revolutionised the church’s relations with Jews by saying Christ’s death could not be attributed to Jews as a whole at the time or today.

Benedict comes to the same conclusion, but he explains how with a thorough, Gospel-by-Gospel analysis that leaves little doubt that he deeply and personally believes it to be the case: That only a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters were primarily responsible for Christ’s crucifixion.

The book is the second instalment to Benedict’s 2007 Jesus of Nazareth, his first book as pope, which offered a very personal meditation on the early years of Christ’s life and teachings. This second book, set to be released March 10, concerns the final part of Christ’s life, his death and resurrection.

In the book, Benedict re-enacts Jesus’ final hours, including his death sentence for blasphemy, then analyses each Gospel account to explain why Jews as a whole cannot be blamed for it. Rather, Benedict concludes, it was the “Temple aristocracy” and a few supporters of the figure Barabbas who were responsible.

Benedict said Jesus’ death wasn’t about punishment, but rather salvation. Jesus’ blood, he said, “does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all.”

Benedict, who was forced to join the Hitler Youth as a child in Nazi Germany, has made improving relations with Jews a priority of his pontificate. He has visited the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

But he also has had a few missteps that have drawn the ire of Jewish groups, most notably when in 2009 he lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist Catholic bishop who had denied the extent of the Holocaust by saying no Jews were gassed during World War II.


Hundreds of Kurds protest in Iraq

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Hundreds of Kurds staged a protest in the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah to demand political reforms in northern Iraq.

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Kurdish security guards later opened fire on the crowd, killing at least two people, officials said – showing that even war-weary Iraq cannot escape the unrest roiling the Middle East.

The protest in Sulaimaniyah was the most violent in a wave of demonstrations that extended to the southern cities of Kut, Nasir and Basra.

Iraq has seen small-scale demonstrations almost daily in recent weeks, mainly centred in the impoverished southern provinces and staged by Iraqis angry over a lack of basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.

The hundreds of Kurds demonstrating in Sulaimaniyah, 160 miles (260 kilometres) northeast of Baghdad, demanded political reforms from the regional government in the semi-autonomous territory.

Although Kurds generally enjoy a higher standard of living than the rest of Iraq, many have grown tired of the tight grip with which the ruling parties control the region and the economy.

The protesters moved from the centre of the city to the headquarters of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s political party, where some protesters threw stones at the building.

Officials said Kurdish security guards on the roof then opened fire on the demonstrators, sending people fleeing for cover.

A local police officer and hospital official both said two people were killed in the incident, and the medical official said that 47 people were injured.

Both the officials said the deaths and injuries were the result of shootings.

Neither wanted to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Iraqis have a long list of grievances against their leaders, including electricity that sometimes works only a few hours a day, unemployment that runs as high as 30 percent and rampant corruption.


Gaddafi forces hammer rebels on two fronts

Posted on: February 4th, 2019 by • Sticky
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Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have hammered rebels with rocket barrages and airstrikes, trying to check their advance out of the opposition-held east of Libya toward the capital Tripoli.

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At least 20 were wounded, some of them seriously.

On another front, government forces were reportedly battering down resistance in the closest rebel-held city to Tripoli, Zawiya.

A government official claimed Gaddafi loyalists had recaptured the city, but some residents reported that rebels still held the city’s main square amid a heavy barrage of residential areas.

The city was sealed off and phone lines have been cut, making it impossible to verify the account.

All told, the government seems to have gained the upper hand for now in its counteroffensive against the rebels over the past few days.

But the battle is far from over and could be drawn out into a long and bloody civil war.

Gaddafi’s forces have brought overwhelming force from the air to try to beat back the rebels in the east seeking to march on Tripoli and on the ground to try to retake control of Zawiya, just 50km west of Tripoli.

The one thing that seems to hold potential to tip the scales in the rebel’s favour is international intervention.

The US says it has not ruled out using some type of military force against Gaddafi and with its allies, it is considering imposing a no-fly zone over the North African country to stop air attacks on the rebels.

In the east on Tuesday, government forces unleashed a heavy barrage of rockets on a rebel contingent that tried to move out from their position at the oil port of Ras Lanouf.

At least 20 wounded were rushed to the hospital in the town, some of them with legs lost and other serious injuries.

“I was hit in the arm and leg, my friend was wounded in the stomach,” Momen Mohammad, 31, said while lying in a hospital bed.

The fighting began when the rebel forces advanced west out of Ras Lanouf toward Bin Jawwad, a small town 600km east of the capital, fighters said.

Earlier in the day, warplanes launched at least five new airstrikes near rebel position in Ras Lanouf, one hitting a two-story house in a residential area, causing some damage.

None of the strikes appeared to cause casualties, suggesting they were intended to intimidate the fighters, according to an Associated Press reporter who saw the strikes.

The anti-regime forces were not taking any chances and were spreading out deep inside the desert around the area in small groups.

Over the past few days, rebels moved out of their stronghold in the east, capturing with relative speed the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanouf.

But they were met with superior firepower and airstrikes when they tried to push westward and beat a fast retreat to Ras Lanouf over the past two days.

The rebels seem to have reached a point of their campaign where they need to figure out how they could organise resupply lines and avoid becoming easy targets for warplanes in their march across the open desert region with little cover.

The extent of their westward reach is a checkpoint about 10km west of Ras Lanouf.

Zawiya, on Tripoli’s western doorstep, is the most significant position the opposition has held in the largely Gaddafi-controlled northwest of the country.

After repelling several attacks the past week, the city has come under the heaviest onslaught yet since the weekend, believed to be an elite brigade commanded by one of Gaddafi’s sons, Khamis.

One resident, who fled the city on Monday, reported that pro-Gaddafi forces had taken the city’s main square, where rebels and protesters had been camped out for weeks, after bombardment that caused heavy damage.

Mohammed Hamza, an adviser in Libya’s Foreign Ministry in Tripoli who is originally from Zawiya, said on Tuesday that government forces were in control, raising the green flag of Gaddafi’s rule in the square.

But a resident of the nearby town of Sabratha said people who fled from Zawiya on Tuesday afternoon told him fighting continued, with rebels back in control of the square.

He said the residents reported government forces controlling the entrances to the city were heavily shelling residential neighbourhoods with tank and artillery fire.

They said the city hospital was overwhelmed with dead and wounded and many homes had been damaged.

The various reports could not be independently confirmed.

Electricity, phone and internet services have all been cut in the city, making it impossible to reach witnesses in Zawiya.


US, China execution records questioned

Posted on: October 13th, 2019 by
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Australia must join with the EU to end the death penalty worldwide, even if it makes for uncomfortable conversation with the nation’s biggest trading partners, Human Rights Watch says.

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The group says Prime Minister Tony Abbott must harness the outrage generated by Indonesia’s execution of eight drug offenders, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

But it insists that outrage should also be directed at Australia’s three biggest trading partners – the US, China and Japan – who all retain the death penalty in some form.

“I think these are not going to be easy conversations, they’re going to be difficult conversations, but I don’t think that means that Australia should shy away from doing so,” Human Rights Watch Australia Director Elaine Pearson told AAP.

“Our advocacy is less meaningful when we’re only advocating, for instance, for Australians on death row and not equally raising those issues when it comes to the US, China and Japan.”

Ms Pearson said there needed to be different goals for targeting different countries, modelled on the UK’s death penalty policy, which highlights a strategy for worldwide abolition.

At least 778 people were executed worldwide in 2013, excluding China, who keeps its executions secret.

The US executed 39 people in 2013 and, as of August 2014, there were 126 inmates on death row in Japan.

Two Australian citizens are currently on death row – heroin trafficker Pham Trung Dung in Vietnam and methamphetamine trafficker Henry Chin in China.

Human Rights Watch’s Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson said the Bali Nine duo’s deaths should serve as a “real awakening point”.

“There has to be a grand coalition, with Australia and the EU at its heart, to push for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide,” he said.

The United Nations meanwhile said Indonesia’s decision was “extremely regrettable, extremely sad”.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN Human Rights High Commissioner, said drug crimes were not serious enough to warrant the death penalty, if it was to be used at all.

“Indonesia appeals for clemency when its own nationals face execution in other countries, so it is incomprehensible why it absolutely refuses to grant clemency for lesser crimes on its own territory,” Mr Colville said.

Anti-death penalty advocate Justice Lex Lasry said Australia should establish an eminent persons group to press other nations to abolish the death penalty.

Justice Lasry, who represented the last Australian executed, Van Nguyen in Singapore in 2005, said the group could make direct representations to governments in countries such as Indonesia and the US to persuade them to end their use of the death penalty.

“It needs to be a discussion that’s intellectual rather than emotional so that people can be made to understand and be persuaded to the view that capital punishment is something that we should leave to history,” he told ABC television.


Asian soccer needs to ‘match up’ to catch up – Roxburgh

Posted on: October 13th, 2019 by
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Roxburgh, who took his native Scotland to the World Cup finals in 1990 and the European Championship finals two years later, joined the Asian Football Confederation as the head of their technical department last month.

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Having worked in 60 countries the 71-year-old is no newcomer to Asian football, having first worked on the continent more than 30 years ago, and told a select group of journalists on Wednesday that Asian soccer must “match up” to its international rivals to stand any chance of winning major honours.

“There is a passion for football in Asia, and when you have that passion and talent to go with it you’ve got a chance.” the rake-thin Scot said.

“But South America, Africa, CONCACAF, everyone dreams of winning the World Cup. It’s a competitive world but if we in Asia don’t match up to the top countries in the world in terms of development work, then what chance have we got?

“The first step is that Asia must match up to the best they have in other continents, that will give us a better chance.”

Roxburgh has not been given any specific targets at the start of his two-year contract but at the very least, wants to put foundations in place to make Asian soccer stronger and that includes improving coaching methods.

“We need to establish a coaching convention and bring the top coaches together because if you don’t have progressive coaching education you are always going to be limited,” he added.

“If you look at the last three World Cup winners, you have to say, ‘how did they get there?’ and one of the reasons is coaching education and the other is player development. They are the two keys to success.

“You can sit and cross your fingers and hope a great player will turn up, but you could wait for ever. The great thing is to design your way forward.”

Asked how long it might be before an Asian country might win the World Cup he replied: “I cannot predict that.

“Japan have a target of winning the World Cup in 2050 but I’ve told them they might have to wait, because Germany will probably win it again that year,” he joked.

But on a more serious note, he added: “Clearly there was disappointment at last year’s World Cup in Brazil (when all four Asian teams crashed out in the group stage). There were some good performances, but the results did not match up.

“But there has been Asian successes at the Olympics, in youth competitions, in the women’s game, so that proves Asian teams are capable of achieving.

“There is a lot of potential but now we must make progress.”

(Editing by John O’Brien)


Philippines hails ‘miracle’ reprieve

Posted on: October 13th, 2019 by
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A last-minute reprieve for Filipina drug convict Mary Jane Veloso – facing execution in Indonesia along with Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – has sparked an outpouring of euphoria and disbelief.

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As it emerged the 30-year-old single mother was not among a group of eight prisoners sent to the firing squad early Wednesday, her supporters wept with joy, her family declared their prayers answered and her children cried “Mama will live”.

“Miracles do come true,” Veloso’s mother, Celia, told Manila radio.

Protesters who had been keeping vigil outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila wept with joy, hugged each other and raised clenched fists.

Veloso’s sons, aged six and 12, who went to Indonesia last week to say goodbye, were overjoyed, according to their grandmother.

Veloso has always maintained an international human trafficking and drug gang tricked her into bringing 2.6 kilograms of heroin to Indonesia from Malaysia five years ago.

She was granted an 11th-hour stay of execution after the person suspected of asking her to carry the drugs turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines.

President Benigno Aquino on Tuesday also offered Veloso as a witness against drug rings operating in Indonesia.

Aquino’s spokesman Herminio Coloma described Veloso as a “victim”, and said the whole nation was grateful to Indonesia and thanking God her life had been spared.

The Philippines is a deeply Catholic country and priest Harold Toledano, who had been counselling the Veloso family, said she never lost hope she would be saved.

“It’s like a resurrection for us. She is alive. It is like an experience of knowing someone has died and then, just risen,” Toledano said in Cilacap, where Veloso’s family kept vigil.

“It’s too good to be true. It’s a miracle. It’s amazing.”

Veloso’s Filipino lawyer, Edre Olalia, said the Veloso family in Cilacap jumped and shouted for joy when they were informed of the reprieve.

In Veloso’s hometown of Cabanatuan city, about hours north of Manila, relatives heaved a heavy sigh of relief.

“This is nothing short of a miracle. We are overjoyed. Praise God,” Veloso’s aunt, Imelda Magday, told local television.

“I felt this surge of energy when I heard the news. I thank the Lord. Mary Jane, don’t worry, we will see each other soon,” Veloso’s grandmother, Milagros Fiesta, said in a separate television interview.


Roos forward plans Test fireworks

Posted on: October 13th, 2019 by
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The absence of Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has not stopped resurgent Kangaroos forward Sam Thaiday planning more fireworks in Friday night’s trans-Tasman Test in Brisbane.

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Thaiday was denied a re-match with the Sydney Roosters forward he bullied a fortnight ago after Waerea-Hargreaves was not considered by Kiwi selectors due to injury.

However, Thaiday reckons Waerea-Hargreaves’ fellow New Zealand forwards can expect more of the same at Suncorp Stadium.

Thaiday has reinvented himself as a Broncos enforcer since being benched and told to play for a new contract by Wayne Bennett at the start of the NRL season.

He capped a remarkable return by earning a back-row starting berth for a Test match which will put Australia’s world No.1 ranking on the line.

But that has not eased Thaiday’s urge to throw his sometimes criticised weight around for Australia, even with Waerea-Hargreaves absent.

Thaiday laughed when asked if was going to take some “angry pills” before the Test.

“If you are referring to the incident I think you are, that was part of the gameplan,” he said of his NRL stoush with Waerea-Hargreaves.

“We had to get amongst their forwards.

“That’s what you want every weekend, you want that one-on-one battle.

“You want that battle between our forward pack and theirs.

“Whoever wins that usually wins the game.”

Asked who he would target now that Waerea-Hargreaves wasn’t playing, Thaiday laughed: “Isn’t he?

“Look, it will probably be the same type of thing (as his NRL stoush with Roosters) on Friday night.

“They’ve got some great players in Jesse Bromwich, who I think is one of the best front-rowers going around at the moment.

“So that’s a big task – try and get the upper hand on those blokes.”

Apart from being an enforcer, Thaiday will also double as a bodyguard for Kangaroos halfback Cooper Cronk.

“My job now is to try and hold defensive shape, make sure blokes like Kieran Foran and (Shaun) Johnson don’t carve us up too much and also to try and protect Coops,” he said.

“I am sure they will send some big boys Coops’ way.

“We’ve got two rookies on our right side as well (debutants Will Chambers and Josh Dugan).

“I am sure they will send a lot of traffic our way.”

However, no task seems too daunting for Thaiday after the hurdles he has already cleared this season.

Thaiday admitted he could have sulked after an honest talk with returning Broncos coach Bennett at the start of the season.

The message was sobering for a 12-year Broncos man – contract talks would be suspended until he had shown his worth on the field.

“Yeah it hurt, but I didn’t want to stew on it,” he said.

“This shows if you work hard on the field then the rewards come.

“That’s all I am trying to do, take a bit of pride in what I do for the team.”


Formula One to get later start to 2016 season

Posted on: October 13th, 2019 by
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Melbourne’s Albert Park street circuit has usually hosted the opener in March, though it was pushed back to April in 2006 to become the third round on the calendar when Melbourne hosted the Commonwealth Games that year.

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“The 2016 Formula One Australian Grand Prix event dates are 31 March–3 April, 2016, with the later start date set to condense the season, which finishes in November,” local organisers said on Tuesday.

The 1988 season also started on April 3, in Brazil.

Media have speculated that Formula One Management is aiming to reduce costs for teams and shorten the downtime between races in a bid to maximise interest in the championship.

Pundits have also suggested a condensed season could be a bargaining chip for FOM to pack in more races into the calendar, with Azerbaijan scheduled to make its debut next year on what could be a 20 round championship.

The later date at Albert Park will also mean an earlier start for the race, given it falls after the end of daylight savings in the state of Victoria when clocks are switched back an hour.

The AGPC was unable to provide further comment but confirmed the move was a directive from FOM.

“It’s fantastic that Melbourne will again play host to the opening round,” said Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott.

“Over the past 20 years Melbourne has become synonymous with the start of a new Formula One season, and we look forward to again welcoming all the teams and drivers to our great city in 2016,”

A later start to the season in Australia could also see Bahrain, the fourth race of 2015, move up the order next year even if it will be hard to accommodate an earlier date.

Bahrain has never been later than April 26 on the calendar since the race made its debut in 2004 and local organisers said at this year’s April 19 grand prix that they were hoping for an earlier slot.

“Maybe the end of April when it gets pretty hot isn’t the time, so a few weeks here and there would help if we could change that,” Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa told Reuters then.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom/Alan Baldwin; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Justin Palmer)


Baltimore streets quiet after first night of curfew enforcement

Posted on: September 8th, 2019 by
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The streets of Baltimore were largely quiet overnight, with only scattered arrests reported during a curfew imposed after the latest wave of rioting fueled by anger against US police killings of black men.

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Shortly after the curfew began late on Tuesday night, police in riot gear fired rubber bullets and lobbed gas canisters at a few hundred protesters who stood in front of a pharmacy that had been burned out.

But Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters around midnight only 10 people had been arrested, adding “The curfew is in fact working.”

After the seven-hour curfew ended at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT), schools prepared to reopen after violence flared after the Monday funeral of an African-American man who died April 19 from a spinal injury suffered in police custody a week earlier.

The death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray has renewed a national movement against police use of lethal force, which protesters say is disproportionately exercised against minorities, that flared after police killed unarmed black men last year in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City and elsewhere.

Thousands of police and National Guard troops patrolled the streets of Baltimore overnight, and the curfew was scheduled to remain in place for six more nights. In a rare move, the Major League Baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox will be played as scheduled Wednesday but closed to the public.

Baltimore, just 40 miles (64 km) from the nation’s capital in Washington, saw scenes of reconciliation, cleanup and even celebration, as well as continued protest on Tuesday.

The day before, shops were looted, 19 buildings were set on fire, 20 officers were injured and police arrested more than 250 people.

In Chicago on Tuesday, about 500 people demonstrated outside police headquarters and marched in solidarity with the people of Baltimore, chanting “Stop Police Violence.”

At least one person was arrested, but the event was mostly peaceful. Local media reported that two people were injured overnight following gunfire in Ferguson, Missouri, during a protest near where unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by police last August.

It was not clear if the shootings were linked or connected to the demonstration.

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Gray was arrested on April 12 after running from officers. He was taken to the police station in a van, with no seat restraint. A lawyer for Gray’s family says his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck while in custody.

Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating possible civil rights violations.

“There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw (Monday),” President Barack Obama said.

“It is counterproductive.”

The rioting followed a week of largely peaceful protests in the city, where almost a quarter of the 620,000 people live below the poverty line, with demonstrators demanding answers in Gray’s death.

Police have said they would conclude their investigation by Friday and forward the results to state prosecutors.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she acted cautiously on Monday to avoid a heavy-handed response that would incite violence. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, said he had called Rawlings-Blake repeatedly Monday but that she held off requesting the National Guard until three hours after looting started.

He ended up declaring a state of emergency while she imposed the curfew.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will discuss the violent protests in Baltimore and call for reform in the U.S. justice system, including the use of body cameras by police across the country, in a speech in New York on Wednesday.

(Additional reporting by Warren Strobel; Writing by Curtis Skinner; Editing by W Simon)


Robben out for season, Lewandowski breaks jaw

Posted on: September 8th, 2019 by
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Robben sustained a torn calf muscle 16 minutes into his comeback from a five-week injury absence and Lewandowski broke his jaw and nose and suffered a concussion after a clash with the Dortmund keeper on Tuesday, Bayern said.

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The Poland international, however, sounded hopeful he could still be ruled fit to play in their Champions League semi-final first leg at Barcelona next week.

“It’s a few more days til the match at Camp Nou, I really hope I will be able to play,” he wrote on Twitter.

The latest injuries are especially bitter with Robben and Lewandowski involved in 45 percent of Bayern’s 117 goals in all competitions this season.

There is nothing positive in a defeat,” club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told reporters. “We just have to shake it off and take the pitch next Wednesday in Barcelona with renewed vigour.”

“Maybe we have some better luck there,” he said, with Bayern already missing Franck Ribery, David Alaba and Holger Badstuber.

Dutchman Robben has had a stellar season, scoring 17 league goals until his injury in March.

Lewandowski, who was knocked down in a rough challenge by Dortmund goalkeeper Mitch Langerak, broke his upper jaw and nose and suffered concussion.

The in-form Poland striker had scored nine goals in his last 11 matches for the Bavarians, who secured the Bundesliga title last week with four games to spare.

Bayern said more medical checks would be required to determine the length of Lewandowski’s absence.

There was some good news amidst the gloom with Thiago, who returned recently after a year out injured, having suffered no major damage from a knock on his thigh.

Bayern’s 2-0 defeat on penalties to Dortmund, with all four Bayern players failing to score from the spot, meant they missed the chance to repeat their 2013 treble.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Justin Palmer)


Figo asks AFC to allow FIFA candidates to address Asia Congress

Posted on: September 8th, 2019 by
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Former Portugal international Figo, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and Van Praag, the president of the Dutch FA, who are all challenging incumbent Sepp Blatter for football’s top job in the May 29 vote, have not been invited to speak.

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However Blatter, who is expected to sweep up most of Asia’s 47-votes, will address the Congress in his role as FIFA president.

Figo told Reuters through a spokesman on Wednesday: “I’ve been speaking individually with some Federations since I arrived here in Bahrain.

“I think myself and all the other candidates for the FIFA presidential election deserve a chance to address the Congress even if it’s for a brief speech.

“It would be in the interest of all the federations and I hope I’ll be able to speak openly and freely about my proposals which I’m sure will benefit football and FIFA.”

Vam Praag told Reuters “I have written to (AFC president) Sheikh Salman twice and verbally asked him two days ago if I could address the delegates and he has given me no reply.”

The three men were also refused the chance to speak at the CONCACAF conference of central and north American countries and the Caribbean islands in the Bahamas earlier this month.

Nor were they given the floor at the South American (CONMEBOL) Congress in Asuncion or the African (CAF) Congress in Cairo. They were however given the floor at the UEFA Congress in Vienna last month.

The agenda for the 26th Asian Congress naturally allows Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa of Bahrain the chance to make an opening and closing address and his opening remarks will be keenly followed by Blatter, who is seeking and is expected to win a fifth term of office next month.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)


Greek football chief confident of avoiding FIFA, UEFA bans

Posted on: September 8th, 2019 by
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Greece were warned that they could face a suspension over government interference if the sports law was voted in.

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But after emerging from talks between Stavros Kontonis, Deputy Minister for Education, Culture and Religious Affairs, and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, Gkirtzikis indicated a compromise over the law had been reached.

“During the meeting our understanding is that the state will make some changes, which both federations are awaiting,” he told reporters.

“The law has been deferred to be discussed next Wednesday and Thursday (instead of Monday and Tuesday). We serve football and no one wants to be excluded from international competitions.

“Mr Infantino came to give some useful advice in order to avoid a (ban) and examine the text which will be submitted to a vote in Parliament.

“I hope what has been discussed will be signed off and I expect it to be. Every summer we make changes in the statutes of FIFA and UEFA in order for everyone to be aligned.”

Following continuous problems with crowd trouble, the government has put together a new set of regulations in an attempt to crack down on violence at sports events.

But FIFA and UEFA have strict rules to protect their member federations’ independence in running their own affairs and sent a joint letter to Gkirtzikis last week warning they “would have no option but to refer the case to the relevant bodies for immediate sanctions, including the suspension of EPO.”

The bill, entitled “Measures for the confrontation of violence in Greek sports and other provisions”, will be voted on in parliament on May 6-7 with the expected necessary adjustments.

After emerging from Wednesday’s meeting Kontonis said: “The conversation was frank, constructive and productive while clarification was given to Mr Infantino on two issues of concern to federations: self-rule and the procedure of appointing judges to disciplinary bodies.”

“I am absolutely satisfied with the discussion. I thank the representatives of the parties and I think that both federations can now safely reach conclusions because today they heard the authenticity of the state’s positions.

“The government does not want to exclude teams from Europe because it takes the country and its workers – the players and everyone else involved — into account…”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)


In praise of skaters – colonising a city’s forlorn and forgotten corners

Posted on: September 8th, 2019 by
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Mike Jeffries, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Skateboarders aren’t too popular with civic authorities.

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Routinely demonised as vandals and as a danger to other members of the public, they are often portrayed as an antisocial nuisance to be excluded by law or sometimes lured away to officially sanctioned skate parks. Skaters, being predominantly teenage lads, can seem like an alien and dangerous sub-species, scowling from beneath hoodies festooned with zombies, occult runes or lewd cartoons.

Yet the real trouble with skateboarding is that it challenges the dominant use of cities, which remain controlled by civic and corporate interests whose primary purpose is to run the place as a machine for consumption. Pesky skaters are at very least an unruly nuisance getting in the way of valued customers, or, worse still, are enjoying the cityscape for free, a specific symptom of a general teenaphobia.

Iain Borden, the UCL professor whose ground-breaking book first brought the place of skaters in the city to attention recently suggested skating had achieved a more positive place in many cityscapes around the world, now recognised as a creative, challenging and healthy activity.

To an extent this is true. Skateboarding builds confidence and the social capital that can combat social exclusion, alcohol and drug abuse. The sport is becoming respectable with skateboarding designed into some spaces and superb new skate parks.

 

An ideal way to explore the big city. Chris Ford, CC BY-NC

 

However civic respectability may not be part of the attraction. Central to skateboarding is the sense of the skaters’ local scene, a heritage and culture that may be inscrutable to non-skaters. Skate culture is powerful social glue. Skaters will tell you that they can turn up in an unfamiliar city, skateboard in hand, and immediately be welcomed to join in with the locals.

Skateboarders’ bonds can also come as a surprise to city authorities. In the autumn of 2014 the city council in Norwich proposed a ban on skateboarding throughout the city centre. Norwich’s new skate park had been built, according to the council, on “the tacit understanding” that skaters would not use the city centre.

On the evening of the council debate to herald the ban the public gallery of the town hall was packed with skaters, with more beside left outside unable to fit in following a demonstration and a public petition with more than 6,000 signatures.

 

Who are these kids? Victor Leite, CC BY-NC-SA

 

The council withdrew its immediate plans for a ban although the possible use of a restriction, a Public Spaces Protection Order, has been mooted. This new PSPO legislation also threatened skaters in the town of Kettering, while more typical bans are also looming in Barking and Bristol. Iain Borden’s global optimism can seem a bit too sunny down at street level.

Stop, watch and learn

Skaters are not out to cause conflict. They would much prefer to be left to their own devices, often out of sight and out of mind. While the ominous hoodies and garish logos may look like trouble, it is worth taking time to watch skaters using their favourite spots, as against the fleeting encounters on the high street.

Skate scenes are very sociable, with their own etiquette for taking turns, working out tricks for competitions and looking out for each other. The sport fuels creativity through photography, video and graphics. Skaters treasure and look after top spots, raising money to build ramps and blocks. The spots may not be theirs to own, but they are very good at colonising a city’s forlorn and forgotten corners.

In my city of Newcastle upon Tyne the top local site, the Wasteland, was an old factory floor – skated for more 20 years. “Our summer home” the skaters would say – and they visited it up until the very day when developers finally excavated the concrete, including the parting graffiti: “Farewell our fair weather friend”.

 

Goodbye, Wasteland. Mike Jeffries, Author provided

 

A new wasteland has been found, again a demolished factory site – and money has been raised from DIY skate competitions to build new ramps and blocks. Revealingly the same site is also features on a recent list of Tyneside’s top eyesores. The skater’s eye sees the city differently.

In Tyneside their other favourite site is across the river in Gateshead. Called Five Bridges it is a windswept plaza where pedestrian walkways converge under a vast and gloomy flyover. It is an unlovely space, but Gateshead Council put more than £11,000 into building skate ramps and jumps – a great deal of money to invest in entertaining unruly youths.

 

All those pesky kids are helping keep Five Bridges safer. Mike Jeffries, Author provided

 

It did so after an elderly resident had told her councillor about the skaters who hung around on the plaza. Bracing himself for the usual complaints the councillor was surprised to hear that she liked it when the skaters were there because then it felt safe to walk through.

So don’t think of skaters as hooligans and vandals. They are much more like a badly dressed version of the Boy Scouts, although the skaters I got to know through my research are not so keen on that cosy description. Maybe a better idea is like the elves in the fairy tale The Elves and the Shoemaker, a mysterious and often invisible presence busily making the city a better place to live.

Mike Jeffries does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.