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September 7

Messi returns to Barcelona training

After discussions, press conferences, videos and endless speculation, Lionel Messi has returned to training with Barcelona.

Tha Argentinian forward was photographed arriving at the club’s training ground a few days after saying he would reluctantly stay put for the upcoming season. Messi had previously said he “wanted to go” and that he felt his contract allowed him to depart the only professional club he’s ever represented for free. 

“I wanted to go and it was entirely my right because the contract said that I could be released,” Messi told website Goal last week. “I wanted to go because I thought about living my last years of football happily. Lately, I have not found happiness within the club.”

Though Messi has agreed to stay for now, it’s unclear how happy he is to do so under new coach Ronald Koeman.

Mahrez and Laporte test positive, Foden and Greenwood sent home

Manchester City confirmed on Monday that Algeria midfielder Riyad Mahrez and French defender Aymeric Laporte have tested positive for the coronavirus, though neither are showing symptoms.

City don’t have a game on the opening weekend of the season and the pair could yet be in contention for the club’s opener against Wolves on September 21 after a period in quarantine. The self-isolation period in Britain is a minimum of 10 days.

Meanwhile another City player, Phil Foden, has been sent home from England duty along with Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood after breaching squad coronavirus guidelines.

The pair both made their England debuts over the weekend but reports in Iceland suggested they then had women from outside the ‘bubble’ enter their hotel rooms.

“Unfortunately this morning, it was brought to my attention that two of the boys have broken the Covid-19 guidelines in terms of our secure bubble,” said England boss Gareth Southgate in his press conference. 
“So we had to decide very quickly that they couldn’t have any interaction with the rest of the team and wouldn’t be able to train. Given the procedures we have to follow now they will have to travel back to England separately.” 

Trans Tasman rugy clash postponed

The Bledisloe Cup rugby union test between Australia and New Zealand, which was slated to be played in Melbourne this year, has been switched to 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rugby Australia said on Monday.

The annual three-match Bledisloe Cup series is normally contested as part of the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship, which also includes South Africa and Argentina.

But the state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne, accounts for about 75% of coronavirus cases in Australia.

“The decision to swap the All Blacks test to 2022 is a sensible one and I thank [Victorian] Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian government for their flexibility and support,” Rugby Australia’s interim chief executive Rob Clarke said in a statement 

September 6

Djokovic defaulted from US Open

World number 1 Novak Djokovic has been sensationally dumped out of the US Open after striking a female line judge with a stray ball during his fourth round match against Pablo Carreno Busta.

The Serbian had let a series of set points slip in the opening set and had also recieved treatment for a shoulder injury before he hit a ball in the direction of one of the judges on the back wall.

The ball hit the unsuspecting line judge, who dropped to her knees at the back of the court.

After a discussion of several minutes with officials on court, Djokovic walked over to shake hands with Carreno Busta, and the default was announced.

Alexander Zverev, who progressed earlier in the day (see below) was one of the first to react.

“It’s very unlucky, very unfortunate,” he said. ”The decision was made by the supervisors and, as I said, they’re just doing their job. There’s nothing much else I can say to that. I don’t know what to say. I’m just a little bit in shock now, to be honest.”

Mixed fortunes for Germans at US Open

Alexander Zverev cruised through to his first US Open quarterfinal with a convincing 6-2 6-2 6-1 win against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

The fifth-seeded Zverev is the first German man to reach the  quarterfinal in New York since Tommy Haas in 2007.

But Angelique Kerber’s tournament is over after Jennifer Brady proved too much for the 2016 winner, who came in the tournament with very little match practice.

Czechs name whole new squad

After a u-turn on an initial decision to postpone their game against Scotland on Monday after coronavirus tests (see two entries below), the Czech Republic have named an unfamiliar squad for their Nations League squad.

The only two players with international experience are 36-year-old defender Roman Hubník, who last played for his country in 2016 and striker Stanislav Tecl, who has won just five caps. 

Scotland coach Steve Clarke addressed the situation in his prematch press conference, admitting further research would be needed.

 ”Obviously it will be a new-look Czech Republic team. We have a list of names that I believe is the official squad and myself and the analysts are working our way through so we know what position they play in and how they are,” he said.

 ”I would be happier if we were playing against the full Czech Republic team but we are in a very strange and disturbing time, if you look at the influence this pandemic has had on everybody,” he added.

Germany are among the countries playing in the competition on Sunday night.

Serena not quite serene

In serious danger of her earliest exit at the U.S. Open since her debut 22 years ago, Serena Williams dug deep to get past compatriot Sloane Stephens.

Williams won 10 of the last 12 games in the battle between former champions to emerge with a with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory and keep her hopes of a 24th grand slam alive. 

 ”In that first set, I don’t think she made any errors, honestly. She was playing so clean. I said, ‘I don’t want to lose in straight sets,”’ said Williams of her opponent. The American then told herself “OK, Serena, get yourself a game.”

She did more than that, and will play 15th-seeded Maria Sakkari for a quarterfinal spot. 

September 5

Czech Republic to field ‘new players and staff members’ against Scotland 

The Czech Republic’s Nations League game against Scotland is due to go ahead on Monday after all, despite positive coronavirus tests in the Czech camp.

The Czech FA had initially announced after Friday’s 3-1 win against Slovakia that the Scotland game was off, after a member of the backroom staff tested positive. As a result, RB Leipzig striker Patrik Schick and West Ham United midfielder Tomas Soucek, who had come into contact with the member of staff, were told to self-isolate, although none of the Czech players have since tested positive.

On Saturday morning, however, the Czechs performed a U-turn, confirming that the game would go ahead after all but with a squad consisting of “new players and staff members.”

Preparing for scenarios where Covid-19 impacted fixtures, UEFA outlined last week that a game could still go ahead as long as a team had at least 13 players, including a goalkeeper, available.

Schick, who scored ten goals for RB Leipzig while on loan from Roma last season, is reported to be on the brink of signing a permanent deal with Bayer Leverkusen worth €25 million – providing he tests negative on Monday and can leave the Czech Republic.

Mick Schumacher wins first F2 feature race 
Mick Schumacher, the son of German F1 legend Michael Schumacher, won his maiden F2 feature race when he took the chequered flag at Monza.

The 21-year-old Ferrari junior is driving in his second F2 season – the penultimate step on the motorsports ladder before F1 – and had more podiums than any other driver going into this weekend in Italy.

But despite starting seventh after beaching his car in the gravel in qualifying, Schumacher got off to a typically fast start and quickly moved up to second, before going on to win his first feature race – although he did win a time trial in Hungary last season.

The victory propelled him up to third in the divers’ championship. Schumacher’s father, Michael, won a record 91 Grand Prix, 72 with Ferrari, also a record. He won seven world championships between 1994 and 2004, the final five in direct succession.

He retired for good in 2013 but suffered serious damage in skiing accident later that year. He was placed in a medically induced coma until June 2014 and has been receiving rehabilitative treatment privately since then.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    Starting out in cart racing

    Born just outside of Cologne on January 3, 1969, Michael Schumacher, like many F1 drivers, got his start in kart racing, earning his kart license at the age of 12. Schumacher would go on to win numerous German and European kart championships before graduating to single-seat car racing in 1987. Here he is seen in 2011 leading his brother Ralf around the family-owned kart center in Kerpen.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    F1 debut with Jordan

    It may surprise some to learn that Schumacher didn’t make his Formula One debut with Benetton, but with Jordan in 1991. However, he only wound up competing in one race for the team founded by Eddie Jordan (above, left), the Belgian Grand Prix. Actually, “competing” is probably overstating things, as clutch problems forced him to retire on the first lap.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    Move to Benetton

    However, Schumacher would go on to drive in five more F1 races in 1991, after he signed on with Camel Benetton Ford. He earned four points in the drivers’ championship in his first year, putting him 14th in the standings for that year.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    First Grand Prix win

    A year after he had made his F1 debut at Spa-Francorchamps, that was also the scene of his first GP race win. Here Britain’s Nigel Mansell, who would win the drivers’ championship in 1992, helps him hold up his trophy at the course Schumacher would later describe as his favorite track. The German driver finished the season in third place in the drivers’ championship, on 53 points.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    A first drivers’ title

    It would only take two more years for Schumacher to win it all. However, the 1994 season was marred by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger during the San Marino Grand Prix. Here Schumacher is seen in Adelaide, Australia celebrating his first drivers’ title with his Benetton team. He would go on to successfully defend his drivers’ championship with Benetton in 1995.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    On to Ferrari

    In 1996, Michael Schumacher signed on with Ferrari, where he would enjoy his most successful years in Formula One, winning five consecutive drivers’ titles from 2000 to 2004. Here he is seen celebrating his first win for his new team, at the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    No angel

    Schumacher occasionally stepped out of line on the track. In the last race of 1997, he turned into Jacques Villeneuve’s car as the Canadian attempted to overtake him. Damage resulting from the crash forced Schumacher to retire but the four points Villeneuve earned for finishing third gave him the drivers’ title. The FIA subsequently disqualified Schumacher for the entire 1997 season.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    A final bow

    Schumacher won the 91st race of his Formula One career in Shanghai on October 1, 2006. It would turn out to be the last win of his F1 career. Schumacher retired from racing at the end of the season, in which he finished second in the drivers’ standings. In 2007 he accepted an advisory role with Ferrari.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    Always testing his limits

    During his time out of F1, Schumacher took up motorcycle racing and in early 2009 he had an accident while testing his Honda 1000 CBR-Fireblade on a track in Cartagena, Spain. He damaged a vertebra, a rib, and the bottom of his skull, while also suffering a torn artery in his brain. This forced him to call off a planned 2009 comeback, when he would have replaced the injured Felipe Massa.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    Comeback and permanent retirement

    In 2010, Schumacher returned to the F1 circuit with Mercedes, enjoying limited success. However, at the 2012 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Schumacher finished third. At the age of 43 years and 173 days he became the oldest driver to reach the podium since Jack Brabham finished second in the 1970 British Grand Prix. Schumacher would retire (again) after the 2012 season.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    Ski accident

    On December 29, 2013, Schumacher lost control while skiing a off piste in the French Alps, hitting his head on a rock. Despite having worn a helmet he sustained a serious head injury. He underwent surgery and was placed in an induced coma. In June 2014, his management announced that he was no longer in a coma. Since then the now 50-year-old Schumacher has been at home in Gland, Switzerland.

  • Michael Schumacher: A Formula One legend turns 50

    A third Schumacher in F1?

    Michael Schumacher is not the only member of the family to have competed in Formula One – his younger brother Ralf drove for Jordan, Williams and Toyota between 1997 and 2007, winning six races. Michael’s son Mick (pictured above) won the FIA F3 European Championship in 2018 and in 2019 he is to move up to Formula 2. A future move to F1 looks like a distinct possibility – to say the least.

    Author: Chuck Penfold

Zverev through in New York, despite delay

Alexander Zverev managed to shrug off a significant delay and progress to the fourth round of the US Open. The German sayid he was told there was “very little chance” his US Open third-round match with Adrian Mannarino would take place because of coronavirus restrictions. 

Mannarino is in a “bubble within the bubble” after fellow Frenchmen Benoit Pairetested positive for COVID-19 but took to the court after a delay of nearly three hours.

 ”I was waiting around and very relaxed. I was happy he could play,” said Zverev. “He was around Benoit Paire so I guess the New York State called and said he shouldn’t play. It was political, it was not us players just sitting around.”

Zverev, seeded fifth, started slowly and lost the first set before taking the next three to claim the victory. ”There is a lot of room for improvement, I’m not at my best yet,” he said. Zverev faces Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina next.

September 4

Oberdorf haunts Essen as Wolfsburg win

Less than a week after their defeat to Lyon in the Champions League final, Wolfsburg’s women’s team have laid down a marker for their title defense with a 3-0 win over SGS Essen.

The champions made several changes from the loss in San Sebastian, Pernile Harder had moved to Chelsea while Alex Popp was among those on the bench. So it was left to a newer face, Lena Oberdorf to open the scoring in the 17th minute with her first for the club.

Lena Goeßling made no mistake from the penalty spot just after the break before Oberdorf, who only joined from Essen earlier this year, wrapped it up with six minutes remaining.

Tokyo Olympics are most costly Summer Games

The Tokyo Olympics are already the most expensive Summer Games on record with costs set to go higher, a wide-ranging
study from Britain’s University of Oxford indicates.

The Tokyo cost overrun already exceeds 200%, lead author Bent Flyvbjerg explained in an interview with The Associated Press. This is even before several billion more dollars are added on from the one-year delay from the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Football Leaks’ trial begins

The trial of Rui Pinto, the man behind the “Football Leaks” that exposed shady dealings by leading clubs, players and agents, begins on Friday in Lisbon, with the hacker facing 90 charges.

The accusations include attempted blackmail, computer hacking, breach of correspondence and data theft. “I hope to be acquitted because I am a whistleblower and I acted in good faith,” the 31-year-old hacker told Der Spiegel.

Click here to read more on the start of the ‘Football Leaks’ trial.

AFL virus breach after strip club brawl

Two Australian Rules players were slapped with 10-game bans and sent home in disgrace Friday after a drunken brawl outside a strip club, which broke strict coronavirus regulations.

Sydney Stack and Callum Coleman-Jones, who play for reigning champions Richmond, left their bio-secure ‘bubble’ and ventured out into Surfer’s Paradise, a bar-heavy area of Gold Coast, where they got into a fight at 3:30 am Friday.

September 3

DFL vote in favor of keeping five substitutes rule

The German Bundesliga will keep five substitutions for the 2020-21 season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic with the German League Association (DFL) CEO Christian Seifert predicting that the coming campaign would be “the most demanding and difficult in the history of German professional football.”

The 36 clubs in the top two German men’s soccer leagues voted at a German Football League meeting Thursday to continue the rule for next season. That comes after the English Premier League moved back to three substitutions after using five to finish the 2019-20 campaign during the pandemic.

van de Beek honours ex-teammate

Manchester United’s new signing Donny van de Beek has revealed he will wear shirt number 34 in honour of former Ajax team-mate Abdelhak Nouri, who suffered brain damage after an on-pitch heart attack.

“This is a special thing for me because my good friend Abdelhak Nouri… maybe you know the story, he had a heart attack and he’s a good friend of mine. So I decided to take his old number on my shirt and I want to get good memories with this number.” 

Bale accuses Real Madrid of making it “difficult” to leave

Bale is out of favour with Real manager Zinedine Zidane and played just 48 minutes of Madrid’s 12 games when the Spanish season resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s on the club, I can’t really do anything. I have a contract,” said the Welsh winder. “All I can do is carry on what I’m doing and hopefully something comes up. But as I said, it’s in the club’s hands. They make things very difficult to be honest.”

Schröder and Oklahoma out of the NBA play-offs

A thrilling game seven ended in dramatic fashion as the Houston Rockets clinched a 104-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to progress in NBA’s Western Conference play-offs.

Despite a poor shooting night the Rockets clamped down defensively, forcing Thunder guard Chris Paul into six turnovers while holding Germany’s Dennis Schroder to 5-of-17 shooting.

September 2

Neymar amongst PSG trio who test positive for COVID-19

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar, the world’s most expensive footballer, has tested positive for coronavirus, sources told AFP on Wednesday. The 28-year-old Brazilian has Covid-19 as well as his Argentinian teammates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, the same anonymous sources said.

Switzerland ready to bring back fans

Soccer and ice hockey clubs in Switzerland can have stadiums two-thirds full, starting in October, after a federal decision on Wednesday. The Swiss government said spectators would need to wear face masks and have allocated seats. No fans of away teams will be allowed and contact tracing plans must be in place.

September 1

Werner excited by Germany options

In a press conference ahead of Germany’s double header in the Nations League against Spain (Thursday) and Switzerland (Friday), Timo Werner said he’s excited by Germany’s chances in next year’s European Championships.

“We’re still a very good team and always go to tournaments with the aim of winning them. That will be no different at the Euros,” the new Chelsea signing said.

“We have very good attacking players. If we can all stay injury-free, then the team can work incredibly well going forward.” 

Osaka and Djokovic through in New York

Fourth seed Naomi Osaka, who was an injury doubt for the US Open, is through to the second round after a 6-2 5-7 6-2 victory over fellow Japanese player Misaki Doi. 

“It was difficult [physically]. I knew there was a chance it would get really long. I will have to see what happens tomorrow and how I feel,” Osaka said.

In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic, a heavy favorite in the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, cruised to a 6-1 6-4 6-1 win over Damir Dzumhur.

August 31

Wolfsburg draw Albanian side in Europa League qualifiers

Wolfsburg’s quest to qualify for the 2020-21 Europa League group stage will begin in Albania.

The Wolves drew Albanian Superliga runners-up Kukes in the second round of Europa League qualifying. The tie will be a one-off match on September 17 in Zeqir Ymeri Stadium in Kukes, a city in eastern Albania.

UEFA, Europe’s football confederation, has ordered that all qualifying matches be one-match affairs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wolfsburg’s seventh-place finish in the Bundesliga last season put them in the second round of Europa League qualifying. Kukes defeated Bulgarian side Slavia Sofia in the first round of qualifying 2-1 to reach the second stage.

German football fans for scrapping Nations League

The second-ever Nations League is set to kick off this week. According to polling website Bundesliga-Barometer, nearly three-quarters of German football fans (74.7%) don’t think the competition makes sense.

According to the survey, which had 5,145 participants, 80.6% see the Nations League as “an unnecessary burden for the professionals of the major soccer nations.” Most (79.6%) said the competition was too complex, and more than half (56.2%) of those surveyed do not follow the games.

Germany was set to be relegated from the top division in the first iteration of the Nations League after finishing third in their group but remained in the top flight after a format change. They are set to take on Spain in Stuttgart on Thursday and Switzerland in Basel on Sunday.

Spain's Mikel Oyarzabal (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/J. Breton)

Mikel Oyarzabal has seven caps with the Spanish national team

Spain player to miss Nations League after positive COVID-19 test

Mikel Oyarzabal has withdrawn from Spain’s Nation’s League squad and will miss his country’s opener against Germany after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I want to communicate that I’ve received a positive result from my last test,” The 23-year-old Real Sociedad . “I have to be at home for a few days and I won’t be able to go to the national team.”

He has been replaced in Spain’s squad by Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno. Spain are set to play Germany on September 3 and Ukraine on September 6.

Tiger Woods at the BMW Championship (picture-alliance/dpa/C. R. Arbogast)

Tiger Woods finished over par in all four rounds of the BMW Championship

Tiger Woods misses out on Tour Championship

After a poor showing at the BMW Championship over the weekend, Tiger Woods failed to reach the Tour Championship for the second straight year.

He finished tied for 51st at the Olympia Fields course in Illinois, leaving him in 63rd place in the FedEx Cup playoff rankings. The top 30 qualify for the Tour Championship, which is set to begin on Friday at the East Lake Golf Club near Atlanta, Georgia.

Woods finished over par in all four rounds of the tournament at Olympia Fields, the first time he has done so at a tournament since 2010.

The 44-year-old now has two weeks to prepare for next month’s the US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York.


Real Salt Lake owner under investigation for racist comments

Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Major League Soccer (MLS) team Real Salt Lake, will sell the company that owns the club, MLS Don Garber has confirmed.

“MLS will work with Mr. Hansen on supporting the sale efforts for the company and will work closely with the club’s executive staff to support the operations of the team during the transition period,” Garber said.

The allegations of racist remarks by Hansen surfaced in a report by The Athletic on Thursday, citing former Real Salt Lake scout Andy Williams. Hansen was already under fire for comments about players deciding to sit out a home match last week in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

Despite saying he “strongly disagreed” with those comments, Garber has been criticized for not taking a stronger stand against incidents of racism and alleged racism.


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