N’golo Kante feels ‘at home’ with Chelsea

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante says he feels “at home” at the club despite speculation linking him with a return to France.
Kante was instrumental to Leicester City’s league triumph in the 2015/16 season before he moved to London and helped Chelsea do the same the following year. “I am at home. It is my club, I am a Chelsea player,” Kante, who has been linked with a move to Paris St Germain, was quoted as saying by the Evening Standard.

“This is my second year at Chelsea. After what happened last season, it was a very good one for us because we got to celebrate winning the title. “In the second season, I have got to play in the Champions League … We will fight until the end to finish in the top four and to get in a Champions League position.”

Chelsea, who face Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals next month, are fifth in the league, five points behind Tottenham Hotspur with eight matches left to play. “We also have the FA Cup to play for – it is a good competition. Last season we failed in the final,” added Kante.

“It is the only trophy we can win this season, so we have to give everything to get to the final and win it.” The 26-year-old has been named in the France squad for friendlies against Colombia on Friday and Russia on March 27.

 

Manchester United still flex most social media muscle: Report

Manchester United are trailing Manchester City this season on the pitch but are peerless when it comes to their social media muscle, according to a report published this week.

The Old Trafford giants, who topped Deloitte’s Money League in January for the world’s richest clubs, also came out top of the Social Network Rankings for the Premier League in 2017.

The report, produced by Newton Insight, ranked England’s 20 top-flight according to eight performance indicators across various social media platforms.

United beat Manchester City to first place with Chelsea third, Arsenal fourth, Liverpool fifth and Tottenham Hotspur in seventh place. Huddersfield Town were a surprising sixth with Stoke City bottom of the pile.

United had 73.7 million Facebook followers in 2017, 16.5 million Twitter fans and 20 million Instagram followers.

City had 29 million, 5.5 million and 5.9 million respectively for the same categories.

United also had most followers of the 20 Premier League clubs on Chinese social media platform Weibo — 9.2 million.

Fans of the Red Devils made up 30 percent of all Premier League followers and the club accounted for 40 percent of all Premier League fan engagement on social media in 2017.

“The best way to describe Manchester United’s approach to building its global fanbase is ‘relentless’,” the report said.

“The club is not sitting back defending its lead, it keeps pressing forward. They have more resources than most to support its ambitions but the club is also committed to producing creative content and driving fan engagement.”

The Social Network Rankings were calculated using indicators such as fan engagement, growth, total number of club posts and the amount of days it takes clubs to add 10,000 new followers on a given platform.

While newly-promoted Huddersfield’s 113,000 Facebook followers was dwarfed by the bigger clubs it represented an 80 percent rise in a year while their Instagram figures rose by 600 percent — proof of the appeal of the Premier League.

Huddersfield made huge efforts to increase the club’s profile on the back of promotion, racking up 18,000 social media posts in 2017, behind only Chelsea, United and City.

“Smaller teams may struggle to compete financially with the top teams, but Huddersfield’s digital performance should encourage other clubs looking to increase brand exposure,” the report said.

While the combined 250 million Facebook followers of the Premier League made it the most used format for fans, that figure represented only a five percent yearly rise compared to the 49 and 33 percent increases enjoyed by Twitter and Instagram.

“Facebook appears to have reached maturity,” the report said. “Twitter’s immediacy lends itself to the drama of live football. It feeds the endless appetite for gossip.”

China is regarded as a huge, and relatively untapped market, although still something of a puzzle, according to the report.

Arsenal and Liverpool were the first to set up social media sites on Weibo in 2011, since when Premier League clubs have amassed a combined fanbase of 30 million followers.

Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne, Toto Wolff warns Formula One

mexico city grand prix, mexico gp, Toto Wolff

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has warned that a breakaway series to rival Formula One is a “realistic” possibility if the championship’s stakeholders fail to placate Ferrari in their long-term vision for the sport. Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne has threatened his team could quit if F1’s American owners Liberty Media follow through on plans for simpler engines and a redistribution of prizemoney after contracts expire in 2020.

Days before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Wolff said he hoped the sport’s major players could build consensus on a way forward but cautioned that Ferrari should not be provoked. “The perspective of doing something else is a realistic one, and it could happen if we don’t achieve to align our vision,” the Austrian told British media.

“Marchionne has a clear vision of what Formula One should represent for Ferrari, which is a purist sport that isn’t a shopping channel. I would strongly encourage all of the sport’s stakeholders not to try and provoke him. “I agree with most of the things Sergio says because Formula One has a certain DNA and it is a sport that needs to stick to its roots.

“So, don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne. Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.” Although fierce rivals on the track, Ferrari and champions Mercedes are closely aligned off it on financial matters and engines — supplying six of the 10 teams in the series. Red Bull boss Christian Horner said last month that Ferrari and Mercedes were “working as one team” to shape F1’s landscape in their favour.

“Sometimes it is difficult to tell which is which. For the last couple of years there has been a very tight relationship between Ferrari and Mercedes,” Horner told British media during pre-season testing.

American teen Amanda Anisimova stuns Wang Qiang in Miami

American teenager Amanda Anisimova, fresh off an impressive run at Indian Wells, beat China’s Wang Qiang 6-3 1-6 6-2 at the Miami Open on Tuesday to set up a second-round clash with Spanish third seed Garbine Muguruza. The 16-year-old wildcard, who had never won a WTA main-draw match until this month’s BNP Paribas Open where she reached the fourth round, broke the world number 53 five times during a 98-minute match in which she committed six double faults.

Next up for Anisimova, ranked 130th in the world, is Wimbledon champion Muguruza, who will be eager to get back to competition after falling at the first hurdle in Indian Wells. Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia overcame some early pressure to defeat Briton Heather Watson 7-6(3) 6-2. Watson had a chance to serve for the opening set but squandered it and then allowed the Brazilian to run away with the match.

Haddad Maia will next face No. 31 seed Zhang Shuai. Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic looked headed for an early exit when she fell behind 4-0 in the deciding set against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko but the Croatian-born world number 90 reeled off seven of the next eight games to prevail 3-6 6-4 7-5. American wild card Bernarda Pera advanced when she stunned Spanish world number 68 Lara Arruabarrena 7-5 6-4 to set up a second-round match with Belgian 22nd seed Elise Mertens.

Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi was leading Christina McHale 3-1 but retired 31 minutes into the match, gifting the American passage into the second round where she will face Czech Barbora Strycova. Also advancing on the first day of the main draw in Miami were Belgians Kirsten Flipkens and Alison Van Uytvanck, Swede Johanna Larsson, Hungary’s Timea Babos, Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich and American wild card Claire Liu.

Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls brought back by Boko Haram: witnesses

Abducted Nigerian schoolgirls brought back by Boko Haram: witnesses

Some of the 110 schoolgirls abducted from the northeast Nigerian town of Dapchi last month were brought back on Wednesday, two witnesses said. People from the town said the girls were returned by men they thought were fighters from the Islamist militant Boko Haram group. They did not say how many girls had come back.

A military officer at a checkpoint near Dapchi told Reuters: “Boko Haram have brought the girls.”

The kidnapping on February 19 of the girls aged 11-19, was the biggest mass abduction since Boko Haram took more than 270 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014 – a case that triggered international outrage.

The Dapchi abduction has piled pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari, who came to power in 2015 promising to crack down on Boko Haram’s nine-year-old insurgency and could face the voters again next year.

Singapore passes law which can bar pictures of terror attack sites

Singapore economic growth slows in the fourth quarter

Singapore passed a law on Wednesday making it possible to ban photographs or videos of terror attack sites or communicating information about security operations amid criticism from rights groups that the move could curb press freedoms. The wealthy city-state ranks as one of the safest countries in the world, but authorities say it has been a target of Islamic extremists since the 1990s and they have stepped up efforts to deter an attack.

The bill, proposed last month, includes provisions to ban anyone from taking videos or photographs of the area of a terror attack or transmitting them.

It can also ban communication of text or audio messages about the security operations in the area. The measures can be taken under a “communications stop” order if approved by the home affairs minister and activated by the police commissioner.

“The CSO (communications stop order) is not an information blackout throughout the terror incident,” Josephine Teo, minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, told parliament ahead of the vote.

Information leaks to terrorists could risk the lives of security officers and those caught up in an attack, the home affairs ministry has said, citing media coverage of police operations in a 2015 attack in Paris and a 2008 attack in India’s financial capital of Mumbai.

Groups that advocate press freedom have expressed concern that the law gives the government the power to restrict what can be reported.

Human Rights Watch separately said the inclusion of public protests as an example of a “serious incident” meant the law can be used to infringe on freedom of speech.

Anyone planning a public protest is required to obtain a police permit in Singapore and are only allowed at a designated area in a small downtown park. Only Singaporean citizens and permanent residents can participate.

“The Singaporean government’s history of persecuting dissenting voices makes the proposed public order law particularly frightening,” Asia director at Human Rights Watch Brad Adams said in a press release last week.

“Public protests are not a threat that justify the wholesale repeal of basic rights.”

Breaches of the new measures could lead to a maximum fine of S$20,000 ($15,200) and prison terms of up to two years.

The passage of the security law comes as Singapore holds a landmark public hearing on how to tackle the threat of fake news.

 

Sikh youth being trained at ISI facilities in Pakistan: Government

Sikh youth being trained at ISI facilities in Pakistan: Government

The Home Ministry has conveyed to a parliamentary panel that Sikh youths are being trained at ISI facilities in Pakistan to carry out terror activities in India, and members of the community who are settled in Canada and other places are also being instigated against the country with false and malicious propaganda.

Top officials of the home ministry, led by the Union Home Secretary, told the Committee on Estimates, headed by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, that radicalisation of youths by terrorist groups through the misuse of internet and social media has emerged as a big challenge.

According to the report of the committee – ‘ Central armed police forces and internal security challenges-evaluation and response mechanism’ – which was tabled in Parliament on Monday, there have been some developments on the Sikh militancy front.

The “commanders” of terror groups based in Pakistan are under pressure from ISI to further the Pakistani spy agency’s terror plans not only in Punjab but also in other parts of the country, it said.

“Sikh youth are being trained at ISI facilities in Pakistan. Interdictions and interrogations have revealed use of jailed cadres, unemployed youth, criminals and smugglers by Pakistan-based Sikh terror groups for facilitating terror attacks,” the report said.

Sikh youths based or settled in Europe, the US and Canada are also being misguided and instigated against India with false and malicious propaganda, but the situation is being watched closely by the central and state agencies and they are taking lawful action as and when required.

On the issue of new challenges which have emerged as a threat to internal security, the ministry, in a note furnished to the committee, voiced concern over radicalisation of youths by the terrorist groups through the misuse of internet and social media.

“The problem is further accentuated by the fact that the terror groups have started using secure social media platforms and proxy servers etc. to avoid detection by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“Activities of radicalised people returning from conflict areas and threat of lone wolf attack are also a challenge,” it said.

The ministry told the panel that India continues to remain the prime focus of Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, particularly the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and a faction of Indian Mujahideen besides groups like SIMI and Al-Unmah.

Separately, there are indications regarding revival of JeM in Pakistan and renewed efforts of the said outfit to cause harm to India. Besides, the IS and Al-Qaeda in Indian sub-continent have started posing new challenges to the existing security environment.

The ministry also said that violence by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) outfits continues to pose a threat to the internal security scenario in the country.

“Since its formation in September 2004, CPI(Maoist) has emerged as the most potent among the LWE outfits active in the country,” the report said.

Saudi Arabia says revamping education to combat “extremist ideologies”

Saudi Arabia says revamping education to combat "extremist ideologies"

Saudi Arabia is revamping its education curriculum to eradicate any trace of Muslim Brotherhood influence and will dismiss anyone working in the sector who sympathises with the banned group, the education minister said.

Promoting a more moderate form of Islam is one of the promises made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under plans to modernise the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom.

The education ministry is working to “combat extremist ideologies by reviewing school curricula and books to ensure they do not reflect the banned Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda,” al-Isa said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

It would “ban such books from schools and universities and remove those who sympathise with the group or its ideology from their posts,” he added.

In September, a large Saudi public university announced it would dismiss employees suspected of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, adding to concerns that the government is clamping down on its critics in academia and beyond.

Earlier this month, Crown Prince Mohammed told CBS in an interview that Saudi schools have been “invaded” by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated by Saudi Arabia as a terrorist organisation along with other militant groups such as al Qaeda and Islamic State.

INTERNAL THREAT

The young crown prince has already taken some steps to loosen Saudi Arabia’s ultra-strict social restrictions, scaling back the role of religious morality police, permitting public concerts and announcing plans to allow women to drive.

The ruling Al Saud family has always regarded Islamist groups as a major internal threat to its rule over a country where appeals to religious sentiment resonate deeply and an al Qaeda campaign a decade ago killed hundreds.

Since the kingdom’s founding, the Al Saud have enjoyed a close alliance with clerics of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam who have espoused a political philosophy that demands obedience to the ruler.

By contrast the Brotherhood advances an active political doctrine urging revolutionary action.

A political Islamist organisation founded in Egypt nearly a century ago, the Muslim Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism and reform through elections, and its adherents span the region, holding elected office in Arab countries from Tunisia to Jordan.

Brotherhood members fleeing repression in Egypt, Syria and Iraq half a century ago took shelter in Saudi Arabia, some taking up roles in the kingdom’s education system and helping to establish the Sahwa or “Awakening” movement which agitated in the 1990s for democracy.

The Sahwa mostly fizzled, with some activists arrested and others coaxed into conformity, though admirers and its appeal lingered.

 

WWE Raw Results: Braun Strowman makes a mark before Elimination Chamber

Braun Strowman leaving a mark on The Miz on WWE Raw

On Monday Night Raw in Phoenix, Arizona, the focus remained firmly on Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match in Las Vegas. There were no gimmicks, no talks, out-and-out wrestling as competitors – men and women – looked to make their mark before the pay-per-view event. As advertised, the show kicked off with the gauntlet match where all the male WWE Superstars competing in the Elimination Chamber match went up against the other in consecutive matches. But in the end, it was Braun Strowman who triumphed and as he does – left a serious mark.

Prior to the first-ever seven-man Elimination Chamber match, all men lined up to highlight why they would win the match on Sunday and then go on to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. As the match stretched for over an hour, it appeared to be the longest one in WWE history. But as Strowman put the brakes on The Miz, leaving the Miztourage in tatters too, and added multiple powerslams just to appease the crowd.

Much before the Monster Among Men waltzed down the ring, it was Seth Rollins who caught the limelight with a Herculean effort that saw him compete for a staggering an hour and five minutes. Entering at No 2, he beat fellow Shield Brother Roman Reigns (No 1) and John Cena (No 3). Elias brought his run to an end with a Drift Away as Rollins spent his energy on high risk maneuvers. Finn Balor followed up and attacked Elias’ battered ribs and finished off the job with a Coup de Grace.

The Miztourage played a key role throughout and their presence allowed The Miz to steal the win over Balor with a Skull-Crushing Finale. However, The Miz’s facial expression changed as Strowman’s music played as the final entrant. The Gift of Destruction began by chasing down the Intercontinental Champion as he scrambled for cover. Soon enough, a Running Powerslam got the job done.

WWE RAW RESULTS

Braun Strowman def. Elias vs. Finn Balor vs. John Cena vs. Roman Reigns vs. Seth Rollins vs. the Miz (Gauntlet Match)

Titus Worldwide def. Raw Tag Team Champions Cesaro & Sheamus

Sasha Banks, Bayley & Mickie James def. Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, Sonya Deville & Mandy Rose

Winter Olympics 2019: French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis doesn’t risk another wardrobe malfunction

gabriella papadakis

Gabriella Papadakis took no chances. Her ice dancing costume on Tuesday contained no hooks, nothing that could come undone as it did a day earlier in the Olympics’ most famous wardrobe malfunction.

The French athlete and partner Guillaume Cizeron completed a lovely, lyrical free skate to win a silver medal behind the Canadian team of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, but it was hard not to see in their faces the belief that the faulty costume had cost them gold.

NBC analyst Tanith White said she was “sitting here grabbing my chest feeling my heart pound” after their performance. White, however, punted when the time came to give her opinion on the deserving winner. “It’s making me sweat, just the idea of having to choose between the Canadian and the French, but most important, they were both exceptional,” she said. True, it was tough. But that’s her job.

WARDROBE MALFUNCTION, PART TWO:

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada perform. (Source: Reuters)

After two wardrobe malfunctions on the ice, it was hard to watch Canadian Kaitlyn Weaver’s ice dancing routine without focusing on a loose red strap that kept falling down her arm. Apparently it was part of the costume.

Avoiding wardrobe malfunction a priority for Turkish pair

Alisa Agafonova and Alper Ucar of Turkey perform during the ice dance. (Source: AP)

A pair of Turkish ice dancers on Tuesday said they take care to ensure their relatively conservative costumes are firmly in place when they compete but maintained it was not due to any pressure from their government.

“The most important part for Alisa when she designs it is keeping it safe,” Alper Ucar told Reuters following his free dance routine with partner Alisa Agafonova at the Gangneung Ice Arena on Tuesday.

Ukrainian-born Agafonova, who represented the Eastern European nation until 2010, said: “I am doing what I like and what you see is what I decided that I like.”

Wearing costumes that evoked ancient Egypt, they are among the most covered-up of any of the performers but the duo said it was their own choice.

Ucar said the Turkish Olympic committee did not give them any specific directions on their costumes.

“Turkey is a country where one side is Europe and the other side is the Middle East,” he said.

“We are a multicultural country and our traditional designs for our costumes are generally very liked by the crowd. We are a democratic country, so there is no pressure. They are always supporting us and that’s why we are here.”