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Chhetri reveals reason behind retirement, explains why he will not play against Qatar

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New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) India football skipper Sunil Chhetri has further elaborated on his retirement announcement that preceded earlier on Thursday. The all time top scorer of the country revealed that “it’s been a month” since he has decided to call it quits on his international career.

“It’s been a month. It started with a feeling and an instinct that it was time to call it a day. And it grew in me slowly and steadily every day. Finally, I reached this decision. And I think I made the right decision. This (match against Kuwait on June 6, 2024) is one of the biggest games of my career. It is hugely important for the National Team. So, hopefully, we will do well against Kuwait and should be there for the (World Cup Qualifiers) third round,” said the Indian football team captain to the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

Many questions arose as to why Chhetri decided to retire after the game against Kuwait on June 6 and not wait until the June 11 qualifier match against Qatar, which could potentially decide whether India will be moving to the next round or not.

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“We’re playing at home, that’s in Salt Lake. It will not be the same. And I’m pretty confident this way or that way. Even if you need some points against Qatar, our team is quite capable. I think my team is ready. So, everything combined to make me decide that June 6 is my last game for the country,” he added.

He made his debut for the national team in 2005 and went on to have a glorious 19 year career with the team which saw him become the top scorer and also garner the most appearances. He further went on to talk about his entire journey.

“It’s outstanding. It’s a dream. I don’t know where to start. But the synopsis is that it’s a beautiful dream. I think I’m highly, highly fortunate and privileged to be a part of the national team for 19 years. It’s outstanding to be able to participate and play for the country. This is something no one can take away from me. I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed. And I’m not trying to sound cliche, I genuinely mean it. That’s the feeling that I get,” concluded the third highest active international goal scorer.

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–IANS

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Nasser Al-Khelaifi refused to pay Mbappe salary and bonus worth 80 million euros: Report

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Kylian Mbappe’s exit from Paris Saint Germain has taken a dark turn as his relation with president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has turned from bad to worse with the latter reportedly refusing to pay the young French forward the remainder of his salary.

According to a report by French outlet L’Equipe, Al-Khelaifi simply cannot accept the fact that Kylian Mbappé is joining Real Madrid for free. He’s currently refused to pay the player a total of 80 million Euros, in salary and bonus. PSG did not pay Kylian Mbappé’s salary in April. They also did not pay him a big bonus they owed him in February and lawyers are now involved

This news follows after a report by L’Equipe had previously stated that Mbappe and Al-Khelaifi got into a shouting contest ahead of Mbappe’s farewell game at the Parc Des Princes as the president was furious with the 2022 World Cup golden boot winner for not mentioning him in his farewell message.

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“We want him to stay but he can’t leave for free. It was our oral agreement and he had expressed it publicly in an interview. So it’s not debatable. I was really shocked to learn that he intended to leave for free. It’s very disappointing because Kylian is a fantastic boy, a real gentleman, and leaving for free, weakening the biggest French club, it’s not him. When I received this information, I was shocked and disappointed,” Al-Khelaifi had told Le Parisien earlier.

The 2018 World Cup winner is said to have already agreed a contract with Real Madrid in a deal which is expected to be announced post the UEFA Champions League winner where the Los Blancos will face Borussia Dortmund.

–IANS

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Ultimate Table Tennis 2024 set to begin on August 22 in Chennai

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Chennai, May 29 (IANS) The fifth season of Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) will be played from August 22 to September 7 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.

It will be an eight-team league for the first time providing a platform for young Indian paddlers to exhibit their talent alongside the world’s elite players. The escalating popularity of table tennis, bolstered by notable Indian achievements, has catalysed the league’s expansion into new territories. Embracing this momentum, the league proudly announced the inclusion of two esteemed franchises: the Ahmedabad SG Pipers and the Jaipur Patriots.

“The introduction of additional teams will infuse a heightened level of competition, strategically coinciding with the post-Paris Games period to capitalize on the prevailing Olympic fervour nationwide. Moreover, the decision to host the league in Chennai pays tribute to the city’s esteemed sporting heritage, which has produced numerous legendary paddlers, but also reinforces our commitment to honouring its illustrious legacy,” expressed Niraj Bajaj, co-promoter of UTT.

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Goa Challengers secured victory over former champions, Chennai Lions, in the preceding year, thus entering the league as defending champions for UTT 2024. Joining them are Dabang Delhi TTC, U Mumba TT, Puneri Paltan, Bengaluru Smashers and the two new franchisees. Each team will maintain a roster of six players, including two foreign players, as they all contend for the coveted title this season.

“The core mission behind UTT’s inception was to enhance the stature of table tennis in India, providing our players with a platform to compete against the world’s best and propel Indian table tennis to unprecedented heights. Recent historic victories by our Indian players against Chinese opponents and the National men’s and women’s teams qualifying for the Olympics through the world team rankings underscore this mission,” emphasized Vita Dani, chairperson of UTT.

The format has undergone a slight alteration with the inclusion of eight teams, that will now be divided into two groups of four teams each. Each franchisee will continue to compete in five ties during the league stage, facing all other teams within their respective group once, alongside two randomly selected teams from the opposing group, determined through a draw.

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–IANS

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‘These last few days’: Chhetri shares emotional post heading into final international game

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Bhubaneswar, May 29 (IANS) The entire footballing fraternity is counting the days till June 6 when an icon of the sport, Sunil Chettri will be donning the Blue Tigers jersey for the final time against Kuwait at Salt Lake Stadium.

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine-minute-long video posted on social media on May 16.

Sunil Chhetri took to Instagram to share his thoughts and mindset heading into his final game. “These last few days, I’ve been caught in a bit of a dilemma. Now that there’s a number to my days with the national team, what’s the right route to take – do I count every day, every training session? Or do I simply turn up without the thought of how this is coming to an end?” read the post by the Indian skipper.

“Over time, I seemed to have found middle ground. They say, count your blessings. And every single day I get to be on the pitch is a blessing that I’ve never taken for granted. So I’ve decided to count my sessions, but with a deep sense of gratitude. There’s no apprehension. Instead, there’s a feeling of being indebted to the sport, to my team, that I get to do this.

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If I could, I would capture this feeling in a box. Or instead, I’ll take it to my next training session,” it further added.

India vs Kuwait will be the national team’s all time top scorers final game for the country and will be hoping to end his glorious international career on a high. It is a must win game for the country if they are to progress to the next round of the FIFA WC Qualifiers as they face a dominant force in Qatar in their final game of the stage on June 11.

Chhetri announced his retirement in an emotional nine minute long video posted on social media on May 16.

The Blue Tigers national team is currently in the training camp in Bhubaneswar getting ready for the two critical matches.

His impact on the game that has spanned for nearly two decades has seen his fandom spread across the country. The game against Kuwait at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata will be an emotional encounter as India will bid farewell to its most loyal servant.

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–IANS

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'Whenever he performs, we win,' Cummins, Head told Abhishek Sharma's father

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New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) Abhishek Sharma has been one of the highlights of the 2024 IPL season. It was his exploits with opening partner Travis Head that made SRH the highest-scoring team in the season.

The young all-rounder smashed 42 sixes through the course of the tournament which saw him top the chart for most sixes in a tournament followed by Heinrich Klassen and Virat Kohli ties at 38. The opening batsman amassed 484 runs at a blistering strike rate of 204.22 through the course of the tournament.

In an exclusive conversation with IANS, Abhishek Sharma’s father Rajkumar Sharma shared what he told his son after the final.

“I told him it’s okay to win and lose is a part of the game but your journey in the IPL was great,” Rajkumar Sharma told IANS. “The team was not able to perform in the final and even they were shocked by what had happened but even they believed that had Abhishek performed then they could have won the game. I met Pat Cummins and Travis Head and they heaped praises of Abhishek and told me that he is a great player and he is a core member of the team and whenever he performs we win.”

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Despite an extraordinary batting display throughout the tournament, Sharma’s batting like all others in his team faltered in the finals. It was an extraordinary ball by Mitchell Starc which bowled Sharma on just the fifth ball of the first innings and sent him to the pavilion at just two runs.

He made history by being the first batsman to amass more than 400 runs in an innings without even having to face 30 balls in a single inning. The most deliveries he has faced, 28, came against the Lucknow Super Giants, where he chased down a 166-run mark in 9.4 overs while remaining undefeated at 75.

Sunrisers Hyderabad got bundled out for 113 runs in their bid to win the second IPL trophy in franchise history, KKR faced no challenges in chasing the total down as they finished the game in just 63 deliveries making it one of the most one-sided finals in the history of the tournament.

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“After the IPL final, I told him not to worry as every player has his day and that day was not for the team. The batting flopped on the day as their team heavily relied on their openers and on the day both opener did not get the start. No player was able to get off to the start. The highest-scoring team in the league went flop on the day. I don’t know what happened and they were not able to perform well. The game was so low-scoring that they could not have fought for the win,” he added.

–IANS

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Yuvraj Singh was son Abhishek’s idol while growing up: Rajkumar Sharma

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) Sunrisers Hyderabad batter Abhishek Sharma dazzled the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL) with his ability to clear all sides of the park as he hammered 484 runs in 16 innings with a strike rate of 204.02.

In an exclusive conversation with IANS, Rajkumar Sharma, Abhishek’s father and childhood coach talked about the impact that players like Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid have had on the young gun’s career.

“I feel very good when world-class players like Yuvraj Singh train young kids then there could not be anything better than that. Yuvi has had a huge impact on his career, he worked really hard and used to make him train all day and night,” Rajkumar Sharma told IANS.

“He used to consider Yuvraj as his idol and used to say ‘Mai Yuvi paaji ke tarah batting karunga’ (I want to bat like Yuvraj Singh). He used to watch his videos and once they started training together even Yuvi himself said ki ‘mujhe aise lag raha hai mai khud batting karraha hun’ (It seems like I am batting) and then he and his entire team used to train him, Yuvi used to himself stand and watch him bat,” he added.

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The left-handed opener made a solid statement throughout the course of the 2024 season of the IPL. He scored at a blistering strike rate of 204.22 during the season and put on some absolutely blistering knocks alongside Travis Head.

Rajkumar went on to talk about how talented and gifted his son was and how his talent lead him to meet some of the biggest names in cricket who all ultimately helped him shine at the brightest stage.

“I used to get good bowlers and he used to hit sixes and even clear the ball out of the stadium. Everyone used to be shocked that a kid hits long sixes. And I used to tell everyone he was gifted. When he got older he went to professional coaches and top players and I thanked them for this result. He met Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara and started traveling the country and playing well.”

–IANS

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