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La Liga: El Clasico returns to new-look Santiago Bernabéu as Real Madrid host Barca

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Madrid, April 16 (IANS) It’s El Clasico time in Spanish football and this time, the traditional rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will meet on April 21 in a refurbished Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, which is a symbol of both the city of Madrid and of La Liga.

Since its inauguration in 1947, this venue has hosted so many hugely significant sporting events. The El Clasico has itself been played 101 times in this stadium, with 51 victories for Real Madrid, 28 for FC Barcelona and 22 draws. In addition, the Santiago Bernabéu has witnessed historic moments like Real Madrid’s legendary Champions League victories, the 1982 World Cup final and the 2018 Copa Libertadores final. In recent times, the stadium has undergone a thorough refurbishment that has completely transformed its exterior and interior.

The redeveloped home of Los Blancos has a capacity of more than 81,000 spectators and it can also host concerts and other major events. Besides the marquee clash between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona on April 21, there are many more things to look forward to.

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The new-look Santiago Bernabéu is already being enjoyed by fans. Since 2019, the ground has undergone extensive construction work to update the structure radically. The result is a truly state-of-the-art, more modern and bigger stadium. The new fixed and retractable roofs are among the highlights, with the retractable one able to be opened or closed in 15 minutes. There is also a 360º video scoreboard and 3,000 more seats where 12 metres in height were added.

The exterior of the stadium has been covered with a stainless-steel wrap, capable of projecting images and lighting effects. Inside, the pitch of the new Santiago Bernabéu is retractable, so that it can be removed and protected when other events are taking place. The grass is stored in a 30-metre-deep underground space that functions as a greenhouse, helping keep the grass in optimal condition.

In addition, the ground has two new towers, large pedestrian areas, a 360 square metre terrace with views of the pitch and the city, a VIP area with restaurants, and galleries with shops and establishments. At the same time, the museum has been extended and a new interactive museum space has been added. In addition to being a football stadium, the renovated Santiago Bernabéu will help Real Madrid to make extra revenue, as the club has been working for some time on organising other large-scale activities 365 days a year.

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Among the most notable events already announced are the concerts that the international superstars Taylor Swift and Karol G will hold in this stadium in May and July respectively. In addition, Real Madrid recently confirmed that the Santiago Bernabéu will host a National Football League (NFL) game in 2025. With all these major changes and developments, the Santiago Bernabéu promises to become a benchmark for other sports venues internationally.

–IANS

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SFI announces fifth edition of Indian Open Surfing from May 31

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Mangalore, May 21 (IANS) The Surfing Federation of India (SFI), the governing body for the sports of surfing and stand-up paddling in the country, announced the schedule for the fifth edition of the Indian Open Surfing (IOS). Recognised by the International Surfing Association, this premier surfing competition will be hosted by the Mantra Surf Club at the tranquil Sasihithlu Beach in Mangalore, Karnataka, from May 31 to June 2.

The three-day surfing competition will feature participation from all the top-ranked surfers in India. The Karnataka government has extended its support to the event for the fifth time in a row. The competition will include four categories: men’s open, women’s open, groms (U-16) boys, and groms (U-16) girls.

IOS will be the second stop of the national championship series of the 2024 calendar year, following the International Surfing Festival Kerala 2024, held in March at the beautiful cliff beach of Varkala.

The IOS will feature intense rivalry between surfers from the east and west coasts, as these championships carry important ranking points that will determine the surfers’ standings at the end of the season.

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“We are happy to extend our support to the organisers of the Indian Open of Surfing – Surfing Swami Foundation and Mantra Surf Club under the aegis of the Surfing Federation of India. They are doing a fabulous job of promoting the lesser-explored coasts of our state and boosting our tourism economy”, said Mullai Muhilan, deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada.

“Hosting a national-level competition in such a beautiful and serene part of the state can attract more visitors from different parts of the country,” he said.

Arun Vasu, president of the Surfing Federation of India, on the announcement said, “Our goal is simple, we want to elevate India to the top in surfing. After a successful start to the National Series in Kerala, we are glad to continue the championships in Mangaluru before the championship tour moves to the East Coast”.

Ramesh Budihal, Harish M, Srikanth D, and Manikandan M will be the surfers to watch in the men’s category, having performed exceptionally well in the last national championship recently held in Kerala. In the women’s category, Kamali Moorthy, Srishthi Selvam, and Sandhya Arun are among the participants competing for the top honours. Teenage sensation Kishore Kumar will have all eyes on him, having stunned everyone with his recent performances.

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Rammohan Paranjape, vice president SFI and Director of Mantra Surf Club, said, “We are hoping for a really good turnout of all top surfers in the country and a very close competitive battle between the best, the last two editions of IOS have produced the best action with close finishes at the end, let’s hope for a solid swell and great weather.”

In the first championship of the calendar year (International Surfing Festival, Kerala), Ramesh Budihal and Kamali P emerged victorious in the men’s and women’s Open categories, respectively while Kishore Kumar won the groms 16 and under boys with a high score of 14.73

–IANS

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Premier League: Manchester City deserve their title, but Arsenal can take hope as they build for future

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London, May 20 (IANS) Manchester City’s fourth consecutive Premier League title says it all about Pep Guardiola’s side, as they came good when they needed to and kept their nerve to hold off a strong challenge from Arsenal to lift the title. Once again, Guardiola, for all his talk of leaving at the end of next season, has shown himself to be the master of the game, tweaking a team that had a couple of low moments in the season, but had the football, the footballers and the experience to hold off their rivals in the finishing straight.

Erling Haaland, for all the criticism of his contribution outside of the penalty area, showed there is nobody in the world more reliable in front of goal, while Kevin de Bruyne is still a master of the creative football arts, even if he is starting to slow down.

And if De Bruyne slows down, the Premier League’s Player of the Season, Phil Foden, continues to develop as arguably the most exciting English player of his generation, with 19 goals this season, including the first two on Sunday, reports Xinhua.

City may have missed the silky midfield talents of Ilkay Gundogan after his move to Barcelona. Still, Guardiola’s constant evolution saw him adapt the shape of his side, give extra responsibility to players such as John Stones. At the same time, 22-year-old Josko Gvardiol has had an excellent first campaign at the club, looking calm on the ball and even scoring key goals at the end of the campaign.

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Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta must feel frustrated at seeing his side fall just short after they too produced a brilliant finishing run to the campaign. It’s hard to believe that both Arsenal and Manchester City won nine of their last 10 games, with the only points dropped coming in a 0-0 draw between the two sides in Manchester back in March.

The fact Arsenal held their nerve means they can wave goodbye to the tag of ‘bottle merchants’ — a team that loses its nerve at key moments — and that is partly due to the arrival of England midfielder Declan Rice. Rice cost over 100 million pounds, but it looks like money well-spent, as he added both control and creativity in midfield. Meanwhile, Kai Havertz is another huge success for Arteta, finally finding his place as a floating No. 9 giving even more mobility to a team packed with the attacking talents of Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, and Gabriel Jesus.

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A reliable left-back and a specialist striker might make Arsenal’s title challenge for next season almost impossible to resist.

It was the end of an era at Liverpool where Jurgen Klopp stepped down with Arne Slot to step in as his replacement. Klopp always said it would be a transitional year, and Liverpool’s cause wasn’t helped by a long injury list, but the good news for Slot is that youngsters such as Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliot and Jarell Quansah should be the building blocks for his team next season.

Elsewhere, Mauricio Pochettino had a long, hard season at Chelsea with an expensive, but young and disparate squad of players that only started to play as a team in the last two months of the season. After spending part of the season in the bottom half, Chelsea rallied to finish sixth, and there should be more to come from them next season if the club keeps faith in the coach.

Ange Postecoglou was a breath of fresh air for a Tottenham side that faced life without Harry Kane, and although they just fell short of the line in their efforts to reach the Champions League, Tottenham have a base to push on and a style of play that will win over a lot of neutrals. The fact Spurs finished fifth and not fourth was due to Unai Emery’s excellent work at Aston Villa, where players such as Pau Torres kept them solid in defense, while Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey gave them a spark in attack.

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Villa’s challenge now will be to build a squad to compete at home and abroad as they began to look stretched in the final weeks of this campaign.

And then there was Manchester United, who took two steps back in Erik ten Hag’s second season in charge and who will miss out on Europe unless they beat Manchester City in the FA Cup next weekend — an outcome that doesn’t seem likely. United end the season with everything up in the air as Sir Jim Ratcliffe ponders his options with both coach and a squad that will probably look very different at the start of next season.

–IANS

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Indian 4x400m Mixed Relay team sets national record in Asian Relay Championships in Bangkok

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Bangkok, May 20 (IANS) after the men’s and women’s teams did the country proud in the World Relays, the Indian relay teams continued to excel as the mixed 4x400m team set a new national record to win the gold medal in the inaugural Asian Relay Championships 2024 here on Monday.

The Indian relay team of Muhammed Ajmal, Jyothika Sri Dandi, Amoj Jacob, and Subha Venkatesan stopped the clock at 3:14.12 to marginally better the previous national mark of 3:14.34. The previous mark was set by Muhammed Ajmal, Vithya Ramraj, Rajesh Ramesh, and Subha to win a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year. Team Sri Lanka clocked 3:17.00 to win the silver medal while Vietnam clinched the bronze with a timing of 3:18.45.

Despite the record-breaking effort, the Indian team is still not in the mix for a Paris 2024 Olympics quota in the mixed 4x400m event. Having failed to secure a direct quota from the World Relays in the Bahamas earlier this month, the Indian mixed 4x400m relay team will need to now have to depend on the Road to Paris rankings to make the cut for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris.

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The result in Bangkok will help India move up two places to the 21st position in the Road to Paris rankings but only a spot inside the top 16 will guarantee them a berth in the event at Paris. Italy, with 3:13.56, currently occupies the 16th position in the mixed 4x400m relay Road to Paris rankings. The qualification window for the Paris 2024 Olympic relay events ends on June 30.

The Indian men’s and women’s relay teams have qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympics after finishing second in their respective heats in the World Relays in the Bahamas.

–IANS

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World Para-Athletics: Bhagyashri Jadhav wins silver in Women's Shot Put F34; fifth medal for India

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Kobe (Japan), May 20 (IANS) Indian athletes continued to excel in the 2024 World Para-Athletics Championships with Bhagyashri Jadhav securing a silver medal in Women’s Shot Put F34, here on Monday. Bhagyashri, a TOP Scheme athlete, hurled the iron ball to 7.52 metres for the best throw in the final, thus taking the country’s tally to five — one gold, three silver, and one bronze medals with Deepthi Jeevanji smashing the world record in the women’s 400m T20 earlier in the day.

After hurdling the iron ball to 7.56 metres in the first turn, Bhagyashree threw three foul throws and then landed a throw of 6.82 metres and followed that up with an effort of 7.52. China’s Lijuan Zou won the gold medal with a best throw of 8.48 metres while Morocco’s Saida Amoudi took the bronze medal with a throw of 7.02 metres.

This is the third medal that India won on Monday. The 20-year-old Deepthi Jeevanji smashed the world record in the women’s 400m T20 and grabbed her first gold and also India’s first of the World Para-Athletics Championships. Deepthi clocked 55.07 seconds, breaking American Breanna Clark’s earlier world record of 55.12 seconds, which she had set during last year’s edition of the championships in Paris.

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Ace para discus thrower Yogesh Kathuniya secured a silver medal in the F56 category. Kathuniya achieved a remarkable throw of 41.80 metres, earning him second place behind Brazil’s Claudiney Batista Dos Santos, who took gold. The bronze medal went to Slovakia’s Dusan Lackzo.

On Sunday, Nishad Kumar set the ball rolling for India by clinching a silver medal in the Men’s High Jump T47 final with an impressive season-best mark of 1.99 metres.

Preethi Pal then added to the tally by winning a bronze medal in the Women’s 200m T35 category, bringing India’s tally to two medals after Day 3 of competitions.

–IANS

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Jofra Archer has got that extra pace and fear factor to bring to opposition, says Sam Curran

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Leeds, May 20 (IANS) Left-arm seam-bowling all-rounder Sam Curran said Jofra Archer’s return to the England squad ahead of the upcoming T20I series against Pakistan enables the side to use his extra pace and fear factor in outclassing the opposition teams. Archer has been out of international cricket since March 2023 after suffering the recurrence of a long-standing right elbow injury while playing for Mumbai Indians in the 2023 IPL. Before that, Archer dealt with elbow and back injuries for nearly two years.

After recently returning to action for Sussex, Archer is now poised to play England’s first of four T20Is against Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday.

“It’s incredibly exciting. I’m sure any England fans or players will be buzzed to have him back. He’s such an addition that no side can turn down. He’s got that extra pace and that fear factor he can bring to the opposition as well.”

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“It’s hugely exciting, we all hope his injuries are behind him, and it will be hugely special going to play in Barbados (during the T20 World Cup) and stuff like that. I think he’s excited, and hopefully he’ll start well.”

“Jof’s had a really tough couple of years, so we’re all hoping he can bring his A-game back which we know he’s got, and everyone is just incredibly excited to have a player of his quality back,” said Curran to reporters.

Curran, the Player of the Tournament in England’s 2022 Men’s T20 World Cup triumph in Australia and took 3-12 in the final against Pakistan at MCG, is one of eight England squad members who returned early from IPL 2024 to play in the side’s last bilateral series before flying to the Caribbean for their title defence.

“It’s probably my proudest career highlight. Everyone asks about that day and it’s kind of like a blur. You find you’re in your bubble and you’re doing your best for the team, and that was an incredible day against Pakistan in Melbourne.”

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“The messaging from (captain) Jos (Buttler) and the coaching staff was they wanted to get the group back together and we probably didn’t have that last time. We’ve been apart for a while, so these games are going to be really crucial. We want to be playing as a team and get used to our roles.”

“There’s a lot of buzz around the group, it seems like we’re back to our energy and it seems like the boys are really fizzed about this trophy hopefully coming back. It felt like we played them a lot during the lead into that World Cup and we’re doing it again now. Hopefully, it’s a similar type of way it goes, but it makes for a hugely exciting period,” he concluded.

–IANS

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