Lionel Messi was named the best player in the world for a record sixth time when he took home the Ballon d’Or at an awards ceremony in Paris on Monday.
Messi moved ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, who has won the trophy five times and finished third in the men’s rankings this time behind Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk. Megan Rapinoe, star of USA’s World Cup winning side, won the women’s award.
Messi, 32, received his first Ballon D’Or in 2009, and over the decade has gone on to become the most celebrated player in football and perhaps the greatest to play the game. “Ten years ago I received my first Ballon d’Or, guided by my three brothers,” he said. “Today, I receive my sixth, guided by my wife and children.
“As my wife says, it’s important to never stop dreaming and to always work to improve myself and continue to enjoy myself. I hope to continue to play for some time.
“I know I am very fortunate, even if, one day, I will have to retire. That will be difficult but I still have beautiful years in front of me.”
Van Dijk came second after a year in which the Dutch defender won the Champions League with Liverpool and was a losing finalist in the Nations League.
“It was an amazing year but unfortunately there are a couple of players … that are unnatural,” he said. “You have to respect greatness.
“I was close but there was someone just a little bit better. I am happy with what I achieved and hopefully we can come back next year but it will be tough.”
Van Dijk was one of three Liverpool players in the top 10, alongside Sadio Mané, who finished fourth, and Alisson, who came seventh. Allison was also awarded the inaugural Lev Yashin prize for the year’s best goalkeeper, named after the Russian and the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or, in 1963.
Rapinoe beat England’s Lucy Bronze, who came second, and her fellow American Alex Morgan to the women’s award. The 34-year-old was unable to attend the ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet but the winger recorded a message and thanked her teammates for their support on and off the field during the World Cup when she used the tournament to speak out against Donald Trump.
Anthony Joshua Goes The Distance To Win World Titles Back From Andy Ruiz Jr.
On the night when rain and wind spat and scudded across Saudi Arabian desert, Anthony Joshua whipped up a minor storm of his own to win back his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles from Andy Ruiz Jr.
In their first encounter in June, the Mexican-American had been able to disrupt the validity of boxing’s oldest and most indomitable laws – that a good big fighter usually beats a good smaller one – by stopping Joshua in seven. This time the tables were turned as the Briton used his eight-inch reach advantage and improved footwork to much better effect claim a wide points victory.
It was not a classic. But for the most part Joshua was able to keep the fight at distance and use his stiff left jab as a cattle prod to keep him his opponent at bay and rack up the points. At the end the judges’ scores, with two of 118-110 and one of 119-111, seemed about right.
Ruiz, the belly sagging over his shorts, was dangerous whenever he got in range. But his 20st frame was not quick enough to repeatedly chase down Joshua, who switched from side to side to keep his opponent off balance. As the final rang Ruiz beat his chest angrily and said “fight me”, knowing he had been outfoxed.
Before Saturday night only three fighters in the 127-year history of the world heavyweight title had successfully regained their title in a direct rematch, from the 10 fighters who attempted it: Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis. That is the company Joshua now keeps – although he will certainly have to improve to be mentioned in the breath as Ali and Lewis in the pantheon.
Both men had shown plenty of respect for each other in the protracted buildup and the fight started cautiously, with Ruiz stalking his prey and the Briton on the back foot. But shortly before the end of the round a nasty right hand from Joshua suddenly bloodied his opponent above his left eye.
Anthony Joshua was disciplined throughout and restricted Andy Ruiz Jr’s opportunities to break through his defence.
Anthony Joshua was disciplined throughout and restricted Andy Ruiz Jr’s opportunities to break through his defence. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA
The old Joshua might have scented blood and gone for the kill. But he remained content to dance on the outside and allow his jab attempt to dominate proceedings. But just before the end of round two a double left hand by Ruiz left Joshua too with a cut over his right eye – although it his corner did an expert job of stemming the blood.
Joshua remained unperturbed and kept pawing out his jab, which was acting almost as a praetorian guard for his chin. He probably took the third but in the fourth Ruiz finally got much got much closer to his man and landed several times – including on the back of the head.
But the familiar pattern reverted in the fifth and six. Before the fight Joshua had promised to go back to fight school and learn the sweet science and he proved as good as his word, jabbing and moving to good effect.
Now and again though there was a sense that the Briton was allowing Ruiz’s roughhouse tactics to get to him – and that he wanted to trade too much. In the eighth he paid the price as the Mexican landed with a good left hook followed by a right hand. But it was Ruiz, with his granite chin, who was still taking more big punches as the fight went into the championship rounds.
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The crowd, who had paid between £105 and £10,000 for tickets, certainly enjoyed it. And so, clearly, did Joshua.
Earlier in the week Joshua, who earned around £60m from the fight, was warned that he was being duped by a Saudi regime that was using it to sportswash its reputation. He will continue to face criticism from human rights groups. But with so much in the bank, and with three world titles back around his waist, he will hardly care.
FOOTBALL GENDER GAP: Equal Pay For Same 90 Minutes.
In most countries of the world, women’s pay for football either at the club or national level, significantly lags behind their male counterparts’. It makes you wonder if the women’s game is less than the regulation 90 minutes. But there was a major development towards closing the shameful remuneration gender gap in football about the same time that José Mourinho returned to Premier League management. Blink and you would have missed it as it was scarcely in the headlines of the sports pages.
The Matildas, the female football team of Australia are to earn the same as the men’s soccer team. Commercial revenues will also be equally shared, with the same attention being given to training and operational support for the women. A landmark worthy of celebrating because it allows for optimism that football’s gender pay gap can begin to be closed. Football Federation Australia agreed with the players’ union, Professional Footballers Australia on this deal, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Australia joins Norway as a country actively trying to reduce the gender pay gap in football. Worthy of mention is that despite the positive stride forward, Norway has yet to achieve full gender pay parity because their CBA does not include performance bonuses tied to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship. But it’s a start. Norwegian footballers are on equal pay regardless of gender.
Nigeria’s female football team, the Super Falcons are the only African team to have played at all eight Women’s World Cup finals and are Africa’s most successful national side with nine titles. Yet their male counterparts, the Super Eagles are among the continent’s highest-paid teams. Currently, the Super Falcons are paid US$3,000 for a win and $1,500 for a draw at major tournaments. The Super Eagles receives $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
Football’s gender pay disparity was put into starker focus following the success of the Women’s World Cup held in June in France. Previous arguments about whether female sports attract the same kind of followership gradually hold less weight – 11.7million tuned in to watch England’s Women’s World Cup semi-final making it the UK’s most-watched TV programme of the year.
Let us look at the pay figures for the last Women’s World Cup. Teams receive $750,000 for taking part in the group stages, the portion of prize money increasing with their progress within the competition. As well as prize money, each team received slightly over $800,000 for preparation costs and club compensation. Last year, the figure for each of the men’s teams was $1.5m. The eventual winners, the US team received $4m in prize money, double the 2015 award. A combined $30m goes to the teams in the Women’s World Cup as FIFA prize money.
Contrast that to the 2018’s Men’s World Cup, where the total prize money awarded was $400m. At more than ten times that of their female counterparts, it is difficult not to gasp at the disparity. From reports of each team’s CBA, World Cup bonuses of about $90,000 each would have been earned so far by the female team members; that would have been $550,000 if they were men. This is even though, between 2016 and 2018, their matches generated more in revenue than the men’s at $50.8 million and $49.9 million respectively. Their 2019 team jersey also broke Nike’s records for the most jerseys sold in one season.
For the US women’s team (USWNT), this has led to their filing of a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation for unequal pay and gender discrimination. The lawsuit claims that “if the men’s and women’s teams won each of the 20 non-tournament games they are contractually required to play, women’s team players would be paid roughly 38% of what the men would be paid.”
Without doubt, there is a lot of improvement needed to close the gender gap in football and even sports. The first female Ballon d’Or winner, Norway’s Ada Hederberg, Nigeria’s Desire Oparanozie and America’s Megan Rapinoe have all lent their voices in the fight against institutional favouritism in football – access to the same grass pitches for training, accommodation and transport arrangements corresponding to the men’s. Beyond pay, women’s football needs better conditions. In line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, there is belief that these recent activities will go a long way towards its realisation.
By Lande Abudu (Ms. Football)
Nana Akufo-Addo Inspects Completed Madina Astro Turf.
The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Monday, 2nd December, 2019, as part of his 3-day tour of the Greater Accra Region, inspected the completed Madina Zongo Astroturf.
The turf, whose construction commenced when the Akufo-Addo-led New Patriotic Party government assumed office, has been built to create a conducive environment for the training and development of sporting talent in Zongo communities.
Even before its commissioning by the President, on the 15th and 16th of November, the national soccer team, the Black Stars, trained on the Madina Astro Turf prior to enplaning for Sao Tome and Principe for their 2021 Africa Cup of Nation qualifying match.
Already, five Astro turfs, with spectator stands and dressing rooms, have been constructed across the country. In addition, five recreational parks were completed, in 2019, for use at Bolgatanga, Salaga, Yeji, Tafo-Kumasi and Akim Oda. These parks were provided with green turfs, inner perimeter fencing, reserve player seats and mechanised boreholes for grass maintenance.
The Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development, Sheikh Dr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, stated that his Ministry is currently executing 62 projects across the 16 regions of the country, which include the construction and rehabilitation of schools, access roads, drainage systems, water systems, street lights and the provision of furniture for schools.
Ho noted that, under the Zongo Cuisine Promotion Project, over 500 women have been trained in branding, food packaging, financial literacy and business registration and documentation.
Additionally, Sheikh Dr. Mustapha Hamid indicated that, to end open defecation and improve upon sanitation within inner city communities across the country his Ministry has constructed 250 in-house toilets under the Inner-City Household Toilet Project. The beneficiary-households are in Bukom, Sempe, Chorkor, Chemu-ɛnaa, Mudor, Adedenkpo, Osu Alata, Osu Anorhor and Adabrak, and added that this initiative will serve over 5,000 individuals.
Earlier that day, President Akufo-Addo inspected and commissioned several housing projects being undertaken by the State Housing Company Ltd.
The housing projects, which are being solely financed by the State Housing Company, include Phase 1 of Marlow Court. This comprises 32-unit apartments, and six (6) four-bedroom houses. The project is 90% complete, and is expected to be completed in December 2019.
The President also inspected Phase 2 of the Marlow Court, that is made up of 64-unit apartments, eight (8) 4-bedroom houses, and thirty-two (32) 3-bedroom houses, which are expected to be completed in December 2021.
Other ongoing State Housing Company projects include SHC Gardens, which is 75% complete, and a 32-unit Maliah Court, which is 30% complete, and with completion set for December 2020.
Romelu Lukaku Tells UEFA To Act After Suffering Racist Abuse.
Romelu Lukaku has called on UEFA to act after again being subjected to racist abuse in the Champions League.
Lukaku claimed “the whole stadium” chanted in a racist manner during Inter Milan‘s 3-1 victory over Slavia Prague.
And the Belgian striker, who scored and assisted during the win, has told Uefa they have to act.
“I said it last time when I was with the national team,” Lukaku told Esporte Interativo. “Uefa now has to do something about it, because things like this in stadiums is not right.
“Today it happened twice with me and that is not right with people. We are in 2019, there are many players with many different nationalities in their teams.
“When there are people that for me are bad, at the stadium, that’s not a good example for the kids. I hope that Uefa now do something about it, because the whole stadium did it when Lautaro [Martinez] scored the first goal, and that’s not good for the people watching this game.”
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