Author: AFP

Reading part ways with manager Jaap Stam

London (AFP) – Championship side Reading on Wednesday announced the departure of manager Jaap Stam, with the Chinese-owned club hovering dangerously close to the relegation zone. The former Manchester United and Netherlands defender led the Royals to the play-off final in his first season in charge but they have struggled this season and are 20th in the table with 36 points, just three clear of the drop zone. Reading, with just one win in their past 18 league matches, have eight matches to save themselves. “Majority shareholders, Mr Yongge Dai and Ms Xiu Li Dai, had wanted to give Jaap ... Read more

In Somalia, women defy strict rules to play football

Mogadishu (AFP) – Shortly after sunrise, a group of young women arrives at a football pitch in Mogadishu, where they shrug off their hijabs — some changing underneath the billowing veil — to reveal their team kit. Young Somali men stand nearby, some disapproving but all watching closely, as the women jog up and down, dribble a worn-out ball between colourful cones and do sit-ups, less than 200 metres (656 feet) from a heavily guarded security checkpoint. The sight of young women playing football is highly unusual in Somalia, due to societal pressures as well as fear of Al-Shabaab.  The ... Read more

Pogba tantalises with Neymar comments

Buenos Aires (AFP) – Out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba said it would be a pleasure to play with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar, whom he described as pure “joy on the pitch” in an interview with an Argentine sports channel Tuesday. “Neymar is the definition of joy on the pitch,” the French international told Argentina’s TyC Sports. “When I look at him on the pitch, he enjoys playing, with his technique, his ability and all that.  “I love watching him play. He’s a different guy, he has his own style. If one day I’m going to play with him, it’ll be ... Read more

Ivory Coast have ‘no news’ of absent Yaya Toure

Abidjan (AFP) – Ivory Coast’s Football Federation (FIF) on Tuesday said it had “no news” of the whereabouts of star midfielder Yaya Toure, who did not turn up for training in France ahead of upcoming friendlies. The 34-year-old Manchester City player came out of international retirement last December and was named in the Ivory Coast squad by interim coach Ibrahima Kamara. The four-time African Player of the Year originally retired from international duty on 100 caps after winning the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. “The technical staff has no news of Yaya Toure,” the FIF said at the team’s training ... Read more

Surgeon says Neymar’s recovery is ‘going well’

Paris (AFP) – Brazil team doctor Rodrigo Lasmar said on Tuesday that Neymar’s recovery from foot surgery “is going well”, as the star forward bids to be fit for the World Cup in Russia. Lasmar, who operated on Neymar on March 3, said he speaks “two or three time a day” with the physiotherapists working with the Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain player. “For now, everything is going well, they tell me every detail of Neymar’s recovery,” Lasmar told French sports daily L’Equipe. “They are working hard and in a very professional way so that he can return as quickly as ... Read more

Contenders for England’s goalkeeper World Cup conundrum

Burton-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Just three months out from the World Cup in Russia, England manager Gareth Southgate has admitted his “number one jersey is up for grabs” with four goalkeepers vying to start against Tunisia on June 18. Burnley’s Nick Pope has forced himself into Southgate’s reckoning with a fine season and is part of a four-strong group of goalkeepers for England’s final World Cup warm-up friendlies against the Netherlands on Friday and Italy on March 27 before Southgate names his World Cup squad. Here, AFP Sports looks at the contenders to be England’s number one in Russia: ... Read more

From non-league to World Cup, Pope dreams of keeping for England

Burton-on-Trent (United Kingdom) (AFP) – There was a time Nick Pope never dreamed he’d be called into the England squad, but now the Burnley goalkeeper is hoping to be his country’s number one at the World Cup. Pope, 25, has worked his way up through England’s football pyramid, playing in the fifth-tier Conference as recently as four seasons ago. “It’s a day I never thought I’d see come and now it’s massive elation for me,” Pope said on Tuesday. “Coming up through the leagues, some cold dark ones…you think the national team is too far away.” Pope wasn’t even a ... Read more

Pogba misses France training for treatment

Clairefontaine-en-Yvelines (France) (AFP) – Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba missed France’s training session for treatment on Tuesday as Didier Deschamps’ side prepared for Friday’s friendly with Colombia. Pogba, his United teammate Anthony Martial and Marseille winger Florian Thauvin were victims of “little knocks”, according to French officials. On Monday, Pogba trained as normal while Martial and Thauvin received treatment. Meanwhile, Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso trained with physios, separately from the main squad. Koscielny was taken off in a Europa League game against AC Milan last Thursday with a back problem that manager Arsene Wenger ... Read more