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Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

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Barcelona needs to brace for some tough times ahead while adjusting to the post-Lionel Messi era.

That message was clear after the 3-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, the team’s first defeat since Messi left amid the club’s financial struggles.

“It is what it is, we are what we are now,” veteran Barcelona captain Gerard Piqué said after the Catalan club was outplayed from the start at the Camp Nou. “It’s a complicated season.”

Looking nothing like the team that used to thrive when Messi was on the field, Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way.

“We would like to have competed better, but this is what we have right now,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “I can’t complain about our attitude, we tried our best. But there is a difference in talent and a difference between a team that has played a long time together and our team with lots of young players. It is difficult to accept, but we have to keep working.”

The loss came more than a year after the embarrassing 8-2 debacle against Bayern in the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons ago, a defeat that began exposing Barcelona’s struggles on and off the field.

“Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday.

“The sad reality,” said the daily Sport.

Koeman, who was hired shortly after the rout against Bayern, said it will take time for Barcelona to return to a top level.

“Our young players have a lot of potential, in two or three years they will be playing much better,” Koeman said. “But right now, it is what it is.”

Koeman also lost Antoine Griezmann in the transfer window last month, when the team’s main addition was Netherlands forward Memphis Depay. The club added veteran Sergio Aguero but he is among the several players recovering from injury, along with youngsters Ousmane Dembélé, Sergiño Dest and Ansu Fati. Koeman used 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and 17-year-old Gavi on Tuesday. Pedri González, also 18, was a starter.

“I look at the positive fact that we had some 18-year-old players coming into the match,” Piqué said. “It’s our reality now.”

Barcelona will have to rely a lot on its youngsters as it tries to recover from dire financial conditions caused by the pandemic and poor management. The Catalan club wasn’t able to hand Messi a new contract and saw him leave for free to Paris Saint-Germain, one of the main contenders for the Champions League title this season.

President Joan Laporta asked fans to keep supporting Barcelona and said he needs time to get the club back on track.

“I am upset and disappointed as all of you are,” he said in a video message. “I need to tell you that what is happening is one of the situations that we expected. And I ask for your patience, and that you continue supporting our team. I also ask for your trust in us, the people who are managing the club. We need your trust and time, and do not doubt that we will solve this situation.”

There were signs Barcelona fans weren’t too optimistic when they failed to buy all tickets available for Tuesday’s match, something that rarely happened when Messi was still around, especially in a big Champions League match.

Piqué said it was “hurtful” to hear jeers from the Camp Nou crowd for Sergi Roberto, who was singled out for his poor performance while playing improvised on the right flank.

To make things worse, Pedri and Jordi Alba sustained muscle injuries during the match and are expected to be sidelined for a while.

Piqué said the next few weeks will be key for Barcelona, a five-time champion in Europe’s top competition.

“We need to win our next matches in the Champions League and stay among the leaders in the Spanish league,” Piqué said. “Right now we are not considered favorites but we will see what happens at the end of the season. Chelsea also wasn’t the favorite to win the Champions League last season.”

Barcelona’s next match in Group E will be at Benfica later this month. Benfica opened with a 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.

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video of the Congolese women’s team angers “FIFA” and football players

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The International Football Association “FIFA” expressed its “grave concern” over the recent images that spread through social media platforms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo women’s national under-20 team.

The World Players Association published video clips showing the team training in the street before a qualifying match for the U-20 World Cup, CNN reported.

The FIFPro account on Twitter said that the video, which was published on Thursday, shows the team practicing on a dirt road with cars and motorbikes passing, and at one point, the training was interrupted as a truck was passing on the road between the players.

“The player’s welfare is a top priority for us, and we have taken immediate steps with the authorities in the country, including the Congolese Football Federation, to ensure the safety and well-being of all participating players,” FIFA said in a statement.

While “Fivebro” said that the Democratic Republic of the Congo Football Association did not reserve enough time to train on the field before the team’s expected match, which will decide qualification for the 2022 World Cup, against Cameroon on September 25, which the Congolese team lost 4-0 at home.

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England pays a heavy price for its fans’ riots

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The UEFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to penalize England by playing its next match in the UEFA competition without an audience, after English fans rioted during the Euro 2020 final.

The decision was also applied to the second match that followed, with the suspension of implementation, according to the sports website “The Athletic”.

The Football Association was also fined 100,000 euros, as it was responsible for the actions of English fans, especially since the match was on English soil.

The European Football Association (UEFA) punished England, citing “a lack of order and discipline in and around the field, intrusion into the field of play, throwing objects and whistling during the playing of the national anthem”.

The ban will only apply to UEFA competition matches, meaning that England will play their first match of the 2022-2023 season in the Nations League at Wembley without fans, and this does not include the World Cup qualifier match next month against Albania.

The FA requested an in-person hearing in the case, which was held via video link on Monday.

In a statement after the decision, they said: “Although we are disappointed with the referee, we acknowledge the outcome of UEFA’s decision.”

They added: “We condemn the shameful behavior of the individuals who caused the shameful scenes in and around Wembley Stadium in the Euro 2020 final, and deeply regret that some of them managed to enter the stadium.”

“We are determined that this can never be repeated, so we have conducted an independent review,” they said. “We continue to work with the relevant authorities to support their efforts to take action against those responsible and hold them accountable.”

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Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

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Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.

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