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01
DEC
11am

Pele ‘stable’ in Brazilian hospital for cancer treatment ‘re-evaluation’

Pele, widely considered the greatest soccer player ever, has been admitted to hospital in São Paulo, but his daughter says there is ‘no emergency or new dire prediction’.
Brazilian soccer legend Pele is in a stable condition after he was admitted to hospital on Tuesday to re-evaluate his cancer treatment, the hospital said on Wednesday.
“After medical evaluation, the patient was taken to a common room, with no need for admission in a semi-intensive care unit,” the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo said.
Pele’s daughter, Kely Nascimento, had said on Instagram that there was “no surprise or emergency” regarding Pele’s condition.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“Lots of alarm in the media today concerning my dad’s health,” Nascimento wrote. “There is no emergency or new dire prediction. I will be there for New Years and promise to post some pictures.”
Read in Daily Maverick: “Pele transferred out of intensive care, says hospital”
Nascimento’s remarks on Instagram followed an ESPN Brasil report that Pele had been admitted to the Albert Einstein Hospital with “general swelling” and was undergoing several tests for a more in-depth assessment of his health issues.
The 82-year-old had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021 and has since been in and out of the hospital regularly for treatment.
ESPN Brasil reported that Pele was having cardiac problems and his medical staff were concerned that his chemotherapy treatment was not having the expected results.
Pele’s manager did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters/DM
01
DEC
10am

Rassie Erasmus’ explanation for use of social media does not exonerate him from content responsibility

In the fashion of a man who wants to shape the world to his view, South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, took to social media this week to explain some of his previous posts.
In recent weeks, Rassie Erasmus has tweeted about refereeing inconsistencies that resulted in negative outcomes for the Springboks. Those tweets landed him in the headmaster’s office at World Rugby and he was subsequently banned from touchline and media engagements for two matches.
That followed his 10-month ban handed down on 18 November 2021, when Erasmus was suspended from all matchday activities. He was also banned from all rugby activities for two months after six misconduct charges were brought against him, stemming from a 62-minute video that “leaked” into the public domain in July 2021 after the first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions.
No sooner had the 10-month ban ended, and he was back on social media harpooning officials. And within hours of the latest two-match suspension coming to an end, Erasmus hosted a “lekka chat” on media platform Vimeo to explain why he goes on social media to criticise refs.
It’s all a bit odd.
No coach has done more for the good of South African rugby than Erasmus. Besides presiding over a World Cup-winning team, he has overseen the most racially transformed Boks squad; appointed the first black captain in Siya Kolisi and presented the most human side of the sport to the public. He is immensely likeable and approachable.
But he is also mysterious and complex, and despite the “aww shucks” blue-collar persona, in a rugby context he is a ruthless operator with a maniacal winning mentality.
Outside of rugby, he is a flawed human, as he has freely admitted before. But, as Bono sang, “throw a rock in the air and you’ll hit someone guilty.” We are all flawed.
So, despite the latest video, we are really no closer to really finding out why Erasmus is so committed to using social media to drive his point home, other than the obvious desire to give his team an edge. And it’s debatable whether the strategy is helping.
What’s not in question is that when the Boks play well, like they did against England, they are almost unstoppable. They take the refs out of the equation with performances like that. Perhaps more focus is needed on what produced that level of excellence and less on public dissections of officials.
“Why ...
01
DEC
6am

Tunisia remain also-rans after early World Cup exit, but can leave with their heads held high

Despite a scintillating victory over defending world champions France, Tunisia failed in its quest to make it out of the World Cup group stages for the first time in its history.
Tunisia had arguably one of their finest footballing nights on Wednesday, but it was not enough to save them from yet another early exit at the World Cup, and they remain one of the tournament’s also-rans.
The North Africans beat champions France 1-0 in their last Group D match in Al Rayyan but the celebrations were muted by the fact it was not enough for them to advance to the last 16.
It meant they kept up their unwanted record of not getting out of the group stage, now extended to a sixth World Cup finals appearance. But they won for a third time in 18 games, registering a rare victory that was celebrated vociferously by their supporters.
A win over the former colonial power in a competitive international game ranks with their triumph in the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and their 1978 World Cup win over Mexico, when they became the first African country to record a victory at the tournament.
Plus, Tunisia’s four points and third place in the 2022 standings far exceeded expectations, especially after they were drawn in a tough group which included Denmark and France.
“It’s a historic win for us over the defending champions, but we wanted to qualify for the next round; this was our main aim,” Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri told journalists after the match.
“Unfortunately, we exited the tournament, but we also left the game with a lot of honour and pride.”
Read in Daily Maverick: “Argentina and Messi begin to flex muscles for World Cup playoffs”
Holding the Danes to a goalless draw in their opening game in Qatar and finishing ahead of the 1992 Euro champions in the standings will somewhat console the Tunisians.
When they look back, they will need to admit the passionate support of the large Tunisian migrant community in Qatar proved inspirational but also contributed to their undoing.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
The red-clad army of supporters, who dominated the terraces in their three group matches, created a fever-pitched atmosphere in their opening game against Denmark, lifting the Tunisian players and helping them to play out of their skins.
Rarely has a north African side competed in a match at such a high tempo. But with many players ...
01
DEC
5am

Argentina and Messi begin to flex muscles for World Cup playoffs

After a stuttering start, South American champions Argentina are starting to find form at the World Cup. Their timing is perfect as they head into the knockout stages.
When they needed it most, Argentina found their best performance of the World Cup so far as they defeated Poland 2-0 in their final pool match, a result that sealed them top spot in Group C and a last-16 meeting with Australia.
It has already been a roller-coaster ride in Qatar for the South Americans, who came into the tournament on the back of a 36-match unbeaten run under coach Lionel Scaloni, but looked rusty in their stunning opening 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia.
It immediately put them on the back foot in the pool, but they did enough to see off Mexico 2-0 in another unconvincing display in their second match, before a much-improved showing against the Polish at Stadium 974, where they were roared on by the vast majority of the 44,089 crowd.
“We wanted to compensate for the defeat (against Saudi Arabia). Today it was a great game, we played very well collectively,” Argentina goal-scorer Alexis Mac Allister said, adding the team did not let their heads drop after Lionel Messi missed a first-half penalty.
“We tried to stay positive, to stay calm. We did not feel down. We tried to be optimistic and go for the match. Fortunately, we managed to win and go through.”
There was more zip, better combination play and an altogether more polished Argentina on Wednesday, when they had 24 shots at goal, which suggests a theory put forward by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez last week may well be true.
Martinez said most teams will only be ready to compete in Qatar by their third pool game, given they had such little time to train ahead of the World Cup and some went into the finals without a friendly behind them.
“This tournament is going to make you develop and grow as it goes on. If you do that by winning games, it’s an incredible advantage,” he said.
Certainly, the evidence when it comes to Argentina is compelling. They have improved steadily and saved their best performance for arguably their toughest pool opponent.
‘Messi will always be decisive’
That should sound a warning to the other title hopefuls that Lionel Messi and co are starting to click into gear. And they may have some more to go through yet.
Messi trundled around the pitch, only bursting ...
01
DEC
4am

Spain’s youngsters to draw on Olympics experience for Japan clash, and beyond

Tokyo 2020 Olympics silver medallists Spain have incorporated a few players involved in that run to second place in Japan a year ago. Each of those players is eyeing a run to the final in Qatar World Cup – with hopes that they can walk away with gold this time.
Spain may look to their younger players to seal their round-of-16 spot at the Qatar World Cup when they meet Japan on Thursday night. Some of those players, including Villarreal defender Pau Torres, will be drawing on their 2020 Tokyo Olympics experience to help them prepare.
A number of Spain’s under-23 squad from Tokyo are now in Qatar, and remember their semifinal clash with Japan all too well. Spain won 1-0 and eventually took the silver medal, while Japan lost in the bronze-medal match to Mexico.
“In the semifinal we needed to go all the way to extra time to win,” Torres, who played all six of Spain’s games in Tokyo, told Reuters on the eve of his country’s clash with Japan.
The two sides also drew in a friendly before the Games.
“Japan is a very organised team, very consistent in what they do. I always think they have the game under control, they don’t get out of the game until the final minutes,” Torres said.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Ghana’s Black Stars shine in Qatar – against all odds”
“And they are comfortable defending without the ball, they don’t need to feel that they have possession to be comfortable. It’s going to be a tough game.”
Other Spanish players in Qatar who played at the Olympics are striker Marco Asensio, midfielders Pedri and Dani Olmo, as well as goalkeeper Unai Simon.
After Japan stunned Germany 2-1 in their opening match, they made numerous changes to their side and ended up losing 1-0 to Costa Rica, who had been trashed by Spain 7-0 in their opener.
Torres suggested the Asian side may have let their opening win go to their heads.
“Maybe it was overconfidence, having won the first game, as well as having seen our result against Costa Rica,” the defender said. “We made that match look easy, and then we could see that, after all, it wasn’t easy at all.”
Spain could have booked their last-16 spot already but drew their second match against Germany, meaning it all comes down to match number three.
“Against Germany we knew that they could challenge us a bit for possession. We played a ...
30
NOV
2pm

SA men’s Nations Cup hockey side fly high to seal semifinal spot

With one pool game to spare, the SA men’s hockey team have qualified for the semifinals of the FIH Nations Cup after two impressive performances.
The FIH Men’s Hockey Nations Cup kicked off on 28 November in Potchefstroom. Determined to make the most of their home advantage, the SA men’s team delivered solid performances in their opening two fixtures to seal a spot in the tournament’s semifinals with one pool game to spare.
The team ran through Pakistan in their opening match on Monday. An impressive attacking performance saw the South Africans secure a 6-2 win by the final whistle.
Their winning ways continued into their second match against France, which the host nation won 2-1 in a tight affair.
The rundown
In the match against Pakistan, Jacques van Tonder opened the scoring after eight minutes, only for Pakistan’s Rooman to equalise five minutes later.
However, a penalty flick from Mustaphaa Cassiem (25th minute) and an aerial tap-in by Samkelo Mvimbi (27th minute) would see the hosts go into the halftime break 3-1 up.
The goals kept coming as the experienced Tevin Kok pulled out a clever finish to score in the 40th minute.
SA started the final quarter strongly, with captain Dayaan Cassiem extending the lead in the 45th minute of playing time. Arshad Liaqat pulled one back for Pakistan in the 50th minute.
However, Keenan Horne would hammer in the final nail and score South Africa’s sixth goal after 56 minutes.
Against France, SA went down 1-0 after 11 minutes, due to a well-worked goal by Corentin Sellier. However, the French lead was short-lived as Kok, celebrating his 50th cap, restored parity just a minute later.
The low-scoring affair was sealed in the 46th minute when Horne slotted a field goal, which would prove to be enough for the South Africans to win the game.
Preparation is key
A major positive for the South African side is their defensive structure and stability — a focus area for the squad in the training camp leading up to the tournament, according to assistant coach Ashlin Freddy.
“We’re showing a lot of defensive resilience,” Freddy told Daily Maverick.
“It’s allowing our attacking players to have more freedom going forward because we have got a good defensive base.”
The defensive improvements were evident in the opening match against Pakistan, where several threats to the South African goal were denied by outstanding tackles and blocks.
The preparations for the tournament not only helped Team SA iron out on-field issues, but ...
30
NOV
12pm

Long, brutal Blair Atholl course to test SA Open Championship field

The 2022 Investec South African Open Championship kicks off tomorrow at the Blair Atholl Golf & Equestrian Estate. Set to run from 1 to 4 December, the event is back on the DP World Tour with a purse of $1.5-million. Some of the country’s finest golfing talents will be vying for the chance to claim SA’s most historic title.
As the saying goes, a lot can change in a year. And in the case of the South African Open Championship, it has.
The 2021 South African Open took place at the Gary Player Country Club. And for the first time since 2013, it did not form a part of the DP World Tour schedule – the result of a rise in cases of the Covid-19 Omicron variant at the time.
The event was run by the Sunshine Tour with a total purse of $500,000 – a drop of more than 50% from the previous year. Daniel van Tonder narrowly edged out Oliver Bekker to take the title and the R1.2-million winner’s cheque.
Fast-forward 12 months and the SA Open is back on the DP World Tour, with a new title sponsor in the form of Investec.
With a purse that has tripled to $1.5m, the event is being held from 1 to 4 December at the Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate in Lanseria – another celebrated Gary Player design.
The SA Open is one of the oldest golf tournaments in the world, with a history dating back to 1903, and some of the country’s finest talents will take to the fairways of Blair Atholl for a chance at claiming the historic title.
The veterans
South African stars Charl Schwartzel – the 2o11 Masters champion – and nine-time DP World Tour winner Branden Grace, will be among those teeing it up at Blair Atholl on Thursday. Both Grace and Schwartzel joined the controversial LIV Golf Invitational Series earlier this year, and have each won an event on the lucrative circuit.
Grace will be looking to replicate his 2019 SA Open triumph, where he fired a scintillating final-round 62 to claim the title at Randpark. On the other hand, Schwartzel, despite having 11 DP World Tour victories to his name, is still in search of his first SA Open title – his closest call coming in the form of a playoff loss to England’s Andy Sullivan in 2015.
Schwartzel is an honorary life member at Blair Atholl, and holds the course ...
30
NOV
5am

US lauds wounded hero Christian Pulisic for getting them into last 16

The US booked their place in the last 16 of the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar thanks to a Christian Pulisic goal. But the star spent the night in hospital as a result.
Christian Pulisic was hailed by his teammates on Tuesday after his first-half strike sent the US through to the World Cup knockout rounds, with the effort landing him in hospital with an abdominal injury.
The Chelsea forward burst into the area and bundled the ball over the line in the 38th minute of Tuesday’s Group B decider against Iran. But he could not even celebrate the goal because he had injured himself following a collision with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Coach Gregg Berhalter confirmed Pulisic was injured and sent to hospital as a precaution after feeling dizzy, and said the players had a short video call with him from the dressing room.
“We got to speak to him and he’s in good spirits,” Berhalter told a news conference.
“That’s what he does, that’s the special quality he has and as soon as a goal is wide he goes in with intensity. He crashes the box and makes it really difficult for defenders with his change of pace.”
The US join Group B rival England in advancing to the round of 16, fielding what was the national team’s youngest starting 11 yet, in a must-win match against a physically tough Iran side.
There was no official news of Pulisic’s availability for Saturday’s round-of-16 match against Group A winners Netherlands, but US midfielder Weston McKennie said Pulisic had told him he would be ready.
“I sent him a text and checked on him, and he said, ‘Best believe I’ll be ready on Saturday’,” ESPN quoted McKennie as saying.
McKennie praised Pulisic’s bravery but said the team were like brothers and any of them would have done the same.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Ghana’s Black Stars shine in Qatar – against all odds”
“Obviously we’re very thankful that he threw his body there, but the thing is we have 25 other guys aside from Christian who would do the same thing, I believe,” he said. Seeing his willingness to “throw his body on the line”, he added, “that should tell you enough about how close this team is”.
The US dominated the match but came under pressure late in the game and had to defend resolutely as Iran fought desperately to get an equaliser that would have sent them through to ...
30
NOV
5am

Seeing red on Luis Suarez handball, 12 years on — ‘The whole of Ghana hates him and we want revenge’

On a cold July night at Joburg's Soccer City in 2010, Luis Suarez both broke African hearts and enraged a continent with a blatant handball and his antics afterwards. Now, 12 years on the sides are set to meet again and there is talk of revenge.
There was chaos. There was mayhem. Soccer City, that hulking bowl on the edge of Soweto, was reverberating to the sound of tens of thousands of vuvuzelas, blaring like never before.
And there was confusion. People were losing their heads, caught up in the excitement as Luis Suarez trudged off the pitch, pulling his shirt over his face, trying to hide his devastation after being sent off for handling Dominic Adiyiah’s header on the goalline in the final seconds of a World Cup quarterfinal.
“I thought we had won,” says former Ghana midfielder Ibrahim Ayew, casting his mind back to the fateful, crazy night of 2 July, 2010.
“I was a substitute, warming up behind that goal, and I ran onto the pitch to celebrate because I was sure the ball had crossed the line. I thought we had done it, the first African team ever to reach the semi-final of the World Cup.”
That same certainty was felt in the stands and indeed back in Ghana, where a nation exploded in joy. “I was watching with a group of students at the university in Accra,” says Ghanaian sports reporter George Addo Jr. “Everyone was celebrating. Everyone was jubilating.”
Back at Soccer City, Ghana defender Hans Sarpei asked referee Olegario Benquerenca if he had awarded the goal. Benquerenca shook his head and pointed to the penalty spot. Gradually the melee in the Uruguay goalmouth dispersed and the realisation dawned — across the stadium, across Africa — that Ghana were not quite there yet.
After 120 minutes of tension, it had come down to one kick. One penalty to send the “Black Stars” of Ghana through to the semi-final and keep alive the dream of World Cup glory for Africa. What pressure.
“We weren’t just playing for Ghana. We were playing for Africa,” Ibrahim Ayew tells The Athletic. “We could feel the whole of Africa behind us. We could feel it on our shoulders.”
None more so than Asamoah Gyan, who was entrusted with that vital penalty kick. He had scored high-pressure penalties against Serbia and Australia earlier in the tournament, but this was another level entirely.
“We all believed in Asamoah and he believed ...
30
NOV
5am

‘Golden Generation’ disappoints as Welsh dragon fails to roar at World Cup

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have long carried the Welsh national team on their shoulders. But they crumbled under the weight of expectation in Qatar.
Fans were hoping for Wales to turn up at the Qatar 2022 World Cup in high spirits after an agonising 64-year wait, but the team stumbled at the first hurdle as the ageing “Golden Generation” of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey failed to deliver.
In the opening 1-1 draw with the US, Bale proved why he is Wales’ most trustworthy player after he won and converted a late penalty, but that was all he could offer in what was an underwhelming campaign for the Welsh in Qatar.
Against Iran, the 33-year-old was dispossessed several times and had one shot on target as Wales suffered a disappointing 2-0 defeat which left them hoping for a miracle against rivals England in the so-called “Battle of Britain”.
Bale, Wales’ most-capped player, was anonymous in attack against England in the first half and was substituted at the break due to a hamstring issue, before Wales limped to a 3-0 defeat, finishing bottom of Group B with one point and one goal.
Regardless of his form at club level before a major international tournament, Bale usually delivers when he puts on the Wales shirt. However, it was not the case this time as questions were raised about his form and fitness.
Coming into the World Cup, the Los Angeles FC forward had played only 36 minutes of competitive football since September. At the World Cup, he had to play three matches within eight days and he struggled.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Ronaldo relishes ‘beautiful moment’ after breaking World Cup record”
While Bale looked like a spent force, Ramsey was no different – floundering in midfield as he gave the ball away more times than any other player against Iran and lost all but one of his eight duels.
Ramsey started only five of his 12 French Ligue 1 games for Nice this season before making the trip to Qatar.
“That’s the problem we always have, asking players who are not playing for their clubs to come and give performance after performance,” Wales head coach Rob Page said.
Ramsey, who turns 32 next month, and Bale have long carried the national team on their shoulders, but they crumbled under the weight of expectation in Qatar.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Apart from Bale and Ramsey, 32-year-old midfielder Joe ...
29
NOV
6am

Security boosted as fans brace for politically charged USA vs Iran match

With both the USA and Iran eyeing a spot in the last 16, the organisers of the 2022 Qatar World Cup have stepped up security for their clash on Tuesday night.
Diplomatic foes the US and Iran face off on the pitch at the World Cup on Tuesday night, in a match that some Iranians fear may see further run-ins with stadium security or clashes with pro-government fans over raging protests back home.
The contest between the two nations that severed ties more than 40 years ago will be held with increased security to prevent a flare-up of tensions over the unrest that has gripped Iran since the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September.
In a show of solidarity before the match, the US Soccer Federation temporarily displayed Iran’s national flag – without the emblem of the Islamic Republic – leading Tehran to complain to Fifa, according to state media.
Qatar, which has strong ties with Washington and friendly relations with Tehran, has staked its reputation on delivering a smooth World Cup, beefing up security at Iran games and banning some items deemed inflammatory, such as Iran’s pre-Revolution flag.
When Iran beat Wales on Friday, security teams were deployed to “break up a small number of altercations” between Iranian fans outside the stadium, a Qatari official said, adding that the incidents were dealt with “swiftly” to contain tensions.
“I will not attend the game on Tuesday since I do not feel safe in Qatar,” said Iranian-Canadian Azi, declining to give her last name and who was wearing a T-shirt declaring “Women, Life, Freedom” – a slogan of the Iran protests.
“Qatar is conducting the same censorship system as what is going on in Iran. Also, Fifa is to take the blame,” she told Reuters about being stopped by stadium security for her attire.
Hila Yadegar (37) plans to be at the match to show support for protesters even though she and her husband were both briefly held by stadium guards at the Iran-Wales match and despite voicing similar unease over security in the Gulf Arab state.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Qatar World Cup — the most polarising football showpiece to date?”
“I put a chair behind our room in the hotel even though it was locked,” said Yadegar, who works in a hospital in Canada.
The Qatar official, when asked about fans’ security concerns and complaints over restrictions, said authorities would ensure every match at the World ...
29
NOV
6am

Goal-shy Uruguay need a repeat of infamous 2010 win over Ghana

It will be do or die for Uruguay on Friday when they clash with 2010 World Cup quarterfinal opponents Ghana in their final group game.
Uruguay remain goalless at the World Cup and must find their form against next opponents Ghana in a re-run of one of the most infamous games in World Cup history if they are to progress to the next round of this tournament.
“We are looking for victory against Ghana, there is no doubt about it. If we have to make modifications, that is what we will do,” coach Diego Alonso said after Monday’s 2-0 defeat to Portugal left Uruguay bottom of Group H on one point.
Despite possessing the attacking riches of Darwin Nunez, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, the South Americans also failed to score in their opening 0-0 draw with South Korea.
Their only chance of reaching the last 16 is with a win on Friday against Ghana, but the Africans will want revenge for being cruelly knocked out by Uruguay at the 2010 South Africa World Cup in a memorable and action-packed quarterfinal.
In that game, Suarez handballed on the line in the dying minutes and was sent off, only for Ghana to miss the subsequent penalty then lose a shootout. That deprived them of becoming the first African team in history to reach a World Cup semifinal.
Suarez was cast as the villain of the drama — and 12 years later is in the Uruguayan squad and may well line up again against the Africans.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
“For us, it’s a different history,” Alonso said, trying to play down the historic resonance of that game. “They are looking for qualification, us too. It has nothing to do with what happened years ago.”
‘Need to gamble more’
Though Portugal dominated possession at the Lusail stadium, Rodrigo Bentancur, Maxi Gomez and Suarez did come agonisingly close to breaking Uruguay’s Qatar World Cup duck.
“We didn’t play well but we had our chances and we were pushing forward. We were trying for it. But sometimes the opponents are good, they play well, they counter your game plan and don’t let you be where you would like to be,” Alonso said.
The South Americans certainly played with more snap and penetration after substitutes Facundo Pellistri and Giorgian de Arrascaeta came on with just under half an hour left.
“Our game improved with the two new players. The game was ...

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