Rams’ Olsen dies aged 69
Merlin Olsen, a gridiron Hall of Famer who became a popular actor and broadcaster in the wake of his NFL career, has died at the age of 69. Utah State, where Olsen attended university, said he died outside of Los Angeles early on Thursday after battling cancer. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung lining, last year. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement lauding Olsen as an “extraordinary person, friend and football player.” After earning All-American honors at Utah State, Olsen was a first-round draft pick of the Rams in 1962. The giant from northern Utah joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams’ storied “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line.
Man found guilty of murder
Suspected gang member Willie Clark was found guilty of murder on Thursday in the 2007 shooting death of Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams. The verdict was the culmination of an 11-day trial and came after the jury deliberated for a day and a half. Clark, who faces life in prison when he is sentenced on April 30, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He was taken from the court in handcuffs. Williams’ mother, Rosalind, wept as she departed the courtroom. Williams was killed on New Year’s Day 2007. Prosecutors said Clark fired the fatal shots from a sports utility vehicle that pulled up beside a hired limousine carrying Williams and some friends.
Jonsson, Bjorgen win sprints
Scandinavians celebrated victories on Thursday in the World Cup 1.2km cross-country sprints, with Sweden’s Emil Jonsson winning the men’s race and Norway’s Marit Bjorgen triumphing in the women’s. Jonsson became the first non-Norwegian to win the men’s sprint in Drammen when he finished in 2 minutes, 57.9 seconds. Bjorgen finished in 3 minutes, 16.2 seconds after Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who was neck and neck with her Norwegian rival, slid out at a bend. Kowalczyk, who finished sixth, fell when she apparently kicked out too far and her ski got caught under Bjorgen’s.
India to get Grand Prix
India will be on next year’s Formula One calendar, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told the sport’s governing body on Thursday. India’s debut was cast into doubt last year when the country’s sports ministry rejected a request by promoters JPSK Sports to pay US$36.5 million in foreign currency to Ecclestone’s British-based Formula One Administration. The country is subject to strict exchange control regulations. The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement: “Subject to final approval of the calendar by the world council ... Ecclestone has informed the FIA that India will host a Formula One event in 2011.”
Mets hit by Reyes setback
The New York Mets, beset by injuries last season, were dealt another setback to the start of the new season on Thursday, with shortstop Jose Reyes the latest starter stuck on the sidelines. Reyes has been diagnosed with a thyroid condition that prohibits any physical activity for two to eight weeks, the player’s agent and club said in a conference call. “It doesn’t look good right now,” the team’s general manger, Omar Minaya, told reporters. Center fielder Carlos Beltran was already expected to miss the beginning of the season while he recovers from knee surgery.
Sao Paulo down Nacional
Washington scored twice as Sao Paulo of Brazil won 2-0 at Paraguayan club Nacional in the group stage of the Copa Libertadores on Thursday. Cerro of Uruguay also enjoyed an away win, while Brazilian clubs Internacional and Cruzeiro were held to draws. Washington rounded the goalkeeper to put Sao Paulo ahead in the 59th minute and converted a low cross from the left for the second in the 90th minute. The win moved Sao Paulo to second in Group 2, a point behind Colombia’s Once Caldas after three matches. Claudio Dadomo scored the winner in the 67th minute in Cerro’s 2-1 victory at Emelec of Ecuador. Pablo Caballero opened the scoring for the Uruguayan club in the 52nd minute, while Pablo Perez got a consolation goal for Emelec in the 71st minute. Cerro top Group 5 after a second straight win. Internacional sits two points behind after a 1-1 draw with Ecuador’s Deportivo Quito. Deportivo took the lead through Tilson Minda in the 33rd minute, but Giuliano equalized for the Brazilian club in the 41st minute. Goals from Kleber in the 27th and 51st minutes earned Cruzeiro a 2-2 draw against Venezuelan club Deportivo Italia, but the striker soured his night after receiving a red card in the 86th minute.
Radical reform planned
The government is proposing a radical reform of soccer to “transform” the game in the Chinese-ruled former British colony. The Hong Kong Football Association (HKFA) was one of the first founded in Asia, but their international team, once a regional power, now languishes at 142nd in the FIFA rankings. A new government-sponsored report recommends wholesale restructuring of the HKFA, a new professional league, a full-time coach, more friendlies for the national team, better youth development and an improvement of facilities. “If the changes are implemented in an effective way, it is possible to envisage a transformation of soccer in the next five to 10 years,” Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing told the South China Morning Post. The initial goal would be to get Hong Kong back into the top 100 in the FIFA rankings in five years.
Drogba wins African award
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba was on Thursday named African Footballer of the Year for last year, the second time the Ivory Coast international has won the award. Drogba pushed Inter and Cameroon skipper Samuel Eto’o into second place in the vote amongst national team coaches from the Confederation of African Football. Drogba also won in 2006, again ahead of Eto’o, but was denied the continent’s top individual prize in 2007 when he failed to attend the awards ceremony in Togo. Ghana striker Dominic Adiyiah was African Young Footballer of the Year. Algeria were adjudged the best national team.
Rooney’s bald patch a boon
Wayne Rooney says his receding hairline is partly responsible for his improved heading prowess this season. The 24-year-old England international took his goal tally for the season to 30 with two strikes against AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday and opened the scoring with his seventh successive headed goal at Old Trafford. “It’s coming off my bald patch and that’s helping me score,” said Rooney, who was speaking at a FIFA promotional event. “I’ve been working on my heading a lot and thankfully it’s paying off. I’ve been in the box a lot more, I’ve been working on my timing and my finishing.”
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is set to defy FIFA’s campaign for captains to wear only official armbands with selected slogans at FIFA World Cup games. “Yes,” the veteran goalkeeper said when asked at the Germany training camp about overriding a new FIFA project backed by UN agencies. Denmark is also not backing down, playmaker Christian Eriksen said on Saturday. The project’s launch a day before the opening World Cup match seemed designed to supplant a pledge by European teams to wear their own armbands as part of a Netherlands-led anti-discrimination campaign drawing attention to host nation Qatar’s laws and record on human rights
MAJOR UPSET: Many gathered in Taipei to support Messi, whose chances of winning the World Cup were dented when the second-lowest-ranked team beat Argentina 2-1 Saudi Arabia yesterday pulled off one of the greatest upsets in FIFA World Cup history, roaring back to beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-1 and set the tournament in Qatar alight. Copa America champions Argentina came into the game on a 36-match unbeaten streak and appeared to be on their way to a straightforward victory after Messi stroked home an early penalty. This is likely to be the final World Cup of Messi’s glittering career and it is the one major title to elude him. Manager Lionel Scaloni’s team could have put the game beyond Saudi Arabia’s reach in the first half, but
FIFA president Gianni Infantino on Saturday raised eyebrows when he attempted to show empathy with marginalized groups by telling reporters in Qatar: “I feel gay ... I feel like a migrant worker.” Infantino opened the traditional pre-FIFA World Cup news conference with an almost hour-long monologue lambasting the critics of Qatar hosting the tournament. Speaking after months of concern over the country’s treatment of migrant workers, anger at its LGBTQ laws and doubts over the legitimacy of the decision to hold the tournament there, Infantino said it was wrong for Europe to lecture the Qataris. “For what we Europeans have been doing for
Eight-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard on Sunday lost his first game with the T1 League’s Taoyuan Leopards, in a 94-103 home defeat to the Taichung Suns. Howard came close to achieving another triple-double in his second game in Taiwan. After grabbing 38 points, 25 rebounds and nine assists against the New Taipei CTBC DEA on Saturday, he tallied 23 points, 10 assists and nine boards against Taichung. Howard, who turns 37 on Dec. 8, led the Leopards in minutes played, accumulating about 91 of 101 total minutes of play over two games within 26 hours. “Yes, this is the most minutes I’ve played