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Barcelona snatch a draw to set up difficult task for Napoli

Barcelona snatch a draw to set up difficult task for Napoli

27/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29787392
PHOTO CREDIT: LA REPUBBLICA

NAPOLI – The Azzurri held out the Catalan team in yellow to end the match 1-1, in what was a tense and cagey first leg of the UEFA Champions League last 16 round. The encounter took place on Tuesday at the San Paolo in front of 45,000 fans.

  Napoli scored first through the Dries Mertens who struck on the half hour mark from outside the box in spectacular fashion. Napoli continued to press in the last minutes of the first half, but couldn’t find a finish.

  It looked like Napoli might claim a historic victory over the Spanish champions, as they put all eleven men behind the ball and refused to give key playmakers like Leonel Messi any space.

  However, Antoine Griezmann struck firmly into the top corner in the second half, after a neat pass which unlocked the defense from Leonel Messi.

  Barcelona went on to play more free flowing football in the rest of the second half, but couldn’t capitalise on the chances that came their way.

  In the final minutes of the match, Barcelona’s Arturo Vidal was given two yellow cards for one incident, after he followed up an illegal two-footed challenge with a nasty head-to-head confrontation with a Napoli player.

  Napoli did not have time to use their numerical advantage however, and so Barcelona go back to the Nou Camp with a crucial away goal. This sets up a much harder second leg for the Italian side which is set to take place on March 18.

  “We know there will be difficulties but we’ll buy the helmets, the armour and we’ll go and play at Nou Camp,” said the combative Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso in the post-match interview.

jmj



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Serie A football matches face rescheduling difficulties

Serie A football matches face rescheduling difficulties

26/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29785973
PHOTO CREDIT LA REPUBBLICA

ROME – The Serie A fixtures list was compromised over the weekend as four football matches were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Italian government declared in a statement. The four cancelled fixtures were between Inter Milan and Sampdoria, Turin and Parma, Atalanta and Sassuolo and Hallas Verona against Cagliari. Their cancellation poses major problems such as with regards to TV licencing, and Serie A have cancelled citing force majeure, or extenuating circumstances that were not foreseeable, reports Il Fatto Quotidiano.

  The president of the Serie A football league, Paolo Dal Pino, sent a letter to the government, asking for areas considered at risk not to have their fixtures suspended but to be held without spectators instead, which would add to the economic impact already inflicted by the coronavirus fallout. La Repubblica reported on Tuesday that the Italian government have agreed and issued a decree which allows for northern clubs to compete as long as their stadiums are not open to the public.

  The crucial Serie A match between Juventus and Inter on March 1 is now set to take place behind closed doors, although Juventus have not provided paying fans with a guarantee of refund.

  Inter Milan’s coach, Antonio Conte, told reporters on Saturday that he was pleased with the Sampdoria cancellation, as it had in any case been difficult to prepare given that it would have taken place a mere 72 hours after their Europa League fixture.

  The tightly regulated Serie A calendar means that the next window of opportunity to reschedule the cancelled fixtures would be May 20, 2020. This would be the last opportunity before May 24, when the next European Football Championships is set to start.

  Walter Ricciardi, a member of the WHO who has been appointed to advise the Italian Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, has told radio that “the first strategy is not to bring people together in places where they are in close contact with each other. I advised as a health technician and person who is passionate about sports that playing behind closed doors is the right thing to do."

jmj



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Six Nations in Rome to change in social responsibility drive

Six Nations in Rome to change in social responsibility drive

20/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29777551
PHOTO CREDIT: Hemispheres Voyages

ROME – The traditional wooden spoon matchup in the Six Nations is to focus on environmental sustainability and social awareness, under the title ‘Responsible Oval World’, according to a press release on Wednesday from the Italian Rugby Federation (FIR).

  A collaboration between the FIR and ‘Punto 3’, an events company that specializes in sustainability, will ensure that the 2020 Six Nations' fixtures in Rome will use compostable glasses. In addition, the Stadio Olimpico’s food waste will be recovered by Equoevento, a Roman non-profit who fight food waste.

  There will also be a public transport awareness drive and alternative mobility options, through the collaboration of Rome’s transport authorities (ATAC), and public transport services Roma Mobilità and Moovit. The Vice President of FIR, Onorio Rebecchini, said that the new initiative will create, in the years to come, a Roman Six Nations that is “fully sustainable, inclusive, accessible.”

  The first test match in Rome will be played on Sat. 22, when the Azzurri face Scotland, and is being built as Italy’s one chance to avoid coming in last place. If they do, they will be the recipients of the wooden spoon for what would be the fifth year in a row. Despite Italy scoring nearly three times as many points per opposition 22 entry than Scotland in this year's Six Nations, Scotland still run out clear favourites.

  The Six Nations is estimated to turn-over 20 million euro for the Italian economy. Several thousand England and Scotland fans are expected to arrive in Italy for the upcoming matches in Rome, and the British ambassador to Italy, Jill Morris, hosts a welcome party on Feb. 21 with Princess Anne, according to Corriere Della Sera.

  On March 14, Italy play their final match against England, and a catwalk has been organised for the many different social responsibility projects, such as one which will influence the lives of prisoners in Italian jails, called the ‘Rugby beyond bars’ initiative, which also aims to facilitate the integration of migrants, according to the FIR.

jmj



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Kobe Bryant: The God in the Machine

Kobe Bryant: The God in the Machine

20/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29776156
PHOTO CREDIT: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

  What was it about Kobe Bryant that made him a sporting great? Kobe was the third highest scorer in NBA history and was capable of incredibly creative shots. He scored by passing to himself off the backboard and dunking-home. He scored while facing away from the net and shooting blind over his head. He even scored from behind the backboard by shooting over the backboard. Overall, his shot selection was masterfully varied. Some were so low and fast that they threatened to give onlookers whiplash, while others had such hang-time that an onlooker might conceivably forgot a ball was up in the air at all. 

  There exists an explanatory trinity which preports to answer the question. First, natural ability. Kobe, at 198 cm, had the height, and this was matched by a lean, lanky and hyper-athletic 96 kg frame. Second, relentless hard work. Kobe separated himself by way of early mornings and late nights, as well as hours spent doing analysis. Third, luck. Kobe was lucky to have outstanding physical and mental attributes in the first place, but was also lucky in more environmental ways, developing his game young over a seven-year spell in Italy, in Tuscany, Emilio-Romagna and Calabria.

  You need all three to get to the top of professional sport, and Kobe, who died tragically in a helicopter crash on Jan 26, had them all. However, there might be a fourth element that accounts for some of what makes sporting greats like Kobe, and it might have something to do with ‘faith’. Kobe was a Catholic, but it is not his Catholicism that I mean to draw attention to here (after all, sporting greats are represented across multiple faiths). Instead, it seems that it is faith in a more general sense, and the unquestioning aspect of it, that can brings about benefits for the professional sportsman.

  To explain how this might work, two types of rules in basketball must be distinguished. There are institutional rules, which tell you how a game is played, (bounce the ball every step and a half) and there are strategic rules, which tell you how you should play a game (when shooting, don’t overarch your shot). The first type of rule always applies. The second type of rule does not. This applies for any sport.

  There are moments of genius in sport that seem to change preconceived notions about how the game can be played. Maradona’s wonder goal against England in the World Cup Quarter Final in the 1986; Muhammed Ali’s demolition of Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams in 1996; Kobe Bryant’s 81 point-game against the raptors in 2006, which set the record in the modern era of professional basketball. These sporting greats all pulled off the unexpected, surprising their respective commentators with what they did on the pitch, in the ring and on the court. 

  These sporting greats had ‘the golden touch’, or what might more accurately be called, ‘the instictive ability to conjure up solutions’. Gary Kasparov, the grandmaster of chess who famously defeated the chess computer Deep Blue in the 1990s, once said that, “machines will not always win because they see better solutions, but because they make fewer mistakes.” Some people are able to see previously unthought-of solutions, and when they do they sometimes have to break strategic rules.

  Sports are not solved games. Solved games, like chequers, are games that can be rationally thought through at every point of play until players know exactly what they should do and every other alternative is made impossible. Unsolved games, like chess, are games in which players can perform seemingly illogical moves in moments of brilliance, and they can do this because rational computation onlys get you so far. After all, the number of moves in chess is practically infinite. And if this is the case for something as formulaic as chess, then what does this mean for the chaos on the basketball court?

  Thinking about infinite possibilities is probably quite a bad idea for a professional sportsmen, who typically tend towards the obsessive anyway. Kobe’s first coach, Gioacchino Fusacchia, recalled how the basketball legend cried when being taken off during a game at the age of seven. Lots of children are like that, but very few stay that single-minded into adulthood.

  Infinity is perhaps the ultimate abstraction. God’s another. Thinking too much about the relationship between a moment of magic and whatever it was that allowed it to happen is a risky business for an obsessive. Thinking too hard about what it is that enables you to do what you do is the last thing you should do if you want to keep doing what you’re doing; for to be caught in these reflexive abstractions is to risk never stepping back onto the court. Far safer to warily reach for the “it just came to me” adage in the postmatch interview. 

  A common coping-mechanism for the professional sportsman are superstitions. Superstition gives the sportsman the illusion of control over ‘the golden touch’. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform every game. What was Kobe’s quirk? Perhaps the sleeve he wore on this arm. Perhaps the fact he sucked his shirt. In fact, it’s not clear Kobe had one. Once, in retirement, Kobe called superstitious fans “simple minded” for thinking that his analysis on the ESPN show ‘Detail’ was jinxing their teams’ results.

  The type of superstition those fans exhibited though, is very different kind to that of a sporting great, because a sporting great uses superstition productively in order to self-regulate. The placebo effect is real, and the most interesting thing about it is that it works even if you understand it’s a placebo. None of this is to imply that Kobe didn’t believe in his Catholic faith. It is to say that if Kobe didn’t have any superstitions, his faith might have worked as a control mechanism – the type of closed-system that might be crucial in allowing someone to cope with sporting greatness.

  Faith, then, seems to be a bad word for what I’m trying to describe. But ‘talent’, or ‘dedication', or ‘luck’, doesn’t serve to explain sporting greatness either. Machines alone cannot see the solutions that will eventually result in multiple NBA all-star awards and NBA championships. There needs to be a God in the Machine. The word ‘Grace’ comes to mind. Heirick Von Kliest once said that “Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness. That is, in the puppet or in the god."

  It’s not clear in their moments of magic which one a sporting great is – a puppet or a god. But when the ball does finally drops back into vision, with a swish that says ‘nothing but net’, it doesn’t seem to matter much.

jmj



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Blackmailed Balotelli says thanks to ‘good journalists’

Blackmailed Balotelli says thanks to ‘good journalists’

18/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29774723
PHOTO CREDIT: Pro Shots

BRESCIA - An unnamed teenage girl has been investigated for allegedly blackmailing the football player Mario Balotelli, according to judicial sources. The Brescia judiciary have contacted colleagues from Vicenza, in order to evaluate the framework through which the accusations were made.

  The girl, 18, from Bassano del Grappa, accused the football player Mario Balotelli of having relationship with her when she was under age. She asked for 100 thousand euros in change for her silence, otherwise she would have turned in the football player to the police for sexual violence.

  Balotelli made statement after his recent match against Juventus.  The player said that he had made complaints against the teenager. “If someone blackmails you and you admit to pay, it means that you have dirty conscience. Good journalists still exist and do not buy false information,’’ said Balotelli.

  The young girl allegedly started to flirt with the Italian national player in 2017, and Balotelli claims he immediately asked her age, but that the teenager had lied and used her adult cousin’s identification card.

  Roberto Imparato, the teenager’s legal representative at the time, tried to contact the Italian weekly magazine ‘Chi’ to sell the information, but he was refused by the magazine editor.

  The lawyer who now represents the teenager, Elisa Romeo, has said that although the “relationship started consensually,” it “evolved into unwanted sexual acts, and therefore into sexual violence,” as quoted in Corriere Della Sera.

  jp-jm-rt



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Blackmailed Balotelli pays thanks to ‘good journalists’

Blackmailed Balotelli pays thanks to ‘good journalists’

18/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29774188
PHOTO CREDIT: Pro Shots

BRESCIA - An unnamed teenage girl has been investigated for blackmailing the football player Mario Balotelli, according to judicial sources. The Brescia judiciary have contacted colleagues from Vicenza, in order to evaluate the framework through which the accusations were made.

  The girl, 18, from Bassano del Grappa, accused the football player Mario Balotelli for having relationship with her when she was under age. She asked for 100 thousand euros in change for her silence, otherwise she would have turned in the football player to the police for sexual violence.

  Balotelli made statement after his recent match against Juventus.  The player said that he had made complaints against the teenager. “If someone blackmails you and you admit to pay, it means that you have dirty conscience. Good journalists still exist and do not buy false information,’’ said Balotelli.

  The young girl allegedly started to flirt with the Italian national player in 2017, and Balotelli claims he immediately asked her age, but that the teenager had lied and used her adult cousin’s identification card.

  Roberto Imparato, the teenager’s legal representative at the time, tried to contact the Italian weekly magazine ‘Chi’ to sell the information, but he was refused by the magazine editor.

  The lawyer who now represents the teenager, Elisa Romeo, has said that although the “relationship started consensually,” it “evolved into unwanted sexual acts, and therefore into sexual violence,” as quoted in Corriere Della Sera.

rt



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Dark horse Lazio romp upwards in the league standings

Dark horse Lazio romp upwards in the league standings

17/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29772673
PHOTO CREDIT: MUNDOCRACKS

ROME – Lazio dispatched Inter Milan with a 2-1 victory on Sunday, and displayed the physical and mental attributes needed to win Serie A for the first time in twenty years.

   In a highly tactical performance, Lazio pressurised Inter throughout a goalless first half, but fell behind when Inter struck through a volley by Ashley Young. The ball fell kindly at the ex-Manchester United player's feet, and he thumped in his first goal for Inter Milan on the full.

   An undeterred Lazio drew level through a penalty from Serie A’s top scorer Circo Immobile, before the winning goal was hit home by Milinkovic-Savic, whose left foot tucked the ball into the left-hand corner. The match ended with both teams spoiling opportunities. Inter had a header from Lautaro Martinez disallowed, before Immobile, after a lovely touch, couldn’t provide a finishing one in a one-on-one with the keeper.

  Lazio have now replaced Inter in the league standings, moving up to second and only one point behind leaders Juventus. Lazio have only won Serie A twice and Inter have now been beaten twice in this campaign, in what could be the beginnings of a reversal in fortunes for the two sides.

   Juventus earned an expected victory on Sunday against second-last place Brescia. The score ended 2-0, with the seminal moment in the match coming when Brescia’s Florian Aye was red carded and Paulo Dybala curled home the resulting free-kick from inches outside the box. Juventus rested Cristiano Ronaldo, but fan-favourite Giorgio Chiellini played his first match in 6 months, coming on as a substitute late in the game.

  Mid-table AC Milan play Torino on Monday, in a game that although they are expected to win is nevertheless high pressure, due to speculation that surrounds the future of their head coach Stefano Pioli. In an interview with La Repubblica, Pioli said that “in a great club like Milan rumours are normal. I'm not worried about my future. I'm not even thinking about it."

jmj



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Can Juventus Win the 2020 UEFA Champions League?

Can Juventus Win the 2020 UEFA Champions League?

14/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29766617
PHOTO CREDIT: REUTERS

  The first half of the 2019-20 season wasn’t the best for Juventus. The team still earned a lot of points in the Serie A, but the performance of some of the leading players in the squad like Cristiano Ronaldo and the new signing Matthijs de Ligt was questionable.

  Many believed that the Portuguese forward was too old and the Dutch defender too young to lead Juventus to glory in the UEFA Champions League which is the club’s ultimate goal after almost a decade of dominance in Italy.

  Even the leading sports betting sites don’t put Juventus in the top favorites for the tournament. It was hard to disagree with them up to a month ago, but the situation has changed.

  The team is looking stronger and there might be an argument that Juventus could win the UEFA Champions League.

 

Reasons Why Juventus Can Win the Champions League

  Many people quickly dismissed Cristiano Ronaldo as finished at the highest level after several tough moments. The iconic forward has been proving them wrong recently. The five-time Ballon D’Or winner is scoring for fun and has found his best form right when it matters the most.

  When Ronaldo is in such a condition, he can single-handedly win games against even the best teams in Europe which is the main reason to believe that Juventus can challenge for the Champions League.

  If you add the strong defense and the improving de Ligt who already led Ajax to the last 4 in the previous campaign, it seems like the team might be one of the dark horses of the tournament.

  The next round shouldn’t be a problem either, because Juventus will have to face Lyon. The French team is certainly weaker, so the path to the quarterfinals looks clear.

 

Reasons Why Juventus Can’t Win the Champions League

  Despite the recent improvement of Ronaldo and the team as a whole, Juventus will face several serious obstacles on the road to the Champions League title. For a start, some of the clubs in the competition are simply stronger than the Italian champions.

  Liverpool is the best example, as the Reds are arguably the best team in the world right now. If you add the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and PSG, the road to the title certainly looks tough.

  While all of these teams have their issues and weaknesses, most of them are better or at least equal to Juventus right now.

  The other problem is that the Italian Serie A is much more competitive this season. Both Inter and Lazio are chasing Juventus and there’s a genuine title fight. As a result, the team won’t be able to rest players for the Champions League matches as often as Maurizio Sarri would’ve liked.

 

Conclusion

  Winning the UEFA Champions League is always a tough task and this season is not an exception. 

  Juventus is certainly not among the favorites of the tournament, but if Cristiano Ronaldo keeps scoring and the defense keeps improving, the Italian champions have a chance to lift the trophy.



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Serie A excites with two stunning comebacks

Serie A excites with two stunning comebacks

10/02/2020, Italy, Multi Sports, Italy Publications, Article # 29761751
PHOTO CREDIT: twitter.com/bantuxclusive

ROME – Inter Milan vanquished AC Milan in a thrilling match on Sunday that gave them pole position in the league standings, after Juvetus were dealt a dramatic defeat in their Saturday away game.

  On Saturday, Hellas Verona beat Juventus 2-1. Despite taking the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo who beat a defender with a stepover and dispatched his shot low past the keeper, the Juventus defence let in two late goals which jeopardize their title chances. Fabio Borini scored an equalizer, and then a penalty was awarded with only minutes remaining on the clock after a tense VAR consultation by the referee. Giampaolo Pazzini took the penalty and placed it high into the right-hand corner of the net to give Hellas Verona the victory.

  The derby between Inter Milan and AC Milan held at the San Siro on Sunday finished 4-2. Although starting lethargically and conceding twice, Inter launched a stunning second-half assault that began with a smooth volley from Marcelo Brozovicin from just outside the box. Matias Vecino then drew Inter level with an awkward finish – the ball bouncing through the legs of a covering defender. Inter pressed on to take the lead through Stefan de Vrij, who stooped low to score a neat header, before another header from Romelu Lukaku finished the game off.

  Inter are now unbeaten in 16 league games, and although they remain tied on points with Juventus, they are ahead in the standings due to their superior goal difference. Inter's title challenge means that there is a serious chance an era of Juventus dominance ending, an era which began back in 2012. There are reports that Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri is facing challenges in the dressing-room with his squad, who have struggled to adapt to his high-press defensive tactics, according to Il Messaggero.

  Lazio are now one point behind Juventus and Inter in third, having beat Parma over the weekend 1-0. Next Sunday, Inter play Lazio in a crucial league match.

jmj



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