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South Africans scream, sing and dance as Springboks return

JOHANNESBURG: Thousands of South Africans screamed with joy, danced and sang at OR Tambo airport near Johannesburg Tuesday as a first group of Springboks who won the Rugby World Cup returned home.Forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, voted World Rugby Player of the Year two days ago, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk were among the first players…

South Africans scream, sing and dance as Springboks return

JOHANNESBURG: Thousands of South Africans screamed with joy, danced and sang at OR Tambo airport near Johannesburg Tuesday as a first group of Springboks who won the Rugby World Cup returned home.Forward Pieter-Steph du Toit, voted World Rugby Player of the Year two days ago, and scrum-half Faf de Klerk were among the first players to arrive.The victorious squad, coaches and officials are scheduled to return between Tuesday and Wednesday as no airline could accommodate the entire group on one flight.Captain Siya Kolisi and coach Rassie Erasmus are among a group expected to arrive in Johannesburg later Tuesday.A carnival atmosphere enveloped the normally sedate international arrivals section of the airport as Du Toit, De Klerk and some teammates and coaches received deafening applause.Black and white, male and female, young, middle aged and old, low-income earners and the wealthy all descended on the airport east of Johannesburg to salute their heroes.Many wore replica green and gold shirts and waved national flags as they celebrated the rugby triumph which was all the sweeter after poor recent results by the national football and cricket teams.The Springboks dominated and then crushed pre-match favorites England 32-12 in Japanese city Yokohama on Saturday to lift the World Cup a record-equalling third time.Winning the four-yearly showcase of rugby so decisively has lifted the spirits of a nation mired in economic and social quagmires.Although boasting the most developed economy in Africa, South Africa is struggling with stagnant growth, near 30-percent unemployment and widespread poverty and inequality.Headlines about corruption in state institutions and violence against women and children also appear with alarming frequency in the media.Rosharon Morgan, a 34-year-old from western Johannesburg, said she closed the family engineering business for the day in order to welcome the Springboks.“I’m here because the Springboks are the pride of the nation,” she said.“I was listening to the speeches of (captain) Siya Kolisi and (coach) Rassie Erasmus and they were along the lines of uniting us and giving us hope.“Right now there is a lot of euphoria in the county, but what we need to do is turn that into tangible changes. The problem is that we are not working toward (racial) unity.“There are still many issues that need to be addressed such as racial and economic inequalities. We cannot overlook them.”Moemedi Mashiolane, 45, works in the security industry and took advantage of free train transport to join the celebrations.“I came here because this is Nelson Mandela’s legacy — this is what he would have wanted,” he said.“Rugby has united us. Where I come from rugby is a sport played by white people but today it has united us.“We want white people to know that we want to be part of rugby and they must allow us to play the game.”Mashiolane said he loved the speech Kolisi made about unity as it uplifted his spirits.“He knows about our lives as black people and I hope politicians learn from that. They must not think we are stupid — we can see they are trying to divide us.”What made the Springboks’ success special was it being achieved with a team reflecting both racial groups with nine whites and six blacks in the starting line-up.The team was captained by forward Kolisi, who last year became the first black Test captain in South African history.Formed in 1891, the Springboks fielded only whites for 90 years before fly-half Errol Tobias became the first black player to represent his country.Just one black, winger Chester Williams, featured in the 1995 World Cup-winning and there two wingers, JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, in the side that conquered the world 12 years later.Despite government pressure for the Springboks to select teams that better reflected a population that is 90 percent black, many coaches chose predominantly white teams.Erasmus turned the tide after replacing embattled Allister Coetzee as coach last year, giving a string of black stars opportunities.In Yokohama, there were six black starters: Kolisi, fellow forward Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and Bongi Mbonambi, and backs Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.Kolbe was a candidate for the World Rugby Player of the Year award won by Du Toit and Mapimpi the second highest try scorer at the World Cup with six.

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Southgate to bring Sterling back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez. Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’…

Southgate to bring Sterling  back from England exile

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”

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Tsitsipas shocks six-time champion Federer to reach final

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez. Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’…

Tsitsipas shocks six-time champion Federer to reach final

PRISTINA:  Gareth Southgate is set to bring Raheem Sterling back from his brief England exile in Sunday’s qualifier against Kosovo as he seeks to end the controversy over the Manchester City star’s row with Joe Gomez.

Sterling was dropped for Thursday’s 7-0 rout of Montenegro after clashing with England team-mate Gomez in the Three Lions’ training base canteen.

It is believed Sterling was unhappy with Gomez following an altercation with the Liverpool defender during City’s Premier League defeat at Anfield last weekend.

Although Sterling was left out of the Montenegro game as punishment for his attack on Gomez, Southgate has confirmed the winger will return for England’s final Group A fixture.

Sterling and Gomez, left with a scratch under his eye after the incident, are said to have patched up their relationship, but the center-back was jeered by England fans at Wembley when he came on as a substitute against Montenegro.

Both Southgate and Sterling expressed their support for Gomez and criticized the booing supporters, with the England manager reportedly comforting the shocked 22-year-old and his family after the match.

Now Southgate could include Gomez against Kosovo in a show of support for the Liverpool player.

With England already guaranteed to qualify for Euro 2020 in first place in their group, Southgate already planned to make changes, although he is keen to ensure England finish with a win as they eye a top-six seeding in next year’s tournament.

“We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans,” Southgate said.

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the playoffs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat in that format. “So, it will be a good test for us because it will still be a lively environment.

“The enthusiasm for the game is high and we want to finish the group with as many points as we can.”

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson could return following a one-match ban, while Southgate has to decide whether to keep faith with Ben Chilwell ahead of Danny Rose at left-back.

Harry Kane may have scored a hat-trick against Montenegro but it was Leicester’s Chilwell who was named England’s man of the match following a fine display in which he provided three assists in the opening 24 minutes.

“Ben, I liked the hunger in his game, the enthusiasm to get forward,” Southgate said.

“The whole team pressed well but he also pressed well from that full-back position, got into overlaps, his quality of delivery was excellent.”

Although England have cruised through their qualifying group, Southgate believes the 2018 World Cup semifinalists still have room for improvement as they chase a first major title since 1966.

“There were a couple of chances we conceded that just shouldn’t happen, so that’s still part of our game that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said.

“If we are to be a team that are going to challenge seriously, although we’re young, we’ve got to manage games well.

“We’ve got to make sure that, although we’re such a fantastic attacking threat, the rest of the team is right as well. There are things we’ve got to be better at.”

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It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

CAIRO: A date for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s return to action remains unclear with an ankle injury rumored to be more serious than at first thought. The 27-year-old Egyptian star has been ruled out of his country’s upcoming international games and is a doubt for the Reds next Premier League match against Crystal Palace on…

It is better for injured Salah to miss a few games than jeopardize career

CAIRO: A date for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah’s return to action remains unclear with an ankle injury rumored to be more serious than at first thought.

The 27-year-old Egyptian star has been ruled out of his country’s upcoming international games and is a doubt for the Reds next Premier League match against Crystal Palace on Nov. 23.

Salah originally suffered the injury in league leaders Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Leicester City on Oct. 5, hobbling off the pitch at Anfield after coming under a second-half challenge from Foxes midfielder Hamza Choudhury.

The injury seemingly got worse during his side’s 3-1 home win over rivals Manchester City following a tackle by Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho.

The player was consequently withdrawn from the African qualifiers against Kenya and Comoros and was seen wearing a protective boot on his left foot as he sat out a national team training session in Cairo.

There has been speculation that the No. 11 could be out for up to four weeks, which if true would mean Salah might be unavailable for Liverpool’s next six games, including the final two group fixtures in the Champions League.

That would not be good news for Liverpool who will be eager for him to play against Crystal Palace. In the bigger scheme of things, the club is hoping to ensure he stays fit enough to maintain his key role in Jurgen Klopp’s attack.

Being one of the world’s best players, Salah is an essential cog for club and country. The only Premier League game he has sat out for Liverpool this season, away to Manchester United, is the only match the Reds have failed to win.

On Thursday, when Egypt surprisingly drew 1-1 with Kenya at home, the Pharaohs seemed affected by the absence of the influential Salah, falling short against a team 108th in FIFA rankings, 60 places behind Egypt.

The obvious conclusion is that when Salah is playing and is fit, Liverpool and Egypt’s chances of winning games and championships are markedly increased. 

When he is not on the pitch, the odds of being triumphant noticeably decrease.

Football is a rough, physical contact sport. Sprains and strains are part of the game. 

But pain relief sprays do not always fix the problem. 

While Salah will be told to keep his ankle elevated and stay off it whenever possible, these instructions may not be the complete panacea.

Rest is usually the best medicine for injuries. However, in international cut-throat football, being out of action for long stretches is not an option.

Klopp and Liverpool fans desperately want to successfully defend their Champions League title. 

They would also relish a Premier League crown, especially after losing out by a one-point whisker to Manchester City last season.

The title is this season within Liverpool’s grasp with them currently topping the table on 34 points after 12 games, eight ahead of Leicester City and Chelsea, and with a nine-point gap on Manchester City. It is almost 30 years since Liverpool last won the league. 

If Salah does miss half-a-dozen games, it would indicate his injury is worse than originally thought. 

Apart from the infamous tackle with Spanish ace Sergio Ramos that left his shoulder with sprained ligaments when he hit the ground, and a collision with Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dubravka that resulted in concussion, Salah is not a regular face in the injury room.

He has only sat out one match through injury during two-and-a-half years playing at Anfield and didn’t miss a game for the Reds in last season’s Premier League campaign, only being used as a substitute once.

It remains to be seen whether Salah will be fit for the trip to Selhurst Park. Klopp clearly has options to rotate if his Egyptian star is unavailable. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Divock Origi have both filled roles in the attack this season, while Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri is expected back from injury after the international break.

But Salah is a hard act for anyone to follow. The forward has nine goals in 17 appearances in all competitions for the Reds this term. However, common sense dictates that if Salah is not completely fit and Klopp has alternatives, then it would be wise not to play him. Playing with an injury produces short-term gain but could lead to long-term pain.

At least Liverpool are not hiding Salah’s injury, as they apparently did with Andy Robertson, the full-back whose ankle injury kept him out of the Scotland squad amid a news blackout on his condition.

Salah’s injury is not a secret; however, it is the extent of the injury which is creating concerns. Injuries that do not heal properly can end careers.

It is understood Salah has been given the chance to train away from Liverpool’s Melwood training ground as he continues his rehabilitation, and the club will grant him an extended period of time off over the international break. 

The club is limiting his involvement in training and providing regular treatment.

Up to now Liverpool have been playing it safe and not risking their prized possession. 

But the temptation to rush Salah back before he is fully fit is surely strong. In that case, the club should ask itself how many players, footballers and otherwise, have had their time on fields and courts come to a premature end due to injury?

The Premier League — like life — is full of hard knocks. 

But there’s a difference between injuries that are treatable and those that are career threatening.

It is best for all concerned that Salah forfeits some football now rather than stop playing forever.

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