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ASUNCIÓN: Lili Cantero, a 29-year-old Paraguayan artist famed for painting intricate and personal soccer boots for stars including Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, is preparing a new colorful show of her work to take to the World Cup in Qatar.
The Asuncion-born artist is painting some two dozen sets of boots, balls and canvases, many inspired by the Middle Eastern nation and its capital Doha, which will host national teams from around the world next month to compete for the World Cup crown.
Cantero made a name for herself painting soccer boots, including a pair she sent to Argentine star Lionel Messi when he was playing at Barcelona, lovingly detailed with a gallery of black and white images of the striker and his family.
She hadn’t known if he would even receive them, but to her surprise she received a photo of Messi, one of the world’s best soccer players, holding the boots. That marked a turning point for Cantero at a time she had almost decided to stop painting.
“Messi’s boots marked a before and after,” said Cantero, who wants to create her own sportswear brand and bring Paraguayan art to major global events. “It was a nice moment because thanks to that many doors were opened and my career really started.”
Her colorful designs drew attention from other players. She met two years ago in Asuncion former Brazil striker Ronaldinho Gaucho, to whom she gave boots and a ball portraying a kiss his mother had given him after winning the Ballon d’Or in 2005.
In Qatar, Cantero plans to exhibit eight balls with designs that pay tribute to the countries that have lifted the trophy throughout history: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, France, England and Spain.
The boots will be presented within 3D structures that reproduce the eight stadiums that Qatar built for the World Cup in Doha, Lusail, Rayyan, Al Khor and Al Wakrah. The remaining series will combine elements of Qatari and Paraguayan cultures.
“I have been working on this for three years and it is a great pride for me to represent my country at this World Cup,” Cantero said.
“In Latin America, football is lived with a great passion and that influenced me a lot. Since I was a girl, I have been living football… it is something that I always liked as well as art and so I found a way to connect the two things.”
RIYADH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the UAE Sports For All Federation to accelerate sporting development in both countries.
Bringing the two federations together to transform both countries into leading sports destinations, the deal marks the launch of a series of long-term collaborations geared toward realizing the region’s potential as a world-class sports hub.
The MoU was signed in Riyadh by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal and UAE Sports for All Federation President Salem Yousef Al-Qaseer.
It was signed in the presence of Deputy Minister of Sports Badr bin Abdulrahman Al-Kadi, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma bint Suhail Al-Mazrui and UAE Ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Nahyan bin Saif bin Mohammed Al-Nahyan, alongside several esteemed UAE dignitaries.
The MoU will help to strengthen cooperation between the SFA and UAE Sports For All Federation, with the two entities joining forces to implement a wide range of programs and initiatives. These new offerings will be designed to enhance community sports and sporting culture in both countries, empowering people to lead healthier lives.
It will increase the number of citizens and residents in both countries who take part in daily physical activity.
Al-Waleed said: “The signing of this agreement builds on the enduring strength of ties between our two close nations. We are pleased to work closely with our Emirati sisters and brothers through the UAE’s Sports for All Federation.
“Both entities stand to benefit immensely from increased cooperation, knowledge exchange and mutually executed programs, as well as exploring additional opportunities in sport, wellness and health. I extend warm words of welcome to our UAE counterparts, and look forward to working together on activation.”
Al-Qaseer said: “SFA has achieved so much in such a short period of time. It has launched a diversity of leading events, experiences and engagements that have transformed the KSA sporting landscape. By leveraging the federation’s unique insights and expertise, we can add to our efforts in the UAE to continue enhancing Emirati sports culture.”
The partnership will encompass consultations, the provision of services to support the implementation of projects and the establishment of scientific forums.
Joint workshops focused on community sports will also be hosted.
As part of the agreement, the SFA will share its expertise and best practices with UAE Sports for All Federation, and both sides will work together to promote community participation in sports programs.
The MoU with the UAE Sports For All Federation follows the SFA’s international engagements, such as the 27th TAFISA World Congress in Slovenia, where the federation promoted its amibitions to push for a diverse, exciting and vibrant sports community.
The SFA has also engaged in international knowledge-sharing initiatives, such as the Expo 2020 Women in Sports Forum, to enhance the federation’s initiatives that support sports and physical activity.
It also works closely with all sectors in the Kingdom to activate parks and public places, providing people with more places get fit and active.
It recently opened the modern, multipurpose sports venue SFA Dome in Dammam, underlining the federation’s commitment to increasing participation in physical activities in the Kingdom by providing access to world-class resources, expertise and facilities.
BARCELONA, Spain: Spain’s state prosecutor dropped its charges against Neymar on Friday, but a Brazilian company involved in the case will continue to fight the soccer player in court.
The case stems from Neymar’s transfer in 2013 from Santos to Barcelona.
The state prosecutor withdrew all charges against Neymar, his father and the former executives of the Brazilian and Spanish clubs. However, the trial will continue because Brazilian company DIS, which brought the case, maintained its accusation that the parties involved committed fraud and corruption.
DIS claims that it was paid far less than the 40 percent it says it was due as part owners of Neymar’s player rights.
The state prosecutor announced the decision to drop the case after hearing testimony from former Barcelona executives Sandro Rosell and Josep Bartomeu on Friday. State prosecutor Luis García told the court he did not see any evidence that a crime was committed.
All the defendants deny any wrongdoing.
State prosecutors had been seeking a two-year prison sentence and a fine of 10 million euros ($10 million) for Neymar. They had also wanted five years for Rosell and three years for the former president of Santos, Odilio Rodrigues.
Neymar, who now plays for Paris Saint-Germain, told the court last week that he had “followed my heart and chose Barça.”
DIS is seeking five-year jail terms for the 30-year-old Neymar, his father, Rosell and Bartomeu. DIS also wants compensation of 34 million euros ($34 million) and a fine of 195 million euros ($194 million) that would be paid by the accused to the Spanish state.
“In the opinion of DIS, no new evidence has appeared in the five days of this trial to justify changing our stance regarding what took place,” DIS said in a statement shared with AP.
DIS, which owns a chain of supermarkets in Brazil’s São Paulo region, said it acquired rights to receive 40 percent of a future Neymar transfer in 2009 when it paid Neymar’s family 5 million Brazilian reals (then $2 million).
DIS says it only received its due percentage from the 17 million euros ($17 million) that Barcelona and Santos initially announced as the transfer fee between the clubs, while the real cost was about 82 million euros ($82 million).
The trial is expected to conclude on Monday.
NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed that Newcastle United are likely to see key players return from injury, which will boost the team’s chances for this weekend’s Premier League clash with Aston Villa.
The managerless Villains will arrive at St James’ Park on Saturday looking to kick-start a so-far underachieving season, while the Magpies go in search of their fifth win in six games, a run which has seen them climb into the Champions League spots in the top flight.
That top-four form has largely been done without some of Newcastle’s most exciting attacking talent. However, head coach Howe has revealed that Elliot Anderson will return and there is a possibility that so will Allan Saint-Maximin.
“Yeah there’s a chance,” Howe said when asked about the potential return of Frenchman Saint-Maximin.
“We’re going to see how training goes, but he’s made really good progress. I’m very pleased with how he’s attacked his rehab and the work he’s put in. Yeah, there’s an opportunity to hopefully get Maxi fit and available.”
A player who has been defined by his inconsistency as much as his brilliance, Howe believes Saint-Maximin, despite his injury struggles this campaign, is in a really “good place” at the moment.
“Currently, Maxi’s really good, he’s in a very good place. I think the recent setback he had on his hamstring was a huge blow to him. But, I think, it almost reset him mentally to go ‘right, I’ve got to really look after myself and get my recovery right,’” he said.
“So I think I’ve seen, this time, a real, huge steely determination in him to get back fit and in the best physical condition possible.
“He’s been having really intense treatment — three sessions a day. Two at the training ground, one at night at home. So a real dedication to his profession and to try and get himself (fit) as quickly as possible for what is an intense period of games before the break. I can’t speak highly enough of how he’s attacked this stage of his rehab.”
Howe has also given an update on Anderson, after the young Geordie missed out on a spot on the bench last weekend at Tottenham Hotspur.
Howe said: “He’s OK. He had a minor niggle, nothing serious. He’s back in the squad this weekend.”
Newcastle’s form player this season, in somewhat surprising circumstances, has been Miguel Almiron.
The Paraguayan is United’s top scorer with six goals in the top flight, his best-ever tally since arriving from Atlanta United under Rafa Benitez.
Talk this week has been of a new deal for the player, but Howe says that kind of speculation is, at this stage, premature.
“No, I don’t know where that story has come from,” he said.
“I’ve said every week how much I love and respect Miggy but I don’t think any conversations have started between the club or his representatives. At the moment, we’re in a busy spell of games.
“All conversations on contract and futures will take place at a later date.”
An interesting subplot to this weekend’s clash is the appointment of Unai Emery as the new manager at Villa Park. The Spaniard replaced sacked England legend Steven Gerrard, but will not take a place in the dugout this weekend.
Emery was United’s first choice to replace Steve Bruce in November last year but turned down the approach made by the club board.
The job then went to Howe, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of the arrival of serial trophy winner Emery back in English football, Howe said: “There’s all sorts of things that happen, coincidences. I’ve said many times, Unai is a fantastic manager with an unbelievable record in various countries, in Europe especially. It’s a brilliant appointment by Aston Villa.
“We want the best coaches and players in the Premier League. We want the product to be the best it can be and from my side, it helps me learn and grow and become better.
“Unai is a very good manager and he will add to the quality in the league. It’s a brilliant thing for the Premier League, but maybe not so great for us because the competition gets higher. But that’s where we want to be and we have to improve to continue to succeed.”
MEXICO CITY: Red Bull have been fined $7 million for breaking Formula One’s budget rules but will not have points deducted from their 2021 total, the sport’s governing body said Friday.
Red Bull will also be penalized with a 10 percent reduction in permitted aerodynamic research.
The FIA confirmed the team, which carried Max Verstappen to a contentious championship victory over Lewis Hamilton last year, overspent by £1.86 million ($2.15 million) in 2021.
The 10 percent cut is in the time they can spend using their wind tunnel or computational fluid dynamics to design their car.
The punishment comes after Red Bull acknowledged they were at fault and entered into a so-called “accepted breach agreement” with the FIA.
MILAN, Italy: Monza soccer player Pablo Mari faces around two months out of action after an operation on Friday on wounds sustained when he was stabbed along with five other people in a supermarket near Milan.
One person was killed in Thursday’s attack, a 47-year-old Bolivian national who worked at the supermarket in a shopping mall in the town of Assago, Italy’s Carabinieri police said. Another employee was injured along with four customers, including Mari.
Milan’s Niguarda hospital said on Friday its trauma team had carried out surgery to reconstruct two injured muscles in Mari’s back.
The surgery went well and the defender is expected to remain in the hospital for two or three days, it said, adding he will be able to start a rehabilitation process immediately after.
“This type of muscle injury usually requires two months of rest before one can resume physical activities,” it said.
A 46-year-old suspect was detained after the attack in a Carrefour supermarket but the motive was not clear, the Carabinieri said.
They said late on Thursday the suspect had mental health disorders and was under guard in a psychiatric ward.
According to Il Corriere della Sera newspaper, one of the first people to intervene to block the attacker was former Napoli, Inter Milan and Bologna soccer player Massimo Tarantino, who was also in the supermarket.
Monza have asked the Italian football league to postpone their Serie A match at home to Bologna scheduled for Monday as the team is “in a total state of shock,” Monza Chief Executive Adriano Galliani said.
Newly promoted Monza, owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, are currently 15th in the 20-team league.
Mari, a 29-year-old Spanish center back, is on loan at Monza from Premier League club Arsenal.

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