Russia program winds down
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has decided to wind down his Russian soccer development program that saw the Chelsea owner plow tens of millions of dollars into the sport in Russia in recent years, his representative said on Wednesday. The decision was taken as Abramovich’s National Football Academy foundation had achieved all of its aims in the development of Russian soccer, Abramovich’s representative John Mann said. “The foundation is winding down its activities,” Mann said. “The foundation has achieved the main aims for which it was created — which is setting up a broad grass-roots system for Russian football.” Mann added that the foundation created about 140 new pitches across the country and completely renovated the youth academy, which is currently working under the control of Samara region authorities in the city of Tolyatti. The foundation has also been involved with the training of coaches and referees, as well as sponsoring youth teams across the country, he added. It also paid the Russia national squad coaching staff’s fees. The representative emphasized that the foundation’s activities were being wound down, not completely halted.
McGinley starts qualifying
Europe captain Paul McGinley was taking the first shot in next year’s Ryder Cup qualifying process when he went out in the opening group in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor yesterday. It was the first time that a current captain of the European team had the honor of teeing up first in the opening qualifying tournament for the biennial match against the US. “There are a lot of milestones along the way on the Ryder Cup captain’s journey and the start of qualifying is certainly a big milestone,” McGinley said. The Irishman has ruled himself out of appearing as a player in next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland, but said: “I am extremely proud to set the example for my prospective team members.”
Mealamu signs new deal
Keven Mealamu, a veteran of 105 Tests, has signed a one-year contract extension with the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Auckland-based Blues. The contract signed on Wednesday by the 35-year-old hooker contains a provision for a further one-year extension which could make him available for selection for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Mealamu, one of only four players to have made more than 100 Test appearances for the All Blacks, said he intends to end his career in New Zealand. “I love New Zealand — this is my family’s home. It’s a real honor to play rugby for my country, the Blues and Auckland, so I am delighted to carry on playing my rugby here,” Mealamu said.
Folau to stick with union
Israel Folau has confirmed he will stick with rugby union by extending his contract with the New South Wales Waratahs until 2015. Folau, a former rugby league international and Australian Rules football player, made the switch to rugby union this season and was a standout for the Waratahs at fullback. He was named Rookie of the Year among the Australian teams in the Super XV. Folau was selected on the wing for Australia, and scored three tries in five Tests against the British and Irish Lions and the New Zealand All Blacks. The Waratahs announced yesterday that Folau, 24, had signed a new two-year deal with the club and the Australian Rugby Union, making him eligible for selection for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.