Vinicius Junior Says Spanish League ‘Now Belongs to Racists’ After Enduring More Abuse 

Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti remonstrates with referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea as Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior looks on during a Spanish La Liga match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP)
Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti remonstrates with referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea as Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior looks on during a Spanish La Liga match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP)
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Vinicius Junior Says Spanish League ‘Now Belongs to Racists’ After Enduring More Abuse 

Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti remonstrates with referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea as Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior looks on during a Spanish La Liga match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP)
Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti remonstrates with referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea as Real Madrid's Vinicius Junior looks on during a Spanish La Liga match between Valencia and Real Madrid, at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia, Spain, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP)

Vinicius Junior was subjected to racist abuse yet again on Sunday with the Brazil star saying the Spanish league "now belongs to racists."

The latest abuse against Vinicius came in Real Madrid's 1-0 loss at Valencia, a match that had to be temporarily stopped after the Brazil forward said he was insulted by a fan behind one of the goals at Mestalla Stadium.

"It wasn't the first time, or the second or the third. Racism is normal in LaLiga. The competition thinks it's normal, as does the federation, and the opponents encourage it," Vinicius said on Instagram and Twitter. "The league that once belonged to Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and (Lionel) Messi now belongs to racists ... But I'm strong and I will fight until the end against the racists. Even if far from here."

The 22-year-old Vinicius, who is Black, has been subjected to racist abuse since moving to Spain five years ago.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti considered replacing the star forward after Vinicius said fans at Mestalla chanted "monkey" toward him. He said Vinicius initially didn't want to continue playing.

"What happened today shouldn’t happen," Ancelotti said. "When a stadium yells ‘monkey’ to a player, and the coach considers taking him out of the field because of that, it means that there is something bad in this league."

The veteran coach refused to talk about the game after what happened, saying his team's loss meant nothing.

"The game should have been stopped," Ancelotti said. "This shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t only one person, as it has happened in several stadiums. Here, it was a stadium racially insulting a player, the game had to stop. I would have said the same thing if it was 3-0 for us. You have to stop the game, there was no way around it."

Ancelotti said he asked the referee to stop the match, but was told that the protocol was to first make an announcement to fans, then take other action if the problem continued.

Ancelotti said Vinicius didn’t want to keep playing but he told the player that he wasn’t guilty of anything and that he was the victim. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said he would have left the field with Vinicius if his teammate had decided to stop playing.

"Vinicius is upset, obviously, but more than upset, he is sad," Ancelotti said.

According to Spanish media reports, Valencia has identified two fans who allegedly insulted Vinicius behind one of the goals.

Some comments on social media claimed fans were saying the Spanish word "tonto" (silly) instead of "mono" (monkey).

Valencia later said it expected Ancelotti to apologize to Valencia fans for accusing them of racism after misunderstanding what was said. The coach told a news conference that the referee wouldn't have started the racism protocol if he didn't think there was racism in the stadium.

Vinicius was later sent off after an altercation with Valencia players, and gestured to home fans about their team’s fight against relegation as he left the field. Valencia took a huge step toward avoiding the drop with the 1-0 victory opening a five-point gap to the bottom three teams entering the final three rounds.

"The reward for the racists was my ejection!" Vinicius said on Instagram, along with the Spanish league's slogan "It's not soccer, it's LaLiga."

Vinicius had called the referee around the 70th minute and started pointing to a person sitting among the Valencia supporters. The player went near the stands and confronted the fans while players from both teams tried to restore calm.

Police eventually arrived in the stands to deal with the supporters. An announcement was made asking fans to behave.

The match at Mestalla was stopped for about seven minutes, and not long after it resumed Vinicius clashed with Valencia players and was sent off for pushing one of his opponents away with a hand to his face.

After the decision of his ejection was made following a video review, Vinicius started applauding ironically. As he was leaving the field, he made a "going down" gesture over relegation. That upset players on the Valencia bench and some charged toward Vinicius as he left the field, causing the game to be temporarily stopped again.

Valencia coach Rubén Baraja condemned the behavior of Valencia fans but also criticized Vinicius, saying he should have respected the club and its supporters.

Vinicius’ teammate Dani Ceballos criticized the fans but said he also expected Vinicius to apologize for his gestures after being sent off.

Ancelotti said Vinicius’ reaction was normal considering what he had gone through moments earlier.

The Spanish league said it has requested images from the game to investigate what happened. It will also probe possible insults against Vinicius outside Mestalla, when a large group of fans also allegedly called the player a monkey as the Madrid bus arrived.

League president Javier Tebas criticized Vinicius for attacking the league without fully understanding what it has done recently to combat racism, and saying the player didn't show up for talks on the subject that he had requested himself.

The league has made nine formal complaints over racist abuse against Vinicius over the last two seasons, with many of the cases being shelved. A Mallorca fan may end up going on trial after allegedly racially insulting the Brazilian during a game.

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva joined a wave of Brazilian politicians, players and clubs coming out to support Vinicius and criticize racism in the Spanish league.

Lula told a news conference in Japan on the sidelines of a G7 meeting that he hopes FIFA, the Spanish League and other football bodies "take measures so we don’t allow racism and fascism to take over" in the sport.

The first trial against a fan accused of racial abuse in Spanish professional football is expected to happen at some point this year in a case involving Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams, who was insulted by an Espanyol supporter in a match in 2020.



Elena Rybakina, Reigning Wimbledon Champion, Pulls Out of French Open Due to Sickness

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2023 Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during her second round match against Czech Republic's Linda Noskova. (Reuters)
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2023 Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during her second round match against Czech Republic's Linda Noskova. (Reuters)
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Elena Rybakina, Reigning Wimbledon Champion, Pulls Out of French Open Due to Sickness

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2023 Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during her second round match against Czech Republic's Linda Noskova. (Reuters)
Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - June 1, 2023 Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina during her second round match against Czech Republic's Linda Noskova. (Reuters)

Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out of the French Open before her third-round match on Saturday because she is sick.

“I just wanted to give 100%, and obviously I’m far from being 100%,” Rybakina said. “If I cannot breathe, there is no chance I can even run and try to compete.”

The No. 4-seeded Rybakina was supposed to face 132nd-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo in the day's opening contest on Court Philippe Chatrier.

They were scheduled to begin playing at 11:45 a.m. local time, but instead, at that very moment, Rybakina sat down behind the microphone at a news conference to explain why she was withdrawing from the year's second Grand Slam tournament.

Sounding stuffed up, Rybakina explained that she has been running a fever, didn't sleep well the past two nights and had difficulty breathing during a warmup session Saturday ahead of her match. She said a doctor told her there is a virus going around “here in Paris.”

Rybakina, who won each of her first two matches this week in straight sets, was considered among the top contenders for the championship at Roland Garros. She has won her past 10 matches, including a tuneup title on red clay at the Italian Open last month.

She plays a power-built game based in part on one of the best serves on the WTA Tour, which she leads in aces this season.

Last July, Rybakina won her first major trophy, defeating Ons Jabeur in the final at Wimbledon.

Rybakina is a 23-year-old who was born in Moscow and has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered her funding to support her tennis career. The switch was a topic of conversation during Wimbledon, because the All England Club barred athletes who represent Russia or Belarus from entering the tournament in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine.

The walkover allows the 26-year-old Sorribes Tormo to advance to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in her career.


‘Nothing Matters’: Attitude Adjustment Helps Tsitsipas Rediscover His Rhythm

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates his victory over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman during their men's singles match on day six of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates his victory over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman during their men's singles match on day six of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
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‘Nothing Matters’: Attitude Adjustment Helps Tsitsipas Rediscover His Rhythm

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates his victory over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman during their men's singles match on day six of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 2, 2023. (AFP)
Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates his victory over Argentina's Diego Schwartzman during their men's singles match on day six of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 2, 2023. (AFP)

Stefanos Tsitsipas said he is getting back to his best by easing the burden on his shoulders and playing without any expectations as he cruised into the fourth round of the French Open with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 victory over Diego Schwartzman on Friday.

Once considered the rising star to take on the mantle as the "Big Three" - Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic - give way to a new generation, 24-year-old Tsitsipas has yet to win a Grand Slam.

The Greek lost two major finals to Djokovic, including this year's Australian Open title clash, and has seen younger players like Carlos Alcaraz emerge and rise to world number one.

But Tsitsipas said he has changed his mindset to play with a carefree attitude and not focus on the result, which helped him beat claycourt specialist Schwartzman in straight sets.

"I've produced some really good tennis when I'm at a psychological state of 'nothing matters and I don't care anymore'. And I just want to play it, I don't care what the outcome will be," Tsitsipas told reporters.

"And (in) moments like this, I have broken back. I've suddenly found my rhythm back into the game. I guess there is lack of expectation, lack of thought... when you're out there because you're constantly analyzing every decision.

"When you let go of that, when you - I don't like using that word because I've never really done it in a tennis match - when you kind of 'tank', for some players it can be very beneficial and help them play better in a way."

Tsitsipas was at his sublime best against Schwartzman, firing 34 winners past the Argentine, including one of the shots of the tournament - a sliding backhand winner around the post that drew a roar from the crowd.

"We never practice that, it was a one-off," he said with a laugh. "It was the very last millisecond when I decided, 'You know what, forget the net, we don't need it on that particular occasion.'

"I saw there was a gap there I could utilize and it just went through. It was a very good, satisfying feeling getting that winner down the line... It felt like hitting a home run."


Alonso Riding Wave of Enthusiasm for Long-denied Win at Spanish GP

Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
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Alonso Riding Wave of Enthusiasm for Long-denied Win at Spanish GP

Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
Aston Martin's Spanish Fernando Alonso attends a press conference at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, Spain, Thursday, June 1, 2023. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday, June 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)

Back when Fernando Alonso was king of Formula One nearly two decades ago, Spaniards flocked to see their idol at their home race.

With Alonso now back near the top of the standings, his supporters are expected to cram the stands and grassy knolls of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit this weekend with some 120,000 people estimated to turn out for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Alonso was greeted by several hundred fans chanting “33! 33! 33!” in reference to a long-denied 33rd race victory as he emerged from his team’s garage to soak up their adulation on Thursday following his arrival. Alonso’s fan club from his native Asturias region organized buses to make the 8-hour trip from his hometown of Oviedo and other cities in Spain’s north to come to the race, The Associated Press reported.

The 41-year-old Alonso took his 32nd victory right here in Montmeló a full decade ago back in May 2013 with Ferrari. After that came years of frustration and a stint away from F1 driving in other competitions, including the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. But after finishing on the podium in five of six races this season with the new Aston Martin team, hopes are high among his faithful that Alonso can end the long wait for a win.

After finishing second both in qualifying and the race to defending champion Max Verstappen at Monaco last weekend, Alonso knows it is impossible to curb the enthusiasm of his faithful.

“It would be like trying to build a wall in the sea: at the end you will be overwhelmed,” Alonso said about the euphoria he has unleashed.

Alonso, one of Spain’s top sports figures right up there with tennis great Rafael Nadal and its best soccer players, is more than used to handling the attention. Back in his winning days he happily picked up a full leg of cured Spanish ham that a supporter had hurled over a barbed-wire fence to celebrate a win.

“My fans are pushing this forward on their own and you can only embrace it,” he said.

“The number 33 is being talked about a lot, but I am keeping calm. We have a good car that will give us chances this year. Red Bull is dominating with an iron fist, but we have seen in previous seasons that even when there is a dominant car...there will be opportunities at some point.”

PREPARATIONS FOR ALONSO-MANIA

Track officials estimate the turnout to be as good as last year, when 121,000 sold out the first race to be free of coronavirus restrictions. That will still be below the all-time track record from 2007 when 140,000 people came following Alonso's titles in 2005 and 2006 with Renault. The track’s capacity has been reduced since that heyday of F1 in Spain.

Transport authorities have boosted the commuter train services for the entire three-day event after last year's higher-than-expected turnout led to lines of several hours at the Montmeló commuter rail station. In 2022, some 277,000 people filled the track over the three days.

Spain’s train authorities have boosted rail service to transport an extra 40,000 people, for a total of 180,000 seats, to help ease congestion at the track that is located 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Barcelona.

SAINZ ALSO

Spain also has Carlos Sainz Jr. to cheer for. The Ferrari driver is seeking his first podium of the season after scoring a season-best fourth in the opening race in Bahrain.

“I am just in a better mood when I race at home,” he said. “You just know that the fans are there cheering for you. I don’t know how much that is worth, but being in Spain must mean something because it where I have gotten the most points in my career.”

Sainz Jr. will have his fan club concentrated in the stands at Turn 2 as usual.

Verstappen also has fond memories of the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit where in 2016 he became F1’s youngest winner at age 18.

He also won here last season and is on course for a third straight title: Verstappen leads teammate Sergio Pérez by 39 points and Alonso by 51.


Fritz Gets a Taste of How Brutal French Open Crowd Can Be

US Taylor Fritz gestures after winning against France's Arthur Rinderknech at the end of their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
US Taylor Fritz gestures after winning against France's Arthur Rinderknech at the end of their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
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Fritz Gets a Taste of How Brutal French Open Crowd Can Be

US Taylor Fritz gestures after winning against France's Arthur Rinderknech at the end of their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
US Taylor Fritz gestures after winning against France's Arthur Rinderknech at the end of their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Suzanne-Lenglen in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)

Taylor Fritz got a reminder of how brutal the Roland Garros crowd can be when he was booed for minutes after ending the run of the last local man standing at the French Open on Thursday.

Sustained boos and whistles rained down from the Court Philippe Chatrier stands after the American shushed the fans repeatedly, having beaten Arthur Rinderknech in four sets under the lights.

As he was preparing to do his post-match interview, Fritz kept his cool as he came under fire, barely able to exchange words with court-side interviewer Marion Bartoli.

"I'm sorry I actually can't hear you," he told the former Wimbledon champion.

"The crowd was so great honestly ... that I had to let it fire me up. They cheered so well for me I wanted to make sure I won," he added, having ended the French presence in the singles draws at Roland Garros by beating the last home favorite.

The crowd is fickle, corporate seats are often empty at lunchtime but when a French player needs support spectators turn the usually quiet courts into a wild arena and the claycourt Grand Slam provides an atmosphere unmatched at other majors.

This is exactly what Fritz experienced in his match against Rinderknech, like others before him.

When the crowd pick on a player, it can become exceptionally unsettling, as Martina Hingis notoriously experienced in the 1999 final against Steffi Graf.

Booed and jeered by the fans after disputing a line call while 6-4 2-0 up, the Swiss lost her composure and the contest before being booed again after match point.


Ruud, Swiatek Gain Momentum at French Open as Sinner Punished 

Norway's Casper Ruud celebrates his victory over Italy's Giulio Zeppieri during their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
Norway's Casper Ruud celebrates his victory over Italy's Giulio Zeppieri during their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
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Ruud, Swiatek Gain Momentum at French Open as Sinner Punished 

Norway's Casper Ruud celebrates his victory over Italy's Giulio Zeppieri during their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)
Norway's Casper Ruud celebrates his victory over Italy's Giulio Zeppieri during their men's singles match on day five of the Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 1, 2023. (AFP)

Fourth seed Casper Ruud and holder Iga Swiatek stayed on course to reach consecutive finals at the French Open while a couple of unheralded names in the women's draw continued to show their immense potential on a sunny Thursday at Roland Garros.

Elena Rybakina also booked a third round spot with a 6-3 6-3 victory over rising Czech teenager Linda Noskova with the fourth seed and Wimbledon champion dazzling again on Parisian clay as one of the top contenders for the Grand Slam title.

Ruud, who lost to Rafa Nadal in last year's final, is aiming to capitalize on the 14-time champion's absence through injury this year and looked rock solid for much of his 6-3 6-2 4-6 7-5 victory over Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri.

"It was a tough match," Ruud said. "I started well, got a break early and served well myself. That's the beauty of best-of-five sets. In a normal match I would have won 6-3 6-2, but here you have the chance to fight like he did.

"He played much better in the third set and the fourth set, and it became very tough."

Ruud will next play Chinese trailblazer Zhang Zhizhen who beat Argentine qualifier Thiago Agustin Tirante 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4 to become the first man from his country since 1937 to reach round three.

Swiatek, who is looking to lift the Suzanne Lenglen Cup for the third time in four years, briefly struggled against American Claire Liu but returned to her rampant best with another bagel in her 6-4 6-0 victory.

Russian qualifier Mirra Andreeva continued to enjoy a dream Grand Slam debut as the 16-year-old stormed into the third round with a 6-1 6-2 win over Frenchwoman Diane Parry, though she admitted to having butterflies in her stomach.

"I'm happy that you don't see that I'm nervous," said the world number 143, who became the youngest player to reach the third round in Paris since a 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva stormed into the last eight in 2005.

"I hide it pretty well."

Up next for Andreeva is 19-year-old Coco Gauff - a player who knows all about negotiating instant stardom, with last year's runner-up having subdued Julia Grabher 6-2 6-3 to set up the third-round showdown.

American Kayla Day made no secret of her success after a stunning 6-2 4-6 6-4 win over compatriot Madison Keys, thanking her Czech roots for enhancing her tennis skills.

"My mum, she was born and raised in Prague, and I speak fluent Czech. That's the only reason why I'm good at tennis, because I'm half Czech."

Sinner falters

Jannik Sinner later squandered two match points in his 6-7(0) 7-6(7) 1-6 7-6(4) 7-5 loss to German Daniel Altmaier in an epic battle lasting more than five hours.

"Playing every point you can with the best effort, that's what keeps you in reality," Altmaier said about his escapes on match point.

"I was just thinking that and the competition says it all. We've had historic matches with so many match points ... I don't know if you can call this a 'historical' match, but I think it was one to remember."

Another German, Alexander Zverev, eased into round three by making light work of Slovakian Alex Molcan 6-4 6-2 6-1, looking increasingly closer to the form that took him to the semi-finals in Paris last year when he retired with a serious ankle injury.

Next for the 22nd seed is American 12th seed Frances Tiafoe, who beat Russian qualifier Aslan Karatsev 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-2.

Croatian Borna Coric was made to work hard by Pedro Cachin before the 15th seed prevailed 6-3 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 but it was a day to forget for Australian 18th seed Alex de Minaur who fell to a 6-3 7-6(2) 6-3 defeat by Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Tunisian world number seven Ons Jabeur came through a tricky test against risk-taking Oceane Dodin with a 6-2 6-3 victory to ensure that no French player will make the third round of the women's competition for the third time in five years.

French presence in the singles' draws was ended altogether in the last match of the day when Arthur Rinderknech was knocked out by American ninth seed Taylor Fritz 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.


Stuttgart Beat Hamburg 3-0 to Grab Advantage in Relegation Playoff

01 June 2023, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Stuttgart's Josha Vagnoman (2nd R) celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates during the German Bundesliga Relegation first leg match between VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV at Mercedes-Benz Arena. (dpa)
01 June 2023, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Stuttgart's Josha Vagnoman (2nd R) celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates during the German Bundesliga Relegation first leg match between VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV at Mercedes-Benz Arena. (dpa)
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Stuttgart Beat Hamburg 3-0 to Grab Advantage in Relegation Playoff

01 June 2023, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Stuttgart's Josha Vagnoman (2nd R) celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates during the German Bundesliga Relegation first leg match between VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV at Mercedes-Benz Arena. (dpa)
01 June 2023, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stuttgart: Stuttgart's Josha Vagnoman (2nd R) celebrates scoring his side's second goal with teammates during the German Bundesliga Relegation first leg match between VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV at Mercedes-Benz Arena. (dpa)

VfB Stuttgart boosted their chances of staying in the Bundesliga as they secured a 3-0 home victory against Hamburg SV in the first leg of the relegation playoff on Thursday.

The hosts got off to a flying start as Konstantinos Mavropanos headed the opener after 44 seconds.

Stuttgart could have doubled their lead just before the half-hour mark but Serhou Guirassy missed a penalty.

However, they scored again through Josha Vagnoman six minutes after the break and three minutes later Guirassy made amends for his earlier miss when he headed the third goal.

The night got worse for Hamburg, who host the second leg on Monday, when midfielder Anssi Suhonen got a red card for a dangerous tackle on Vagnoman in the 69th minute.

Stuttgart finished 16th in the Bundesliga table while Hamburg were third in the second tier standings.


Haaland Holds No Fear for Man Utd, Says Varane

Football - Premier League - Brentford v Manchester City - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - May 28, 2023 Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates with the golden boot after the match. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Brentford v Manchester City - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - May 28, 2023 Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates with the golden boot after the match. (Reuters)
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Haaland Holds No Fear for Man Utd, Says Varane

Football - Premier League - Brentford v Manchester City - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - May 28, 2023 Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates with the golden boot after the match. (Reuters)
Football - Premier League - Brentford v Manchester City - Brentford Community Stadium, London, Britain - May 28, 2023 Manchester City's Erling Haaland celebrates with the golden boot after the match. (Reuters)

Manchester United defender Raphael Varane said they do not fear Erling Haaland ahead of their FA Cup final showdown against Manchester City but acknowledged that their rivals pose a threat from every area of the pitch.

United go into Saturday's final looking to end the Premier League champions' bid for a second trophy this season, with Pep Guardiola's side in the hunt for a rare treble with a Champions League final against Inter Milan to come on June 10.

The only team to have won the English tile, FA Cup and Champions League in the same season are United, who achieved the feat in 1999.

Haaland has scored 52 goals in his debut season in England, winning the Premier League Golden Boot with a record 36 strikes en route to multiple Player of the Year awards.

Varane said there was more to City than the Norwegian hitman.

"Fear? No way ... Why?" he told The Telegraph. "Yes, he is a very good player, we all know that. But the danger from City is everywhere, they are very complete."

Varane said nullifying playmaker Kevin De Bruyne would be key to stopping Haaland. De Bruyne finished the league season with 16 assists, half of which were for Haaland.

"They can score from set-plays, from a possession game and from a transition game. As a defender, the connection (Haaland has) especially with De Bruyne - that kind of pass is complicated to defend, so we try to cut that connection.

"We know we can beat them. We have to be consistent for 90 minutes because we know that everything can change in a few seconds."

Erik ten Hag's side are looking to end their season on a high note having won the League Cup and Varane - who spent 10 trophy-laden years at Real Madrid - said United are developing a winning mentality again.

"We have to be positive, we're in a good way. But the most important thing is to believe."


Saudi Arabia’s SFA Joins International Functional Fitness Federation

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) logo
The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) logo
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Saudi Arabia’s SFA Joins International Functional Fitness Federation

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) logo
The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) logo

The International Functional Fitness Federation (iF3) announced that the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) has become an official member of iF3, representing fitness in the Kingdom.

This membership reflects the vital role played by SFA, which since its establishment in 2018 has aimed to build a healthy society by raising awareness of the importance of physical activities.

It will be the organizing body for community sports, entrusted with increasing the amount of physical activity among the population and achieving the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.


Russia Fines WhatsApp for First Time for Not Deleting Banned Content

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
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Russia Fines WhatsApp for First Time for Not Deleting Banned Content

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo

A Russian court on Thursday fined messenger service WhatsApp 3 million rubles ($37,080) for not deleting banned content, its first fine in Russia for that offense.

Although WhatsApp's parent company Meta Platforms Inc was last year banned in Russia as an "extremist" organization, the messenger app - which is widely popular in Russia - has not previously faced penalties for failing to remove prohibited information.

Other Meta services, Facebook and Instagram - now banned in Russia - have been fined over content, as have the likes of Twitter and Alphabet's Google.

WhatsApp, however, has previously been fined for its alleged refusal to comply with Russian data law and store Russian users' data on servers in the country.

The RIA news agency reported that Thursday's fine was due to WhatsApp's refusal to remove information about the drug Lyrica, whose sale and manufacture are prohibited in Russia.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside US business hours.

Moscow has for years clashed with Big Tech over content, censorship, data and local representation in disputes that escalated after Russia sent its armed forces into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.


United Looking to Stop Treble-chasing City in First All-Manchester FA Cup Final

Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag addresses to his players at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag addresses to his players at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
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United Looking to Stop Treble-chasing City in First All-Manchester FA Cup Final

Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag addresses to his players at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Manchester United's head coach Erik ten Hag addresses to his players at the end of the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Sunday, May 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

The roars grew louder inside Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag addressed Manchester United fans from the middle of the field, reminding them of the role they have in protecting the club’s greatest ever achievement.

There was one game to go this season, the United manager told the baying crowd, and his players standing right in front of him were ready to give their all to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

“We count on you as well,” he said, pointing to the supporters, who by now were punching the air in defiance. “They will give everything when you are at our backs, and I’m sure we’ve a really good chance to take the cup back to Old Trafford.”

As rallying cries go, it was pretty much pitch perfect from Ten Hag, who knows exactly what’s at stake on Saturday in a local derby with widespread repercussions.

For United, this is about much more than capturing a second trophy of the season — after the English League Cup in February that ended the club's six-year title drought — to cap an encouraging first season under Ten Hag. It’s also about preserving United’s proud status as the only English team to have won the league-FA Cup-European Cup treble in the same season.

City, after all, is two wins from emulating that feat, having already clinched the Premier League title and booked its place in the Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10.

That United can ruin City’s treble bid adds more spice to the first cup final between the rivals, which is taking place about 170 miles (270 kilometers) south of Manchester.

City starts as the undoubted favorite on the back of its stunning form since February that reeled in long-time leader Arsenal in the Premier League race and saw Bayern Munich and Real Madrid swept aside in the Champions League knockout stage.

Before a much-weakened team — featuring a bunch of youth players — lost at Brentford 1-0 in a league match with little riding on it last Sunday, City went on a 25-match unbeaten run in all competitions and won 20 of them. Along the way, Madrid was beaten 4-0, Bayern 3-0 and Arsenal 4-1. Back in October, City thrashed United 6-3.

All those games were at home, though, and City hasn't been quite so machine-like on the road. And that's not the only source of hope for United, which is seeking its 13th FA Cup title — with only Arsenal (14) having more.

City manager Pep Guardiola talks often of his players having “rhythm” but that might have been lost after he chose to rotate his lineups for the final two league games, with the title wrapped up. Before the loss at Brentford, City was possibly fortunate to come away from Brighton with a 1-1 draw.

Erling Haaland has 52 goals in all competitions in a stunning first season at City but it's just one goal in his last six games for the Norway striker.

Meanwhile, United won its final four matches in the league, conceding just two goals in that period. And in the last meeting between the teams, United won at Old Trafford 2-1 in January — albeit after a debatable equalizing goal from Marcus Rashford.

City is a different proposition four-and-a-half months on, though, and has more experience of these big, defining games than United in recent years. Guardiola certainly does — he is looking to claim the 34th trophy of his managerial career, and the 13th in his seven years at City.

That, of course, would set up City for a shot at standing shoulder to shoulder with United's class of '99.

“I will start to think about the treble,” Guardiola said, "when I go to Istanbul with two titles in my pocket.”

INJURIES

United striker Anthony Martial will miss the final after sustaining a hamstring injury in the team's final league game of the season, the 2-1 win over Fulham on Sunday.

Marcus Rashford is expected to start up front, with Jadon Sancho set to be on the left wing and possibly Bruno Fernandes on the right to allow United to field a sturdier central-midfield three, likely comprising of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and either Fred or Scott McTominay.

Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish missed City's final two league games because of minor injury issues, though Guardiola said he hoped the midfielders would be fit for the final.

City has no other injuries, with Nathan Ake playing 63 minutes against Brentford on his return from a hamstring problem.

PLANNING AHEAD

The engraver got a head start.

The word “Manchester” has already been engraved on the trophy to highlight the unique nature of this final, the 142nd in the world’s oldest knockout competition.

TRAVEL TROUBLE

There's set to be travel chaos around the final because of rail strikes that mean there will be no train services running between Manchester and London on Saturday.

The Football Association is providing 120 buses — 60 per team — to help transport fans of City and United to and from the match.