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FA Cup 4th round: Man United get Yeovil, Chelsea could play Newscastle [See full draw]

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been conducted on Monday, before the final tie of the third round between Brighton and Crystal Palace.

There were a total of 13 teams from League One and League Two in the fourth round draw, with Yeovil Town the lowest-ranked team remaining in the competition following their win over Bradford City in the last round.

They will take on Manchester United, Tottenham take on Newport away, while Manchester City visit either Cardiff or Mansfield.

The competition will have a new winner this year, as holders Arsenal were dumped out by Nottingham Forest on Sunday.

Fourth-round ties will be played on the weekend of January 27-28.

Full draw:

Liverpool v West Brom

Peterborough v Fleetwood/Leicester

Huddersfield v Birmingham

Notts County v Wolves/Swansea

Yeovil v Manchester United

Carlisle/Sheffield Weds v Stevenage/Reading

Cardiff/Mansfield v Manchester City

MK Dons v Coventry

Millwall v Rochdale

Southampton v Watford

Middlesbrough v Brighton/Crystal Palace

Bournemouth/Wigan v Shrewsbury/West Ham

Hull v Nottingham Forest

Newport County v Spurs

Norwich/Chelsea v Newcastle

Sheffield United v Preston

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Stoke City sack manager Mark Hughes

English Premier League club Stoke City have sacked manager Mark Hughes after they were beaten by League Two side Coventry City in the FA Cup third round, the club announced on Saturday.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Hughes was sacked by chief executive Tony Scholes at Stoke’s training ground after returning from Coventry.

Hughes who spent four and half years with the club had been under pressure after a poor run of form which saw Stoke fall into the Premier League relegation zone.

A 2-1 defeat at the Ricoh Arena proved the final straw, and Stoke confirmed via Twitter on Saturday night that Hughes had been dismissed.

The statement thanked Hughes for leading Stoke to their best finishes of the Premier League era – three straight ninth places – but said they would now be looking for a new manager.

It read: ”Stoke City can confirm that the contract of manager Mark Hughes has been terminated with immediate effect.

”We would like to thank Mark for all he has achieved for the Club over the last four and a half years, notably in guiding us to three successive ninth places finishes in the Premier League, and we wish him every success for the future.

”The Club will look to appoint a new manager as soon as possible and will be making no further comment at this time.”

Hughes had claimed after the loss to Coventry, a side 53 league places lower than Stoke, that the result would not affect his future and he was confident of remaining in his job.

He said: “Has it changed anything markedly from this afternoon? Is it any different from the situation after the Newcastle game? I don’t think it is. It just highlights we need to do better.”

Stoke, who have played in the top flight for nearly a decade since 2008, are currently 18th in the Premier League table, with 20 points from their 22 fixtures so far.

Over the Christmas period they suffered a number of disappointing results, including home defeats to relegation rivals West Ham and Newcastle, and a 5-0 thrashing at Chelsea.

Many Stoke fans had begun to turn against Hughes, with banners and chants directed against the Welshman seen and heard among the away end on Saturday.

After the defeat, chairman Peter Coates decided to act and end Hughes’ 199-game, four-and-a-half year spell as Stoke manager

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Liberia: The Rise of George Weah, by Reuben Abati

George Weah’s emergence as Liberia’s President-elect after the December 26 run-off election generated considerable interest among Nigerians for a number of reasons. Number one is George Weah’s popularity.  The first African footballer to win the Ballon D’or, FIFA Player of the Year, three-time African Footballer of the Year, ex-Monaco, ex-Paris Saint-Germain, ex-AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City, former protégé of Arsene Wenger, virtually every football fan in Nigeria had a feeling of connection with the Liberian football star turned politician and  President-elect. In Nigeria, football is the most uniting element within the public space; thus, once it became apparent that George Weah was set to become the 25th President of Liberia, the social media in Nigeria went into an overdrive. The Liberian President-elect probably got more congratulatory messages from Nigerians on Facebook and Twitter.

Number two: Weah’s victory came at a time when there was scarcity of good news in Nigeria. As Christmas 2017 approached, Nigeria suddenly found itself in the throes of an embarrassing scarcity of fuel, which left many motorists stranded and Yuletide activities effectively crippled. An already frustrated citizenry seemed helpless as governmentofficials and oil marketers traded blames. The former lied openly in the face of shocking revelations about the politics of fuel subsidy. For the football community, George Weah’s victory brought some measure of good news.  It was as if their favourite footballer had scored a special goal.

Number three reason is the relationship, which both George Weah and his Vice-President-elect Jewell Howard Taylor have established with Nigeria. Weah, in the company of Prince Yommie Johnson, who once lived in Ikoyi, Lagos had visited Pastor Temitope Joshua of The Synagogue Church in Nigeria before the election. Pastor Joshua seems to have a reputation across the African continent and beyond for being able to assist persons to become President. Weah’s victory was immediately linked to Pastor Joshua and the prayers he had offered to God on his behalf. Ms. Howard Taylor is the former wife of former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, now in prison for war crimes. Charles Taylor was in exile in Nigeria before his trial at The Hague. His wife, now Vice President-elect has maintained very strong relationships with Nigeria, indeed one of the first persons to take to the media to celebrate her was her Nigerian fashion designer and her husband.

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Number four reason and perhaps the most telling is: the-grass-to-grace-story, the-slum-to-palace, football-pitch-to-Presidential-Villa, inspirational trajectory of George Weah’s career. The new President-elect represents a symbol of hope and triumph over adversity for not just young Liberians but other young persons across the continent, especially in Nigeria. I have heard many young Nigerians profess in the last week, that “if George Weah can make it, they too can make it.” Raised in a slum, from the poorest parts of Liberia, George Weah’s qualities were first strikingly revealed through his football career. He tried to give back to his country as an international football star, and once during the civil war, he single-handedly funded his country’s national soccer team.

He retired in 2003. In 2005, he returned home to run for the Presidency of Liberia. His opponent was the Harvard-trained public administrator and ex-World Bank accountant, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Weah was the people’s preferred choice (28.3 to 20%) but the Presidential election went on to a run-off. Weah lost the second round once the public was reminded that he was just a gifted footballer without even a Secondary School Certificate! Weah took this as a challenge and decided to seek formal education.  He sat for the Secondary School Certificate Examination in 2006 at the age of 40. He proceeded to the United States and got a degree and a Masters’ degree. Then he returned to Liberia to pursue his dream afresh.

In 2014, he was elected to the Liberian Senate, beating Sirleaf’s son, Robert, to the Montserrado County seat. In 2017, he was elected President, twelve years after his initial attempt and as Johnson- Sirleaf’s successor. Among young Nigerians, he is the very paragon of determination and ruthless single-minded volition. Young Nigerians are so unhappy; they are slaves of inspirational stories such as this. They troop to churches in large numbers because they are looking for hope and motivation. Above all, they like the fact that George Weah is just 51.  It is the kind of age bracket many Nigerians want for their next President. Contemporary circumstances have made them wary of making the mistake of electing into office anyone who may be too old to govern.

To this situational and relational connection with the just concluded Liberian Presidential election should be added the fact that Nigeria played a major role through the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) during the two Liberian civil wars (1989 – 1997; 1997 -2003). Many Nigerian families are forever linked to Liberia through ECOMOG. Many Liberians also came to live in camps in Nigeria and forged life-long relationships. This should further draw attention to one point: Elections or democratic processes in Africa are no longer isolated events. In many cases, there are cross-boundary factors and influences and the much sought-after African integration and cooperation is far more effective at the level of person-to-person diplomacy. The failure of African governments to promote this by providing the infrastructure and the political will, beyond seasonal rhetorical talk, is part of the bane of the integration process in Africa.

So much for why the election in Liberia has caused notable excitement in Nigeria; democracy is as much about imageries as it is about realities. When he takes the oath office on January 22, 2018 to become Liberia’s 25thPresident, George Weah will have to deal with many realities. He came to power on the crest-wave of popularity. Liberia’s youthful population is on his side. He is their hero. But he will need more than popularity to rule that country of 4.5 million people which has a history that is even far more complex than that of Nigeria. In an acceptance speech that came a bit late, George Weah spoke a lot about God, trip to Jerusalem, reconciliation, appeal to Liberians in Diaspora to come home and how his first task would be to deal with corruption. The details of what else he intends to do, he says, will be unveiled at a later date. The general tone of thatacceptance speech shows President-elect George Weah may still have a lot to learn.

He campaigned on the platform of change. Popularity will not guarantee that change. In the past 12 years, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has managed to ensure post-conflict peace and stability in Liberia and has raised the profile of her country in the West African sub-region. Her autobiography – This Child Will Be Great (2009) may sound pompous but she is definitely ending her tour of duty as the first great President in Africa’s oldest democracy: Nobel Prize Laureate, first African woman President, under her watch, Liberia’s external debt was written off, some war-time infrastructure were repaired and she brought in investors, particularly the Chinese. Liberia also regained her voice within the international community, even if Mama Ellen has been accused of being too pro-American. It is also under her watch that Liberia has recorded the first democratic transition since 1944, and despite the initial hiccup of a run-off (recent Presidential elections in Liberia have ended with a run-off – 2005, 2011 and 2017), the 2017 election still ended peacefully. George Weah should see the need to build on her legacy.

There are expectations, not just from the young Liberians who voted for him, but also across the continent. The Liberian economy remains weak, and far removed from its potential, given the country’s rich resource base; unemployment is double-digit, infrastructure deficit is high. The process of reconstruction initiated under Sirleaf needs to be fast-tracked to provide jobs for the people and to reassure them that their country is truly on the path to restoration and progress. When the people hear the word “change” during political campaigns, they imagine that it is real and immediate. In recent elections in Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, and now Liberia, the people’s democratic engagement has been anchored on this rhetoric of change. It is also what the protesters in Cameroon, Togo and DR Congo are currently demanding. To promise the people change and deny them that change is to betray their trust and goodwill.  

The George Weah Presidency is the product of enormous goodwill. George Weah should therefore realize, early enough, that the coalition that has brought him to power is not a coalition merely in name; it is a coalition with implications that cannot be taken for granted. Senator Jewell Howard Taylor led her party to join the George Weah group to produce the now formidable Coalition for Democratic Change. Prince Yommie Johnson who had been in another camp eventually joined the coalition to ensure victory. But perhaps Vice President Joseph Boakai also provided the needed oxygen of sportsmanship when in his concession speech, he decided to put Liberia first. He said: “I reject any temptation of imposing pain, hardship, agony and uncertainty upon our people. My name will not be used as an excuse for one drop of human blood to be spilled in this country.” This Goodluck Jonathan-inspired speech is most instructive. President Johnson-Sirleaf also deserves praise for allowing democracy to run its course. It is not always that African politicians agree to lose gallantly and choose to be magnanimous in either victory or defeat.

In The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh had a change of mind. In Cote d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo forced the issue and ended up at The Hague. In Kenya, Raila Odinga, leader of the NASA opposition is about to start a shameless dance. He has again dismissed the outcome of the last Presidential elections in that country as unacceptable. In January 2018, he says we should expect “civil disobedience, peaceful protests, non-cooperation with and resistance to an illegitimate regime in addition to People’s Assemblies.” This kind of tendency to see politics as a zero-sum game is the biggest challenge to the democratization process in Africa.          

George Weah has promised to fight corruption. In 2010, Transparency International labeled Liberia the most corrupt country in the world. President Sirleaf sacked a few Ministers but seven years later, the subject remains an embarrassment. The crisis persists. Weah, however, must resist the temptation to turn his anti-corruption campaign into a McCarthy-style witch-hunt/persecution of his predecessors in office.  

Liberia is indeed a complex country. It remains divided along ethnic and traditional lines. Samuel Doe triggered a crisis with his victimization of traditional power centres and the ethnicization of his government when he filled virtually every position with members of his Krahn group. President Johnson-Sirleaf has been similarly accused of nepotism, filling positions with family members and friends and having the temerity to justify her decision. George Weah is expected to be a unifying figure. The people are hoping that he would help transform Liberia into a “level playing field”: create open and equal access to opportunities, bridge the yawning gap between the rich and the poor, pave the country’s roads, make electricity accessible to the majority and create jobs for the unemployed.

Those who voted for him are used to his dexterity on the football pitch; although football and political leadership are not the same things, Weah as President will need the same passion and all the skills of a footballer. He must hit the pitch running, make use of every opportunity, work hard, keep his eyes on the ball, play as a team, display leadership, and score goals. The ball will be passed to him on January 22. He should not disappoint. 

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Eboue speaks as Galatasaray offers ex-Arsenal star job after suicidal thoughts

Galatasaray have offered Emmanuel Eboue a lifeline after the former Arsenal defender revealed he had contemplated suicide.

Eboue, who once slept in a palatial home and drove expensive cars, recently disclosed he is bankrupt.

He played for Arsene Wenger’s side between 2004 and 2011.

Speaking to The Sunday Mirror, he said: “I want God to help me. Only he can help take these [suicidal] thoughts from my mind.

“It hurts me a lot [not to see his children]. They used to call me. But now, no contact. It pains me to be alone without them.”

On Monday, news broke that the Turkish giants said they would hand an academy coaching role to the 34-year-old.

Galatasaray boss Fatih Terim, who has taken over at the Istanbul club for the fourth time in his career, told CNN Turk that he would give the former Ivory Coast full-back the role of under-14 assistant coach at the club.

Terim said: ‘We heard news about Eboue in the dressing room, I was informed there, we will do whatever we can to help my friend.”

Reacting, Eboue said: “I would be very happy if Fatih gave me the duty in Galatasaray.

“Fatih Terim is my father, I love him very much, I do everything for him because I love him very much”, Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

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Ex-Arsenal player, Emmanuel Eboue is broke, sleeps on a friend’s floor

Former Arsenal defender, Emmanuel Eboue, cannot afford a washing machine and sleeps on the floor in a friend’s place after suffering a dip in fortunes.

The Ivory Coast’s former player pocketed millions of pounds per year while plying his trade in England, but in a bare-all and heart-wrenching interview with The Mirror, the 34-year-old revealed he had been pushed to the brink of suicide.

Apart from sleeping on the floor of a friend’s home, Eboue – who also played for Galatasaray and Sunderland, claimed he dodges court ­bailiffs on a daily basis.

How did Eboue’s fortune changed? The right back, who is currently unable to play football because of ill-health, lost all his assets to his wife Aurelie after a divorce battle.

He was ordered by a judge to transfer his home to Aurelie, so the former Arsenal defender has since hidden from bailiffs for three weeks.

“I can’t afford the money to continue to have any lawyer or barrister. I am in the house but I am scared. Because I don’t know what time the police will come.” Eboue told The Mirror.

“Sometimes I shut off the lights because I don’t want people to know that I am inside. I put everything behind the door.”

To add to his woes, the 34-year-old has not seen his children since June. Not to mention the fact that his grandfather Amadou Bertin, who raised him throughout his life, died in October.

Eboue spoke about being naive and has warned other young African footballers to learn from the mistakes he made:

“I look back and say ­’Emmanuel, you have been naive… why didn’t you think about that before?’ It is hard. Very, very hard. The money I earned, I sent it to my wife for our children.” Eboue said.

“In Turkey I earned eight million euros. I sent seven million back home. Whatever she tells me to sign, I sign.

“She is my wife. The problems with FIFA were because of people advising me. People who are supposed to care. But it was because of them FIFA banned me.”
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Barcelona blow away Madrid in El Clasico

Barcelona opened up  a huge 14-point lead over Real Madrid,  the European and world champions after beating them 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Goals from Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Aleix Vidal made sure that Madrid will no longer be contesting for the title this season.

In a recurring theme of this season Madrid were made to pay for Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema missing first-half chances as Barca took control after half-time.

Suarez rounded off a flowing counter-attack to open the scoring before Messi blasted home a penalty after Madrid defender Dani Carvajal was sent-off for punching the ball off the goal line.

And Messi was the creator as Vidal rubbed salt into Real’s wounds deep into stoppage time.

Victory extends Barca’s unbeaten run to 25 games in all competitions as they moved nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid and exacted revenge for a 5-1 thrashing on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup at the hands of Real in August.

Madrid do still have a game in hand over Barca to marginally reduce the gap at the top, but their efforts in the new year are now likely to be more focused on becoming the first side to win three consecutive Champions League titles in over 40 years.

Despite the clash between the Spanish capital’s and Catalonia’s two giants taking place just two days after three parties favouring independence for the prosperous region from Spain retained an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament, there was little attention paid to politics inside the ground once the action got underway.

Madrid fans unfurled a huge banner proclaiming it to be a “white Christmas” after they claimed a club record five trophies in 2017.

However, it is Barca who will enjoy the upcoming winter break more after a second-half display which showed the turning of the tide their way since August has been no fluke.

It could have been very different for the hosts if Cristiano Ronaldo had buried a huge opportunity when he completely mis-kicked just 10 minutes in.

Barca didn’t threaten at all until the half hour mark when Messi finally found some room in a congested midfield to pick out Paulinho’s late run and the Brazilian’s acrobatic effort was matched by a flying save from Kaylor Navas.

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Video: Arsenal, Liverpool in Emirates thriller

It was a thriller at the Emirates on Friday night as Liverpool survived an incredible Arsenal fightback and rescued a  3-3 draw,   a match that soccer pundits described as a  strong contender for the Premier League’s game of the season.

And after the game was over, the two coaches, Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp rued the missed opportunities on the game that ended a deadlock.

Klopp, coach of Liverpool said: “We were the better side, we put them under pressure and they couldn’t play like they wanted to. Before they scored we could have scored two, three or four more. We couldn’t do that but that’s life. We gave them opportunities – in a situation like that you need to be angry at yourself. But then we came back into the game, scored our third and a point is the minimum we deserved today, although three goals should be enough here”.

And Wenger  whose side came back from the dead to level scores at 2-2 and then  failed to consolidate a 3-2 lead, also remarked:  “It was a thrilling game with both teams going for it, but a bit frustrating we didn’t win – but these are the kind of games you want in the Premier League. We didn’t give up, the spirit is absolutely fantastic. I’m proud of the players, the way they responded shows a strong mentality and it’s not a coincidence that we won the most points from losing positions. What we need to realise is that it’s important to start like that.”

Philippe Coutinho’s first half opener and Mohamed Salah’s strike after the interval appeared to have put Liverpool on course for an early Christmas present at London’s  Emirates Stadium.

But Arsenal hit back in stunning style with three goals in five minutes from Alexis Sanchez, Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil.

There was one last plot twist as Firmino bagged Liverpool’s equaliser to cap a breath-taking clash that was almost as memorable as the Reds’ 4-3 victory over Arsenal in the corresponding fixture last season.

Fourth placed Liverpool remain one point above fifth placed Arsenal after a Christmas cracker that underlined the qualities and problems with two teams who harboured title ambitions in August, but now trail way behind runaway leaders Manchester City.

Liverpool are unbeaten in their last 10 league games, but boss Jurgen Klopp will be kicking himself after his team’s defensive and goalkeeping flaws were exposed again.

Arsenal have now won just one of last five league matches and despite their spirited comeback, manager Arsene Wenger was left to rue age-old problems in his attacking game-plan.

Liverpool, in their lurid orange away kit, suffered an early blow when captain Jordan Henderson limped off injured.

Despite that setback, Klopp could still call on his ‘fab four’ of Coutinho, Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane.

In sublime form this season, two of that group conjured Liverpool’s 26th minute opener as Arsenal, with Xhaka and Jack Wilshere offering scant protection for their back four, paid the price for a lacklustre start.

James Milner sent Salah surging away down the right flank and when the Egyptian’s cross deflected off Laurent Koscielny, it fell perfectly for Coutinho, who finished his lung-bursting run with a deft header over Petr Cech for his 11th club goal this season.

Klopp’s side should have been two up by half-time, but Firmino curled over and Salah shot too close to Cech.

Salah’s air-kick wasted another Liverpool opportunity and it was no surprise to hear Arsenal booed off at the interval.

– Epic collapse –

Wenger sent on centre-back Shkodran Mustafi for Nacho Monreal, but the fault-lines in Arsenal’s defence were still being exposed.

Salah finally got the goal his enterprising display deserved in the 52nd minute, advancing in the area as Arsenal backed off before slotting a fine finish into the far corner.

Salah’s 21st Liverpool goal this season should have been the knockout blow, but incredibly it was the signal for an epic collapse from the visitors.

Sanchez had been totally anonymous up to that point, but the Arsenal forward sprang to life to reduce the deficit 60 seconds after they fell two behind.

Hector Bellerin swung a cross to the far post and with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez losing concentration, Sanchez nipped in to head home.

Arsenal vs Liverpool 3-3 – All Goals & Highlights

#Arsenal vs #Liverpool 3-3 – All Goals & Highlights #EPL

Posted by The Bell Times on Friday, December 22, 2017

It was the spark that Arsenal needed and they were level three minutes later thanks to a Simon Mignolet howler.

When Xhaka took aim from 35 yards, the Arsenal midfielder’s powerful effort appeared to move in the air, but it was still straight at Mignolet, who tried to make a fisted save but instead diverted the ball into the net.

Suddenly, Liverpool were in disarray and Wenger’s men struck again with a majestic move in the 58th minute.

Ozil played the ball into Alexandre Lacazette, then took the French forward’s audacious back-heel in his stride before clipping a sweet finish past Mignolet.

The drama wasn’t over and Liverpool recovered their composure to equalise in the 71st minute.

This time it was Firmino who did the damage, beating Cech from the edge of the area with a stinging shot that the keeper palmed weakly into his own net.

As if that wasn’t enough to scramble the senses, Klopp’s exuberant celebration took him near enough to the Arsenal bench to have irked the hosts, who almost had the last laugh when Ozil’s cross nearly caught out Mignolet.

*Match report by AFP

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Swansea City sack Paul Clement as manager

The 45-year-old has been under pressure, with the Welsh club winning only one game in their last 11 fixtures, leaving them in real danger of relegation.

“To change the manager, especially at only the halfway point of the season, is the last thing we wanted to do as a club.

“We had three different managers last season and as a result we all wanted to give Paul as much time as possible to turn things around. But we felt we couldn’t leave it any longer and needed to make a change to give us the best chance of an uplift and a turnaround in fortunes with the club bottom of the Premier League.

“Paul has been at the club for 12 months and what he achieved in the second half of last season to keep us in the top flight was a tremendous feat. For that, and his effort and commitment this season, it goes without saying that the club thanks him for his work, together with Nigel (Gibbs) and Karl (Halabi).

“I have had an excellent working relationship with Paul and we are all, including the owners, surprised and disappointed it hasn’t worked out this season. We wish Paul every success in his career going forward,” Swansea chairman, Huw Jenkins, confirmed.

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Netanyahu slams Iran for forcing wrestler to avoid Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Iran forcing their wrestler to lose a bout in order to avoid competing against an Israeli perfectly summed up the regime’s hostility to the Jewish state.

In November, wrestler Iranian Alireza Karimi-Mashiani was forced by his coach to throw his bout at the World Championships in Poland, tournament  because Israel’s Uri Kalashnikov would have been his second-round opponent.

“Close your eyes and think about Alireza for a moment. He trained countless hours; he dreamed of becoming a world champion. But the Iranian regime would rather see its athletes lose than compete against Israelis,” Netanyahu said in a video released on the prime minister’s Facebook page.

 

Netanyahu called on the Iranian people to use social media to foster coexistence.

“I want you to film yourself playing a sport against someone of a different nationality, a different faith or different color. I want you to compete like hell – we’re all for competition,” Netanyahu said. “Then I want you to shake hands, go out for a drink together, and then upload this to the social media. I want you to show Iran’s regime that hating others will never make you a champion. It only makes you a pathetic and insecure loser.”

The Islamic Republic does not recognise the Jewish state, calling it the “Little Satan” — the United States is the “Great Satan” — and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.

The prime minister also said it was intolerable for a country to boycott another country in sport. “Just imagine, a government forbidding its athletes from competing against blacks, gays or Arabs,” he said.

The wrestler himself has acknowledged he was ordered to throw the fight and was very unhappy about it.

“In a moment, my whole world seemed to come to an end,” he said.

Wenger refuses to give up on Arsenal title hope

Arsene Wenger has refused to give up on the Premier League title despite a goalless draw at West Ham United that left Arsenal 19 points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Arsenal are seventh, below Burnley, having added just two points in three games after a 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester United and a 1-1 draw at Southampton before Wednesday’s stalemate.

The manager of third-placed Chelsea Antonio Conte and his counterpart at fourth-placed Tottenham, Mauricio Pochettino, have both conceded City will be impossible to overtake, but Wenger says he will not abandon hope of a first Arsenal title since 2004.

“That’s good to make headlines, but we have to focus on the next game,” the Arsenal manager said.

“City are too far away to talk about the title at the moment, but it’s one thing to be far away, it’s another thing to give up.

“You don’t give up. Our job is to fight as long as we can. I don’t listen too much to all that stuff. Our job is to fight and to continue to give everything and see where you finish.”

Arsenal are only one point off fourth place but did not look like a side going places despite enjoying the majority of possession against West Ham. Wenger was confident his side would not finish the season in seventh.

– Advantage Adrian –

“The table is the table, but it is not a definitive one today,” he said. “Let’s see after Christmas and January. There is a long way to go until May.

“Our performances are not reflected by the results. Against Manchester United we had 33 shots, but we didn’t win.

“Southampton was similar to tonight. There is a difference in what we create to what we score, but it will not last.”

West Ham beat champions Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday to give David Moyes a first victory as manager and the Scot said he would certainly have taken four points prior to the two London derbies.

The Hammers remain in the relegation places, but appear to be moving in the right direction.

Substitute Javier Hernandez almost won it for West Ham late on with a shot that hit the bar and bounced short of the line and Moyes credited Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech with a vital touch.

“If you hang in and stick with it you can get yourself opportunities and we got one right at the end,” he said.

“I thought it had gone in, but the goalkeeper saved it. Four points against Chelsea and Arsenal, we have got that. We have done a pretty good job against these two teams.”

Adrian has taken over in goal from England goalkeeper Joe Hart after the latter was unable to play against his parent team City three games ago.

The Spaniard put in a good performance in a 2-1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium and has followed that up with two clean sheets against top-quality opposition.

“At this moment in time Adrian has got the shirt,” Moyes said. “He played well.”