Van Gaal back as coach
The Netherlands have reappointed Louis van Gaal as coach in place of Bert van Marwijk, who stepped down after the team lost all three group matches at Euro 2012 last month, the Dutch soccer association (KNVB) said on Friday. Van Gaal, sacked by Bayern Munich last year, will take charge of the Netherlands for the second time, having previously been coach from 2000 to 2002. The KNVB said in a statement that the 60-year-old had signed a two-year deal. “I’m glad the KNVB approached me, this is the challenge I have been waiting for,” Van Gaal said. He will be joined by assistant Danny Blind, the former captain of Ajax Amsterdam. “We were looking for a coach with experience, personality and professional skills,” KNVB director Bert van Oostveen said. “Van Gaal has earned his credentials nationally and internationally and we know him as a dedicated coach.”
Greece to miss basketball
Double European champions Greece made a shock exit from the Olympic basketball qualifiers on Friday following a narrow 80-79 defeat against Nigeria. The defeat will have come as a huge blow to Greece, who last won the European Championship in 2005 and whose champions Olympiakos Piraeus are also the title holders in the Euroleague, which is the continent’s elite club competition. Macedonia, who were also fancied to make the semi-finals of the 12-team tournament in Venezuela, were sent packing after an 86-76 defeat by the Dominican Republic while Russia and Lithuania rolled into the last four. The Russians, 80-65 winners over Angola, will play Nigeria for a berth in the final, while Lithuania, who eked out a 76-72 success against Puerto Rico, were due to take on the Dominican Republic yesterday. The top three teams will qualify for the Olympics and join the US, Great Britain, Spain, France, Argentina, Tunisia, Australia, Brazil and China.
Millar makes 10th showing
Ian Millar will appear in more Olympics than any athlete in history when he enters the showjumping ring aboard Star Power at the London Games. The 65-year-old Millar is about to surpass Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl, who was an Olympian nine times from 1964 to 1996. “It’s a great thrill to be doing this for the 10th time,” Millar said late on Thursday. “I never had a grand plan. It was all about the journey because the destination is, at best, very uncertain, as it is in life,” he added. Millar’s Olympic career spans 40 years. He could have been riding in his 11th Olympics this month, as he was named to the Canada team in 1980, but did not compete in Moscow because of a boycott.
France retains ‘hijab’ ban
Female French soccer players are still precluded from wearing headscarves, even though world soccer’s rule-makers lifted the ban on the hijab this week. The French Football Federation (FFF) said in a statement on Friday that it had to “respect the constitutional and legal principles of secularism which prevail in our country and which feature in our statutes. In these circumstances [the FFF] does not authorize female players to wear headscarves.” French law prohibits face-covering headgear including masks, helmets, balaclavas, niqabs and other veils covering the face in public places except under specified circumstances. On Thursday, the rule-making International Football Association Board overturned the ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf.