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Football: France's 2018 World Cup winner Paul Pogba banned for four years for doping (Ld)

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New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) France’s World Cup winner and current Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba has been banned from football for four years after failing a dope test that was conducted in August last year. The punishment was confirmed on Thursday by the Italian National Anti-Doping Tribunal.

Pogba, a former Manchester United player, had failed a random dope test after playing an Italian Serie A match for Juventus. He tested positive for DHEA, a banned substance that boosts endogenous testosterone. His ‘B’ Sample was then counter-analysed, which also returned a positive result.

Former general secretary of the All-India Football Federation (AIFF), Shaji Prabhakaran shared the news on X.

“Paul Pogba has been suspended from football for four years after a failed anti-doping test. Pogba was initially handed a provisional suspension by NADO (the Italian Anti-Doping Organisation) in September after the failed test, which followed his side Juventus’s 3-0 win at Udinese on August 20,” he wrote.

Soon after being provisionally suspended by the Italian anti-doping agency, Pogba claimed that the intake of the banned substance was ‘unintentional’. Pogba’s lawyers had rejected a plea deal and hoped to get their client a lighter sentence after claiming he had unwittingly ingested the drug via a supplement, thus causing the positive test.

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However, Pogba’s defence was rejected by the Italian prosecutors and the National Anti-Doping Tribunal has now handed the French star the maximum punishment possible.

Pogba’s ban will start from September 2023 onwards and will end in August 2027. This means Pogba would be just shy of his 34th birthday by the time the ban ends, and he can play again. Pogba’s contract with his current employer Juventus is set to run until the summer of 2027 and he will now never play for the side again. His second stint with the Italian club has been a disaster, said another report in The Mirror.

Pogba, who returned to the Turin-based Italian giants Juventus in 2022 on a free transfer from Manchester United, had missed a major part of his first season due to an injury. He had made just two appearances this season before the dope test. While his career at top clubs will likely be over by the time the ban ends, he can still manage to play in smaller leagues. His international now looks all but over. In 91 appearances for his country — the last coming in 2022, Pogba has scored 11 goals. He was a key player in France’s triumph in the World Cup in 2018 in Russia

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Meanwhile, Pogba’s management team has announced that he will challenge the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Babar, Afridi end Pakistan campaign with three wickets victory over Ireland

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Lauderhill, June 17 (IANS) In what turned out to be a thrilling conclusion to their T20 World Cup campaign, Pakistan secured a nerve-wracking three-wicket victory over Ireland in Group A match of T20 World Cup, guided by the crucial contributions of Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi.

Despite making the chase more complicated than it needed to be, Pakistan managed to sign off with a win, thanks to a combination of early breakthroughs and a late flourish from Shaheen.

The match began with Pakistan’s bowlers wreaking havoc on Ireland’s top order. Shaheen Afridi was in devastating form, snapping an eight-match streak without a first-over wicket. He delivered a masterclass in swing bowling, dismantling Andrew Balbirnie’s defenses with a perfect inswinger and following it up by getting Lorcan Tucker to edge one to Mohammad Rizwan.

Shaheen’s early burst left Ireland reeling at 32 for 6, with Mohammad Amir and Haris Rauf also chipping in with wickets.

However, Ireland mounted a gritty resistance through Gareth Delany and Mark Adair. The pair stitched together a 44-run partnership off 30 balls, attacking Shadab Khan and Abbas Afridi to keep the scoreboard ticking.

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Imad Wasim, in what was likely his final game for Pakistan, cleaned up the lower order with exceptional figures of 3 for 8 in his four overs. But a determined cameo from Josh Little, who scored 22, helped Ireland reach a fighting total of 106.

Pakistan’s chase seemed straightforward initially, with Saim Ayub, Mohammad Rizwan, and Babar Azam making steady progress. By the eighth over, they appeared to be cruising, taking any sting out of the Irish attack. However, a middle-over collapse saw Curtis Campher and Barry McCarthy snatch four wickets for just 10 runs, leaving Babar stranded with a long tail to navigate.

With the game in a precarious balance, Abbas Afridi played a crucial role, scoring a quick 17 and reducing the target to 12 runs. Josh Little’s unfortunate calf injury forced Ireland to rely on spin against Shaheen Afridi, who seized the moment by smashing two sixes to seal the win for Pakistan.

Ireland’s fightback, led by Delany and Adair, was commendable. They understood the necessity of attacking to score runs, and their aggressive approach against Shadab and Abbas Afridi kept them in the game. Even when they lost wickets in clusters, the last-wicket stand between Little and Ben White, which added an unbeaten 26 runs, ensured they had something to defend.

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In the end, Pakistan’s victory was more a relief than a celebration. While their bowlers, especially Shaheen, had set up the match brilliantly, the middle-order collapse highlighted the team’s vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, Babar’s steady hand and Shaheen’s late heroics ensured Pakistan finished their campaign on a high note.

Brief Scores:

Ireland 106 for 9 in 20 overs (Gareth Delany 31, Josh Little 22; Imad Wasim 3-8, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3-22) lost to Pakistan 111 for 7 in 18.5 overs (Babar Azam 32 not out, Saim Ayub 17; Barry McCarthy 3-15, Curtis Campher 2-24) by three wickets.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Erik Janza’s late deflection ends Denmark vs Slovenia in draw

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Stuttgart, June 17 (IANS) Erik Janza’s deflected late strike secured a 1-1 draw for Slovenia against Denmark, cancelling out Christian Eriksen’s early goal in a thrilling Group C opener of Euro Cup.

The Danes took the lead in the 17th minute, capitalising on a momentary lapse in Slovenia’s defense. A quick throw-in caught the Slovenians off guard, allowing Jonas Wind to execute a clever flick that found Christian Eriksen in space.

The Manchester United playmaker, making his 132nd appearance for Denmark, wasted no time in slotting a crisp low finish into the corner past Jan Oblak. It was a moment of sheer class from Eriksen, who, exactly 1,100 days after suffering a cardiac arrest in his country’s opening game of the previous Euros, was pulling the strings in the first half.

Denmark dominated the early proceedings, with Eriksen orchestrating the midfield and creating several opportunities. However, despite their control, they couldn’t extend their lead. In the second half, Slovenia came out with renewed vigour and began to challenge Denmark’s defense more frequently.

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The second half saw both teams squandering clear chances. Jan Oblak, Slovenia’s stalwart goalkeeper, produced an outstanding close-range save to deny Rasmus Hojlund, preserving Slovenia’s hopes. Moments later, Adam Gnezda Cerin missed a golden opportunity to equalise, glancing a header wide of an open goal, much to the disbelief of the Slovenian supporters.

As the clock ticked down, the previously subdued Benjamin Sesko nearly changed the game with a thunderous 25-yard drive that rattled the woodwork.

Slovenia’s persistence paid off in the 77th minute when Erik Janza decided to try his luck from the edge of the area. His shot took a significant deflection off Denmark’s Morten Hjulmand, wrong-footing Kasper Schmeichel and nestling into the net, much to the delight of the Slovenian fans.

The final minutes of the match were tense, with both teams pushing for a winner, but neither side could find the decisive goal. The draw leaves both teams with a point each as they look ahead to their next fixtures.

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Denmark will face a tough challenge against England in Frankfurt on Thursday, a match that promises to be a stern test of their credentials. Meanwhile, Slovenia will take on Serbia in Munich earlier that day, hoping to build on their resilient performance against the Danes.

–IANS

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Nagal loses Challengers final in Perugia

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Perugia, June 17 (IANS) Sumit Nagal’s remarkable run on the ATP Challenger Tour met a formidable obstacle as he fell short in the final of the Perugia Challenger, succumbing to World No. 37 Luciano Darderi in a brisk 62-minute match.

The final score, 6-1, 6-2, did little justice to Nagal’s recent surge in form and tenacity on the court. Having played 10 matches in the last 12 days, including a triumphant campaign in Heilbronn, Germany, where he clinched the sixth Challenger title of his career, Nagal had propelled himself to new heights in the ATP Rankings.

Nagal’s victory in Germany was a testament to his grit and skill, propelling him to a career-high ranking of 77 and virtually securing his spot in the men’s singles event at the Paris Olympics. However, the physical toll of his relentless schedule became evident in Perugia. The 26-year-old Indian entered the final after a grueling three-set semifinal battle against Spain’s Bernabe Zapata Miralles, which left him visibly fatigued against a fresher opponent in Darderi.

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Darderi, the top-seeded Italian, wasted no time asserting his dominance, breaking Nagal thrice to take the first set in just 27 minutes. Nagal, showing glimpses of his resilience, managed to break Darderi’s eight-game winning streak by leveling the second set at 1-2.

However, the Italian swiftly regained control, breaking Nagal again in the sixth game to establish a 4-2 lead. Darderi’s relentless pressure proved too much, and he broke Nagal for the sixth time while the Indian was serving to stay in the match, sealing his victory.

Despite the defeat, Nagal’s remarkable journey in recent weeks has seen him rise to 71 in the live ATP Rankings. This ascent has significant historical resonance, as it places him above the legendary Leander Paes, who achieved a career-high ranking of 73.

Nagal now stands joint-fourth on the all-time list of highest-ranked Indian men since the advent of computerised rankings in 1973, sharing the spot with Sashi Menon and trailing only behind Somdev Devvarman (62), Ramesh Krishnan (23), and Vijay Amritraj (18).

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–IANS

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Mewar Premier League trophy unveiled in Udaipur

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Udaipur, June 16 (IANS) The much-anticipated trophy for the Mewar Premier League, which is set to begin from June 19, was unveiled on Friday in a grand ceremony at the Wonder Cricket Academy, Shikarbadi Cricket Ground

The Mewar Premier League is scheduled to take place from June 19 to June 28. The District Franchise League, held at the Wonder Cricket Academy Shikarbadi Cricket Ground, will feature day and night matches.

The unveiling of the trophy has set the stage for a thrilling series of matches in the heart of Udaipur, generating immense excitement and anticipation. The Mewar Premier League aims to promote cricketing talent and also to unite communities through the universal love for the sport, creating lasting memories and inspiring future generations of cricketers.

The event was graced by Gautam Ji Dak, cooperative and civil aviation minister, Government of Rajasthan. The ceremony saw the presence of several prominent figures, including the chairman of Mewar Premier League, Manoj Choudary, and the Founder of 100 Sports, Ravindra Bhati, along with other members of the Udaipur District Cricket Association (UDCA).

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Speaking about the Mewar Premier League, Gautam Ji Dak, said, “There is a new environment of sports in the country. UDCA has been working well for the game of cricket and I wish them well for the future. 100 Sports is also doing a good job under the guidance of Ravindra Bhati and I want everyone to come together and promote the game both at the national and international level. My message for fans is the City of Lakes might become the city of players after the Mewar Premier League.”

Jointly organised by the Udaipur District Cricket Association and 100 Sports, the League will feature, six formidable teams representing various districts of Mewar. Players such as Ashok Sharma, Shubham Garhwal, Mohit Jain, Aditya Garhwal will feature in the tournament.

–IANS

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Archery: Bhajan Kaur claims gold, secures Olympic quota for India

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Antalya, June 16 (IANS) 18-year-old archer Bhajan Kaur clinched a gold medal in the recurve women’s individual event, securing India a coveted quota place for the Paris 2024 Olympics at the Final Olympic Qualifier on Sunday.

Kaur’s triumph comes as a beacon of hope for Indian archery, especially after seasoned archer Deepika Kumari’s unexpected early exit.

Despite the early setback when second-ranked Deepika Kumari, who received two byes, was defeated 6-4 by Azerbaijan’s Yaylagul Ramazanova in her first match, Kaur and Ankita Bhakat carried the torch forward. The competition allowed only one individual quota per country, and Kaur’s exceptional performance ensured India claimed this spot.

Ranked third in the tournament, Kaur showcased her prowess throughout the event. After receiving two byes, she overcame Mongolia’s Urantungalag Bishindee 6-2, Slovakia’s Ursa Cavic 7-3, and Poland’s Wioleta Myszor 6-0 to secure her place in the quarterfinals. Her winning streak continued as she defeated Moldova’s Alexandra Mirca 6-2 in the semifinals and Iran’s Mobina Fallah 6-2 in the final, earning her the gold medal and an Olympic berth for India.

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Ankita Bhakat, seeded ninth, also delivered a commendable performance. She received two byes and then defeated Israel’s Shelley Hilton 6-4, Mikaella Moshe 7-3, and the Philippines’ Gabrielle Monica Bidaure 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals. However, Bhakat’s journey ended in the quarters with a close 6-4 loss to Iran’s Mobina Fallah.

Despite the successes of Kaur and Bhakat, the Indian men’s and women’s recurve teams faced early exits, missing out on the team quotas which would have allowed India to field three men and three women at the Olympics. However, hope remains as both teams are positioned at the top among the countries that have yet to secure team quotas. Their standings in the world rankings offer another route to qualification.

–IANS

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