Hagi back to coach Steaua
Former Romania playmaker Gheorghe Hagi returned to Steaua Bucharest as coach on Saturday 17 years after he left to join Real Madrid, the club owner said. "Hagi is the new coach of Steaua Bucharest," Gigi Becali said. "I've got his agreement to sign a contract for the next two or three years on Monday [today]." Hagi replaces Cosmin Olaroiu who is joining Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal on a contract worth about 1.7 million euros (US$2.29 million), according to local media reports. "I come to Steaua with my heart," Hagi, who quit as coach of Politehnica Timisoara in May last year, said by telephone from his native city of Constanta.
■ RUGBY UNION
Shelford battles cancer
Former All Blacks captain Wayne "Buck" Shelford, one of international rugby's iconic hardmen, is battling cancer, his wife told the Sunday Star-Times newspaper. "We found out a month ago and he has five more months of treatment," Jo Shelford said. "We are very positive and pleased with how the treatment is going." The famous backrower No. 8 is being treated for lymphoma, a cancer affecting white blood cells. Shelford, 49, captained the All Blacks from 1987 to 1990 during a golden era when they never lost a game. His reputation as a fearless, uncomprising player was born from his second international in 1986 when in a Test against France his scrotum was torn open, leaving one testicle hanging out. He calmly told the team physio to stitch the wound and carried on playing.
Dutch win Euro Under-21
An inspired Netherlands won their second consecutive European Under-21 title with a 4-1 win over 10-man Serbia in Groningen on Saturday. Otman Bakkal opened the scoring for the Dutch, chesting down a lofted pass from Daniel de Ridder in the 17th minute before tapping the ball home with his left foot. Another fine cross from de Ridder provided Ryan Babel with the chance to latch on to a loose ball and score the second goal from close range on the hour mark. In front of a capacity crowd of almost exclusively Dutch fans, Serbia began to look in disarray. A late lunge on Babel saw Aleksandar Kolarov sent off in the 62nd minute as the Serbs' fortunes sank further. Maceo Rigters grabbed the third goal of the night after a through ball from Babel in the 67th while substitute Luigi Bruins scored the fourth 20 minutes later.
■ RUGBY UNION
Lima's final bow at home
Popular Samoan rugby veteran Brian Lima said farewell to his home crowd in winning style in Apia on Saturday as his side thrashed Tonga 50-3 in a Pacific Nations Cup match. It was the last home game for the 34-year-old stalwart of Samoan rugby who has announced he will step down from Test rugby following the World Cup in France later this year. The victory confirmed Samoa as the leading island nation in the Pacific Cup, finishing third behind regional powers the Junior All Blacks, who won the series for the second consecutive year, and Australia A. Samoa were never in danger against Tonga, running in seven tries and leading 29-3 at the turn. But for the huge crowd the result was of secondary significance to the festival atmosphere in which they saw one of their great modern-day warriors do battle for the last time. Known as "the chiropractor" for his bone-crunching tackles which often left him as damaged and senseless as his target, Lima has been a feature of the Samoan side for 17 years and 63 Tests playing at either wing or center.
Golden girl deep in debt
One-time Olympic golden girl Marion Jones, her athletics career now shadowed by doping suspicions, says in court documents that she is deep in debt, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday. Citing recent court records, the newspaper said Jones claims she lost a US$2.5 million "dream home" in North Carolina to bank foreclosure last year. Jones, who once commanded millions in endorsements, has "total liquid assets throughout the world" of about US$2,000, according to her own deposition in her breach of contract lawsuit against veteran track coach Dan Pfaff, the paper said. Pfaff has countersued Jones and won a judgment for about US$240,000 in unpaid training fees and legal expenses. Responding to a question from Pfaff's attorney in her deposition, Jones says she doesn't know where all the money went.
Nigerian joins Blackhawks
Akim "The Dream" Aliu was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday with a chance to become the second Nigerian to play in the NHL. Born in Nigeria, raised in Ukraine, moved to Canada when he was 11, Aliu was picked by the Blackhawks in the second round on the second day of the NHL draft. "My dad didn't see a [ice] hockey rink until he was 40 years old," Aliu said. "My mom grew up in Russia, but hockey wasn't really part of her life, her culture. They're happy about what I'm doing right now. I'm happy for what I'm doing too."Aliu, who trains in the summers with Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star Rick Nash, said that back in his homeland nobody knows how far he has already come. "They don't even know what hockey is over there," he said with a laugh.
Colombia rally to win
Colombia hit back after conceding an early goal to beat Ecuador 3-1 in Barranquilla on Saturday in their final friendly before the Copa America. Midfielder Walter Ayovi gave Ecuador's experimental team a seventh-minute lead when he scored from a free kick. But Hugo Rodallega levelled nine minutes later and the hosts went ahead through defender Mario Yepes, who headed home from Alvaro Dominguez's cross on the half hour. Edixon Perea added the third in the 79th minute, slamming home the rebound after goalkeeper Cristian Mora failed to hold Luis Gabriel Rey's shot. "Colombia played very well and if they play the same way in the Copa America, they will certainly be among the candidates," Ecuador coach Luis Fernando Suarez said. Colombia completed an impressive warm-up which has produced five wins and a draw in their last six games.
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
Neymar on Sunday claimed that he had been the victim of racism as he was one of five players sent off in a mass brawl at the end of Olympique de Marseille’s 1-0 win over Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. PSG’s Brazilian star appeared to accuse Alvaro Gonzalez of calling him a “monkey” in a series of furious tweets after he was sent off in stoppage-time for slapping the Marseille defender on the back of the head. “Look at the racism. That’s why I hit him,” Neymar, who was returning from COVID-19 quarantine, said as he left the pitch. “The only regret I