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COVID-19: Women cricketers warned to be extra vigilant ahead of World Cup

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Australian women’s cricket team chief selector Shawn Flegler has warned the players competing in the Ashes to be extra vigilant as they might not be allowed to enter New Zealand for the ICC Women’s World Cup in March if they test positive for COVID-19 during the series.

The Australian women’s team will play a multi-format series involving a Test, three T20Is and an equal number of ODIs against their England counterparts. The series commences on January 20 with the first T20I at the Adelaide Oval. The Test will be played at the Manuka Oval in Canberra from January 27. It will be followed by three ODIs, beginning in Canberra on February 3 and concluding in Melbourne on February 8.

With the ICC Women’s World Cup in New Zealand scheduled from March 4, Flegler said Cricket Australia (CA) is apprehensive that players might contract COVID-19 despite the biosecurity protocols in place for the women’s Ashes.

The Australian Ashes squad will be announced next week and the players will then have to comply with pre-series biosecurity protocols before going into camp in Adelaide on January 17, according to cricket.com.au. “They will take part in the multi-format series against England before leaving for a 10-day quarantine period in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup,” said the portal.

New Zealand Health (NZH) and the International Cricket Council (ICC) have clarified that late additions to Australia’s World Cup squad of 17 will not be allowed under current regulations.

“It’s going to be tough,” said chief selector Shawn Flegler when asked if players testing COVID-19 positive just before the scheduled flight to New Zealand will be allowed to travel at a later date.

“Our plans are still that we’ll go as a group straight after the Ashes. If things do change and we can get players over later, then we’ll look to do that.

“But at the moment, it’s one group leaving and doing quarantine together. So that’s why we’re trying to put protocols in place to minimise any issues with COVID (during the Ashes). But as we’ve seen over the last few weeks with the BBL and other competitions, it can be very difficult. We’re trying to minimise that and control it as much as we can, but I think we’ve got to expect that something may happen,” added Flegler.

With stringent travel protocols in place, it raises the prospect of key players missing the global event if they contract the virus in early February and are forced to isolate. It would mean they’ll miss the only chance to fly to New Zealand with their teammates.

“The way that we’re looking at it is we have to be prepared that there’ll be players who will miss games. The strength that we do have is we’ve got a number of players that could come in and take the place of someone who does have COVID. We need to keep in mind England as well. Their focus is on the Ashes but also on defending the World Cup title.

“If we do have to tighten things down towards the back end of the series (to minimise risk ahead of the World Cup), we will look to do that.”

International

Mark Zuckerberg strikes gold against jiu jitsu fighters, posts pictures on Instagram

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In the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has appeared helpless in front of the US Congress where he has been slapped by fines, and fired 11,000 vulnerable employees after being hit by falling revenues. But outside the business arena where Meta is facing tough competition from TikTok and other rivals, Zuckerberg is a huge mixed martial arts fan.

Contrary to setbacks in the tech sector, the Facebook founder has tasted victory in jiu jitsu.

Striking gold, but in a different arena

  • The billionaire who has trained with UFC fighters, posted pictures after winning jiu jitsu matches for the first time.
  • The billionaire who tried his hand at martial arts, revealed that he won a gold medal in the Gi categroy and a silver medal in the No-GI category.
  • His post on Instagram received comments from UFC featherweight and bantamweight category champions, as well as jiu jitsu hall of fame member Bernardo Faria.

Competitive or short tempered?

  • The entrepreneur turned sportsperson, who also enjoys surfing, was seen getting into a heated argument after losing a contest during the tournament in California as well.
  • On the work front, Zuckerberg’s firm Meta also surprised the markets by bouncing back with strong earnings, after struggling with loss of ad revenue.
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International

Al Hilal swoop in with bumper €400 million per year salary deal amid reports of Lionel Messi leaving PSG

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Paris Saint Germain forward Lionel Messi is reportedly planning to cut short his time at FC Barcelona and eventually join Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia. This comes after Messi was suspended for two weeks for travelling to the Kingdom without PSG’s Qatari owners’ permission.

End of Project Messi

Messi had hoped to stay at PSG beyond the end of the current season. However, with recent events, the situation has changed drastically. Given his incredible record with FC Barcelona and PSG, Messi’s potential move to Al-Hilal would undoubtedly shake the football world.

While Messi’s priority remains to play in Europe, transfer market expert Fabrizio Romano reported that Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal has offered the Argentine superstar a bumper contract with a record-breaking salary worth €400 million per year. The potential deal will lead to Messi surpassing his eternal rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns €223 million per year at Al Nassr.

Hindrance to Messi’s Barcelona return

There is strong speculation that Messi may return to his former club, FC Barcelona. However, the club is facing difficulties in shedding the €200 million ($220 million) required from their wage bill to make the deal viable. Despite this challenge, Barcelona is trying to convince La Liga that they have a workable plan to make the numbers work for a potential deal with Messi.

Consequences of Messi’s Suspension

Messi’s suspension was imposed because he went to fulfill his duties as a tourism ambassador. The Argentine will also be docked two weeks’ pay, which Forbes’ recently-published list of the World’s 10 Highest-Paid Athletes 2023 estimated to be around $2.5 million. As a result, Messi will miss games against Troyes and Ajaccio.

In addition, PSG has reportedly cancelled a contract renewal offer to Messi, whose current agreement at the Parc des Princes expires on June 30. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be free to negotiate with other clubs starting in January 2023.

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Saudi Arabia to host FIFA Club World Cup 2023

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Saudi Arabia has been named the host of the FIFA Club World Cup 2023, scheduled to take place from December 12-22.

“In relation to the FIFA Club World Cup 2023�, which is due to be played under the current format with seven clubs, the FIFA Council unanimously appointed the Saudi Arabian Football Federation as tournament hosts from 12 to 22 December 2023,” the FIFA said in a statement on Tuesday night.

The unanimous decision was made at a FIFA Council meeting and came only a few days after Real Madrid lifted the trophy in Morocco, following a thrilling 5-3 win over Al-Hilal, the first Saudi club to reach the final of the tournament.

Saudi Arabia will be only the sixth host of the competition since its inception in 2000.

The Gulf nation, earlier this month, was awarded the hosting rights of the men’s Asian Cup 2027 and is also bidding to host the Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in 2026.

The FIFA Council also confirmed a change in the format of the tournament from June 2025 — to expand the FIFA Club World Cup from 24 to 32 teams — with 12 teams from Europe involved along six from CONMEBOL, while CONCACAF, CAF and the AFC will each have four, with one place for the OFC and another for the hosts.

In addition, the Council also confirmed that the hosts of the FIFA World Cup 2026, namely Canada, Mexico and the USA, will qualify automatically as the joint hosts of the tournament, with their slots, therefore, being deducted from the overall allocation of six assigned to Concacaf.

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