Marseille agree Bielsa deal
Slumping French giants Olympique de Marseille yesterday announced that they have reached “an agreement in principle” with Marcelo Bielsa to take over as coach. The 58-year-old Argentine, who has coached Chile and Athletic Bilbao, has long been the longtime favorite to succeed caretaker boss Jose Anigo. “There is an agreement in principle with Bielsa,” Marseille president Vincent Labrune said after Sunday’s 0-0 draw with LOSC Lille Metropole. “The agreement will be submitted to the contracts department, but we can state that we are relatively confident that things will be finalized in the coming days.” Anigo took charge of the Marseille first team in December following the sacking of Elie Baup but will return at the season’s end to his primary role of sporting director. He had been involved in the search for a new coach and Bielsa, whose last job was in charge of Athletic Bilbao, was the frontrunner, having spent the last two weeks in France studying them.
No Barca move: Zenit boss
Zenit St Petersburg manager Andre Villas-Boas yesterday dismissed out of hand rumors linking him with Spanish giants Barcelona. “All the rumors about my negotiations with Barcelona representatives are completely groundless,” the former Chelsea, Tottenham and FC Porto coach told reporters. “I’ve signed the contract with Zenit and I’m set to stay here until its expiry date.” The 36-year-old Portuguese said he was completely focused on his work with Zenit, adding he was happy with the club’s plans to strengthen the squad. “My work with Zenit is my top priority,” Villas-Boas said. He was speaking on the back of Saturday’s 2-1 win at Anzhi Makhachkala, which kept Zenit in a one-point lead over Lokomotiv Moscow at top.
Schwalger out with clots
Former All Blacks prop John Schwalger will be sidelined for the remainder of the Super rugby season after being diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs. Mark Hammett, who coaches Schwalger’s Wellington-based Hurricanes team, said the “scary” diagnosis was made when the two-Test All Black sought treatment for what he thought was a chest infection. Hurricanes medical staff identified the ailment and Schwalger is likely to need blood-thinning drugs as part of his ongoing treatment. Hammett said: “I’m just pleased they got it when they did. It could have been a really scary case, particularly for a tough guy like him who would have probably just soldiered on with something like that.”
Aussie coach joins Afghans
Afghanistan’s new cricket academy coach, Peter Anderson from Australia, has started work in Kabul, officials said yesterday, as the fast-developing team prepare for their debut at next year’s World Cup. Anderson coached Papua New Guinea for two years before joining Afghanistan, where cricket is a rare symbol of optimism in a country beset by war, corruption and poverty. “I am excited to be here,” Anderson, 52, said in a press release from the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB). “I hope I can make a contribution to the quality of cricket here. I will start slowly, watching, listening and learning.” Anderson played 56 first-class matches for Queensland and South Australia as a wicketkeeper, scoring 1,399 runs at an average of 17.93. “We are pleased to be welcoming a person of Peter Anderson’s caliber to head our new Afghanistan Cricket Academy,” ACB president Noor Mohammad Murad said.