UK Apologizes to Families of 97 Liverpool Football Fans Killed in Stadium Crush 34 Years Ago

Players observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 9, 2023. (AFP)
Players observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 9, 2023. (AFP)
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UK Apologizes to Families of 97 Liverpool Football Fans Killed in Stadium Crush 34 Years Ago

Players observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 9, 2023. (AFP)
Players observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, ahead of the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on April 9, 2023. (AFP)

The British government apologized Wednesday to the families of 97 Liverpool soccer fans who died after a stadium crush 34 years ago, as it introduced a charter it said will sharply diminish the chances that others will endure the kinds of injustices they suffered.

However, it refused to back calls from campaigners to legally require public bodies, including police, to tell the truth and proactively cooperate with official investigations and inquiries in cases of public disasters.

The so-called Hillsborough disaster happened on April 15, 1989. More than 2,000 Liverpool fans at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield were allowed to flood into a standing-room section behind a goal with the 54,000-capacity stadium already nearly full for a match against Nottingham Forest.

An original inquest recorded verdicts of accidental death, which the families of the victims refused to accept. Those verdicts were overturned in 2012 after a far-reaching inquiry into the disaster that examined previously secret documents and exposed wrongdoing and mistakes by police. In 2016, a jury found that the victims were "unlawfully killed."

The proposed "Hillsborough Law" would have incorporated a "duty of candor" on public authorities and officials in such cases.

Instead, a "Hillsborough Charter" would see public bodies pledge to tell the truth in the wake of public tragedies whatever the impact on their reputation. The government said it is not aware of any gaps in legislation that would further encourage a culture of candor among public bodies and their representatives.

The new charter comes six years after a report from James Jones, the former bishop of Liverpool, who was commissioned to learn the lessons of the disaster and a subsequent cover-up.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk issued an apology on behalf of the government for the way the families were treated over the decades and for the delay in its response to the report.

"It doesn’t provide closure for the families of course," Chalk said. "Grief is indeed a journey without a destination but today is a milestone on that journey."

Hooliganism was rife in English soccer throughout the 1980s, and there were immediate attempts to assign blame on the Liverpool fans and defend the policing operation. A false narrative that blamed drunken, ticketless and rowdy Liverpool fans was created by police, a narrative that was only turned around by the tireless campaign of the bereaved families.

Organizations that have already signed on to the "Hillsborough Charter" include the National Police Chiefs’ Council, College of Policing and Crown Prosecution Service.

"The Hillsborough families have suffered multiple injustices: The loss of 97 lives, the blaming of the fans and the unforgiveable institutional defensiveness by public bodies," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. "I am profoundly sorry for what they have been through."



Rublev Defaulted in Dubai for Shouting in Line Judge’s Face during Semi

 Tennis - ATP 500 - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 1, 2024 Russia's Andrey Rublev talks to the line judge during his semi final match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik. (Reuters)
Tennis - ATP 500 - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 1, 2024 Russia's Andrey Rublev talks to the line judge during his semi final match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik. (Reuters)
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Rublev Defaulted in Dubai for Shouting in Line Judge’s Face during Semi

 Tennis - ATP 500 - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 1, 2024 Russia's Andrey Rublev talks to the line judge during his semi final match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik. (Reuters)
Tennis - ATP 500 - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Center, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - March 1, 2024 Russia's Andrey Rublev talks to the line judge during his semi final match against Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik. (Reuters)

Andrey Rublev was defaulted from his semifinal at the Dubai Championships for yelling in the face of a line judge, allowing Alexander Bublik to advance to the final on Friday.

The second-seeded Rublev erupted after Bublik won a point to take a 6-5 lead in the deciding set.

The Russian, who is ranked No. 5, immediately pointed to the baseline, walked to the line judge, leaned over and shouted in his face.

ATP supervisor Roland Herfel came to the court accompanied by a Russian speaker, who said Rublev swore in his native language.

Rublev responded: “I was talking to him in English.” He insisted he did not use the profanity.

But umpire Miriam Bley defaulted Rublev for unsportsmanlike conduct, after which the seventh-seeded Bublik said “I'm OK to continue” with the match.

Bublik won 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-5.

Later, defending champion Daniil Medvedev faced Ugo Humbert in the other semifinal.

Rublev won the hard-court tournament in 2022 but lost to Medvedev in last year's final.

The big-serving Bublik is looking for the fifth singles title of his career. The Kazakh player won the Open Sud de France in Montpellier last month.


Grealish Set for Spell on Sidelines with Groin Injury, Could Miss England Friendlies

Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Luton Town v Manchester City - Kenilworth Road, Luton, Britain - February 27, 2024 Manchester City's Jack Grealish at the end of the first half after being substituted. (Reuters)
Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Luton Town v Manchester City - Kenilworth Road, Luton, Britain - February 27, 2024 Manchester City's Jack Grealish at the end of the first half after being substituted. (Reuters)
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Grealish Set for Spell on Sidelines with Groin Injury, Could Miss England Friendlies

Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Luton Town v Manchester City - Kenilworth Road, Luton, Britain - February 27, 2024 Manchester City's Jack Grealish at the end of the first half after being substituted. (Reuters)
Football - FA Cup - Fifth Round - Luton Town v Manchester City - Kenilworth Road, Luton, Britain - February 27, 2024 Manchester City's Jack Grealish at the end of the first half after being substituted. (Reuters)

Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish likely will be sidelined for multiple weeks because of a groin injury that also threatens to keep him out of England’s upcoming friendlies against Brazil and Belgium.

Grealish was substituted before halftime of City's 6-2 rout of Luton on Tuesday in the FA Cup with a recurrence of the injury that forced him to miss the previous three games.

"When he will come back I don't know," City manager Pep Guardiola said Friday.

The 28-year-old Grealish is set to miss some key games. City hosts Manchester United on Sunday, then Copenhagen in the Champions League on Wednesday before a heavyweight Premier League showdown against Liverpool at Anfield on March 10. That's followed by City's FA Cup quarterfinal against Newcastle.

Grealish won't be back before the international break, Guardiola said.

England hosts Brazil on March 23 and Belgium three days later, both at Wembley Stadium, to help England coach Gareth Southgate evaluate his squad ahead of this summer's European Championship.

"I need to speak with Gareth but I think he will not be fit," Guardiola said. "He has to recover well. He had a setback, he has to recover well to use him as much as possible."


Saudi Football Federation Reveals Official Identity for Saudi Arabia’s Candidacy File to Host FIFA 2034

Saudi Football Federation Reveals Official Identity for Saudi Arabia’s Candidacy File to Host FIFA 2034
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Saudi Football Federation Reveals Official Identity for Saudi Arabia’s Candidacy File to Host FIFA 2034

Saudi Football Federation Reveals Official Identity for Saudi Arabia’s Candidacy File to Host FIFA 2034

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) announced on Friday the official identity for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's bid to host the FIFA 2034 World Cup.

The bid bears the slogan "Growing Together" and includes a visual identity, a verbal slogan, and an official website, Saudi2034bid.com.

The Kingdom announced in October its intention to host the tournament and later sent the official nomination letter to the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA).

The nomination file logo represents the Kingdom's remarkable transformation and growth process in football. It is one of the fastest and most advanced growth stories in football.

The candidacy file has three main pillars: "Together to develop human capabilities,Together to develop football," and "Together to develop bridges of communication."

The visual identity of the nomination file reflects the essence of the Kingdom's rich cultural heritage and its young and vibrant society.

The file's logo consists of several colored stripes designed in the shape of "34,” referring to the year the Kingdom aims to host the 25th edition of this global tournament. The visual identity also mimics the shape of the geographical map of the Kingdom.

The video of the nomination file showcases the cultural heritage, civilizational legacy, and charming natural scenes of the Kingdom. It was shot in different regions of the Kingdom and features the participation of current and former football stars.

"The Kingdom has a history and legacy full of football achievements, and we must narrate our development journey to the whole world to see and interact with,” said SAFF President Yasser Al-Misehal. “The slogan ‘Growing Together’ perfectly reflects the approach we are adopting to achieve the dream of hosting the tournament in ten years.”


Medvedev Cruises Into Dubai Semi-finals

Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion in Dubai - AFP
Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion in Dubai - AFP
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Medvedev Cruises Into Dubai Semi-finals

Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion in Dubai - AFP
Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion in Dubai - AFP

Daniil Medvedev raced to victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday to reach the Dubai semi-finals and continue his excellent start to the year.

The world number four wasted little time in wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3 win and will face Ugo Humbert in the last four.

"Alejandro can play very well," Medvedev said. "Sometimes during matches he can have a little down moment and then he goes up.

"I knew that no matter the score, I needed to go until the last point."

The Russian is playing in just his second tournament of the season after reaching the Australian Open final, where he suffered an agonising defeat by Jannik Sinner after leading by two sets.

Reigning champion Medvedev is bidding to defend an ATP title for the first time, having won 20 trophies at Tour-level events in his career but all at different tournaments.

Medvedev eased through the opening set with breaks in the sixth and eighth games, AFP reported.

He powered into a 4-0 lead in the second and sealed victory on his first match point, despite a brief rally from Davidovich Fokina, who has now lost all four of his meetings with Medvedev.

Medvedev had to come from a set down against Lorenzo Sonego in the previous round, but said he may have been struggling with an illness.

"I don't know what happened yesterday. A few people around me got a small virus, so maybe it is this," he said.

"Some days that happens but I am happy today happened. I am not at my best shape yet but we have some more matches."

Fifth-seeded Humbert of France saved three match points in the second-set tie-break on his way to a 3-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3 victory against third seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland.

Humbert, who hit 24 winners, had also defeated Hurkacz en route to the title in Marseille earlier this month.

Alexander Bublik and Andrey Rublev will meet in the other semi-final after both were beneficiaries of retirements in their last-eight matches.

Kazakhstan's Bublik led 6-4, 4-1 when his opponent Jiri Lehecka quit their tie with injury.

Second seed Rublev was 6-4, 4-3 ahead when American Sebastian Korda left the court in the second quarter-final.

The win ended a run of three successive quarter-final exits for world number five Rublev.


Messi and Miami Face Florida MLS Derby Test

Inter Miami's Argentine forward Lionel Messi controls the ball during the club's MLS season-opening victory over Real Salt Lake - AFP
Inter Miami's Argentine forward Lionel Messi controls the ball during the club's MLS season-opening victory over Real Salt Lake - AFP
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Messi and Miami Face Florida MLS Derby Test

Inter Miami's Argentine forward Lionel Messi controls the ball during the club's MLS season-opening victory over Real Salt Lake - AFP
Inter Miami's Argentine forward Lionel Messi controls the ball during the club's MLS season-opening victory over Real Salt Lake - AFP

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami face an early season derby test when they host Florida rivals Orlando City in Major League Soccer on Saturday.

Messi's stoppage time equalizer in Sunday's 1-1 draw at the Los Angeles Galaxy ensured that Miami remain unbeaten after opening their campaign with a 2-0 win at home to Real Salt Lake.

Despite the results, Miami failed to impress with their veteran-laden squad struggling for large stretches of the game in LA.

Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez looks well short of match fitness while Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, has also been less than his best.

"We started well, with the result we wanted. On Sunday we wanted to win, but the tie was just. It was not our best game," Busquets said.

"At the start of a season, it's always difficult. We still have to get adjusted, await injured players to recuperate, hopefully we can play well this Saturday at home in the Clasico."

Busquets said that Suarez, the 37-year-old Uruguayan and former Barcelona and Liverpool striker, needs to be given some time to get up to speed after joining the club from Brazilian team Gremio, for whom he scored 17 goals last season, according to AFP.

"It's a new league. We all need a period of adaptation," the Spaniard said. "Not just him, but all of us as a team. We are changing, fixing things, some things left to improve."

Orlando represent the toughest opponent of the campaign so far for Gerardo 'Tata' Martino's men and not just because they will be fired up for a local derby.

Orlando finished second in the Eastern Conference last season and while they went out to eventual MLS Cup winners Columbus in the conference semi-finals, they are among the favorites for the title this season.

Colombian coach Oscar Pareja has added some experience and quality to his team in the off-season, an indication that he is going for a 'win now' approach to the campaign.

Luis Muriel, a 32-year-old Colombian winger, has joined the Lions from Serie A club Atalanta, ending his 14-year spell in European football.

Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, a standout with Seattle Sounders, has also joined Orlando along with Slovenian defender David Brekalo.

Miami beat Orlando when the two teams met in the Leagues Cup in August, shortly after Messi joined the club along with Busquets and Spanish fullback Jordi Alba.

Pareja attacked the referees in that game for not handing a second yellow card to Messi, describing the game, amid peak 'Messi mania' as a "circus".

Another in-state derby on Saturday sees the improved Galaxy head to northern California to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Galaxy, bolstered by the offseason addition of Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil and Brazilian wide-man Gabriel Pec, and with Spanish midfielder Riqui Puig and Serbian striker Dejan Joveljic, look a much more threatening opponent than in their disappointing 2023 campaign, where they failed to make the playoffs.

Defending champions Columbus Crew visit Minnesota United, who announced on Monday that they had appointed Eric Ramsay as their new coach.

The 32-year-old Welshman was part of Erik ten Hag's staff at Manchester United and will look to improve on Minnesota's 11th place finish in the West under Adrian Heath last term.


Saudi Sports for All Federation, Jeddah Historic District Program Collaborate for Inaugural Half Marathon

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA)
The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA)
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Saudi Sports for All Federation, Jeddah Historic District Program Collaborate for Inaugural Half Marathon

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

The Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) and the Jeddah Historic District Program, under the patronage of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, have announced a collaboration to organize the Historic Jeddah Half Marathon on March 2.
According to a statement released by SFA on Thursday, this inaugural event, the first of its kind in the district, aims to highlight the vibrant heritage of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic Jeddah Historic District while promoting a healthy and active lifestyle for all members of society.
The statement said there will be four races on the day: the half marathon (21km), open to ages 18 and above; a 10km for ages 12 and above; and 4km and 1km races, both open to all age groups, catering to all ages and abilities. Assistance will be provided for runners with special needs.
Each race will start and finish at Bab Jadid, with runners winding their way through charming streets, past iconic landmarks, and bustling markets. Nassif House, a breathtaking example of traditional architecture; Al-Matbouli Museum; Al-Juffali Mosque; King Fahd Fountain; and the Jeddah Corniche are among the many cultural sights runners will experience within the Jeddah Historic District, the release said.
A race village will also be created and open from February 29, offering entertainment, games, cultural performances, a live DJ, and traditional food for participants and supporting visitors to enjoy the events.
"The marathon aligns with the SFA goal of making more of the nation active, and it also shines a spotlight on Saudi culture and heritage, promoting tourism. This is how we build a stronger Kingdom,” said SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alaweed bin Talal Al-Saud.
Director General of Jeddah Historic District Program Abdulaziz Al-Issa said that the marathon falls within the essence of regeneration of Jeddah's Historic District, adding that the event "aims to enhance the quality of life and enrich the visitor experience by highlighting the district's architectural treasures that tell a long and captivating story, representing a proud part of the Kingdom's rich history."


Macron Says he'll Swim in Seine as he Inspects Paris' New Olympic Village

France's President Emmanuel Macron, center left, and General Manager of Solideo Nicolas Ferrand, left, visits the Paris 2024 Olympic village during its inauguration ceremony in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, center left, and General Manager of Solideo Nicolas Ferrand, left, visits the Paris 2024 Olympic village during its inauguration ceremony in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
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Macron Says he'll Swim in Seine as he Inspects Paris' New Olympic Village

France's President Emmanuel Macron, center left, and General Manager of Solideo Nicolas Ferrand, left, visits the Paris 2024 Olympic village during its inauguration ceremony in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron, center left, and General Manager of Solideo Nicolas Ferrand, left, visits the Paris 2024 Olympic village during its inauguration ceremony in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron boldly promised to swim in the River Seine being cleaned up for the Paris Olympics as he toured the new complex that will house athletes on Thursday.
Macron cited pollution-reduction in the Seine as one of the Games' positive long-term impacts. He noted “extraordinary” public-funded investments being poured into making the river — largely off limits to bathers since 1923 — swimmable again.
Asked by a journalist whether he would bathe in it, Macron replied, “Me, yes, I'll go."
But he refrained from saying when.
“I'm not going to give you the date: There's a risk you'll be there,” he said.
Regardless of whether he does indeed don trunks, Macron's visit to the future high-security Olympic village served to highlight how the Paris Games are helping to transform some disadvantaged neighborhoods in the French capital's poorer suburbs, The Associated Press reported.
The eco-friendly village led to nearly 2,000 jobs being created, with 1,136 going to local residents. It cost about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion), most of it investment by property developers but also including 646 million euros ($700 million) from public funds. The Olympic construction company, Solideo, transferred the village to Paris Games organizers on Thursday, symbolically handing over a large key, with Macron watching.
“It's a very big day,” Macron said. “It's a demonstration that France is a nation of builders.”
In a city repeatedly hit by deadly extremist attacks, security is the biggest challenge for organizers as they ready Paris for the July 26-Aug. 11 Games and Aug. 28-Sept. 8 Paralympics.
“Obviously, it's been an obsession since the beginning.” Macron said. “We have a colossal amount of work being done in advance."


Juventus Midfielder Paul Pogba Banned 4 Years for Doping

FILE - Juventus' Paul Pogba keeps his eyes on the ball during an Italian Cup soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, April 26, 2023. (Spada/LaPresse via AP, File)
FILE - Juventus' Paul Pogba keeps his eyes on the ball during an Italian Cup soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, April 26, 2023. (Spada/LaPresse via AP, File)
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Juventus Midfielder Paul Pogba Banned 4 Years for Doping

FILE - Juventus' Paul Pogba keeps his eyes on the ball during an Italian Cup soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, April 26, 2023. (Spada/LaPresse via AP, File)
FILE - Juventus' Paul Pogba keeps his eyes on the ball during an Italian Cup soccer match between Inter Milan and Juventus, at the San Siro Stadium, in Milan, Italy, April 26, 2023. (Spada/LaPresse via AP, File)

It's looking more and more like Paul Pogba's career is heading to a premature end.
Once one of the world's top midfielders, Pogba was banned for the maximum four years by Italy’s anti-doping court on Thursday after the World Cup winner tested positive for testosterone while with Juventus.
While Pogba said he would appeal to the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, the verdict likely means that the France international — who turns 31 next month — didn't demonstrate any mitigating reasons for his failed test.
The positive result was announced in September, stemming from an exam that was carried out on Aug. 20 after Juventus’ game at Udinese. Pogba did not play in the Serie A match but was on the bench.
Pogba opted not to make a plea bargain with Italy’s anti-doping agency and so the case was tried before the country’s anti-doping court. A person with direct knowledge of the case confirmed the verdict to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the sentence was not made public due to Italy’s privacy laws.
Pogba said in a statement he believes “the verdict is incorrect.”
“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said. “When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.
It could take a full year for a CAS verdict — at least that's the typical timeline unless one party pushes for a fast-track process and the other side agrees to it.
Four-year bans are standard under the World Anti-Doping Code but can be reduced in cases where an athlete can prove their doping was not intentional, if the positive test was a result of contamination or if they provide “substantial assistance” to help investigators.


Mbappe No Longer Untouchable as PSG Prepare Champions League Return

Kylian Mbappe was replaced by Goncalo Ramos in the second half of PSG's draw with Rennes in Ligue 1 last weekend. FRANCK FIFE / AFP/File
Kylian Mbappe was replaced by Goncalo Ramos in the second half of PSG's draw with Rennes in Ligue 1 last weekend. FRANCK FIFE / AFP/File
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Mbappe No Longer Untouchable as PSG Prepare Champions League Return

Kylian Mbappe was replaced by Goncalo Ramos in the second half of PSG's draw with Rennes in Ligue 1 last weekend. FRANCK FIFE / AFP/File
Kylian Mbappe was replaced by Goncalo Ramos in the second half of PSG's draw with Rennes in Ligue 1 last weekend. FRANCK FIFE / AFP/File

Kylian Mbappe will face former club Monaco for the final time as a Paris Saint-Germain player on Friday, provided coach Luis Enrique selects his star player.
The France captain's relationship with the PSG boss has come under the spotlight with Mbappe discovering he is no longer assured of a place in the line-up since telling the Qatar-owned club he would leave at the end of this season, AFP said.
Mbappe informed PSG in mid-February that he intended to depart when his contract expires in June, after seven years at the Parc des Princes, with Real Madrid his likely next destination.
Luis Enrique responded to that by leaving the 25-year-old on the bench for their next game at Nantes, although Mbappe came on to score a penalty in a 2-0 win.
More surprisingly, Mbappe started last week's home meeting with Rennes and wore the captain's armband in the absence of Marquinhos, but was substituted on 65 minutes.
Trailing 1-0 at the time, PSG came back to draw thanks to a penalty won and converted by his replacement, Goncalo Ramos.
PSG's all-time top scorer with 244 goals, Mbappe has rarely started on the bench in 292 appearances since signing from Monaco in 2017.
He has occasionally been substituted earlier than was the case last weekend, but always either due to injury or with PSG already winning.
"It's very simple. Sooner or later, when it happens, we are going to have to get used to playing without Kylian," Luis Enrique said when asked to explain why he had taken Mbappe off.
"When I want to play him I will do so, and if I don't want to, the same thing."
PSG have to prepare for the future, and their position of strength in Ligue 1 allows them to do so -- despite drawing against Rennes, Luis Enrique's team are 11 points clear of second-placed Brest with 11 games remaining.
Perhaps there could even be a temptation to rest Mbappe in Monaco, given that Paris go to Spain defending a 2-0 lead into the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Real Sociedad next Tuesday.
They have been knocked out in the last 16 in five of the last seven seasons and reaching the quarter-finals this year is the minimum objective in Europe for the French champions.
Yet Mbappe will want to play in Monaco, who are themselves chasing Champions League qualification and are third in the table.
It was in the principality where he emerged as such a thrilling talent and starred as Monaco won the title in 2016/17.
His impending move abroad means he may not get a chance to return to the Stade Louis II again any time soon.
One to watch: Said Benrahma
The Algerian international joined Lyon on loan from West Ham United at the end of the January transfer window, despite the necessary paperwork not being approved before the deadline. Special dispensation was given by FIFA to complete the deal, and Benrahma has quickly shown his value to his new team.
Last weekend the 28-year-old left-winger came on and scored the winner as Lyon won 2-1 at Metz, a seventh success in nine league games for a resurgent team. In midweek he started and was the main threat, hitting the post direct from a corner, as Lyon beat Strasbourg on penalties to reach the French Cup semi-finals.
He should have a key role to play against Lens, where another win would have the once-struggling side believing they can yet snatch European qualification.


Saudi Sport Minister: Leadership Support for Joint Arab Work Positively Impacts Youth

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
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Saudi Sport Minister: Leadership Support for Joint Arab Work Positively Impacts Youth

The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat
The Saudi flag. Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi Minister of Sport Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal has praised the leadership’s keenness to provide continuous support for joint Arab action during the Kingdom’s chairmanship of the 46th session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports.

The minister spoke on Tuesday at the 47th session of the Council at the Arab League in Cairo.

He expressed gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

The Saudi leadership’s support has significantly contributed to the development and excellence of Arab youth, with honorable and evident impact throughout the Arab world, he added.

The minister emphasized the importance of serious institutional work to fulfil the aspirations of Arab youth. He highlighted the need to strengthen joint Arab efforts to achieve development and progress.

Prince Abdulaziz affirmed that supporting and investing in youth is a national asset. He noted that sustainable and comprehensive development cannot be achieved without relying on youth and providing them with all elements of success and excellence, particularly in the field of sports.